Lucian Freud Portraits
The Modern nabbed the honor of being the only United States venue for this formidable exhibit that spans more than 7 decades of the artist’s work.
Lucien Freud is widely considered to be one of the 20th Century’s greatest portrait painters. The depth of his work cannot be portrayed by any photograph – it must be experienced in person.
The exhibit is arranged mostly chronologically, so your first impression begins with his early work at the tender age of 18. These early works are graphic-looking and technically out of proportion, yet the realism in the details that emerges is amazing. Immediately the feeling from these paintings, especially with the over-sized, idealistic eyes, is that he has captured a part of the subject’s soul.
Around 1956, when Freud is in his early 30’s, his proportions became more precise and he was refining his use of multiple colors in the skin tones. The display says that he was using soft sable brushes at the time, which would explain the soft, almost watercolor look of his oil paintings. I loved the painterly effect of “Head of a Woman” and the series of other close portraits of people in his life at the time.
When we come to the paintings starting in the 60’s we see that Freud has changed brushes and developed a bolder, thicker style. The explosion of color in the skin tones is amazing, and somehow exactly right. Each year progresses in bolder thicker strokes and stronger expression of color - by 2000 texture plays a major part in his compositions.
The “Rio, Naked Portrait” done in 2006, is I think his most extreme example of the use of texture. The face and hand look like random blobs of paint up close – but as one backs away the realistic 3-dimensionality of the layered paint is revealed.
The exhibit has also included a series of his etchings, which are just as detailed and intriguing. Overall the whole show is a real visual treat.
Pictured from top: Girl with White Dog (partial); Girl in a Dark Jacket; Reflection (Self-portrait); Standing by the Rags