Cecily Brown

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Cecily Brown
Born 1969
London, England, United Kingdom
Nationality British
Education Epsom School of Art (1987)
Morley College (1987–89)
Alma mater Slade School of Art (1993)
Style Figurative art
Abstract art
Spouse(s) Nicolai Ouroussoff

Cecily Brown (born 1969) is a British painter. Her style displays the influence of a variety of painters, from Francisco de Goya, Willem de Kooning, Francis Bacon[1] and Joan Mitchell, to Old Masters like Rubens and Poussin, yet her works also present a distinctly female viewpoint.[2][3] Brown lives and works in New York City.[4][5]

Early life and education[edit]

Brown was born in London, England, in 1969. She is the daughter of novelist Shena Mackay and art critic David Sylvester.[6] Brown earned a B-TEC Diploma in Art and Design from the Epsom School of Art, Surrey, England (1985–87) (now the University for the Creative Arts), took drawing and printmaking classes at Morley College, London (1987–89), and received a BA degree in Fine Arts from the Slade School of Art, London (1989–93).[7] During her studies, she worked as a waitress and, later, in an animation studio. In addition to painting, Brown also studied printmaking and draftsmanship. She earned First Class Honours at Slade and was the first-prize recipient in the National Competition for British Art Students.[1]


Brown relocated to New York from London in 1995[8] because she felt alienated from her contemporaries.[9] In 1995, the art world took notice of her work when she displayed Four Letter Heaven at Telluride Film Festival, which was shown in the United States as well as Europe.[9] The films themes of sexuality and pornography are themes she explores in the rest of her body of work.[9] 2011, she has been working from a studio at a former office near Union Square. Before that, she maintained a studio in the Meatpacking District, Manhattan.[4]



Brown's paintings combine figuration and utter abstraction. Expanding the tradition of abstract expressionism, she has become known for her painting style suggestive of abstract and abstract expressionist painters such as de Kooning and Oskar Kokoschka.[10] When she begins a painting, she generally doesn't have an exact idea of what she is trying to achieve, but she lets the final painting reveal itself as she works.[11] While painting, she likes to let the paintings develop and change drastically because she believes the surprise makes her work more interesting.[12] Sexuality and attraction are important themes in her work, which she explores through semi-figurative and abstract means.[10] The way she handles paint within her work, becomes the subject matter itself by engulfing her figures within the paint or to use it to add a sense of humor to her sexual imagery.[9] Her paintings also recall the works of Philip Guston and the Bay Area Figurative School of the 1950s and 1960s. Brown often titles her paintings after classic Hollywood films and musicals, such as The Pyjama Game, The Bedtime Story and The Fugitive Kind. In 2013, Brown based a series of paintings on a photograph of a large group of nude women that appeared on the British release of a 1968 Jimi Hendrix album Electric Ladyland.[10]

The sexuality and eroticism of Brown's depictions of expressive figures and nudes are echoed in rich colours, luscious paint handling, and animated brushwork; her work combines representational and abstract elements. Her tactile technique stands out among contemporaries and links her to the art movement Abstract Expressionism. However, self-conscious of her connection with artists such as Willem de Kooning and Lucian Freud, Brown often interjects fresh humor or irony by titling her paintings after famous musicals and films. She has been grouped with leading female contemporary painters, including Charline von Heyl, Jacqueline Humphries, Laura Owens, Jutta Koether, Amy Sillman, and Emily Sundblad.[13]

Brown describes her process as "organic."[14] She often spends multiple days on works, and will work on up to 20 works at a time, allowing layers of paint to dry between applications.[15]

Some of her work includes:

