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Lucian Freud

British  •  1922-2011

Biography

Renowned for his unflinching observations, Lucian Freud is considered one of the greatest figurative artists. He pushed the boundaries of decorum in terms of classical portraiture and nudes in order to explore his lifelong concern to honestly render the human figure, in what he called his "naked portraits."

In his paintings, Freud's layers of impasto jabs of paint create a surprisingly delicate, translucent depiction of flesh, while his etchings employ an economy of line that implies the figure more than it illustrates it. Charismatic but irascible, Freud worked only from sitters that he knew, consistently focusing on translating his direct perceptions. The resulting portraits are redolent with a stark and evocative psychological intensity, underpinned by an unexpected tenderness towards the subject.

Insights

  • Lucian Freud is the grandson of Sigmund Freud, the pioneer of psychoanalysis. Born in Berlin on 8 December 1922 and dying in London on 20 July 2011, Freud had moved to Britain in 1933 with his parents after Hitler came to power.

  • According to critic Robert Hughes, Freud's "basic pigment for flesh is Cremnitz white, an inordinately heavy pigment which contains twice as much lead oxide as flake white and much less oil medium that other whites."

"I want paint to work as flesh...my portraits to be of the people, not like them. Not having a look of the sitter, being them...As far as I am concerned the paint is the person. I want it to work for me just as flesh does."

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