Christopher Le Brun is one of the leading British painters of his generation, celebrated internationally since the 1980s, making both figurative and abstract work in media including painting, sculpture, watercolour and print. He was also an instrumental public figure in his role as President of the Royal Academy of Arts in London from 2011 to 2019. Le Brun employs a mastery of touch and colour alongside a profound understanding of art history and a wide range of visual, musical and literary sources to engage with the major existential, aesthetic and formal questions of painting. His works are notable for their layered, complex, scintillating surfaces, which he describes as ‘non-ironic, primary’ responses to the act of painting.
Le Brun has remained consistent in adhering to what he feels to be the essential poetry of painting led by intuition and visual imagination.Recent work shows the development of modular compositions from single pieces through to large and highly complex canvases, triptychs and monumental multipart paintings, extending the limits of abstract pictorial composition. Le Brun’s heightened awareness of the painting process with its dramatic tension between revealing and covering, has been a central feature of his work that unites all its phases whether abstract or figurative. His idea is to make a painting less fenced or surrounded, but one which feels for its boundaries organically, playing out its appearance in front of you.
Born in Portsmouth in 1951, Christopher Le Brun trained at the Slade and Chelsea Schools of Art, London. In his early career, he was a double prizewinner at the John Moores exhibitions (1978, 1980), also showing in the Venice Biennale (1980) and the ground-breaking exhibition ‘Zeitgeist’ (1982) at the Martin-Gropius Bau, Berlin. His recent solo exhibitions have been held at the Red Brick Art Museum, Beijing, China (2021); Albertz Benda, New York, USA (2020); Lisson Gallery, Shanghai, China (2019); Lisson Gallery, London, UK (2018); the Southampton Art Gallery, Southampton, UK (2018); Wolfson College, Cambridge, UK (2018); Albertz Benda, New York, NY, USA (2017); The Gallery at Windsor, Vero Beach, FL, USA (2017); Colnaghi, London, UK (2015); Friedman Benda, New York, NY, USA (2014); New Art Centre, Wiltshire, UK (2010) and The New Art Gallery, Walsall, UK (2008). Le Brun served as a trustee of Tate from 1990–1995; The National Gallery from 1996–2003; the Dulwich Picture Gallery from 2000–2005; and as a founding trustee of the Royal Drawing School from 2003–2016. He is currently a trustee of the National Portrait Gallery.
He was elected the first Professor of Drawing of the Royal Academy, London in 2000, where he also served as President from 2011-2021, the 26th since Sir Joshua Reynolds and the youngest since Lord Leighton in 1878. His work is in many major museum collections including Tate Gallery, London, UK; Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA; the British Museum, London, UK; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, USA; Victoria & Albert Museum, London, UK; Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, Scotland; The Whitworth, Manchester, UK and Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, USA. Le Brun’s public sculptures include Union (horse with two discs) at the Museum of London; City Wing on the site of the former stock exchange at Threadneedle Street; and The Monument to Victor Hugo on the quayside in St Helier, Jersey.