Picture C

Picture C. [A young man lying prostrate on a bed and a young woman standing outside the door with her head buried in her hand.] (Murray, 1938, p. 622)

In the manual for the 1943/1971 Thematic Apperception Test (TAT), Murray identifies six of the pictures (1, 3 BM, 6 BM, 12 F, 14 and 18 BM) drawn by Christiana Morgan as "old standbys" (Murray, 1943/1971). They were called "old standbys" because they had been developed for the first series of TAT cards and used in the subsequent series of cards. Here I will present some recently uncovered information concerning another picture (Picture C) used in the first series of TAT cards but not selected for use in the later series. A historical understanding of how Picture C developed suggests that a similar process may have been used in the development of the other "old standbys."

A serendipitous discovery.

While looking for TAT related material and visiting the Henry A. Murray Research Center at Radcliffe College in August of 1993, I noticed three framed TAT related pictures containing what seemed to be original drawings for three of the "old standbys" hanging on a wall of the reception area. I realized their significance and inquired about their origin vaguely thinking that there might be other such materials remaining where those had come from. No one at the Center that day seemed to know anything about the provenance of the pictures. It was suggested that I might contact Caroline (Nina) Murray, who was Murray's second wife and on the board of directors of the Center. She replied that the three pictures had come from David Ricks who had presented them to the Center at the time of its inauguration, but added that she did not know his whereabouts. (C. Murray, personal communication to the author, November 7, 1993). I wrote to Ricks at an address I had found inquiring about the pictures but received no response. Finally in January, 1998, after learning that Ricks had retired from the University of Cincinnati, I found another address for him and wrote him again to ask about the pictures. This time he quickly responded to my inquiry with the following information.

Ricks to the rescue.

In the fall of 1956, Ricks, with fresh Ph.D. in hand from Chicago, was hired by Murray to work on a research project on "dyads" at Harvard. Soon thereafter the Harvard Psychological Clinic moved to temporary housing on the banks of the Charles River. During the move Ricks was involved in packing and moving boxes of papers. On one of his trips back to the old clinic building he saw some of what appeared to be some original pictures and drawings for the TAT cards in a wastebasket. He recovered them and took them into Murray's office saying that he did not think that they should be thrown out since they were a part of the history of Psychology. Murray seemed to have no apparent interest in the materials and said something like, "If you want them, keep them."

David Ricks saved what he had found and had some of the materials framed in a shop in Cambridge, keeping them at home and vaguely thinking that he might like to have them in his office at some later date. At Christmas time his wife persuaded him to change his mind, and they wrapped up the framed pictures and drove out to Murray's country place and presented them to him as a gift. He responded rather gruffly that he had given them to Ricks and repeated that he should keep them.

Ricks did so but never felt as though they should be his. When the Henry A. Murray Research Center was established at Radcliffe in 1976, Ricks told them about the framed works and offered them to the Center. He was invited to say a few words at the inaugural lunch and used the occasion to present the materials to the Center (David Ricks, personal communication to the author, postmarked January 27, 1998). The three framed works were: first, a collage consisting of a photograph of Yehudi Menuhin as a boy, and what appears to be two drawn copies of that photograph by Christiana Morgan. The second contains a photograph and drawn copy of the photograph by Ms Morgan for Card 3 BM (W. Morgan, 1995). The third was what appears to be a drawing of a silhouette for Card 14. These three works still hang on the wall in the reception area of the Center (as of March, 1998).

Origin of Picture C.

"Picture C. (A young man lying prostrate on a bed and a young woman standing outside the door with her head buried in her hand)" (Murray, 1938, p. 622).

Among the other works rescued by Ricks from the wastebasket were an illustration clipped from a magazine and mounted on poster board and a pen and ink copy of that same illustration. The pen and ink drawing became Picture C described by Murray (1938). Morgan (n.d.) described this same image as, "Picture No. 5. It illustrated a man lying prostrate across a stateroom bed, and a woman nearby--her head buried in her hands." Picture C is shown on page 406 of Explorations in Personality. (Pictures A and B are reproduced on pp. 542 and 543. They are described on p. 541.)

A search through illustrated magazines of that era revealed that Picture C came from a two-color drawing made by the American illustrator, Pruett Carter (1891-1955), for the story, "Captain Archer's daughter" by Margaret Deland (1857-1945). The story was serialized in abridged form in Woman's Home Companion from September, 1931 through January, 1932. The novel, which was to be Deland's last, was later published in book form (Deland, 1932). The illustration under consideration appears on page 30 of the September, 1931 issue. It shows twenty-nine-year-old Martha (Mattie) Archer, the daughter of retired sea captain, Robert Archer, and Isadore Davis, a half-Portuguese sailor and owner of the four-masted ship, Ladybird. Mattie has her right hand on a doorknob with her left hand hiding her face. Isadore is asleep or passed-out on the cabin bed. The magazine picture is captioned, '"Why did I marry him?' She said, dazed. 'Why?"'

