Lucian Freud (1922-2011)
WHAT IS VISUAL ART?
Lucian Freud, one of the great
Lucian was born in Berlin in 1922. His father Ernst Freud, the youngest son of the Viennese psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, was an architect who had painted as a student. His mother, Lucie Brasch, was the daughter of a rich merchant. The family lived in a wealthy area of the city, but when Hitler came to power in 1933 Ernst decided to move his family to England for safety. Lucian was about 11 when he arrived in the country and became a naturalised citizen in 1939. From an early age he enjoyed drawing and everyone assumed he was destined to become an artist. In 1939 he gained admission to the East Anglian School of Drawing and Painting, run by the painter Cedric Morris. Morris was a self taught artist and influenced the way Freud worked. Freud's early works were 'spikey', figures were heavily lineated - similar in style to German Expressionists like Max Beckmann (1884-1950) and Otto Dix (1891-1969). Some critics pointed to a Surrealism influence but as Freud himself stated: "As a young man I was not obsessed with working in a specific way, even though I felt very little freedom. The rigidity of Surrealism, its rigid dogma of irrationality, seemed unduly limiting. I could never put anything into a picture that wasn't actually there in front of me. That would be a pointless lie, a mere bit of artfulness". That said, his early work The Painters Room (1944) which shows a couch and a giant zebra poking his head through a window seems to have definite surrealist overtures.
Drawing, and especially figure drawing, is an essential element in Freud's art. He says "he wants to draw and go somewhere from there". He was a great admirer of the draughtsmanship of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867), saying "Ingres couldn't draw without inventing...A line, any single line, of his drawings is worth looking at". Colour is downplayed, "I don't want any of my colours to be noticeable. I want the colour to be the colour of life, so that you would notice it as being irregular if it changed".
in Freud's early painting is muted,
he often cleaned his brush after each stroke to achieve the clean finish.
This can be seen in his painting Girl with a White Dog (1951) which
shows his first wife, Kitty, sitting on a couch - bearing one breast,
and a dog with his head on her lap. He became interested in the connection
between humans and animals, culminating in his painting Naked Man with
a Rat (1977). Other important work from this period include Interior
in Paddington (1951), Portrait of Francis Bacon (1952), Girl
in Bed (1952), Hotel Bedroom (1954) and Man in a Mackintosh
In the late 1950s Freud's style changed
and his started painting in heavier impasto.
His brushmarks became brusquer, and he began to paint blotches on skin,
veins, fat and muscle. Sleeping Head (1962) is considered one of
his first breaks in this area. It is an up-close of a woman's head, sleeping,
and although we can't see the rest of her body, the use of swirling paint
in her puffy face seems to echo a thigh, buttock and breast. Freud stated:
"I was going to do a nude, then I realised that I could do it from
the head". His study of nudes, are intense and unsettling and critics
have claimed similarities to those of Picasso.
Other paintings from this period include John Deakin (1963), Naked
Child Laughing (1963), Interior with Hand Mirror (Self Portrait,
1967), Naked Girl (1966), Girl in a Fur Coat (1967) and
In the mid 1970s, Freud turned his attend
to male nudes - they
are often sitting in modern houses, reclined on sofas and beds. Dogs,
rats and other animals are often seem quietly reposing with the sitter.
Some of the paintings have unsettling undertones, such as Naked Man
with his Friend (1978). Here a ginger haired man is seen naked on
a sofa, lying with another man, who is much older and dressed in a white
suit. Although Freud has occasionally shifted his attention to other subjects
like urban landscapes, it is the fleshy body of nudes that continue to
occupy his attention. Freud often painted the same sitter several times
- as his work involves showing the inner character of a person, he feels
the more he paints them, the more chance he has to truly represent them,
physically and emotionally.
Paintings by Lucian Freud can be seen in several of the best art museums throughout the world, including the Tate Gallery London.
ENCYCLOPEDIA OF VISUAL ARTISTS