Review: Lucian Freud Portraits
Lucian Freud Portraits
National Portrait Gallery
IN A NUTSHELL
A fitting tribute to a modern master that seems to have struck a chord with the masses.
There is a man with his nose pressed up against the glass eyeballing the heavily impastoed surface of a Lucian Freud nude.
What he is looking for isn't clear - but he isn't budging.
Swarms of culture vultures are clambering over the work of the late modern master at the first showcase of his portraiture which has joined the list of show-stopping exhibitions gracing the capital's galleries this summer.
To date this show has attracted more than 50,000 visitors and last month the gallery extended its opening hours and released 7,000 additional tickets to meet demand.
Tickets on the day are sold in timed slots and on a Sunday afternoon - much like any other afternoon I suspect - the floor is full.
The collection is split into periods and showcases 130 pieces in a series of mall rooms and corridors.
The dramatic shift from his early observations seen in the 1940s paintings - the stray hairs, haunting eyes - to the focus of fleshy tones, folds and curves could not be clearer.
For a time it does become a sea of naked flesh - palettes of bruised hues and creamy textures.
There are the recognisable faces - David Hockney, "Big Sue" - Sue Tilley, the benefits office worker who earned global recognition after posing for Freud - Francis Bacon and the late performance artist and club promoter Leigh Bowery stripped of his costumes.
The curious elements - a leg poking out from under a bed, tiny children dwarfed by their father, a portrait within a portrait - draw in the viewer.
Freud said: "I work from people who interest me and that I care about in rooms that I love and know." In turn he worked closely with the gallery for a number of years planning this show providing a strong sense of his meticulous control.
There are also the portraits of Freud's family, painted with no more sentiment than the rest and inviting as many questions as offering answers.
The fascinating addition of images by his long time assistant and model David Dawson - at work painting the Queen and David Hockney and at rest curled up in bed with Kate Moss - offer an insight into the stories behind the sitters.
The unfinished painting he was working on at the time of his death - Portrait Of The Hound 2011 - his assistant David Dawson and dog Eli - is a fitting and solemn closing choice to the exhibition.
The show kicked off the countdown to the Cultural Olympiad - and with such a strong start hopes are high for those taking on the baton and crossing the line that is the London 2012 Festival from June 21.
Lucian Freud Portraits, National Portrait Gallery, until May 27, £14 (£13/£12), npg.org.uk