Are Lucian Freud and Sigmund Freud related

"Like a monster strutting out into the world"

Frank Auerbach and Lucian Freud repeatedly captured the human counterpart on canvas or paper: their portraits are often limited to the face, and variously expanded to include the body. They show people who respect the artist, who trust him and who he knows well. This can be seen in their faces, in the openness with which they sit as models, undisguised and unreserved. They are unsentimental portraits of great emotional honesty and captivating conciseness that are captivating because they have nothing posed about them. Rather, the view seems so intimate that looking at it inevitably gives the impression that one is getting closer to the other than is actually socially appropriate.

Exhibition view “Frank Auerbach and Lucian Freud. Faces ”with Lucian Freud's“ Woman with an Arm Tattoo ”, 1996, etching, 593 x 816 mm (plate), Marlborough Fine Art, London © The Lucian Freud Archive / Bridgeman Images

Lucian Freud (1922-2011) and Frank Auerbach (* 1933) were born in Berlin as the sons of Jewish families and were brought to safety in England from the Nazis in the 1930s. As young artists, they roamed the streets of London's bohemian Soho district, becoming friends with Francis Bacon, Leon Kossoff, Michael Andrews and each other. They sat for each other model: Auerbach Freud 1975/76, Freud Auerbach 1980. London became their exclusive place of work, created in their studios and create them almost continuously 365 days a year, Freud until his death in 2011, Auerbach until today.

Frank Auerbach, Self-Portrait, 2017, graphite drawing, 768 x 575 mm, Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, acquired in 2017 with funds from the Jürgen R. and Eva-Maria Mann Foundation, property of the Städelschen Museums-Verein eV, photo: Städel Museum © Frank Auerbach, courtesy Marlborough Fine Art

Her etched portraits are always created in front of the model in a large number of regular meetings, which usually extend over several months. While Freud first noted the outlines of the person opposite on the pre-treated copper plate with white chalk before he began to differentiate the depiction from the center with an eraser, Auerbach creates one portrait per session. If it does not stand up to its critical assessment at the next meeting, the paint is scraped off or the pencil is erased. Auerbach then begins again on the same image carrier. This procedure is technically impossible with etchings. The prints are therefore prepared using several sketches on paper and finally completed on the plate. This also determines the handwriting of the two artists: If Auerbach grasps the person opposite with a few, spontaneously etched strokes, Freud forms the faces and bodies with a multitude of curved lines concretely and precisely.

Lucian Freud, Girl Sitting, 1987, etching, 530 × 705 mm (plate), Marlborough Fine Art, London Photo: Francis Ware and Luke Walker, Marlborough Fine Art, © The Lucian Freud Archive / Bridgeman Images

For both artists, art is a struggle for truth. For them it is not about external resemblance, but about recognizing the counterpart, also in the emotional reference to the artist. It is therefore essential for them to be familiar with the model. If you don't know, you can only grasp it superficially like a travel description, Lucian Freud explained in an interview.

Left: Frank Auerbach, Lucian Freud, 1981, sheet 4 of the series Six Etchings of Heads, private collection Cologne, photo: Städel Museum, © Frank Auerbach, courtesy Marlborough Fine Art. Right: Lucian Freud, Head of Bruce Bernard, 1985, etching, 295 × 300 mm (plate), private collection, Cologne, photo: Städel Museum, © The Lucian Freud Archive / Bridgeman Images

But the artist wants to create something that, according to Auerbach in a conversation with the art critic William Feaver, “corresponds to the degree of feeling that one feels [in the presence of the other person]. And that's what all the motifs are for. They do not exist for their own sake, they do not exist for sentimental reasons; they exist so that they flow into that new, independent image that one is trying to create, that struts out into the world like a new monster. ”The works of the two artists are indeed just as haunting when you get involved with them : They are not idle portraits, but rather engaging faces.

Curator Regina Freyberger in the exhibition “Frank Auerbach and Lucian Freud. Faces "

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