Goya in the Prado , Oil on Linen, 223 x 138 cm 88 x 54.3 inches, Christian Furr 2019
Christian Furr’s new painting of ‘Goya at the Prado’
Christian Furr has completed a new painting featuring the works of Goya in the Prado, Madrid.
Furr, who is the youngest artist to have painted Queen Elizabeth II after being chosen by Her Majesty for the commission, visited the Prado Gallery in Madrid and painstakingly recreated a gallery room full of paintings by the Spanish Master Goya.
The oil painting, which measures 88 x 55 inches, took roughly three months to create from photographs which Furr took last year on a private visit to gallery, when no public were present.
The result is an original and somewhat mesmerising ‘tromp l’oeil’ style work where portraits from the past of the Spanish Royal court have been repainted in skewed perspective along with the impressive and dimly lit gallery space of the Prado itself.
British actor Kenneth Cranham viewing the work at the artists studio on Richmond Hill 2019
View the work now at Richmond Atelier Gallery until the end of January
Christian Furr says:
“This painting is about two of my favourite things: Galleries (in this case the Prado) and the work of the masters (Goya). I saw a film about the Prado Gallery in Madrid recently. It reminds you that galleries like this are like portals to a kind of block time where past present and future combine. Only exceptional people make it to the walls.
I wanted to celebrate this and to celebrate Art itself.
I also wanted to recreate my experience. I hired the gallery for an hour so I could be there on my own and wander round. It was very special – like a dream almost. I wanted to paint what it felt like.
So I hope that when you you look at it, you are in the Prado.
I wanted it to be like an enchanting work of hypnotism.
It’s a big painting for a reason you are engulfed by it and your peripheral vision is part of it.
In My keen interest in the Old Masters and portraiture is realized in a different way.
The subject is a gallery Room 64 in the Prado in Madrid featuring the paintings and royal portraits of Goya.
Goya was a Spanish artist who was commissioned by the Spanish royal family to create portraits and paintings for them as well creating one of the most terrifying works about war The Third of May 1808 (El tres de mayo de 1808 en Madrid) which is also featured.
It is a portrayal of an actual gallery and I painted the space as it is, true to life but I substituted two of the Goya’s works to scale.
If one were to visit the gallery Room 64 it would all be recognizable but upon closer examination the viewer would realize two of the same artist’s paintings have been substituted.
Queen Elizabeth II by Christian Furr 1995
Goya in the Prado is a commission like the commission to paint the Queen.
It was commissioned by an American financier and Art collector living in New York.
I was commissioned to paint the Queen in 1995.
I have always been very interested in the paintings of the past.
Classic works and portraiture. I used to copy these paintings as a young man to try and work out how they did them. I started to paint new twists on figurative painting with reference to the past and this in turn led to me being chosen by the Queen to paint her portrait for the Royal Overseas League where she is patron.
I remember during our sittings the Queen asking me what painters I liked and I replied ‘Gainsborough and Reynolds’ ‘I think we have a few of those downstairs’ she replied referring to the Queens gallery.
With ‘Goya in the Prado’, I wanted to create a sort hyperreal dream-like painting which fills your peripheral vision.
At 88 x 54 inches it’s a very big painting and took several months to complete.
I want the viewer to feel like they are there almost like a mouse in the gallery when no one else is around.
It provides the viewer the experience of occupying the space.
Creating a painting like this is a bit like building a temple, block by block. With the gallery’s permission I was able to spend some time in the gallery alone. It was a very intense experience.
I had one hour there and was escorted by the General Manager for Museo Nacional del Prado Difusión, Cristina Alovisetti Ruiz-Ogarrio.
I visited all the gallery rooms I needed to, to get the reference I wanted.
All of the paintings that feature are by Goya apart from the painting visible in the next room and glimpsed through the doorway which is by Fortuny.
In the foreground on the left – hangs ‘The Family of Carlos IV’. Behind the family are the king’s paintings. So my painting becomes a painting of paintings of paintings. Very meta.
Importantly, Goya made himself as important as the royal family by painting himself in the scene looking out from behind his easel.
In the right lower corner in the ‘Los Duques de Osuna y Sus Hijos’ painting if you look between the children in the background there is a skull in the shadows.
In the left central area is Goya’s masterpiece the Third of May 1808 – a disturbing and powerful depiction of the horrors of war.
Copying masters works is nothing new. Manet painted his own version of this particular painting with his ‘Execution of Maximillian’
Goya escaped the oppressive rule of Ferdinand VII, who appears in the central portrait, and spent the last four years of his life in Bordeaux and the small painting central right is the Milkmaid of Bordeaux – purportedly the artists daughter.
The skull hidden in the family portrait on the right is what is known as a memento mori – Vanitas symbol about the brevity of life. Every work of Art after all is a reach for immortality. The paintings that Goya left behind are now how he exists in the physical world. This is why I called it Goya in the Prado instead of Goyas in the Prado.
