The Turner Prize winning Scottish artist Richard Wright will create his most ambitious and complex project in the Queen’s House, Greenwich. This will be the first time an artist has worked on the ceiling of the Great Hall, one of Britain’s most important historic interiors, since the Florentine artist Orazio Gentileschi created a series of nine paintings, in 1639. This beautiful and complex work will be unveiled when the House re-opens to the public in July.
Gentileschi’s original paintings were removed from the Queen’s House in 1708 and given by Queen Anne to her favourite, Sarah Churchill. The canvases were installed in Marlborough House, St James where they remain to this day. Responding to the geometry and beauty of the Queen’s House, Wright’s unique design will populate the nine blank panels of the 12 x 12 metre ceiling and be on long-term display.
Wright’s practice demands a high level of painstaking craftsmanship, and follows in the long tradition of some of the most iconic 17th-century artists and craftsmen employed in the Queen’s House. His subtle, and often intricate, patterned schemes are unique to the interiors for which they are created, and are grounded in a profound understanding and inter-relationship of site, materials and technique.
Wright will be working closely with a team of five assistants, in the same manner as Renaissance and Baroque fresco-masters. The technique is intricate and painstaking; Wright initially draws a cartoon on paper which is then transferred to the surface by pouncing (piercing cartoon holes and running chalk through it), creating ‘the ghost of a work’ on the wall or ceiling. The mark is then painted with size (adhesive) and covered with gold leaf. Working on a series of scaffold flat beds, Wright and his team will be installing for nine weeks from the 29 February to the 14 May 2016.
Richard Wright said: “This is a hugely exciting project. The Queen’s House is one of the most important buildings in Britain and it is an enormous privilege to play a small part in its history.”
Christine Riding, Head of Arts and Curator of the Queen’s House: “Richard’s approach to the commission, which combines creativity and craftsmanship, is ambitious, spectacular and sensitive. The use of gold leaf on such a grand scale will reintroduce the kind of princely magnificence that was characteristic of Queen’s House as a royal villa.”
The remarkable artwork will be revealed to the public when the Queen’s House re-opens in July 2016 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of its commissioning and design. Designed by Inigo Jones in 1616 for the wife of James I, Anne of Denmark, the Queen’s House was the first classical building in the country and is an acknowledged masterpiece of 17th-century architecture. The closure gives Royal Museums Greenwich the opportunity to refurbish galleries, including the King’s Presence Chamber and the Tulip Stairs, as well as introducing new displays and colour schemes, bespoke lighting and new interpretation. The window-glazing and flooring of the Grade I listed building will also be upgraded, improving both the external and internal appearance of the House.