Christian Furr is a British artist who’s incredible talent was recognised early in his career when he became the youngest artist to ever be commissioned to paint an official portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, having been selected from a pool of other painters. Early in Christian’s career he continued with portrait commissions after the acclaim he received for his portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, having managed to capture both her regal and human qualities. Now, Christian Furr focuses on maintaining a fresh style in oil painting, examining everyday objects and human emotional connections with equal interest. Christian is known as a colourist and a consummate paint-handler. I was intrigued to learn if books had played a role in the life and career of an artist as successful as Christian Furr…
When someone asks you ‘what do you do for a living?’ – How do you respond?
Artist. Painting and stuff.
1966: The Year the Decade Exploded by Jon Savage. My year of birth. A catalystic year which saw an explosion of extraordinary creativity.
When you think about your childhood, what book comes to mind?
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I always wanted to be an artist.
What do you think your school aged self would think of the present day you?
I think I would like what I was doing.
If you could wrap up a single book and gift it to yourself as you left education – which book would it be?
Does your reading have routine? Is there a particular time or place that you like to read?
The time I read the most is on holiday. When I have the luxury of reading.
Which book has had the biggest impact on your career so far?
Pierre et Jean by Guy de Maupassant because of its short essay prior to the story called ‘Le Roman’ (‘The Novel’). It is the author’s advice to writers. Its great. He wrote it at his home in Etretat. It became the basis for Matisse’s notes on how to be a good painter. It contains the line;
‘Do something beautiful in the form that suits you best according to your own temperament.’
I think this is a good starting point for artists. You always get the best out of people you admire when you trust in their own innate abilities. Carl Rogers, one of the founders of humanistic psycholgy said something similar later on;
‘Find the unique and personal in yourself and dare to express it.’
The Prophet by Kahlil Gabran. I read this with my wife Emma when we first met it contains good thoughts.
What book have you recommended the most to friends and family?
The Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda. It was George Harrison’s favourite too.
Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction?
I like them both equally.
Do you think reading is important?
Of course. I always think of Bill Hicks comedy sketch ‘We got ourselves a reader…’
What’s the best book you’ve read in the last 6 months?
Breakfast at Sothebys by Philip Hook. A refreshing and humorous romp through the artworld and a view of artists and their workings from a clever dealers perspective.
Do you prefer real books or digital books?
Real books. Objects to be lived with, written on, treasured and passed on.
Name a book that you feel every human should have to read by law.
The Middle Passage by James Hollis. It’s about de-conditioning.
What is the book that you feel has had the single biggest impact on your life?
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. I read it when I was 18. Once you read it you will always be haunted by it.
Maldoror: Les Chants de Maldoror by Comte de Lautréamont, it was the text which inspired the Surrealists.
What books or subject matter do you plan on reading in the next year?
Art and Artist by Otto Rank. An underrated but greatly quoted Psychoanalyst who veered away from Freud. I am being drawn to the psychological and philosophical side of life. I think Alain de Bottons ‘School of Life’ videos on Youtube are great.
John Lennon: One Day at a Time by Anthony Fawcett. I met with Anthony Fawcett at my cheese painting exhibition at the Chelsea Arts Club recently and so will be reading his account of his time with John and Yoko.
If you were to write an autobiography – what would it be called?
Not sure. If it ever happens I reserve the right to reveal the title at a time that feels right.