Monday, 21 May 2012

Gallery Trip 2

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


L.W.Roth, said...

Mick this post is very intriguing for me. I vaguely recall hearing of Lucien Freud, but have never looked at Lucien Freud. Now that I have realized I am a portrait painter, albeit a bit late in life, I'm interested in seeing all the portraiture I can. These paintings are amazing. He does have a Hockney feel,Hotel Bedroom, or Hockney has a Freud feel? Then, the two Irishmen make me think of Ben Shaun--maybe it's the look on their faces or something about their suits?

This is a very exciting exhibit. I'm sorry I'm missing it.

Nora MacPhail said...

I'm not sure about Lucian Freud... not a big fan of the texture. Although his life size self portrait made my job drop when I saw it in real life, literally! Also, thanks for the pic of David Hockney! I didn't know he did his portrait.
Awesome info!

Mick Carney said...

Linda - Freud gets a variety of responses from viewers but there is little doubt that he has a unique way of representing humankind. His work has become highly prized in the auction room. The last of the paintings in the post made $30 million at auction.

Mick Carney said...

Nora - Yours is not an unusual response to Freud's work. He excites a wide range of opinions and his technique is not to everyone's taste. However, viewing his work in the flesh does tend to elicit the sort of reaction that you talk of when seeing one of his pieces.

Ray Maclachlan said...

Thoroughly enjoyed your gallery trip posts. It is so much better to see the real works and not posters etc. I went to our national gallery in Canberra last weekend and saw the Freud that had an extra panel added to balance the painting. Quite unusual.

Mick Carney said...

Ray - You are right. There's nothing like the real thing.