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Lucian Freud [Oct. 19th, 2008|10:52 am]
Tony Grist
I don't get Lucian Freud. Or, rather, I don't accept his reputation. He seems to me to be a perfectly decent, rather academic painter, for whom the 20th century might as well not have happened. He can't draw, his palette is limited, he doesn't understand light and he rarely moves beyond the studio. His schtick- big portraits and figure studies, heavily impastoed- is the same as Rembrandt's- and Rembrandt's been dead 300 years. Where Rembrandt flattered his sitters and had the trick of making them look soulful, Freud views his with an unforgiving eye. But he can afford to; the balance of power has shifted since Rembrandt's day,  the artist has the upper hand and Freud's patrons are so cowed by his reputation they'd feel short-changed if he went easy on them.  He painted Her Majesty the Queen as an ugly old crosspatch- and she let him, because he's a godlike artist and she's only an anachronism- though I'll bet she doesn't like the outcome. He does nudes too- blotchy, fleshly nudes- with the genitals prominently on display.  They're a kind of higly-respectable porn. I like them.

I don't want to knock him. He's OK. I don't doubt he's utterly devoted to his work. If his prices are stupid, it's because he's the perfect artist for the person who knows nothing about art, but likes to own it.  He's a living legend ( it helps that he's a notorious shagaholic- Like Picasso, like Augustus John) whose work is superficially daring - ooh, look genitals!- without being bewildering or confrontational.  His big, painterly oils are easy to live with. Put one on your wall and your dinner guests will recognise it for what it is, applaud your taste, and whistle through their teeth as they imagine the price tag.

There's an early Freud coming up for sale next week at Christies. It's an unfinished portrait of Francis Bacon- muddly-coloured, brooding- which makes its subject look like nothing so much as a rotten pear. They want £7,000,000 for it.   If the price isn't met, the art world will take it as a sign that the bottom is falling out of the market and great Troy's afire.

About time too, if you ask me.

From: sculptruth
2008-10-19 03:59 pm (UTC)
God, that article sounds like a self-fulfilling prophecy in the making!

We're opposite in opinion on this one; he's the least offensive to me of the artists I feel are the "perfect artists for the persons who know nothing about art" -- among my top offenders are Matthew Barney and Jeff Koons, both of whom I judge harshly for leaving the viewer outside the inside joke.

In contrast, I feel Freud does know light very well, and I consider him to be a masterful colour theorist. Not many people have the gift for making unflattering portraiture beautiful, and weirdly, he does. The only other realist I like more is John Currin, but that's because he takes his art so many steps further. His palette and subject matter is quite harsh these days; thin and pornographic. I haven't seen it yet, but he's making quite a buzz with it. I'm kneejerking a little in a way that tells me I'm bothered by his change in direction (oh god why? isn't porn the easy way out?) and that he's successful in it because I'm thinking about it.

I suppose in the end, that's the mark of an artist getting in.

Here's a good article about his recent work; it makes me feel I can kind of see his point. Almost.

Art market? Bah.

Edited at 2008-10-19 04:05 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-10-19 05:47 pm (UTC)
Currin is new to me.

I've had look at the article (thanks) and a quick browse through some of the images available online. My first reaction is that he's rather a sentimental artist, but certainly distinctive.

Searching for points of reference, my first thought was Fragonard- and my second was Norman Rockwell.

I don't(think I)like his porn stuff. It seems even more sentimental than what went before.
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From: sculptruth
2008-10-19 06:51 pm (UTC)
Yes, it is sentimental in a way. Whether sentimental about the act of painting or about his subject matter, I'm not sure. It certainly comes through when he's trying to verbalise a feeling about Europe while detaching himself from what he's painting. I think he must still be working some things through, philosophically. I love that moment in my own work, when I'm putting it out there yet working through the theory -- I'm kind of there myself right now.

Fragonard and Rockwell are very apt observations.

One thing Currin does have in magnitude is love of paint. When I stand in front of his work, I am truly overcome. Regardless of his subject matter, philosophies, what have you; his love and tender treatment of the medium really come through.

Edited at 2008-10-19 06:51 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-10-20 08:44 am (UTC)
Of course the way he handles his paint is something that doesn't come across in reproduction.

I'll be looking out for his work in future. I need to see more.

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From: algabal
2008-10-19 09:09 pm (UTC)
Good God, how many really fascinating works of art could one purchase with £7,000,000 distributed intelligently?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-10-20 08:58 am (UTC)
Yes, indeed.

I don't think Freud is rubbish, but that price is ridiculous. The art world is mad.
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