A Passion for Drapery
“I do not know which to admire the most; your courage in defying the tendencies of modern art, or the skill with which you have done so”.
Sir Kenneth Clark
Anthony Christian’s work is in some of the world’s most prestigious art collections, including the Queen’s Royal Collection; a clear testament to not only his masterful draughtsmanship but also the deep emotive power that his multi-genre art offers. In the rich oeuvre of his career spanning over six decades and created throughout the far corners of the world.
Few artists in history have painted inanimate objects with such intricacy or luminosity so as to incite emotional reactions. With a less than straightforward trajectory to fame and success, Christian’s resurgence with this exhibition cements his reputation as one of the most significant ’modern’, old master painters. Persisting in his modern, realist style throughout his career, Christian’s subversive attitude deserves to award him the status of an icon for many modern and contemporary artists.
In this exhibition, aptly named “A Passion for Drapery“, Christian offers us a series of artworks with a new and fresh feeling; dreamy imagery imbued with vibrant colours and revitalising light. His brushwork shows some influences from early Impressionism, such as in the work of Edgar Degas and William Nicholson, but there is also a subtle surrealist thread that is masterfully weaved through each picture. His art has traditional painterly values and yet at the same time it looks ‘contemporary’. But perhaps the greatest success is how Christian develops the narrative in arguably the most difficult subject matter that could afford such expressive freedom: drapery. Ever since he was a child sitting on his bed looking at the crumpled sheets and seeing all sorts of figures and monsters racing around in the intricate folds of the cloth, Anthony Christian has been fascinated by drapery. As an artist he became obsessed with the wondrous madness of the drapery and the endless possibilities and challenges it offered to express the stories hidden within it. A Passion for Drapery is the culmination of this obsession. Here we see how Christian gives cloth a life of its own through confident, virtuoso brushwork, as if the imaginary figures that he observed on his childhood bedsheets have reincarnated onto the canvas. While the paintings are carefully crafted with an overall balance of shape, texture, tone and colour, the drawings are true little masterpieces created using a technique of tinting paper which the artist then worked on with charcoal pencil and white chalk for highlights.
Such is the appeal of Anthony Christian’s art that it provides something of an existential experience; his artworks are allegorical ideas.A Passion for Drapery then is in a way one of the half-forgotten aspects of life we live with, that we scarcely notice, but that can mean everything.
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