Morphy, Garret (c.1655–1716?), portrait painter, was probably born and educated in Ireland. His familial origins are obscure. His earliest works, from c.1676, are similar in style to Gaspar Smitz, who was working in Ireland at this time. It is possible that Morphy received his earliest training from Smitz before moving to London in 1673 to work for the artist Edmund Ashfield, who was a catholic. He may have visited France and the Low Countries, as his work reflects the newest artistic fashions. Morphy had a peripatetic existence and it is difficult to gauge exactly how much time he spent in Ireland. At the start of his career he moved mainly in catholic circles, and in 1685 Robert Harley received intelligence that ‘one Morphew a Roman catholic painter drinking confusion to those who did not read his majesty's declaration was attacked and beaten by one of the king's officers’ (HMC, Portland MSS, iii, 411). He painted a number of prominent Yorkshire landowners, including the duke of Newcastle. Morphy's portrait of Archbishop Oliver Plunkett (qv) later proved very popular among families with Jacobite leanings, and a number of versions were engraved. Morphy returned to Ireland c.1689 and painted a group of closely interelated catholic families, including the Bellews, O'Neills, and Talbots. Some of these sitters lost their lives and/or estates during the Williamite war (1689–91), and their portraits are a poignant visual record of Irish catholic landowning families before they lost their political, social, and economic status. After 1691 Morphy adapted to the new order and received a steady flow of commissions from protestant landed families.
Morphy's art was not mould-breaking; he followed the conventions of the day and adopted the poses and techniques of earlier portraitists such as Peter Lely and John Michael Wright. But he can be considered as Ireland's first recorded professional artist. He painted in a rapid manner and could achieve a wonderfully soft finish to the faces, hair, and clothing of his sitters. His studio must have produced a large number of portraits (at least seventy portraits can be attributed to him) during his thirty-year career. In 1736, long after his death, a newspaper advertisement referred to the sale of ‘several portraits of the gentry of this country done by the famous Mr Murphy’ (Dublin Evening Post, 15–19 June 1736). He died in late 1715 or early 1716 and his will was proved on 12 May 1716. It is not known if he married. After his death the remnants of his studio were apparently inherited by his nephew Edmond Moore.