But the stunning exhibition of his work at the National Portrait Gallery has given me everything I need to become a fan for life. Porcelain skin and taut muscles, a palette of subtle flesh tones, and renditions that reflect each sitters relationship with the artist left me mesmerized. And only when I realized that each work took Freud months and even years of sittings, did it dawn on me that each painting is the accumulated bond formed with the artist during those long hours of work.
Hotel Bedroom, 1954 depicts Freud’s second wife Caroline Blackwood, whose apparent innocence is a far cry from his guarded, shadowy expression. Their marriage broke up soon after.
Freud demanded that each of his models be patient, and have a rich inner life they could retract to. He painted people he was close to and mostly stark naked. But even when looking at his most provocative nude, I don’t see the sexuality but only the landscape of the skin and the expression of the face. And it doesn’t matter whether the nude is male or female because he painted them with the same poignancy. And it shows.
If it wasn’t the last week of the exhibition, I would go back again. Even though each painting can only be seen through the gaps that other visitors leave me. Still, it is an experience worth every twist and crane of the head.
And my absolute favorite, taken by Freud’s assistant David Dawson.
Lucian Freud: Portraits
Upto 27 May 2012
National Portrait Gallery