Sunday, July 31, 2011

THE DREAMER HAS AWAKENED: Lucien Freud (1922-2011)

Lucien Freud,  one of England's finest and most expressive painters died a bit more than a week ago.  He was most well known for his portraits,  those searing clots of paint that reveal just as much about the artist as the sitter.  Within those paintings,  several scenarios slowly emerge.  Firstly,  the artist's touch,  a kind of wordless narrative whose fluid swipes create skeins of encrusted paint and start us on a risky ride,  that of  eventually derailing our vanity.  And lets face it,  for the painter vanity is an enormous part of this endeavor,  a kind of fetishistic insistence of self. Secondly,  his approach to figurative painting can be said to be confrontational,  not merely an idealized picture of some anonymous model.  This approach was in direct opposition to classical  models in both setting (simple, domestic interiors),  technique (thick impasto in seemingly rapid strokes),  scale (large canvases),  and models (often obese and aging women and men).  This loosening of brushwork and copious amounts of paint can be traced back to the influence of his friend and fellow painter Francis Bacon,  who insisted that the application of an impasto imbued the painting with life.  To this Freud added "paint is the person... I  want it to work for me just as flesh does". His deceptively quick brushstrokes were actually done with a studied deliberation that belied their seeming brutality. Like his grandfather Sigmund Freud,  Lucien's work also had a subtext pertaining to death,  in that his depiction of flesh,  while intensely visceral,  had in its brushwork an air of impermanence.  It was this refusal of vanity and acceptance of death that made his paintings so powerful,  and that is his gift to artists and viewers alike. 

1 comment:

  1. The average lay person, not acquainted with, nor knowledgeable about matters of art, can not help but feel a sense of awe when viewing the paintings of Lucien Freud. Of course this "awe" can be a sense horror for some; for others it evokes a deep, dark, chthonic instinct that arises from the groin instantly. One can be disgusted by his paintings or completely enthralled -in either case, the message is delivered.
    The true genius of Lucien Freud lies in the fact that embryonic humanity does not develop in beauty, grace or style but in blood, guts and flesh.