Remembering artist Lucian Freud


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Lucian Freud, who died Wednesday at 88, was a giant of the postwar art world. His nude portraits are startling for their bold and intensely tactile depictions of the human flesh. During his lengthy career, the British artist created portraits of a number of public figures -- clothed and unclothed -- including Queen Elizabeth II, Kate Moss, Jerry Hall and even his daughter Bella, the noted fashion designer.

Collectors have hungered for Freud’s paintings. In 2008, his nude portrait of a zaftig civil servant, titled ‘Benefits Supervisor Sleeping,’ sold at auction for a record-breaking $33.6 million. (The buyer is believed to have been Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich.) Freud’s art can be found in the collections of major museums around the world.


Over the years, The Times has published a number of articles on Freud, including a review of the 2003 retrospective held at the Museum of Contemporary Art downtown. Here’s a selective look back at Freud’s art, career and life:

Behold the Man’s Work’ (Feb. 11, 2003): Art critic Christopher Knight offered a mixed verdict on the retrospective ‘Lucian Freud’ at MOCA. The works on display ‘are visual essays on the fascination and inevitable failure of the flesh. Freud is typically described as a portraitist and a painter of nudes, but Ecce homo is what he’s up to. Behold the man -- and woman -- his pictures say, again and again.’

The Portraitists’ (Jan. 12, 2003): Freud rarely if ever gave interviews, but in 2003, he allowed The Times to report on a project in which he and fellow artist David Hockney created reciprocal portraits of each other. ‘Freud, who paints without his glasses so nothing comes between him, sitter and canvas, would fix on a part of Hockney’s face. He’d stare for minutes, then mix the color -- for each brush stroke -- before making a single mark.’

The Art Speaks; Freud Doesn’t’ (Jan. 12, 2003): In lieu of a sit-down interview, Freud asked the curator of his 2003 retrospective show, William Feaver, to speak to The Times on his behalf. ‘If the retrospective has achieved anything, it’s achieved this idea that he’s actually a great painter, not some kind of Freudian case history,’ he said.

For Some Britons, Portrait of the Queen Is Not a Pretty Picture’ (Dec. 22, 2001): Freud’s portrait of Queen Elizabeth II caused a public scandal when it was unveiled in 2001, with some calling the painting glum and unflattering. One British tabloid offered the following front-page headline, ‘It’s a Travesty Your Majesty.’

A Life Dogged by Disaster, Which She Seemed to Relish’ (July 23, 2001): Freud loved many women during his life and fathered many children with them. His second wife, Lady Caroline Blackwood, was the subject of a 2001 biography titled ‘Dangerous Muse.’ The Times published a review of the book that offered juicy tidbits of their tempestuous life together.


The Uncomfortable Truths of Lucian Freud’ (Nov. 15, 1987): The Hirshhorn Museum in Washington held an exhibition of Freud’s work in 1987 that was pivotal in securing the artist’s reputation in the U.S. Times art critic William Wilson filed a review of that show: ‘These paintings don’t beg to be looked at but they look and they hang around like pieces of old chewing gum somebody stuck on your brain, uncomfortable truths imparted solemnly by your best friend.’


British painter Lucian Freud dies at 88

Cy Twombly dies at 83; internationally renowned American artist

-- David Ng