Never before seen in the US Lucian Freud work is currently on view at the UBS Art Gallery
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Never before seen in the US Lucian Freud work is currently on view at the UBS Art Gallery
Lucian Freud, ‘Double Portrait,’ 1988-90. Oil on canvas, 44 1/2 x 53 in (113 x 134.6 cm). UBS Art Collection. © The Lucian Freud Archive. Bridgeman Images.

NEW YORK, NY.- The UBS Art Collection opened an exhibition of etchings and paintings by Lucian Freud on Thursday, February 1, in the UBS Art Gallery, the public arts space located in the lobby of UBS’s Midtown New York Headquarters at 1285 Avenue of the Americas. The more than 50 works by Freud in the UBS Art Collection showcases one of the Collection’s notable pockets of depth. The exhibition brings together most of the works and marks the first time they are displayed together in the United States.

The majority of the artist’s late etchings, including still lifes, landscapes, portraits, and nudes, will be on display. The exhibition will also feature two compelling oil paintings: Double Portrait (1988–90) and Head of a Naked Girl (1999) that are representative of his expressive style.

While best known as a painter, etchings are integral to Freud’s body of work. The artist’s process was as unorthodox as his approach with respect to his subjects. Freud would place the copper etching plate upright on an easel, like a canvas, creating his impressions while standing. While the subjects of his prints often relate to certain paintings, the etchings were not derivative but created from life during extended sittings. His etchings are thus as intimate as his paintings, their linear constructions and croppings only heightening the sense of inherent tension. The etchings on display in this exhibition were created over the course of 19 years (1982-2001) and represent the most fruitful period of the artist’s graphic production.

Freud is often compared to the great seventeenth-century master Rembrandt. His art is characterized by a realistic and often crude approach to the human body. The thick paint is applied with an expressionistic brushwork. Freud takes particular care in meticulously rendering the play of light and the creases and wrinkles of the different materials, but in particular of his sitters’ skin. It is in the early 1960s that Lucian Freud establishes his unique style. The flesh becomes variably colored, the viewpoint is high and commanding and the scale larger-than-life. Depicting mostly people he knew well, he was an extremely slow painter, which required a long-lasting commitment from the subject.

‘Double Portrait’, 1988-90, depicts one of Freud’s regular sitters with the Freud family pet, Pluto the dog. There are small signs that indicate the many hours of stillness required when posing for Freud. The tension between the two subjects as well as the artist as observer is tangible – the sitter is in a rather awkward and uncomfortable pose, her right hand applying a little pressure to keep Pluto still, while the position of Pluto’s paws implies that he might attempt to flee at any moment. Freud’s penetrating gaze, nearly violating his sitter’s intimacy in its unadorned approach, is both fascinating and disturbing.

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