Lucian Freud: Portraits, National Portrait Gallery London
by Deniz CAGLAR
The German-born British artist Lucian Freud's exhibition at the "National Portrait Gallery" presents the artist's 70-year old career in a chronological order. It begins with Freud's sketchs displayed at the entrance; the major elements that make up his paintings, reminding me of Albrecht Dürer.
The retrospective enables one to clearly see the stages of change in the artist's style and technique from the early 1940s to his death in 2011. The small sized portraits painted with brush made of sable feathers from 1940’s, let themselves to Hoax feather brush strokes in the '60s. This makes the portraits turn into much more energetic, stronger ones with the change of the painting technique.
1980’s and 2000’s, are when the artist expresses himself with large-sized portraits. The figures in these paintings are his friends, lovers, and aristocratic people, whom he had emotional, psychological or even erotic relationship with. This one to one relationship with models is the main reason for his portraits to be as realistic and dramatic as they are. The second reason is, in classic portraits, the model would always make an eye contact with the artist in an unnatural environment, so that the artist could reflect his feelings to the painting better. In Freud's portraits eye contact with the model is very rare. Models face different points, which makes the portraits look more natural. In these autobiographical portraits, realist artist, Freud transfers people's inner soul, characteristics and even their weak points to the paintings. While visiting the exhibition, one feels as if these people are following him with their eyes.
At the large hall at the end of the exhibition, works from 1980’s to present are displayed. In here, the large paintings of fat women prototypes, from 1980’s are considered as one of the most important portraits of his career. I remember a recent Christie's auction, in 2008, which Freud’s work of "Benefits Supervisor Sleeping" from this collection had been sold to Roman Abramovich for $ 33 million. The works done in 90s and 2000s are more theatrical, more likely to have a monumental form. The artist again shoots out the most characteristic features of the models, with the expert use of light and shadow.