New York, 18 East 79th Street
Lucian Freud: Monumental, a loan exhibition focusing on the artist’s naked portraits, a subject that has long enjoyed special significance in his oeuvre. Curated by the artist’s longtime studio assistant and friend, David Dawson, Monumental includes thirteen major paintings, including depictions of his most important models from the 1990s and 2000s.
The exhibition begins with work from 1990, when Freud began painting the performance artist Leigh Bowery, who is featured here in two works. Inspired by Bowery’s impressive physique, Freud began working on a larger scale that emphasized the physical presence of his subjects. These large-scale portraits ushered in a new sense of monumentality in the artist’s body of work. Also on view is Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, one of two paintings in the show from the mid-1990s of Sue Tilley, the other essential model from this pivotal time in Freud’s career. Dawson himself as well as Freud’s familiar whippets also make multiple appearances in paintings in the exhibition.
Being naked has to do with making a more complete portrait, a naked body is somehow more permanent, more factual…. When someone is naked there is in effect nothing to be hidden. Not everyone wants to be that honest about themselves, that means I feel an obligation to be equally honest in how I represent them. It is a matter of responsibility, in a way I don’t want the painting to come from me, I want it to come from them. It can be extraordinary how much you can learn from someone by looking very carefully at them without judgement. — Lucian Freud
Despite the grand scale, Freud’s subjects are depicted with a sense of intimacy, penetrating honesty and psychological depth. This was due in part to the extraordinary amount of time the artist spent with his sitters. Ria, Naked Portrait required the art handler Ria Kirby, whom Freud met while installing a show at the Victoria & Albert Museum, to come to the studio nearly every day for 16 months in 2006 and 2007.
on view through May 24, 2019