Despite dissociating his work from his grandfather Sigmund Freud, figurative painter Lucian Freud (1922-2011) established an extensive rapport with his subjects that bears a striking similarity to the psychoanalytic method. Freud’s subjects were required to pose for long, strenuous, uninterrupted hours, months at a time, with as little interaction as possible with the outside world. During these intense one-on-one sessions, meals were cooked, life stories recounted, and jokes shared, allowing Freud to fully scrutinise and psychologically penetrate his subjects within a profusion of situations; when tired, drunk, bored, or laughing. Due to the intimate nature of his work, Freud’s subjects were initially limited to his friends, family, and lovers; as reflections on individuals he shared deep and complex relationships with. However, he later painted a variety of prominent figures, who underwent similar laborious sitting processes, from Kate Moss to the Queen of England.
Originally a Berliner, Freud and his Jewish family fled to London after Hitler’s rise to power in 1933. Educated at Goldsmiths College London from 1942-43, Freud prematurely terminated his studies to join the Merchant Navy during the World War. Freud produced a remarkable number of works over a 60-year period, continuing to paint daily, well into his late ’80s. He is often considered to be one of the greatest portraitists of the 20th century. Placed within the tradition of Expressionism, Freud is also often considered in dialogue with his friend, and fellow London figurative painter, Francis Bacon, as both realist artists shared a similar appreciation for the grotesque.
While consistently realist, Freud’s style matures by the 1950s, becoming characteristically dynamic, expressive, and attentive to the unflattering contortions of the flesh. Indeed, Freud is infamously known as an unflattering portraitist. He is also celebrated for maintaining the relevance of painting in contemporary art, as Freud disbands depictions of idealised female nudity. Instead, he prefers to paint sagging breasts, protruding stomachs and women splaying out their legs in intimate positions. His nude subjects were often depicted against bare interiors, textiles, and uncomfortably close to dogs, building a contrast that exaggerated the unwieldiness of the human body.
For the first time in Berlin, Martin Gropius Bau’s exhibition ‘Lucian Freud: Closer’, curated by Mary Rozell, will show 51 of Freud’s etchings, alongside three of his paintings. While mostly known as a painter, Freud also preoccupied himself with etching later into his career, revisiting the practise after he abandoned it in his youth. The medium, free from the demand of gravitational contextualising, enables Freud to purely focus on the subject. Freud’s usual interiors and textiles are entirely absent. Only the individual remains, depicted through monochrome line work. On loan from the UBS Art Collection, ‘Lucian Freud: Closer’ will run from the 22nd of July to the 22nd of October, 2017, and will allow the viewer to glimpse Freud’s attempt to capture skin, honesty, and the psyche on metal.