Human perception of the body is so acute and knowledgeable that the smallest hint of a body can trigger recognition.
In her depictions of the human form, Jenny Saville transcends the boundaries of both classical figuration and modern abstraction. Oil paint, applied in heavy layers, becomes as visceral as flesh itself, each painted mark maintaining a supple, mobile life of its own. As Saville pushes, smears, and scrapes the pigment over her large-scale canvases, the distinctions between living, breathing bodies and their painted representations begin to collapse.
Born in 1970 in Cambridge, England, Saville attended the Glasgow School of Art from 1988 to 1992, spending a term at the University of Cincinnati in 1991. Her studies focused her interest in “imperfections” of flesh, with all of its societal implications and taboos. Saville had been captivated with these details since she was a child; she has spoken of seeing the work of Titian and Tintoretto on trips with her uncle, and of observing the way that her piano teacher’s two breasts—squished together in her shirt—became one large mass. While on a fellowship in Connecticut in 1994, Saville was able to observe a New York City plastic surgeon at work. Studying the reconstruction of human flesh was formative in her perception of the body—its resilience, as well as its fragility. Her time with the surgeon fueled her examination into the seemingly infinite ways that flesh is transformed and disfigured. She explored medical pathologies; viewed cadavers in the morgue; examined animals and meat; studied classical and Renaissance sculpture; and observed intertwined couples, mothers with their children, individuals whose bodies challenge gender dichotomies, and more.
A member of the Young British Artists (YBAs), the loose group of painters and sculptors who came to prominence in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Saville reinvigorated contemporary figurative painting by challenging the limits of the genre and raising questions about society’s perception of the body and its potential. Though forward-looking, her work reveals a deep awareness, both intellectual and sensory, of how the body has been represented over time and across cultures—from antique and Hindu sculpture, to Renaissance drawing and painting, to the work of modern artists such as Henri Matisse, Willem de Kooning, and Pablo Picasso. In the striking faces, jumbled limbs, and tumbling folds of her paintings, one may perceive echoes of Titian’s Venus of Urbino (c. 1532), Rubens’s Christ in the Descent from the Cross (1612–14), Manet’s Olympia (1863), and faces and bodies culled from magazines and tabloid newspapers. Saville’s paintings refuse to fit smoothly into an historical arc; instead, each body comes forward, autonomous, voluminous, and always refusing to hide.
Extended through July 23, 2018
May 3–July 23, 2018
West 21st Street, New York
Extended through July 9, 2016
April 14–July 9, 2016
Davies Street, London
June 13–July 26, 2014
Britannia Street, London
September 15–October 22, 2011
980 Madison Avenue, New York
April 15–May 15, 2010
Davies Street, London
April 5–May 3, 2003
West 24th Street, New York
Jenny Saville & Glen Luchford
January 12–February 9, 2002
October 2–November 6, 1999
Wooster Street, New York
From the Quarterly
Jenny Saville Ancestors
In this video, Jenny Saville speaks about Ancestors and her new works currently on view at Gagosian, West 21st Street, New York.
Jenny Saville and Dr. Simon Groom
Jenny Saville discusses the beginnings and evolutions of her painting practice with Dr. Simon Groom, Director of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh. She speaks candidly on her endless passion for painting the figure, the beauty of struggle, motherhood, and the artists that have inspired her.
Jenny Saville on Willem de Kooning
In 2013, the exhibition Willem de Kooning: Ten Paintings, 1983–1985 explored the legendary artist’s late work. For the catalogue accompanying the presentation, Jenny Saville spoke on the gestures and elemental elegance of these paintings.
Diana Widmaier Picasso, curator of the exhibition Desire, reflects on the history of eroticism in art.
Jenny Saville: Erota
Richard Calvocoressi discusses the inspiration behind the artist’s new body of work.
Egon Schiele—Jenny Saville
Lauren Mahony previews the Kunsthaus Zürich exhibition, which paired the works of Jenny Saville and Egon Schiele together.
Fairs, Events & Announcements
Thursday, October 4, 2018, 6–7:30pm
Gagosian, Grosvenor Hill, London
Join Jenny Saville at Gagosian, Grosvenor Hill, London, for a signing of her new self-titled monograph, published by Rizzoli. The much-anticipated volume unites new work with many of Saville’s paintings and drawings to date and includes essays by Richard Calvocoressi and Mark Stevens, a conversation between Saville and Sally Mann, and an illustrated chronology by Lauren Mahony. To attend the free event, RSVP to email@example.com.