  • Sky Towers and Bridal Bowers, Oil on Linen, 65’’ x 43’’, 2016 [16]
  • Those are pearls that were his eyes, Oil on Aluminum, 43 in x 53 in, 2016[16]
  • Untitled (After Gericault), Charcoal and watercolor, 20 in x 26 in, 2016[16]
  • Untitled (Banquet), Oil on Linen, 109 in x 171 in, 2012[16]
  • Untitled (Blood Thicker Than Mud),Oil on Linen, 109 in x 171 in, 2012[16]
  • Dreamboat, Oil on Linen, 55 in x 77 in, 2011[16]
  • Be Nice to the Big Blue Sea, Oil on Linen, 109 in x 107 in, 2012[16]
  • The Green, Green Grass of Home, Oil on Linen, 97 in x 151 in, 2010[16]
  • Untitled (The Beautiful and Damned), Oil on Linen, 109 in x 171 in, 2013[16]
  • Luck Just Kissed You Hello, Oil on Linen, 67 in x 65 in, 2013[16]
  • The Girl and Goat, Oil on Linen, 97 in x 89 in, 2013–2014[16]
  • No You for Me, Oil on Linen, 83 in x 67 in, 2013[16]
  • Combing the Hair (Cote d'Azur), Oil on Linen, 109 in x 113 in, 2013[16]
  • Footsie, LIthographin 10 colours on Somerset textured white paper, 43 ¾ in x 33 ½ in, 2000, Edition of 33[16]
  • Jimmy Jimmy, Oil on Linen, 65 in x 67 in, 2014[16]
  • Untitled (Paradise), Monotype in watercolor, pencil and pastel on Lanaquarelle paper, 47 ½ in 71 ¾ in, 2015[16]
  • Figures in a Landscape 1, Oil on Linen, 90 in x 100 in, 2001[16]
  • Untitled (Vanity), Oil on Linen, 77 in x 55 in, 2005[16]
  • Sunset Motel, Oil on Linen, 41 in x 109 in, 2015[16]
  • Aujourd'hui Rose, 4 colour lithograph, 39 in 29 in, 2005[16]
  • The Sleep Around and the Lost and Found, Oil on Canvas, 97 in x 103 in, 2014[16]
  • Is it nice in you snowstorm?, Oil on Linen, 17 in 12 ½ in, 2014[16]
  • The Young and the Restless, Oil on Linen, 115 in x 109 in, 2014[16]
  • We Think the Same Things at the Same Time, Oil on canvas, 43 in x 65 in, 2014[16]
  • Combing the Hair (Outside), Oil on Canvas, 83 in x 67 in, 2014[16]
  • Stuck in the Middle With You, Oil on Linen, 43 in x 31 in, 2015[16]
  • Color Etching with Brick Wall, 7-color etching with aquatint, 2003, Editions 5 PPs, 1 BAT, 4 HCs of 28 + 4AP[16]
  • Untitled (#82), Oil on Linen, 17 in x 12 ½ in, 2008[16]
  • Bye Baby Bunting, Oil on Linen, 65 in x 43 in, 2008[16]
  • Untitled(#68), Oil on Linen, 12 ½ in 17 in, 2008[16]
  • Untitled (#84), Oil on Linen, 17 x 12 ½ in, 2008[16]
  • Study for Sarn Mere 2, Oil on Linen, 85 in x 89 in, 2008[16]
  • Untitled (#53), Oil on Linen, 17 in x 12 in, 2007[16]
  • Indian Tourist, Oil on Linen, 97 in x 89 in, 2008[16]
  • Untitled (#92), Oil on Linen, 17 in x 12 ½ in, 2008[16]
  • Untitled (#90), Oil on Linen, 12 ½ in x 17 in, 2008[16]
  • New Face in Hell, Oil on Linen, 97 in x 89 in, 2008[16]
  • Untitled (#83), Oil on Linen, 17 in x 12 ½ in, 2008[16]
  • Skulldiver 3 (Flightmask), Oil on Linen, 85 in x 89 in, 2006[16]
  • Memento Mori 1, Oil on Linen, 97 in x 103 in, 2006–2008[16]

Other works[edit]

In 1997, Brown created Untitled, a permanent, site-specific installation for the group exhibition Vertical Paintings at P.S. 1.[17]

To see more paintings by Brown click here[18]

In the media[edit]

In the February 2000 edition of Vanity Fair, Brown, along with fellow artists Inka Essenhigh, John Currin and others, appeared in full-color photographs taken by Todd Eberle. A photograph that appeared in The New Yorker made showed Brown from the back as she stood, cigarette in hand, studying one of her paintings.[19]

In 2004, Brown presided, along with other artists such as Laura Owens and Elizabeth Peyton, over a Democratic fund-raising event, Art Works for Hard Money, in Los Angeles.[20]

Critical reception[edit]

Brown has received a lot of critical attention for powerful, athletically-sized canvases and bold brushwork. The assertiveness of her paintings has often been compared to Abstract Expressionist works which, during their time, were linked to a fierce masculinity. As a female artist working in this vein, Brown's works have been seen as confronting both this tradition and gendered assumptions about art.

