Jeanne Duval is a contemporary realist painter whose still life, landscape, and figural compositions are notable for their rich color, complex arrangements, and highly polished technique.
Duval reinvents a classical painterly language by employing a post-modernist, hyperreal sensibility. The staccato rhythms and scale of her compositions—the arrangements are pushed to the very front of the picture plane while at the same time receding into deep space—create an unsettling atmosphere of compression and heightened reality. Duval's "austere yet lavish virtuosity" and the use of Baroque, or Caravaggesque, lighting increases this dramatic tension.
Duval's still lifes draw from Italian Renaissance and Baroque influences such as Bellini, Caravaggio, and Carracci. Her sensual, intensely detailed descriptions involve numerous juxtapositions: youth versus age, light versus shadow, smoothness versus texture, and instability versus quietude. The resulting tension creates a pictorial situation in which reality and illusion collide. This interplay between the real and the symbolic is reminiscent of the work of the 20th-century Italian painter Giorgio de Chirico, an artist who Duval cites as central to her work.
A similar conundrum appears in Duval's figure paintings, which, like the work of Balthus, have a penetrating psychology and unsettled intimacy that is both direct and ambiguous. The rigorous compositions and intense colors are bold and assertive, but the enigmatic expressions on the subject's faces betray a deeper, possibly more unsettled, interior life, forcing the viewer to reconsider what exactly is being portrayed.
Jeanne Duval's work is held in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Bayly Art Museum in Charlottesville, Virginia, among others. She exhibits nationally and has won numerous fellowships and awards including a National Endowment for the Arts Grant. The artist currently resides in New York and New Hampshire.