Chris Orr

Domestic Fantastic: Prints and Paintings
by Chris Orr RA

10 February – 8 June

An exhibition of prints and painting which will challenge and ammuse.

Chris Orr is a painter and printmaker who lives and works in London. After graduating from the Royal College of Art in 1967 he embarked on a career in publishing and exhibiting limited edition prints and paintings. He taught at many art schools and was Professor of Printmaking at the Royal College of Art 1998 to 2008. In 1995 he was elected a Royal Academician. His work has been exhibited worldwide and is in numerous private collections as well as the collections of the Arts Council, the Tate Gallery, and the Science Museum. In 2023 he gave the complete archive of his nearly 400 published limited edition prints in a variety of mediums to the Royal Academy Collection. His work can be seen every summer in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.

Image credits:
Top: The Last chance Saloon’ Chris Orr
Right Crisis? What Crisis?’ Chris Orr

Rugby Collection

C. Peter Coker, Forest IX, 1959
c. Ruskin Spear, In the Dope Shop of an RAF Mosquito Aircraft Factory, 1943
c. Ruskin Spear, In the Dope Shop of an RAF Mosquito Aircraft Factory, 1943

Rugby Collection Selected by Chris Orr RA


10 February – 8 June

All art is important, whether it is the art of children figuring out the order and meaning of their expanding worlds, or the professionals treading in the footsteps of giants at the same time as trying to do something new. Art permeates our lives, and no better example can be found than in the art of Quentin Blake. Generations of people have grown up with his witty and incisive drawings leading them through stories old and new. Thanks to Quentin the Twits will never die and we know one when we see one.

Art resonates long after its creation and after its creators had gone. Public collections that have been trawled out over time from the vast sea of art give us a glimpse into past achievements and expressions. Collections have been in progress since the dawn of art reflecting both the politics and fashions of their times. But once created they will be added to. They are part of the wealth of everybody’s history.

Nowadays some of these collections are in trouble. Both the grand affairs in major cities and the smaller local establishments are competing for funds. So, it is great to come across a collection that is in rude health here in Rugby. Not a big collection, only 241 works, but a very interesting one. Begun in 1946, like all collections it is varied ranging from the obscure to the exquisite and profound. I was honoured to be asked to make a choice.

I approached the job of selecting a show using the magpie part of my brain. First, I chose many works by old friends encountered in a career in teaching at art schools and through the Royal Academy. This is a bit like organising a fantasy dinner party with your favourite guests. Here I put Carel Weight, John Bellany, Terry Setch, David Tindle, Craigie Aitchinson, Leon Kossoff. Then there are those works that surprise and intrigue me. I love finding art that has perhaps languished in the vault’s unseen for a while. Fashion and taste change. I found a drawing by Richard Sheppard made in 1943 (the year I was born) of women working in a factory. It’s immediacy and energy hooked me. Then there are the truly breathtaking works that have their place because they are very special. In this category I put the lovely pencil drawing by Barbara Hepworth, the terrific etching by Paula Rego and the beautiful print by John Hoyland.

When I was 9 years old my mother took me to the Tate Gallery (now Tate Britain), and I remember 2 paintings that lodged in my mind were The Order of the Release by John Everett Millais and a painting by Fernand Leger. I commented to my mother that I thought there were 2 types of art. —- “traditional” and “modern” and that I liked both. I put that visit down as one of the reasons I became an artist, the literal stories in the pre-Raphaelite paintings and the vigorous modernism of Leger have been strands of influence throughout my career.

When you look at this selection don’t be afraid of your own opinion. Don’t judge too quickly, let the images live in your mind for a little while. I hope that my choice will spark something positive but reject and dislike it if you like. There are as many kinds of art and artists as there are people. Seeing the real thing in a Gallery is still the very best thing, but in this fantastic new world of communication, taking an interest further is so easy. So, start googling, visit other collections, buy the books. Do some art yourself.