I always think spending time in a gallery is like having a conversation with these artists. This painting is about what I love to do, when I am not painting, and that is spending time in great galleries – For me it is like communicating with the past in the present.
Painting can be like an illusion that tells the truth.
Getting the drama of the lighting in this painting was important. Lighting can be dramatic and changes things by where it falls. If you look closely though you won’t see the actual lights though I decided with the client to take them out and just leave the light pools on the walls instead. There are lots of colours in the painting as well as likenesses. I concentrated on the red. Or the placement of the red. It’s like the bloodstream in any work of art.
Someone saw the painting yesterday in my studio and said that it looked like it had only taken a day to do as I made it look so easy which I took as a great compliment. It was anything but but I don’t want to leave traces of labour. I often get asked how I know when a painting is finished and I always reply that it is when it finally looks like I’ve painted it in a few seconds.
Frankie Poullain and Diane Birch view ‘Goya in the Prado’ painting by Christian Furr at Richmond Atelier, Richmond upon Thames 2020
I want the painting to be about the enjoyment of masterpieces in beautiful spaces and you as the viewer should feel like you are part of it. It’s a celebration of art itself.”
The person who commissioned the painting is an American financier and Art Collector living in New York
Words from the commissioner of the painting:
“There are several aspects to why I commissioned this work and why Christian Furr was the artist I hoped would agree to execute it.
I have a great love of old masters and 19th century art. Goya’s works and the Prado museum are perhaps my favorites. I had seen this specific gallery on my first visit to the Prado and it made quite an impression.
Also, over the course of the preceding months leading to the commission I had seen images of, and many works of, professional photos of museum and gallery spaces. They have become somewhat fashionable it seems. Some of them were photos of museum galleries of old master paintings. I strongly considered buying a particular one that was large scale.
The were two reasons I did not purchase it. One, painting is what I most enjoy viewing and the piece I considered was instead a “photo” of the paintings and gallery. Secondly, I most loved another gallery, that being the Goya gallery at the Prado.
It was around this time I serendipitously saw an image online of the Goya gallery and examined it closely. I remembered the gallery well and it occurred to me, having just considered acquiring the photograph, that being able to view this Goya gallery from the Prado on a daily basis in my living room would be a dream.
I wanted it to scale and done in a hyper realistic fashion. In addition, my wish list included substituting, to scale, two of Goya’s other master works, also at the Prado, for two that were in the actual gallery.
I had no idea if this was even feasible. I knew if it were, it would require a particular type of talented artist to execute. I was surprised upon reflection I had not seen this type of work before if it were in fact feasible.
My friend and art advisor, Issiaka Toure, had suggested for some time I consider commissioning a work from Christian Furr. I had examined some of his work and was impressed not only with the commission for the Queen (in his 20s no less), but with the qualities of his portraits. Many had an old master feel to me yet in a fresh manner.
With my ideal work in mind I reviewed his portfolio again which I had not seen for a year or so. I was again very impressed with his portfolio.
Thomas van Straubenzee and Lady Melissa Percy by Christian Furr 2014
I came across two specific works, the “Thomas van Straubenzee and Lady Melissa Percy” portrait and the “Lise Grendene” portrait.
Lise Grendene by Christian Furr 2016
In the first, some classic paintings were prominent in the portrait just as I envisioned for the commission. In the “Lise Grendene” work, I literally viewed the work three times to make certain it was not a photo it was so realistic, and again, a work of art was featured in the piece. Paintings of paintings.
I knew at this point if the work could be done Christian Furr was the artist. Issiaka made a formal introduction and Christian and I discussed the idea. I didn’t know until then how much he too loved Goya’s works.
He seemed to have great passion for the project and agreed to the commission. It was an incredible and time consuming effort on his part to execute the work. The result is breathtaking. “
‘Goya in the Prado’ will be on view until the end of January at Richmond Atelier, 4 Friars Stile Road, Richmond Hill TW10 6NE
PAINTINGS THAT FEATURE IN THE WORK
LISTED WITH THEIR USUAL LOCATION IN THE PRADO
A: Francisco de Goya, The family of Charles IV (La familia de Carlos IV) (Room 32)
B: Francisco de Goya, The Third of May 1808 (El tres de mayo de 1808 en Madrid) (Room 64)
C: Francisco de Goya, A Picador (Un Garrochista) 1795 (Room 64)
D: Francisco de Goya, Portrait of Ferdinand VII of Spain in his robes of state (1815) (Room 64)
F: Francisco de Goya, The Milkmaid of Bordeaux (La lechera de Burdeos) 1827 (Room 64)
G: Francisco de Goya, The Duke and Duchess of Osuna and their Children 1788 (Los duques de Osuna y sus hijos) (Room 35)