Cecily Brown (1969 - )
Date of Birth: Unknown, 1969
Place of Birth: London, England
Movement: Abstract Expressionism
Education: West Surrey College of Art and Design, Surrey; Slade School of Art, London
“I often avoid using the terms figuration and abstraction because I've always tried to have it both ways.”
“My process is really quite organic and starting a painting is one of the best parts for me. I always start in quite a loose and free way. I often put down one ground color to begin with and then play off that.”
“Guys and Dolls” (1997/98)
“High Society” (1998)
“The Girl Who had Everything” (1998)
“Hard, Fast and Beautiful” (2000)
Cecily Brown is one of the leading contemporary English painters of her generation, with a clearly female perspective, who has successfully combined abstract and representational components in her depiction of sensual figures. She lives in New York, working at her studio there.
Cecily Brown was born in London in 1969, to Shena Mackay, a novelist, and David Sylvester, an art critic. She, however, grew up with her mother and her stepfather, Robin Brown. Between 1985 and 1987, Brown studied at the West Surrey College of Art and Design (now known as the University of the Creative Arts) from where she graduated with a B. Tech Diploma in Art and Design. Brown also took printmaking and drawing classes at the Morely College, London, between 1987 and 1989. In 1989, Brown joined the Slade School of Art in London from where she graduated with a B.A. in Fine Arts in 1993. During her years as a student, Brown worked as a waitress and later, at an animation studio to make ends meet.
After her studies in England, Brown relocated to New York in 1995. Brown has worked throughout her career in New York, after having set up her studio there.
Brown’s paintings extend the trend of Abstract Expressionism, and are greatly influenced by the works of Willem de Kooning, Nicolas Poussin, Joan Mitchell, and Oskar Kokoschka. Her work centers around themes of sexuality, attraction, and the body, which she explores through figurative and abstract means. Brown herself, however, has tried to stay clear of the classification of her work as figurative and abstract, saying that in doing so she can have it “both ways.” Brown’s tactile oil paintings endeavor to explore the length and breadth of human experiences which transcend tradition, and have the ability to be molded and contextualized by the present. Brown has exhibited widely all over Europe and America.
Brown currently lives in New York and is married to architect Nicolai Ouroussoff with whom she has a daughter.
Brown’s work has received critical acclaim for its powerful representations and lush, bold brushwork. The assertive quality of Brown’s work is often compared to the fierce masculinity of Abstract Expressionism. Seen from this perspective, Brown’s work challenge traditionalism and the gendered preconceptions held about art.
Brown wants people to be stopped by her paintings, then look at them, and be rewarded each time by what they see. Daringly reworking the erotic from a woman’s point of view, after twenty-plus years, she has now entered a phase more complex, less overtly sexual, and tries to put in everything, as she says, “life, death, and the kitchen sink,” into every painting she makes.
Unknown, 1969 - Present
1985 to 1987 - West Surrey College of Art and Design
1989 to 1993 - Slade School of Art in London
2002 - “Directions: Cecily Brown,” Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.
2003 - MACRO, Rome
2004 - Whitney Biennial
2004 - Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid
2005 - Museum of Modern Art, Oxford
2005 - 2006 - Kunsthalle Mannheim
2006 - Des Moines Art Center, Iowa
2006 - 2007 - Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
2009 - Deichtorhallen, Hamburg
2010 - “Based on a True Story,” GEM, Museum of Contemporary Art, The Hague (2010)
2012 - Essl Museum, Klosterneuburg, Austria
MUSEUMS / COLLECTIONS
Tate Gallery, London
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York