One of the most eagerly awaited shows this year has been the Lucian Freud - Portraits exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. This was my other main objective this week. I can say little other than it blew me away. To see the wonderful, passionate, dense and intense images from the brushes of this hugely talented painter was a huge pleasure. Other than occasional showings of small numbers of images I've not seen so many Freuds in one place since the show at the Hayward Gallery in 1998.
In his introduction to the catalogue for the Hayward exhibition, Robert Hughes compares the chosen artistic path of Freud with other contemporaries whose work was more reflective of the mass media of the day. A comparison that, for some, was a reason to demean the works of Freud. Hughes, however, takes a different view, "Painting is, one might say, exactly what mass visual media are not: a way of specific engagement, not of general seduction". "Everywhere, and at all times, there is world to be re-formed by the darting subtlety and persistent slowness of the painter's eye".
The selection below are drawn from the exhibition and are broadly in chronological order. It was a deliberate decision of mine to leave out many of the more explicit pictures, for no other reason than I know that some followers find that sort of work challenging. That doesn't reflect my own view.
Freud's subject matter often involved his wives, children, friends and often invited interpretation of an autobiographical narrative. This is never more true than in Hotel Bedroom.
Girl in Beret - Lucian Freud
Girl with a White Dog - Lucian Freud
Girl in Bed - Lucian Freud
Hotel Bedroom - Lucian Freud
For artists interested in technical matters, there is a decided shift in style takes place when it is clear that Freud has moved from using sable brushes with their soft, fine application of pigment and capacity to render the finest detail and begin applying his paint with the much more robust bristle brushes. With that change texture becomes much more significant in his practice and is used particularly in his presentation of human flesh.
The portrait is the essential core of Freud's work and his portraits are like no one else's. He eschews many of the more traditional portraitist's techniques. This is no more apparent than with the way he depicts eyes. As my friend Graham remarked when viewing the exhibition there is little eye contact for the viewer, in the majority of cases the gaze of the sitter is elsewhere. Freud's interest seems to be in the relationship between flesh and paint, "As far as I am concerned the paint is the person. I want it to work for me just as flesh does".
Self Portrait - Lucian Freud
Self Portrait - Lucian Freud
Reflection with Two Children (Self Portrait) - Lucian Freud
Two Irishmen - Lucian Freud
David Hockney - Lucian Freud
The Brigadier - Lucian Freud
Benefits Supervisor Sleeping - Lucian Freud