Thursday, November 26, 2015

Lucian Freud: Portraits DVD and Book

January 17, 2011 by  
Filed under Art Books, contemporary realism, notable painters, videos

Lucian Freud with Martin Gayford
Lucian Freud with Martin Gayford. Photograph: David Dawson (from a book review)


There is a DVD (currently only able to get in the UK) of film-maker Jake Auerbach’s Lucian Freud: Portraits. I have a 3 part, relatively long youTube excerpts that give an excellent sampling of the movie after the break.


Also, In case anyone might have missed it, last fall the art critic Martin Gayford came out with the book, Man With a Blue Scarf: On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucian Freud by Martin Gayford that reveals what it was like having Lucian Freud paint his portrait over the course of seven months. It is an engaging read with many interesting moments as Lucian Freud discusses his work, art and personalities. The book review by Laura Cummings said:

What is unusual is the fact that the sitter is painting a rival portrait, of sorts, and the sheer volume of their conversation. Most of the talk happens before and after evening sessions, “like a marathon dinner date”, and Freud’s opinions become addictive: his loathing of Leonardo and “the awful Mona Lisa”, of Raphael’s weightless figures (“I sometimes can’t tell which way up they’re supposed to be”), of everything by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, whose work is “the nearest painting can get to bad breath”. Picasso, whom he knew, is guilty of emotional dishonesty and being out “to amaze, surprise and astonish”, compared to Matisse, whose art is far greater because it concerns the life of forms, “which is what art is about, really”.


A review by Maureen Mullarkey brings her fellow art critic and the artist’s megalomania to task with her hilarious but stinging review, here is an excerpt and a link to the full review (a great read)

Enter Martin Gayford, critic, and author of The Yellow House, a lively sketch of Van Gogh and Gauguin together in Arles, and Constable in Love. Both prove Gayford a deft biographer of the well-known and documented dead. But something happens in company with the living. Man with a Blue Scarf is the diary of seven months spent, at the author’s own request, as Lucian Freud’s model. The result is oddly redolent of Facebook: Gayford wants you to know that Freud agreed to “friend” him, and he cannot quite get over it….

…Gayford supplies the obligatory angst, but it is largely his own: “What if he loses interest in me as a subject, as he did in the horse he decided not to paint?” It is hard to press creative agony out of an artist whose presumption of his own amplitude permits him to regard the history of art as an accompaniment to himself. Gayford sanctions Freud’s admitted megalomania as “necessary for an artist who intends to add something new to a tradition already 5,000 years old.” The book stretches Lord’s spare formula—a mix of chronicle, autobiography, and opinion—with the sort of patter you can follow on Twitter: “LF has a mysterious visitor coming at seven.” LF is going to Kate Moss’s birthday party. LF loves his bath. LF can tell time to the minute without a watch. MG met Damien Hirst who ran into LF . . . . LF drinks a carrot juice smoothie.

– Maureen Mullarkey

There are a few parts of the book where Gaylord discusses Freud’s working methods that I particularly find fascinating, such as that he doesn’t make a careful outlined drawing first, that he will just start with painting in the middle of the face, an eye or a nose, and paint it to completion, gradually working his way outwards.

You can buy this book from Amazon from this link and also help support Painting Perceptions.
Man with a Blue Scarf: On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucian Freud

Lucian Freud: Portraits
Here are the excerpts from the DVD from youTube. Lucian Freud himself doesn’t appear in the movie except briefly at the end. The film was made by Jake Auerbach (Frank Auerbach’s son) who has also made films on Paula Rego and his father.


part one

part two

part three

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8 Responses to “Lucian Freud: Portraits DVD and Book”
  1. Thanks for the link to the Maureen Mullarkey review….very funny, and I have to admit, I agree with a lot of her points. I’m sort of puzzled by the books I’ve seen about Freud lately…this one, and another I saw, a large coffee table sized book about Freud in his studio. Don’t get me wrong, I think he is an amazing painter, and I’d go so far as to say I think seeing his retrospective at the Met in NY in ’93 was what set me on the path I’m on right now, but the veneration and hero-worship has gotten out of control. The last show of his I saw at the Aquavella gallery in about 2003, had about 3 good paintings out of 20. When Freud’s good, he’s great; but a lot of his stuff can come off really formulaic and just plain bad. I feel like sometimes the press and galleries are just trying to milk all they can get out of his studio, obviously for monetary reasons, or for some kind of page 6 stories, but the truth is, I think the guy’s getting really old and the quality of his work has become real spotty. It seems like he knows that he’s getting to the end of his life and he’s trying to maintain a sense of relevance and interest in his myth, without some good editing on his part….I remember feeling the same thing about Balthus before he died. Anyway, he has made some seriously good paintings, so to that, I raise my glass.

  2. Thanks for posting those clips. I’m a big fan of his work. Every time I look at his paintings I want to paint nudes. I like that he doesn’t give interviews or heavily market and promote himself. No hype. Less talk, more painting.

