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GavinJones

Freud

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22 pictures by Lucian Freud from the last two years. Drawings aren't great but this is one of the finest figurative artists of the last few hundred years at work.Robert Hughes in evangelical mode. Go and see them when they are in New York. Absolutely staggering painting as he demonstrates an overwhelming love for animals and a detestation of people.

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They are coming to New York? Good. But I have always had a lot of difficulty enjoying Freud. Must be me, because Hughes's assessment seems pretty mainstream. I can appreciate his painting of the body, but the overall structure of the pictures often bewilders me. Chairs which don't seem to stand on the floor, beds at impossible angles - I don't know, I have the same problem with Bonnard paintings, when I can't see why the teapot doesn't fall off the table. Is it all part of the experience, or is it just surprisingly bad draughtsmanship?

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Wilf, I think you may be approaching these paintings too literally, because they are figurative. That doesn't mean that they are "realistic."

 

Does anyone know where the exhibit will be in NYC?

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The exhibit is in London, at the Wallace Collection, until April 18.

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Wilf, I think you may be approaching these paintings too literally, because they are figurative.  That doesn't mean that they are "realistic." 

 

Does anyone know where the exhibit will be in NYC?

No, I wouldn't do that. I am commenting on spatial coherence of the pictures themselves, not the success or failure in representing "real" space, whatever that is. If there is some pictorial logic in wanting a chair, for example, to float free of the floor on which it is apparently standing, or for wanting cups and dishes to appear to be about to slide off the table, then fine - it's just lost on me in the cases I have in mind, and I find it distracting.

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I saw the Freud show at the Met several years ago. Very powerful painting indeed. I recall the paintings were covered by glass. I guess some people can't resist touching all that paint. I would certainly want to see more of his work.

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I like his work. I'll be looking forward to this. I also like Phillip Pearlstein, who uses - or, if you like, confuses - pictorial space in a similar way.

 

I think that tilting tabletops and the like are a consequence of modernism, or drugs. The off-the-shelf answer would talk about rearranging pictorial space and seeing an object, or a composition, from more than one point of view at the same time. The disconcerting effect Wilfrid and very many others experience might be seen as the artist's expression of the malaise of the 20th century. I raise these points without subscribing to any of them, except maybe as a point of departure for a conversation.

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That's very fair Robert: the distinction I'd like to make, and I have no idea how, is between:

 

- the distortion of everyday objects or human figures to a purpose - extreme in Cubism and some so-called "Futurist" paintings, for instance, and also obvious in figurative artists we've seen in New York recently such as Max Beckman and Giacometti;

 

- the distortion which serves no obvious purpose, and indeed seems to work against what is otherwise the spatial logic of the picture; in other words, distortions which look like mistakes.

 

Now, it may very well be that I am simply wrong in putting the examples I have in mind from Freud and Bonnard in the latter category, but surely the latter category should be recognised. If we want to take a pre-modernist example, there's a portrait by Ingres which is fabulous in every way except for the impossible articulation of one of the subject's arms. Let me see if I can link to some examples.

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What I was trying to say (ineptly) to Wilf, above, is that the kind of expression that Robert just described does not seem to bother people when they look at paintings that are more frankly abstract, but find it disturbing in work that bears, at least superficially, a closer connection to the natural world.

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Yes, Lippy I agree - because then one is in a quandary as to whether it is part of the picture's logic or an error. Here's the Ingres portrait, which I have viewed a number of times, and which is quite wonderful in every way: except that I am constantly distracted by trying to figure out how her right arm is attached to her body:

 

Ingres

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I found a page with some examples of what I'm getting at with Freud.

 

In the double portrait (woman and dog), why is the dog not reclining on the same plane as the woman (I think it's a woman)? In the naked portrait with green chair, try to follow the lines of the mattress under the sheet - is the bed bent? And I think the Leigh Bowery seated picture is the one where the chair's relationship to the floor bothers me, but it's hard to tell from the online image.

 

Maybe it's just me, but these considerations distract me from his obvious painterly virtues.

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In the naked portrait with green chair, try to follow the lines of the mattress under the sheet - is the bed bent?

That bothers you more than the fact that the woman's right thigh is twice the size of the left?

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