Clare Waight Keller
Saturday, September 8, 2018, 1–1:30pm
Kenwood House, London
Under the title Women as Creators, Jenny Saville and Givenchy’s artistic director Clare Waight Keller will be in conversation at the FT Weekend Festival. Other speakers include Georgina Adam, Lionel Barber, Julian Barnes, Jan Dalley, and Simon Schama. To attend the event, purchase tickets at www.ftweekendfestival.com.
Jenny Saville (left). Photo: A. Saville. Clare Waight Keller (right). Photo: Steven Meisel
Art Basel Hong Kong
March 29–31, 2018, booth ICI8
Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center
Gagosian is pleased to participate in Art Basel Hong Kong. To view highlights from the booth in advance of the fair visit www.artsy.com. Our presentation will include works by Georg Baselitz, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Joe Bradley, Cecily Brown, Glenn Brown, Alexander Calder, John Currin, Willem de Kooning, Edmund De Waal, Jean Dubuffet, Urs Fischer, Lucio Fontana, Walton Ford, Katharina Grosse, Mark Grotjahn, Andreas Gursky, Damien Hirst, Jia Aili, Anish Kapoor, Yves Klein, Karen Kneffel, Jeff Koons, Harmony Korine, Roy Lichtenstein, Takashi Murakami, Takashi Murakami & Virgil Abloh, Albert Oehlen, Nam June Paik, Francis Picabia, Pablo Picasso, Sterling Ruby, Ed Ruscha, Jenny Saville, Richard Serra, Rudolf Stingel, Mark Tansey, Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol, Jonas Wood, Christopher Wool, and Zeng Fanzhi. Tickets are available at www.artbasel.com.
Zeng Fanzhi, 8, 2018 © Zeng Fanzhi 2018
Opened June 18, 2018
Economou Foundation, Athens
This focused show will present an overview of Jenny Saville’s work dating from 1993 to 2015. It will include the important early work Cindy (1993), which introduces Saville’s concern with corporeality, anticipating her ongoing engagement with the manipulation of the body and the construction of a gendered identity.
Jenny Saville, Intertwine, 2011–14 © Jenny Saville
Bacon, Freud, and the School of London
October 9, 2018–January 13, 2019
Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest, Hungary
In the decades following World War II, Bacon, Freud, and their British contemporaries engaged with subjects that felt immediate and intensely personal. This exhibition retraces their artistic developments via works, including paintings and drawings, spanning seven decades. Despite the sheer diversity of approaches and techniques that embodied their practices, the members of this group were constantly renewing their individual appraisals of the artist’s personal position in the world, focusing on individuals, locations, and narratives close and dear to them. The exhibition was initially produced under the title Bacon, Freud, and the London Painters by ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Denmark. Work by Michael Andrews, Francis Bacon, Glenn Brown, Alberto Giacometti, and Jenny Saville is included.
Michael Andrews, A Man Who Suddenly Fell Over, 1952, Tate © The Estate of Michael Andrews
March 24–September 16, 2018
Scottish National Gallery
This presentation will mark the first museum exhibition of Saville’s work ever to be staged in Scotland. Featuring monumental paintings and drawings that Saville, a graduate of the Glasgow School of Art, completed between 1992 and 2018, the show will explore her singular and dynamic approach to gesture, composition, materials, and subject matter.
Jenny Saville, Rosetta II, 2005–06 © Jenny Saville
All Too Human
Bacon, Freud, and a Century of Painting Life
February 28–August 27, 2018
Tate Britain, London
In the decades following World War II, Bacon, Freud, and their British contemporaries engaged with subjects that felt immediate and intensely personal. This exhibition retraces their artistic developments via works, including paintings and drawings, spanning seven decades. Despite the sheer diversity of approaches and techniques that embodied their practices, the members of this group were constantly renewing their individual appraisals of the artist’s personal position in the world, focusing on individuals, locations, and narratives close and dear to them. The exhibition was initially produced under the title Bacon, Freud, and the London Painters by ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Denmark. Work by Michael Andrews, Francis Bacon, and Jenny Saville is included.
Jenny Saville, Reverse, 2003 © Jenny Saville