Mattie had eloped some months earlier with Isadore after a four-day romance, and she had just recently determined that she was pregnant. Mattie had gone to find Isadore and talk with him only to find him "...in the dark nasty cabin which reeked with the smell of whisky and pulsed with his slobbering snores..." (Deland, 1931, p. 118). Mattie, feeling somewhat disgusted, is in the process of exiting the cabin to make her way up on deck. The ship's cabin can clearly be identified by means of the porthole visible on the cabin wall.

Carter, a magazine illustrator for over thirty years, tries to accurately portray this pivotal scene. In his role as an illustrator, Carter believed that he, "...must live the part of each actor. He must do the scenery, design the consumes and handle the lighting effects. His illustration must be deeper than a poster, for he must make his characters live and breath and react to each other as the author intended." (Carter quoted in Reed & Reed, 1984, p. 58).

The picture actually referred to (and illustrated on page 406 of Explorations) was a redrawn version of the illustration by Carter described above. It is likely that Christiana Morgan did the redrawing although the pen and ink drawing is not signed. A comparison of the original magazine illustration with the redrawing shows that the porthole has been changed to a window and certain other details such as dress ornamentation and the flask and table by the bed have been omitted. The vented passage door has been redrawn as a four-panel wooden door to further obscure the picture's nautical origin. About 2.7 cm have been cropped from both the right and left sides of the magazine illustration, but no important details were lost. The size and placement of the figures remained the same in the redrawing.

Similar to other "old standbys."

The development of Picture C seems consistent with what is known of the development of several of the other "old standbys." Magazines were searched for suitable illustrations or photographs, which were then cutout and glued onto cardboard stock. They were then likely tried out on an experimental basis. If they initially proved satisfactory, the image was then redrawn by Morgan (Holt, 1949). Her drawings were generally amazingly close copies of the original with only minor changes made to simplify or make the picture more ambiguous. The drawings were then photographed and the resulting prints were then glued onto cardboard stock for later use. The process of redrawing the image had the effect of somewhat homogenizing the various artistic styles and of avoiding any copyright concerns. The photographic reproduction of the drawings made possible the manufacture of multiple identical copies. Of course the 1943/1971 edition of the TAT later used printed pictures rather than glued-on photographs to achieve the same result.


          Deland, M. (1931). Captain Archer's daughter. Woman's Home Companion, 58(9), 27-30, 116-128.

          Deland, M. (1932). Captain Archer's daughter. New York: Harper & Brothers. (First published in abridged form in Woman's Home Companion, September, 1931--January, 1932).

          Douglas, C. (1993). Translate this darkness: The life of Christiana Morgan. New York: Simon & Schuster.

          Holt, R. R (Ed.). (1949). The early history of the TAT. The TAT Newsletter, 3 (3), 492.

          Morgan, C. D. (n.d.). Typed, undated, untitled paper. Henry A. Murray Papers, Harvard University Archives, HUGFP 97.43.2, Box 7 of 7, Folder: "T.A.T.: Various observations and formulations largely by Christiana Morgan."

          Morgan, C. D., & Murray, H. A. (1938). Thematic Apperception Test. In H. A. Murray (Ed.), Explorations in personality: A clinical and experimental study of fifty men of college age (pp. 530-545). New York: Oxford University Press.

          Morgan, W. G. (1995). Origin and history of the Thematic Apperception Test images. Journal of Personality Assessment, 65, 237-254

          Murray, H. A. (1938). Conference. In Explorations in personality: A clinical and experimental study of fifty men of college age (pp. 399-412). New York: Oxford University Press.

          Murray, H. A. (1971). Thematic Apperception Test: Manual. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. (Original work published 1943).

          Murstein, B. I. (1963). Theory and research in the projective techniques (emphasizing the TAT). New York: Wiley.

          Reed, W., & Reed, R. (1984). The illustrator in America, 1880-1980: A century of illustration. New York: The Society of Illustrators.

          Schwartz, L. A. (1932). Social-situation pictures in the psychiatric interview. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 2, 124-133.

          Wilson, R. N. (1958). The poet and the projective test. Journal of Aesthetics & Art Criticism, 16 (3), 319-327.