British, b. 1970
oil on canvas, 274 x 213.5 cm, 108 x 84″

Jenny Saville was born in Cambridge in 1970, but didn’t stay there for long. Both her parents were teachers but her father’s ascending career (he eventually became a Director of Education) meant the family moved around a lot; Jenny had  to change 15 schools which only sharpened her adaptation and observation skills. She studied at Glasgow School of Art between 1988–1992 and won a scholarship to Cincinatti, US. One of the courses there included Women in the Community which became the fertile breeding ground for Saville’s developing feminist ideas: ”I’d always wondered why there had been no women artists in history. I found there had been – but not reported. I realised I’d been affected by male ideas, going through a male-dominated art college.”

She started painting nudes moving away from stereotypes, showing women from a woman’s perspective; as they really are. Using scaffolding and mirrors for her massive paintings she preferred to work from photographs rather than models. It is usually her face we see in her paintings and, sometimes, her body.

‘Plan’ shows a woman’s body marked by lines where liposuction would be performed. ”The lines on her body are the marks they make before you have liposuction done to you. They draw these things that look like targets. I like this idea of mapping of the body, not necessarily areas to be cut away, but like geographical contours on a map. I didn’t draw on to the body. I wanted the idea of cutting into the paint. Like you would cut into the body. It evokes the idea of surgery. It has lots of connotations.”


Jenny Saville in front of “Plan,” The Independent, 1994

You can read an interesting interview about it, originally published in The Independent, in 1994.


12 thoughts on “Plan

  1. It’s hard to believe the YBA movement is already 20 years ago! Always loved her paintings. The female subjects look like statues and hyper human at the same time! Take that female painter-hater from a few posts ago!

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