NEW BOOK: Glenn Brown

Editor: Hans Werner Holzwarth
Texts by John Chilver, Bice Curiger and John-Paul Stonard, 2023
Hardcover in clamshell box 474 pages
Publisher: Taschen
ISBN: 978-3-8365-9129-4
Dimensions: 33 x 44 cm

For the Love of Paint

The transformative art of Glenn Brown


The main spirit that runs through Glenn Brown’s work is transformation. The motif may come from old master paintings, the color scheme from modernist ones, the mood might be set by a title that quotes from a pop song. Brown became famous (and sometimes infamous) for his unabashedly appropriative work in the early 1990s, a golden era for young British art. He rendered the thick brushstrokes of expressionist painters like Frank Auerbach or Karel Appel almost photo-realistically, carefully modeling their dashing gestures with a fine brush until his smooth surfaces deceived the viewer’s eye. Taking space fantasies from science-fiction paperbacks, he made epic history paintings out of tiny book illustrations. Brown turned to the old masters, updating their historical models with a contemporary understanding of paint’s materiality and a barbed sense of color.


Following the artist’s development through the decades, we find his engagement with the medium deepening and branching out. Brown invents his own brushstrokes that take over the picture’s subject, unsettling viewers by their sickly hues. When he starts making sculptures from paint, he absurdly layers brushstrokes on top of each other until they become three-dimensional figures, sometimes growing from bases of historical bronze statuettes. Then he arranges his works in installations as an interplay of different media, or exhibits them in the collection of an art museum in a dialogue between his own paintings and the works that inspired them. In the mid-2010s, Brown stopped painting altogether to explore the medium of drawing, often creating work that reacts to vintage wooden frames he is collecting. Upon his return to painting, there is a newfound freedom of lines dancing and mingling, colors radiating from the core of Janus-like superimpositions of two counteracting motifs.


This book has been conceived and realized in close collaboration with the artist, curating an overview of his work in unprecedented depth. All authors have worked with Brown before to now deliver an incisive portrait of the artist, an art-historical survey of his work and development, as well as essays on different artistic approaches and genres. Comments written by Brown especially for this edition discuss specific works and artistic choices. More than anything, it is the book’s large format that makes the eye-deceivingly smooth brushwork and exuberant lines come alive, allowing viewers to immerse themselves in every detail and share the artist’s contagious love of painting and paint.

“I’m rather like Dr Frankenstein, constructing paintings out of the residue or dead parts of other artists’ work. I hope to create a sense of strangeness by bringing together examples of the way the best historic and modern-day artists have depicted their personal sense of the world. I see their worlds from multiple or schizophrenic perspectives, through all their eyes. Their sources of inspiration suggest things I would never normally see.

—Glenn Brown


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