Lucien Freud was a man known for his obsessive attention to detail, and a longing to find the hidden, inner quanlities of a human being, sometimes staring at a sitter for hours before picking up a brush. In today's fast paced, camera phone society there is something to be said for the patience and dogged determination which fills each of Lucien Freuds portraits and it is possibly a talent lost on our current generation of artists which makes the Nationl Portrait Gallery's new exhibition even more important.
The last work of the late Lucian Freud goes on show for the first time at the most ambitious exhibition of the artist’s work for ten years, opening at the NPG, London on Thursday 9 February 2012, it includes Freud’s most important portraits begining with his work fromthe 1940s and providing an opportunity for visitors to see - for the first time - Portrait of the Hound 2011, the unfinished painting of Freud’s assistant David Dawson and his dog Eli. This was the portrait on which the artist was still working until shortly before his death on 20 July 2011.
With 130 paintings and works on paper loaned from museums and private collections throughout the world, Lucian Freud Portraits is the result of many years’ planning by the Gallery, in close partnership with the late Lucian Freud. The exhibition is the first to focus on his portraiture and is a countdown event for the London 2012 Festival – the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad.
Concentrating on particular periods and groups of sitters to show Freud’s stylistic development and technical virtuosity, the exhibition includes both iconic and rarely-seen portraits of the artist’s lovers, friends and family. Described by the artist as ‘people in my life’, these portraits have been selected to demonstrate the psychological drama and unrelenting observational intensity of his work.
Sitters represented in the exhibition include family members, particularly his mother Lucie, and artists such as Frank Auerbach, Francis Bacon, Michael Andrews, John Minton and David Hockney, and the performance artist Leigh Bowery. Bowery’s friend Sue Tilley, the ‘Benefits Supervisor’, who was immortalised by Freud in a series of monumental paintings in the 1990s, is also included. As well as major portraits of key muses such as Bowery, his mother and family, the exhibition highlights the recurring importance of the self-portrait in Freud’s work.
Others exhibited sitters include photographer Harry Diamond, Deborah, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, Andrew Parker Bowles, Baron Rothschild, Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza and Francis Wyndham.
Loans have been drawn from private collections and museums worldwide including Tate, MOMA New York, Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, British Council and Art Institute of Chicago.
Lucian Freud Portraits is curated by Sarah Howgate, the National Portrait Gallery’s Curator of Contemporary Portraits, whose previous exhibitions include David Hockney Portraits, a retrospective of the artist’s works at the National Portrait Gallery, London, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
LUCIAN FREUD PORTRAITS
From 9 February until 27 May 2012
National Portrait Gallery, London
Admission £14. Concessions £13 / £12
www.npg.org.uk or telephone 0844 248 5033