Lot 17
  • 17

Richard Prince

1,300,000 - 1,800,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Richard Prince
  • Untitled (Nurse)
  • signed and dated 2006 on the reverse
  • acrylic and inkjet on canvas 
  • 152.4 by 121.9cm.; 60 by 48in.


Gagosian Gallery, New York

Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2008


London, Gagosian Gallery, Richard Prince, 2008

Oslo, Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, Richard Prince: Canaries in the Coal Mine, 2007, p. 43, no. 32, illustrated in colour.

Catalogue Note

Drenched in sumptuous streams of crimson drips that trickle down the seductive protagonist, Richard Prince’s Untitled (Nurse) is a striking example from the artist’s iconic Nurse Paintings. Arresting in its unusual composition – whereby the nurse is encased in a small black box, set against a virginal white ground – and remarkable for the nurse’s coquettish allure with her golden locks and sultry stare, Untitled (Nurse) is a truly exceptional example from this pivotal series. Executed in 2006, Untitled (Nurse) is a later, gorier example of the corpus of nurse paintings that were initially conceived for a 2003 show at Barabara Gladstone Gallery. In these paintings, the masculine, heroic cowboy of the artist’s earlier, definitive Cowyboy photographs is replaced by a singular female character: the erotic, hyper-sexualised nurse, a figure that permeated popular culture in the 1950s and 60s and who served as the inspiration for a series of much loved 45-cent racy paperback nurse fantasies. Untitled (Nurse) reconsiders and re-evaluates with palpable maturity many of the prevalent themes of the Cowboys – the manipulation of appropriated images, the glamour of mass culture and the death of the author – in an entirely novel, painterly manner. Here the image of the nurse is lavishly submerged in great swathes of black and white brushstrokes, whilst frenzied dabs of red transform her sultry white uniform into something altogether more disturbing. In this respect Untitled (Nurse) utterly encapsulates and defines the artist’s distinctive conceptual and aesthetic practice.

For the Nurse Paintings, Prince, a renowned and obsessive bibliophile, took for his source his own extensive collection of trashy nurse fantasies. The cheap, throwaway titles and enticing covers that were designed to titillate, exerted an overwhelmingly seductive power over the artist. As Prince recalls: “With the Nurse paintings, I believe I started out just reading the paper. It just occurred to me that everyone needed a nurse. I collect books – basically I’m a bibliophile – and I had collected these nurse books. There’s a whole genre and I’d had them for years. I wanted to do something just white… But before I put them away, I made a mistake painting all this white – this is when I say I get lucky. After I had wiped off some of the painting, it looked like a mask on the nurse’s face and suddenly it was one of those moments. When I noticed that, I realised that was going to be the contribution to the image, to put a mask on these various nurse illustrations. It was a way of unifying and also talking about identity” (Richard Prince quoted in: Natalie Shukur, ‘Richard Prince,’ RusshMagazine, 2014, online resource).

To create these extraordinary works, Prince first scanned, enlarged and copied the tantalising book covers onto canvas using an ink jet print, removing the presence of the artist’s hand – a method that was hallmark of his earlier practice. Distancing his practice from the early photographs, however, Prince then altered the impersonal printed finish with lavish brushstrokes, heightening the brash connotations of the novel by sullying the glossy inkjet surfaces with instantly appealing, sensuous layers of drippy paint. Reserved and demure, everything about Untitled (Nurse) from her glossy blonde curls, her luscious eyelashes and intimate stare are designed to ooze sex appeal. The white surgical mask that covers her mouth, however, and the streams of crimson pigment that run down her eyes, mask and body is certainly more redolent of a femme-fatale, giving her a rather sinister look. Here her paint-splattered body and uniform mimics the heroic, gestural fury of Willem de Kooning’s erotic, overbearing women. As the desirability of the erotic subject in Untitled (Nurse) is grounded by the seriousness of this Abstract Expressionist connotation, she ultimately gains power as an image. In the same manner as de Kooning’s iconic Woman paintings, the present work oscillates between the polarities of beauty and horror, desire and fear, negating any single interpretation of this sultry vixen. In this way, Untitled (Nurse) is Prince at his absolute finest.