The Schmooze

How Lucian Freud Found His Faith in Realism

In 1993, Lucian Freud, the painter known for his sharp psychological portraits of friends and family often sprawled nude in his studio, painted his own portrait. “Now the very least I can do is paint myself naked,” the artist said. Called “Painter Working, Reflection,” the work shows the artist, then 71, facing the viewer with a brush in one hand and a palette in the other. He is naked — starkly so — and his head slouches towards the ground, flesh sagging over his frame. The paint looks dry and flaky, creating the impression that Freud’s entire body is on the verge of crumbling into dust.

Perhaps it is fitting to remember this painting in the wake of Freud’s death on July 20. At 88, Freud, famous for his proudly reclusive ways (the artist did not possess a phone and his studio had no doorbell, but he had his own table at the uber-chic Wolseley restaurant in London where he dined several times a week), passed away in his home. He leaves a legacy of many children (one British paper estimates 30-plus), many more lovers, and many, many more paintings that are remembered as some of the most bewitching and valuable of his time. In 2008, the artist sold a portrait of an obese nude woman sleeping on a couch for $33.6 million, setting the world record for a work by a living artist.

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How Lucian Freud Found His Faith in Realism

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