Paint Made Flesh examines the ways in which European and American painters have used oil paint and the human body to convey enduring human vulnerabilities, among them anxieties about desire, appearance, illness, aging, war, and death. In the tradition of great figure painting stretching back to Rembrandt and Titian, the 34 artists in the exhibition, working in the years since World War II, exploit oil paint’s visual and tactile properties to mirror those of the body, while exploring the body’s capacity to reflect the soul.
Drawn from private and public collections and arranged by chronology and nationality, the 43 paintings in the exhibition reflect a wide range of styles. Strong colors and vigorous brushwork associated with German expressionism give crude life to figures by artists ranging from the San Francisco Bay area painters to a younger generation, including Markus Lüpertz and Susan Rothenberg. Candid depictions of flesh by British painters Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud suggest psychological pain at the margins of society, while paint as skin betrays the inner feelings of Jenny Saville’s swollen females.
Other artists represented include Karel Appel, Cecily Brown, Francesco Clemente, John Currin, Eric Fischl, Willem de Kooning Leon Kossoff, David Park, Julian Schnabel, and Pablo Picasso.
Paint Made Flesh is organized by the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville, Tennessee. This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and Humanities. © The Phillips Collection, 2009