Lucien Freud at National Portrait Gallery in London

Lucien Freud: 'Girl with a White Dog, 1950-1' Copyright: Tate: Purchased 1952 © Tate, London 2012

 

 

Since British realist painter Lucian Freud died in summer 2011, his oeuvre has received ever more attention; as top-selling lot in Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction in autumn of last year or now in a fabulous show at London’s National Portrait Gallery.

 

Looking at Freud’s paintings feels like reading someone else’s diary. Seeing his wives, lovers, children and friends through his eyes—and often naked—gives the great pleasure of shared intimacy and confidence. The subjects are shown in totally immersed and bare positions and intriguingly often seen from an emphasized downward looking perspective as if the space folds open to present the object of scrutiny.

 

This is the dark side of Freud. After making me eager to absorb every detail of lively painted skin, I find myself having adopted the painter’s detached and ruthless look, just like observing an animal as the gaze on his daughter in Large Interior, Paddington.

 

 

Lucien Freud: 'Reflection (Self-portrait), 1985' Copyright: Private Collection, Ireland © The Lucian Freud Archive. Photo: Courtesy Lucian Freud Archive

 

Freud seems to search for subtle peculiarities and awkwardness in his subjects and compositions. As if to say that in the end, it is the imperfections that make us human.

 

 

Lucien Freud: 'The Brigadier', 003-04Copyright: Private Collection © The Lucian Freud Archive. Photo: Courtesy Lucian Freud Archive

 

On the question of humanness, on which colleague and friend Francis Bacon has also been working, it puzzles to see their radical different outcome. Whereas Bacon’s subjects are frequently overwhelmed by space, Freud’s figures seem to inhabit their surroundings with a noticeable aura, almost as if the background belongs to them as well. Freud said that he often wondered where the boundaries of a body really are.

 

Lucien Freud: 'Two Irishmen in W11, 1984-5'Copyright: Private Collection, Ireland © The Lucian Freud Archive. Photo: Courtesy Lucian Freud Archive

 

Freud’s strategy to draw my mind into the pictures is equally noteworthy. Knowing about the long hours a model has to spend sitting for him — as Freud was known for taking his time… as long as 130 hours with David Hockney — the impression of instantaneousness in his portraits surprises. This depicted moment of intensity makes me wonder what happened and leaves the answer to my phantasy.

 

 

by Julia Loeschl

 

 

 

Lucien Freud: 'Portraits' at National Portrait Gallery, London, UK

Through 27th May 2012

 

 

 

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