A rare, early oil study by renowned British artist Jenny Saville has been acquired by the National Galleries of Scotland and is being shown as part of a major new presentation devoted to Saville’s work, which will open at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art this weekend.
The newly acquired oil – the first work by Saville to be acquired by a UK public collection – was made in 1992 as a study for a larger painting entitled Branded that featured in the artist’s acclaimed Glasgow School of Art graduation exhibition. Study for Branded is characteristic of Saville’s early paintings of female nudes, which gained her international recognition. The acquisition has been made possible thanks to the Henry and Sula Walton Fund, bequeathed to benefit the modern and contemporary collection of the National Galleries of Scotland.
Saville is a hugely successful international artist best known for her monumental depictions of the naked female form; unflinching paintings of fleshy, un-idealised bodies, often painted close-up, on a massive scale. Her 21-foot-long triptych Strategy (South Face/Front Face/North Face) reached a wider audience when it appeared on the cover of the 1994 album The Holy Bible by Welsh band the Manic Street Preachers.
Bringing together 17 works from private and public collections across the globe, this will be the first museum exhibition of Saville’s work ever to be held in Scotland, and only her third in the UK. The selection will span 26 years, from iconic early paintings such as Propped (1992) and Trace (1993-4), to recent charcoal and pastel drawings, demonstrating how Saville’s approach to depicting the human body has shifted over the course of her career. Other highlights will include a series of large-scale head paintings, such as Rosetta II (2005-6), made while the artist was based in Italy, and the premier of a major new work, Aleppo (2017-18), which will be on show at the Scottish National Gallery alongside major historic paintings from the collection. This striking new work has been hung between two world-famous masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance, Diana and Actaeon and Diana and Callisto (both 1556-9) by the Venetian artist Titian (about 1485/90-1576).
The exhibition of Saville’s work at SNGMA will form the centrepiece of the third instalment of NOW, a three-year programme of contemporary art exhibitions launched at the Gallery in March 2017. NOW reflects the Gallery’s ambition to share contemporary art with a wide audience, highlighting the extraordinary quality and range of work being made by artists associated with Scotland, as well as those from across the globe, placing art created in Scotland in an international context, and demonstrating the crucial exchange between artistic communities around the world.
Alongside the work of Jenny Saville will be new and recent works by five artists who have explored ideas related to the body, performance, process and materials.