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Jonathan Yeo

British (b. 1970)

Jonathan Yeo is a British artist and one of the world’s leading portrait painters. Known chiefly for his depictions of iconic figures including Kevin Spacey, Malala Yousafzai, Dennis Hopper, Damien Hirst, HRH Duchess of Cornwall, and Tony Blair, he has also explored more conceptual themes in his plastic surgery series and porn collages.

Contemporary notions of identity, beauty and power lie at the heart of Yeo’s work, ensuring that the traditional medium of oil painting, and more specifically the genre of portraiture, continues to address the primary preoccupations of modern society. The subjects chosen for Yeo’s portraits are also indicative of contemporary society’s intrigue with the people who most closely represent these themes – whether they be an actor, politician or artist – and the cultural impact that these figures generate. The surgery works and pornography collages further explore these themes whilst addressing, respectively, these two arguably disturbing cultural phenomena, after which the series are named.

Yeo did not attend art college but taught himself to paint in his early twenties whilst being treated for cancer. During this time he frequented the Tate Gallery in London, where the works of Pablo Picasso, Wyndham Lewis and Lucian Freud made notable impacts on the young artist. His first portrait commission was in 1993 to paint Archbishop Trevor Huddleston, founder of the Anti-Apartheid movement.

In 2013 Yeo had a highly acclaimed, landmark mid-career retrospective, 'Jonathan Yeo Portraits', which opened at the National Portrait Gallery in London. The exhibition went on to show at The Lowry, Greater Manchester, and The Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle, over the following eighteen months. The show was accompanied by the publication of a major monograph and a BBC1 Culture Show special.

Jonathan Yeo was born in 1970 in London, where he still lives and works. He has exhibited widely in Europe, North America and the Far East.

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