I was very pleased to stumble upon an exceptional survey of Lucian Freud’s drawings while in London last Friday. Spread across two floors, the works on display consist of the most comprehensive survey of works on paper by Lucian Freud (b.1922 – 2011).
Beginning with a drawing made when the artist was only 6 years old and spanning the whole of his career, concluding with an un-proofed etching plate he was working on shortly before his death, the works on display vividly demonstrate Freud’s versatility for mark-making and the centrality of drawing to his art practice.
Freud always prided himself on his drawing, and curator William Feaver believes that the ‘interplay between the works on paper, both drawings and etchings, and the paintings of the past 70 years’ was crucial to his artistic achievement. The curator emphasises that he has aimed ‘to accomplish not so much a retrospective overview as a study of Freud’s development from prodigy onwards.’
The works range from the intimate, including portraits of his mother and father, his children and close friends - among them the painter Francis Bacon - to landscapes and studies of animals. Etchings, watercolours, gouaches and works rendered in chalk, charcoal, pastel, conté, and pen and ink, are to be interspersed with oil paintings, constantly interrelating.
Encompassing more than seven decades, the works in this exhibition have been borrowed from museums, as well as from friends and private collections. Taken as a whole, the selection illuminates an aspect of Freud’s oeuvre that was often overshadowed by his painting, the truth being that to him, drawing was the essence of his practice from first to last.
Lucian Freud: Drawings at Blain Southern continues until 5 April 2012. It coincides with a major retrospective of Freud’s paintings at the National Portrait Gallery, London, curated by Sarah Howgate, which will then travel to Fort Worth, Texas, 2 July – 28 October 2012.
Watch a short film about the exhibition here.