Monday, 6 February 2012

Lucian Freud Portraits

The first exhibition to focus on Lucien Freud portraiture will open at the National Portrait Gallery this Thursday. I've attended the press view this morning and highly recommend it. Lucian Freud was one of the most important and influential artists of his generation.

Reflection (Self-portrait), 1985

The exhibition explores his work from the early 1940s to his death in 2011, and illustrates his remarkable stylistic development and technical virtuosity.

"I've always wanted to create drama in my pictures, which is why I paint people. It's people who have brought drama to pictures from the beginning. The simplest human gestures tell stories." Lucian Freud

He was a private man and the sense of intimacy emerging from his paintings comes from his unrelenting observation and from the connection with his subjects, referred by the artist as the 'people in my life.' 

Girl in a Dark Jacket, 1947

Freud captures his lovers, friends and family but with a paradoxical detachment, they seem to be somewhere else suspended in time and in a state of deep contemplation, their eyes gazing away into the infinite.

His self-portraits are as intriguing, he puts himself in the place of the people he paints, becoming one of them and totally at ease, as someone who has mastered the ability to be alone with oneself.

Man with a Feather (Self-portrait), 1943

I particularly love the nude portraits, in a time when most people try to run away from old age and the body's inevitable decay, he embraced it with an open mind, assuming his 'predilection towards people of unusual or strange proportions'.

Lucien Freud's psychologically charged paintings reveal a deeper side of people as they surrender completely to him and somehow different layers of brush strokes seem to embody a powerful energy that runs beneath the static surface.

Girl with a White Dog, 1950-1

Despite his international reputation, Freud's world remained his studio and the close circle of people who visited him there to look at or sit for his portraits. Kate Moss was one of them, his portrait of her is memorable.

"There was never a dull moment when you were with Lucian. I loved his wicked sense of humour and he had so many stories - about Francis Bacon, Leigh Bowery, Greta Garbo, Cecil Beaton..." Kate Moss

Freud's constant model and companion in his final years was the painter David Dawson, his assistant since 1990. Nowhere is Freud's abiding theme of the complicity between the human and the animal more evident than in his paintings of Dawson with the whippets, Pluto and Eli. The last brush strokes he made created Eli's ear, alert and listening.

The Brigadier, 2003-04

Undoubtedly a sound message, there are occasions where we can be so determined to express our views that we forget to truly reflect on them and become oblivious to what others are saying to us.

Lucian Freud Portraits
9 February- 27 May
National Portrait Gallery

Other related posts:
Royal Academy of Arts: David Hockney
Chihuly: Colourful Glass Dreams
Yves Saint Laurent: Life, Love and Art