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Jenny Saville (Cambridge, 1970-present) is an English painter well-known for her depiction of the woman body through her large scale oil paintings.

Saville's feminist portrayal of the female body antagonizes the contemporary ideal of the perfect human form. The ArtBank described Saville's work as "depicting bodies that live outside the standard boundaries of attractiveness."[1]

Education and Career

Saville studied at the Glasgow School of Art from 1988 to 1992. Throughout her college career, she gained recognition and won many awards including the Craig award and the Newberry medal. Saville received a six months scholarship to Cincinnati University where she was exposed to "big women" and grew a fascination towards them.

After seeing one of Saville's paintings at the "Critic's Choice" at Cooling Gallery in London, Charles Saatchi,[2] commissioned Saville for 15 new artworks. The paintings were completed between 1992-1994 and was exhibited in the Young British Artists III show where she gained more recognition. Saville later decided to move to New York where she befriended a plastic surgeon that allowed her to take pictures of the procedures during a live performance at a theater. The pictures taken during the surgery became reference points to many of Saville's paintings.


Saville's paintings are often compared to work of Lucian Freud.[3] Similar to Freud's exaggerated, fleshy portraits, Saville's figures are described as "mountains of flesh...monumental paintings wallow in the glory of expansiveness."[4] Both artist show a fascination and interest with larger, obese, naked figures and they often portray them in an unattractive manner.

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Lucian Freud: Benefits Supervisor Resting
1994, Oil on canvas. 160x150 cm
Lucian Freud: Benefits Supervisor Resting
1995, Oil on canvas. 151x219 cm

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There are a few disparities that sets Saville's paintings from Freud's works and one difference is that some of Saville's subject surpasses unattractiveness and comes close to vulgarity. One painting by Saville titled The Passage shows a portrait of a transvestite. The painting is a nude frontal view of a transvestite with their legs spread apart toward the viewers. In defense, in her book Jenny Saville, Saville describes this particular work as "contemporary architecture of the human body."[5] In the past, a person with a natural penis and a fake silicon breast would not have been possible.[6] Saville also portrays the gruesome scenes of women in surgery.

Another difference is that Saville focuses fully on the figure and rarely include background details unlike Freud who often include the couches and chairs that the models sit and lie on.

Saville acknowledges that her work shows influence by Freud, but Saville claims that her greatest influences are Francis Bacon and Willem de Kooning. Saville states that the "marriage of Bacon’s figurative skills and de Kooning’s painting skills would make the best painter who ever lived’.[7]


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Art Bank, "Jenny SAVILLE Biography." http://www.artbank.com/DisplayArtist.aspx?id=63

Art Net, "Lucian Frued." http://www.artnet.com/artists/lucian-freud/

Gagosian Gallery, Jenny Saville. Rizzoli, 2005.

Mackenzie, Suzie. "Under the skin." http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2005/oct/22/art.friezeartfair2005

Saatchi Gallery, "Selected Works by Jenny Saville." http://www.saatchi-gallery.co.uk/artists/jenny_saville.htm

Interview Video

(Cyrene Quiamco)
  1. ^ http://www.artbank.com/DisplayArtist.aspx?id=63
  2. ^ http://www.saatchi-gallery.co.uk/artists/jenny_saville.htm

  3. ^ http://www.artnet.com/artists/lucian-freud/
  4. ^ http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2005/oct/22/art.friezeartfair2005

  5. ^ http://www.amazon.com/Jenny-Saville-Gagosian-Gallery/dp/0847827577
  6. ^ http://www.amazon.com/Jenny-Saville-Gagosian-Gallery/dp/0847827577

  7. ^ http://www.amazon.com/Jenny-Saville-Gagosian-Gallery/dp/0847827577