Jul 24, 2011

Re: Lucian Freud's perverse depictions of magnificent muck


Begin forwarded message:

Date: July 24, 2011 9:20:07 AM EDT
Subject: Re: Lucian Freud's perverse depictions of magnificent muck

Mike, a good review. When I look at Freud's work, I always think of the old joke, "Why are there so few Jewish alcoholics? Because it interferes with their suffering."
The cult of the ugly was indeed ascribed to the Jews by National Socialist theoreticians in the 30s. Certainly the anger, disappointment and dismay against life took a turning point in the Fine Arts after WW I. And certainly the idea of artist as celebrity--not a new one by any means--becomes enhanced; to the point where the artist is more important than his art. I guess Freud's created persona was simply yet another in the faux working class affect which hit Britain after the wars. But personally I found both him and Bacon too obvious, too blunt, too predictable to be great artists, and far more yet another simple anthropological footnote of the times.
I guess the question I would ask is that even after the 100 Years War in Europe, after 1453, Europe was wracked by the religious wars for more than a century still. Yet right away, the cult of the beautiful and joy was dominant once again. You've got to consider that vast cities were reduced to rubble and that rotting human corpses were to be seen everywhere, often tortured to death due to religion. Yet even amid the Protestants there was joy. The Catholics, of course, launched the Counter Reformation, which brought every possible device to delight the senses, but why didn't this happen after WWI and II? Why did we get such characters as Bacon and Freud? (and Pollock, etc.)
In a message dated 7/23/2011 11:23:07 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, writes:

A culture destroyer is dead but his "art" still lingers.

Lucian Freud's perverse depictions of magnificent muck

His painting's realism is governed by artifice - and his public persona was just as much a theatrical construction

A frightening authority  & Freud in 2009.
A frightening authority … Freud in 2009. Photograph: Nick Harvey/WireImage

Raddled and old, a self-possessed, semi-naked fool in ridiculous shoes, Lucian Freud painted himself old and mad, looming in that awful room in west London where he spent day after day, decade after decade, scrutinising the horrible walls, the thin light as it fell on his subjects, those piles of soiled rags that he used to wipe off his canvases and clean his brushes.

He was in touch with his mortality. The paint he used was a magnificent muck, and with it he rendered ageing flesh, an Irishman's neck, a dog's fur, a baby's puddingy stare. He paid as much attention to the floorboards or the tangle of buddleia in the yard below as he would to a woman's belly, Leigh Bowery's feminine bulk, Bruce Bernard's stoic drunkard's poise, Lord Goodman's vanity, Sue the Benefits Supervisor's affected boredom.

He was interested in presence, and not only human presence: a lightbulb's glare, a dog's leg, a horse's arse, a frayed bit of carpet. The language with which he described people and things, animals and lovers, atmosphere and futility, was a frightening construction. I believe he shared more with his psychoanalyst grandfather than he liked to admit.

At the heart of his work is the confrontation between himself and others, himself andpainting. His painting's realism is all artifice. They are perverse in their complications, their studied theatricality. His art was in its way as mannered as Francis Bacon's (with whom he had a terrible and irrevocable falling-out), and his public persona was just as much a construction.

Freud liked to appear dangerous and unknowable, to men at least. He could seduce and threaten. Next to him David Hockney or Howard Hodgkin are artistic pygmies. Freud worked at being great. His art has authority, even though he seemed forever stuck in a postwar London of peeling stucco and disappointed lives. He would stare at people in restaurants, turn up at a young woman's flat with a live eel in his bag, spread rumours about himself and call his lawyers at an unintentioned slight. I wish I'd known him better.


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