Home Is Where: Jenny Saville

Home Is Where is a festive archive project exploring home and belonging. This post is by David Barron, a Modern Art Oxford volunteer and a sociologist.

What more appropriate image for the season could there be than a Madonna and Child? This drawing doesn’t actually show Mary and Jesus, of course, the pregnant woman is Saville herself, but the inspiration is clear. Saville called one of these works a “reproduction drawing”, based on the Burlington Cartoon in the National Gallery. It was also shown in the Ashmolean Museum, in their Renaissance gallery, at the same time as the Modern Art Oxford show.

The drawings are remarkable, particularly the way in which they capture the solid materiality of the human bodies and simultaneously the squirming energy of the children.  The bodies are portrayed with clear, bold contours, subtle variations in weight conveying the form.  The energy is provided by the pentimenti, the vigorous marks showing glimpses of flailing arms and legs in various positions.  It’s a tour de force. 

Home Is Where is Modern Art Oxford’s second festive archive project created by gallery volunteers. Designed to inspire positive change and hope for the times ahead, this year’s theme focuses on home and belonging.