I like my paintings to have one foot in the grave, to be not quite of this world. For me they exist in a dream world, a world that is made up of all the accumulated images stored in our subconscious that coagulate and mutate when we sleep.
Mining art history and popular culture, Glenn Brown has created an artistic language that eschews categorization, fusing a wide range of time periods and pictorial conventions through reference, appropriation, and precise attention to detail. His mannerist impulses stem from a desire to breathe new life into history, using its forms as vehicles for his exploration of paint.
As an art student at Goldsmiths College, London, in the 1980s, Brown wrestled with the idea that painting had reached its end, as artists, critics, and scholars were then proclaiming. Seeking a future for painting despite its historical baggage, he made illusionistic versions of the thickly painted works of Frank Auerbach and Karel Appel, rendering their layered impasto in smoothly detailed two-dimensional brushstrokes.
Brown sources images from the internet, books, and other printed materials, distorting and manipulating them. In the 1990s he created several paintings based on science fiction novels drawing inspiration from sci-fi illustrations of the 1970s and 1980s, as well as the apocalyptic scenes created by painter and illustrator John Martin. In these works Brown combined panoramic and close-up views, a technique he would later apply to depictions of the body and flesh, alluding to works by Salvador Dalí, Willem de Kooning, Chaim Soutine, and others.
As a complement to his painting practice, he creates sculptures by accumulating thick layers of oil paint over structures or found bronze casts. Brown has also produced detailed drawings in which he further explores the uncanny juxtapositions seen in his paintings. Since 2013 he has increased his engagement with drawing’s tactility, using different types of lines, shadings, and strokes in order to reinterpret the age-old tradition of copying historical subjects as a learning tool. His drawings reinforce the importance of gesture, echoing the layered lines of Old Master sketches.
Many of Brown’s titles make reference to literature, film, or individuals. Though not overtly related to the content of the paintings, drawings, and sculptures they name, the titles assert a directness that parallels Brown’s subject matter. In this way, he combines textual and visual reference as a means to update art history and perception.
Exhibitions such as the British Museum’s Historical Baggage: Glenn Brown and His Sources (2018) have made the links between Brown’s works and those from which he draws inspiration even more apparent. The show paired early portraits based on prints by Rembrandt van Rijn and Lucian Freud with Brown’s 2012 series Half-Life, a new engagement with Rembrandt’s work, revealing Brown’s intricate technical evolution over the past decade.
Visions of the Self: Jenny Saville on Rembrandt
Jenny Saville reveals the process behind her new self-portrait, painted in response to Rembrandt’s masterpiece Self-Portrait with Two Circles.
Gagosian Quarterly Talks
Glenn Brown and Xavier Bray
Touching on everything from the politics of taste to the vibratory character of lines, Glenn Brown and Xavier Bray, the director of the Wallace Collection, discuss Brown’s exhibition, Come to Dust, in London.
With preparations underway for an exhibition in London, Glenn Brown sat down with author Hari Kunzru to discuss the process behind Brown’s artmaking, the idea of the copy, and surprising overlaps between creating visual and literary works.
Gagosian Quarterly Spring 2018
The Spring 2018 Gagosian Quarterly with a cover by Ed Ruscha is now available for order.
Glenn Brown Rembrandt: After Life
In this short film, Glenn Brown demonstrates his process in creating the works for an exhibition at the Rembrandt House Museum, Amsterdam.
Visions of the Self
Rembrandt and Now
Tuesday, March 17, 2020, 6:30–8:30pm
Kenwood House, London
In the interest of public health, this event has been postponed until further notice.
