Friday, 24 February 2012

Lucian Freud

And so because I was not saturated enough by art last week, I went to the Lucian Freud retrospective currently showing at the National Portrait Gallery. I had a ticket for the teachers evening which essentially is a freebie with strings. The strings this time were a delayed start and a very crushed viewing. There was a bonus though in the guise of an excellent discourse delivered by a painter on the techniques of Freud's painting, as opposed to his life style which the media have always been fixated with.
The talk once again confirmed my suspicions that the older I get the less I know. The main premise of the talk centred around Freud's unusual painting technique, painting not the composition as a whole but finishing small patches before then moving on across the canvass until completed. This allowed him to shape shift compositions often to great effect.

The above painting is an example of an incomplete portrait, not the way I was taught and I only know of two other artists that painted in a similar way, Stanley Spencer and Henri Rousseau.
This suggests a lack of teaching which is not true, I think he initially did embrace tradition but was intelligent enough to realise that greater freedom came with his way of working. Many canvasses thus have extra additions to the side or bottom to accommodate the compositional changes he made, this tickled Kitty when I explained why.
I met Kitty after the talk and through devious maneuverings secured her a free ticket too! I was not sure what she would make of the show as she has led quite a sheltered life and there is a lot of genitalia on display here, but after her initial surprise she was great.

Kitty has just returned from skiing, her favourite activity, sadly she had twisted her knee so she had just been to the doctor for the first time ever in her 16 years! She has only once been near medical care and that was in A&E when she was very young for an infected cut, so she was very nervous but survived and procured her first prescription. She was somewhat taken aback when asked by the doctor if she smoked, and he was surprised that she had not even tried to. I think people forget not all teenagers are party animals.

This was Kitty's favourite painting, a portrait of Freud's mother. It is tucked away in a corridor in between rooms, but she noticed it going past and then again coming back, so we stopped for a while to unravel why she felt this one was so much better than the rest.

A few weeks back she told me that I was the only person who could make her a decent cup of tea, even she had failed to replicate a good cuppa, and despite me showing her how had failed, as had her father. I jokingly said that it was because I made it with love! She laughed and agreed that must be the case. Looking at this painting I realised it was the same, it was the only painting that had been painted with love rather than as a cadaver under the microscope, this painting hums with a tenderness unlike the other paintings and Kitty agreed that indeed that is what it was, the unconditional love of a son for his mother.

There are 130 paintings to see, it is an awesome exhibition, very enlightening and a joy to see the journey he made technique wise through his paintings.

After which I would like to say we retreated for some delicious food. Sadly that was the case for Kitty but not me. We went to Les Deux Salons, a big mistake because I fancied something light, and they do not do light. I opted for a starter of cod and ordered some chips, to my surprise the cod came with mash potato! A starter with mash who knew? The wine was tepid and after the crisp joyful glasses I drank last week it seemed dull. I must be getting old, maybe Kitty should get out her paints!

Images from here and here


Patricia G said...

Thank you for sharing this experience it was lovely to read of your daughter's response to Freud's work.

materfamilias said...

This is a lovely post, Alison. I really wish I could see this show -- that portrait of Freud's mother is so unexpected. And Kitty's perception about it so wise, so astute. You really are guiding them to see the world in such lovely ways.