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    "I have always wanted to make paintings that are impossible to walk past, paintings that grab and hold your attention. The more you look at them, the more satisfying they become for the viewer. The more time you give to the painting, the more you get back."
    —Cecily Brown

     

    Painted in 2007, Cecily Brown’s Untitled is a striking example of the artist’s highly acclaimed practice that oscillates between abstraction and figuration, past and present, paint and flesh. Engulfing the viewer into a sumptuous field of fervid gestural brushstrokes, the present work expresses Brown’s sensibility of channeling the Old and Modern Masters of the art historical canon under her painterly hand to form a singular visual language that is entirely her own. Here, the lavish hues of blue and purple, the earthy and sensuous fleshy tones, all come together in an orgiastic riot of tantalizing allusions, epitomizing the artist’s words: “The paint is transformed into image, and hopefully paint and image transform themselves into a third and new thing...I want to catch something in the act of becoming something else.”i

     

     

    [left] Paolo Veronese, Martyrdom of St. George, 16th century. San Giorgio in Braida, Verona, Image: Scala / Art Resource, NY [right] Willem de Kooning, The North Atlantic Light, 1977. Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Image: Art Resource, NY

    [left] Paolo Veronese, Martyrdom of St. George, 16th century. San Giorgio in Braida, Verona, Image: Scala / Art Resource, NY [right] Willem de Kooning, The North Atlantic Light, 1977. Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Image: Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2021 The Willem de Kooning Foundation / Artists Right Society (ARS), New York

     

     

    "When I’m looking at paintings from the past, they always seem to be in the present to me; they resonate. I’ve never felt a sense of distance from the past that some people seem to. I find it impossible and actually uninteresting to be concerned only with one’s own time."
    —Cecily Brown

     

     

    Perfectly capturing Willem de Kooning’s mantra that “flesh was the reason oil paint was invented," Brown’s practice ultimately channels a host of influences, from the Renaissance and Baroque to Impressionism, Proto-Cubism, and Abstract Expressionism. “Brown’s paintings can speak to us because enough of her shorthand is also ours,” James Lawrence observed. “We also get the glimpses of history as they flow in and out, whether through direct recognition of an image or through indistinct echoes of something familiar.”ii In Untitled, Brown conjures among others a kind of modern Garden of Earthly Delights crossed with de Kooning’s vigorous strokes, the lustrous palette of Veronese and Rubens with the charged movement of Delacroix’s Death of Sardanapalus, fragmented hints at the bathers of Degas and Cézanne—transforming visions of the past into a contemporary kaleidoscope of painterly revels.

     

     

    [left] Hieronymous Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights (triptych center panel), 1490-1500. Museo del Prado, Madrid, Image: Erich Lessing / Art Resource, NY [right] Eugène Delacroix, Death of Sardanapalus (sketch), 1826-1827, Musée du Louvre, Paris, Image: agefotostock / Alamy Stock Photo

    [left] Hieronymous Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights (triptych center panel), 1490-1500. Museo del Prado, Madrid, Image: Erich Lessing / Art Resource, NY [right] Eugène Delacroix, Death of Sardanapalus (sketch), 1826-1827, Musée du Louvre, Paris, Image: agefotostock / Alamy Stock Photo

     

     

    "I need the body as a kind of vehicle to talk about being alive, to understand the world in a way...I need the paint to have a direction and some substance and the substance that appeals to me is the body."
    —Cecily Brown

     

     

    On her predilection for alluding to the human body, Brown explained, “I'm more interested in sublimation. I love the way Francis Bacon talked about the grin without the cat, the sensation without the boredom of its conveyance…I've always wanted to be able to convey figurative imagery in a kind of shorthand, to get it across in as direct a way as possible. I want there to be a human presence without having to depict it in full."iii Brown found her delight in achieving this aim with oil paint, describing the medium as “sensual [because] it moves, it catches the light, it's great for skin and flesh and heft and meat. I wanted to make something that you couldn't tear your eyes away from. I like the fact that because my earlier work was so known for having erotic contents, I actually need to give very little now and it's seen as erotic or hinting at erotic.”iv

     

     

