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The Credit Suisse Exhibition – Lucian Freud: New Perspectives

This first major exhibition of Lucian Freud’s work in 10 years brings together paintings from more than seven decades.

Priority booking is now open to National Gallery Members for the autumn 2022 exhibition, The Credit Suisse Exhibition – Lucian Freud: New Perspectives. Tickets will go on public sale from 3 August 2022.

This landmark exhibition is being staged by the National Gallery to mark the centenary of the birth of the major 20th-century artist Lucian Freud (1922-2011.) 

This first significant survey of his paintings in 10 years will bring together a large selection of his most important works from across seven decades – spanning early works such as Girl with Roses (British Council Collection) from the 1940s; to Reflection with Two Children (Self-Portrait) (Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid) in the 1960s and right through to his famous late works, such as The Brigadier, 2003-04 (Private Collection.) 

Girl with Roses Lucian Freud 1947-8
Courtesy of the British Council Collection. Photo © The British Council

Freud’s celebrity has often overshadowed approaches to the artist’s work and the historical contexts in which it was made. This exhibition seeks to present new perspectives on Freud’s art, focusing on his tireless and ever-searching commitment to the medium of painting.

From his most intimate pictures to his celebrated large-scale canvases, The Credit Suisse Exhibition – Lucian Freud: New Perspectives will give visitors the opportunity to see the astonishing range of work and the remarkable artistic development of one of Britain’s finest figurative painters. 

Demonstrating acute awareness of his artistic predecessors, Freud’s painting astutely reflects the history of art. Portraits of sitters clutch flowers in the manner of Hans Holbein (1497/8 – 1543); interiors are informed by Surrealism; couples hold hands reminiscent of Renaissance friendship portraits. 

Reflection with Two Children (Self-portrait) Lucian Freud 1965
Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

With paintings of the powerful, such as HM Queen Elizabeth II  (2001, lent by Her Majesty The Queen from the Royal Collection) the artist positioned himself in the tradition of historic Court Painters, such as Rubens (1577-1640) or Velázquez (1599-1660.) At the same time he paid unflinching attention to sitters who were not publicly prominent, including his own mother, poignantly documented at the end of her life.

In his later career, Freud often framed his subjects in domestic settings and in his paint-splattered studio, a place that became both stage and subject of his paintings in its own right. Showing how Freud’s practice changed throughout the 20th and early 21st centuries, the exhibition culminates in some of Freud’s monumental naked portraits, revelling in the representation of the human form.  

The Credit Suisse Exhibition – Lucian Freud: New Perspectives will include more than 65 loans from museums and major private collections around the world including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate; the British Council Collection; London and the Arts Council Collection, London. 

The exhibition is structured in five chronological sections, starting with Becoming Freud which includes Woman with a Daffodil, 1945 (Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA) and Woman with a Tulip, 1945 (Private Collection.)  This first room focuses on works shown at the famous Venice and Sao Paolo Biennials of the 1950s, as well as on early institutional acquisitions, highlighting the artist’s early and international reception. 

Portraying Intimacy frames Freud’s artistic development from the 1960s within the context of his relationships with family and friends, such as Michael Andrews and June, 1965-6 (Private Collection) or Bella and Esther, 1988 (Private Collection.)

Lucian Freud Bella and Esther Lucian Freud 1988

Power and Death contrasts Freud’s famous portraits of powerful individuals with his delicate and poignant chronicling of frailty in his own mother’s death, such as The Painter’s Mother Dead, 1989 (Cleveland Museum of Art, USA), recalling the context of court traditions of private portraits for public display.  

Art and the Studio focuses on Freud’s keen awareness of artistic predecessors and the role of the studio in his practice, presenting it both as stage and subject matter, including pivotal works such as Painter and Model, 1986-7 (The Newhouse Collection.) By highlighting the artist’s later interest in the representation and materiality of paint, this section also acts as a bridge to the final group of Freud’s work.

The Flesh brings some of Freud’s most famous large-scale naked portraits to this retrospective, among them Painter Working, Reflection, 1993 (Private Collection). In this room, the artist’s continuous examination of the surface of the human body, including his own in old age, closes the exhibition.

A devoted admirer of European painting and regular visitor since his earliest days in London, Lucian Freud had a close association with the National Gallery. ‘I use the gallery as if it were a doctor,’ Freud stated. ‘I come for ideas and help – to look at situations within paintings, rather than whole paintings. Often these situations have to do with arms and legs, so the medical analogy is actually right.’*  

Lucian Freud Michael Andrews and June Lucian Freud 1965-6

In 1987, Freud curated an edition of the Gallery’s famous Artist’s Eye exhibitions. Selecting nearly thirty masterpieces from Chardin to Vuillard, the artist wrote: ‘What do I ask of a painting? I ask it to astonish, disturb, seduce, convince.’ 

For Encounters – New Art from Old  (2000), for which the National Gallery invited 25 artists to pick images from the permanent collection to engage with and create new work, Freud chose Chardin’s The Young Schoolmistress as his inspiration for his etching After Chardin.

In the 2016 exhibition Painters’ Paintings: From Freud to Van Dyck the artist’s Self Portrait: Reflection (2002) and the nude portrait, After Breakfast (2001) were displayed alongside Corot’s Italian Woman, or Woman with Yellow Sleeve (L’Italienne)  (about 1870.) The Corot, from Freud’s own collection was then allocated to the Gallery following the artist’s death through the Acceptance in Lieu scheme. 

Lucian Freud Woman with a Tulip Lucian Freud 1945

He also supported the successful 2008 fundraising campaign by the National Gallery and the National Galleries of Scotland to jointly acquire Titian’s Diana and Actaeon (1556–9) and Diana and Callisto (1556–9), saying: 

’How is it that these paintings, which are as effortless as Matisse, affect you more than any tragedy? Everything they contain is there for the viewer’s pleasure. It hardly matters what is going on. The water, the dogs, the people, though they are involved with each other, are there to please us. To me, these are simply the most beautiful pictures in the world. Once you’ve seen them you want to see them again and again.’  

Dr Gabriele Finaldi, Director of the National Gallery, says: ’The Freud centenary exhibition at the National Gallery offers the opportunity to reconsider the artist’s achievement in the broader context of the tradition of European painting. He was a frequent visitor to the Gallery whose paintings challenged and inspired him.’

A spokesperson for Credit Suisse said: ‘We are delighted to be supporting The Credit Suisse Exhibition – Lucian Freud: New Perspectives at the National Gallery, London. We are thrilled that our clients, employees and partners will be able to experience some of Freud’s most significant works in a new light in an exhibition that highlights the important British figurative painter’s range of work and his own development as an artist. We look forward to continuing our long-standing commitment to the National Gallery in support of this landmark moment in its exhibition programme.’

Daniel F. Herrmann, Curator of The Credit Suisse Exhibition – Lucian Freud: New Perspectives, says: ’With an unflinching eye and an uncompromising commitment to his work, Freud created figurative masterpieces that continue to inspire contemporary artists today. His practice has often been overshadowed by biography and celebrity. In this exhibition we offer new perspectives on the artist’s work looking closely at the contexts in which it developed and at Freud’s mastery of painting itself.’

The exhibition is organised by the National Gallery and the Museo Nacional Thyssen- Bornemisza, Madrid. It will be shown at the Thyssen from 14 February 2023 to 18 June 2023, following its display at the National Gallery. *Michael Kimmelman’s Portraits: Talking with Artists at the Met, the Modern, the Louvre and Elsewhere (Random House, 1998)

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