Art History: Jenny Saville


Human perception of the body is so acute and knowledgeable that the smallest hint of a body can trigger recognition.
—Jenny Saville

I just realized that alot of these are going to start with, “When I was in college…” but here goes. In college I hung out with a girl who was a stereotypical, 100% Artist. That was her thing. Still is actually. She went on to attend a really great grad school and she is a working artist but that is beside the point. During our time hanging out she acquired a book that was more holy to her than the Bible. It was a heavy hardcover book about the Sensations Art Exhibit. She carried that thing around with her everywhere she went. I can honestly say I never saw most of the pages because she wouldn’t let it out of her reach for more than a few minutes. The freshest, most amazing artists working at the time were featured in those pages and one of the few times I was able to leaf through the pages I was stopped in my tracks by the amazing work of Jenny Saville.




There could have been, and were, other amazing artists in that book but the only one I cared about was Jenny Saville. Her paintings struck me on so many levels. Her technique is nearly incomprehensible. I would just stare at her brush strokes in awe. The way she puts paint on the canvas is beyond anything I could ever do. It almost looks messy and chaotic but every stroke and little daube of paint glistens in a visceral way.



She doesn’t just paint well. She puts a level of commentary and physicality in her paintings that can be jarring. The way she deals with social conventions, gender and beauty is just as intense and impactful as her technique. She has been one of my favorite artists and still is to this day.