Friday, July 22, 2011

Lucian Freud

Lucian Freud
Painter Lucien Freud, a grandson of Sigmund Freud, was born in Berlin, moved to England with his parents when he was 10, and later became a British citizen.

Freud became known for his intense portraits and figures, painted in brusque strokes of thick impasto and in a manner some call uncompromising, but I think of as intentionally harsh.

In my admittedly biased view, his apparent rejection of physical beauty made him particularly acceptable as a figurative painter amid a modernist establishment that had done the same, and he became the most influential and revered figurative painter of the era.

However, I think he snuck considerable beauty past the modernists, in the surface, textures and touches of rich color amid paler tones of his faces and figures. The same characteristics that serve to make the images appear harsh, make the paint surface beautiful.

Even his famous portrayal of model Kate Moss, Naked Portrait 2002, in which he painted her pregnant, would not be interpreted by most people as at all flattering, but the paint handling is beautiful.

Freud also received some notoriety for his unflattering portrait of the Queen (above, bottom right), but his self portraits (top) and images of his family follow a similar approach.

While his portraits and figures get the attention, particularly when one of them sells for the highest price of a work by any living artist, as the reclining nude titled Benefits Supervisor Sleeping (above, second down) did when it was sold at Christie’s in Manhattan for over $33 million, if you look back into his past work you will find a wider range of subjects and more variation in approach than you might expect, including a number of studies after artists of the past like Chardin, Watteau and Cezanne.

Freud was devoted to painting and is quoted as saying that he would “paint himself to death”. He died on Wednesday at the age of 88.

The most comprehensive single online gallery of his work I can find is on Ciudad de la pintura. Next would be Museum Syndicate.

Katherine Tyrrell has assembled an extensive page of resources, listings, books and links on her Squidoo Lens Lucian Freud – Resources for Art Lovers. She also has an appreciation on her blog, Making a Mark.

There are also posts with images on Escape Into Life and Areasucia (and I’m sure others I haven’t come across), and obits with bios on Guardian, Telegraph and Daily Mail.

9 thoughts on “Lucian Freud

  1. Katherine

    I’m adding this into my post and website!

    Good points about the painting. I have however just been reviewing again my copy of Freud Works on Paper and find it fascinating that he rejected drawing in the early 50s because he was too good at it and everybody was commenting how linear his paintings were.

    Also how great it was that he returned to drawing again in later years and etching portraits.

    I love that fact that he continually sought to get better at the things he found difficult.

  2. Eileen

    Your comment about the beauty of Freud’s laying of paint is what I’ve been appreciating about Alice Neel’s work as I’ve been reading a recently published biography (and seeing the documentary filmed by her grandson, Andrew). Freud and Neel have many similarities in their work and attitude toward trends and respecting their own vision. I wish Neel had had the same attention and good fortune Freud experienced.

  3. Sean C.

    I’ve been so busy this week, this is the first I’ve heard of this. This is a nice post. I personally thought Freud had talent, though I believe he wouldn’t have achieved even a fraction of the success he had if he wasn’t related to Sigmund Freud. To me his work ran a gamut from fascinating and brilliant to weak, inept and amatuerish, but almost every article I’ve ever read regarding Lucian Freud mentions his grandfather. This widely known bit of trivia, I feel adds extra “psychological” context which was not intended or implied by the work. Thanks.

  4. Steve Emery

    I was recently introduced to Lucian Freud by the Pagan Sphinx, in one of her artist feature posts:

    http://thepagansphinx.blogspot.com/2011/02/abc-wednesday-f.html

    I was stopped in my tracks by the brutal (exaggerated) honesty of these pieces which he claims to have painted without arranging or embellishment. But in my lengthy comment on her blog post, I mention many ways in which beauty is magnified and emphasized in his compositions, cropping choices, startling juxtapositions, and his amazing ability to make the paintings about touch. In Girl with a White Dog he creates so many echoes and evokes tactile memory in the viewer as you contrast the exposed breast, the dog’s cold, wet nose, and the soft hot curved hide of the short-haired animal. The way the figure is positioned, with a hand cupping her other breast, is the hint that makes all the other recalled touches happen in the viewer’s mind. It’s a fascinating piece – as are most of the others the Pagan Sphinx chose for her post.

  5. kathryn

    i didn’t know that he passed away. i remember when his painting sold for $33million…amazingly brilliant for a living artist!

    i feel so much energy, and emotion when i look at his paintings…his use of color and stroke. i think there was a lot going on underneath the surface with him!

  6. Valentino

    I like Freud’s painterly approach, but after seeing 40 or 50 painting like these above his approach (that is – his insistence on ugliness) starts to get boring and predictable.
    Freud did have unique ability to make every person who sits to him look ugly which was (as Charlie noticed) why he was so popular among modern critics.
    As to his supposedly superb draftsmanship, look at these drawings:
    http://tiny.cc/d165k
    No wonder he needed 300-400 (!) sittings for painting a single figure.

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