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Bill Murray

A Painting Saved Bill Murray’s Life

by Billy Ingram

In this interview from a press conference in support of The Monuments Men in 2014, comedian / actor Bill Murray tells a story about his early days as a performer. Things weren’t going well it seems and he was close to giving up when he discovers a work of art from a half century earlier.

“I think this goes back to when I was acting in Chicago,” Bill Murray says. “I wasn’t very good in my first appearance on the stage. I was so bad I just walked out on the street and started walking. And I walked for a couple of hours and I realized I walked the wrong direction. Not just the wrong direction in terms of where I live but the wrong direction in terms of a desire to stay alive.

“And so I… This may be a little bit not-completely-true, but it’s pretty true,” Murray says. “I then thought if I’m going to die where I am, I may as well just go over towards the lake and maybe I’ll float for a while after I’m dead. So I walked over to the lake and as I got there I realized I hit Michigan Avenue. I thought ‘Well, Michigan Avenue, that runs north too.’

“So I started walking north and ended up at the Art Institute of Chicago. I just walked inside, I didn’t feel like I had any place being there… I was ready to die, pretty much dead.”

That’s when Murray discovered a painting entitled The Song of the Lark by artist Jules Adolphe Breto, “It’s a woman working in a field and there’s a sunrise behind her. I’ve always loved this painting. I saw it that day and I just thought, ‘Well, there’s a girl who doesn’t have a whole lot of prospects, but the sun’s coming up anyway and she’s got another chance at it.’ So I think that gave me some sort of feeling that I, too, am a person, and get another chance every day the sun comes up.”

So true, right?

 


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A Painting Saved Bill Murray’s Life

The Song of the Lark - 1884

Artist: Jules Adolphe Breton
French, 1827-1906

According to the Art Institute of Chicago, where the painting is on display, “Jules Breton’s "Song of the Lark" was deemed the most popular painting in America in a poll conducted in 1934. In this evocative work, a young peasant woman stands silently in the flat fields of the artist’s native Normandy as the sun rises, listening to the song of a distant lark.”

The Song of the Lark was also Eleanor Roosevelt’s favorite work of art.

 

 


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