Lucian Freud was born in Berlin in 1922, a grandson of Sigmund Freud. His family moved to London in 1931. He served in the British Navy during World War II, and since then has worked full time as a painter.
Freud created his first etchings in Paris in 1946. The marks and techniques he employs during the etching process exhibit the natural progression of his work as a draughtsman. In both painting and printmaking the influence of his works in one medium on the other can be seen, and his subjects are those close and familiar to him, though often anonymous to the viewer. In the majority of Freud’s works everything unnecessary is stripped away, leaving little, if any, color and a minimal background. Unsettling and unyielding, they contain a remarkable honesty and an awkwardness that adds to the nervous nature of the images.
Freud has built up a formidable reputation as one of the most powerful contemporary figurative painters of nudes, portraits and faces. His is a gutsy realism characterized by strong forms and arresting detail, rendered with rich dynamic brushwork.
Freud’s subjects are often the people in his life; friends, family, fellow painters, lovers, children. In the catalogue accompanying the exhibition, Sebastian Smee notes ‘Many of Freud’s subjects happen to be men. These men do not appear in his pictures to illustrate some overriding idea about masculinity, or male sexuality. They are there because Freud knew them, felt some kind of interest in them, and wanted to make a picture from them. And yet contemplating Freud’s portraits of men on their own, as this exhibition gives us the rare opportunity to do, might yet be illuminating.’
As Freud himself has said ‘The subject matter is autobiographical, it’s all to do with hope and memory and sensuality and involvement really. I paint people, not because of what they are like, not exactly in spite of what they are like, but how they happen to be.’