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Event Item: 00085
Lucian Freud at the Haag
Exhibition: 16th Feb 2008 to 8th Jun 2008
German-born British painter Lucian Freud (b. 1922) is famous around the world for his intimate and revealing portraits and nudes. With his keen eye and highly personal approach, he lays bare the hidden feelings and thoughts of his subjects. The aim is not to achieve any superficial or flattering likeness, but to reveal the essence of the subject's inner being. The results are impressive and extremely private portraits of vulnerable individuals.

Lucian Freud, grandson of psychiatrist Sigmund Freud, was born in Berlin in 1922. He moved with his parents to London in the thirties and in 1939 acquired British nationality. Following his training in London and East Anglia, he quickly became friends with Francis Bacon, with whom he was to be one of the founders of the 'London School'. In 1954, together with Bacon and Ben Nicholson, he represented Britain at the Venice Biennale. Ever since then, he has been regarded as one of Britain's greatest living artists.

Through into the 1950s, Freud worked in a flat, schematic style that seemed to leave little room for personal interpretation. In the late '50s, however, he abandoned his precious sable brushes in favour of broader hog's hair ones and started to work on his feet rather than sitting down. The change had a major impact on his style: his work became looser, with a heavier impasto, more voluptuous models and more use of light and shadow. He uses this highly distinctive new style to depict his models in merciless detail. His view of the world leaves no room for sentimentality or embarrassment. Sagging bellies, wrinkles, bags under the eyes, double chins and folds - nothing about his models escapes him. Yet his pictures are by no means a mechanical reproduction of what he sees before him; they are autonomous works of art created not with the aim of achieving a mere likeness, but rather to create a portrait of what the subject actually is. And Freud is merciless not just to other people, but also to himself. When he heard that two of his incisors would have to go, he immediately started planning a 'self portrait without front teeth'.
Lucian Freud asks a great deal of his models. They have to pose many times, at frequent intervals and for long periods. Because he believes that the subject influences the whole world around them, they have to be present and in the right pose even when Freud is working on a completely different part of the canvas. His subjects are often people close to him: friends, family, fellow-artists, children or lovers. As a result, his portraits and nudes possess an extraordinary intensity. For example, Night Portrait, Face Down, painted in 1999/2000, is an intense depiction of a naked woman slumped on her belly across a bed. She lies with her eyes closed, entirely at the mercy of the artist's gaze.

Classical tradition
At a time when abstraction and minimalism reigned supreme, Freud remained faithful to his realistic manner of painting, in which both form and subject were rooted deeply in the classical tradition. His heroes were masters of the past like Chardin, Constable and Frans Hals. It was not until the 1980s, with the revival of interest in figurative painting, that his work began to be internationally appreciated. Around that time, his paintings tended to be increasingly large and therefore monumental. His 1994 portrait Leigh under the Skylight shows a corpulent man seen from a low angle - a classical nude, but big, rough and impressive. The memorable female nude Standing by the Rags, painted in 1988/89 and on loan from the Tate Gallery, will also be on show at the Gemeentemuseum.

Gemeentemuseum, Stadhouderslaan 41, 2517 HV Den Haag.
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