October 8, 2013–January 6, 2014
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
1010 Vienna, Austria
The Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, presents an exhibition of paintings by Lucian Freud (1922–2011). It marks the first time that Freud’s works have ever been shown in Austria. The selection of works was made with the close personal involvement of the artist during the months prior to his death in July 2011, and with his longtime assistant David Dawson.
The exhibition represents a concise survey of major paintings spanning Freud’s entire working career, from an early wartime self-portrait of 1943 to the final, unfinished painting that remained in his studio at the time of his death in July 2011. It covers a range of different genres, from portraits of his family, close friends, wives and lovers, neighbours, fellow artists, aristocrats and working-class associates, to still lifes, landscapes and—arguably his most sustained and remarkable achievement—his own self-portraits.
The exhibition allows us to trace the radical stylistic development of Freud’s painting across several decades; from early works, painted in meticulous detail with fine, sable-hair brushes; through the 1950s, when he begins to paint standing up with coarser, hog-hair brushes in a much looser style; his first full naked portraits of the 1960s; and finally, in the latter part of the exhibition, the monumental canvases of the 1980s and 1990s.
Presented within the Kunsthistorisches Museum, whose collections span almost four thousand years from ancient Egypt to the great painters of the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Baroque, the exhibition also provides a unique opportunity to consider and examine Freud’s lifelong interest in the art of the past. He was familiar with the collections of the Kunsthistorisches Museum from an early age. Growing up in Berlin between the wars, his childhood home was decorated with prints of Old Master paintings and drawings by Dürer, Titian, and Pieter Bruegel the Elder, including two seasonal landscapes from the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Hunters in the Snow and The Return of the Herd, a gift to the young Lucian from his grandfather Sigmund. Among other works by favourite artists—among them Franz Hals, Hans Holbein, Rembrandt, Peter Paul Rubens, and Diego Velazquez, in addition to Bruegel, Dürer and Titian—he was particularly fond of Giovanni Bellini’s Young Woman at her Toilet, painted when the artist was in his mid-eighties, and one of Freud’s favourite depictions of the female nude.
Freud himself requested that his paintings be shown apart from the historical collections of the museum, in order that viewers should be encouraged to form their own associations between the two bodies of work.
The exhibition is curated by Jasper Sharp, Adjunct Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, and will be shown only in Vienna. Essays have been contributed to the accompanying catalogue by curators from the Musée du Louvre, Paris; the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; the Neues Museum, Berlin; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Dulwich Picture Gallery, London; the Henry Moore Foundation; and the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.
Important loans have been made to the exhibition from museums including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Tate, London; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.; the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; the Art Institute of Chicago; and the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, in addition to others from the artist’s most important private patrons in Europe and the United States.
Also included in the exhibition is a specially commissioned film, 15 minutes in length, featuring previously unseen footage of Lucian Freud during the weeks before his death in 2011, shot by his assistant David Dawson. It includes film of him at work on what turned out to be his last day in the studio.