Peter Saul

Cleopatra, 1997

Cleopatra, 1997

Cleopatra (1997) is one of the artist’s interpretations of Cabanel’s famous work, Cleopatra Testing Poisons on Condemned Prisoners. As usual with Peter Saul, if at first glance, the comical effect of the characters depicted as dogs is obvious, there is a singular beauty and attention to details and colours, and, at first, the vision of the character’s intertwined limbs forces the viewer to study the painting with attention to understand its composition. The cartoonish transposition of the subjects highlights a comical effect with the dog’s open mouths, adoring eyes and eagerness towards the figure of Cleopatra, while the artists succeed to render a strange sensuality in the painting.

Peter Saul
Cleopatra, 1997 
Oil on canvas
140 x 170 cm (55 1/8 x 66 7/8 inches)

Her lavish pose, sensual curves and the soft stroke of her hands are accentuated by the quality of the colours, the brightness of the gold and red hues is compensated with the softness of the fabric, and darker tones. This work is a perfect example of Peter Saul’s enjoyment of diverting recognized subjects and giving them a parodic dimension, always surprising the viewer by their delicate rendering and quiet references, behind any vulgarity.

Peter Saul
Cleopatra, 1997 (details)
Oil on canvas
140 x 170 cm (55 1/8 x 66 7/8 inches)

Peter Saul

American painter Peter Saul, renowned for his electric colour palette and comically horrific depictions of historical and artistic figures, has created one of the most immediately recognizable bodies of work in contemporary American painting. Peter Saul lived in Europe from 1956 to 1964, from where he witnessed the rise of Abstract Expressionism, and has been inspired from important classical painters such as Alexandre Cabanel, Hyacynthe Rigaud or Théodore Géricault, and will produce several paintings from their masterpieces he could observe in Paris or Antwerp. In these spirited re-interpretations, Saul is looking at the classics, he explains, according to his “will or whimsy”.

Peter Saul
Birth of Venus, 1997
Acrylic and oil on canvas
130 x 180 cm (51 1/8 x 70 7/8 inches)

Peter Saul
Shark In My Bathtub, 2011
Acrylic on canvas
182.9 x 245.1 cm (72 x 96.5 inches)

Upon his return to the USA in 1964, Saul’s style veered away from the expressive and painterly in favor of a hard-edged figurative style featuring distorted anatomy, acidic psychedelic colors, and an all-over, chaotic composition that creates bright, bold and abstract animated tension within the frame of the canvas, always punctuated by accents of humour and wit.

 

MUSEUM EXHIBITIONS

PETER SAUL: CRIME AND PUNISHMENT

NEW MUSEUM, New York
2.11.20 – 5.31.20
newmuseum.org
© New Museum New York

PETER SAUL

SHIRN Kunsthalle, Frankfurt
2.06.17 – 3.9.17
schirn.de
© Shirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt


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Commissioned by Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt
Commissioned by Whitney Museum of American Art
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