    I could’ve done without everyone saying what a sexy old man his is though!

  3. Larry says:

    I would agree with you Francis about the LF hero worship getting out of control, at least in some circles. I haven’t seen his work in the flesh for quite some time so I can’t speak to the quality issue you raise – I saw a big show of his at the Met along time ago that was mind bending, I loved his paintings and agree with Hank that it makes me want to paint nudes – but apparently not enough to actually go out and do it!

    The Artworld oligarchy with it’s handful of Kings and Queens, often seems to push quality aside in favor of PR campaign which is all about marketing and protecting the mystique, branding and image. This in turn helps protect and enhance the value of the multi-million dollar artworks that rich collectors invest in. I hope that doesn’t sound like some rant but it really does seem to be true on a certain level. That doesn’t mean that Lucien Freud or John Currin or whoever isn’t still making good paintings – just that there is a lot more to it that just being good. I suppose that is obvious but I often forget this simple fact and start to allow myself the Pollyannaish notion that if you are good enough you will get the glory too.

  4. Did you ever see The Mona Lisa Curse by Robert Hughes?
    It’s about how money took over and controls the art world.

  5. Jack Knight says:

    I am currently writing my dissertation on LF. Unfortunately I haven’t worked out a concrete title/question yet. There are several themes I have been working on though. I wanted to compare the effects that LF’s work (some not all) has on me to those that are apparently had on Trobriand Islanders when they come into contact with canoe prow-boards. This may seem very far fetched and quite a tenuous connection but let me try and explain as briefly as possible.

    The canoe prow boards are carved by hand out of a special tree-trunk. as it is shaped, special incantations and spells are sung, blood and urine are rubbed into the wood, painted and washed over with sea water. then the are put on the prow of the canoe. The canoe is used in what is called the Kula trade ring which is a trade route between all the Islands in the New Province of Papua New Guinea. My understanding of it is, it that these prow boards, through the process of of ritual and magic, have become enchanted. they have magical powers so to speak. This what the social Anthropologist calls the Enchantment of Technology (the technology being the tree trunk). these enchanting qualities serve to encourage trading between the tribes. Because it is a totally different culture to our own, it is probably quite hard to understand what the qualities of these prow boards are that have this enchanting effect. I accept that they exist, for the Trobriands.
    What is key for me is that this “enchantment” is the result of the process by which the object is created.

    Now, i believe that some of LF’s art works on me (and possibly others) in a similar way. there is a distinct sense of “otherness” about some of his work – a feeling that there is perhaps more of the sitter present than just a literal image. I put this down to the exhaustive process by which LF goes about creating his paintings. This method is recorded by Martin Gayford. His portrait only took 7 months which is fairly average as some have taken up to a couple of years to complete.
    In his book Gayford talks about how the process of collecting all the “information” he needs to really create a successful portrait is not only drawn from the periods in front of the canvas but at meal times and outings, where the artist is constantly observing and penetrating the subject’s character and picking up on all the individual nuances of the the person.

    i believe that this process is much like that of the Trobriand’s. As they sing and cast spells over the piece of wood, rubbing urine and blood into it and “charging” it with this enchantment, LF is slowly folding all he has observed into the paint on the canvas. We pick up on this sense of otherness, a sense of the person’s character, as the Trobriand’s sense the power of the prow-board.
    Therefore I believe that Freud’s process is an Enchantment of Technology (the technology being the paint).

    If any one has anything they want to say about this theory (be it positive or negative) please do as I I am i need of some direction with it.
    Here is a link to show you what these prow-boards are like:

    • Larry says:

      Jack, your dissertation idea sounds fascinating to me. I’m not sure how easy it would be to prove your thesis, but I’m intrigued by the mystic/poetic aspects of what you propose. Good luck!

  6. Nathan Lewis says:


    You might want to give the James Elikins book “what painting is” a look. I don’t think your associations are unfounded. Many painters/art lovers think of painting as some form of magic, or incantation, or of a painting functioning like a talisman. Why Freud’s painting would relate specifically to Trobriand Islanders is difficult to ascertain. Elkins’ book equates painting with alchemy and talks about the spiritual pursuit of alchemists and relates that to the intention of painting and it’s practitioners. Not all painters want to talk about their beliefs and how they are tied up in painting, but I suspect for many, there is a desire to for the practice to achieve something outside of the realm of images.

    PS. Larry, would love to see something on Fred Dalkey. Maybe the distinction between his painting and drawings, Maybe an interview? Thanks.

  7. James says:

    Yes…Freud was a unique artist…and the book The man with a blue scarf is quite excellent….as is Freud in his studio companion book to an excellent exhibit some time ago…There is another rather large book by Rizzoli? that is quite a find if it still exists…very few come close to his method…but then it is his method…and we can learn from him and find our own.

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