The unrelenting vision of Lucian Freud

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Perhaps a writing prompt or an idea for some character traits.

From Prospect Magazine:

Towards the end of his life, Lucian Freud attended the 80th birthday party of a friend, where a little girl was told not to touch him. “I’m not an object,” he protested. Perhaps she’d mistaken him for one of his portraits, because over the previous decades no artist had been better at manipulating canvas and paint to give the illusion of real human bodies, stilled lives. Everything about a self-portrait like Reflection (1985), from its intent pink-rimmed eyes to the shiny patch on its forehead, makes it look as if it is not a painting but a person, who is on the verge of leaning out of the frame to touch the viewer—though whether to kiss them or headbutt them it is hard to say.

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Some models failed to return once they realised that, although Freud was fascinated by their bodies, their own names would never appear in any catalogue or gallery; they were merely a way for the portrait to achieve its own form of independent life. Others had to accept that he was going to depict what he really saw rather than perpetuate a more flattering public image of them. Supermodel Kate Moss was painted while she was pregnant, and at the base of her real spine Freud tattooed her with two swallows set like inverted commas. (“An original Freud,” she boasted, adding that if the modelling work dried up “I could get a skin graft and sell it.”) A small portrait of the Queen was commissioned after Freud was awarded the Order of Merit in 1993, capturing a face that appeared to be at once eminently practical and unexpectedly fond of sly jokes. (Both of these characteristics were revealed when the Queen was reported to have said that she stayed as silent as she could during the sittings, “Because when he talks he stops painting.”)

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Alongside these star models there were ordinary people like the picture framer Louise Liddell, painted as Woman Holding Her Thumb (1992). She once cursed God for her fat ankles, whereupon Freud said “I thank God for them.” There were also plenty of approaches from strangers volunteering their services. “A man wrote to me and said, ‘I’m sure you’d like to paint me because I have no ears, despite which I’m a vicar,’” Freud told Feaver. And of course there were chance encounters with potential models he spotted in bars or clubs, such as a “rather amazing girl with a sore part under her nose as if she’d been up to something,” whom Freud thought that getting to know would be “rather exhilarating.”

Link to the rest at Prospect Magazine