Robbie Wraith     biography

Robbie Wraith left school at 16, and went to  Italy to study painting drawing and fresco with Pietro Annigoni. Since then he has had thirty three one-man exhibitions in Britain, Europe, China and the USA. He has work in the collection of HM The Queen as well as more than 40 pictures in the private collection of HRH The Prince of Wales, and also in the Royal Collection Windsor, The Vatican, Chatsworth, The National Trust,The Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, Oxford and Cambridge Universities, Eton College, The MCC, Shell International, Blarney Castle, Fondazione Fremantle Florence, Hoares Bank, – and many others.

A long list of distinguished portrait sitters includes Her Majesty The Queen, The 11th Duke and Duchess of Devonshire commissioned by HRH The Prince of Wales, The Archbishops of Canterbury and York, The Rt. Hon The Lord Judge as Lord Chief Justice, Nelson Mandela, (drawn while accompanying HRH The Prince of Wales on his official visit to South Africa, Swaziland and Lesotho),  Roger Waters (Pink Floyd), Sir Roger Penrose O.M., for the Royal Collection Windsor – and many others.

 Other work for The Prince of Wales includes two series of pictures of the house and gardens at Highgrove and a series of HMY Britannia. He painted the picture presented to Pope John Paul II to commemorate his visit to Canterbury, and has painted frescoes in two churches in Italy . In 1995 he was elected to The Royal Society of Portrait Painters.

Selected mixed exhibitions have included ‘Princes as Patrons’ at the National Museum of Wales. ‘Travels with the Prince’ Hampton Court Palace, the Royal Academy, the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, The Discerning Eye, National Portrait Gallery, – and many others.

HRH intro
duchess intro
Exhibition Introduction
by Henry Wyndham, Chairman, Sotheby’s

It is a great pleasure to write a few words of introduction to this exhibition of paintings and drawings by Robbie Wraith. He is an artist I have very much admired ever since I was lucky enough to persuade him to exhibit with us in my days at The St. James’s Art Group.

He stands in the great British tradition of meticulous and sensitive draughtsmanship. No spectator will leave a Robbie Wraith exhibition unimpressed by the combination of delicacy and authority in his drawings. As a portraitist he is much sought after, with a long record of distinguished sitters. As a painter, his interiors evoke a deeply sympathetic mood of contemplative calm. There can be few artists at work in Britain today whose work it is a greater pleasure to own.

Henry Wyndham,   Chairman, Sotheby’s


Robbie Wraith is an artist rooted in the tradition of fine art. Which is not the same as saying that his art is old-fashioned. On the contrary, it is infused with the spirit of today and he looks out on the world as a 21st century man. What he has done is to master the tools of his trade, as most artists are too impatient and too ill equipped to attempt. Drawing is the bedrock of his art as it was for the painters of the past. His flowing line encompasses the subtleties of modelling and tone, light and shadow. He can draw with the utmost delicacy and finesse, and yet with a tensile grasp of form.
He is above all a draughtsman who delights in the sensuous contours of the female body, which he sculpts in charcoal and soft chalks. He draws his models with precision, and yet with a sense of their mysteriousness and withdrawness. They will forever taunt him with their beauty and their sex, and escape him. His paintings, so skillfully crafted and composed are flawless in their surface textures. Yet for all their impeccable technique, learned from the masters of the past, the paintings are of contemporary people and the contemporary world, they are frequently edgy, offbeat, challenging, not pompous and academic at all. Commissioned portraits are different; the portraitist is always to some extent constrained by the conventions of the form and the expectations of the sitter. Within these constraints, Wraith has demonstrated his ability to capture individuality in new and imaginative ways, and to animate a timeworn tradition. He speaks with yesterdayʼs tools in the language of today.
Wraith is a versatile and rounded artist, at home with chalk, oil and watercolour, and able to tackle portraiture, landscape, figure subjects and still lives with equal fluency. Why doesnʼt someone commission him to undertake a large-scale decoration? He has been trained for it, and then we should see him at full stretch, employing all those resources and talents he has nurtured over the years. Who would risk such a thing, so much are we in hoc to the shockable and sensational? The titles ʻclassic realistʼ and ʻacademic realistʼ are inadequate descriptions of an artist who remains very much his own man, and who delights us with the beauty of his subjects and the accomplishments of his style.

Richard Ormond,  Highgate, March 2012 

 Laura Bailey, Model and Writer, Vogue Magazine

I’ve lived many lives, both real and imagined, through photographic alchemy since my village schooldays, but I will always be indebted to the man who banished my sixth-form blues 20 years ago by inviting me into his world. It was a hop across a stile and a skip along a muddy path between my school and his home studio – a geographical nothing but emotionally worlds apart. Thanks to Robbie Wraith I know all the words to Bob Dylan and Van Morrisson songs, I will always dream of – and run to – Italy and, contrary to recent behaviour, I know how to (very occasionally) simply sit still and let my mind wander into the quiet zone.

In between cross-country running and first dates, Shakespeare workshops and driving lessons, I’d find my way to the ‘Old Schoolhouse’ to eat and drink with his beautiful wife Tina whilst their children adopted me as a kind of honorary big sister. My chosen family. Whilst I sipped Chianti or did my homework – or sometimes both – Robbie would paint, and for a while, all was calm.

Every painting and drawing in Robbie’s new show at Messum’s on Cork St – which opened this week – triggers hazy bittersweet memories along with a renewed awe of my wise old friend’s exceptional talent and piercing vision. His quest for truth via art was my first inspiration, a tacit permission to dream big dreams. A new drawing is long overdue he gently reminds me. These days we squeeze all-too-rare London lunches between trips and kids and very different kinds of being looked at. I won’t be wearing my school uniform or my hockey boots this time around, but the soundtrack will always be Dylan.