Born 1971 – United Kingdom
Jenny Saville is a contemporary British painter whose stylized nude portraits of voluminous female bodies have brought her international acclaim. Among her best-known works, is the large-scale self-portrait Branded (1992), in which the artist distorts her own torso and breasts through painting, making both body parts pendulous and imposing. Saville’s luscious yet grotesque treatment of painted bodies have elicited comparisons to Lucian Freud. “I paint flesh because I’m human,” she has said. “If you work in oil, as I do, it comes naturally. Flesh is just the most beautiful thing to paint.”
During her time at the Glasgow School of Art, she was granted a six-month travel scholarship to the University of Cincinnati in the United States. It was while she was in America that Saville recounts seeing many overweight women and becoming interested in their bodies as subject matter. After graduating from school in 1992, with her entire senior thesis show having been purchased by Charles Saatchi, she emerged as a part of the Young British Artists group, alongside Damien Hirst and Sarah Lucas. Over the following years, the artist has complicated her imagery by layering multiple figures within the same composition. In 2018, a self-portrait of the artist titled Propped sold for $12.5 million at auction—$3.5 million above her last auction record for SHIFT. This painting is what first brought the artist international acclaim when Saatchi exhibited it in his 1997 blockbuster show “Sensation: Young British Arts from the Saatchi Gallery” along with Chris Ofili, Rachel Whiteread, and other YBA artists.
Saville currently lives and works in Oxford, United Kingdom. Today, her works are held in the collections of the Broad Art Foundation in Los Angeles, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, among others.