Lucian Freud Portraits

Past exhibition archive
9 February - 27 May 2012

Reflection by Lucian Freud, 1947
by Lucian Freud, 1947
Private Collection; Image: Lucian Freud Archive © Lucian Freud

I’ve always wanted to create drama in my pictures, which is why I paint people. It’s people who have brought drama to pictures from the beginning. The simplest human gestures tell stories.

Lucian Freud

Lucian Freud (1922–2011) was one of the most important and influential artists of his generation. Paintings of people were central to his work and this major exhibition, spanning over seventy years, was the first to focus on his portraiture.

Produced in close collaboration with the late Lucian Freud, the exhibition concentrated on particular periods and groups of sitters which illustrated Freud’s stylistic development and technical virtuosity. Insightful paintings of the artist’s lovers, friends and family, referred to by the artist as the“people in my life”, demonstrated the psychological drama and unrelenting observational intensity of his work.

Featuring 130 works from museums and private collections throughout the world, this was an unmissable opportunity to experience the work of one of the world’s greatest artists.

Girl in a Dark Jacket, 1947
Girl in a Dark Jacket, 1947
Private Collection © Lucian Freud Archive.
Photo: Courtesy Lucian Freud Archive

A private man, Freud’s relationship with his sitters was played out behind the closed door of the studio. Frequently his works evoke the sense of an emotionally charged drama unfolding, yet his subjects remain elusive. Among the sitters represented were friends, family members (particularly his mother, Lucie) and artists such as Frank Auerbach, Francis Bacon and David Hockney, as well as the performance artist Leigh Bowery and Bowery's friend Sue Tilley, the “benefits supervisor”, whom Freud immortalised in a series of monumental paintings in the early 1990s.

The exhibition featured several works which had never been seen before in public, including Portrait of the Hound, an affectionate double portrait of Freud's assistant, David Dawson and his whippet, Eli exhibited for the first time. It was unfinished at the artist’s death; with the last brush strokes, he created Eli’s ear, alert and listening.

Supported by Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Spring Season 2012 sponsored by Herbert Smith