A Brief Background
Lucian Freud has a formidable reputation as one of Britain’s most powerful, contemporary figurative painters – and is one of the best in the world today.
His bold, rich and dynamic style through his use of paint and colour set his work apart. His paintings are never without intense realism and incredible attention to detail, which has won him several awards – one of the 1951 Festival of Britain awards for his stunning Interior at Paddington.
In the 1940s, Lucian Freud had a short career as a skilful and talented etcher. He moved away from the medium for over thirty years and became renowned as a great realist painter. In 1982, he returned to printmaking, creating portraits and studies of the naked figure that achieved a comparable power and intensity to his paintings while carrying their own special magnetism.
In my opinion Freud is a modern master who was even commissioned to paint the Queen; a honour he completed in 2001.
In his own words
Art is by its nature wrought, however convincing it is. It has to do with artifice, which means an artist's ability to convey feelings that aren't necessarily ones the artist has himself; otherwise the most remarkable artists would also be the most virtuous and extraordinary people. I mean to say, the character of the artist doesn't enter into the nature of the art. Eliot said that art is the escape from personality, which I think is right. We know that Velàzquez embezzled money from the Spanish court and wanted power and so on, but you can't see this in his art.
By this, I think Freud wanted to demonstrate what he perceived as the divide between art and artist, creator and creation. This implies that artists are but a channel
, translating powerful ideas into artistic creations. This was a view that was perhaps rare before Freud but he helped to promote it, and today some artists would agree that they are in a state of virtual helplessness, and are guided from outside during their greatest works.
Normally I underplay facial expression when painting the figure, because I want expression to emerge through the body. I used to do only heads, but came to feel that I relied too much on the face. I want the head, as it were, to be more like another limb.
This is another view that Freud endorsed, and again it is open to some debate. Freud argued that humans are so used to interpreting each other's facial expression
that it has become automatic, thus losing some of its power and impact. Deprived of such facial clues to understand expression, the viewer of such art is forced to, as Freud says, facial expression "emerging through the body".
I remember Francis Bacon would say that he felt he was giving art what he thought it previously lacked. With me, it's what Yeats called the fascination with what's difficult. I'm only trying to do what I can't do.
This quote speaks for itself. Freud was not interested in staying within his limits and producing art he knew would be accepted and popular. He wanted to push the limits of art and the limit
s of his own abilities. Thus one can see his style and abilities constantly evolving throughout his work.
I use the gallery as if it were a doctor. I come for ideas and help -- to look at situations within paintings, rather than whole paintings. Often these situations have to do with arms and legs, so the medical analogy is actually right. Do you know the old story about the strip-cartoon writer who goes on holiday? He leaves his hero chained up at the bottom of the sea with an enormous shark advancing from the left and a huge octopus approaching. And the man who takes over the job can't figure out how to get the hero out of danger, and after several sleepless nights, he finally sends a telegram to the writer, asking him what to do. And the telegram comes back: 'With one tremendous bound the hero is free.' Well, when I come here I'm looking for ways to get myself out of troubles that are self-made.
This shows Freud's approach to a gallery is rather different to that of many traditional artists, who would come for appreciation and more indirect inspiration
. Freud, by contrast, sees the works of other artist's on an altogether different level to the one on which they were actually created and, on this level, is able to lift ideas "to do with arms and legs" wholesale
and create vastly different pieces of work from them.
I don't use professional models because they have been stared at so much that they have grown another skin. When they take their clothes off, they are not naked; their skin has become another form of clothing.
I thought this was a good place to end this article, as it shows definitively how Freud sees life on a completely seperate level to many artists who came before him. In his paintings, he aims to capture true nudity, the unclad human form; the sense of exposure
and weakness is integral
to such an image and this cannot be capture from models for whom "skin has become another form of clothing."