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Sunday, July 24, 2011

A TRIBUTE TO LUCIAN FREUD: Was one of the greatest realist painters of the post-war era


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CATHERINE LAMPERT / The Hindu / July 23, 2011.

This July 4, 2010 file photo shows British painter Lucien Freud during a visit at the Fesch museum in Ajaccio, on the the French Mediterranean island of Corsica.
This July 4, 2010 file photo shows British painter Lucien Freud during a visit at the Fesch museum in Ajaccio, on the the French Mediterranean island of Corsica - AFP.

Grandson of great psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, the artist, who died on July 20, never wanted to do the same thing twice
The original, unnerving, sustained artistic achievement of Lucian Freud, who died on July 20, aged 88, had at its heart a wilful, restless personality, fired by his intelligence and attentiveness and his suspicion of method, never wanting to risk doing the same thing twice.
The sexually loaded, penetrating gaze was part of his weaponry, but his art addressed the lives of individuals, whether life models or royalty, with delicacy and disturbing corporeality. Freud had a reputation for pushing subjects to an extreme. But unlike the American painters to emerge in the 1950s, his approach was in the western tradition of working from life and brought about with painstaking slowness, rather than unleashed virtuosity. Photographs taken in the studio by his assistant, model and good friend, the painter David Dawson, show Freud working from a roughly sketched charcoal form, the paint slowly spreading outwards from the head. Some canvases were extended, others abandoned while still a fragment. Portraits of his maturity drew comparisons with equally shocking works by Courbet, Titian and Picasso, the feelings exposed registering as both brash and profound.
By 1987, the critic Robert Hughes nominated Freud as the greatest living realist painter, and after the death of Francis Bacon (a fellow artist) five years later, the sobriquet could be taken as a commendation, or it could imply an honour fit for an anachronistic “figurative” artist working in London. Critics since Freud's first shows in the 1940s have had difficulties situating his achievement; the common solution has been to apply adjectives to the painted subjects in a way that reflects little more than personal taste, the writers telling readers whether the person portrayed was bored or intimidated, scrawny or obese, the paint slathered, crumbly or miraculously plastic. Others, however, eschew this moralising tone and are prepared to be startled by his “naked portraits.”

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