Naked Man, Back View, Lucien Freud 1991-1992

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Often a painting known online and then seen in the flesh can take my breath away – but this had been hung in such a way that all I could see was reflection. Maddening! It is huge, and the presence of all that flesh is disconcerting. His back is almost too much for me, I find my eyes flitting between head and leg rather than get lost in that expanse of flesh. Looking at it again online, the overall shape is surprisingly compact, the naked rectangle of body with shortened limbs – just like the naked footstool he is sitting on.

I wonder if it is more the pose that makes it disconcerting. Here’s a man – a flamboyant exhibitionist – who seems to be wanting to make himself smaller, to hide away. I can almost imagine him wrapping his arms around his legs, resting his head on his knees to block out the world a while. The size of the painting (182.9 × 137.2 cm) creates such a contradiction –  the already huge physical bulk of the man made larger still and yet he shrinks away.

I’d like to know how much Freud directs his poses because this feels very much like “leave me alone”.

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Sketch copy in situ

This man was a performer, he danced, and despite his bulky torso his legs look strong, fit for purpose – and yet those feet, while strong, show the pressure they are under – flattening out under the heel.

I haven’t done a great job here, the calf too big,  knee too small, but I get such pleasure from copying these strong and confident lines.

If the kids ever leave home and I stop working I will do this all day!

 

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