Lot 43
  • 43

Cecily Brown

1,800,000 - 2,500,000 USD
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  • Cecily Brown
  • Suddenly Last Summer
  • signed, titled and dated 1999 on the reverse
  • oil on canvas
  • 100 by 110 1/4 in. 254 by 280 cm.


Gagosian Gallery, New York
Jon Weaver, Bloomfield Hills 
Phillips de Pury & Company, New York, May 14, 2009, Lot 14
Private Collection, Europe (acquired from the above)
Sotheby's, New York, May 12, 2010, Lot 38 (consigned by the above)
Acquired by the present owner from the above


New York, Gagosian Gallery, Cecily Brown, January - February 2000, no. 23, illustrated in color
Des Moines, Des Moines Art Center; and Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Cecily Brown, August 2006 - January 2007, p. 17, no. 5, illustrated in color, and p. 50 (text)
London, Parasol Unit Foundation for Contemporary Art, Visible Invisible: Against the Security of the Real, November 2009 - February 2010, pp. 16-17, no. 16, illustrated in color


Ealan Wingate, Ed., Cecily Brown: Paintings 1988-2000, New York, 2000, no. 23, illustrated
Roberta Smith, "Art in Review: Cecily Brown," The New York Times, January 20, 2000, pp. E2 and E42
D. Hunt, "Going for Baroque," Time Out New York, 2000, p. 57, illustrated
J. Fleming, Cecily Brown, Des Moines, 2006, p. 17, illustrated
Ealan Wingate, Ed., Cecily Brown, New York, 2008, p. 95, illustrated in color 


This work is in excellent condition. Please contact the Contemporary Art Department at +1 (212) 606-7254 for the report prepared by Terrence Mahon. The canvas is unframed.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

“The paintings are like doors flung open suddenly to reveal something shocking. Because they are so energetic they might also be viewed as moments of a movie whose sudden arrest causes the mind’s eye to trip over itself in its own voracity, tangling in dense webs of coloured light, striving to make order of intense and disordered sensations” (Robert Evrén in: Exh. Cat., Rome, Gagosian Gallery, Cecily Brown, 2011, p. 1).  

Immersing the viewer in an utterly tantalizing frenzy of enflamed painterly gestures, Cecily Brown’s Suddenly Last Summer is a luscious fusion of painterly abstraction laced with hints at representation. Brown’s feverish brushstrokes, characteristic of her distinct style, engage the vernacular of painting itself, capitalizing on the sensuality of the medium and its ability to playfully manipulate the viewer’s perception through descriptive possibilities. Although abstract, Suddenly Last Summer presents Brown’s supreme mastery of paint in its commanding and elusive power of suggestion. Executed in 1999, Suddenly Last Summer represents one of Brown’s earliest forays into tackling the human figure in her paintings and draws judiciously upon art historical precedent, incorporating influences of Baroque Classicism, Impressionism, Proto-Cubism, and Abstract Expressionism.

Taking its title from a popular romance mystery film of the late 1950s, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Katharine Hepburn, Suddenly Last Summer is deeply rooted in contemporary culture while also paying homage to its forbearers in a splendid collusion of art historical references. Evoking Peter Paul Rubens' The Judgement of Paris (c. 1606), Edouard Manet’s Dejeuner sur l’Herbe (1863), and Paul Cézanne’s Large Bathers (1898), the present work overwhelms the viewer in a beautifully balanced and rich composition. As Johanna Drucker writes, “The higher order of compositional organization in Brown’s work references the grand tradition of theatrical landscapes filled with figures allegorical, historical, or observed. […] She engages with her sources as if in a lover’s provocation to another touch, another exchange, excitement rising with response at the level of the mark, swatch, line of the brush drawn through the wet paint.” (Johanna Drucker, “Erotic Method,” in Cecily Brown: Paintings 2003-2006, New York, 2005, p. 9) Perhaps most evidently, Brown’s visual language and handling of pigment and paint is informed by the gestural mark-making of American Abstract Expressionists. Indeed, Brown’s tenacious and tantalizing brushwork and sensual pinks are an affirmation of de Kooning’s famous mantra that "flesh was the reason oil paint was invented," and Brown herself described the medium as "sensual, it moves, it catches the light, it’s great for skin and flesh and heft and meat … I wanted to make something that you couldn’t tear your eyes away from." (Cecily Brown, in D. Peck, "New York Minute: Cecily Brown," Another, September 14, 2012) While she certainly looked to de Kooning’s luscious and fleshy paintings of the late 1960s and 1970s, Brown’s handling of paint and figuration in Suddenly Last Summer also pays distinct homage to de Kooning’s early 1950 masterpiece Excavation.  

Playfully challenging traditionally perceived boundaries of abstraction and figuration, Suddenly Last Summer illuminates the extraordinary potential of paint to unpack the admixture of sensorial faculties that makes up our human experience of seeing. In a cacophony of pale fleshy pinks, verdant greens, bright reds, and vigorously deep blues and purples, Brown capitalizes on the unpredictability of paint, hinting at figuration in unexpected places while ultimately embracing painterly abstraction.