What you should know about Lucian Freud.

There are some artists who are household names at this point. Especially for figurative painters there is one artist who stands out more than others in terms of being the quintessential “fine artist” who paints figures. I’m talking about Lucian Freud. Pronounced, “looshun” according to his David Dawson, (Freud's studio assistant and biographer).  

Freud is one of those artists that none of us can afford, however, would love to. 

Probably the most important thing about Lucian Freud’s work is that it looks beautiful and also would fuel beautiful if you are able to touch it. So let’s start with how it looks.

In terms of how Freud’s paintings look the first thing that appeals to most people is that it’s the new form. And it looks very real in some ways. However, there’s a distortion in the anatomy of Freud’s paintings that some people find disturbing and for this reason some people also find it really beautiful. In some instances, he exaggerates features in the face and then in the case of women, almost takes it to a grotesque level. It’s almost like finding something kind of grotesque and ugly beautiful in a way. For example, some people really love the photographs of this WPA era photographer named Dorothea Lange. 

If you look at her photos these people are so ugly that their beautiful and they almost like caricatures. The way in which they render with the beautiful grays and in between shades and tones of the black and white photographic makes it even more beautiful to us.

So, I guess you could say the same is true with Freud’s work because he exaggerates things like eyes and, bony protuberances on knees and legs as well as ribs, as well as the flesh of the almost disgusting overweight body of a male model. In his drawing and his exaggeration caricatures of these figures he’s kind of showing us something that we kind of enjoy watching in things like scary movies or Gothic novels.

He also does the same thing with skin tone and color. It’s kind of funny but the skin tone in Lucian Freud’s paintings feel an awful lot like how the color in some English movies looks when they’re portraying how gray it is in England. Even in some of the warmer tones of Lucian Freud’s depiction of flesh tones he kind of inserts what’s called a complementary color such as a gray or a blue which automatically takes it down a notch in terms of feeling orange or pink. In a way, some of his flesh tones look almost as if there green. I think he was using burnt umber and black but I haven’t really researched his palette. The flesh in Freud’s versions of skin color look almost a little zombielike but they appeal to us in the same way we like to look at zombie makeup. I don’t think most people find these paintings erotic I think that they find them sort of challenging and that’s what makes it exciting to look at.

How his paintings would feel if you are allowed to touch them is also kind of important. I’m talking about texture. Freud uses very thick paint and he also lays it on layer after layer week after week to build up the surface of the paintings sell their almost sometimes an inch thick with paint. I would imagine if you try to pick up one of these paintings would weigh double or tripple what you would imagine it weighed. The reason why say this is that’s can relate in some ways to why Freud became such an important artist even though the paintings are kind of a challenge. Thick paint is expensive and making art is a bit of a luxury. Now Freud wasn’t from a rich family in terms of money necessarily but he was from a family that was rich in terms of what some people call “cultural capital.”

Freud is directly related to his crazy grandpa Ziggy. Sigmund Freud the father of modern psychology relates directly to Freud’s success as a painter. It was something that in his biography he spoke about a little bit to his biographer any kind of felt guilty about it. He acknowledged that one of the reasons why he suspected he was successful was the way in which people saw him as related to Sigmund Freud. This idea dovetails very nicely in with the psychological aspects of Sigmund Freud’s theories as related to Lucian Freud’s paintings. Freud’s paintings work on us in an almost anti-aesthetic they don’t struggle with being beautiful because they’re not trying to be beautiful. Freud’s paintings are almost psychologically compelling because were trying to figure out why someone would paint the figure that way how the model actually looked how Freud interpreted the model and why were compelled to look at the paintings.

So Freud’s success is somewhat linked to the fact that he could afford oil paint, afford a place to paint in, his studio is quite an interesting building and Freud also have lived in some rough neighborhoods and has some kind of distant relationship to gangster culture when he was a kid. In his biography one of the things that they discuss is how his relationship to sort of gang culture when he was growing up related to him being almost a little bit of the route and there are reports by his biographer who was his studio assistant for decades that Freud would regularly bang women several times a day at some points. I think Lucian Freud also probably was a bit of an animal beyond the sexual because the last decade or so of his life well into his 70s he painted only standing up because he felt that sitting down was not active enough for a painter.

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