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Arnolfini - est 1961
Esme at the Kitchen Table,
Chantal Joffe, 2019, oil on canvas © Chantal Joffe courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro

Unfortunately, due to lockdown, we have had to curtail this exhibition. We do, however, bring this to you as an online offering at

Chantal Joffe: For Esme – with Love and Squalor, explores the intimate act of painting and portraiture. Taking its name from J.D. Salinger’s short story For Esmé – with Love and Squalor (1950) in which time hangs as heavy as the protagonist’s ‘enormous-faced chronographic-looking wristwatch’, the exhibition captures the changing faces across the years of Chantal and her daughter Esme, moving between mother and daughter, love and squalor, and the act of care and being cared for.

Including a number of new works (many produced whilst in ‘lockdown’), highlights include a series of portraits of Joffe’s daughter, from older works such as Esme (First Painting) captured as a new-born swaddled in blankets, to the later, defiantly awkward, Esme in White, painted within days of her sixteenth birthday this year.

These sit alongside a number of self-portraits, including the both intimate and monumental Bonnard inspired Reading in Bath I and III; never-before seen series Pictures of What I Did Not See, which depicts Joffe undergoing a traumatic illness and being cared for by Esme and a series of startlingly honest self-portraits. Produced one a day over the course of a year this 2018 series captures both the artist and her environment – from London’s cool winter light to the haze of a summer in the stifling New York heat.

The relationship between subject and place (specifically the domestic interior) and solitude and company within each of these works feels especially resonant. To paraphrase co-curator Dorothy Price, art historian and long-time collaborator of Joffe, Joffe’s work ‘traces a finger of time through the very act of being alive.’

To complement the show Arnolfini has produced an accompanying catalogue Chantal Joffe For Esme – with Love and Squalor, featuring newly commissioned essays and interview from art historian, writer and curator Professor Dorothy Price, and writer Charlie Porter, a Turner Prize judge and contributor to The Financial Times and The Guardian. The publication will be available for purchase at £12 from Arnolfini Bookshop.

The exhibition has been curated by Chantal Joffe, Dorothy Price, Gemma Brace and Arnolfini, and supported by Joffe’s gallery Victoria Miro.

The first UWE/Arnolfini Art in the City lecture of the autumn, an in-conversation between Chantal Joffe and Professor Dorothy Price, took place on Wednesday 28 October and is now available to view online below:

Exhibition Guides:

Download our Chantal Joffe at Arnolfini Family Guide here or pick up a copy when you visit.

Chantal Joffe Gallery Guide

Audio descriptions of the work are available here

Gallery Guide Chantal Joffe Large Print

Chantal Joffe:
Born in 1969, St. Albans, Vermont, USA, Chantal Joffe lives and works in London, UK. She holds an MA from the Royal College of Art and was awarded the Royal Academy Wollaston Prize in 2006. Joffe will create a major new public work for the Elizabeth line station at Whitechapel. Titled A Sunday Afternoon in Whitechapel, the work will be on view when the Crossrail station opens in 2021. Her recent solo exhibition titled Personal Feeling is the Main Thing at The Lowry, Salford in 2018 presented works from across Joffe’s career and alongside works by the German artist Paula Modersohn-Becker.

Chantal Joffe is represented by Victoria Miro, who have supported the exhibition’s development alongside the work of Professor Dorothy Price, University of Bristol, who has collaborated with Joffe for a number of years, including co-curating Personal Feeling is the Main Thing at The Lowry in 2018.

Joffe is represented by Victoria Miro, London, a full artist CV can be accessed via the gallery website at

Listen to Chantal Joffe in conversation with Ben Luke from The Art Newspaper in A Brush With…Chantal Joffe