LONDON (Reuters) - London’s National Portrait Gallery will stage a major Lucian Freud exhibition next spring which the artist collaborated on up until his death in July.
“Lucian Freud Portraits” runs from February 9 to May 27, 2012, and among the exhibits will be Freud’s final work “Portrait of the Hound 2011.”
Curator Sarah Howgate said the unfinished painting, depicting Freud’s studio assistant and friend David Dawson and his dog Eli, had been left in the artist’s studio after he died aged 88.
Howgate told reporters on Tuesday that the gallery had approached Freud, one of the titans of contemporary art whose works fetched millions, and proposed staging a show during Olympic year in London.
She discussed with Freud which paintings he wanted to display, and the resulting exhibition will include more than 100 works loaned from private collectors and museums around the world.
“I think it was clear from working with Lucian that this was not a biographical exhibition,” Howgate said, adding that she felt Freud wanted to focus on the work and not the artist.
“Like any artist, he was most excited about the most recent work he was painting,” she said. “He started every painting as if it was his first. He wanted it to be a unique vision, different from the last one.”
Gallery officials stressed that the show, sponsored by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, would not be a mournful retrospective of the late artist but a celebration of his work and changing styles.
Depicted in the paintings are Freud’s family and friends, including his mother, wife and lover, fellow artists Frank Auerbach, Francis Bacon and David Hockney, and Sue Tilley, immortalized in a series of paintings in the 1990s.
One of the series, “Benefits Supervisor Sleeping” executed in 1995, fetched $33.6 million at an auction at Christie’s in 2008, an auction record for a living artist.
The buyer was widely reported to have been Russian billionaire and Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich.
Freud’s paintings were relatively refined until the 1950s, when he shifted to a fleshier, looser tone partly under the influence of Bacon.
The new style initially alienated critics and the intimate nature of many of his portraits, including those of Tilley, made viewing them uncomfortably like voyeurism.
Howgate said Freud preferred to depict people he knew and cared about, and shunned professional models.
One less familiar subject, however, was Queen Elizabeth II, whom Freud depicted in an unusually frank image which divided critics and the public alike.
Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato