British artist, Lucian Freud died yesterday at the age of 88. He came out of that post-war era when art started getting really gritty and distorted. More psychological, I guess? Francis Bacon, who was a friend of Freud’s, is another that comes to mind.
Dan, at the Empty Easel blog wrote that Freud painted with such tremendous detail that his interest wasn’t in beauty, but of the harshness of his subjects. To reveal the harshness of life. Some of his subjects weren’t all that pretty to begin with ( I could do without the lumpy, overweight nudes), but it certainly pulled the plug on all idealism in portraiture.
Freud once said that he painted people “how they happen to be.” Given that many of his sitters were friends and “intimates” (as the New York Times obituary described them), I wonder if any of that detail was a translation of love or at least, a fondness. Like the way Tom would say about Degas or Rodin, how their connection to the subjects showed in the work.
It took while to break through in the States. The New York Times recounted this in his obituary:
Mr. Freud remained deeply unfashionable in the United States for many decades, but in 1987 the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington exhibited his work in a show that no New York museum would take on. This was a watershed event. After Mr. Hughes proclaimed him, in the exhibition catalog and in Time magazine, “the greatest living realist,” a Freud cult soon developed.
Interesting how much stark realism (or total lack thereof) people prefer to find in the art they see.