Cecily Brown at Blenheim Palace with England as a Subject

September 15, 2020

One of the most distinctive sites in the UK and the place that bursts of history is unmistakably the Blenheim Palace. The birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill and the 18th-century Baroque residence of the 12th Duke and Duchess of Marlborough located in lavish landscape, it has been hosting a contemporary art program since 2014, launched by the Blenheim Art Foundation within the estate.

In these six years, the palace presented outstanding projects by renowned artists such as Ai Weiwei, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Jenny Holzer, and others, while this September a solo exhibition by an established British contemporary painter Cecily Brown will be presented. For the first time entirely new works will be installed as a reaction to the remarkable collection of artifacts and the interior of the Blenheim Palace.

Cecily Brown - Hunt After Frans Snyders, 2019. Oil on Linen, 61 x 71 inches. Courtesy of the Artist

Rediscovering British History

Cecily Brown is critically acclaimed for her grand, expressive paintings inspired by Joan Mitchell, Francis Bacon, and the Old Masters. Her signature aesthetic that resists categorization stands on a thin line between figuration and abstraction as the artist explores corporeality from a distinctly female position.

The upcoming exhibition will unravel Brown’s new body of work produced in regards to the long history of the Blenheim Palace and its symbolic representation of idyllic English country estate. The artist briefly emphasized her intention with this commission:

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. My work has always dealt with conflict and turbulence, both in content and in a physical way. I thought about an idealized vision of England and the contradiction between that and the reality of a nation in turmoil. Blenheim Palace seems the perfect situation in which to display images of a broken country, conflicted about its future and its place in the world, and seeming to have only its “glorious” and gory past to offer. 

Cecily Brown at Blenheim Palace

The Works

To articulate the long tradition of pastoral imagery and hunting scenes, the artist made works that critically explore the British heritage and reveal the nostalgic pathos that stands at the core of the British national imagination.

From the paintings by Sir Joshua Reynolds and Sir Anthony Van Dyck, to the family heraldry, to the armorial banners and the martial scenes of the Blenheim Tapestries, all the works made by Cecily Brown evoke the ecstatic vision of the past while they reflect the surrounding artworks in the Palace as symbols of power and influence that still dazzle the Brits today.

Cecily Brown - The Calls of the Hunting Horn, 2019. Oil on linen, 134.62 x 200.66 cm

Cecily Brown at Blenheim Palace

This exhibition tends to pose the questions regarding the notion of national imagination and the constructs such as the national pride and identity as Brown’s subtle and sensual intervention into the centuries of British artistic tradition envelops across the exuberant eighteenth-century estate.

Cecily Brown will be on display at Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, England from 17 September 2020 to 3 January 2021.

Featured image: Cecily Brown in her studio; Cecily Brown - Armorial Memento, Floored, 2020; Armorial Memorial, 2019; Dog Is Life, 2019; Hunt with Nature Morte and Blenheim Spaniel, 2019; The Triumph of Death, 2019. Installation views of ‘Cecily Brown at Blenheim Palace’, Blenheim Palace, 2020. Photographs by Tom Lindboe. Courtesy of Blenheim Art Foundation.

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