Lucian Freud is showing at the Acquavella Gallery in swanky uptown Manhattan and I went to see the work. What struck me, seeing Lucien’s work up close was the scale (again I have got to think of scaling up) but also the texture and the reality of his pieces.
We will start with texture; Freud’s paintings are comprised, in many areas, of clumps of paint on the canvas. There are areas that are so densely built up of paint that the framers had to place the glass far enough away from the work so that these areas did not get chipped. One piece had an eye so built up it was more of a relief sculpture of an eye than a painting.
I have seen Freud’s work in lithograph books. They look pristine. They look photo real but with a specific style or eye. You can see Freud’s style of drawing: the way he sees people: how he curves mouths: how he renders bone. But it’s all an illusion.
Up close you see that what looks like the blending of many colors on the canvas to produce this near-photo-realism is actually not blended but areas of individual colors laid down side by side. Additionally, when seen in person, up close, in its full scale, we realize that Freud didn’t care much for exactness ole perspective. Floor boards go this way and then that way. Cherries float at the side of one model. The couch holding the sleeping “Big Sue” has one leg twisted oddly (impossibly oddly to not collapse the couch—with or without the lovely Susan).
One aspect of the show—titled “Monumental”—which focuses on Lucian’s nudes—was that all the work save one were of whites people. This makes perfect sense given that Freud worked from London and used many friends, relatives, and acquaintances. But it becomes troubling when there is a woman of color exhibited and the title identifies this woman (the only Black woman I have ever seen in Freud’s oeuvre) as “solicitor”.