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.
Glenn Brown and Jacky Klein
Glenn Brown speaks with art historian Jacky Klein about working between mediums, his first finished painting of 2021, and the evolution of his artistic voice.
Augurs of Spring
As spring approaches in the Northern Hemisphere, Sydney Stutterheim reflects on the iconography and symbolism of the season in art both past and present.
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 Brown's artmaking process, 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 artworks for an exhibition at Museum Het Rembrandthuis, Amsterdam.
Come to Dust
Glenn Brown: Come to Dust is available for online reading from April 28 through May 27 as part of Artist Spotlight: Glenn Brown. The book documents a 2018 exhibition at Gagosian, Grosvenor Hill, London, which featured oil paintings, drawings in period frames, grisaille panel works, etchings, and sculptures that attest to the ever-intensifying dexterity with which Brown employs paint, content, and form. A text by author Hari Kunzru and a conversation between Brown and curator Xavier Bray offer insight into the artist’s work.
Glenn Brown: Come to Dust (London: Gagosian, 2018)
April 28–May 4, 2021
Mining art history and popular culture, Glenn Brown has created an artistic language that refuses categorization, combining a wide range of periods from art history through reference, appropriation, and precise attention to detail. His mannerist impulses stem from a desire to breathe new life into past images; they are treasuries of raw material, offering countless images, titles, and techniques to be combined and deconstructed, producing complex and sensuous works of art that are resolutely of our time.
Photo: Edgar Laguinia
FIAC Online 2021
March 2–12, 2021
Gagosian is pleased to present Printemps oublié for the first online edition of FIAC. This curated presentation reflects the dual character of springtime as a reminder of past trials and the harbinger of a vibrant new season to come.
All the artworks will appear on the Gagosian website and a rotating selection will appear in the inaugural FIAC Online Viewing Rooms, from March 4 to 7.
Jeff Koons, Bluebird Planter, 2010–16 © Jeff Koons
Face à Arcimboldo
Through November 22, 2021
Centre Pompidou-Metz, France
This exhibition, whose title translates to Arcimboldo Face to Face, invites visitors to explore the timeless vocabulary of the sixteenth-century painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo (c. 1527–1593). The show demonstrates how his work has influenced art history for more than four centuries through the work of 130 artists, including work by Francis Bacon, Glenn Brown, Alex Israel, Ewa Juszkiewicz, Roy Lichtenstein, Man Ray, Pablo Picasso, Auguste Rodin, and Ed Ruscha.
Ewa Juszkiewicz, Untitled (After Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun), 2020 © Ewa Juszkiewicz
00s. Collection Cranford
Les années 2000
October 24, 2020–May 30, 2021
Mo.Co. Contemporary, Montpellier, France
This exhibition of work from the Cranford Collection, established by Muriel and Freddy Salem in 1999, aims to define the identity of the 2000s by creating a dialogue between one hundred artworks by a multigenerational array of artists who contributed to shaping the beginning of the millennium. Work by Glenn Brown, Damien Hirst, Mike Kelley, Albert Oehlen, Gerhard Richter, Ed Ruscha, Cindy Sherman, Jeff Wall, Franz West, and Christopher Wool is included.
Glenn Brown, Lemon Sunshine, 2001 © 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
April 30–June 20, 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