Artist Spotlight: Richard Farrar

EuropeNow Can you tell us a little about yourself and about the kind of art you create?

Richard Farrar At the university of Mexico I studied art history, and of course I was exposed to Rivera, Orozco, and the whole gamut of Mexican artists. I began to see some abstract artists work. I thought it was nonsense. Back in this country at NYU, I took a course in painting with Hale Woodruff. He had studied with Diego Rivera, but when I caught up with him he was in deep with the Abstract Expressionists like Pollack and deKooning at the Cedar Bar in Greenwich Village. With his encouragement, I began to do large pieces of Japanese calligraphy in red, yellow, and blue. I had never even seen any calligraphy so it was an unexplained mystery. From there, I drifted into conventional beginner type work doing boats and barns. But I felt that I needed to do better work on perspective so I went to Pratt in Brooklyn. I became quite good at very realistic work – even doing some tight advertising art. Returning to oil painting – I picked up a pallet knife and never did another representational piece. Go figure.

Later, I showed at the Martha Jackson gallery. She said that I was very romantic. I was also in some group shows in NY and had a one man show at Phase Two. Art News gave me a review in the same issue that Marko Rothko got five pages – They gave me two lines. I was incensed. I was showing large, complex work – Mark just seemed to feather the edges of large squares – or so I thought at the time. Sometime later, I turned a corner in MOMA – and there was a huge Motherwell “Elegy to the Spanish Republic!” I was enthralled. At about  the same time I found Franz Kline. These two artists had a profound effect on my work. See the Crab Nebula.

Sidney Janis said that my work was derivative. Picasso said that good artists borrow – but great artists steal.  Clearly these two artists were a major influence on me.

EuropeNow When you were starting out, would you have been surprised at your art today?

Richard Farrar When I started out I thought that abstract art was a sham, which was being foisted on the public. Though I went through a phase of doing representational work, I do not think that one must be able to do the one before doing the other, as many seem to believe.

EuropeNow What is your favorite aspect of your art?

Richard Farrar I feel that my work is strong – that it gives the viewer a feeling. Duchamp said that the viewer is equally important part of any piece of art. I agree completely. I feel  that my best work evolves when I have a fairly clear vision in my head before  I start. As I paint it it will change or grow.  I am not a painter who makes a mark on the canvas and paints from there.

EuropeNow Can you tell us a little about the piece you donated for this auction?

Richard Farrar “The Crab Nebula” is one of a series of paintings that I did with Sumi ink on Arches rag paper. I have always been interested in science – from Newton to Einstein – but particularly with astrophysics. This is a constellation that is moving away from us at incredible velocity. And we don’t know why, but the scientists say that it is due to “dark energy,” but we do not as yet have a clue as to what that is. Isn’t that fascinating?

EuropeNow Who is your favorite artist and why?

Richard Farrar In addition to the abstract impressionist painters of the 1950s, I am very taken with Miro, and as I have nine books of Picasso – I guess I like him too. Goya’s black paintings are wonderful – particularly “The Witches Sabath” and Caravaggio is a favorite.

EuropeNow If you had the opportunity to meet one artist, living or dead, who would it be?

Richard Farrar A meal with Caravaggioc would be astounding!


Richard Farrar studied at Pratt Institute, the Art Students League, and earned a degree in art history for NYU. He also studied art at the University of Mexico.

Lillian Klein is the programs coordinator at the Council for European Studies. She holds a B.A. in literature with a minor in religious studies from Barnard College, as well as an M.F.A. in fiction from Columbia University. Previously, Lillian assisted in the Memberships, Programs, and Awards Department at PEN America Center. She also served as a teaching fellow at Paris American Academy’s writing program for two consecutive summers.

Christie’s Education (CE) New York has entered into a collaborative partnership with the Council for European Studies at Columbia University (CES). A first joint project is a forthcoming online auction, the proceeds of which will be used to create a new scholarship to be awarded to a CES-CE applicant. The featured work in this article has been donated to the online auction, which will take place in December 2017.


Published on August 17, 2017.


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