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Modern take on the traditional at Blenheim

Cecily Brown’s site-specific work inspired by the palace collection

Trish Lee

trish lee


01635 886663

Blenheim exhibition

Hunt After Frans Snyders by Cecily Brown (1800x1581)

HERE’S one to travel that extra mile for, a major new solo exhibition by renowned contemporary British painter Cecily Brown inspired by Blenheim Palace.

The show recently opened and runs to January 3.

Cecily Brown

Originally due to have taken place back in April, the ‘Cecily Brown Art Exhibition’ features all new work created by the New York-based artist directly in response to the Oxfordshire UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Considered one of the foremost painters of her generation, Brown studied at The Slade and now lives and works in New York City. Her large-scale, sensual, semi-abstract artworks have cemented her as one of the most important painters of her generation.

Inspired by the history of painting, Cecily Brown often reworks motifs and images from variety of painters such as Francisco de Goya, Willem de Kooning, Francis Bacon and Joan Mitchell, as well as Old Masters like Rubens and Poussin.

In 2018 Suddenly Last Summer, which she painted in 1999, sold for $6.8m at Sotheby’s in New York.

“The invitation to exhibit at Blenheim Palace seemed to me an invitation to look at Britain now. It was thrilling for me to make work with England as its subject,” said Cecily.

“My work has always dealt with conflict and turbulence, both in content and in a physical way. I thought about an idealised vision of England and the contradiction between that and the reality of a nation in turmoil,” she added.

Exhibited among the Palace’s extensive collection of artefacts, it provides a fascinating counterpoint to the centuries of rich British artistic tradition and imagery on display across the magnificent 18th-century landmark.

Brown’s new series visually references masterpieces by Sir Joshua Reynolds and Sir Anthony Van Dyck on display within the Palace, as well as family heraldry, armorial banners and the martial scenes of the Blenheim Tapestries that line the State Rooms.

Director of Blenheim Art Foundation Michael Frahm said: “Cecily’s exhibition continues to push the boundaries of how contemporary art can be shown at a heritage site and will be a further new experience for our visitors. “This will be Cecily’s first major UK show in 15 years and we are proud to showcase her brilliant work to British audiences.”

Blenheim Art Foundation has built a reputation for its award-winning exhibition programme, inviting innovative, internationally-renowned artists. Brown is the seventh contemporary artist, and the first painter, to exhibit at the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Founder of Blenheim Art Foundation Edward Spencer-Churchill said: “It is a pleasure to welcome Cecily Brown to Blenheim. As the first British painter in our programme, her phenomenal new body of work brings a fresh and exciting perspective on the rich tradition of painting at the palace.”

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