Lucian Freud's self-portraits are currently on display in the Sackler Wing at the Royal Academy. It is very interesting showing the growth of one Britain's most famous artists both physically and artistically. He starts out looking like James Acaster as actually quite a handsome young man. That steely look of self regard is something that never goes away though. I like the early work particularly. This flat style with often quite a surrealist feeling of placement is something that appeals to me.
As the man develops so does it work. It becomes thicker, darker, more brooding and intense. He very quickly developes this sort of grey/blue palette which stays until the end of his work, and reminds me of the interior of a 1970s Austin. There is something somehow very 70s about Freud. Other than the direct self portraits though, of which there are many. What is in many ways more interesting is his habit of putting himself into other paintings. He apparently left random mirror around his studio to catch different angles, and it is these accidental images I like. Probably my favourite piece in the whole show is this dark tatty picture of a dark tatty chair. The texture and detail on the leather and the ripped upholstery and then, to justify it being in the show, this mirror with a blurred image of the man himself.
looming self portrait, in this hideous gray suit. You can feel the colossal self regard emanating from this image. Freud is lesser know but for better as a botanical artist. There are knocking around a number of his plant paintings that took him years to do. There is this faded battered feeling to this dying plant which is of a piece of his slightly off kilter faded elegance thing. And then for reasons that are not obvious there is a naked bust of the man, peeking out from between the fronds. He appears in other paintings too. There is, disturbingly, a full length nude painting of his adult son, but with Freud himself appearing reflected in the window. Others have his feet, or shadow.
For me, there is much more interest in the more dynamic, narrative paintings. Although the subject matter seems very harsh I like the one of Freud and his then wife in a hotel room (above left). I like the narrative tension in the painting and the pensive look of horror on his wife's painting. While Freud is not my favourite painter, I find him often far to cold and distant, artistically and psychologically this is a fascinating show.
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