National Portrait Gallery Announces Lucian Freud Portraits Exhibition

The most ambitious exhibition of the work of Lucian Freud for ten years will open at the National Portrait Gallery, London, in February 2012. With over 100 paintings and works on paper loaned from museums and private collections throughout the world, Lucian Freud Portraits is the result of many years’ planning by the Gallery in close partnership with the late Lucian Freud. The exhibition will be a countdown event for the London 2012 Festival – the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad.

Lucian Freud, Girl with a White Dog, 1950-1. Purchased 1952 © Tate, London 2012

Paintings of people were central to the work of Lucian Freud (1922–2011) and this exhibition will be the first to focus on his portraiture. Concentrating on particular periods and groups of sitters to show Freud’s stylistic development and technical virtuosity, the exhibition will include both iconic and rarely-seen portraits of the artist’s lovers, friends and family. Described by the artist as ‘people in my life’, these portraits have been selected to demonstrate the psychological drama and unrelenting observational intensity of his work.
Lucian Freud Portraits, which is part of the London 2012 Festival, explores the artist’s work across seven decades, from the early 1940s to his death in July. Working only from life, the artist said: ‘I could never put anything into a picture that wasn’t actually there in front of me’… ‘Everything is autobiographical and everything is a portrait, even if it’s only a chair.’

A private man, Freud’s close relationship with his sitters was played out in private. Sitters represented in the exhibition include family members, particularly his mother Lucie, and artists such as Frank Auerbach, Francis Bacon, Michael Andrews, John Minton and David Hockney, and the performance artist Leigh Bowery. Bowery’s friend Sue Tilley, the ‘Benefits Supervisor’, who was immortalised by Freud in a series of monumental paintings in the 1990s, is also included in the exhibition.

Sarah Howgate, Curator of Lucian Freud Portraits, says: ‘Freud’s portraits are the realisation in paint of a relationship between artist and model that has slowly developed over time behind closed doors. His friends, family and acquaintances have always been eclectic, drawn from all walks of life, and this is reflected in the variety of faces and bodies that occupy Freud’s paintings. Although many of his subjects have led complex lives, most of them – with the exception of a few public figures – prefer to hold on to their anonymity. Lucian Freud Portraits is a life represented in paint rather than a biographical retrospective.’

Others exhibited sitters include Freud’s family, his assistant David Dawson, photographer Harry Diamond, Deborah, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, Brigadier Andrew Parker Bowles, Baron Rothschild, Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza and Francis Wyndham.

Displayed broadly chronologically throughout the ground floor Lerner and Wolfson Galleries, the exhibition will include several sections ranging from those devoted to the earliest portraits right through to the late work. As well as major portraits of key muses such as Bowery, his mother and family, the exhibition will highlight the recurring importance of the self-portrait in Freud’s work.

Stylistically, visitors will be able to trace the artist’s marked development through drawings and etchings and from the earliest head-and-shoulder painted portraits to those of the 1960s when Freud started standing rather than sitting at his easel to paint full-length nudes with thicker brushes and a more dense application of pigments. The exhibition will show that many portraits are not what they seem with ambiguous facial expressions, unusual or uncomfortable poses, telling spaces between figures in groups or double portraits and the use of items such as plants, rubbish and strewn bed clothes all hinting at underlying menace or adding to their psychological power.

Among the celebrated works included are: Girl with a White Dog (1950-1); Hotel Bedroom (1954); The Painter’s Mother Resting (1982-4); Large Interior, W11 (after Watteau) (1981-3); Frank Auerbach (1975); Standing by the Rags and Lying by the Rags (1988-90), and A Sunny Morning – Eight Legs (1997). Loans have been drawn from private collections and museums worldwide including Tate, MOMA New York, Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, British Council and Art Institute of Chicago.

Lucian Freud Portraits is curated by Sarah Howgate, the National Portrait Gallery’s Curator of Contemporary Portraits, whose previous exhibitions include David Hockney Portraits, a retrospective of the artist’s works at the National Portrait Gallery, London, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Sandy Nairne, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London, says: ‘The National Portrait Gallery is delighted to bring together so many outstanding portraits created by one of the great artists of our time. Lucian Freud painted people with an inquisitive brilliance. We are also very pleased to be continuing our relationship with Bank of America Merrill Lynch who return to us after sponsoring our 2010 Irving Penn Portraits exhibition.’

Rena De Sisto, Global Arts and Culture Executive, Bank of America Merrill Lynch says: ‘We are delighted to be supporting the National Portrait Gallery in bringing together the works of such a fascinating, provocative and groundbreaking artist.

‘As a company doing business in more than 100 countries, we are committed to supporting the arts across the globe, and it is our belief that a healthy arts sector helps economies and societies thrive. Through the provision of grants and sponsorships, as well as our unique art loaning and art conservation programmes, Bank of America Merrill Lynch helps to facilitate access to dynamic cultural experiences for the public and we hope that visitors enjoy this ambitious collection of some of Lucian Freud’s most significant works.’

The exhibition will coincide with a comprehensive survey of over 100 works on paper by Lucian Freud at Blain|Southern London, Lucian Freud: Drawings, curated by William Feaver, February–April 2012. The exhibition will then travel to Acquavella Galleries, New York, April–June, 2012.

The exhibition will run from 9 February until 27 May 2012 in the Wolfson Gallery and the Ground Floor Lerner Galleries at the National Portrait Gallery, London.

Admission £14. Concessions £13 / £12
With Gift Aid (includes voluntary Gift Aid donation of 10% above standard price): Admission £15.40 Concessions £14.30/£13.20

TICKETS or telephone 0844 248 5033

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