Art History Cameos: Andrew Douglas Ambrose Murrell; Stirling Art Collector and Artist

Text: from the Obituary of Andrew Douglas Ambrose Murrell By Thomas A. C. Murrell, nephew
Images: supplied by Thomas Murrell

Born: July 22, 1945, Adelaide

Died: October 9, 2023, Mannum

Art Dealer and Oil Painter Challenged Norms

South Australian art dealer and oil painter Andrew Douglas Ambrose Murrell came from an established Adelaide family of doctors and engineers and used his creativity to challenge societal norms.

He was an avid art and stamp collector, oil painter and prominent South Australian art and antiques dealer in the 1980s operating out of the well-known London House in Strathalbyn.

Educated at St Peter’s College, he excelled at music and drama and his first job after leaving school was working for Channel Nine in Melbourne in the golden days of television with Bert Newton and Graham Kennedy. He later returned to Adelaide working in the airline industry.

The youngest of five children, his father John William Murrell was an engineer who was responsible for setting up the sewage system in Adelaide and played football for Geelong, the Tasmanian State team and Norwood. His mother, Beatrice Alice Calvert was the daughter of noted Huon Valley orchardist and politician, The Hon William Henry Fairfax Calvert.

His eldest sister Dr Helen Calvert Murrell was a pioneering gynaecologist working in India and the UK, his brother Professor Timothy Murrell, a medical educator, his sister Ruth Barbour (nee Murrell) was a nurse and his eldest brother William (Bill) Murrell was an industrial engineer.

Andrew Murrell self-published a number of poetry books and co-wrote a musical about Monarto, progressive Premier Don Dunstan’s ill-fated plan to build a new satellite city on the Murray River plains.

Art ran in the family as his mother’s favourite uncle, Eric Wright was a finalist in the Archibald prize in 1946 and 1947. Wright painted a beautiful river scene near Forest Home, the award-winning orchard in Judbury in the Huon Valley, Tasmania where Andrew Murrell’s mother grew up. This painting was a wedding gift presented when she married in New Town, Hobart in 1926. She was a descendant of first fleet convict James Morrisby.

Andrew Murrell’s brief but intense career as an oil painter helped him overcome alcohol addiction while in rehabilitation at a half-way house in Semaphore from 1988-89. He held a number of exhibitions which sold out quickly including at the Sailmakers Gallery in Port Adelaide.

A deeply spiritual man, many of his works were of Icons of Saints, including Mary and Jesus. His unique signature is an iconic representation of many religious symbols, including the word DOM, short for Dominus – the Latin word for master or God and the Cross of St Andrew in honour of his Scottish ancestry.

The oil painting Mrs Brewster Jones’ Garden in Victor Harbor is one of his most famous works and was originally commissioned by the mother of John and Rick Brewster Jones – founding brothers of one of Australia’s most popular rock bands ‘The Angels’.

This painting of the mother of Australian rock royalty brothers, standing still and stoically in her garden in 1988 captures a historical moment at complete odds with the high energy mayhem of the band’s on-stage presence of its lead singer Doc Neeson.

The artists stunning Monet-like use of colour, the handsome gilt frame and impressionist style make it one of his more memorable works. It now hangs in the Fairview Art Collection in Perth.

Andrew Murrell’s own anti-establishment, irreverent and rebellious personality is reflected in the painting and captures an intergenerational moment that is subtly at odds with the changing social values of Adelaide society in the 1980s. A cultural identity expressed and tapped into so successfully by the performances and lyrics of the rock star sons of the subject matter.

Ultimately, the painting was not to Mrs Brewster Jones’ traditional taste and it was subsequently purchased by her good friend Beatrice Alice Fairfax Murrell (nee Calvert), mother of Andrew Murrell.

What Andrew Murrell learnt from dealing in art is that you own a piece for a while and then you pass it on and you should never get attached to a painting.

“It always moves. The more it moves, the more you see. And the more you learn,” was his personal motto on art.

A portrait of Andrew Murrell by well-known South Australian artist Timothy Messack (above) was a finalist in the Doug Moran portrait prize in 1987.

He is survived by his long-term partner Leslie Fraser.

 Click here to play a podcast interview by Thomas Murrell with Andrew before he passed away.

If you have any more information about Andrew, his life,  his paintings, and especially any photographs of him or his artworks, we would be most interested to hear from you.

Contact us at or drop into the History Centre at the Coventry Library, 63 Mount Barker Road, Stirling.