London.- Lucian Freud 1922 – 2011. Lucian Freud was born in Berlin, the son of architect Ernst Freud and the grandson of Sigmund Freud. In 1933, his family fled to London to escape the rising tide of Nazism, and Lucian and his two brothers were enrolled in English schools. Largely untrained as an artist, he was intermittently enrolled in various schools and received nominal artistic instruction as a youth. His early paintings, dating to the 1940s, depict people, animals, and plants in unusual juxtapositions. In delicately painted, thinly applied oils, Freud rendered his subjects with ultra-fine precision and crisp, clean contours. In the mid-1950s, Freud traded his sable brushes for ones of coarse hog hair and began working with looser brushwork, thereby “liberating” his subjects from his prior meticulous technique. Freud died after an illness at his London home late Wednesday night at age 88.
Over the course of the ‘50’s, Freud gradually honed in on the portrait, which has become the core of his oeuvre. Painting his first characteristic nude in 1966, over the next few decades his nudes became ever more exposed, genuine, and revealing.
By the 1980s, Freud was painting with thick paints and heavily built-up impasto. For Freud, the thick application of paint conveyed a tactile and tangible sense of reality: “I want paint to work as flesh … As far as I am concerned the paint is the person. I want it to work for me as flesh does (Lawrence Gowing, Lucian Freud, 1982, Thames & Hudson, p. 190-1).” Though his style has dramatically evolved over his seventy years of painting, he has remained committed to realism and the unembellished portrayal of his own perceptions. From the very young to the old, the small to the gigantic, Freud has depicted his subjects with penetrating honesty and psychological depth.
Most of Freud’s sitters have been his lovers, family, and friends, including fellow artists Francis Bacon and David Hockney as well as his dealer, William Acquavella. He has occasionally done commissions, painting portraits for the Baron Thyssen, Lord Rothschild, and the Queen of England. Drawn to people for both their looks and character, he invited his subjects to sit with him and subject themselves to his unrelenting scrutiny in order to realize their truest likeness. The process is long and laborious, completed in up to six-hour sessions held daily for weeks, months, or even years.
Freud could only finish his paintings once he felt that they have a life of their own. As he explained in “Some Thoughts on Painting,” first broadcast on the BBC: “The picture in order to move us must never merely remind us of life, but must acquire a life of its own, precisely in order to reflect life.” His works have been increasingly sought after at recent auctions and his portrayal of an overweight nude woman sleeping on a couch sold in 2008 for $33.6 million (£20.6m) – a world record for a work by a living artist.
Freud stubbornly refused to follow the trends of that world, insisting on using his realist approach even when it was out of favor with critics and collectors. He developed his own unique style, eventually winning recognition as one of the world’s greatest painters.
“He certainly is considered one of the most important painters of the 20th and 21st Centuries,” said Brett Gorvy, deputy chairman of the postwar art department at Christie’s auction house in New York. “He stayed with his figurative approach even when it was extremely unpopular, when abstraction was the leading concept, and as time moved on his classic approach has proven to be very important. He fought the system and basically won.”
Acquavella Galleries has been the worldwide representative for Lucian Freud since 1992 and has held four exhibitions of the artist’s work. Freud has been the subject of numerous museum retrospectives and exhibitions, including shows at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin, the Museo Correr in Venice, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Tate Britain, the Scottish National Gallery of Art, the Städtisches Kunstmuseum Spendhaus Reutlingen in Germany, the Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt am Main, Whitechapel Art Gallery in London, the Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid, the Tate Modern in London, the Fundació La Caixa in Barcelona, the Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC, and the Setagaya Art Museum in Tokyo. Freud was a member of the Order of Merit, one of Britain’s most prestigious chivalry honours presented to individuals by the Queen for great achievement in the fields of the arts, learning, literature and science. The honour is restricted to 24 members at any one time, plus additional foreign recipients and past recipients include Florence Nightingale, Sir Winston Churchill, Sir Edward Elgar and Mother Teresa.