Creative Salvage, Monday 27 February 2012
Many miles of hyperbole have been written about Lucian Freud and his work.
In particular, as one critic put it, the mounds of flesh that he has painted. There is a prurient interest in his wives and mistresses and the number of children he produced, in what at the time were less than conventional circumstances. None of this shocking and titillating information is relevant when you view what is the work of a genius.
The National Portrait Gallery and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, have pulled off a coup hosting this, what is now a retrospective, of the artists work. It was during a conversation between Sandy Nairne, director of the portrait gallery and Lucian Freud in 2006 that the idea was muted to hold an exhibition of his work, during the year of the Olympic games and the Queens diamond jubilee.
Lucian was very excited by the idea and collaborated on the exhibition up to his death last July.
Freud had a life-long preoccupation with the human face and figures. His sitters included family, friends and lovers. He only painted those he wanted to, and rarely took on commissions. Sitters were drawn from all walks of life, aristocrats to the criminal underworld.
David Dawson, Freud’s assistant for the last twenty years, helped with the hanging of the portraits.
There are a hundred and thirty works, spanning seven decades, in the exhibition loaned by both public and private collections. The exhibition is laid out in chronological order, the first paintings being from 1940 and the last was one he was working on when he died, that of David Dawson with his dog Eli.
Lucian’s early works are highly detailed. The artist would sit knee to knee facing his subject and work intensely using fine sable brushes. With the change to bristle brushes and him standing to paint, came the more vigorous brush strokes and style for which he is known today.
Freud worked both day and night on many different portraits at the same time. His sitters would come and go to his studio, but they would not meet one another.
Freud, as many artists before him, painted his mother. The gallery, have given over a small intimate room to these portraits. As with many mother-son relationships this was a complex one. When he was young, Freud’s mother, Lucy, claimed to know and understand what her son was thinking almost before he did. As a result he tried to keep his distance from her. It was only as she got older that he invited her into his studio to sit for him. The results are some of his most poignant images, as at this stage of her life she sadly appears to be ignoring him.
Four enormous canvases of Sue Tilley, Benefits Supervisor, are grouped together. The very size of them and the subject contained within them makes an enormous impact on the viewer. Look closer and you will observe the sensitivity with which they are painted the love of flesh. No one paints flesh in the way that Freud managed to.
The exhibition is from now until 27th May 2012 at The National Portrait gallery in London. From July 1 to October 28 212 it will be at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.
Creative Salvage is a blog on crafts and design on written by Juliet Bawden, who also writes for magazines on the same subject. Make, share, and explore your arty ambitions...