Friday, July 22, 2011

Realist painter Lucian Freud dies

Almost all of us carry an image of a ‘Freud’ around in our minds – a gracelessly posed, grossly sagging woman, perhaps, or a face sculpted in paint that appears to fold and puff like a cauliflower ear. We all think we know his painting but, beneath the thick lashings of paint, there are a great many things to be discovered:
1. Freud’s paintings are autobiographical. Almost all the people he chooses to paint tell a story about himself and his values (he rarely worked on commission).
2. Freud has only once ever, he recalled, completed a portrait of a person he did not like, a book dealer called Bernard Breslauer. He so disliked the model that he was deliberately unkind and over-egged the pudding of a man in front of him, making him “even more repulsive than he actually was”. The unhappy sitter, on acquiring the portrait, sent Freud a letter saying that he had “contravened an unwritten contract between painter and sitter.” The painting in question was destroyed by the model.

Spokeswoman Bettina Prentice said that Mr. Freud died after an illness at his London home late Wednesday night, but didn't give any further details.

Mr. Freud was known for his intense realist portraits, particularly of nudes. In recent years his paintings commanded staggering prices at auction, including one of an overweight nude woman sleeping on a couch that sold in 2008 for $33.6 million.

He stubbornly refused to follow the trends of that world, insisting on using his realist approach even when it was out of favor with critics and collectors. He developed his own unique style, eventually winning recognition as one of the world's greatest painters.

"He certainly is considered one of the most important painters of the 20th and 21st centuries," said Brett Gorvy, deputy chairman of the postwar art department at Christie's auction house in New York.

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