Hermann Murphy was born in Malboro, Massachusetts and became a student of Edmund Tarbell and Frank Benson at the Boston Museum School. In 1891 he traveled to Paris and enrolled at the Academy Julian as a student of Jean Paul Laurens. In Murphy's painting as well as in his frame design, it is said that he was most influenced by James Whistler, whom he met in Europe. Murphy became a major figure in the Boston School style of painting and also as a painter in the Tonalist style emanating from Barbizon, France.
Murphy established his studio "Carrig Rohane," near Boston in Winchester. Using his studio name for frames intended to complement tonalist-style paintings, he established framing business with Charles Pendergast and W. Alfred Thulin. Their product reflected the prevailing Aesthetic Movement, whose tenets included the commitment to art expressed throughout the totality of the work of art. Murphy painted a variety of subject matter beginning with portraits and figure studies and later painting seascapes, still lives and landscapes. He was especially noted for his floral still lifes, a subject he turned to in the 1920s, and depicted with Impressionist style, classical format, sculptural appearance, and decorative background painting. Many of these still lifes had images of exquisite Chinese porcelains, bronzes, rugs and antiques.
Later in his life, Murphy taught at Harvard Univeristy and took special interest in canoeing. He traveled often to the tropics, which much influenced his landscape painting. Murphy exhibited in the 1913 Armory Show in New York and Boston, but by 1928, he had given up modernism all together. The following reference to Modernism was quoted from Murphy in the Boston Sunday Post, February of 1928: "These Modernist painters say that they paint not what they see, but what they feel — well, heaven help them if they feel like what they paint!"