Starred Review. British painter Saville has had a charmed career. As a student at the Glasgow School of Art, she sold out her graduation exhibit. (One of the paintings was bought by no less than Charles Saatchi.) At 27, she was included in the acclaimed (and, in New York City, notorious) Sensation show. And now, at 35, she is widely chatted about as one of Britain's most important young artists. One look at this gorgeous monograph, Saville's first, proves that all this success is well earned.Arranged chronologically, with paintings from 1992 to 2005, the volume reveals that though Saville's subject matter has hardly changed, her use of paint has evolved by leaps and bounds. Like Lucian Freud, Saville's fascinated with the body and the pigmentation of flesh, but her visions of it are both darker and brighter than his. Many of her paintings feature bodies that have been manipulated or damaged—by gender-changing plastic surgery, say, or by burns—but her rendering of these states is brilliantly colored. And in the most recent paintings ("Stare," "Passage," "Torso 2") the subject is set against a background of warm, Mediterranean blue that heightens both the images' beauty and their capacity to unnerve.Schama's interview with Saville—the best of the texts included here—provides insight into the artist's methods and her ambition to keep improving technically ("I can barely look at the earlier paintings I made"), while the many photographs of her studio, drafts and source material show the ordinary-looking origins of her work, and the many close-shots record her expressionist use of paint. While no book can convey the power of Saville's oversize canvases, this well-composed volume provides an illuminating survey of her work. (Nov.)
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Simon Schama is the art critic for the New Yorker as well as a world-renowned scholar. Schama has taught at Cambridge, Oxford, and Harvard and is now Professor of History at Columbia University where specializes in European cultural and environmental history and art history. Between 1999 and 2002 he wrote, presented, and filmed the fifteen-part A History of Britain for BBC Television. He is currently at work on a book about the Anglo-American relationship and an eight part television series for the BBC, The Power of Art.