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John Currin

 (born 1962)
John Currin is active/lives in New York, Colorado.  John Currin is known for female figure and portrait painting-caricature.

John Currin

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for John Currin
"Jennifer Lawrence’s New Vogue Cover: a John Currin Painting," The New York Times Art & Design Section, By Peter Libbey, August 9, 2017

No airbrushing controversy here. Jennifer Lawrence is fully brushed in a new painting by the artist John Currin. The portrait is one of four different cover images commissioned by Vogue for its September issue, marking the magazine’s 125th anniversary.

Despite Mr. Currin’s reputation for eroticism, his portrait of Ms. Lawrence is demure. She appears wearing a simple tan chemise and a Miu Miu patterned fur hat, holding a purple and green purse. “To be in a situation of producing a cover for this famous magazine, I’m a little scared,” Mr. Currin said in an interview. “I do worry about decorum.”

The other three covers will feature photographs of Ms. Lawrence, by Annie Leibovitz, Bruce Weber and the duo Inez and Vinoodh. This is the actress’s third appearance on Vogue’s cover. (She has also been on the cover of the British edition.)

The painting puts Mr. Currin’s many influences on full display. Ms. Lawrence is depicted in a Mannerist pose, unnatural but elegant. Perspective is minimized and a rococo palette competes with a hint of Dutch old master sobriety. The hat provides the element of the absurd that Mr. Currin is known for. And all of this is filtered through a pictorial style that evokes classic magazine illustrations from the 1930s and 1940s.

“One of the reasons I thought John would be good for the cover was that fashion was a huge influence on his work early on,” said Dodie Kazanjian, a contributing editor at Vogue who often writes about art.

Mr. Currin deviated from his normal method for the portrait of Ms. Lawrence. He doesn’t usually worry about likenesses, he said, unless he is painting his wife or children. But for the portrait of Ms. Lawrence, he had to be faithful to a very well known face. “It has to look like her,” he said.

While this is the first painted September cover, Vogue has a long history of commissioning artwork from contemporary artists.

Salvador Dalí contributed four covers showcasing his trademark style from the 1930s to the 1970s. Giorgio de Chirico created a slyly subversive cover for the November 1935 issue that endowed a traditional fashion still life with a hint of Surrealist menace. Andy Warhol, a natural choice for a fashion magazine, created an image of Caroline of Monaco for the December 1983 issue of the French edition.

Mr. Currin said that the idea of “reciprocity” informed his decision to paint for Vogue. Early in his career he painted well known figures, including the actress Bea Arthur, and borrowed from fashion magazines to challenge himself. “It was a way to make conventional oil paintings that didn’t quite work in the right way,” he said. Painting a somewhat traditional portrait for a major fashion magazine was his way of approaching the same problem from the opposite direction.

“I was interested mostly in seeing my work in a completely different way,” Mr. Currin said. “I liked the idea of seeing it with the Vogue logo and other words and things over it.”

Biography from the Archives of askART
Biography photo for John Currin
A contemporary painter who was part of a group that sought to resurrect figurative painting, John Currin strives for work that reveals both individual characteristics as well as some aspect of their life.  His portraits and nudes have received widespread attention, and his specialty is cartoon-like women who veer between the appearance of total bimbo and older women who are uncomfortable with their sexuality.  He only paints about twelve paintings a year.

He was born in Boulder, Colorado, earned his B.F.A. from Carnegie Mellon University, and in 1986 graduated from Yale University's MFA program.  With such high-brow credentials, he sees the irony in the "bimbo" subject matter for which he has become known, and calls it "art for dummies."

He had his first show in 1989 in New York at a downtown alternative space gallery and then signed with a more 'main-line' gallery.  In 1993, his work was in the Venice Biennale and was also included in a 1997 Projects exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

He married sculptor Rachel Feinstein and works from a studio overlooking West 14th Street in Manhattan's Meatpacking District.

David Kirby, "Beauty & the Bimbo", ARTnews, May 2000

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About  John Currin

Born:  1962 - Boulder, Colorado
Known for:  female figure and portrait painting-caricature

Essays referring to
John Currin

Painters of Nudes