Lot 210
  • 210

CECILY BROWN | Have You Not Known, Have You Not Heard [Triptych]

2,000,000 - 3,000,000 USD
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  • Cecily Brown
  • Have You Not Known, Have You Not Heard [Triptych] 
  • each signed and dated 2011 on the reverse 
  • oil on canvas
  • Each: 83 by 49 in. 210.8 by 124.5 cm.
  • Overall: 83 by 147 1/2 in. 210.8 by 374.7 cm.


Gagosian Gallery, London 
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2011 


London, Gagosian Gallery, Exhibition of Paintings and Works on Paper by Cecily Brown, June - July 2011, pp. 38-41, and p. 64, illustrated in color


This work is in very good condition overall. Please contact the Contemporary Department at (212) 606-7254 for a professional condition report prepared by Amann+Eastabrook Conservation Associates. 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

Fantastically expressive and irresistibly bold, Cecily Brown’s Have You Not Known, Have You Not Heard exemplifies the artist’s prodigious fusion of rich gestural abstraction with figurative allusion. Executed in 2011, the present work 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. A triptych of monumental proportions, the present work derives its title from Isaiah 40:28-31, a Biblical verse that exalts God’s glory; Have You Not Known, Have You Not Heard’s three-panel format, which was historically reserved for Christian altarpieces, echoes the work’s nod to the influence of Western religiosity on the history of art. Exhibited in Cecily Brown at Gagosian Gallery from June to July 2011, Have You Not Known, Have You Not Heard reverberates with a powerful suggestion of human flesh, perfectly illustrating 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).  Through the sensuality of its painted surface, Have You Not Known, Have You Not Heard 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, swashes of cool blues and mossy greens, and its infinite variations in brushstroke—ranging from quick horizontal streaks, broad flourishes, thick dashes, 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, Have You Not Known, Have You Not Heard 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 Peter Paul Rubens’s The Defeat of Sanherib, King of Assur, the textural figuration of Paul Cézanne’s Large Bathers, to the carnal tumult of Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights, Brown’s Have You Not Known, Have You Not Heard 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, 14 September 2012, online).

A visceral and commanding celebration of painting’s elusive power of suggestion, Have You Not Known, Have You Not Heard engages the medium of painting itself, capitalizing on the sensuality of the medium and its ability to playfully manipulate the viewer’s perception through descriptive possibilities. Lush in powerful gesture and chromatic vibrancy, the present work basks viewers in its seductive grandeur.