The Modern's Lucien Freud Portraits showcases 90 works that span the artist's adult lifetime. Standing in the middle of any group of his portraits feels like living with a family for an extended stay. The faces become familiar quickly, and because the painter's technique is so scary good, you know his subjects as real people, know their personalities and, most of all, their vulnerabilities.
Some subjects make repeat appearances; you watch them age, and there is enough whimsical confusion in these faces to make them charming, and enough sincerity to make them a bit sad.
Freud captures his muses in the precise moment when they forget they're being watched, though he does not deny them sympathy. "Girl in a Dark Jacket" (1947) seems to have a gentle, cautious engagement with the man painting her, but also the same self-consciousness that runs through so many of these portraits like an invisible thread. The girl's split ends are visible and she's almost, but not quite, looking you in the eye. It's a portrait of a person living with authentic disappointment.
Unlike many artists, Freud's technique developed strength with age. His self-portraits are not mere paintings of active vanity, but increasingly complex engagements in the difficult emotions of aging. We even see him die -- a painting dated 2011, the year of Freud's death, has a substantial chunk left unpainted, a death recorded by blank canvas.
Earlier self-portraits display an imperiousness, such as Reflection with Two Children (1965) where Freud is literally looking down as if (first interpretation, dramatic) the viewer is far beneath him or (second interpretation, practical) he was painting from the reflection of a mirror on the floor (duh). But his handsome, scruffy, comfortable presence mellows with age, stocked with layers of pigmentation and evolving technique in a shrine to fading youth and eccentric individuality.
Now, The Smutty Bits About Lucien Freud, some of them true:
• Rumored to have fathered 40 children! • Fathered 14 children for sure by a bunch of different women! • Had an affair with London wild child Lorna Garman, then married her niece. One of Garman's other lovers married another of her nieces. That's weird! • Rumored to have had an affair with fellow artist Francis Bacon (a portrait of him in the show intrigues!)! • Slept with his students! • If you've ever had sex, it was probably with Lucien Freud! Lucien Freud Portraits runs through October 28, 2012, at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.