VIENNA.- The Kunsthistorisches Museum
, Vienna, presents an exhibition of paintings by Lucian Freud (1922-2011), one of the most important artists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, and a grandson of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. It marks the first time that Lucian Freuds works have ever been shown in Austria.
The exhibition is a concise survey of 43 major paintings spanning Freuds entire 70-year working career, from an early wartime selfportrait of 1943 to the final, unfinished painting that remained in his studio at the time of his death in July 2011. It covers a range of different genres, from portraits of his family, close friends, wives and lovers, neighbours, fellow artists, aristocrats and working-class associates, to still lifes, landscapes and arguably his most sustained and remarkable achievement his own self-portraits.
Important loans have been made to the exhibition from museums including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Tate, London; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.; the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; the Art Institute of Chicago; and the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, in addition to others borrowed from the artists most important private patrons in Europe and the United States.
The selection of works was made with the close personal involvement of the artist during the months prior to his death in July 2011, and with his longtime assistant David Dawson. The exhibition allows us to trace the radical stylistic development of Freuds painting across several decades; from early works, painted in meticulous detail with fine, sable hair brushes; through the 1950s, when he begins to paint standing up with coarser, hog-hair brushes in a much looser style; his first full naked portraits of the 1960s; and finally, in the latter part of the exhibition, the monumental canvases of the 1980s and 1990s.
While the Kunsthistorisches Museum is one of the most important historical museums in the world, its commitment to the art of more recent times is central to its curatorial and educational objectives, said Director General Sabine Haag. It has long been an ambition of the museum to present an exhibition of Lucian Freud, and ten years on from the groundbreaking exhibition Francis Bacon and the Pictorial Tradition I am delighted that we have been able to bring so many of Freuds remarkable paintings to Vienna.
It was a privilege to work together on the preparations for this exhibition with Lucian, and later with his assistant David Dawson, said curator Jasper Sharp. I am just sorry that he did not live to see his works in Vienna. We set ourselves the ambitious challenge of bringing together the most important paintings of his entire career, and are hugely grateful for the support of so many international museums and private collectors who agreed to lend them.
Presented within the Kunsthistorisches Museum, whose collections span almost four thousand years from Ancient Egypt to the great painters of the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Baroque, the exhibition also provides a unique opportunity to consider and examine Freuds interest in the art of the past. Growing up in Berlin between the wars, his childhood home was decorated with prints of Old Master paintings and drawings by Dürer, Titian, and Pieter Bruegel the Elder, including two seasonal landscapes from the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, Hunters in the Snow and The Return of the Herd, a gift to the young Lucian from his grandfather Sigmund.
Freud knew the collections of the Kunsthistorisches Museum well. Among the works by his favourite artists among them Franz Hals, Hans Holbein, Rembrandt, Peter Paul Rubens, and Diego Velázquez, in addition to Bruegel, Dürer and Titian he was particularly fond of Giovanni Bellinis Young Woman at her Toilet, painted when the artist was in his mid-eighties, one of Freuds favourite depictions of the female nude. Freud himself requested that his paintings be shown apart from the historical collections of the museum, in order that viewers should be encouraged to form their own associations between the two bodies of work.
Highlights of the exhibition include Girl with a White Dog (195051) from Tate; an unfinished self-portrait from 1956 (being shown for only the second time in the last 30 years); Freuds first full-length naked portrait (Naked Girl, 1956, from the collection of actor Steve Martin); three remarkable portraits of Leigh Bowery from the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington DC, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and a US private collection; Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, which sold for $33.6m dollars at Christies New York in May 2008; and his final masterpiece Portrait of the Hound (201011) which was left unfinished at the time of his death.
Several major paintings that were not included in the artists recent 2011 retrospective at the National Portrait Gallery, London, will also be presented in Vienna: among them, Wasteground with Houses, Paddington (197072), Freuds most remarkable landscape; the still life Two Japanese Wrestlers by a Sink (198387) from the Art Institute of Chicago; Naked Man, Back View (199192) from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and Freuds largest and most ambitious self-portrait, the full-length naked Painter Working, Reflection (1993), from an American private collection.
Also included in the exhibition is a specially-commissioned film, 15 minutes in length, featuring previously unseen footage of Lucian Freud during the weeks before his death in 2011 shot by his assistant David Dawson. It includes moving footage of him painting on what turned out to be his last day of work