Friday, 25 May 2012

Lucian Freud at the NPG - Finishes May 27th

The Lucian Freud Portraits exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery finishes this weekend. Freud was born in Germany in 1922 but came to England in 1933 when his family fled the Nazis.

He enlisted with the merchant navy during the Second World War but was discharged after illness. After the war it was a trio of paintings of his first wife Kitty Garman that first established him.

Kitty Garman

The early paintings see Freud developing his style and the subjects seem to have larger-than-life eyes (rather like those stylised large-eyed portraits of  children in the 1960s and those by Margaret Keane).

'Small naked portrait' at the Ashmolean

Remarkably quickly, however, Freud found his realist style and subsequent pictures appear stylistically very consistent, with their trademark reds and greens giving a livid appearance to the flesh. Freud spent hundreds of hours on each of his pictures and photos of his studio show it quite spartan apart from the splodges of paint where he removed the excess from his brushes and the sheets that he used to wipe them.

The Freud studio with model, picture and dog

Painting Leigh Bowery

The exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery was being planned when he died at the age of 88 in July 2011 and is essential viewing for anyone interested in figurative portraiture in the late 20th century.

After painting David Hockney

The gallery space at the NPG is bit cramped, especially given the number of people trying to see the works, and it does not flow particularly well, but the works themselves are a revelation for anyone who has only seen reproductions or the occasional Freud elsewhere (such as that at the Ashmolean).

His last (unfinished) painting

There are some links to the exhibition (video etc) here in my previous post about it. You can also access a 'proper' recent review of the exhibition at the A kick up the arts blog here.

Lucian Freud 1922 - 2011

You have until Sunday if you want to see this exhibition (although it may already theoretically be 'sold out').

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