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The Modern to Host Major Show by the Late Lucian Freud

by Jerome Weeks 31 Aug 2011 9:46 AM

The great British painter died in July, but he’ll be coming to Fort Worth in a major retrospective of his portrait paintings. THIS WILL BE THE ONLY U.S. VENUE.


Lucian Freud, Reflection with Two Children (Self-Portrait), 1965

A major exhibition of Lucian Freud’s portraits will be coming to the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth next year, July 1-Oct. 28 — for what will be its only United States appearance.  The great British painter who died in July will be represented by some 90 works spanning his entire career from 1943-2011. Freud made his reputation by his revolutionary handling of the human form — often as mottled, bruised, fleshy nudes — and his unforgiving painted portraits, including his own and Queen Elizabeth’s.

Organized by the National Portrait Gallery in London, Lucian Freud: Portraits is the first to focus entirely on the artist’s portraits. These often required days of sittings by the subjects, and their fatigue can show — Freud wanted what was beneath their public facade. (Art critic John Russell labeled them not portraits but “interrogations.”) Allied with Freud’s withering treatment of the frailties of the flesh, there was a thick, sensuous use of paint and a treatment of the figure that took the influence of Francis Bacon into the psychological and introspective.

The relevant passage from the Modern’s season press release:

Lucian Freud: Portraits

July 1-October 28, 2012

Lucian Freud is widely considered the greatest portrait painter of the twentieth century. His visceral renderings of people from all walks of life have a painterly and psychological drama that is unparalleled in contemporary art. For much of a century–from the late 1940s until his recent death in July 2011–Freud made the living human presence his subject. The Modern’s chief curator, Michael Auping, remarks, “While numerous generations of artists working in the genre of portraiture have come to rely on the photographic image, Freud always insisted on being in the room with his subjects as he painted. His portraits are not only the result of the artist’s intense observations, but often subtle interactions between painter and subject. His paintings represent these relationships, as well as the unique people they portray.”

Freud’s subjects range from neighbors, friends, lovers, family, art world personalities, and royalty. His paintings are, in essence, a visual biography. The exhibition will be divided into broad thematic groups that concentrate on particular periods; groups of sitters; and formal considerations, demonstrating the development of the artist’s painting techniques.

Organized by the National Portrait Gallery, London, in association with the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, the exhibition will consist of approximately 90 works, dating between 1943 and 2011. Fort Worth will be the only U.S. venue. A major book will document the exhibition, and will include essays by Auping, Picasso scholar John Richardson, exhibition curator Sarah Howgate, and a series of interviews between Freud and Auping.