Glenn Brown (b. 1966)
On occasion, Christie’s has a direct financial int… Read more PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTION 
Glenn Brown (b. 1966)


Glenn Brown (b. 1966)
signed, titled and dated 'Glenn Brown Earth 2004' (on the reverse)
oil on panel
48 x 57½in. (122 x 145.4cm.)
Executed in 2004
Patrick Painter Inc., Santa Monica.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2004.
Los Angeles, Patrick Painter Inc., Glenn Brown, 2005.
Special notice
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Lot Essay

'The naked flesh of the original model may be long dead, but that just aids the imagination Fragonard, Auerbach and Rembrandt painted the living. Their flesh has become paint so I paint paint. The paint is the crusty residue left after the relationship between the artist and his model is over. It is all that there is left of real love, so I paint that' (A. Gingeras, 'Guilty: The Work of Glenn Brown', Glenn Brown, exh. cat., Serpentine Gallery, London, 2004, p. 17).

Glenn Brown's Earth is a remarkable, large-scale portrait of a young boy, beautifully rendered in a brilliant palette of lurid green, orange, mauve and ghoulish blue. Casting one's eye across the composition, one is struck by the charm of his face, the cherubic nose, the tumbling, boyish curls, the plump pouting lips, yet these features all appear strangely at odds with the cool, other-worldliness of his complexion. It is as though Brown is executing a study in youthful beauty through the lens of loss and decay. Translated from the delightfully impish portrait, Le Petit Garçon à la Curiosité (1780-1850) depicting Jean-Honoré Fragonard's son Alexandre-Evariste playing with a botanical curiosity, Brown carries out his own unique process of artistic distortion. He takes the original to its furthest point of association, removing the bright inquisitive eyes and replacing them instead with an elusive gaze. The body itself is rotated, the arms now spread and the chubby little hands open wide, whilst the lower torso has mysteriously disappeared. The child is no longer earthly but aerial, Brown's own dystopic Peter Pan, travelling through the celestial backdrop of his 1990s science fiction paintings. At first the canvas appears to luxuriate with vigorous strokes rich in paint, but upon closer inspection the painting is remarkably devoid of impasto. Texture is all simulation, an exquisite trompe-l'oeil resulting from Brown's unique mastery of paint.

One of the acclaimed Young British Artists, studying alongside Damien Hirst at Goldsmiths in the 1990s, Brown's art reengages the much-maligned practice of oil painting. His methods recall those of 'appropriation' artists Sherrie Levine and Richard Prince, however his tactic goes beyond the evacuated, postmodern quotation of an original image. Instead Brown reconstructs the composition, subjecting it to distortion and rotation, ultimately imbuing it with a new sense of narrative. Brown's works betray a special devotion to the medium of paint, each subject being carefully studied and rendered in immense detail over considerable time. As he has suggested 'I hope I celebrate some of painting's more clownish attributes, rather than mourn its problems' (A. Gingeras, 'Guilty: The Work of Glenn Brown', Glenn Brown, exh. cat., Serpentine Gallery, London, 2004, p. 17). In Earth, this is through the artist's splendid bravura of brushstrokes. Evidently a labour of love, Brown fills the composition with dense swirling patterns, precisely illuminating each lock of hair: one green, one blue, one yellow, as well as the tiny, tumbling ripples of cloth in the child's rumpled garment. In the background, he is flanked by an expertly rendered atmosphere of blue and green gas, evocative of deep and ever expanding space. The surface of the painting is puzzlingly smooth, finessed and flattened to a silken sheen with the artist's use of carefully gessoed panels, layer upon layer of underpainting and traditional varnish. It creates a powerful illusion, denying the viewer the tangible satisfaction of what his or her eye might suggest. In this respect, Brown severs technique from the traditionally expressive theatrics of composition.

Aspects of Brown's approach are also reminiscent of Photorealist strategies, making a comment on 'mediated reality' through the faithful copying of an image from a photographic reproduction. Whilst Brown maintains a fundamental attachment to secondary images, his art challenges the photograph's claims to verisimilitude. He does not revere the medium for its claims to objectivity, truth and timelessness, but gains inspiration from the distortions of colour and shape carried out in the photographic translation and printing process. As he explains: 'whether I see the actual painting or not doesn't matter. In the end, what is important is the nature of the reproduction I work from. In fact it is always the somewhat sad reproduction that fires my imagination, not the real painting. It allows me space to figure out ways to adapt the colour, the form, the orientation' (G. Brown, interview with R. Steiner, Glenn Brown, exh. cat., Serpentine Gallery, London, 2004, p. 95).

In Earth, Brown hijacks Fragonard's classic painting, subjecting it to an exhilarating trip through space, stripping it of its colour, context and emotive appeal. 'I'm rather like Dr Frankenstein' Brown suggests, 'constructing paintings out of the residue or dead parts of other artists' work' (G. Brown, interview with R. Steiner, Glenn Brown, exh. cat., Serpentine Gallery, London, 2004, p. 96). In doing so, he creates a visually extravagant painting, casting the viewer into a somehow uncanny but elaborate fiction. Through faithfully painting each inch of the canvas with his own unique, hyperrealist flair, Brown in a typically dialectical move, gives credibility to his own fantastical imagination.

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