Neil Jenney: American Realist

Forest and Lumber
Neil Jenney, Forest and Lumber, 1969, Acryclic on canvas with painted wood frame, 54 1/2 x 63 in., Â© Neil Jenney. Courtesy Gagosian, JENNE 1969.0018


Neil Jenney: American Realist

Neil Jenney (b. 1945, Torrington, CT) emerged in the late 1960s with a unique brand of realist painting steeped in the landscape, people, and pastimes of America. Over the course of 50 years, Jenney has forged his own path outside the prevailing art trends, creating large-scale figurative landscapes in a style completely his own, and establishing a reputation as one of the most influential, iconoclastic, and quintessentially American artists of our time.

From November 2018–March 2019, the New Britain Museum of American Art will present an extensive exhibition highlighting nearly five decades of Jenney’s work. Featuring more than 20 paintings dating from 1969 to 2016, including some measuring over 10 feet, this will be the artist’s first solo Museum presentation in over 10 years. The exhibition will trace the evolution of his career and explore persistent themes in his work, including conflicts between world powers, men and women, art and society, and humans and nature, and will reflect upon Jenney’s contribution to the legacy of American landscape painting.

Among the works that will be on view are examples from Jenney’s 1969-70 series known as “Bad Paintings”—purposefully rough, gestural figurative images rendered in acrylic paint on canvas. These works, New York Times art critic Roberta Smith remarked, “helped put Representational painting on a new course and established precedents for the art of the 1970s, 80s and 90s.” Jenney’s subsequent series of “Good Paintings” will also be highlighted. Begun in the 1970s and continued today, these works address similar subjects as those of his “Bad Paintings,” such as climate change, ecological issues, and social progress, but in an entirely distinct style characterized by meticulously rendered oil compositions on wood panel. Jenney’s refined use of paint and color recalls that of Hudson River School painters, whose natural vistas presented the virgin landscape as a spiritual, utopic realm. Jenney’s scenes, on the other hand, range from sublime to unmistakably post-industrial landscapes on the verge of destruction. Each work is encased within a massive black wooden frame—a metaphorical window—that sets apart and preserves Jenney’s representation of a precarious world that remains as relevant and urgent today as it was 50 years ago.

Works in Neil Jenney: American Realist will be drawn from the Hall Art Foundation, private collections, and the artist.


Neil Jenney: American Realist is made possible by the generosity of the Special Exhibition Fund donors, including John N. Howard, Sylvia Bonney, Anita Arcuni Ferrante and Anthony Ferrante, Marian and Russell Burke, and The Aeroflex Foundation. We also gratefully acknowledge the funding of Irene and Charles J. Hamm, Kelly and Jonathan Jarvis, Carolyn and Elliot Joseph, and Donna and Sam Stout. Generous support provided by Gagosian.