Glenn Brown is an artist who finds relentless inspiration in the history of art. The British painter recently opened the Brown Collection, which debuted with an exhibition of his own art, in a restored house in London’s Marylebone district. The exhibited works come from the first appropriations of Frank Auerbach and Jean-Honoré Fragonard with superimposed portraits that revisit the old masters of the Renaissance. In the future, Brown plans to exhibit her work alongside older paintings, drawings and sculptures from her private collection.
So it makes sense that Brown’s studio is also a tribute to the art and aesthetics of the past. Brown’s Shoreditch workspace houses treasures such as a 15th century woodcut, a 20th century watercolor and a selection of 17th and 18th century ornate frames. The artists behind these works are rarely household names; instead, they are representative of the unique way an artist like Brown assesses historical art.
Many of these objects also served as inspiration for her latest exhibition, ‘We’ll Keep Dancing Until We Pay The Rent’, which opens at Chelsea’s Gagosian Gallery on November 8. The exhibition, the artist’s first in New York since 2014, takes drawing as its starting point. Each painting is based on an appropriate design by artists ranging from Pompeo Batoni (1708–1787) and Andrea del Sarto (1486–1530) to Jan Willem Pieneman (1779–1853) and Jan Van Noordt (1623/4–after 1676) .
Before the exhibition opened, Brown opened his studio for Artnet News to take a look inside.
Tell us about your studio. Where is it, how did you find it, what type of space is it?
I’ve had several studios in Shoreditch since 1991 and moved into my current studio in 2010. I like it because it’s very bright due to the huge skylight and it’s very quiet.
What’s the first thing you do when you walk into your studio (after turning on the lights)?
Try to figure out how delusional I was the night before.
How many studio assistants or other crew members do you have working with you, and what do they do?
I don’t have studio assistants.
What are you working on at the moment?
I just finished an exhibition of new paintings, sculptures and drawings for an exhibition at Gagosian in New York…”We’ll keep dancing ’til we pay the rent”—which opens Nov. 8.
Show us a few different photos of a work in progress in a way that you think will give some insight into your process.
What tool or art supply do you most enjoy working with?
Oil painting. That’s wonderful.
How do you know when a work you are working on clicks?
When an array begins to respond. Work tells me what to do. In other words, he acquires a personality that is not quite mine.
Do you have other works by artists in your studio?
I used the colors from this work for one of my new paintings for the November show, dirty creamer (2022). I love Osman Spare’s delicate pencil strokes.
Spare often draws without removing the pencil from the paper, a wonderful little trick that creates a mesmerizing flowing line.
Goltzius was a highly inventive technical genius. Its ability to deceive the eye will never be beaten.
What’s the fanciest thing in your studio?
I have a large collection of antique frames, mostly Italian from the 17th and 18th centuries. I use old frames as a starting point for many of my designs.
Is there anything in your studio that a visitor might find surprising?
It’s very tidy, which people seem to find quite disturbing.
When you feel stuck while preparing for a show, what do you do to get out of it?
I bring a friend to the studio to help me look at the paintings as if I had never seen them before.
Which historical artist do you think of the most when you are in your studio and why?
Sometimes I have a sort of François Boucher obsession; sometimes I want Abraham Bloemaert; some days it’s Andrea del Sarto.
What was the last museum or gallery exhibit you saw that really stood out to you and why?
It was a trip to Haarlem, the Netherlands and a visit to the fair of the Teylers Museum.
I asked to see their Hendrick Goltzius drawings, including A handof which I have seen reproductions before, but seeing the real drawing was wonderful.
What do you like to do after leaving the studio at the end of the day?
I often paint until the early morning. Most of the time I leave the studio, come home and go straight to bed.
“Glenn Brown: We’ll Keep Dancing Till We Pay The Rent” runs at Gagosian New York, 541 West 24th Street, November 8 through December 23.
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