Jenny Saville
Biography of Figure Painter of Obese Female Nudes.

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Jenny Saville (b.1970)


Classical Figure Painter

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Classical Figure Painter

The English painter Jenny Saville won the admiration of art critics when she participated, along with other Young British Artists from the Charles Saatchi Collection, at the 1997 "Sensation" Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. She is noted, first and foremost for her figure painting and classical-style figure drawing of large-scale obese female nudes, characterized by their extreme physicality. Although in the process she has become an important contributor to Contemporary art, her style of painting (composition, brushwork and feel for colour) has been compared to that of Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) and the modern Anglo-Austrian Lucian Freud (1922-2011). In any event, Saville remains one of a very small number of high quality classically trained figure painters in postmodernist art: an era dominated by ever more gimmicky types of art.


Born in Cambridge, Saville graduated in 1992 from the Glasgow School of Art, after which she won a six-month scholarship to the University of Cincinnati, where she became drawn to the depiction of large-scale naked women, being especially interested in creating a Picasso-like "solidity" of the human form. After this, she studied at the Slade School of Fine Art in London for two years (1992-94), where she came to the attention of the Charles Saatchi - one of the top British art collectors - who commissioned her to create a number of new works to be shown at the Saatchi Gallery in London. Like other postmodernist artists, such as Damien Hirst (1965) and Tracey Emin (1963), Saville has benefited considerably from Saatchi's patronage, and her disturbing (sometimes gross) depictions of obese, occasionally faceless women have gained widespread attention without being seen as feminist art or linked with feminism. Later works have included subjects of ambiguous gender, among others. Her best-known works include: Branded (1992); Plan (1993); Fulcrum (1999); Hem (1999); Hybrid (1997); Ruben's Flap (1999); and Matrix (1999).


Saville has shown her work at several of the best galleries of contemporary art. Exhibitions include: "Contemporary '90", Royal College of Art (1990); Cooling Gallery, London (1993); Sensation, Royal Academy of Arts, London (1997) [this later travelled to Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin and the Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York 1999]; "The Nude In 20th Century Art," Kunsthalle Emden, Germany (2002); "Painting," Museo Correr, 50th Venice Biennale (2003); "Paint Made Flesh," Frist Center for the Arts, Nashville (2009); "Continuum" at the Gagosian Gallery, New York City (2011); The RAW series – Recognition of Art by Women Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach Florida (2012). In 2005, her work was the subject of a one-man show at the Museo d'Arte Contemporanea, while in 2012 she enjoyed her first solo exhibition in the UK at Modern Art Oxford and the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

Paintings by Jenny Saville can be seen in some of the best art museums in Europe.

• For biographies of other modern artists, see: 20th Century Painters.
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