Ben Sledsens - New Now London Thursday, July 13, 2023 | Phillips
  • “Inspiration can be found everywhere: from art history, on the street and in your surroundings, on the internet, through old drawings and old paintings by anonymous masters [...] I look a lot at different compositions and postures and let them inspire me."
    —Ben Sledsens

    Executed in 2015, Two Girls in the Forest is highly characteristic of Ben Sledsen’s oeuvre. The artist’s love for nature is immediately apparent within the present work, with much of the canvas depicting a mysterious forest in varying tones of green. The focal point is a nude female figure appearing from behind the greenery with lusciously long and wavy hair, further emphasised by the subtle placement of her hand, elegantly adjusting her tresses. As the title suggests the second female figure appears to the far right of the canvas, with only a section of her body appearing before the viewer. The bright pink skin tone of both figures creates a rich contrast between the earthy hues of the forest that they are placed in, allowing each detail of their body to be highlighted, and thus capture our attention.


    Sledsens' artistic career began at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, where the young artist studied painting. It is here where he discovered his love for Georg Baselitz, which in turn encouraged him to delve even deeper into art historical tradition, taking inspiration from artists such as Claude Monet, Pieter Bruegel, Henri Matisse and Henri Rousseau. As his career has progressed, the dialogue with these artists has only deepened in newly sophisticated ways. Sledsens incorporates a variety of stylistic elements, techniques, and formal language within his paintings, constantly referencing his predecessors but also personalising everything in a way that perfectly fits his utopian artistic world.

    "I have a great love for nature. Nature is an infinite source of inspiration; it is very changeable and unpredictable, which gives great freedom to possibilities. Because everything is very organic, it is also easy to manipulate."
    —Ben Sledsens

    Similarities between Two Girls in the Forest and Henri Rousseau’s Eve, executed between 1906 and 1907, are clearly found in the compositional choices and pictorial language of both works. Rousseau’s densely packed jungle and contrasting profile depiction of Eve holding out her hand to the serpent is reminiscent of Sledsens’ much brighter and more vividly depicted composition. Both artists carefully render their subjects in a simplified yet recognisable way; Sledsens’ composition is magnified towards creating a balance between both figure and surrounding nature and making further highlighted accents to specific details such as the figure’s hair, body, and the surrounding leaves. Both artists home in on depicting a blissful utopia which is a mixture of the real and the imaginary.

    • Provenance

      Tim Van Laere Gallery, Antwerp
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Antwerp, Tim Van Laere Gallery, Ben Sledsens: Pulling Ropes and Ringing Bells, 5 May - 18 June 2016, n.p. (illustrated)

    • Literature

      Manfred Sellink and Karen Van Godtsenhoven, Ben Sledsens, Bruges, 2018, p. 153 (illustrated, p. 58)

Property from a Distinguished Belgian Private Collection


Two Girls in the Forest

signed with the artist's initials 'B.S.' lower left; dated '2015' lower right; signed, titled and dated '2015 BEN SLEDSENS "TWO GIRLS IN THE FOREST"' on the reverse
oil, acrylic and spray paint on canvas
140 x 120 cm (55 1/8 x 47 1/4 in.)
Executed in 2015.

Full Cataloguing

£60,000 - 80,000 ‡♠

Sold for £101,600

Contact Specialist

Charlotte Gibbs
Associate Specialist, Head of New Now
+44 20 7901 7993

New Now

London Auction 13 July 2023