The death of great cultural figures always prompts us to assess their impact on art and, ultimately, on the way we perceive ourselves. The recent death of the great painter, Lucian Freud (1922 -2011), at the age of 88, is definitely one of these occasions. Through more than six decades of his career, he stubbornly clung to the particular subject that defines his art: the human body, in all its dark glory. The artist was the grandson of Sigmund Freud. His family left Germany for England in 1933, and that’s where Lucian got his education and lived all his life. Not being fond of traveling, he stayed mostly in London.
When the Metropolitan Museum, in 1993, presented an ambitious, in-depth exhibition devoted to the art of this great painter, it was not only Lucian Freud’s first museum exhibition in the United States, but it was the first retrospective the Met gave to a living artist ever. For me, it was the first encounter with the artist’s work, and I remember walking slowly, entranced by the power emanating from his paintings, with their piles of naked, often grotesque bodies. Even the portraits of somber-looking, fully-clothed people looked as if they’d been undressed by the artist’s eye and completely exposed by his brush.
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