Chris Orr – The Miserable Lives of Fabulous Artists

Chris Orr – The Miserable Lives of Fabulous Artists

While the main exhibition for the RA’s 250th Anniversary is the Charles I: King and Collector, it is also staging a number of smaller exhibitions throughout the year, including in the Keepers Lodge where there will be exhibitions of works by some RAs. Just opened, and running until 9th August in the back room of Keepers Lodge, is The Miserable Lives of Fabulous Artists by Chris Orr RA.

At 75 this is, amazingly, his first exhibition of just paintings; he is by background a print artist. I was lucky enough to be invited to see the works go on display on the opening night (complete with an appearance from his friend and collector of his works, Michael Palin). It’s a collection of some twenty pieces, each a clever, witty and at times thought provoking imagining of the behind the scenes life of some of history’s most famous artists stretching back to the Egyptians.

There’s Van Gough with black and white paintings as all the paint’s on the floor and his poor dog. Constable is having to compete with fly tipping and nude bathers as he tries to paint The Hay Wain. The flammable marriage of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera is explored from each of their point of view. While Picasso’s busy day in bed, at the beach and in the studio is explored through a comic strip.

It is trademark Orr through and through and well worth a look, especially combined with the Charles I exhibition.

Plus, if you’re so taken, they are all for sale and you can spread the cost over 10months. Alternatively there is a book of the collection and print versions have been made which no doubt will be offered at some point.


Chris Orr RA: The Miserable Lives of Fabulous Artists, in the Keeper’s House at the Royal Academy, 2 February – 9 August 2018 and online at

Featured Image  – Chris Orr RA, A case of Zoomania involving Leonora Carrington, 2016-17, Watercolour and pencil on paper, 39 x 60 cm, £3,950.