Andrew Vicari is a Welsh fine artist of Italian parentage. Born on April 20th 1938 the painter studied at the Swansea School of Art having won the gold medal in the National Eisteddfod of Wales as a thirteen year old. Vicari went on to study under Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, and William Coldstream at the Slade School of Art during what are often regarded as the school’s greatest years. Under Bacon’s guidance Vicari concentrated on oil painting while Augustus John insisted on sitting for Vicari so as he could repeatedly draw him and develop his skills as a draughtsman. As a result of this dual tutelage Vicari has been able to call on both his unique flare and ability with paint and his exemplary draughtsmanship throughout his long career.
Having rigidly abstained from popular contemporary styled Vicari has worked built his oeuvre around impressionistic figurative oil painting; with his often very large signatures being just one of the many idiosyncrasies of his very distinct style. Two particular motifs that feature heavily in Vicari’s work are his treatment of light through vivid colour, and his fantastical, indulgent, loose, and painterly suns that emanate band after band of warm hues.
Vicari’s depictions of King Faisal led to a great friendship developing between the artist and the King’s son Prince Khalid Al Faisal, who was fascinated with Vicari’s ability to perceive his father’s character. As Vicari’s reputation grew he was commissioned by Prince Khaled bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, the Saudi commander of the joint forces during the Gulf War, to paint a record of the conflict. ‘From War to Peace - The Liberation of Kuwait’ was to become a series of 225 paintings of which Prince Khaled purchased 125 for $17million. Since the 1980s Vicari’s curious career has continued developed though the artist’s portraiture of eminent world leaders and public figures. Moreover, Vicari’s life and work recently began to garner so recognition and acclaim in his native Wales where in 2002 the artist was commissioned to paint a mural in Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, and where in 2004 Vicari was voted in the top fifty Welsh heroes of all time.
Vicari has a reputation as being something of an unknown in the art worlds of Western Europe, America, and indeed the UK, and when the subject of his work is approached it is often in a critical light; having been described as cliché and not of artistic interest. However it is not in the West where Vicari has made his name, nor his astronomical fortune. Vicari’s fateful first brush with the Arab World - where he would go on to change the artistic landscape - came during when his Foreign Office friend would tour Middle Eastern officials around his London studio which eventually led to Vicari’s exhibiting in Beirut in 1974. From his successful and pleasant stay in Beirut Vicari was flown to the Arabian capital city Riyadh having been told that he was being flown to Rio. Vicari was warmly met by the governing elite and initially asked to fulfill the honour of painting official Islamic art for their Islamic Conference Centre. Having agreed to do so Vicari was appointed as the official painter of Saudi Arabia; the artist laureate to the King Faisal and Government. This appointment was historic not just because a non-muslim had been selected to hold a position in Islamic and Arabic culture, but also because it led to Vicari reintroducing figuration into official Islamic art for the first time in fourteen centuries. Vicari’s first commission in his new position was to become one of the most extensive and prolific ventures in the history of modern painting. ‘The Triumph of the Bedouin’ was a sixty piece suite which took four years to complete, the works in the series tell an all encompassing tale of the development of Saudi Arabia from it’s origins to it;s emergence as a modern nation. The collection now hangs in the King Faisal Conference Centre in Riyadh, one of three spaces dedicated entirely to Vicari’s artworks in Saudi Arabia.
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