Lucian Freud: The Self-Portraits, The Royal Academy - ★★★★★ - Until January 26, 2020


This ground-breaking exhibition brings together fifty-six of Freud's works, many of which are in private collections and have not been seen publicly in decades. It traces the artist's work from his early drawings and more linear output to the strong and distinctive paintings for which he is so well known. The exhibition is generally chronological but also has thematic threads. It gives us a whole new appreciation of this figurative painter who eschewed abstract expressionism, Pop and Op art and the other trends of his times. Freud followed his own path and the world finally caught up. He was a notoriously private man and whether it is the bold youth of the early work - sometimes staring directly at us, or at other times simply peeking out - we are not really invited in. Even in such apparently emotionally fraught works as Hotel Bedroom in which he is pictured with his second wife, Freud stands back and is unavailable. And finally, in the wonderful portraits he makes of himself as an old man he does not meet our gaze. Perhaps, he is looking inward, but we are not invited to share his psychology or his reflections. There is always that distance between the perceiver and the perceived which makes us focus more on the work and our reactions to it rather than on the sitter. Indeed, even in the final painting of the exhibition when Freud is naked, he is not exposed. However, with palette in hand, he strongly affirms not his personality but his identity: he is a painter. This is another must-see show at the Royal Academy.

Reviewed by J.C.

 Our Score:  ☆☆☆☆☆ 

WHEN, WHERE, GETTING THERE:
Until January 26, 2020
Daily: 10 am - 6 pm
Fri until 10 pm. Sat until 8 pm (except Nov 23)
Royal Academy of Arts: Sackler Wing, Burlington House
Nearest tube: Piccadilly Circus
https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/exhibition/lucian-freud-self-portraits

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