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.
Come to Dust
January 24–March 17, 2018
Grosvenor Hill, London
May 8–June 21, 2014
West 21st Street, New York
Etchings and Sculpture
June 9–July 23, 2011
October 15–November 27, 2009
Britannia Street, London
May 3–June 9, 2007
West 24th Street, New York
February 24–April 10, 2004
980 Madison Avenue, New York
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.
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 email@example.com.
Rembrandt van Rijn, Self-Portrait with Two Circles, c. 1665, English Heritage, The Iveagh Bequest (Kenwood, London). Photo: Historic England Photo Library
Art Basel Miami Beach 2018
December 6–9, 2018, booth D7
Miami Beach Convention Center
Gagosian is pleased to participate in Art Basel Miami Beach 2018 with modern and contemporary artworks by Georg Baselitz, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Joe Bradley, Glenn Brown, John Chamberlain, Dan Colen, John Currin, Urs Fischer, Katharina Grosse, Mark Grotjahn, Andreas Gursky, Keith Haring, Damien Hirst, Howard Hodgkin, Jeff Koons, Roy Lichtenstein, Vera Lutter, Man Ray, Peter Marino, Takashi Murakami, Pablo Picasso, Richard Prince, Sterling Ruby, Ed Ruscha, Jenny Saville, Rudolf Stingel, Tatiana Trouvé, Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol, Tom Wesselmann, and Jonas Wood, among others.
Jeff Koons, Ode to Love, 2010–17 © Jeff Koons
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.
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
October 10–December 9, 2019
Musée national Eugène-Delacroix, Paris
Glenn Brown’s work transcends time and pictorial conventions, disarming common distinctions between good and bad taste, beauty and abjection, and heightening the emotive tension present within. In this exhibition at the Musée national Eugène-Delacroix, which is an affiliate of the Musée du Louvre, Brown presents new works, with an emphasis on drawing, as well as a large sculpture inspired by Delacroix, among other artists, in association with FIAC 2019.
Glenn Brown, Passchendaele, 2017 © Glenn Brown
Glenn Brown in
Comeback: Kunsthistorische Renaissancen
July 20–November 10, 2019
Kunsthalle Tübingen, Germany
Comeback: Art Historical Renaissances features the work of contemporary artists who are inspired by paintings from bygone eras, and who respond more freely and playfully to the “mnemic energies” stored in ancient works. Work by Glenn Brown is included.
Glenn Brown, New Plastic Experiences, 2016 © Glenn Brown