    [left] Cecily Brown, Trouble in Paradise, 1999. Tate, London, Image: © Tate, London / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2021 Cecily Brown [right] Cecily Brown, Figures in a Landscape #2, 2002. The Broad, Los Angeles, Artwork: © 2021 Cecily Brown

    [left] Cecily Brown, Trouble in Paradise, 1999. Tate, London, Image: © Tate, London / Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2021 Cecily Brown [right] Cecily Brown, Figures in a Landscape #2, 2002. The Broad, Los Angeles, Artwork: © 2021 Cecily Brown

     

     

    Ultimately self-identifying as a figurative painter, Brown works at the cusp of representation and abstraction, driving her works within the liminal space between identification and visuality, paint and substance. “I’m far more interested in a moment where figuration breaks down,” she elucidated. “I usually describe it as breaking down rather than abstract because it really is this back and forth. Some works...have far clearer graphic imagery and others really don’t. It’s always been important to me to have both, and some works walk the tight rope and have both within a painting.”v Untitled is a lavish manifestation of this fused, pendular relationship that also extends to the artist’s own dialogue with her creations as she views the medium of paint as a source in itself. “I take all my cues from the paint, so it’s a total back and forth between my will and the painting directing what to do next.”vi

     

     

    [left] Pablo Picasso, Standing Nude, 1908. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Image: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image source: Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2021 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York [right] Paul Cézanne, Five Bathers, 1900-1904. Musée d’Orsay, Paris (Anonymous donation subject to usufruct), Image: © RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY

    [left] Pablo Picasso, Standing Nude, 1908. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Image: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image source: Art Resource, NY, Artwork: © 2021 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York [right] Paul Cézanne, Five Bathers, 1900-1904. Musée d’Orsay, Paris (Anonymous donation subject to usufruct), Image: © RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY

     

     

    "The paintings are like doors flung open suddenly to reveal something shocking. Because they are so energetic they might also be viewed as moments of a movie whose sudden arrest causes the mind’s eye to trip over itself in its own voracity, tangling in dense webs of colored light, striving to mark order of intense and disordered sensations."
    —Robert Evrén

     

     

    For Brown, uniting both the figurative and abstract to its fullest visual expressions in a single composition is “like pulling a moment of clarity in the middle of all the chaos.”vii Immersing the viewer’s eye and imagination into a visual feast, the artist’s luscious swathes of luminous pigment in Untitled at once lure us into frenzied, surreal figments of fantasized realms and present a colorful exuberance of known realities, richly materializing the heart of Brown’s artistic investigations. “I am interested in the unfixed nature of things. I want the work to have a trapped energy so that the paint seems to vibrate in place. I want the viewing of it to approximate the experience of being in the world.”viii

     

     

     


    i Cecily Brown, quoted in Caoimhín Mac Giolla Léith, “Painting Sensations,” in Cecily Brown: Paintings, exh. cat., Modern Art Oxford, 2005, p. 55.
    ii James Lawrence, Cecily Brown, exh. cat., Gagosian Gallery, New York, 2013, p. 12.
    iii Cecily Brown, quoted in Gagosian Gallery, Cecily Brown, press release, August 25, 2008.
    iv Cecily Brown, quoted in Derek Peck, "New York Minute: Cecily Brown," AnOther, September 14, 2012.
    v Cecily Brown, quoted in “Cecily Brown Interview: Take No Prisoners,” Louisiana Channel: Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, November 3, 2015.
    vi Cecily Brown, quoted in Derek Peck, "New York Minute: Cecily Brown," AnOther, September 14, 2012.
    vii Ibid.
    viii Cecily Brown, quoted in Dore Ashton, Cecily Brown, New York, 2008, p. 25.

    • Provenance

      Gagosian Gallery, New York
      Private Collection
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Literature

      Ealan Wingate and Rose Dergan, eds., Cecily Brown, New York, 2008, p. 238 (illustrated, p. 239)

Property from an Important American Collection

11

Untitled

signed and dated "Cecily Brown 2007" on the reverse
oil on canvas
89 x 85 1/8 in. (226.1 x 216.2 cm)
Painted in 2007.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
$3,500,000 - 4,500,000 

Sold for $6,140,500

Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
New York Head of Department & Head of Auctions
+1 212 940 1278
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 17 November 2021