Archive for category Subject: Lucian Freud

Love Lucian || David Dawson & Martin Gayford

I am generally underwhelmed by collections of artists’ letters. Although they promise a doorway into the innermost thoughts of a creative genius, they are often just as filled with mundanity as those of anyone else. They can also be repetitive and, once you’ve grasped the chief of the bon mots, you really don’t have the appetite to read them again and again. Yes, I’m aware that, for the serious researcher, they can often add useful information to the chronology – the artist was working on this major painting at least two weeks before anyone thought, which changes everything.

This, however, is a different kettle of the proverbial fish. You’ll spot it immediately – the book is packed with illustrations, which are, indeed, its mainstay and the point at which you’ll probably start. Not for this the occasional image that simply gives a sense of the handwriting and (mark this) the paper used. Lucian Freud was clearly a visual thinker, perhaps even more than one could deduce from the fact that he was an artist of formidable ability. Quite simply, everything here is a work of art in its own right and intended to be so. The handwriting is quite childish and the spelling more than a little random. Although there is a waspish mind at work that is perfectly capable of expressing itself sharply and concisely, Lucian is not a wordsmith, at least certainly not at length. Amen, one might add, to that.

Because these are not reflections on the creative process, and far less an artist’s manifesto, the content is entirely personal. Back, you would think, to my original thesis, they’ll add nothing to our understanding of the artist’s work. All that is true, but artists are also people and we want to know at least something of their mundane life and relationships and you have it here in spades. Brevity comes once again to the rescue and the lack of prolixity (some visual thinkers don’t half go on once they get a pen in their hand) makes for a lively and entertaining read.

So, this is an account, partly in his own words and partly with a sound biographical framework, of Lucian Freud’s life below the artistic surface and of his relationships. It fills him out as a person perhaps more than anything else could and also more than we get for almost any other figure. Well done all round.

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Lucian Freud Herbarium || Giovanni Aloi

Lucian Freud is best known for his frequently visceral figurative paintings. That he also worked with natural subjects comes as something of a surprise. These works are by no means unknown, but they are certainly unfamiliar to the more general viewer and add a perspective to his more famous oeuvre.

There’s a worthwhile comparison with Don McCullin’s landscape photography, or Robert Mapplethorpe’s flowers. Both of these are from later in their creators’ careers, but require a knowledge of what went before to better understand the thought processes behind them. Freud didn’t come to flowers and plants late – these works appear throughout his life, but they nevertheless add a counterpoint to the bulk of his output.

Usefully, Giovanni Aloi includes a couple of the figure paintings to provide a starting point, and also a history of plants in art. I can’t help wondering, though, given the idiosyncratic nature of Freud’s work, whether this is strictly necessary. There are plenty of other books on that subject a general reader could approach if they felt it necessary. Nevertheless this, alongside the figurative recap, adds to the sense of completeness of the present volume.

Freud’s approach to plants is by no means lyrical and there is a sense of enquiry and investigation in his depictions. Although they are more directly representational than the figure work, the eye is uncompromising and the composition rarely straightforward – a sense of the surreal persists. Where figures and faces appear, they often appear questioning or even disturbed; the artist’s unflinching eye and attention to detail are always present.

This is a beautiful and intriguing book that adds a new dimension to one of the towering greats of British art of the Twentieth Century and does its subject more than ample justice.

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