In Pictures: See Inside the Anxious, Twisted World of Lucian Freud in a Major Retrospective at London’s National Portrait Gallery

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The National Gallery in London will bring together a selection rarely seen paintings by Lucian Freud for a major retrospective opening next month that marks the 100th anniversary of the artist’s birth.

The show is considered one of the most significant surveys of the late British painter’s life and career in more than decade. Among the 65 works on view are portraits of Freud’s fellow artists Francis Bacon, David Hockney, and Frank Auerbach, as well as a small portrait of the late Queen Elizabeth II, which Freud painted in 2000-2001, and is the first official loan from King Charles and the Royal Collection.

Lucian Freud, the grandson of the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, was born in Berlin in 1922 and raised largely in the U.K., where he would become known as one of its leading, and most controversial, painters. 

A gallery staff member looks at (R) by British artist Lucian Freud during a photocall for the upcoming “Lucian Freud: New Perspectives” exhibition at the National Gallery in London on September 26, 2022. Photo by NIKLAS HALLE’N/AFP via Getty Images.

Early on, Freud immersed himself in Surrealism—a psychologically-driven movement closely associated with the work of his grandfather. With his style later trending toward realism and figuration, Freud developed a method of painting that was uniquely his own, imbuing bodies with twisted and convoluted facial expressions ranging from the bizarre to the straight-up uncanny.

His canvases, layered thick with impastoed figures conveying intense discomfort and anxiety, became the perfect motif for a British society coming to terms with its role in the post-war world order. 

, 1987-88 by Freud, Lucian (1922-2011); National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh; Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, UK; © National Galleries of Scotland.

Freud’s legacy has without a doubt had a profound and lasting impact on the art market, too, albeit in a rather haphazard way. After he died, his bookie (Freud was a notorious gambling addict) owned more than $100 million dollars worth of the artist’s work. 

In 2008, Freud’s Benefits Supervisor Sleeping (1995), portrait of civil servant Sue Tilley, sold for $33.6 million, what was then the highest price ever recorded by a living artist; and, in 2015, his painting The Brigadier (2004), sold for $34.89 million. 

The retrospective at the National Gallery, which opens October 1, will coincide with a show at Gagosian’s London outpost that brings together works by Freud, alongside those by artists he knew, including Francis Bacon, Frank Auerbach, Michael Andrews, and the photographer Bruce Bernard. 

See below for more images from the show.

The media display of the British artist Lucian Freud’s exhibition “Lucian Freud: New Perspectives” held at the National Gallery in London on September 26, 2022. Photo by Rasid Necati Aslim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

Lucian Freud, The Refugees, 1940-41. © The Lucian Freud Archive. All Rights Reserved 2022 / Bridgeman Images

Lucian Freud, 1940-41. © The Lucian Freud Archive. All Rights Reserved 2022 / Bridgeman Images.

The media display of the British artist Lucian Freud’s exhibition “Lucian Freud: New Perspectives” held at the National Gallery in London on September 26, 2022. Photo by Rasid Necati Aslim/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images.

Lucian Freud, Painter and Model, 1986-87. Private Collection. © The Lucian Freud Archive. All Rights Reserved 2022/ Bridgeman Images

Lucian Freud, , 1986-87. Private Collection. © The Lucian Freud Archive. All Rights Reserved 2022/ Bridgeman Images.

Gallery staff pose next to paintings by Lucian Freud (L-R) – , 1954; , 1954, and Girl in Bed, 1952 – on show at a photocall for the Credit Suisse exhibition – Lucian Freud: New Perspectives at the National Gallery in London. Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images.

Lucian Freud, The Painters Room, 1944, © The Lucian Freud Archive. All Rights Reserved 2022 / Bridgeman Images.

Lucian Freud, , 1944. Private collection. © The Lucian Freud Archive. All Rights Reserved 2022 / Bridgeman Images.

A gallery staff member poses next to a painting by Lucian Freud –, 1956-7, his portrait of artist Elinor Bellingham-Smith (1906-88) – on show at a photocall for the Credit Suisse exhibition – Lucian Freud: New Perspectives at the National Gallery in London. Picture date: Monday September 26, 2022. Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images.

“Lucian Freud: New Perspectives” is on view from October 1 through January 2023 at the National Gallery in London. The National Gallery will be offering tickets Friday evenings for as low as £1 each. 

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