Marcus Brutus

Foregrounding culture, history and humanity in portraits of everyday America.

Silhouette of Marcus Brutus adding details to a canvas using a large paintbrush
Marcus Brutus concentrating on a painting in front of him and holding a brush
Close-up of a Marcus Brutus painting and the artist's hand as he adds details to black hair
5 images

Marcus Brutus was born in 1991 in New York, US, and now lives and works near to Washington DC.

Did you know?

His paintings were presented publicly for the first time in 2018, and now command prices between $10,000 and $14,000.

Career

The exponential trajectory of Brutus' career can be attributed in part to artist Jen Guidi sharing his work on Instagram - catching the attention of influential New York gallery Harper's, who now represents him.

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Practice overview

Brutus is a figurative painter who depicts scenes from daily life, both real and imagined. All the figures in his work are African American, depicting a vast breadth of emotions and histories embedded in black experience. Brutus exaggerates reality by using vivid colour palettes and saturated tones, as well as bold contouring on the characters’ faces reminiscent of contemporary portrait artists’ such as Henry Taylor and Alice Neel. People appear in familiar environments such as at home, on holiday, and in the park, or suspended in dense abstract washes of colour that remove any notion of time or space. Brutus exaggerates reality by using vivid colour palettes and saturated tones, as well as bold contouring on the characters’ faces reminiscent of contemporary portrait artists’ such as Henry Taylor and Alice Neel. People appear in familiar environments such as at home, on holiday, and in the park, or suspended in dense abstract washes of colour that remove any notion of time or space. Littered throughout his oeuvre are references pulled from across literature, film, pop-culture, music, sport, and history, infusing the work with meaning beyond the canvas. Through these symbolic snapshots, Brutus highlights the historical forces that make us who we are, both collectively and individually.

Shared human experience is at the centre of Brutus’ practice. Say You, Say Me (2019) is an acrylic on linen that depicts two lovers kissing. The pair sit on the floor with their legs entwined and their arms embracing, their eyes are shut and lips locked against each other. In contrast to the representational painting of the figures, the background engulfs them in swathes of pink and orange abstraction. Long, brisk brushstrokes blend the colours together, and drips of paint run down the surface to the bottom of the frame. Like sunlight, the orange and pink from the background reflect onto the clothes of the figures in light shades of mauve. There is a palpable sense of warmth in the painting from both the sun-kissed palette and the affectionate pose of the figures, which, together, tenderly expresses the universal joy of love.

Brutus’ artwork is driven by a personal passion for history. In an ongoing process of research, the artist collects information from documentaries, newspapers and magazines, books, and the internet, spanning a vast range of time periods and topics. Brutus then pieces these disparate elements together and places them as symbols in his compositions of daily life. As a result, the paintings elucidate the lived nature of history: in the most part, history is not experienced as one phenomenal ‘moment,’ but instead, is a collection of small, seemingly inconsequential details, like, as Brutus describes, “a Trump poster on someone’s lawn, or an Obama bumper sticker on a truck.” By reconfiguring the past into familiar truths of human experience, Brutus uses his expressive painting style to relook at the world that we live in and provide an uplifting reminder of the shared beauty and love of humanity.

"I want to show these very contemporary issues, but show them as having some long past."Marcus Brutus