The Hippo


Jul 16, 2019








Adelaide Murphy Tyrol. Courtesy photo.

Adelaide Tyrol artwork and presentation

Art at LaBelle Winery: 345 Route 101, Amherst, 672-9898,, presented through McGowan Fine Art (10 Hills Ave., Concord, 225-2515,, on view through Feb. 26, alongside artwork by Susan Wahlrab
Presentation at the Capitol Center for the Arts: 44 S. Main St., Concord, 225-1111,, in the Kimball House on Saturday, Feb. 6, at 7:30 p.m., $25 general admission

From nature to the runway
Painter shows fine art in NH, Fashion Week art in NY

By Kelly Sennott

 Adelaide Murphy Tyrol wouldn’t describe herself as a political painter, but if you look closely at her wildlife fine art, you’ll find tiny hints of her own environmental concerns and interests.

“Dying Lily,” for example, showcases a wilted flower with ripe pollen sacs. (At one time, this piece was named “Middle-aged with Sexual Prowess Still Intact.”) Another, “Birds of Cedar Key 2,” is an estuary scene spotted with colorful bird eggs floating throughout the painting, which was inspired by an endangered bird nesting ground the artist regularly visits in Florida. 
“I try not to make it too pedantic,” Tyrol said via phone last week. “I’m more interested in my own environmental concerns right now, and I think they’re a serious, valid thing to spend time artistically considering.”
Yet her messages don’t hit you over the head, McGowan Fine Art Director Sarah Chaffee said via phone, and they’re painted with incredible quality, not to mention anatomical accuracy.
“I love it when an artist can address those issues, and she does it in a subtle way. Just to simply notice how beautiful animals are really makes you take a second look at the natural world around you, but she actually includes some things, like oil rigs, out in the distance [of a painting]. They may not be the focal point, but they’re certainly there,” Chaffee said.
This past year, Tyrol herself has been a focal point in numerous art venues, having participated in many regional shows, including a solo exhibition at McGowan Fine Art in September, plus another at LaBelle Winery, on view for another month. On Saturday, Feb. 6, she presents her work and methods at the Capitol Center for the Arts as part of its Salon Series.
Most days, the Plainfield, Vermont, artist works in a studio surrounded by her favorite subject matter — on a 26-acre plot of land with plants, trees and a large pond. Here, in addition to her fine art, she works on illustrations for Northern Woodlands magazine, which she’s been doing for 16 years. 
“I have to do it very right, though I try to add humor and make them beautiful. It’s very limiting. But those illustrations feed me and give me material for my own paintings, which address things like environmental concerns and diminishing species,” she said. “And I can use that information … to tell the story of something I feel more deeply about, or even something I’m interested in.”
Tyrol’s fine art paintings allow exploration. She mentioned one, “The Ram,” which depicts an orange-eyed, three-horned ram seemingly smiling at the viewer against a periwinkle sky. Tyrol had never seen one before, in photos or real life, but knew the three-horned beast existed and wanted to imagine its portrait. 
Her painting style is also a result of having run Oliphant Studio with Sarah Oliphant for decades. Since 1978, they’ve been painting backdrops that stand behind models, political candidates and magazine cover subjects for runway shows and photo shoots.
“It’s surprising that this stuff isn’t done digitally. It’s literally [painted] on huge canvases, 10 by 25 feet,” Tyrol said. “We started just by doing commissioned paintings for photographers. But a lot of them didn’t actually want to keep the backdrops, so we started taking them back. Often, they’re quite generic, with blue skies and white clouds.”
The business partners are in the midst of their busy season — they’re getting ready for New York Fashion Week in February. Last year, Marc Jacobs commissioned them to paint a 300-foot runway and 20- by 40-foot backdrop, inspired by Jeremiah Goodman’s watercolor of legendary fashion editor Diana Vreeland’s “garden from hell” living room, requiring five days and buckets of paint. This year looks to be just as busy.
“Just this past week, we [painted] for Louis Vuitton. It was really fun — we had to do six 12-foot by 12-foot paintings of old art deco travel posters, if you can picture that. There was one with a steamship leaving from New York City for Ireland, one of the South of France and one of the Taj Mahal,” she said. “It was almost as if it was a silkscreen vintage postcard.”
Other Fashion Week clients include Vera Wang and Donna Karan, and maybe Tommy Hilfiger. Tyrol and Oliphant often receive complimentary show tickets but usually decline due to exhaustion.
“I’m sometimes on set right before, but no, I’m not sitting next to Beyonce,” Tyrol said.
This career has taught her to paint quickly — during some gigs, she hardly has time to eat — and to be comfortable with large-scale work. To this day, she starts most paintings by placing the canvas on the ground and making marks with house paint brushes taped to bamboo sticks.
“It’s almost like your shoulder is really your wrist. And that’s how most of my fine artwork starts — on the floor with these huge, huge brushes and a lot of paint splattering around,” Tyrol said.
The technique keeps things fresh and interesting, though when the time comes, she hones these paintings down, placing the canvas on an easel and switching to a smaller brush for details. 
“It keeps it a bit unpredictable,” Tyrol said. 

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