Journeys appear to be an enduring and ever-intriguing theme for Gladwell & Patterson this December. As our ‘Journeys’ exhibition continues at Beauchamp Place, I embarked upon quite a different journey into the life and work of Lucian Freud (1922-2011) at The National Gallery's exhibition ‘Lucian Freud: New Perspectives’.
I have always been intrigued by Freud’s work and have always wondered whether there are any similarities between him and his grandfather Sigmund Freud’s work. At the core of Lucian Freud’s work is the concept of relationships, whether that be with himself, his friends, his lovers, his body or even his work. Stepping out of The National Gallery’s exhibition, I get the impression that Lucian Freud was as curious, and perhaps, tormented by humanity as was his grandfather.
It is clear from Freud’s early works that he was greatly influenced by German Expressionism and Surrealism. The ever-so-sharp and intense eyes which Freud depicts within his figures during his early career completely drew me into the painting. It was quite difficult pulling myself away from these early works, and we were only in the first room!
The curators of ‘Lucian Freud: New Perspectives’ have done a tremendous job of creating an exhibition which showcases the full scope of an artist’s oeuvre while also elevating the key themes of the artist’s work. As I moved into the next few rooms, Freud's brushstrokes became looser and his style evolved from some-what cartoon-like to multi-layered works of art. Freud's application of paint within his portraits is astounding, just take a look at his self-portrait!
Although Freud’s artistic and technical journey was considerably discussed and showcased within The National Gallery’s exhibition, it is clear to the viewer that a much more intimate journey took place within the artist himself.
It seemed to me as though Freud’s painting became more and more obsessed with the depiction of bodies; our skin and bones. Whether the work features a singular body or two bodies, Freud’s work appears to become much more interested in the depiction of 'real' bodies towards the end of his career and life than at the beginning. Freud’s portraits decorate the walls of several rooms as you begin your journey within the exhibition. These portraits, while magnificent, offer a zoomed-in snapshot of the sitter and the viewer is only allowed a glance at the sitter from the shoulders up.
However, as the viewer wanders through the rooms, these depictions become larger and larger and Freud becomes much more confident in his portrayal of the human body. Those flaws which we are often led to believe are unflattering are thrust into the spotlight of Freud’s canvases. Through Freud’s realist detail, those individual details quickly become a thing of beauty.
Overall, the journey the viewer can take through The National Gallery's exhibition mirrors that of aging. As Lucian Freud aged, his relationships and interactions with those around him changed, his attitude towards his body developed, and of course his artistic technique evolved. Of course, this takes place within us all. To admire Freud's full artistic oeuvre is to gain a much more intimate gaze into the human mind and body.
As the first major show of Freud’s work in a decade, I highly recommend taking a trip to The National Gallery to enjoy this beautifully curated exhibition. Perhaps you too will find a ‘new perspective’ on one of Britain’s leading 20th Century portraitists.
'Lucian Freud: New Perspectives' is on display at The National Gallery until 22nd January 2023. To book tickets, please visit https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/exhibitions/the-credit-suisse-exhibition-lucian-freud-new-perspectives.