Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Lucien Freud in New York

Lucien Freud in New York

Lucien Freud, one of my favorite living artists, currently has a gallery show in NYC. Jes and I are going to Connecticutt for the holidays, but as the show ends on the 20th, I doubt I'll get a chance to see it. Pity.

Mr. Freud, who turns 84 today, seems relatively hunkered down and housebound. In a sense the reality of figurative painting itself has always been Mr. Freud’s primary subject. Sexuality, while not absent, is certainly not on display, much less acted out. His best paintings make palpable the claustrophobia of the studio and its harsh light, the dead weight of the people posing and their inscrutable thoughts or blank minds, and the continuous effort on the painter’s part to get things right.
The main influence has always seemed to be Cézanne. Although painted in a heavier hand, the faceted surfaces of Mr. Freud’s bodies have a similar built-up point by point articulation. As in Cézanne, the planes of the floor or the wall heave forward unexpectedly; the coverlet on a bed can form into landscapes. The struggle for resolution can be especially agitated around the faces of Mr. Freud’s female nudes, which are sometimes so overworked they seem almost battered. This may be why his portraits of men are often his strongest works.

If you are so lucky as to be in NYC now, and enjoy contemporary figurative realism, you should check this out.

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