Magazine of art press and reviews from London
Lucian Freud Portraits extended its opening time at the National Portrait Gallery, London.
David Franchi – Saturday, 24th March 2011.
“Works are renowned for their psychological penetration”
The exhibition “Lucian Freud Portraits” extended its opening time, a remarkable success, at the National Portrait Gallery, London.
After the death of Lucian Freud last 20th July 2011, this exhibition was much awaited. The London artist, in fact, is considered to be one of the most significant British artists despite of the fact that his was born in Germany. Although he was the grandson of the most well-known Sigmund Freud, founder of the modern psychology, Lucian has been able to reach his own fame.
Lucian Freud artwork is one of the most important heritages the UK could have. The last works of the late Lucian Freud are on show for the first time at the most solid exhibition of his work for ten years. The National Portrait Gallery displays the earliest portraits from the 1940s. On show 130 paintings and works on paper loaned from museums and private collections throughout the world, including Tate, MOMA New York, Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, British Council and Art Institute of Chicago.
Concentrating on particular periods and groups of sitters to show Freud’s stylistic development and technical virtuosity, “Lucian Freud Portraits” is the result of many years of planning by the National Portrait Gallery, in close partnership with the artist himself. The exhibition is the first to focus on his portraiture and it is a countdown event for the London 2012 Festival – the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad.
The National Portrait Gallery exhibition is an opportunity to see for the first time ‘Portrait of the Hound 2011’. Lucian Freud was working on this piece until shortly before his death. This unfinished painting depicts artist’s assistant David Dawson and his dog Eli.
The list of the sitters is quite long. From common people to VIP, “Lucian Freud Portraits” includes both iconic and rarely-seen depictions of the artist’s lovers, friends and family, described by the artist as ‘people in my life’.
These portraits have been selected to reveal the psychological drama and insistent observational intensity of the work of Lucian Freud. He was known to enter the emotional aspect of his sitters and then represent it on canvas, with such ability that sitter’s feelings come out so vivid leaving visitors speechless for its intensity.
“Lucian Freud Portraits” displays works where the physical structure, or part of it, is the m
ain subject. Freud’s portraits regularly depict only the sitter. By representing the naked bodies in a relaxed situation – sometimes laid naked on the floor or on a bed or otherwise juxtaposed with something else – sexuality conveys the character of the sitters.
His works are renowned for their psychological penetration, and for the embarrassing examination of the relationship between artist and model that brought to Lucian Freud an uneasy fame, remarked by his personal knotty life.
Lucian Michael Freud, OM, CH (8 December 1922 – 20 July 2011) was a German-born British painter. Known chiefly for his thickly impasto portraits and figure paintings, he was widely considered the pre-eminent British artist of his time.
Born in Berlin, Freud was the son of an Austrian Jewish father, Ernst L. Freud, an architect, and a German Jewish mother, Lucie née Brasch. He was a grandson of Sigmund Freud, and brother of Stephan Gabriel Freud and of the late broadcaster, writer and politician Clement Freud – thus uncle of Emma and Matthew Freud.
To escape the rise of Nazism, the family of Lucian Freud moved to St John’s Wood, London, in 1933. He became a British citizen in 1939,having attended Dartington Hall School in Totnes, Devon, and later Bryanston School, for a year before being expelled due to disruptive behaviour.
Freud studied at the Central School of Art in London, and from 1939 with greater success at Cedric Morris’ East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing in Dedham, relocating in 1940 at Benton End near Hadleigh. During the Second World War he served as a merchant seaman, but he was invalided out of service in 1942. In the same year went back to study at the Goldsmiths University of London. His first solo exhibition was in 1944 at the Alex Reid & Lefevre Gallery. He was a visiting tutor at the Slade School of Fine Art of University College London from 1949–54.
Lucian Freud lived and worked in London for almost his entire life. He was part of “The School of London” a group of figurative artists – more individuals who knew each other, some intimately – who were working in London at the same time in the offbeat figurative style, while the abstract painting was dominating the art scene. The group was led by Francis Bacon and Freud, and included Frank Auerbach, Michael Andrews, Leon Kossoff, Robert Colquhoun, Robert MacBryde, Reginald Gray, and Ronald Kitaj.
A series of huge nude portraits from the mid-1990s depicted the very large Sue Tilley, or “Big Sue”, some using her job title of ‘Benefits Supervisor’ in the title of the painting, as in his 1995 portrait ‘Benefits Supervisor Sleeping’, which in May 2008 was sold by Christie’s in New York for $33.6 million, setting a world record auction price for a living artist.
From the 1950s, Lucian Freud began to work in portraiture often nudes. He also began to develop a personal free style – painting standing up and using large hogs-hair brushes – with an intense concentration of the texture and colour of flesh, and much thicker paint, including impasto, often cleaning his brush after each stroke, so that the colour remained constantly variable. The colours of non-flesh areas in these paintings are typically muted, while the flesh becomes increasingly highly and variably coloured. Early portraits were mostly relatively small heads or half-lengths while later portraits were often very much larger, and requested by galleries and collectors. In his late career he often followed a portrait by producing an etching of the subject in a different pose, drawing directly onto the plate, with the sitter in his view.
Lucian Freud is rumoured to have fathered as many as forty children but it is probably an overstatement. However, fourteen children have been identified, two from Freud’s first marriage and twelve by various mistresses. After an affair with Lorna Garman, he went on to marry, in 1948, her niece Kathleen “Kitty” Epstein, daughter of sculptor Jacob Epstein and socialite Kathleen Garman. They had two daughters, Annie and Annabel Freud, and the marriage ended in 1952. Kitty Freud, later known as Kitty Godley, died in 2011. Freud then began an affair with Guinness beer heiress and writer Lady Caroline Blackwood. They married in 1953 and divorced in 1959.
Sponsored by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, “Lucian Freud Portraits” is curated by Sarah Howgate, the National Portrait Gallery’s Curator of Contemporary Portraits.
From 9th February until 27th May 2012.
National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place, Trafalgar Square, London.