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Tony Grist

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Lucian Freud: Painted Life [Feb. 19th, 2012|11:35 am]
Tony Grist
Lucian Freud was pond life. Artists often are. I suspect we'd find (if we had more information) that Titian was pond life too. It's expected. And condoned. Last night's fawning doc about his life and work invited us to smile indulgently at the mountainous gambling debts, the abandoned kids, the way he had his wife go sit in the corner with her face to the wall while he ate the meal she'd prepared for him. He loved animals and painted people as if that's all they were. 

I've always liked his work. It has an intensity. Especially the early stuff. His current fame perplexes me. His meaty nudes remind me of Schiele and even more of Stanley Spencer- and yes, they're impressive and painterly, but I can't see what's so original about them. I'd go further. I think they're distinctly old-fashioned. He was always inclined to theatricality (as was pointed out, then swiftly discounted in the film)  arranging people in contorted poses and elaborate tableaux that could never exist outside the studio. I note that he admired Rodin (I spotted at least two Rodin bronzes in his living room) and while Rodin was definitely a master he was also a bombastic, hollow-hearted, old faker.

Freud was under-rated for much of his career, then elevated by the market into a grand maitre whose work now sells for tens of millions. He ticks boxes. He's easy for the rich to understand. By the end of his career he was servicing high society- painting people like Kate Moss, Andrew Parker-Bowles and Elizabeth Windsor- flattering them by not flattering them, if you see what I mean.  I expect his reputation to fall again- and eventually settle somewhere in the second division- ahead of fellow pond-lifer Augustus John, abreast of his old mucker Francis Bacon and well below Spencer and Hockney.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-02-19 08:50 pm (UTC)
I think that's a wholly understandable reaction.
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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2012-02-19 02:02 pm (UTC)
Perhaps Schiele-esque, but Schiele was a vastly superior artist.

Have you actually stood before a casting of the Gates of Hell?
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[User Picture]From: lblanchard
2012-02-19 02:39 pm (UTC)
We have one in Philadelphia, I think -- as the entrance to the Rodin Museum, which boasts the largest collection of Rodin castings outside Paris.
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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2012-02-19 05:34 pm (UTC)
Larger than the collection at Stanford?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-02-19 08:39 pm (UTC)
I've been to the Rodin Museum in Philly. I guess it must have been in 1975.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-02-19 08:37 pm (UTC)
I agree about Schiele.

I believe I have seen a casting of the Gates of Hell, but it's a long time ago.
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[User Picture]From: michaleen
2012-02-20 12:37 pm (UTC)
There is one at Stanford. My then wife worked at Stanford Med, just across the street, so I would often stop by, often with a book. Behind the Gates, on the other side of the wall, was the Stanford museum, which included the Golden Spike. I always found it curiously appropriate.

Anyway, The Gates of Hell is a remarkably impressive piece, probably my favorite bronze of all time.
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[User Picture]From: lblanchard
2012-02-19 02:38 pm (UTC)
I googled him. God, his stuff is ugly. I much prefer Nelson Shanks. Who as far as I can tell is NOT pond life, although I can attest that he can be a little irascible.
[edited to correct typo]

Edited at 2012-02-19 03:33 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-02-19 08:42 pm (UTC)
Thanks for introducing me to Shanks. I hadn't seen his work before.
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[User Picture]From: internet_sampo
2012-02-19 02:50 pm (UTC)
A very good point. Vanity Fair had an article on him a few months ago and it tried very hard to make him likable.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-02-19 08:45 pm (UTC)
People do seem to have been fond of him, so he can't have been wholly obnoxious.
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[User Picture]From: aellia
2012-02-19 06:56 pm (UTC)
The weirdest bit,for me, was him having his daughters pose for some nude paintings. No wonder their faces was painted in a bright shade of red.
x
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-02-19 08:48 pm (UTC)
:)

Yes, I found that weird too.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-02-21 09:21 am (UTC)
His people are dead behind the eyes.
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[User Picture]From: sina_says
2012-02-20 03:14 pm (UTC)
What do you mean by the phrase "pond life"? Is this a Brit-ism I'm not familiar with? Google is of no help here.

re: Freud. Yes. Pretty much what you said, though I'm not so sure about the Schiele.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2012-02-21 09:22 am (UTC)
I suppose it must be a Britishism. It's another, more colourful, way of saying "scum".
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