Freud’s Man Resting (1988)

It's an odd paradox but one way to hide something is make it obvious. That's what Lucian Freud did in this etching of a horizontal man. The title describes him as "resting" not "sleeping" and his near eye is slightly open too so he might be, contrary to our initial perception, wide awake. And that's important because many paths in the Inner Tradition encourage practitioners to remain both unmoving and totally alert.1

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Captions for image(s) above:

Lucian Freud, Man Resting (1988) Etching, State 2 of 2.

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Look more closely and Freud's stylized description of the forehead hides recognizable forms from his own face. At left we can see the tip of a "nose", similarly bent in an early self-portrait (right), and the convincing illusion of lips below. 

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Captions for image(s) above:

L: Detail of Man Resting (1988)
R: Freud, Self-portrait (1963 ) National Portrait Gallery, London

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Though initially we takes these features to be outside the head, they might be inside. The only visible "eye", for instance, is in the middle of the forehead like a cyclops' and no doubt represents the inner eye of imagination. Yet the spaces for his absent "eyes" remain symbolic. That on the left is on the smooth light skin of the forehead, that on the right somewhere in the dark hollow of his hair. Differentiated by darkness and light, one represents what EPPH calls outsight to nature, the other insight. His "real" eye meanwhile (far left in this detail) is shaped like a vagina with its own vaginal opening. That means not only is his mind androgynous but his eye conceives the image and gives birth to it too. And the cyclopean eye or its visible portion is also full of significance.

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Captions for image(s) above:

Detail of Man Resting

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Turn the "eye" through 90°+ to the left and what once suggested its circular form now resembles a female breast with some stray hairs to indicate its aureole or nipple. In doing that, Freud indicates what artists know: their inner eye is fertile.

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Captions for image(s) above:

Detail of Man Resting rotated to the left

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That's not all. Freud's fractured, disjointed way of representing the human figure allowed him to add meaning by superimposing one form on another. If we rotate a larger detail (top L), we discover an even clearer variation on Freud's features as shown in the diagram (beige in top R) and self-portrait (lower L). And, again, above and between the spaces for his "eyes" appears an inner eye (brown) positioned beneath the triangular form of his brow. This man, as Freud's alter ego, has a lot on his mind which Freud then hides where it's least expected, in plain sight.

Captions for image(s) above:

Top L: Detail of Man Resting turned through 90°
Top R: Diagram of detail at left
Lower L: Detail of Freud's Reflection (Self-portrait) 1981
Lower R: Smaller detail of Man Resting

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Notes:

1. Meditation and contemplative prayer are two major examples.

Original Publication Date on EPPH: 02 Jan 2017. © Simon Abrahams. Articles on this site are the copyright of Simon Abrahams. To use copyrighted material in print or other media for purposes beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. Websites may link to this page without permission (please do) but may not reproduce the material on their own site without crediting Simon Abrahams and EPPH.