Gagosian is pleased to host a drinks reception to celebrate the release of Visions of the Self: Rembrandt and Now, published on the occasion of the recent eponymous exhibition at Gagosian, Grosvenor Hill, London. Organized in partnership with English Heritage, the exhibition places Rembrandt’s masterpiece Self-Portrait with Two Circles (c. 1665) in dialogue with self-portraits by Francis Bacon, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Lucian Freud, and Pablo Picasso, as well as leading contemporary artists such as Georg Baselitz, Glenn Brown, Urs Fischer, Damien Hirst, Howard Hodgkin, Giuseppe Penone, Richard Prince, Jenny Saville, Cindy Sherman, and Rudolf Stingel, among others. The catalogue includes an introduction by Wendy Monkhouse, senior curator at English Heritage, and a text by art historian David Freedberg. To attend the free event, RSVP to email@example.com. Space is limited.
Visions of the Self: Rembrandt and Now (London: Gagosian, 2020)
Glenn Brown was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in Queen Elizabeth II’s 2019 birthday honors list for his service to the arts. The title CBE is bestowed to individuals who have made distinct and innovative contributions to the United Kingdom.
Glenn Brown with his painting In the end we all succumb to the pull of the molten core (2016). Photo: Edgar Laguinia
Visions of the Self: Rembrandt and Now
In partnership with English Heritage
Thursday, April 25, 2019, 6pm
Gagosian, Grosvenor Hill, London
Gagosian director and art historian Richard Calvocoressi will lead a tour of the exhibition Visions of the Self: Rembrandt and Now at Gagosian, Grosvenor Hill, London. Calvocoressi will take a look at postwar and contemporary masters of self-representation, anchoring the conversation to an important Rembrandt masterpiece included in the exhibition, Self-Portrait with Two Circles (c. 1665). The event has reached capacity. To join the wait list, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rembrandt van Rijn, Self-Portrait with Two Circles, c. 1665, English Heritage, The Iveagh Bequest (Kenwood, London). Photo: Historic England Photo Library
Opening April 30, 2020
International Print Center New York
This online exhibition, centered on works by Mark Bradford, Cecily Brown, Glenn Brown, Enrique Chagoya, and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, opens a dialogue between contemporary prints and the source material referenced. (Re)Print examines how artists revise, recontextualize, and personalize familiar imagery to elicit new thinking. Further, the pairings express the dynamic relationship between contemporary practice and the historical role that prints have played in image reproduction and dissemination, and in the shaping of history, culture, and beliefs.
Glenn Brown, Layered Portrait (after Lucian Freud) 4, 2008 © Glenn Brown
Inspiraatio—Nykytaide & Klassikot
June 18–September 20, 2020
Ateneum, Finnish National Gallery, Helsinki
This exhibition, whose title translates to Inspiration—Contemporary Art and Classics, explores contemporary art inspired by iconic masterpieces. Here, the original works are referenced through replicas, prints, plaster casts, and an abundance of archival materials. This exhibition has traveled from the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, under the title Inspiration: Iconic Works. Work by Georg Baselitz, Glenn Brown, Jeff Koons, and Jenny Saville is included.
Installation view, Inspiraatio—Nykytaide & Klassikot, Ateneum, Finnish National Gallery, Helsinki, June 18–September 20, 2020. Artwork, left to right: © Glenn Brown, © Wolfe von Lenkiewicz. Photo: Hannu Pakarinen
February 20–May 17, 2020
This exhibition presents contemporary art that draws inspiration from historic masterpieces. A selection of paintings, plaster sculptures, drawings, graphic prints, and applied arts from Nationalmuseum’s vast collections are displayed in dialogue with contemporary objects. Work by Glenn Brown, Jeff Koons, Jenny Saville, and Cindy Sherman is included.
Jenny Saville, Black Mass (after Leonardo), 2008 © Jenny Saville
Contemporary Drawing from 1970 to Now
September 12, 2019–January 12, 2020
British Museum, London
Celebrating drawing in its own right, rather than its historic role as preparatory to painting, this exhibition explores how contemporary artists have used drawing to examine themes including identity, place, and memory. Work by Glenn Brown, Ellen Gallagher, Anselm Kiefer, and Rachel Whiteread is included.
Rachel Whiteread, Pink, 1993 © Rachel Whiteread