Thursday, April 25, 2019

Monumental by Lucien Freud

The Monumental exhibition by Lucian Freud at the Aquavella Gallery includes a series of large-scale works by the artist from different periods of his life. We find the artist's most well-known work included: the nudes painted in his London studio.

Lucian Freud was a painter who stood apart from trends and different movements. Although he connects his studies of the nude to the European academic tradition, the artist represents the human body from a rebellious and transgressive perspective, in contrast to classic beauty canons. His paintings show us characters exposed before the scrutinizing gaze of the artist, who makes no distinction about their status or social class, presents them all equally, naked, vulnerable, and delivered.

Freud acts like a surgeon, he tries to pierce his armor and decipher the anatomy and psychology that support him. The brushstrokes are heavy and resounding. They do not pretend to embellish but rather to dissect. The nuances of the flesh are depicted by the different layers of paint, and the contrast between the cold colors, green, blue, violet, and the warm, orange, ocher, pink, create a chromatic spectrum that depicts the tremulous skin and the pulse that runs through it.

It is this way of taking advantage of the carnality of painting, (understood as a modulable and living material) to express the human body´s condition, that makes Freud's work stand out. We can glimpse the influence of Soutin, in his fascination for entrails, and that of Ribera, in his ability to represent the passage of time in his skins and skulls.

Freud does not look for attractiveness, nor decipher the soul, but as he said: "to represent people and to let them be themselves". Affirmation that is paradoxical for a realistic painter who does not hesitate to distort the proportions of his models. Perhaps there is his genius, in his ability to understand imperfection as part of beauty.


  1. First of all, the structure of your essay is really well organized. It helps the reader to understand the exhibition more accurately. I agree with your description of how Freud’s paintings operate in psychologically and physically. Maximizing the proportion of figure and emphasizing the physicality of the figure are one of the most distinctive characteristics and power that Freud’s paintings have. It is working through a particular relationship of boundaries between rationality and irrationality, and further reality and imagines. Moreover, his works are the creation of a new area of the representative painting that makes the figure itself rather than copying the character.

  2. Wow! You write so eloquently about painting. I am not surprised because I know you and your work but this is a very intelligent, descriptive and sensitive reading of Freud. You make great use of explaining the ‘how’ of the painting and the meaning that is conveyed in its construction. A small note the word modulable looks a lot like the American word module which I’m aware is not the correct translation for modulable. And perhaps this is a common art word that I’m not familiar with. In any case, it was just ever slightly so confusing. Besides that, I think it was very wonderful!

  3. I like your expression 'surgeon' and agree with that. As the surgeon, he observes and follows the movement of the human skin as a slice of meat. I know about the interesting story about him. The proportions and compositions of his paintings are slightly off and awkward when one look at the painting as normally. The painting has to be seen at the same eye level as where Freud looked at the model while he painted. Then, the painting will have the right proportion. I think the story connects to what you said, "understand imperfection and the inherent subjectivity of reality."