Taken from Julian Opie’s Ruth With Cigaretteseries, Ruth With Cigarette 4 is a digital print from 2005 that shows a three-quarter length portrait of an art collector named Ruth, who commissioned the portrait herself. Characteristic of much of Opie’s work from the mid-2000s, the portrait is rendered in bright block colours, bold lines and simplified shapes.
The sitter in the portrait is anonymised through Opie’s use of a blank, circle floating above her shoulders to reference her face. Featureless, this portrait appears more like a sign than an individual to be recognised, however Opie retains a sense of character and personality through his careful rendering of her pose and clothing. Ruth appears disinterested yet alluring in the way she casually holds her cigarette and wears nothing but a bright red frilly bra and blue bracelet.
Opie places many of his works within art historical narratives by engaging with the traditional genre of portraiture through his use of pose and composition and with the fact that this is a commissioned portrait staged to show the sitter in a certain light. At the same time, Opie turns the art historical context on its head by using a photograph which is then digitally edited to produce a simplified pictogram that is unequivocally modern.