London 1945


A supremely gifted artist, Anthony Christian has spent almost all of his career outside the usual confines of the art world, and has only rarely shown his work in galleries. Born in London in 1945, he began painting and drawing at a very early age, copying the work of the Old Masters from illustrations in books belonging to his mother. At the age of ten he was given permission to paint copies at the National Gallery in London; still to this day the youngest artist ever to be granted this privilege. While he was painting at the National Gallery – his work there culminating in a copy of Phillips Wouwerman’s 1646 Cavalry Battle, a massive canvas larger than the artist himself at the time – Christian also studied anatomy at the Victoria and Albert Museum. His precocious talents led to a number of newspaper articles devoted to the young prodigy, and he continued to study at the museums until the age of sixteen, when he began to seek and receive commissions. Within a few years, Christian had developed a successful practice as a portrait painter, living and working in Rome and Tangier before returning to England. Exhibitions of his drawings and landscape paintings were held at the Upper Grosvenor Galleries in London in 1969 and 1970, and led to more portrait commissions. Another exhibition of drawings, at the Hazlitt Gallery in London in 1972, also proved highly successful. During the 1970s Christian lived and worked in Paris, Tuscany and Morocco. By now a renowned portrait painter who had been very successful in this field for several years, and who counted numerous society, establishment and cultural figures among his patrons, he eventually gave up painting portraits on commission in favour of painting only what interested him; interiors, still life subjects, figure studies, nudes and landscapes, as well as portraits of close friends. Much of the decade of the 1980s found the artist living in New York, where in 1985 a number of his drawings were selected and hung by Andy Warhol at the New York Academy of Art for the benefit of the students there. Since 1986, however, Christian has very rarely exhibited his work in galleries, at most only once every ten years or so. An inveterate traveller who has lived in seventeen countries, he continued to enjoy a nomadic lifestyle, and resided for long periods of time in both India and Bali in Indonesia. He now lives and works in Yorkshire. In a monograph on the artist’s work, published in 1991, one writer noted that ‘Anthony Christian possesses the extraordinary capacity to create with equally dazzling facility – and, more important, evident deep emotion – portraits, still lifes, nudes, interiors, drapery studies, compositions and landscapes. Although he no longer accepts portrait commissions, he still paints many portraits, of his wife and friends…Last but by no means least, Christian is a supreme draftsman.’ Indeed, from a relatively early age, the artist established a reputation as a formidably gifted draughtsman. As an article in Vogue magazine, at the time of an exhibition of his drawings in London in 1972, commented, ‘Anthony Christian…is a new world’s child who makes old world portraits with a precocious facility about which he is extremely and passionately prickly and proud. “I believe”, he says fiercely, “in the technique of the Renaissance masters. Just because we are living 400 years later doesn’t mean we are necessarily better. I love and revere Leonardo, Michelangelo and Rembrandt and, personally, I think Matisse can’t draw.”’

Artworks by this artist