The Leisure Centre: The Brown Collection, Marylebone, London
This painting is based upon Jean-Honoré Fragonard's (1732-1806) work A Boy as Pierrot (1785), which features an angelic youth dressed in an 18th century clown costume too large for his slight frame. The original was painted a few short years before the bloody French Revolution (1789-1799), when many of Fragonard's most loyal patrons in the court of Louis XV were executed or exiled. The Pierrot costume was a parody of what many working class citizens considered a pompous, disconnected bourgeois and aristocratic elite whose hands are symbolically subdued by oversized sleeves. In Brown's rendition the mood of Fragonard's wide eyed cherub-esque subject goes from rosy-cheeked contentment to foreboding fright. Clad in what now resembles a decorative straitjacket, the boy is turned upside down in this 1995 composition – evoking the disorienting technique of German neo-expressionist Georg Baselitz (b.1938), who sought to shift the viewer's focus from traditional figuration to abstract formalism. The longing title of the work is drawn from the melancholic lyrics of British post-punk band Joy Division, who Brown draws upon to title a number of his paintings.
– Steven Matijcio, Curator, Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, USA