Richard Wright to create spectacular artwork in the Queen’s House

Queen's House closure

Visitor notice: On Friday 23 November The Orangery and South Parlours will be closed from 10am - 5pm. The rest of the Queen's House will remain open, including the iconic Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I.


"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." Richard Wright, artist.

At the end of February, Turner Prize winner Richard Wright will start on a new artwork for the Queen’s House. Amazingly, 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 Orazio Gentileschi created a series of nine paintings, in 1639. Richard’s beautiful and complex installation, inspired by the Tulip Stairs, will be on view to our visitors when the House re-opens this year. 
Richard Wright on the Tulip Stairs
Richard Wright on the Tulip Stairs
Gentileschi was one of Queen Henrietta Maria’s favourite artists and his scheme for the ceiling must have been a spectacular sight. They were removed from the Queen’s House in 1708 and given by Queen Anne to her favourite, Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough. The canvases were installed in Marlborough House, St James where they remain to this day (much reduced in size, as the ceiling is smaller than that of the Great Hall at Greenwich). Subsequent owners, inhabitants, and, since the National Maritime Museum opened in 1937, curators like me have been grappling with the absence of these works of art and what to do with nine blank panels. Responding to the geometry and beauty of the Queen’s House, Wright’s unique design will be entirely in gold leaf and will populate these panels and the upper part of the walls. My hope is that this new artwork will bring back the kind of princely magnificence that was characteristic of the Queen’s House as a royal villa. 
Ceiling of the Great Hall in the Queen's House Greenwich
Ceiling of the Great Hall in the Queen's House
One of the reasons why Richard seems such a perfect fit for the Queen’s House is that his 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 at Greenwich. His intricate patterned schemes are unique to the interiors for which they are created, and come from a deep understanding of the relationship between the site, materials and technique. Richard is also extremely knowledgeable about art history, especially ornament and interior decoration. When we first talked about the commission, he immediately immersed himself in the world of Inigo Jones, (the architect responsible for the Queen’s House) which covers architecture, theatre and costume design. 
Richard Wright at the Queen's House
Richard Wright at the Queen's House

While on site, Richard will be working closely with a team of five assistants in the same manner as Renaissance and Baroque fresco-masters. His technique is intricate and painstaking; he initially draws a cartoon on paper, which is then transferred to the surface by pouncing (piercing cartoon holes and running chalk through it), creating as he calls it ‘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, Richard and his team will be installing for nine weeks during 2016. It will be a lot of hard work. But the result will be worth it.

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Come and see Richard Wright's new artwork on the Great Hall ceiling