I recently went to see the Lucian Freud Portraits exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery. Wow! Intense, raw paintings that reflected his relationship to his sitters. I actually quite liked his early portraits that were very flat in dimension and lacking perspective in a stylised way. He painted the eyes of the faces quite large and dominant in the frame. But in most cases looking away, or 'blankly' towards the painter. This created for me a disturbing yet intriguing relationship between the viewer of the painting, me, and the personality of the person he is trying to portray. When we look at portraits or a picture of a person, we tend to look at the eyes first to connect in some way. Not being able to do that created a whole new approach of portraiture that I do not see often. Their eyes were wide, but not allowing a connection. The faces were rarely smiling and this one is a great example.
As he developed his specific style over the years, he began to represent the face and figure like "another species of animal" in a very raw style, rather than an object of beauty. Additionally explained in the booklet we were given, "Freud was interested in people as animals, observing that without clothes, human beings reveal their basic instincts and desires" which I think really summarised his approach to whom he chose to paint and how to portray them. Freud divided the critics in that respect.
He and Francis Bacon were very close friends and I could see the influence on each others portraits. So often in art, painted figures are shown as soft, supple forms and as a beautiful object to admire. So it was dramatic and refreshing to see raw personality of his subjects come through a work of art so powerfully.
One of Freud's paintings, "Benefits Supervisor Sleeping" sold for £17.2 million in 2008 through Christies in New York. The painting held the world record for the highest price paid for a painting by a living artist!
Quite a few of his paintings are painted over several years. He never really used photography as an aide to paint from like many other painters. He wanted to capture the person in the flesh and portrayed his relationship to that subject on the canvas whether it be family members, strangers or close friends. A quote by him, "What do I ask of a painting? I ask it to astonish, disturb, seduce, convince." And that's what any artist wants whether it be a painting, a photograph or a film or piece of CG artwork.
So on that note, I want to put that age old question back to you: What do you think art should do? Let me know by replying to this post!