Jenny Saville

Jenny Saville was born in 1970 in Cambridge, England. Saville is a contemporary British painter and an original member of the Young British Artists. She is well known for her large-scale painted depictions of nude women. Saville gained her degree at the Glasgow School of Art in 1992, and went on to study women’s studies at the University of Cincinnati.  

“Still,” 2003 (oil on canvas) by Jenny Saville.


Saville’s paintings encompass a sense of both realism and also distortion in the representations of the body and features, as well as by layering different images and nudes. There is a combination of both figuration and abstraction in Saville’s work, as well as a sense of restlessness and motion, which is achieved by the way that Saville paints quite fluidly, building layers of oil to create the visceral flesh of the nudes. Saville seeks to provoke the viewer to challenge ideas of femininity and beauty, and the standards set especially in western society on women.

Jenny Saville, Ruben’s Flap, 1998-99. Oil on canvas, 304.4 x 243.8 cm. © Jenny Saville and Gagosian.

In response to Saville’s works I experimented with some photography, taking pictures of myself applying make-up, a normalised part of my daily routine when going to work or socialising, and something which has become a standard part of western culture for women. I layered the photographs, playing with the transparency levels to create the final image below.

I then tried to recreate this in paint using pencil to mark out the faces, which was quite challenging as it became confusing when trying to draw over existing faces. I then added in some light water colour, and finished it with some fine liner to pick out certain layers and leave others void of line also.

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