Art & the Artist

Discover the Dreamlike Works of Artist Guillermo Lorca

Inspired by the Old Masters, the Chilean painter brings an operatic sense of drama to his large-format, eerily beautiful canvases

Guillermo Lorca’s vast works have been described as more like operas than mere paintings. “Curiously, opera was the first music that I loved as a child, I asked my mother to play it on car trips,” says the Chilean painter. “There is a relationship in my compositions with the staging of an opera, but not with the content of them. In my paintings I don’t seek to illustrate a story but to suggest one that is the product of unconscious forces.”

The stories Lorca seeks to evoke often include elements of magic realism, wild beasts, and disturbed-looking young girls, and call to mind the work of French artist Gustave Doré—who he cites as an influence—along with Velázquez and Rembrandt.

Portrait of Guillermo Lorca in front of a large scale oil painting
Known for his large-scale oil paintings, Lorca—shot exclusively for Christie's International Real Estate—combines realism with a lavish baroque style, resulting in works that are rich with narrative and dreamlike sequences. Image: Jaime Arrau

“I’ve known of Rembrandt since I was a child and was always intrigued by the atmosphere he created,” Lorca says. “Over time I became obsessed with his brushwork and glazes. Seeing his work in person, it always stands out from other paintings, it has something very powerful.”

The artist grew up in Santiago, Chile, and was encouraged to draw and paint from an early age by his writer mother and his lawyer father. “The first drawings I remember doing were of dinosaurs fighting, which was also the subject of my first oil painting. I still have it.”

At 16 Lorca started training under Chilean artist Sergio Montero before moving to Norway to study with Odd Nerdrum, one of the greatest living figurative painters. “From him I learned some technical things, but my main lesson was to see the personal dedication and attitude that he had towards his work, in which he managed to capture the deepest, most authentic parts of his being… I knew that I had to find that mental place and that attitude in myself.”

The Banquet oil painting by Guillermo Lorca
Intricate and disquieting works, such as The Banquet, dominate the artist’s studio space during their creation thanks to their colossal size and scope.

So, what’s at the heart of a Guillermo Lorca work? “It begins with an idea linked to a specific feeling. The image may be spontaneous or the product of other images I’ve seen. I’ve never had the complete vision of a painting.”

In my paintings I don’t seek to illustrate a story, but to suggest one that is the product of unconscious forces

He compiles related images and then makes preliminary sketches on his computer, adding photos and digital painting “until I have a very defined sketch that I use as a guide to paint. The pictorial process is not very different to that of a few centuries ago: I draw first with pastel or charcoal, then I begin to paint the first layers.”

a Cama Inglesa, an oil painting by Guillermo Lorca
Gothic dreamland: Strange, haunted-looking children and untamed creatures feature heavily in Lorca’s oil-on-canvas paintings, such as La Cama Inglesa.

The paintings and figures in them that Lorca creates are life-size because “I have many ideas that require many elements, it’s not something I do on purpose.” With their seemingly ferocious animals and almost menacing children, there is an air of malevolence to some of Lorca’s works.

“There are some paintings where creatures can be threatening, just as they are in the internal and external worlds of an individual. But I’d like to think that my paintings have a happy ending, that despite the situations I paint, harmony and beauty manage to win the game.”

Banner image: Mural Japones by Guillermo Lorca