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Re: Lucien Freud, britains greatest living painter

From:     CAP
Category: Art
Date:     21 January 2010
Time:     07:41 AM


His 50s stuff is more interesting, definitely. Remember when someone stole his portrait of Bacon from 
The Tate? Did they ever get that back? I'm out of touch there. 

But as he gets older, he just gets thicker, literally and metaphorically, and academic. 

Miraculously, Saville does salvage something from the subject of slobs lolling at our leisure, and takes 
it to a whole new, and deeply uncomfortable plane. But this only shows what's wrong with Freud, how 
half-hearted he really is, how limited he is, technically, artistically. 

He's not in the same league as Bacon (who is?). And unfortunately you sense Lucy could not quite 
respond to the eclipse of careers. He liked Bacon socially, approves of Bacon's choice of subjects, 
but can never quite extract anything like the frisson from his own encounters in the studio, for all his 
careful art direction and staging. Freud tries to compensate with exacting detail and laboured facture, 
but the thrill has gone babe. It's like watching a John Osborne play by a rep company in Stowmarket. 

You can go through the motions, but make sure you wash your hands afterwards.

Why this long, slow letdown? Put it down to the much trumpeted child prodigy, ushered into London's 
art scene as a teenager, and steadily acquiring skills, but not necessarily experience. Lucy was the 
spoiled brat, the precocious child of privilege, meeting early and constant approval, anxious to dazzle 
but short of licks, actual schooling. In this respect, I can see why one might raise Brett Whitley 
(youngest artist ever to be acquired by The Tate, 60s beautiful person and - inevitably - drug casualty) 
but Lucy digs in, toils on portraits of the gentry, keeps hoping he will find style in diligence. 

The establishment can't bear to forget him, that would be to admit some error on their part. They're 
nothing if not loyal to their own kind. So he becomes a fixture, a made man. His paintings are never 
really bad, just dull. At some stage, old slobber chops Gowing writes a big book on him, so that 
everyone will remember how consistent, if unimaginative he's been, but really we're just talking R.A. 
stuff. The real world has been stolen by others - Bacon firstly, Kitaj and Hockney (in the 60s) even 
Patrick Procter, for a while. The School of London was basically about old farts in their well-appointed 
studios, trying to get a little one on one going and still look stylish. 

And you wonder why that one never really flew?

Thing is, Lucy would have just lur-hur-hurved to have been able to find something in brushwork the way 
Bacon could, but he suffered from being able to draw, wanting to draw. That linear inclination would 
never quite let him get away, like Bacon. So he respected modelling, tried hard to be a rebel about 
proportions and occasionally perspective, but at the end of the day, he was just a tourist at his own 
freak show. 

To say this is as good as British painting gets, is about as ignorant and insulting as Fleet Street gets.


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