I saw the Lucian Freud Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery with a friend one Friday evening. I think it's great when museums and galleries open in the evenings. It's the kind of thing I want to do on a night out. This exhibition is open late on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and for these last few days, until 27th May, it will be open until midnight.
I found Lucien Freud's paintings both beautiful and unsettling.
I love the way he paints flesh. The colours he uses are amazing, when you get close you see so many different colours including greens and purples. He paints skin as I think it should be painted, with character, aged and contoured. I don't want to look at smooth taut skin that only exists on airbrushed models. Who really looks like that? I also like the way he uses his brushstrokes to follow the contours of skin and limbs, accentuating shadows, creases and dimples.
The unsettling bit was trying to figure out Freud's relationship between him and the people he painted, particularly in his earlier paintings, he often appeared to be looking down on them. We walked around the exhibition and realised that alot of his subjects were painted sitting slightly below his eyeline, he seemed to be looking down on them. In his self-portraits, he appeared to be looking down on us too, with a slight downward gaze, we stood just below his eyeline.
Perhaps this didn't mean anything, but in much of his earlier work, he seemed to me to looking down both on the people he painted and us, as viewers looking back at him in his self portraits. It was quite unsettling and got you thinking about different reasons he might have perhaps done this.
Despite loving his work... I didn't really like the way he was looking at me.
However we did have a good night out and hope that late night opening in museums and galleries will long continue. But to see this exhibition, hurry as there are only three days left.