Lucian Freud’s Head and Shoulders (1982)

Lucian Freud died yesterday. He was a major artist who tended to depict friends and neighbors in his home or studio, that is people he was comfortable with in a place he was comfortable with. This 1982 etching depicts a rather buxom woman with long, uncombed hair framing her head. There is no question but that she is a woman. She appears to be sitting on a mattress without sheets, the stitching of which at left resembles waves in the ocean. Her eyes look downwards, perhaps as Freud's would have when making this very etching.

Click next thumbnail to continue

 

Captions for image(s) above:

Freud, Head and Shoulders (1982) Etching on paper

Click image to enlarge.

Freud must have known in choosing his model that she resembled him, or had a face that could be altered to do so. Beyond suggesting the androgyny of his creative soul, the woman's unkempt hair recalls the snakes on Medusa's, the ultimate symbol of creative chaos. 

Click next thumbnail to continue

 

Captions for image(s) above:

L: Detail of Freud's Head and Shoulders
R: Detail of Freud's self-portrait in Painter Working, Reflection (1993)

Click image to enlarge.

Thirteen strands curve in perfect unison on the right to pass out of the frame as though order has now been imposed on chaos, each line recalling its own etched essence. A white, oval gap in her hair, just above the eye on the right, is probably a symbol of the artist's own inner eye, an image of his mind in action.  

See conclusion below

 

Captions for image(s) above:

Freud, Head and Shoulders (1982) Etching on paper

Click image to enlarge.

Great artists never talk much about their own work and they often confuse people who ask. Nevertheless I had always hoped that one day I, or perhaps a journalist, might be able to ask Freud himself if my account of his intentions was on the right track. Now we will never know which may be as it should be: art without some intrigue to keep you thinking is illustration. 

 

Notes:

Original Publication Date on EPPH: 22 Jul 2011. © 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.