Saatchi Collection, London (acquired from the above in 1999)
Phillips de Pury & Company, New York, 15 November 2007, Lot 25
Acquired from the above by the present owner
London, Saatchi Gallery, Damien Hirst, Jake & Dinos Chapman, Daniel Richter,
Cecily Brown, 2003
London, Saatchi Gallery, The Triumph of Painting, Part II, June - September
2005, p. 131, illustrated in colour
Brown is acutely aware of the art historical tradition that precedes her; indeed, her work exists as an aesthetic collusion between Old Master and Abstract Expressionist disciplines. Related to the former, her lush and textural paintings, in many ways, conjure allusions to the large-scale classical scenes by the Baroque master Nicolas Poussin. Notably, the blazing flames in the background of Poussin’s masterpiece The Burning of Troy impart a similar visual intensity to the flaming swathes of red oil in The Girl Who Had Everything. Conversely, in relation to her Modern forebears, Brown cultivated a unique brand of abstraction through studying the proto-Abstract Expressionist work of Willem de Kooning, Barnett Newman, Arshile Gorky, and Mark Rothko, among others. As explained by the artist: “If I had to place where it all comes from, the moment that interests me the most in twentieth-century painting, and which I feel was not taken that far because abstraction happened in such an extreme way, is the moment when Rothko, Gorky, and Newman were doing those biomorphic things that just hovered on the edge of representation. They’re not quite abstract and they are absolutely grounded in the figure” (Cecily Brown cited in: Robert Enright, ‘Paint Whisperer: An Interview with Cecily Brown’, Border Crossing, Vol. 4, No. 1, Issue No. 93, p. 40). Ultimately Brown returns the ambiguously corporeal and formless organic shapes of her predecessors back into definitive yet elusive body-parts in her sexually-charged scenes; herein, Brown’s work imparts its own dynamic of abstract push and figurative pull, dancing in the narrow space between the explicitly pornographic and the artfully elusive.
Pornographic imagery serves as a key platform for Brown to contemplate that undefined space of representational indeterminacy. In her work nothing is completely described, it is only implied; the paintings thus become about looking as they confront the viewer with fragmented imagery and dynamic painterly technique, seducing the eye into a hunt for recognisable forms in the frenzy of shapes and rhythmic brushwork. The Girl Who Had Everything thus lures the viewer into a promiscuous game of hide-and-seek, whereby an explicit detail will suddenly snap into focus. With each glance, the painting evolves into an experience of visual pleasure, repeatedly revealing itself to the imagination. Echoing the lustful and fleshy abandon of Francis Bacon, Brown’s The Girl Who Had Everything is a marvellous coalition of violence, sensuality, carnal desire and virtuous painterly mark-making. Masterfully treading the threshold between beauty and abjection, this painting represents Brown at her very finest.