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Lucien Freud: Artist in the Studio

Dog Text: Kay Roberts
Image: Girl with a White Dog

Lucian Freud's own voice clarifies his attitude to painting throughout this overview of his work from 1944-2005 on display at Centre Pompidou. He is, like many artists of his generation, equally gifted in his thoughtful explanations, with each gallery having a specific theme: interior/exterior/reflexion/on painting/as flesh, along with photographs by David Dawson, Freud's assistant in the studio. On entering the first room, one sees Freud's statement on how there is a  light from a person and a light around them, how he aims to paint the space around a person. In the small catalogue reads a further insight "I want paint to work as flesh .... I would wish my portraits to of people not like them. Not having the look of a sitter, being them... As far as I am concerned the paint is the person, I want it to work as flesh does."

And flesh there is. The Life Room is now mostly abandoned in English art schools, but Freud, Andrews, Bacon, Kitaj, Auerbach, Kossoff and Sutherland come from an earlier generation when figure painting was the basis of art practice. In 1976 Kitaj chose a show at the Royal Academy London Of Human Clay with these artists under the umbrella of The London School. These artists continued and still continue the tradition of drawing and painting their own particular world, Freud's garden as he calls his exterior and the studio, his interior.

Freud's portraits do not, in the main, have a narrative; they are static, frozen scenes, the model posed in his studio. This is how he works, with his props and faithful models, people he really knows. Leigh Bowery's immense form changed his view of flesh and Big Sue caused a stir in England when the painting was shown. In 1975 Freud started to use Kremitz white, rich in lead oxide, this led to a heavy impasto effect in the rendering of flesh, which I find rather disturbingly like Auerbach's technique.

The marvelous re-working of a Cezanne painting does have a narrative - a prostitute and a young man (in Freud's version his son) are bring brought a drink by the maid. His own portraits are equivalent to those of Rembrandt, you could line them up and see the artist aging, maturing. Again, "The way you represent yourself, you've got to paint yourself as another person." Do take a look at the film at the end of the exhibition showing him at work, or rather preparing for work and looking at the model. It's intense, his mouth working, all internal energy. Reluctant to talk money but here it is, his work makes astronomical amounts, one look at this exhibition shows why. He is a master, at the top of his game.

Lucian Freud : L'Atelier
Until 19 July 2024
Centre Pompidou
Place Georges Pompidou
75004 Paris
Open 11am to 9pm, except for Tuesdays

Bonapart Paris apartments



Good work, Kay!

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