Lot 6
  • 6

Henry Hudson

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Description

  • Henry Hudson
  • Plate 2, The Autopsy at King's College
  • varnished plasticine on board
  • 183 by 245cm.; 72 by 96 1/2 in.
  • Executed in 2014.

Catalogue Note

The second plate of the series, with a composition taken from Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp from 1632, shows Young Sen at class, he now lives in London and is studying at King’s College. The subject for the present lesson, however, evokes Lucian Freud’s sensuous and almost tactile depictions of Sue Tilley in the Benefits Supervisor series from the mid-1990s.

Whilst most of the action is taking place at the centre of the composition, with the professor having cut the corpse open and the students observing attentively with a mixture of fascination and disgust, Young Sen hides in a corner. He is furtively raiding the medicine cabinets - inspired by Damien Hirst’s works on the same subject - hoping to steal some medicine he can’t afford otherwise. The room is packed with an unusual mix of characters; besides Young Sen’s classmates and teacher, an amputee in a wheelchair, businessmen and even animals populate the room. A figure clad in a chemical and biological hazard protection suit has emerged from the experiment room at the left of the composition, and has accidentally allowed some of the animals he is testing on into the room.

Towards the centre, an animal that looks like a cross between a sheep and a zebra recalls Dolly the sheep and the controversy related to cloning experiments that arose at the time of her birth and death. Two doctors, oblivious of the commotion behind them, are inspecting some x-ray images. One of them holds a copy of Gray’s Anatomy, a book that is not only linked to medicine studies, but also reminds of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s own fascination with the subject and his use of the volume as inspiration for his work. At the back of the composition, looking through a door is Daniel; a fellow colleague of Sen’s who will in the future become his lover. Close observation reveals a myriad of references to recent news pieces; a discarded newspaper bears a headline about the bid of American pharmaceutical conglomerate Pfizer to buy British company AstraZeneca, the amputee in a wheelchair in the background is an ex-Iraq combatant and at the far end a television monitor shows the breaking news of UKIP’s landslide victory in October 2014.

In The Medical Scene, Sen is already shown as being tempted by the more appealing lifestyle he can carry in the West. It is this scene, which can be linked to Hogarth’s The Levee of A Rake’s Progress, that starts to
anticipate the course of events yet to come.
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