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Lucian FREUD, After Cézanne REDUCE 1/1


European & American Art
Minimalism / Conceptual art gallery

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Lucian FREUD

Germany 1922 – Great Britain 2011

  • Movements: Great Britain from 1932

After Cézanne 1999-2000 oil on canvas oil on canvas
irregular 214.0 h x 215.0 w cm
Purchased with the assistance of Members of the NGA Foundation, including David Coe, Harold Mitchell AO, Bevelly Mitchell, John Schaeffer and Kerry Stokes AO 2001
Accession No: NGA 2001.36
© Lucian Freud

  • After Cézanne is based on a painting by Paul Cézanne in Lucian Freud’s collection; another in the series, Afternoon in Naples c. 1875, is owned by the National Gallery of Australia. Freud reworked Cézanne’s lighthearted Italian romp into a gritty shambles on the floor of an unkempt studio. Freud shows Freddy, one of his sons, turned away from a woman who would confront or console him, and later added a bit of canvas to accommodate the whole of another woman bringing in tea to go with the sympathy.

    The overworked brown paint, the objectifying high viewpoint, and the stripping away of all pretence are in keeping with the artist’s horror of the idyllic and his reputation as a leading realist. Freud’s ambition to make his paint work as flesh is achieved; the viewer is persuaded that there is nothing false about this seedy scene. Even the worn leather of the upturned chair is made real.

    Also laid bare is the moment’s human ambiguity. The emotional stalemate of the couple is about to evolve as the man responds to the woman’s gesture and as both acknowledge the arriving refreshments. The scene holds the potential for many kinds of readings about engagements.

    Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
    From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008

  • In After Cézanne Lucian Freud enters into a dialogue with the French painter Paul Cézanne. Freud's composition is based on a Cézanne painting in his own collection, but the French artist also painted a number of versions of this theme. One of these works, Afternoon in Naples c.1875, is in the National Gallery of Australia's collection (NGA 1985.460). The paintings by Cézanne and Freud differ vastly in scale and effect. While Cézanne's easel painting is intimate and intended for private viewing, the drama in Freud's canvas has a monumental impact.

    Freud's After Cézanne also differs in the emphasis on figures and objects. The painting shows three naked figures in an interior - as if a particular moment has been captured photographically. The upturned chair contribute disorder to the scene. Freud has paid particular attention to the upholstery, the tacks and the padding to ensure that this chair has real weight and physical presence. Minutiae such as the hanging castor wheels, indentations in the mattress and the rumpled sheets encourage speculation.

    The reclining male and female figures have each been painted in an entirely different manner. The creamy palette chosen for the female's fleshy form contrasts starkly with the sinewy man, whose colouring is darker, and whose extremities are defined with accents of red. His features have been 'chiselled' in paint. Freud's painterly analysis of flesh is clinical and unromanticised. The sprawling, angular pose of the man gives emphasise to his penis against the white sheet.

    Conjecture about the relationships portrayed is inevitable. What are we to make of this gaunt, morose young man and why is his companion attempting to console him, if that is what she is doing? Has the attendant interrupted this scene or is she also a protagonist in this drama? Whatever conclusions are drawn, the fact remains that Freud exercises a powerful control over his psychological portraits. The painting is a very contemporary one, exploring issues of dependence and independence, sexual engagement and ambivalence, intimacy and alienation.

    The shape of the painting is unusual. The artist originally intended the attendant figure to be portrayed from the upper arms down, with her arms and the tray suggesting the reason for her presence. The extension at upper left was added later to accommodate the whole figure. Originally she was clothed, but Freud has painted over the gown. The inclusion of the attendant provides the most direct link with Cézanne's Afternoon in Naples. Freud is consciously positioning himself and the painting in the history of art. In this frank examination of privacy and exposure, Freud's After Cézanne makes a dramatic claim for painting and the genre of studio painting.

    adapted from Catherine Lampert's and Rolf Lauter's reports on the painting, published in Lucian Freud: After Cézanne, Canberra: National Gallery of Australia 2001, another version in Developing the Collection: Acquisitions 1999-2001, Canberra: National Galley of Australia 2001, p.43 by Lucina Ward.


    Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010