One could say Cecily Brown is drunk on art history.
Throughout her 25-year career, the virtuosic British artist has engaged with seemingly every aspect of the Western canon—Renaissance artists’ contemplation on our eternal souls, Old Masters’ scenes of revelry, the delightfully frilly and coquettish vignettes of the Rococo era, Impressionists’ voyeuristic eye, even the impassioned gesturalism of Jackson Pollock. She’s guzzled it all.
Now the dizzying scope of these references will come into focus in “Cecily Brown: Death and the Maid,” the first full-breadth museum survey of the artist’s work in New York, which opens at the Metropolitan Museum of Art next week. “I really only understand a painting once I’ve copied it,” Brown said in a video made with the museum. The exhibition promises to unpack these discoveries, bringing together 50 paintings, drawings, sketchbooks, and monotypes—some of which have not been shown in New York before and several which were just recently completed—by delving into recurring themes, both sacred and profane, within her oeuvre. “There’s a whole raft of art history that flows through the work, and a lot of that is represented even in this very careful selection,” said exhibition curator Ian Alteveer in a conversation.
Ahead of the exhibition’s opening we’ve pulled out several works from the show and highlighted how Brown references and reimagines just a few of her many art-historical influences...