Oil with Jenny Saville

Oil with Jenny Saville


Good evening Folks, and welcome back to my arts and entertainment blog.  Instead of looking at music as we normally do, I thought we would take a break and look at the other side of the blog – art.   I have recently been messing around with different types of paints.  Watercolour paints, oil paints, acrylic paints, gouache paints and encaustics paints.  I’ve previously done a lot of work using watercolours and acrylic based paints, and after buying a beautiful usedsecond hand oil painting from an online classified ads company I wanted to look more into using oil paints, and into other artists who have used them.   I looked into other artists who use oil painting and found some really great artists from the 16th to the 19th century including the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, 1503, Woman with a Parasol – Madame Monet and Her Son by Claude Monet, 1875, Portrait of Dr Gachet by Vincent Van Gogh, 1890, and The Cardplayers by Pauk Cezanne, 1892.


I found it slightly harder to look into any artist who use oil paint in the 20th and 21st Century.  Artists I found who do include Wassily Kandinsky, Lucien Freud, Glenn Brown,  Marlene Dumas and one of my favourites, Jenny Saville.  So I thought it would be a nice idea to have an in depth look into one of my favourite artists, and one of the current top oil painters, Jenny Saville.


Jenny Saville


Jenny Saville was born in 1970 in Cambridge, England.  She went to Glasgow School of Arts between 1988 and 1992, and was awarded a scholarship which sent her to the University of Cincinnati for six months.  Speaking about her experience Saville said she saw “Lots of big women.  Big white flesh in shorts and t-shirts.  It was good to see because they had the physicality that I was interested” this physicality is something that she claims to share with Pablo Picasso who paints his subjects “they were solidly there ... not fleeting” Once Saville graduated, Charles Saatchi – the leading British art collector, purchased her senior show.  Saatchi also offered Saville an 18 month contract, where he would support her in creating new works which would be exhibited in his gallery, the Saatchi Gallery, in London.


Young British Artists.


Through her work for Charles Saatchi Saville became aligned with the YBAs, Young British Artists.   Other famous Young British Artists include Tracey Emin, whose work ‘My Bed’ was infamously shortlisted for the turner prize,  and although she didn’t became notorious for being mocked outside of the art world, Damien Hirst, who is reportedly the United Kingdoms richest living artist, and in 2010 the Sunday Times Rich List valuated his wealth at 215 million pounds and produces works centralling around the theme of death, such as The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, a 14 foot long dead tiger shark in a clear display case (vitrine) surrounded by formaldehyde to stop the decay.

Art at its best

The 3rd of its kind, Young British Artists III, an exhibition held at the Saatchi Gallery in 1994 had Savilles self-portrait as the main piece of work.  

I don't know what to call this

Plan, 1993

This piece of work showcases Savilles talents for the traditional medium of oil painting.  But also the juxtaposition which Saville plays on by looking at the grotesque, she paints large scale painting of naked women – including herself, featuring large scale distorted flesh.  Her paintings are usually much larger than life sized, Plan, 1993 was 274 cm x 213.5 cm, and several others of her work have been between 300 cm and 400 cm.


Other subjects which Saville looks at includes the objectification of women; she does this by looking at meat and paints them using the same style and strokes as she does when painting women, and also by looking at plastic surgery.


Torso, 2004.

In 1994 Jenny Saville travelled to New York and observed many hours of plastic surgery operations.  She has since used these observations in her work, and numerous pieces include marks on the skin, such as the white target rings you can see in Plan, or the mismatch of angles and body parts that can be seen in Hybrid, 1997.   Savilles focus on the female flesh and the nude form has a very classical appeal to it, especially combined with the traditional way of painting with oil painting, throwing back to the history of oil painting and the pre-raphalelite era of painting, whilst the subject is often conradicting of this.


I hope you’ve all enjoyed looking at ways oil painting is used in the 21st century as much as I have.  We should be back with more great music articles later on in the week, such as this great piece last week aboutMusic with Zoom.