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Exhibition: Lucian Freud

Barcelona, 23 October 2002

“What do I demand of a painting? That it surprise, disturb, seduce, convince,” At 80, Lucian Freud is one of the greatest living realist painters. Known mainly for his unsettling portraits and nudes, he is the creator of a disturbing universe, populated mostly by models from his own circle: his mother, children, friends, artists, lovers, etc. “My work is completely autobiographical. It is about me and what surrounds me,” the artist has repeatedly declared. The La Caixa Foundation now presents Lucian Freud at CaixaForum, the largest retrospective exhibition ever held on the artist. With 126 paintings, drawings and etchings, some of recent creation, the show covers more than 60 years of Freud’s artistic career. Visitors are offered a chance to view works from the fruitful creative period of the past twenty years together with others of the first decades. Among the foremost works in the exhibition is the extraordinary series of portraits of the artist’s mother, portraits of his painter friends such as Francis Bacon, John Minton, Frank Auerbach and Michael Andrews, and a number of self-portraits, in addition to other emblematic paintings such as The Painter’s Room, Leigh Bowery (seated) and Girl with Roses. The Lucian Freud retrospective exhibition, organised by the Tate Britain Museum, (where it has run from 20 June to 22 September, 2002), has been produced by La Caixa Foundation in Barcelona. Following its exhibition at CaixaForum it will be shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (from 9 February to 25 May, 2003).

The Lucian Freud exhibition, organised by William Feaver, can be visited at CaixaForum (avinguda del Marquès de Comillas, 6-8), from 24 October, 2002 to 12 January, 2003.

The retrospective exhibition Lucian Freud at the CaixaForum premises, will map out a chronological journey through the British painter’s artistic career, covering more than 60 years. The show begins with a series of works from the decade of the 1940’s – Box of Apples in Wales (1939), The Painter’s Room (1943-1944) and Girl With Roses (1947-1948), among other oil paintings, and concludes with a group of recent works, such as Eli (2002), finished last August. The 126 works that make up the exhibition, distributed over nine rooms, invite the visitor to discover certain chapters in the life of Freud: his relationships with his mother, wives and children, his friendship with Francis Bacon, solitude, etc. After all, Freud has often stated, “Everything is autobiographical, and everything is a portrait.”.

Lucian Freud was born in Berlin on December 8th, 1922. His father, architect by profession, was the son of Sigmund Freud, the creator of psychoanalysis. The family came to England in 1933, a few months after the Nazi party came to power. Six years later, in 1939, Freud became a naturalised British subject. In that same year, he enrolled in Cedric Morris’s East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing, an informal painting institute. In 1941, after completing his brief academic career, he enlisted as merchant seaman in an Atlantic convoy. “I liked the idea of adventure – the figure of the old salt – but I was soon disappointed.” In 1944, the Lefevre Gallery put on Freud’s first solo exhibition, which included The Painter’s Room (1943-1944), a widely celebrated work that will be on display at CaixaForum. In 1948 he married Kitty Garman, daughter of Jacob Epstein, later marrying Caroline Blackwood in 1952. In the 1950’s he became famous in London, along with his cohort Francis Bacon. After spending periods in Paris and Greece, he settled in London, where he still lives and works.

“To me, the person is the painting”, says Freud, who is mainly known for his unsettling portraits and nudes, several of which can now be seen at CaixaForum within the retrospective exhibition. Among the foremost works in the exhibition is the extraordinary series of portraits of Freud’s mother, such as The Painter’s Mother Reading (1975). The series begins in 1972, the year in which the artist’s father died, and his mother sank into deep depression. It concludes in the year of her death, in 1989. “If my father hadn’t died, I never would have painted her,” says Freud who went to pick her up four or five times every week for her to pose.

The exhibition also contains several self-portraits of Freud, such as Reflection with Two Children (1965) – the two children are his, Rose and Ali – Interior With Mirror in Hand (1967) and Painter Working, Reflection (1993), a painting which, when Freud set to touching it up, “turned out to be of my father”. In that regard, Freud states, “My idea of the portrait emerges from my unhappiness with the portraits that look like their models. I want my portraits to be ‘of’ people, not like them. More than looking like the models, that they ‘be’ themselves.”

The show also offers some unsettling nudes, such as those of Leigh Bowery, a performer weighing over 200 pounds who became Freud’s first professional model, posing for him several days a week over two years. “I must have a fondness for unusual or oddly-proportioned people, and I don’t want to indulge it too much,” Freud has said. The daughters of the painter also posed for several nudes, such as Portrait of Rose (1978-1979). “There’s something in a nude person, when I see them before me, that appeals to my sense of respect. It could even be called my gentlemanliness. In the case of my daughters, it is the respect of a father in addition to that of a painter. They take my painting them well. They don’t make me feel uncomfortable.”

Lucian Freud
From 24 October, 2002 to 12 January, 2003
Av. Marquès de Comillas, 6-8
08038 Barcelona
[email protected]
Tel.: 902 22 30 40
Tuesday to Sunday, 10 am to 8 pm
Monday, closed
Free admission


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