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5 Fast Facts: Julie Roberts

Blog Category:  5 Fast Facts
A floating nightgown on a background of subtle vertical red stripes alludes to the shape and movement of a body. The white nightgown is dwarfed by the red that surrounds it, and floats with its arms raised and hem disturbed.

Impress your friends with five fast facts about artist Julie Roberts (b. 1963, Flint, Wales), whose work is in NMWA’s collection.

A floating nightgown on a background of subtle vertical red stripes alludes to the shape and movement of a body. The white nightgown is dwarfed by the red that surrounds it, and floats with its arms raised and hem disturbed.
Julie Roberts, Floating Nightgown, 1996; Oil and acrylic on canvas, 60 x 60 in; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Ilene and Michael Salcman; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

1. Change It Up

Roberts initially wished to pursue a career in design. She applied to Glasgow School of Art’s MFA course in the Drawing and Painting Department after a one-year postgraduate course in Art and Design at Central Saint Martin’s School of Art and Design.

2. Absent Presence

In the 1990s, Roberts alluded to a human presence in her work without rendering the body specifically. Roberts’s precise portrayal of the garment in Floating Nightgown (1996), together with her handling of line and shadow, evokes the movement and shape of the human form. It was not until later in her career that she began portraying the human body.

3. Drawing Inspiration

Roberts created her earliest sketches of medical objects during visits to the Glasgow Royal infirmary while she was pursuing her MFA. Though Roberts spent time sketching medical objects, she created her final images by working from photographs.

Identical beds with white sheets line the walls and form a row down the center of an institutional, grey room with a brown floor. An open door sits at the end of the and partially open windows sit in the walls. The symmetrical composition is overlaid with faint geometric shapes.
Julie Roberts, Dormitory, 2011; Oil on linen, 46 1/8 x 53 7/8 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Heather and Tony Podesta Collection; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

4About the Kids

In more recent paintings, Roberts turned her attention to mid-20th-century children. Dormitory (2011) is part of a series that reflects upon the experience of displaced children in Europe. While Roberts conducted extensive research about the post-war period, she also acknowledged that the subject is somewhat autobiographical because she and her siblings spent part of their childhood in foster care and children’s homes.

5. Up The Wall

Roberts created a wallpaper featuring sculptor Barbara Hepworth (1903–1975) at work for the group exhibition Painting not Painting at Tate St. Ives in 2003.

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