In France in the early 19th century the award of the Prix de Rome by the École des Beaux-Arts depended on an annual competition. As well as the Prix de Rome for History painting a prize for Historical Landscape was instituted in 1817. The examination was tri-partite. The first stage required the execution of an esquisse (sketch study). The second stage, named Concours de l'arbre, lasted six days, during which the contestants painted, in isolation and from memory, a picture that featured a tree as its dominant motif and a narrative subject in which the figures had to be "at least four inches in height". The final stage was the painting of a finished historical landscape, the subject determined in advance by the jury.
Christopher Le Brun is a painter, sculptor and printmaker. Born in Portsmouth and trained at the Slade and Chelsea Schools of Art in London he appeared early on in many group exhibitions, such as the influential Zeitgeist exhibition at the Martin-Gropius Bau, Berlin, and from 1980 on, in many solo exhibitions in Britain, Europe and America. He was a prizewinner at the John Moores Liverpool exhibitions in 1978 and 1980 and worked in Berlin during 1987-88 as guest of the DAAD artist's programme.
Between 1990 and 2003 he served as a trustee of the Tate and subsequently of the National Gallery, a period which saw his involvement in the radical developments of Tate at Bankside, Liverpool and St. Ives as well as the masterplan and re-development of the east wing of the National Gallery.
In recent years he has been a trustee of the Dulwich Picture Gallery and the Prince's Drawing School, which he helped to establish in 2000. In the same year he was elected Professor of Drawing at the Royal Academy.
At a time when artists frequently use traditional modes or quotations in a spirit of irony, the repertoire of motifs with which his work is especially associated makes patent his strong attachment to the imagery and emotional address of Romanticism and Symbolism. His paintings ask us to attend not only to the compelling imagery he employs, but also to the poetic and structural processes through which it is made visible.
He was elected President of the Royal Academy in December 2011. He is the 26th President since Sir Joshua Reynolds and the youngest to be elected since Lord Leighton in 1878.