Monday, 8 August 2011

Oxford, the Ashmolean and Lucian Freud

At the weekend we visited Oxford with friends.

We did quite a bit of eating & drinking and spent some time rowing and punting on the Isis. Towards the end of the day we managed to fit in a brief visit to the Ashmolean Museum.

This was my first visit and I wasn't disappointed. While outside it retains its traditional classical look, inside the museum has been extensively renovated in recent years. The museum's full name is the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archeaology and its contents are wide-ranging. As we had less than an hour we focused on only a small part - the museum's collection of 19th to 21st century art.

Brazen Nose College - JMW Turner
This includes a couple of galleries devoted to Sickert and Pisarro, a 19th century gallery - which includes several Turners - and a Pre-Raphaelite gallery. Each of these has some fine examples and they are displayed in a relaxed user-friendly way (no trip wires to prevent you getting a good look at the paintings).

Cows at Cookham - Stanley Spencer

There is also a lone Modern Art gallery. Inevitably this is pretty selective but it includes good things, including a picture by Roger Hilton, a large piece of sculpture by Barbara Hepworth, a typical Cookham pastoral by Stanley Spencer and a perfect small nude by Lucian Freud.

Small naked portrait - Lucian Freud
Which gives me an excuse to write about Freud's recent death at the age of 88 ... Freud was described succinctly by the BBC as one of Britain's most distinguished and highly regarded artists - However, he was more than that.

As a refugee from the Nazis, his framework of experience is unimaginable for us baby-boomers and later generations, and this inevitably influenced his work. He was intensely private, eccentric and charismatic. His nude portraits, for which he was famous, were detailed and unforgiving. His best known paintings have been auctioned for serious money, rivalling the likes of Damien Hirst.

The following clip from ITN gives a flavour of his life and his art:

Here are some links to a selection of posts following his death:  Is Lucian Freud’s Death the End of Figurative Painting? from Bob Duggan;  some personal thoughts from indigoalison; an obit from the Independent; and a further obit from the Telegraph. Wherever he is now, I doubt that he is just resting in peace ...

Details of the 2012 exhibtion at the National Portrait Gallery are shown here.

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