Lucian Freud created an entirely new genre in the depiction of the human figure. His ‘naked portraits’ present subjects as pure animal forms not dissimilar from inanimate still life objects, while at the same time rendering painted flesh with an extraordinary, penetrating humanity. ‘A Not So Still Life’ presents Freud’s late large paintings ‘Naked portrait in a red chair’ (1999) and ‘David and Eli’ (2003–4). By turns clinical and intimate, stark and tender, the works resulted from weeks of intense sitting by and scrutiny of the artist’s subjects. While the woman in the first portrait goes unnamed, the second picture identifies Freud’s two most constant companions: his long-time studio assistant and friend David Dawson, and his whippet Eli. Both paintings evidence Freud’s almost ruthless process of observation and forensic reckoning of the human body. “Living people interest me far more than anything else,” Freud stated. “I’m really interested in them as animals. The one thing about human animals is their individuality: liking to work from them naked is part of that reason, because I can see more.” Continue Reading
To excite, eroticize, devalue, disarm- the nude in art is under consistent reinterpretation. What aims do artists and curators take; whether playful, sociological or a philosophical approach to exploring all aspects and meanings of the nude in art. Does an abstractionist approach make the figure less sexualized? Does overt realism fetishize the male/female ideal? In contemporary art- nudity can express profound admiration for the body, yet they do not celebrate human variety; they may have sex appeal, yet they are never totally prurient in intent.
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