This colour photograph shows three people lounging under trees in a backyard. One woman is sitting on the ground near a chair, while another is lying in the grass. A man sitting apart from them is reading a book.

Jeff Wall

(b. Vancouver 1946)


Tattoos and Shadows


Transparency in lightbox

195.5 x 255 cm

Courtesy of the artist

© Jeff Wall

Jeff Wall’s photograph Tattoos and Shadows updates an icon of art history: Luncheon on the Grass, by the French painter Édouard Manet (1832-1883). In Manet’s work, a nude woman is looking toward the viewer as one of her two fully clothed male companions addresses her with a gesture. Wall reprises the idea of the three figures but eliminates the nudity and all interaction. In his work, a man is absorbed in a book, while two women lounge with absent gazes. The light filtering through the foliage creates shimmering patches that recall the Impressionist style and afford a glimpse of the figures’ tattoos.

Jeff Wall is best known for large-format photographs that he often presents backlit in fluorescent light boxes. His carefully staged, complex tableaux update themes, motifs and compositions drawn from art history, movies and literature. Wall is particularly interested in the relationship between photography and other disciplines, such as painting. Teeming with details, his images resemble candid snapshots of modern-day life. After earning a Ph.D. in art history, he contributed to the emergence of Photoconceptualism. His works are exhibited and collected around the world.