Home » Exhibitions » Exhibition Review- Lucian Freud: The Self-portraits at the Royal Academy from 27 October 2019 to 26 January 2020

Exhibition Review- Lucian Freud: The Self-portraits at the Royal Academy from 27 October 2019 to 26 January 2020

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Lucian Freud: The Self-portraits is the first exhibition to focus on the artist’s self-portraits, the works covering almost seven decades provide a remarkable opportunity to chart Freud’s (1922-2011) artistic development. The exhibition brings together around 50 works, many from private collections and a number have not been seen publicly for several decades.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Lucian Freud is considered as one of the foremost 20th century British painters, he was the grandson of Sigmund Freud and arrived in Britain in 1933 after leaving Germany to escape the rise of Nazism. Freud moved to London in 1943 and over the next few years he became closely involved with the London arts scene, and formed a close friendship with fellow artist Francis Bacon.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The start of the exhibition contrasts his first major self-portrait, Man with a Feather, 1943 alongside his late work Self-portrait, Reflection, 2002.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The second section at Freud’s explores his early works, including his drawings and sketchbooks. They reveal that Freud uses his own self-image in a playful way with the mythological guise of Actaeon (Self-portrait with Antlers), 1949 and as a character in illustrations for plays and stories such as Flyda and Arvid, 1947.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Freud’s work from the 1950s began to take his self portraits and painting much more seriously illustrated by Hotel Bedroom, 1954 and Self Portrait 1956.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Unusually, Freud often used mirrors to capture his self image which allowed him to change his perspective which is seen in Hand Mirror on Chair, 1966 and Interior with Hand Mirror (Self portrait), 1967.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The 1980s and 1990s saw Freud’s artistic reputation rising in the UK and internationally and his work gained a self assurance and a new honesty,

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Reflection (Self-portrait), 1985 possesses the penetrating stare for which Freud was famous. In 1993, Freud completed Painter Working, Reflection, 1993 which exposes his ageing body, depicting himself naked but for a pair of boots.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The section entitled Reflections in the Studio show Freud’s portraits of other people, including a large scale painting of his son, Freddy Standing, 2000-1.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Some of the final self-portraits, show the artist now in his 80s, world weary but defiant his face gaunt and built up with thick layers of paint.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Although many artists have portrayed their life’s journey in self portraits, Freud has an unusual relationship with his self image. He stated that “ I don’t accept the information that I get when I look at myself and that’s where the trouble starts” and ” I am not very introspective but I was very shy, so I tried to overcome it by being exhibitionistic.”

This fascinating exhibition explores these contradictions in Freud’s self portraits, the viewer traces the artist’s life from his youthful playfulness to the sombre reflections of ageing. Strangely considering his family connections, Freud is more concerned with the physical than the psychological. Known as an intensely private man, it is his portraits which are the vehicle that exposes him to the world outside his studio.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Recommended

For more information and tickets, visit the Royal Academy website here

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