March 08, 2010 15:06


By Tatyana Franck

Jean Clair described Lucian Freud’s work as “assimilated German painting in the 1920s, English painting in the 1930s and, from that point on, he made Freud." When I organized an exhibition of his paintings at Beaubourg, it was greeted with sarcasm! ".
Today, it is no longer a question of contempt ... the grandson of the foundering father of psychoanalysis follows Pierre Soulages, the Pope of the “L’outre noir”, at The Pompidou Center, and is now considered, since the death of Francis Bacon as the greatest living portrait painter and "the master of contemporary pictorial complexion”.

Contrary to contemporary artistic movements, Lucian Freud has for many years produced his paintings in the isolation of his studio, becoming one with the subject, and in intense observation of those around him ... That's the theme of the second Beaubourg exhibition devoted to the artist, for which the museum was able to compile 50 paintings.

"I paint what I see, not what you want me to see"

If light is the language of painting, the body is Lucian Freud’s text. His paintings are violently real, thick, cold and cadaverous as though Thanatos has overcome Eros. The light is harsh, even clumsy, but the flesh is analyzed with a scalpel. His portraits are a sort of aesthetic autopsy, yet hardly aesthetic.
The intimate portraits by Lucian Freud, painted in deliberately tortured positions, illustrate his vision without artificially highlighting overexposed and deformed parts of the body. The uniqueness of his work is largely due to the careful and almost obsessive presentation of the nude: "I want the painting to be flesh” ... and the portrait: "For me painting is the person." Freud speaks of a "particular deformation" he obtains through meticulous observation and work. His mother, for example, has undergone "more than 2,000 sittings”.
Lucian Freud, Leigh under the Skylight, 1994, oil on canvas, 271 x 121 cm. Private collection. Photo by John Riddy. © Lucian Freud
After agreeing to undergo the long ritual of hundreds of hours of posing, Elizabeth II had the right to only one very small painting, at the occasion of her Golden Jubilee in 2001. This portrait, showing the The Queen with a stiff head, was a complete scandal. While the director of the National Portrait Gallery described it as "emotionally powerful", the Daily Telegraph accused it of being "extremely unflattering" and the Sun as a "travesty". Consciously or unconsciously, Lucian Freud committed a "crime of leze majesty" which was not a missed note. We are far removed from Victorian England, and also the portraits of kings Henry VIII by Holbein and Charles I by Van Dyck. This is known as renewing a genre…
Lucian Freud, Queen Elizabeth II, 2001, oil on canvas, 23 x 15 cm
Huis-clos and the workshop
The exhibition at the Pompidou Center opens on March 8th and is organized around the theme of the artist’s studio. In an area of over 900 m2, it brings together the large main compositions by the painter called Large Interiors, variations on old masters, a series of self portraits and the recent and impressive portraits of Leigh Bowery or Big Sue (entitled Benefits supervisor sleeping), considered as one of the painter’s masterpieces.
The studio theme carries with it the metaphor of painting: the huis-clos between the painter and his model, the representation of reality, the process of creation ... Nothing original for the curators of Beaubourg since it was already the subject of the Giacometti exhibition in 2008. One can nevertheless note that the workshop plays a particularly important role in the world of Lucian Freud. His successive studio addresses have been noted in his titles and  dates (w11, w9), from the Paddington where he settled in 1943 for thirty years until the loft in Holland Park and finally his home in Notting Hill. What beautiful places!

Working at Night, 2005, photograph, 56,7 x 76 cm © David Dawson, courtesy of Hazlitt Holland-Hibbert, LondonWorking at Night, 2005, photograph, 56,7 x 76 cm © David Dawson, courtesy of Hazlitt Holland-Hibbert, London

In his studio, Lucian Freud installs his models according to specific stagings, using furniture and rare studio objects, recurring accessories and recognizable compositions: green plants, warped sofas, worn-out chairs, iron beds, sinks, walls splattered with paint.
Admirer, 2004-2005, photograph, 59 x 76 cm © David Dawson, courtesy of Hazlitt Holland-Hibbert, Londres
If any theme at all resonates, it’s the figurative exposure of the artist – the self-portraits and the revisitation of the masters. In recent years, Lucian Freud has been inspired by other artists. In this section, the ensemble of the work - etchings, drawings, paintings - recall many selected paintings, L’après-midi à Naples by Cezanne, a study Constable's bust, a Picasso drawing or even La Maîtresse d’école by Chardin.
Precious graphic documents and photographs complement the exhibition. The visit of the exhibition concludes with the presentation of two films: Small Gestures in Bare Rooms by Tim Meara, 2010 (10 ', color, 16mm), a silent and slow presentation of the Holland Park studio, and the film by David Dawson, the artist’s assistant, showing Lucian Freud in his workshop, (5 '). The last room shows a set of photographs of the artist's studio by David Dawson. 
Lucian Freud, the corporal psychoanalyst
Lucian Freud is a portraitist, whether he’s painting human beings or objects, flowers and materials. The power of Lucian Freud’s painting is found in his balance of closely supervised distance and intimacy. He’s painted many friends, his many wives and countless children, including fashion designer Bella Freud, the writer Esther Freud or the artist Jan McAdam Freud.

The strength and complexity of his self-portraits reveal a tension between reflexivity and ironic distancing. The artist affirms that "in order to represent himself, he must try to paint as if he were someone else. In the self-portrait, resemblance is something else. I must paint what I feel without falling into expressionism.”


Lucian Freud, Reflection with Two Children (Self-Portrait), 1965, oil on canvas, 91 x 91cm. Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemiska. Photo © José Loren, Museo Thyssen-Bornemiska, Madrid © Lucian Freud

As for the question "Is the painting of Lucian Freud Freudian?" One critic said that his technique was certainly very "anal". His favorite author is Franz Kafka. According to his mother, the first words he uttered were "alien" and "leave me alone".

Raised in Berlin, Lucian Freud said to have crossed Hitler ... His family left Germany for England in 1933. Now aged 88, the artist lives happily in London.
Lucian Freud, L'Atelier du 10 mars au 19 juillet 2010, Galerie 2, niveau 1
Centre National d’Art Contemporain Georges Pompidou
19, rue Beaubourg 75004 Paris
Métro 11 Rambuteau ou Hôtel de Ville, Métro 1 Hôtel de Ville, Bus 29 , Bus 38 , Bus 47 , Bus 69 , Bus 72 , Bus 96
Tlj sf le mar de 11h à 21h.

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