Lot 4
  • 4

CECILY BROWN | Confessions of a Window Cleaner

3,000,000 - 4,000,000 USD
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  • Cecily Brown
  • Confessions of a Window Cleaner
  • signed and dated 2000-2001 on the reverse; signed and dated on the stretcher
  • oil on canvas
  • 75 by 90 in. 190.5 by 228.6 cm.


Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin
Marcel Brient (acquired from the above in May 2001)
Sotheby's New York, November 14, 2006, Lot 73 (consigned by the above)
Acquired by the present owner from the above


Berlin, Contemporary Fine Arts, Cecily Brown: Days of Heaven, March - May 2001, n.p., no. 2, illustrated in color


Ealan Wingate, ed., Cecily Brown, New York, 2008, pp. 126-127, illustrated in color

Catalogue Note

Richly seductive and fantastically expressive, Cecily Brown’s sumptuous Confessions of a Window Cleaner exemplifies the artist’s prodigious fusion of rich painterly abstraction with figurative allusion. Executed in 2000-2001, Confessions of a Window Cleaner exudes an unbridled sense of visual pleasure and roots itself to the canon of art history; Brown mines masterpieces of the past to forge a line from the past to the present in this tour de force of painterly delight. Epic in its grandeur, the present work derives its title from Val Guest’s eponymous 1974 British sex comedy film, which reflects Brown’s characteristic “taste for popular entertainment in its vivacious vulgarity.” (Dore Ashton, Cecily Brown, New York, 2008, p. 14) In its dramatic scale and intriguing title, Confessions of a Window Cleaner hails from a pivotal body of large-scale works Brown produced in the late 1990s and 2000s, many of which, like the present work, take their names from popular films - such as Suddenly Last Summer, The Pyjama Game, and The Girl Who Had Everything. Describing the present work’s tantalizing panoply of fervent brushstrokes, esteemed art historian Dore Ashton writes: “In 2000, Brown pushed her way far into a realism that could only be called abstract. Confessions of a Window Cleaner, for example, is, despite its suggestive title, basically a celebration of the joy of painting. Brown darted across the surface in staccato rhythms, with a long stroke of dense paint here, a delicate pinkish wash there, her hand giving weight to each stroke. Here and there, she would lean on her brush, producing a squashed, circular form, or the brush would drag one color into another.” (Ibid., p. 16) Through the sensuality of its painted surface, Confessions of a Window Cleaner exhibits the implied human presence inherent to Brown’s distinctive style. With its fiery reds, fleshy pinks, and rich ochre, the present work invites viewers to consume its luscious forms, fulfilling the artist’s desire—viewing her works “should be a pleasurable, even a hedonistic experience….” (The artist in conversation with Lari Pittman in Ibid., p. 27) The painting’s hints of violet pigment, and its infinite variations in brushstroke—ranging from quick horizontal streaks, broad flourishes, thick drips, to coiled skeins—cause the eye to wander around the canvas’s massive surface. As such, the viewer is “susceptible to the enchantments of the density of paint, of color, as they perform events on the canvas surface.” (Ibid., p. 20) Playfully challenging traditionally perceived boundaries of abstraction and figuration, Confessions of a Window Cleaner illuminates the extraordinary potential of paint to unpack the admixture of sensorial faculties that makes up our human experience of seeing.

Viewers can readily discern the present work’s deep resonance with a seemingly endless array of art historical references. From the passionate aura, sweeping lines, and smoldering red palette of Eugène Delacroix’s Death of Sardanapalus, the textural figuration of Paul Cézanne’s Large Bathers, to the carnal tumult of Hieronymous Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights, Brown’s Confessions of a Window Cleaner evokes the vernacular of legendary painters across the history of art, abstracting her forms all the while retaining the grand narrative impact of her forebears. Perhaps most evidently, Brown’s visual language and handling of pigment and paint is informed by the gestural mark-making of the American Abstract Expressionists. Indeed, Brown’s tenacious and immersive brushwork is an affirmation of Willem 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 Derek Peck, "New York Minute: Cecily Brown," Another, September 14, 2012)

A visceral and commanding exploration of painting’s elusive power of suggestion, Confessions of a Window Cleaner encapsulates the ethos of Brown’s singular artistic project. Its evocation of human flesh through bold gesture and vivid color perfectly illustrates the artist’s reflection that she wants “there to be a human presence without having to depict it in full.” (The artist in conversation with Lari Pittman in Dore Ashton, Cecily Brown, New York, 2008, p. 28) Wholly irresistible, Confessions of a Window Cleaner engages the medium of painting itself, capitalizing on the sensuality of her materials and ability to playfully manipulate the viewer’s perception through descriptive possibilities.