Balena, Pacifica, 2015
Copia de contacte a la gelatina de plata, edició de 5
Courtesy of the artist and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
© Richard Learoyd. Courtesy of the artist and Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

Television images  user: RICHARD_LEAROYD        password: EXPO      Press images               Press kit


  • Learoyd’s work makes multiple references to the history of painting, both in terms of his themes and the technique he employs.
  • His black and white and color photographs are the result of an artisan process using a camera obscura he built himself.
  • One of the most characteristic aspects of Richard Learoyd’s color photographs is that they are one-off pieces.
  • Available until 8 September at our Fundación MAPFRE Casa Garriga Nogués Exhibition Hall.


Fundación MAPFRE has presented in Barcelona, the Richard Learoyd exhibition which showcases this British artist’s work at the height of his career, through a selection of 51 large format, color, and black and white photographs encompassing his best work over the span of a decade.

Richard Learoyd (Nelson, United Kingdom, 1966) is well-known for his unique photographic work which he has been carrying out for over a decade and which consists mainly of portraits of clothed and nude models in his studio, but it also covers other topics such as animal, landscape and dark mirror photography.

Learoyd’s work makes multiple references to the history of painting, both in terms of his themes and the technique he employs. His color and black and white photographs are the result of an artisanal process using a camera obscura based on antiquarian optical principals that he built himself.

This homemade device enables him to take large format color portraits, thereby producing pictures which do not look like photographs at all. Both his way of taking photographs and how he observes the image requires a more attentive and thoughtful gaze. It calls for a more contemplative attitude than the immediacy with which we normally see and photograph the world.

His work has recently been on exhibit at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London (2015) and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles (2016).  His photographs feature in the collections of some of the most important museums in the world, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Tate in London, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City (Missouri) and the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, as well as in other important institutions and in several private collections.


The exhibition is arranged by themes rather than in chronological order and combines landscapes, portraits and still lifes.

Landscapes.  Although Learoyd started out as a landscape photographer  who tookclassic black and white photographs, his career has focused mainly on portraiture.

In the last few years he has adapted his large camera obscura and has journeyed outside of the studio, photographing well-known places such as the Yosemite Valley in California and other less familiar parts of Eastern Europe.

A highlight of the exhibition is one of the landscapes taken in Spain (in Lanzarote), commissioned by Fundación MAPFRE and included in the Foundation’s Photography Collection, which now boasts two more of the artist’s pieces.

Portraits. The people that appear in the photographer’s studio photographs seem indisputably modern. Nevertheless, these figures also possess a timeless quality which draws us back to the art of the past. As well as finding inspiration in the great Renaissance artists, he has also studied 19th century painters such as Ingres.

Ingres was also one of the great masters of the nude and some of the photographer’s figures have echoes of his work. Although the Victorian photographer Julia Margaret Cameron appears to have a special significance for him.

Still life.  Learoyd is particularly interested in setting up still lifes, although his images are radically different to many of the classic expressions of this genre throughout art history. Learoyd has reinvented the notion of «still life» lending special emphasis to the meaning of the term: this is about lives that have been stilled.

Some of these photographs are very similar to the more classic still lifes. However, others, such as his images of dead animals, are both beautiful and unsettling: a severed horse’s head or magpies and swans presented as hanging decorations.

His most original images consist of hybrid forms that he himself sculpted from once living beings. Fish heart I, as an example, comprises two organisms sewn together and suspended in the air.

Taking part in the exhibition’s unveiling were Sandra S. Phillips, emeritus curator of photography at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the exhibition’s curator, Nadia Arroyo, Fundación MAPFRE’s Culture director, as well as the photographer himself.