Gerald Murphy. Wasp and Pear. 1929

Gerald Murphy Wasp and Pear 1929

  • MoMA, Floor 5, 514 The David Geffen Wing

“If that’s painting, that’s what I want to do,” Murphy remarked in 1922, upon discovering paintings by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Georges Braque, and Juan Gris in a Paris gallery. Soon after, he ended his career as a landscape architect and turned to painting. In Wasp and Pear, he combined anatomically detailed and highly stylized depictions of his subjects—a wasp, pear, leaf, and honeycomb—with an abstract background of overlapping planes of color. As his inspiration, Murphy credited the “technically drawn and colored charts of fruits, vegetables . . . [and] insects” found in a classroom in which he studied during his military training.

Gallery label from 2019
Additional text

In 1922, upon discovering the Cubist paintings of Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and Juan Gris in the window of a Paris gallery, Murphy told his wife, "If this is painting, then this is what I want to do." Soon after, he ended his career as a landscape architect and turned to painting. In Wasp and Pear, Murphy combined an abstract background with an anatomically detailed but highly stylized wasp, pear, leaf, and honeycomb. Murphy credited "the large technically drawn and colored charts of fruits, vegetables . . . [and] insects" in a classroom where he had studied during his military training as his inspiration.

Gallery label from 2012.
Oil on canvas
36 3/4 x 38 5/8" (93.3 x 97.9 cm)
Gift of Archibald MacLeish
Object number
Painting and Sculpture

Installation views

How we identified these works

In 2018–19, MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos. That project has concluded, and works are now being identified by MoMA staff.

If you notice an error, please contact us at [email protected].


If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

All requests to license audio or video footage produced by MoMA should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills or motion picture footage from films in MoMA’s Film Collection cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For licensing motion picture film footage it is advised to apply directly to the copyright holders. For access to motion picture film stills please contact the Film Study Center. More information is also available about the film collection and the Circulating Film and Video Library.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].


This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].