Her Name is Elle M

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  • Condition Report

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  • Provenance

    UNT/TLED, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    At the heart of Henry Taylor’s oeuvre is the artist’s innate ability to relay narratives: drawing from a wide web of social, political, and cultural issues, his subjects form a cross-section of America, capturing topics as challenging as classism, poverty, and racism, to the intricacies of familial relations and kinship. It is with this attention to the quotidian and the everyman that the veritable storyteller has risen to international renown: Taylor has most recently exhibited within the Venice Biennale in 2019 and also at the Whitney Biennial in 2017, solidifying his position within the canon of American art history.

    Painted in the same year as the artist’s solo museum exhibition at the MoMA PS1 (Museum of Modern Art, New York) in 2012, Her Name is Elle M is a potent expansion on Taylor’s lexicon of American portraiture and painting, one that is rooted in his immediate surroundings. In the present work, a blonde woman reclines on a vermillion arm chair, her red jacket casually draped loose across her shoulders to reveal her bare chest as she looks unwaveringly onwards. As if frenetically rendered, the feathery hand with which the artist has depicted Elle M injects a lightness to her characterisation, and the expressionistic use of line and colour furthermore intensifies the mystery surrounding the anonymous figure. Her Name is Elle M immediately calls to mind Picasso’s sleeping Marie-Thérèse, sensually executed with Cubist flare in the 1932 Le Rêve, in which the visage and resting hands of the artist’s mistress have been taken as cues in connoting the artist’s licentious relations with his muse. The sensuous Her Name is Elle M—though perhaps not betraying any underlying clandestine encounters, sexual or otherwise—equally presents a singular person captured during a particular encounter, an intimate collaboration in which the sitter has unveiled herself to Taylor. In this way, the present work aptly echoes paintings by the late American artist Alice Neel, whose own oeuvre was also far from esoteric and which had a confessional quality: ‘Alice Neel knew the difference between self-presentation—the self one showed to the world, or the self the world saw first and inevitably judged, based on skin colour, sex, whatever—and what the soul looked like to itself’ (quoted in Hilton Als, ‘Alice Neel, Uptown’ exh. cat. published on occasion of the exhibition bearing the same title, David Zwirner, New York, 23 February — 22 April 2017).

    It is perhaps due to his many years as a psychiatric technician that Henry Taylor possesses a unique ability to navigate through the porous notions of truth and self-characterisation in order to imbue his pieces with a confrontational starkness that is both gripping and disarming. Insisting on remaining ‘real’, he explains, ‘Being honest and real is the most important thing because it’s hard to be honest’ (quoted in Dorothée Perret, ‘Interview with Henry Taylor’, Purple Magazine no. 30, September 2018, pp. 212-217). His portraits reveal his interpersonal acumen and a genuine fascination with all his sitters, thus breaking down the physical and psychological implications of public and private: even in his most private scenes such as in the present work, Taylor is able to beckon his viewer into the tight spaces he creates in order to shed a sentimental light on often nuanced moments.

    Her Name is Elle M also demonstrates the depth of Taylor’s influences—one which sees the artist drawing from a rich tapestry of nude portraiture stretching from Titian, Manet, Modigliani, all the way to contemporary counterparts such as Elizabeth Peyton and Eric Fischl. Reinvigorating the classical mode of the nude by way of disarming his viewer, Taylor presents to his audience pithy vignettes of his storybook characters with the astuteness of a biographer, but with the familiarity of a close friend. Such as in the present lot, Elle M has been reproduced with a renewed fervour for the traditional nude: Taylor has shifted her away from glorified Hellenistic perfection, and has instead transformed her into an accessible figure. It is this democratisation of all his characters that has lent the artist monikers such as documentarian, storyteller, biographer, and the reason behind his success as a painter of the people.

    A major retrospective will be presented by the Geffen Contemporary art at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in the Winter of 2020 surveying 25 years of Henry Taylor’s oeuvre.

  • Catalogue Essay


    創作於藝術家在2012年紐約現代藝術博物館PS1個展的同一年,《 她的名字是埃莉·M》是泰勒對美國肖像畫和繪畫詞典的有力擴展,並植根於他自身的周圍環境中。作品中,一名金發女子倚坐在一張朱紅色的扶手椅上,她的紅色外套隨意地垂在肩上,隨著她向前方投出堅定的目光,露出敞開的胸膛,流露輕狂渲染的氛圍,藝術家所描繪的埃莉·M柔軟的雙手為其特徵注入了明快的色彩,對線條和色彩的表現主義使用,進一步加劇了這個匿名人物身上所帶的神秘感。《她的名字是埃莉·M》立即讓人想起畢卡索之沈睡的瑪麗-德雷莎,作於1932年,畫得極具感官性的《夢》,帶著立體派的特質,畫中藝術家的情婦面容和安放的手可以看作是暗示藝術家與他的繆思之間的肉體關係的線索。性感的《她的名字是埃莉·M》——僅管未知是否洩露任何潛在的秘密關係——同樣展現了對一個在某個特定相遇中的獨特人物之捕捉,在一種親密合作中模特兒向泰勒展露了自己。這種型式,本件作品恰當地呼應了已故的美國藝術家愛麗絲·尼爾的畫作,她的作品也完全不做作深奧,並且具有一種告解的特質:「愛麗絲·尼爾懂得自我表現——向世界展示自己,或那個世界已先看到,並且不可避免地根據其膚色、性別、或隨便什麼去做評判的那個自己——是與靈魂所看到的自我之間的差異。」(引自希爾頓·艾爾,《愛麗絲·尼爾,上城》,展覽畫冊,卓納畫廊,紐約,2017年2月23日至4月22日)。

    也許是他曾經多年來從事精神病學技術專家一職的緣故,亨利·泰勒擁有穿過即使有露洞的印象去察覺真相,以及建立自我表徵的獨特能力,來為他的作品注入一種赤裸裸的對抗性,同時攝人心魂又讓人放鬆警惕。堅持要保持「真實」,他解釋說:「保持誠實和真相是最重要的,因為誠實很難」(引自Dorothée Perret,《亨利·泰勒訪談》,《Purple》雜誌第30期,2018年9月,第212-217頁)。他的肖像揭示了他在人際關係上的敏銳性以及對所有模特真實的迷戀,從而打破了公共和私人在生理和心理上的可能後果:即使在他最私密的場景中,例如本作,泰勒也能夠將觀眾吸引到他所創造的狹小空間中,以期在微妙的瞬間散發出感性的光芒。


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Her Name is Elle M

signed, titled and dated '"Her name is Elle M" NY Henry Taylor 2012' on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
246.4 x 165 cm. (97 x 64 7/8 in.)
Painted in 2012.

HK$1,200,000 - 1,600,000 

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Contact Specialist
Charlotte Raybaud
Head of Evening Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 24 November 2019