Lucian Freud’s Portraits

I recently viewed the art of Lucian Freud at the Ft. Worth Modern Museum of Art.  The exhibit does not tour anywhere else in the USA so it’s a rare opportunity to see a large collection of Freud’s work. 

Here’s my abbreviated impression of the Lucian Freud exhibit: 

Freud’s paintings of the human body offer more skin tones than I ever imagined.  The portraits do not attempt to take the viewer to some other place; there is no glorification of the body.  Many of the painted subjects are over weight, out of shape and old.  While I do not sense an assault on age, Freud’s eye does not spare the effects of time on a human body.  Wrinkles, surface veins, dark eyes, sagging breasts or testicles all receive an equal unforgiving examination.  His self portraits undergo the same level of scrutiny.

The portraits relied on live sitters and not photographs.  This seems to result in reserved facial expressions.  After thinking about the exhibition for a few days, the faces reminded me of those you might see at a Grey Hound Bus Station.  Imagine the faces of people being told their bus is running 6 hours late and there was no where they could go, no complaints could be made,  nothing they could do, no TV, no book to read, no conversation to strike up.  The portraits seem lost in an inner space that seems familiar.  But there are a few portraits in the exhibit with semi-smiles.  Maybe the expressions occurred when random memories floated through the sitter’s minds as they sat somewhere in a moment between now and then?

I don’t think Lucian Freud cares how others interpret his art.  He painted what he saw.  Those who see the exhibit will think about the human body in more ways than before they entered the museum.


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