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Lucian Freud

27th January 2010
Frank Woodgate
, art historian and lecturer on modern art at the Tate Galleries in London

Click here for photos of the evening!

This was the third in the series of evening lectures arranged by Dorothy at the Grosvenor Museum Chester.  In spite of the previously difficult weather conditions, a large gathering of NADFAS members and their friends greatly enjoyed another of Frank Woodgate’s polished gems. 

One of three sons of wealthy German/Jewish parents who came to Britain in 1933 and grandson of Sigmund, Lucian Freud was influenced first by the German Movement and by Cedric Morris of the East Anglian School of Painting and Design. His early painting of Morris and his first recognised exhibit “The Painter’s Room” provided evidence of the early thin application of paint and vivid colour. It contrasts strongly with the increasingly thick impasto layers of typically muted colour and visible hog's hair brushwork in later work. It facilitated his fascination with the portrayal of flesh in bulk. From the outset he showed his talent for line and colour. The grouping of objects in strange juxtaposition and the inclusion of himself by some means to suggest personal involvement, or an autobiographical approach are constants. It could be his shadow, reflection, his paint encrusted studio wall, a subject reclining on his used paint rags or the city landscape seen from his studio window in the background.  Self portraits throughout his life recorded his developing style as well as his own ageing personality and are amongst the most unconventional pieces.                                                                                     

Freud’s most successful works are of the people in his life; his several wives, lovers and children, friends and fellow painters like Francis Bacon.  “The Benefits Supervisor” sold by auction for over thirty three million dollars, was a world record by a living artist.  Portraits of the Queen and other commissioned pictures have been less well received.   Many portraits, especially those of his wives and lovers, seem to reflect the depth of emotion which one might imagine in a close relationship with such an artist. The personal involvement, sensuality and not a little angst are evident.  Freud’s models tolerate seven hour sessions, often in uncomfortable sprawling positions.  The subject receives the same degree of care and attention as the plant, the pet, the wall and other parts of the composition. It was heartening to hear that a sitting would end with a sumptuous meal of game and champagne.  

“I paint people,” Freud is reputed to have said, “not because of what they are like, not exactly in spite of what they are like, but how they happen to be”.  Freud is said to have “painted to astonish, disturb, seduce and convince”.   The talk communicated all this and more. Frank Woodgate’s depth of knowledge, familiarity with his subject and engaging humorous style made it a delightful evening. Obviously there is a very large body of work including cityscapes, plant studies, interiors and of course more portraits yet to be seen and a great deal to read but we learned enough in one very enjoyable hour to stimulate further interest.  

Thank you so very much Dorothy, for arranging it. Norma King