Mother and Child Study I
The two sheets lightly attached to each other with masking tape at each of the four sides, with a narrow strip of card added to the bottom of the second sheet as a support.
Signed and dated Saville / 2009 in pencil at the lower right.
890 x 587 mm. (35 x 23 1/8 in.)
A characteristic of these large graphite and charcoal drawings of mothers and children is Saville’s self-assured draughtsmanship. As she has noted, ‘in this series, I’ve embraced drawing in a new way. I’m a bit more confident.’ This particular drawing, Mother and Child Study I, is drawn on two sheets of paper, one superimposed over the other to create a layered effect. The upper drawing, executed in charcoal on transparent, vellum-like paper, has been placed over a second large sheet on which a similar mother and child has been drawn in red chalk. As the artist has stated, ‘I wanted the sense of internal/external shifting, the intense physicality of holding an energetic son, less than a year old, while heavily pregnant with another baby. For two years, I was literally making flesh. The sense of weight was very powerful; so was the sense of holding and reproducing – not just holding a child in your arms, but one in your body too. I kept thinking of the formation of flesh and limbs inside my body, of regeneration – while I was in the act of painting flesh, a similar process was taking place inside my body. My multiple drawings – one on top of another – are a way of communicating these feelings. You’re literally reproducing yourself while you’re pregnant, like the way the lines reproduce themselves. The procedure became obsessive and spawned a whole lot of work…I wanted to see if I could make a convincing and vital image of a mother and child.’
Saville was appointed a lecturer of figure painting at the Slade School of Fine Art in London, where she taught between 2000 and 2006. A solo museum exhibition of her work was mounted at the Museo d’Arte Contemporanea in Rome in 2005, and the following year she completed a commission from the Italian collector Carlo Bilotti for three paintings to decorate the chapel of the Museo Carlo Bilotti in Rome. These were installed in 2006 alongside other site-specific works commissioned for the chapel from Damien Hirst and David Salle. In 2007 she was elected to the Royal Academy, and in 2011 and 2012 a retrospective exhibition of her paintings and drawings, which included the present sheet, was held at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida, and at the Ashmolean Museum and the Modern Art Museum in Oxford. Another major solo exhibition took place at the George Economou Collection in Athens in 2018-2019, while another was held in the Museo Novecento and several other locations in Florence in 2021-2022. Most recently, Saville’s work was included in the exhibition Women Painting Women, at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth in 2022. After working for several years between studios in London and Palermo in Sicily, Saville today lives and works in Oxford.
Donated by her to the Royal Academy benefit exhibition and auction RA Now, October 2012, where acquired by a private collector