Chris Chapman - a connoisseur of fine art

Chris Chapman - a connoisseur of fine art

A graphic design graduate, Chris has a background in illustration – book covers and inside images, advertising and packaging, often images of animals.

But about 12 years ago, he began to realise that the industry he loved was changing beyond recognition.

“My illustrations were always paint-based,” he explains. “But the business was quickly moving towards digital, and it wasn’t a route I wanted to go down – I like to use paintbrushes and pencils.”

A friend introduced him to a fine art agent who liked his work – but Chris needed to find his own niche. At art school, he had stumbled across Rockwell’s famous 1961 painting The Connoisseur in a book. The picture, like so many of Rockwell’s, was originally a cover illustration for The Saturday Evening Post. It shows a be-suited gent, painted with the artist’s trademark realism, back to the viewer, surveying one of Jackson Pollock’s (at the time extremely radical) ‘drip’ paintings.

“It’s so clear that they’re chalk and cheese,” says Chris. “He just isn’t going to understand that painting however long he stands there.”

The image stuck in his head, however, and years later he began to produce the paintings for which he’s now probably best known – the Famous Artists series.

 Each painting shows a famous work of art hanging on a gallery wall, many with a spectator – often accompanied by his dog, sometimes by his wife, occasionally alone – drinking it in. Their backs are to us, so we can’t see their expressions – but Chris depicts their emotions (it’s often bemusement) in their stance.

Others show the original painting with an external element inspired by it – his exquisite homages to Monet’s water lilies series are all accompanied by cartoonish frogs.

All bear titles which are (we’re sure Chris will forgive us for saying!) excruciating puns: Fraud Monet, David Knocknee, Tamara de Lemonpicker and Jason Pillock all feature.

One of his most popular sets from the Famous Artists series is the L.S.Lowryish series, inspired by the much-loved Lancashire artist whose subjects were mainly industrial scenes in the North West peopled by his distinctive ‘matchstick men’.

In Chris’s versions each Lowryesque scene is viewed by a character from within it – look closely at the crowds in the painting within the painting in Watching the Match, for instance, and somewhere you’ll find the flat-capped little boy in the red-and-white-striped scarf who now stands in front of the picture with his faithful dog.

“All my work now is acrylics on board, and very much informed by my background as an illustrator,” says Chris. “There’s a very strong link to the graphic nature of my past work. I suppose you could call what I do now ‘commercial fine art’.”

To view Chapman's original artwork that we have in stock click here.
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