However, some recent critics have taken a different stance. Roberta Smith, in The New York Times, called a Gagosian exhibit it reviewed in 2000 "lackluster" and suggested that Brown's "career is ahead of her artistic development."[21] In a 2011 review for The Guardian, art critic Adrian Searle rejected the dynamic and assertive surfaces of Brown's art and wrote: "What's really missing in her art is character, and for all the hectic painting, a sense of necessity." Likewise, in 2013, Leah Ollman wrote a review of a Gagosian Gallery show for The LA Times, in which she observed: "Instead of powerful and passionate, her voice comes across as detached. The volume is turned up, but the verve is on low."[22]


Solo exhibitions include:[23]

"Combing the Hair" (Côte d'Azur), 2013, oil on linen[28] Gagosian Paris announces the exhibition of new paintings by Cecily Brown. This will be her first solo exhibition in Paris, France on October, 19–20 December 2014. She displayed 11 canvases at the exhibit where she focuses on the themes of narcissism and autoeroticism.[29]

Cecily Brown, Untitled, 2012, oil on linen[30] Gagosian Gallery of New York City presents recent paintings by Cecily Brown on 7 May – 22 June 2013. This will be her first solo exhibition in New York since 2008.

Her work has appeared at the Whitney Biennial 2004 in New York,[31] The Triumph of Painting at the Saatchi Gallery, London and "Greater New York" at P.S. 1, New York.

Group shows include:[16]

  • Cecily Brown, Jeff Koons, Charles Ray, The FLAG Art Foundation, New York, 2016[16]
  • Surface Tension, The FLAG Art Foundation, New York, 2015 [16]
  • Interrupting Nature, Galerie Maximillian, Aspen, 2015 [16]
  • La Peregrina, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2015 [16]
  • Rubens and His Legacy: From Van Dyck to Cézanne, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2015[16]
  • How Soon Was Now, Contemporary Fine Arts, Berlin, 2014 [16]

Art fairs include[16]

  • Jeffrey Deitch at The Armory Show 2017, New York, 2017 [16]
  • Paula Cooper Gallery at FOG Design+Art 2017, San Francisco, 2017 [16]
  • Universal Limited Art Editions at Art Basel in Miami Beach 2016, Miami Beach, 2016 [16]
  • Two Palms at Art Basel in Miami Beach 2016, Miami Beach, 2016 [16]
  • Two Palms at IFPDA Print Fair 2016, New York, 2016 [16]
  • Two Palms at Art Basel 2016, Basel, 2016 [16]
  • Two Palms at The Armory Show 2016, New York, 2016 [16]
  • Contemporary Fine Arts at Art Basel in Miami Beach 2015, Miami Beach, 2015 [16]
  • Two Palms at Art Basel in Miami Beach 2015, Miami Beach, 2015 [16]
  • Two Palms at IFPDA Print Fair 2015, NYC, 2015 [16]
  • Two Palms at Art Basel 2015, Basel, 2015 [16]
  • Contemporary Fine Arts at Art Basel in Hong Kong 2015, 2015 [16]
  • Two Palms at Art Basel in Miami Beach 2014, Miami Beach, 2014 [16]
  • Contemporary Fine Arts at Frieze London 2014, 2014[16]
  • Two Palms at Art Basel 2014, 2014 [16]


Brown's work has attracted the attention of private art collectors including Elton John and Michael Ovitz. Her paintings are in the permanent collections of important museums and institutions including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Tate Modern, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, and the Des Moines Art Center.[5]

Art market[edit]

Brown is represented by Contemporary Fine Arts in Berlin. Between 2000 and 2015, she was also represented by Gagosian Gallery.[32] She previously showed with Deitch Projects.[33] Cecily set an early auction record when her oil painting Sick Leaves sold for 2.2 million dollars at a Christie's auction in March 2017.[34] Shortly after, Suddenly Last Summer (1999), originally estimated at $1.8 to $2.5 million, fetched $6.8 million at a 2018 Sotheby's auction in New York.[35]

Personal life[edit]

Brown was born and raised in England before moving to New York City. Since she was three years old she had always wanted to be artist and was supported by her family. This support system came from her grandmother and two of her uncles who were also artists.[36] Brown is married to architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff; they have one daughter, Celeste.[37]

Since 2014, Brown has been serving on the Board of Directors of the Foundation for Contemporary Arts (FCA).[38]

Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ a b Scott, Sue (2013). "Cecily Brown" in The Reckoning: Women Artists of the New Millennium, 31. Munich: Prestel. ISBN 978-3-7913-4759-2.
  2. ^ "Cecily Brown". Artspace. 
  3. ^ Holzwarth, Hans W. (2009). 100 Contemporary Artists A-Z (Taschen's 25th anniversary special ed.). Köln: Taschen. p. 74. ISBN 978-3-8365-1490-3. 
  4. ^ a b Karen Wright (29 November 2013), In the studio: Cecily Brown, Painter The Independent.
  5. ^ a b "Cecily Brown's First Ever Solo Exhibition in the Netherlands at GEM Museum of Contemporary Art". Artdaily.org. 31 December 2010. Retrieved 7 March 2015. 
  6. ^ http://www.artcritical.com/DavidCohen/SUN89.htm review. Retrieved 1 June 2007
  7. ^ "Cecily Brown". Blouin ArtInfo. Retrieved 7 March 2015. 
  8. ^ Roberta Smith (21 January 2000), ART IN REVIEW; Cecily Brown The New York Times.
  9. ^ a b c d Grant, Catherine M. (2000). "Brown, Cecily". Oxford University Press – via Oxford Art Online. 
  10. ^ a b c Small, Rachel (March 2015). "CECILY BROWN SHOWS HER WOMEN UPTOWN". Interview. Retrieved 8 March 2015. 
  11. ^ Rolf Lauter (19 August 2014), Cecily Brown & Rolf Lauter: Interview, KUNSTHALLE MANNHEIM 2005., retrieved 11 March 2017 
  12. ^ Louisiana Channel (3 November 2015), Cecily Brown Interview: Take No Prisoners, retrieved 11 March 2017 
  13. ^ Diane Solway (19 August 2013), Charline von Heyl: In the Abstract W.
  14. ^ Lewis, Perri (20 September 2009). "Cecily Brown: I take things too far when painting". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 March 2015. 
  15. ^ Wright, Karen (29 November 2013). "In the studio: Cecily Brown, Painter". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 March 2015. 
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg bh bi bj bk bl bm bn "Cecily Brown – 98 Artworks, Bio & Shows on Artsy". artsy.net. Retrieved 11 March 2017. 
  17. ^ Cecily Brown P.S. 1, New York.
  18. ^ http://cecilybrown.com/selected-works/
  19. ^ Roberta Smith (5 July 2000), Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman; Glossy Images That Both Mimic and Mock Male Sexuaility The New York Times.
  20. ^ Alex Williams (4 July 2004), Cutting Edge In the Arts Now Is Joining a PAC The New York Times.
  21. ^ Smith, Roberta (21 January 2000). "ART IN REVIEW; Cecily Brown". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 March 2015. 
  22. ^ Ollman, Leah (26 September 2013). "Review: Cecily Brown's paintings do not disturb". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 8 March 2015. 
  23. ^ Cecily Brown Gagosian Gallery.
  24. ^ "Cecily Brown". Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. Retrieved 7 March 2015. 
  25. ^ Museum of Fine Arts. "Cecily Brown". Retrieved 7 March 2015. 
  26. ^ "Cecily Brown". Deichtorhallen. Retrieved 7 March 2015. 
  27. ^ "Cecily Brown". Essl Museum. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 7 March 2015. 
  28. ^ http://www.gagosian.com/exhibitions/cecily-brown--october-19-2014
  29. ^ Ciganiero, Jake. "Cecily Brown". Retrieved 26 October 2016. 
  30. ^ http://www.gagosian.com/exhibitions/cecily-brown--may-09-2013
  31. ^ Richard Lacayo, "Art: Major Art Attack," TIme, 29 March 2004.
  32. ^ Julie L. Belcove (8 May 2015), After Gagosian, Cecily Brown Hits Reset: Smaller Paintings, Smaller Gallery, Evil Mice, and Male Nudes New York.
  33. ^ Roberta Smith (23 December 2003), Art World Startled as Painter Switches Dealers The New York Times.
  34. ^ "Doig, Rothko and Dubuffet lead on a night of records in London". Christies.com. 7 March 2017. Retrieved 12 March 2018. 
  35. ^ Sarah P. Hanson (May 17, 2018), Kerry James Marshall sets $21m record for a living African American artist at Sotheby's The Art Newspaper.
  36. ^ Enright, Robert (February 2005). "Paint Whisperer: An Interview with Cecily Brown". Border Crossings. 24 (1): 36–49. Retrieved 26 October 2016. 
  37. ^ Langmuir, Molly (12 November 2014). "THE 12 MOST DARING, UNEXPECTED, AND EXCITING WOMEN IN ART NOW". Elle. Retrieved 7 March 2015. 
  38. ^ Foundation for Contemporary Arts Announces 2014 John Cage Award Foundation for Contemporary Arts (FCA), press release of 15 January 2014.

External links[edit]