Key facts about the artist

Restraining Coat II (Female)
Restraining Coat II (Female), 1995

Her main theme is the human body and the way that it is subjected to constraints and injuries.
Flint, Wales
Wrexham, London, Glasgow and Budapest
Influenced by Sigmund Freud
Preferred medium


Video: Interview - Julie Roberts

Video: Art in Scotland TV - Julie-Ann Delaney on GENERATION at Modern One

About Julie's work

Julie Roberts creates paintings with a strong critical bite and intellectual rigour. Her main theme is the human, particularly female, body and the way that it is subjected to institutional, familial, sexual and natural constraints and injuries. 

Her works from the early 1990s suggested the body through objects such as operating tables, mortuary slabs, gynaecological couches and restraining jackets. These were painted with a meticulous, heightened attention to detail. Roberts emphasised internal shadows and folds almost as if she wanted to rub our noses in their materiality and make us physically aware of what control and constraint feel like. 

Roberts’s fascination with the body and with hospitals was shared by a number of artists in Scotland and elsewhere, inspired by the writings of the French philosopher Michel Foucault (19261984) and a growing interest in the history of the early twentieth-century art movements Dada and Surrealism. The influence of the work of Sigmund Freud (18561939), the ‘father of psychoanalysis, was crucial and in 1996 Roberts made his desk and study the subjects of several paintings. This heralded a shift in her work towards a more historical approach to her subject matter an approach sparked by a year in Rome and its overwhelming sense of the past.

Roberts began to paint things that showed the way earlier generations had treated the themes of sex and death. In 1999 she reprised the eighteenth-century French painter Jacques-Louis David’s famous painting The Death of Marat (1793), beginning a series of works dealing with murder. Roberts painted and drew the victims of Jack the Ripper with an almost loving attention to their bodies, clothes and even their wounds. Even if these women had been savagely butchered, their images would now be treated with tenderness. 

Recent paintings have concentrated on orphaned or abandoned children. They are painted in a highly stylised manner with details emphasised as if they were ornaments. One almost feels that Roberts were trying to blot out the pain and solitude of the children by the repetitive action of her paintbrush.


Julie Roberts (born 1963 in Flint, Wales) studied at Wrexham School of Art (198084), Central Saint Martin’s School of Art in London (19867) and The Glasgow School of Art (198890). In 1992 she was a visiting student at the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest. From 1992 to 2003 she taught at the Glasgow School of Art. She was at the British School in Rome from 1995 to 1996 and spent a year in New York in 20012 on the International Studio and Curatorial Program. Notable exhibitions include displays at Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh (1997 and 2010), Sean Kelly Gallery, New York (1997, 1999 and 2003), the British School in Rome (1996), the Venice Biennale (1993) and CCA, Glasgow (1992). She lives and works in Carlisle.

More information

Keith Hartley and William Clark, Home: Works by Julie Roberts 1993–2003, Sean Kelly Gallery, New York, 2003

Lene Burkard/Lars Grambye, Francis McKee and Lisbeth Bonde, Julie Roberts in Retro, Kunsthallen Brandts, Odense, 2008