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Freud, Lucian (1922- ), German-born British painter.

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Introduction

Freud, Lucian Freud, Lucian (1922- ). German-born British painter. He was born in Berlin, a grandson of Sigmund Freud, came to England with his parents in 1931, and acquired British nationality in 1939. His earliest love was drawing, and he began to work full time as an artist after being invalided out of the Merchant Navy in 1942. In 1951 his Interior at Paddington (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool) won a prize at the Festival of Britain, and since then he has built up a formidable reputation as one of the most powerful contemporary figurative painters. Portraits and nudes are his specialities, often observed in arresting close-up. His early work was meticulously painted, so he has sometimes been described as a `Realist' (or rather absurdly as a Superrealist), but the subjectivity and intensity of his work has always set him apart from the sober tradition characteristic of most British figurative art since the Second World War. In his later work (from the late 1950s) his handling became much broader. Normally I underplay facial expression when painting the figure, because I want expression to emerge through the body. I used to do only heads, but came to feel that I relied too much on the face. I want the head, as it were, to be more like another limb. - Lucian Freud Freud was born in Berlin in December 1922, and came to England with his family in 1933. He studied briefly at the Central School of Art in London and, to more effect, at Cedric Morris's East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing in Dedham. ...read more.

Middle

This is the first substantial body of Freud's work to be exhibited in London in five years. Freud is best known for his approach to the human form. With heavy brush strokes and thick layers of paint, he produces figures that are not "prettied up" for art. They are identifiably flesh-and-blood characters, often caught in awkward but perfectly natural poses. Freud dislikes mystification, and this is embodied in his approach to the human body. As he puts it, "I paint people not because of what they are like, not exactly in spite of what they are like, but how they happen to be." The small painting Esther and Albie, of a baby breast-feeding, demonstrates this well; the baby and the breast occupy the centre of the painting. They are not glorified, and there is no smoothing over of corporeal detail (veins stand out clearly). Freud has been accused of preferring grotesque models, but he rather exalts the extra ordinariness of the ordinary. He has described his work as "factual not literal", and this sums up his ability to catch his subjects' humanity. As he says, "My models come in human guise." Most of the pieces on display are paintings. The centrepiece of the exhibition is the large 1997 work Sunny Morning--Eight Legs which encapsulates many of the themes and styles of the rest of the display. Here a naked figure (modelled by the painter David Dawson) poses awkwardly on a bed holding a dog. Another pair of legs protrudes from under the bed. The dog is asleep, but the man holding her is awake and staring away from the viewer. ...read more.

Conclusion

They are not of the same quality as his paintings, but they do illustrate how he pursues the same themes in other media. His charcoal portrait of Isaiah Berlin shows the old man almost asleep, while the two etchings, Woman with an Arm Tattoo and Woman Asleep explore the uneven flesh tone of a fat model. Less successful is his etching of David Dawson, but even here the ugliness of the face is permeated with intelligence and life. It may be that the etchings do not work as well as the paintings because the medium lacks the range of expression Freud needs for what he does so well, conveying the flesh-and-blood qualities of his subjects. It is Freud's unglamourised representation of humanity that makes this display well worth seeing. His attempt to demystify the human form whilst recording the stories of his subjects marks a significant stance against the vacuity of much of contemporary art, which refuses to acknowledge even the existence of such stories and glorifies only the visible form. Even though he does not explore those stories, the fact that Freud records their presence within his subjects makes his work compellingly humane. "My work is purely autobiographical,...It is about myself and my surroundings. I work from people that interest me and that I care about, in rooms that I know... When I look at a body it gives me choice of what to put in a painting, what will suit me and what won't. There is a distinction between fact and truth. Truth has an element of revelation about it. If something is true, it does more than strike one as merely being so." - Lucian Freud ...read more.

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