Cecily Brown - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session New York Tuesday, May 16, 2023 | Phillips

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  • “Cecily Brown’s painting is so specific to paint and not language… language fails to convey even a tenth of the sensory pleasure and joy and ‘over all’ emotional force that her painting inspires in us.”
    —Hilton Als

    Long Hot Summer, 2017–2018, epitomizes Cecily Brown’s masterful blend of figuration and abstraction, characterized by theatrical, indulgent compositions of fleshy-hued bacchanalias. Inspired by painters ranging from Eugène Delacroix and Théodore Géricault to Francis Bacon and Willem de Kooning, Brown paints with a keen eye on the past all the while consistently pushing forward the medium of painting throughout her 30-year career. Her virtuosic practice has earned her the honor of a major career retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which includes an example from this series, currently on view and running through December.

    “I’m far more interested in a moment where figuration breaks down. I usually describe it as breaking down rather than becoming more abstract, because it really is this back and forth and some works– and they’ll often be works side by side in the studio– some that have far clearer graphic imagery and others that really don’t. It’s always been important to me to have both.”
    —Cecily Brown

    In Long Hot Summer a female figure comprised of brisk linework emerges from swaths of paint, serving as a light focal point amidst the push-and-pull of brushstrokes. While the title is initially evocative of a languid, sun-drenched day at sea, the work responds to Brown’s engagement with struggles depicted in maritime art and literature. The work was first shown in the artist’s 2018 exhibition We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea, held at Thomas Dane Gallery in Naples, which borrowed its title from a 1937 children’s book in Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series. In the story, set on a ship at sea, the protagonists become stranded in a devastating cloud of fog. In the present example, Brown draws from the metaphor of fog as her figure devolves into frothy strokes of paint. Flashes of bright pastels and deep oranges are set against cool grays in an analogy to the drama of shipwreck scenes such as Delacroix’s The Massacre at Chios, 1824. In doing so, Brown reinterprets the visual splendor and tumult of shipwrecks from the Romantic maritime painting tradition. She connects the genre, with its steep roots in British art and literature, to the contemporary artistic moment as well as to the Neapolitan environs where this work was first exhibited.


    [Left] Eugene Delacroix, The Massacre at Chios, 1824, Louvre, Paris. Image: © RMN-Grand Palais / Adrien Didierjean / Art Resource, NY 
    [Right] Willem de Kooning, Montauk I, 1969, The Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford. Artwork: © 2023 The Willem de Kooning Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

    With its expressive, syncopated composition, the present work also builds upon the tradition of Modernist masters. Brown’s energetic gestures, afocal compositions and loose handling of oil paint naturally lead to comparison with Abstract Expressionists. On the occasion of Brown’s 2019 show at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, Denmark, curator Anders Kold extols: “She shares with these artists [Max Beckmann, Willem de Kooning, Joan Mitchell, Philip Guston and Francis Bacon] the premise of being left with mere rudiments of grand compositions, with restless gazes, mad laughter, occasional heroism and bodies whose disjointed desire no longer describes a complete situation.” To this quality, Brown brings her signature approach to the female body— an intimate and chaotic blend of interior and exterior worlds that is exemplified in Long Hot Summer.

    Cecily Brown Interview: Take No Prisoners

    • Provenance

      Thomas Dane Gallery, Naples
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Naples, Thomas Dane Gallery, Cecily Brown: We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea, March 16–July 27, 2019


Long Hot Summer

signed and dated "Cecily Brown 2017-18" on the reverse
oil on linen
19 x 23 in. (48.3 x 58.4 cm)
Painted in 2017–2018.

Full Cataloguing

$300,000 - 400,000 

Sold for $406,400

Contact Specialist

Patrizia Koenig
Specialist, Head of Sale, Afternoon Session
+1 212 940 1279

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Afternoon Session

New York Auction 16 May 2023