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Publishers WeeklyStarred Review.
This remarkable exhibition catalogue for shows at London's National Portrait Gallery and the Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, brings together the portraits of one of the masters of the form. In stark contrast to the trajectory of most painting in the 20th century-and even artists considered to be his peers such as Francis Bacon, Frank Auerbach, and Leon Kossoff-Freud's unwavering realist impulse "established itself as a counterpoint not only to abstraction, but to much of the figurative art that was developing around him." Viewing "the process of sitting as a transaction between himself and his sitter," he worked strictly with live models, hoping to capture "the pulsating liquidity of the breathing body that was in front of him." Certainly, this is what makes early efforts like 1952's "Girl in Bed" so disturbing and effective; a simultaneously intimate and indifferent expression graces the face of the subject, which dominates the composition. Later paintings-such as those of performance artist Leigh Bowery, or Freud's elderly mother-work within a similar matrix of familiarity and alienation, the thicker layers of paint becoming at once lifelike and sterile. Without a doubt the recently deceased painter's oeuvre fulfills his own criteria for compelling artwork, in that it must, as he puts it, "astonish, disturb, seduce, convince." 200 color illus.
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