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Finding Aid for the Murman Watercolors of California Flora., 1941-1961
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Collection Details
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Murman Watercolors of California Flora.,
    Date (inclusive): 1941-1961
    Collection number: 46
    Creator: Murman, Eugene Otto Weber
    Extent: 26 boxes (52 linear ft.) and 78 35-mm. slides
    Repository: University of California, Los Angeles. Library. Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library History and Special Collections Division
    Los Angeles, California 90095-1490
    Abstract: The Murman collection consists of 495 original watercolors and 26 photographs of California native plants, representing 85 different families and ca. 460 species. The paintings are scientifically accurate as well as artistic, each showing details of a branch and enlarged paintings of the flowers, fruit, and other diagnostic parts. Murman, originally a Russian banker, trained as a commercial artist after his emigration to the U.S. in 1905 and became a furniture designer in Los Angeles in 1906. After his retirement, he began traveling throughout California making preliminary sketches, color notes, and photographs of plants and collecting dried specimens; using these, Murman produced his body of watercolors in his home studio. Each series in the Container List represents a plant family. Each entry represents one plate, listing the scientific and common name, date & place of specimen collection, plus notes.
    Physical location: Stored off-site at SRLF. Advance notice is required for access to the collection. Please contact Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library History and Special Collections Division for paging information.


    Eugene O. Murman (Apr. 18, 1874 - Mar. 17, 1962) was born in St. Petersburg, Russia and developed an early interest in natural history and nature photography. After jobs as translator and clerk, he joined the foreign exchange department of the Russian Commercial and Industrial Bank and remained there until his immigration to the United States in 1905. Unable to find a banking position in New York, Murman decided on a change of career and spent a year in Germany being trained as a commercial artist. In 1906 he moved to Los Angeles where he soon became head designer for the California Furniture Company, which subsequently became W. & J. Sloane; he stayed with this firm for thirty-four years. During his free hours and on holidays he amassed a fine butterfly collection and became familiar with the plants and birds of his new home. His collection of hand-colored lantern slides was used to illustrate lectures on various natural history topics; these slides now reside in the Hancock Library of Biology & Oceanography at the University of Southern California. The butterfly collection was given to the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History.
    After his retirement, Murman and his second wife began a project to document the California flora in watercolors. Frequent collecting trips took them to many parts of the state and acquainted them with various botanists, forest rangers, and park naturalist, many of whom cooperated by sending living specimens of flowers and fruit, and assisted in identification of plants. Murman made color notes and preliminary sketches in the field and took black-and-white photographs for form and size, while Mrs. Murman took color photographs of the plants in their native habitat. With the aid of these field notes and photographs, as well as dried specimens, Murman then produced his outstanding series of watercolors in his home studio. His work received wide recognition, and just before his death he completed copies of four paintings for the collection of botanical art in the Hunt Botanical Library, Carnegie Institute of Technology.

    Scope and Content

    Eighty-five families of California plants are represented by Murman's watercolor plates, approximately 460 species. Specimens came from many California counties from north to south, with a fair number also collected in Oregon, Arizona, and other western locations. Each plate consists of an 8 x 10" watercolor (or photograph) on a 15 x 20" board.
    Murman provided family, genus, and species (scientific and common names), location and date of specimen collection for each of the plates. The plates were numbered in the order of their accession at UCLA, so plate (and box) numbers serve only as location indicators; there is no taxonomic order to them. Murman's nomenclature is occasionally outdated, so some ingenuity and patience may be needed to locate a specific plant in the finding aid.
    Each SERIES in the Container List represents a plant Family. Brackets indicate earlier or variant forms of the scientific family name; parentheses indicate the common name; the dates indicate inclusive collection dates. The "International Plant Name Index" (IPNI) (http://www.ipni.org) was used as the authority for placing a plate within a particular family (which sometimes differs from Murman's classification), and The National Plant Data Center's "Plants Database" (http://plants.usda.gov) served as the authority for the common family name used. Each ENTRY within a series represents a Murman plate. The genus, species, and common names of the specimens are in the form provided by Murman; no effort was made to standardize or update them. Again, the date is the date of specimen collecting; the notes include collecting location(s).
    Related Collection: The Department of Special Collections, Young Research Library, UCLA in its Collection #1237 holds Murman archival material that extends one's knowledge of Mr. Murman's work and interests. Included are documents, lecture notes, photographs, sketches, slides, scrapbooks, and notebooks covering Russian cooking, ethnic costumes and artifacts, designs and interiors, gardens, flora, and travel.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


    Botany -- California