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signed 'LONGE' (lower right)
oil on jute
83 1/8 x 39 1/2in. (211 x 100.3cm.)
Painted in 2021
Eye of the Huntress, London.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Online, Eye of the Huntress, Her Dark Materials, 2021.
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Lot Essay

Painted in 2021, the present work is a luminous self-portrait by Sahara Longe, who uses the forgotten methods of classical art training to depict vividly emotive and contemporary figures. Longe stands, full-length and life-sized, against a bitonal backdrop of ultramarine and vermillion red. She wears red boots and a lilac dress. Her hands are clasped, and her expression watchful. Pearl earrings and parted hair heighten her poised symmetry. Her silhouette is haloed with flares of green and orange light. Every inch of the painting’s surface is alive with passages of radiance and shadow, and feathered with richly-worked brushstrokes.

Born in London in 1994, Longe studied for four years at Charles H. Cecil Studios in Florence, following a rigorous curriculum that dates back to the ateliers of nineteenth-century Paris. She completed her scholarship in 2018. It was during lockdown back at home that she began to experiment with self-portraiture, and to paint her family and friends. Inspired by the portraits of Edvard Munch and the possibilities of a heightened palette, she developed the soft-edged, brightly coloured yet classically-disciplined style she is known for today. Her training informs not only her deft eye for anatomy and composition, but also her use of materials. She paints on jute—a stiff, fibrous support favoured by the Old Masters and by Paul Gauguin—so that she can vigorously work and rework her oils as they slowly dry. She employs rare pigments such as lead white and Chinese vermillion, mixing them with tree sap, linseed oil and turpentine to prepare complex, gleaming glazes.

Even as she pays homage to atelier tradition, Longe’s depiction of Black subjects questions the centrality of whiteness in the Western canon. Continuing the ancient practice of referencing and building on the work of past masters, she has painted versions of pictures by Peter Paul Rubens that replace their Biblical or mythological characters with Black protagonists. ‘I respect artists such as Titian and Rubens,’ she says, ‘and I wanted to continue that visual language but put my own take on it’ (S. Longe, quoted in L. Figes, ‘Seven questions with Sahara Longe’, ArtUK, 28 October 2021). If the present work evokes the palette of Gauguin, Munch or Die Brücke, it is also free of their symbolic baggage, taking on an ambiguous narrative glow that is distinctly Longe’s own. It sees the painter herself taking centre stage, telling her story through a rich, sensual artistry that brings the past and present to life.

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