SilverWillow Newsletter - April 2015
Now that I have your attention.
Lucien Freud was one of the premier portrait and figure painters of the century, and one the most individual of artists. His paintings are both gorgeous and horrific at the same time. The above painting “Benefits Supervisor Sleeping” is a good place to start and also one of his most well known works.(REALLY!!) It is a large work, not because the subject is a stout girl, but because he worked very often in a large format. This painting is 6 feet across or so and was sold at auction for over $30 million dollars. Freud said of “Big Sue” Tilley that her body is “flesh without muscle and it has developed a kind of texture through bearing such a weight bearing thing”.
This observation is key to his art, which is all about texture. His paintings are slathered thickly with paint until it clumps “into gloppy approximations of flesh”. His paintings are also questions into what is beauty and therefor who is worthy of being painted.
Believe it or not, the late Lucien Freud was one of the greatest painters of his generation.
He was even commissioned to paint a portrait of Queen Elizabeth. She was not too happy:
Many of his works can be tough to stomach. They are sexual in a way we may not be
comfortable with. His works do not show a romantized or sexy body, unless you a zombie fan. The skin is not satin.
There is something, well, smelly about his subjects. To me, anyway. Would you say they are pornographic?
His paint surfaces are thick with applied paint. Layer upon layer of thick color, optically mixing on the canvas. Think Seurat and pointillism, but taken to an extreme.
Freud's technique is called "impasto". It is to apply paint to the canvas in thick smears. It is both a sensuous and imprecise technique. There is no effort to smooth and blend the paint colors.
As he progressed through his career his technique become rougher and rougher and the surface of the canvas accumulated layer
upon layer of globbed on paint.
But, is it the shock factor of his works and his subjects that make him one of the greats? Many artists are "gross". I think of Damien Hirst and his stupid shark in formaldehyde. Remember the stink made about 10 - 15 years ago about "Piss Christ" at the Brooklyn Museum of Art?
His subjects are not sexy, no matter how they are painted and 'displayed': legs akimbo, genitalia on intentional display. His figures and their coloration are more an exploration of the degeneration of flesh : what we will all become in the end. His nudes are not sentimental at all, but a warning of how fleeting beauty is or maybe that beauty is illusory. There is no body that does not have its physical defects lovingly painted by him and shoved in our faces. They are cruel and very discomfiting.
But like all great portraiture, there is a communication between the subject and the artist and between the finished work and us. Look at the works of Rembrandt: they talk to you, tell you their stories. And so do Freud's: both the subjects and the artist.
Through all the different art movements of the 20th century; through minimalism, abstract art etc, he stuck with the human figure. No matter how unpopular it was. He followed his own vision until the rest of us caught up with him.
drop me a line (on the contact page!) if you have any comments, questions, ideas for future subjects etc. Responses will turn up on the next newsletter! PS: If you clik on "ART WORKS" you will see the most recent works. And mid month I switch things up- art in and other art out!