Jenny Saville: Artist Portrait

Jenny Saville

Born 1970.
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Jenny Saville Biography

Jenny Saville (b. 1970) is among the leading contemporary artists whose work has sparked a recent revival in interest in figural painting. Born in Cambridge, England, Saville trained at the Glasgow School of Art in Scotland. Her mother recognized her talent early on, and constructed a makeshift studio out of the broom closet in their home. She has since worked in a variety of spaces including a factory in New York, a dilapidated palazzo in Palermo, Italy, and a tenement in Glasgow.

She is known for her larger-than-life figural paintings of nude women, depicted at unusual and distorted angles. These portraits are defined by an exaggerated realness, as she emphasizes folds of flesh, visible veins and reddened skin. Saville’s precise handling of paint and purposefully foreshortened perspectives underscore the female form’s solidity and power, as well as its inherent vulnerability. The resilience of human flesh is among Saville’s central interests; in addition to her study of classical and Renaissance sculpture, she spent time in a morgue, and observed a plastic surgeon at work to fully grasp the nature, extremes, and possibilities of the body. Her works comment on the contemporary obsession with the figure, from emaciated to obese bodies, and as such, work has been described as embodying a ‘feminist aesthetics of disgust.’ Her works synthesize ancient modes of representations of womanhood or fertility; Renaissance approaches to portraiture and paint handling; and the expressive techniques of Fauvist and Abstract Expressionist painters.

Saville’s career has been marked by critical and commercial success since her art school days. Her graduate student show at the Glasgow School of Art sold entirely, with one of her paintings then featured on the cover The Times Saturday supplement in London. In the weeks that followed, gallerist Charles Saatchi purchased the entirety of her available oeuvre and commissioned a series of new works. She is represented by Gagosian Gallery in New York and has exhibited at London’s Tate Britain and Royal Academy of Art. Her paintings can be found in major institutions including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

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Artist Image: 2012 Pal Hansen
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