For over five hundred years, Richard the Third has been the subject of much good and bad art. Perhaps the most famous image is the National Portrait Gallery portrait which hangs in a prominent spot (after years of being shunted into a busy stairwell at the entryway) and has for many years intrigued casual visitors as well as historians, novelists and artists. The sensitive portrait is so at odds with the “evil uncle” myth that it is no wonder that it has spawned everything from detective novels to an entire society devoted to finding out the true story of the last English king to die in battle. With the discovery of his remains and the amazing reconstruction of his head and face, many talented artists (including the Finnish graphic artist, Riikka Nikko) have taken to drawing and painting his handsome face.
One of the most prolific Ricardian artists on the scene today is Frances Quinn, a Dublin-based artist whose works can be seen as the cover art of novels (particularly the work of Janet Reedman) and has won a place in British historian John Ashdown-Hill’s new book “The Mythology of Richard the Third.” I had the chance to interview Frances and find out a little bit more about the woman behind the lovely portraits of King Richard as well as her beautiful images of horses, dogs, boars and stags – particularly her rendition of Richard’s possibly mythical stallion, White Surrey.
Frances, can you give us some background on your art education and something about your life in Ireland?
I’ve had no art training at all; I’m entirely self-taught. Having said that, the artistic streak runs in my mother’s side of the family. I have a cousin and an uncle who are artists as well. I live on the outskirts of Dublin in what used to be a country village until the developers got hold of it. I left school at seventeen and as I couldn’t afford to go to art college, I went to work in the bookmaking business. I now work part-time, in order to spend more time at my art.
How would you describe your work?
My style of art is semi-realistic; I suppose it’s more of an illustrative style than strictly ‘art.’ I use mostly gouache and watercolours but I also use coloured pencil and occasionally water based oils – but they take too long to dry to my liking!
How did you get involved in illustrating books?
I used to do illustrations for fanzines in the 80s and 90s, so it was a natural progression to move to books. I’ve done several covers and John Ashdown-Hill has used one of my paintings in his latest book on the mythology of Richard the Third. John was here in Ireland last year to give a talk and the Irish Richard the Third group presented him with one of my paintings. He must have liked it as he asked if he could use the painting of Richard and White Surrey.
I can see why he liked it. Can you tell us why and when you became interested in Richard the Third? Is there another historical figure that interests you as much as he does?
I’ve always been interested in Richard the Third. Something about him fascinated me and after I read “The Daughter of Time” in the early 80s, I tried to find out as much as I could about him. About the only decent book available then was Paul M. Kendall’s biography “Richard the Third.” The only other historical figure that I was interested in was Tutankhammun! I think artists as drawn to subjects that have a touch of the mythic about them; Richard has so much of the “sacrificial” mythos characteristics, he’s a perfect study for any artist or writer.
Do you have a studio?
I don’t have a specific studio but my front room doubles as my ‘aetelier’ – which sounds very grand. Actually, it’s just a room of art supplies, books and bits of taxidermy.
How can we buy your work?
If anyone’s interested in buying my art, they can contact me either on my Facebook page “The Art of Frances Quinn” or email me at email@example.com.
Thanks, Frances. I’ll let you get back to work.
J.P. Reedman’s novels and short stories can be found on Amazon.com.
Top right: left to right, Frances Quinn and Janet Reedman