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Thursday, 15 June 2017

Painting of the Month (72) June 2017: Lucian Freud

Lucian Freud was the grandson of Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, so it is perhaps not surprising that he started his painting career working as a surrealist but soon switched to a kind of expressionist realism. He was a very private man and painted only those close to him, portraits of his friends and family and in a major way, of himself. In fact he was obsessed about self-portraiture.
Self Portrait, Lucian Freud, 1985

He has provided a comprehensive, unflattering history over many decades. And not only of himself; he managed to make the model, Kate Moss, appear ugly! He is known for "unflinching observations of anatomy and psychology". Once established his style did not really change much over six decades. It seems to have been inevitable that the long, intense sessions with his sitters have led to comparison with the way that his grandfather, Sigmund, worked.
Although Freud eschewed the avant-garde of his contemporaries, such as David Hockney, he was strikingly unusual in his detailed depiction of genitalia and secondary sexual characteristics in general. His explicit  illustrations showed the same level of detail that a botanical painter of flowers might show. 
He is regarded as one of the leading self-portraitists of the twentieth century. He did not -exhibit the range of earlier self-portraitists such as Rembrandt or Van Gogh but he revealed psychological insights into all of his subjects in a new way.
Freud with Kate Moss and his painting of her
I'm listening to Loudain Wainwright III, a much underrated singer-songwriter whose searing honesty sometimes makes me wince when I listen to his songs. Here is a song about his time living in London: Primrose Hill. Have a listen.


bazza said...

I've just got back from Sorrento, Italy and will catch up with my visiting shortly!

Hels said...

Welcome home!

I saw a Lucian Freud painting that was being debated and analysed in Fake or Fortune? It was a portrait of a man that looked like a mixture of Moise Kisling's and Amedeo Modigliani's work. Although Freud had always argued that he did not paint this portrait, the experts concluded that it was indeed an early Freud, just pre-WW2. I assume the confusion and fascination was because in his early works, the paint was not as thickly and intensely applied as later.

Parnassus said...

Hello Bazza, Freud seems to provide psychological penetration by the process of unmasking pleasant surfaces to reveal what lies underneath. The results, while riveting, are also repelling and make us reflect upon warts-and-all truths. It is profitable to make such reflections some of the time, but perhaps all truths are not ugly ones, and there are many methods an artist can use to explore a subject's inner core.

bazza said...

Hels: Thanks for the welcome, we had a great time up and down the Amalfi coast! I have seen some of those Fake or Fortune programmes but missed that one. Freud certainly developed the heavy impasto style later but many artists seem to want to disown their student and early work.

bazza said...

Jim: I have just realised the music I referred to at the end of this post by Loudain Wainwright is similar in that he does not shrink from the truth even if it's 'ugly'; that was purely coincidental.Thanks for your well-made point.

David said...

Hi bazza,
I have always admired Freud's work, showing, as it does, the warts and all aspect of our humanity, both physical and psychological. To me, it's something of an antidote to the age of the beauty myth. However, I take the point made above, that not all truths are ugly.
I once heard a story about Lucien and his brother being extremely competitive - something about them having a race with each other on foot with neither giving way and wanting, above all, to win. No doubt Sigmund would have had a field day in analysing such intense sibling rivalry! I believe that his brother was Clement Freud, a figure who, after his death, fell from public grace when allegations of sexual impropriety were made against him. But, this is all coming from memory, bazza, so please forgive me if I've made any statements which are not right.
Thanks for another illuminating post!
Very Best Wishes and glad you had a good holiday,

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Bazza - Sorrento - how lovely ... bet you had a fabulous time. I hadn't realised Freud was obsessed with self-portraiture, once he'd worked out his artistic path in life. Interesting reading about your thoughts re art and music ... I like having both posted together - giving me food for thought ... and making me look up artists to find out a little more.

Cheers Hilary

bazza said...

David: I also had heard about that sibling rivalry with Clement (and many others!). Lucian Freud was an anachronism among painters but I find I really like his work which appears to be perversely ugly sometimes. I did have a lovely short break in Italy, thanks!

bazza said...

Hilary: I often discover new things through reading other Blogs - including yours! It was pure chance that Loudain Wainwright and Lucian Freud have/had similarities in their approach to their art.

All Consuming said...

Yes I love his work and Francis Bacon's too, there's a true raw reality within the paint strokes of Lucian's paintings. Alamost hard to look at at times they're so brutally honest. I'd not want to know what he thought I looked like, but by the Gods he was an incredible talent!

bazza said...

AC: Nicely put. I don't think we would have wanted to know him personally but it looks like that was the only way you would have been painted by him!

JoJo said...

Wow.....that painting of Kate Moss is just awful. I'd've been pissed if I was her. Personally I don't like his work at all but to each his own.

bazza said...

JoJo: I think Kate Moss was flattered that a famous portraitist would paint her. It's not his finest moment but I do the like his self-portrait shown here. He hasn't flattered himself!

Rob said...

I have a high regard for Lucien's paintings but his misogyny worries me!

bazza said...

Rob: Many great achievers have not been very nice human beings. We have to separate their private lives from their works. He certainly has been accused of misogyny many times, not least by Jerry Hall - but should this affect our judgement of his paintings?