Rowley Murphy was born in 1891 in Toronto, Ontario. His artistic career began at a young age, he would sketch or videotape the many activities and scenes of the Toronto harbour.
He studied at the Pennsylvania Academy at Philadelphia and in Italy.
He became an illustrator for a number of magazines. He was a teacher of art at the Ontario College of Art.
During World War Two, Murphy was commissioned by the Royal Canadian Navy as a war artist. He sketched and painted numerous scenes of the Navy and Merchant Navy at war.
Murphy was elected a member of the Royal Canadian Academy.
He died in 1975 in Toronto, Ontario.