Jenny Saville Bares All

Jenny Saville is one brave woman. Her work fearlessly portrays bodies that, to put it gently, are not considered classically beautiful. Others have used the language obese and deformed. But hey, semantics. A mother of two children, Saville has stripped down for her own drawings that depict naked mothers and their children. Other massive scale paintings show overweight or transgender (or overweight and transgender) bodies, existing in the space between the gender binary.

Jenny Saville, Reproduction drawing III (after the Leonardo cartoon), 2009-2010.
Left: Jenny Saville, Reproduction drawing III (after the Leonardo cartoon), 2009-2010. Right: Jenny Saville, Passage, 2004. Oil on canvas, 336 x 290 cm.

Saville has gained global acclaim for the light and curious gaze she has cast on these previously side-swept, discarded bodies. For those eager to see where her aesthetic is heading next, Saville is currently showcasing original drawings on paper and canvas on display at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England from October 15, 2015 to January 10, 2016 in an exhibit titled “Titian to Canaletto: Drawing in Venice” and “Jenny Saville Drawing”. This exhibit is attempting to reclaim the grandeur of drawing, which has long been viewed as a lesser art form to painting while also setting the record straight: for many centuries it was believed that the Italian masters were not draughtsmen, only vivid painters.

By accepting this honour to showcase her modern drawings alongside the Venetian legends, Saville is emphatically declaring her right and the right of her models to be seen alongside the likes of Titian (one of her personal influences), Bellini, and Canaletto. If that pressure doesn’t draw an anxious gulp from other contemporary artists then I don’t know what would.

Tintoretto, Figure Drawing.
Tintoretto, Figure Drawing.

The relational aesthetic will not likely disappoint, but one thing is sure, Passage isn’t the only thing that has balls.

If you need to get more of your Venetian art fix, delve into Parkstone’s Titian, or if you’re still not sure how drawing stacks up to painting, feast your eyes on the gloriously illustrated 1000 Drawings of Genius collection.

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