Shallow Deaths




by Glenn Brown

This painting is one of many in Brown’s oeuvre based on the 1984-85 painting Head of J.Y.M II by German-British figurative painter Frank Auerbach (b.1931). Spanning a variety of colors, tones and compositional modifications, Brown employs the visage of Julia Yardley Mills much like Auerbach did through the 80s as an enduring muse over a number of interrelated works. In his series, however, Brown conspicuously smoothes out the signature impasto of his predecessor – turning what was originally thick, scabrous oil paint into a smooth, luminous sheen. The palette is meant to evoke Pablo Picasso’s Blue Period (1901-1904), when personal and political strife became manifest in monochroma-tic and melancholic canvases. As such, this work aptly draws its title from a barbed comment by American poet, writer and satirist Dorothy Parker (1893-1967) about a death which registers meekly as tepid and unremarkable. In the context of this painting Brown elevates the ecstasy of his anonymous, androgynous subject to ostensibly avoid such a quiet passing – surrounding the figure in a tempestuous blue and crowning his/her head with a pristine halo reminiscent of Christian iconography.

– Steven Matijcio, Curator, Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, USA



One thought on “Shallow Deaths

  1. This is intriguing, it’s almost Picassoesque in the deformity of the facial shape and features. The way the oil has been used gives an almost fluidity to the figure, giving it an otherworldly feel, top that with the “halo” and it is almost a representation of a deathly angel.

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