- Glenn Brown
- The Marquess of Breadlabane
- oil on panel
- 38 x 31 in. 96.5 x 78.7 cm.
- Painted in 2000.
Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin
Acquired by the present owner from the above
Bignan, Domaine de Kerguéhennec, Centre d'Art Contemporain, Glenn Brown, June - October 2000, cat. no. 76, cover and p. 51, illustrated in color
London, Tate Britain, Turner Prize 2000, October 2000 - January 2001
Paris, Centre Pompidou, Musée national d'art moderne, AZERTY, March - May 2001
Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales, The world may be fantastic: 2002 biennale of Sydney, May - July 2002
Glenn Brown mixes fine art and popular culture to create paintings and sculptures of enormous technical and intellectual complexity. He appropriates the imagery of other artists: Frank Auerbach, Karel Appel and Salvador Dalí are the preferred painters whose pictures he chooses from reproductions in books and magazines. His lengthy process of working from reproductions reflects how often we experience art second-hand, through photographs. Brown adds further twists by choosing reproductions that are not always faithful to the original in color or tonality and additionally crops or otherwise manipulates the images. He prefers paintings which feature anguished heads with large, frightened eyes. "I am attracted to the Gothic notion of a figure trapped somewhere between the psyche of the model, the artist, the photographer, the printing process and me." (Exh. Cat., London, Royal Academy of Arts (and traveling), Sensations: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection, 1997, p. 12).
The face in the The Marquess of Breadalbane is based on the series of thickly painted portraits by Frank Auerbach titled Head of JYM. Brown responds to Auerbach's ability to convey isolation just as much as the existential angst of his subject. In Brown's paintings, one initially notices the visual of thick brush strokes that construct the face as it twists in contortions upwards, but on closer inspection the artist's surface is actually perfectly smooth and glossy. Brown achieves a three-dimensional optical effect for the head and shoulders, while juxtaposing the image against a sky blue background which remind one of a Renaissance portrait painting. Brown's paintings resemble reproductions printed on panel - perfectly imitating the painted surface, while being completely devoid of texture, movement or vitality. He further manipulates the image by varying the colors. The somber browns, grays, russet and blacks preferred by Auerbach are replaced by rainbow colors reminiscent of Gerhard Richter's Abstract Paintings. Brown's paintings are clones or Stepford Wives: their exteriors are so vivid and immaculate, yet the inner life and spirit are absent.
As the artist has stated, "When I work from thick-surfaced paintings - the Auerbachs, the Karel Appel, the de Kooning - they've almost all been portrait heads, in all of them there was originally a model sitting in a chair in the studio who gets characterized by the artist. He finishes it and gets photographed. Then the photograph gets turned into a print, which gets put into a book. I get the book and I do my paintings from it. Through those stages, the original person gets further and further back. Further and further lost, further removed. The whole notion that there was a character underneath the image kept me wanting to do them. It was that sort of loss, as if they were ghosts." (interview with Douglas Folge, "I think I'm far more romantic than I should be" in Exh. Cat., Minneapolis, Walker Art Center, Brilliant! New Art from London, 1995, p. 16).