Florence has become the backdrop to 100 paintings and drawings by Jenny Saville. She is regarded by many to be one of the world’s greatest living figurative painters in the world. The exhibition ends on February 20th.
The main body of Saville’s work is being shown in the Museo Novecento. Additional paintings and drawings are on display in the Palazzo Vecchio, Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Museo degli Innocenti and Museo di Casa Buonarotti.
The Exhibition offers a unique opportunity to view previous works and those created especially for the show, allowing the visitor to see similarities and/or differences between Saville and her ancestors, in particular Michelangelo.
Jenny Saville grew up loving Michelangelo. She said that the unfinished slaves, displayed in the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence, are some of the best things ever made in art history.
The Jenny Saville Exhibition is an encounter between the Renaissance and Contemporary worlds of art.
Rosetta II The painting is displayed above the altar inside the chapel of a former church, now the Museo Novecento. The painting is of a blind woman, represented as if in exaltation.
Rosetta, living in a blind school in Naples left there by her farming parents, came to the attention of the artist. Jenny Saville stated that painting Rosetta was one of the most beautiful experiences of her life.
According to Jenny, Rosetta was initially very nervous at modelling for the artist but once trust was formed, Rosetta unveiled herself to the artist. This affected Jenny, she felt for the 1st time a responsibility to make her subject beautiful; previously she had wanted power not beauty in her works.
The Portraits A selection of large portraits of young people’s faces, including a self-portrait of the artist herself. These are displayed in the Museo Novecento.
The Fulcrum displayed in the Palazzo Vecchio, sits amongst huge mural paintings by Vasari and statues by Michelangelo and Giambologna.
The Fulcrum, at 4 metres long, is a monumental piece and shows the British artist’s mastery of flesh and form that some say, rivals that of the Italian masters. Comprised of 3 female figures, the head is the artist herself. Jenny nicknamed the painting “the bitch” because it was so difficult and complex.
Study for Pietà is a large drawing situated In the Opera dell’Duomo next to the Pietà Bandini, an unfinished sculpture by Michelangelo, and one of his last.
Style Of Art & Influences
Jenny Saville is a figurative painter, a creator of an image. Known for large scale paintings of the female nude, she says ” I try to find bodies that manifest in their flesh.”
Her influences are eclectic, from past classical Greek sculptures through to Michelangelo, Rubens, Cezanne and Picasso. She is also a lover of abstract art, including Pollock, Willem De Kooning, and Cindy Sharman, stating she learned about paint through them.
Jenny Saville biography
Born in Cambridge England in 1970, Saville trained as a painter from the age of 8. She was taught a traditional Academic style of art by her uncle, focusing on the old master paintings. He got her to draw a hedge every day for a year, through rain, spring, summer and snow. From this she learnt the intensity of study. Her uncle inspired her ambition to match the great painters. He took her to Venice to look at the masterpieces of Rembrandt, Titian and Tintoretto, providing the young girl a Renaissance apprenticeship.
Jenny studied at the Glasgow school of Art in 1988, graduating with a BA Honours in fine art in 1992.
Her degree show brought her to the attention of a British art collector Charles Saatchi, who purchased her degree exhibition. He also offered her an amazing opportunity to create works to be exhibited in his Gallery in London as part of a series of young British artists entitled Sensation; she was 27 years old.
New York, America
In her 3rd year at Art School, Jenny won a scholarship and headed to America. Whilst in America she became fascinated with plastic surgery – of how the flesh could be manipulated. She was absorbed by people’s fictional idea of what they should look like, and of how the doctor would normalise the fiction. In her conclusion, the Doctors were the sculptors of human flesh. She started to think of paint as flesh, creating many layers and recreating the motion of the surgeon as she painted.
Saville enjoyed women’s studies and seminars on feminist politics. The question she faced was how to reconcile feminist politics with the painting of the body. How could she paint nudes and have this very radical feminist view? This conflict was to be resolved when she moved to Italy.
Jenny flitted between London and New York because she felt she needed to be where the art world was. A change of heart led her to move to Palermo in Sicily. She bought an old palazzo and worked there for 7 years. This period, she said, influenced her life and allowed her time to develop. She engaged with antique history, read books, experimented and studied the ancient history of goddesses, visiting shrines of fertility goddesses.
It was during this period she discovered a history that belonged to her, not one that was male dominated, and she reconciled her painting with her feminist ideals. It was during this period she painted Rosetta.