Scope and Content
Title: Murman Watercolors of California
Date (inclusive): 1941-1961
Collection number: 46
Creator: Murman, Eugene Otto
Extent: 26 boxes (52 linear ft.) and 78 35-mm.
University of California, Los Angeles. Library.
Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library History and Special
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
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
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
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
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
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.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this
collection in the library's online public access catalog.
Botany -- California