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The Morning Report - 4/1/20 | Main | The Morning Rant
April 01, 2020

Mid-Morning Art Thread [Kris]


Naked Man back view.jpg

Naked Man, Back View
Lucian Freud

Lucian Freud is the grandson of Sigmund, the psychoanalyst. Because of this connection, some have described the artist’s approach to portraiture as a type of aesthetic analysis of the figures make-up and structure. He was also concerned with the relationship of the form to the painting’s elements and unique traits. Freud was part of a group of artists who reintroduced traditional figurative art into a culture soaked in modernist abstraction. He took this rebellion against contemporary aesthetics and made a reputation out of it. His uppity-ness manifested in his younger years by being expelled from several schools and causing a fire in another. He fostered a relationship with the trend-setters and taste-dictators of his day and so was able to find a following.

In this work, it’s hard to pin down which elements are key. He seems to be drawing influences from several artists of early modernism, such as van Gogh and Cezanne. I also see a little of the Realists here, Courbet especially, and their insistence on an unromanticized depiction of the human body.

Freud presents a very large, nude male sitting on a white ottoman. His back is to us. His head is turned to the left so we see a little of his face, but not enough to identify him. He is posed over an orange shag carpet, in front of a white tarp or drape. The man’s form looks constructed, like a sculpture made of clay. I can almost imagine Freud slapping globs of clay on top of each other to create the basic form and them smoothing it out to form the back. This gives the underlying structure a lumpiness that would be expected from this type of physique. The overlying skin also looks constructed, but like a patchwork quilt of pigment laid over the clay to smooth it out.

The work’s perspective is very steep and sharp. This distorts the man’s form further. It stretches out his back, making him seem wider. It also seems to flatten him. Because of this steep perspective, this work is both three-dimensional and two-dimensional. The two perspectives clash with each other. Freud also uses opposing diagonals to further this tension. The leg of the man is pointed to the extreme upper right, but his face and eye-line point to the lower left. These contrasting lines and angles enhance the steep perspective, flattening the work even more.

For me, the orange rug and Pollock-like wall are very distracting. The rug seems uninteresting when compared to the patchwork of tones on the figure and tarp. In the figure, there is a careful application of tones and shades that meticulously molds the man’s entire form. These colors are warm. These pigments are repeated in the tarp but they are cooled and neutralized. Freud creates unity and distinction between these two areas. The rug, by contrast, seems out-of-place. The right wall even more so. This could be an attempt to enhance the theme of clashing and contrasting elements.

The entire center of this work is filled with a neo-traditional rendering of the most classical of images—the male nude, rendered in a color-scheme resembling aged marble or ivory. Freud then disrupts that visual with some of the most contemporary imagery—the drip-painting and a shag rug. The artist presents an image full of inner conflict, of calm and chaos. Perhaps this is where his family heritage is most observable.


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