Lucien Freud: Portraits

Yesterday, we drove over to view the Lucien Freud: Portraits exhibit at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth before the ends of its run on October 28.  It was one of the best exhibits I’ve seen.

Two Irishmen

While Freud’s technical capabilities usually did not compete with the subjects for attention, in some portraits they were breathtaking.  One piece, in particular, caught my attention: Two Irishmen in W11, 1984-5. Freud’s skills in showing the men’s faces was extraordinary, but I was absolutely awestruck at how he painted their suits! While the stylized brush strokes of the two faces and much of the background seemed almost abstract, their suits were painted  more carefully and precisely, almost like he painted every thread.  The wonderful but subtle contrast on the same canvas between the stylized presentation of the two men and the clothes they were wearing was exceptional.  What I found equally interesting was that the two very different styles on the same canvas did not seem out 0f  place; it was quite natural and added to the strength of the painting, I think.

Self Portrait: Reflections

Another portrait, and one that  I think is quite well-known (if for no other reason than the promotional pieces for the Fort Worth Modern exhibit), that I found quite compelling was one of his self-portraits, Reflections.  This one is one of many self-portraits that show Freud shirtless and seemingly absorbed in deep thought.  I don’t recall when he painted this, but I think it was during his middle age, possibly even younger (his year of birth and death were 1922 and 2011, respectively).

A number of the portraits in the Modern’s exhibition were, like a number of Freud’s portraits in general, of nude people from all walks of life.  Mostly, they were laying on couches or draped over chairs.

Standing by the Rags

Large Interior

None of them, in my view, was the least bit sexual; they were, instead, simply expressions of people as they really are, but through the eyes of a man who interpreted his subjects’ experience through his art. The piece, Standing in the Rags, to the left, is one such portrait that conveys (in my mind) mood and experience and acceptance of life’s path.

Another piece, one that inexplicably held me transfixed for a long time as I viewed it, was one (of several) entitled Large Interior; it’s the photo below, showing five children, four on a couch and one on the floor, looking almost in shock and in emotional pain, though one of them is playing a string instrument.

In addition to the Freud work, we wandered around a bit and saw several other pieces from the Modern’s permanent collection.  One set of photographs made by Nicholas Nixon, consists of forty photographs, taken annually, of the four Brown sisters (one of whom, if memory serves, is his wife), before the camera in the same order and with very similar expressions.  It was a wonderful set of photographs, showing how much time changed the four sisters, yet clearly showing how much they stayed the same.

For additional background on Freud, who was the grandson of Sigmund Freud, click here for an interesting obituary in the New York Times.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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2 Responses to Lucien Freud: Portraits

  1. Thanks for the heads-up; I’ll check to see if we can view the program.

  2. Carol Morgan says:

    They had a story on this very exhibition this morning, that I watched on one of my favorite television shows, CBS Sunday Morning. Fascinating stuff. They mentioned that there is a show titled “Freud’s Naked Truths” that features a behind-the-scenes footage of Freud in his studio. It airs tonight on the Smithsonian channel – 7:00pm

    http://www.smithsonianchannel.com/site/sn/show.do?show=142150

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