Kinder Transport

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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist

  • Exhibited

    London, Hayward Gallery, The British Art Show 5, tour dates: 8 April 2000 - 28 January 2001
    Liverpool, Tate, Glenn Brown, 20 February - 10 May 2009

  • Literature

    Glenn Brown, exh. cat., Bignan, Domaine de Kerguéhennec Centre d'art contemporain, 1 July - 1 October 2000, p. 49 (colour illustrated)
    Glenn Brown, exh. cat., Tate, Liverpool, 2009, pp. 34-35 (colour illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “No matter how wildly abstract the work is, you feel the presence of the human form, in the snakes and ladders of the brushwork.” GLENN BROWN

    “To paint the same head over and over leads to unfamiliarity; eventually you get near the raw truth about it, just as people only blurt out the raw truth in the middle of a family quarrel.”
    (William Feaver, Frank Auerbach, New York: Rizzoli, 2009, p. 17)

    As one approaches Glenn Brown’s Kinder Transport, one might feel repulsion toward the decaying portrait. Slashes of colour form the bone structure, the features are an impasto of melted putrefaction. However, on looking more closely, one can see how smooth and flat the surface of the painting is. The gloss finish creates a sharp contrast with the apparent decay and melting of the flesh of the sitter. The pristine surface of the paint creates an anti-emotional distance and the trompe-l’oeil successfully deceives. Glenn Brown’s paintings are full of contradictions; comically subversive, attractive yet repulsive, the big brushmarks as impenetrable as the photographic like sheen that disguises the layers of paint. Brown’s paintings seem timeless, borrowing from a variety of genres and epochs from Old Master to Gothic, Surrealism to science fiction and reworking these themes into his own unique contemporary language.

    Kinder Transport, from 1999, is the second within a series of seven portraits Brown executed. He was inspired by a reproduction of a 1973 Frank Auerbach painting, J.Y.M. The subject, Julia Yardley Mills, modelled for Auerbach from the 60s until 1997. In fact, Brown mostly works with pre-existing images from popular culture or art and relies on secondhand imagery: “It is always the somewhat sad reproduction that fires my imagination, not the real painting”.

    The title of this lot also pays homage to Auerbach, deriving from the name given to the mission to rescue Jewish children, including Auerbach himself, from Europe and place them in British foster homes. Brown’s sources look familiar, recognisable under the layers but subverted into their own personality, highlighting the interplay of the familiar and the unknown. The viewer has to search in his memory to bring to mind the original source painting. Brown questions the relationship we have with images and their reproduction, and how our perception is mediated by reproduction.

    Brown’s seven different paintings differentiate themselves through their different shades of colour and backdrop. Here, with no background to distract us from, the focus stays on the figure. The figure’s mouth just a blue slit, her chin up sideways, her gaze, a mixture of defiance and sorrow. The light liquid smoothness translates the metamorphosis of the figure surrounded by a darker purple halo. In the history of art, portraiture has stood for understanding the inner life and character of a person. Instead here, the artist presents us the masque of a tragic clown. There is something fantastic and other worldly about Brown’s portraits which makes them more impenetrable. What draws us in is the excessive detail which creates the illusionistic hyperrealism. The brush strokes get lost in abstract lines of a vivid colour as he shows the mutations paintings go though.

    Glenn Brown draws his inspiration from, and pays homage to Auerbach while poking fun at expressionism by adding a kitsch tone. His work is transformational – inspired by the past he looks into the future. At the core lies Brown’s singular visual representation, paint in its flesh is exposed in and of itself and, in the artist’s own words, “I paint paint”. (Alison Gingeras, ‘Guilty: The Work of Glenn Brown’, Glenn Brown, London: Serpentine Gallery, 2004, p. 16).


This work is being sold on behalf of The Pen Shell Project

Kinder Transport

oil on MDF
67.5 x 58 cm (26 5/8 x 22 7/8 in)
Signed, titled and dated 'Glenn Brown 1999 'Kinder Transport'' on the reverse.

£500,000 - 700,000 

sold for £481,250

Contemporary Art Evening

28 June 2012