Watch Lucian Freud’s Very Last Day of Painting (2011)

All artists are mor­tal. Lucian Freud was, by any­one’s def­i­n­i­tion, an artist. There­fore, Lucian Freud was mor­tal — as, so his artis­tic vision empha­sized, are the sub­jects of his “stark and reveal­ing paint­ings of friends and inti­mates, splayed nude in his stu­dio,” which, wrote William Grimes in Freud’s 2011 New York Times obit­u­ary, “recast the art of por­trai­ture and offered a new approach to fig­u­ra­tive art.” Freud “put the pic­to­r­i­al lan­guage of tra­di­tion­al Euro­pean paint­ing in the ser­vice of an anti-roman­tic, con­fronta­tion­al style of por­trai­ture that stripped bare the sitter’s social facade. Ordi­nary peo­ple — many of them his friends — stared wide-eyed from the can­vas, vul­ner­a­ble to the artist’s ruth­less inspec­tion.”

Or, in Freud’s own words: “I work from the peo­ple that inter­est me and that I care about, in rooms that I live in and know.” Just as every mor­tal artist’s career must begin with a first work, so it must end with a final work, and in the clip at the top of the post you can wit­ness a few min­utes from the very last day the painter spent paint­ing some­body who inter­est­ed him and whom he cared about, in a room he lived in and knew. He spent it on this can­vas, an enor­mous and unfin­ished por­trait of his assis­tant David Daw­son and his whip­pet Eli called Por­trait of the Hound.

“Every morn­ing, sev­en days a week, I sat for Lucian,” said Daw­son to The Tele­graph’s Mar­tin Gay­ford. “There was a very open accep­tance of his not hav­ing so long to live. But he still had a burn­ing desire to make a very good paint­ing, right up to the end. He was paint­ing three weeks before he died.” Daw­son shot this footage of Freud’s final work­ing day, July 3, 2011, which made it into the doc­u­men­tary Lucian Freud: Paint­ed Life [part one, part two]. “We are in Freud’s home, which is very qui­et, with lots of paint­ings on the walls, and filled with a sub­tle, nat­ur­al light,” writes Hyper­al­ler­gic’s Elisa Wouk Almi­no. “He was par­tic­u­lar about paint­ing under a north­ern light, which he once described as ‘cold and clear and con­stant.’ ”

Whether Freud lived the last tru­ly painter­ly life, we can’t know for sure; we do know, how­ev­er, that he lived one of the most res­olute­ly painter­ly lives in recent his­to­ry. “Lucian did­n’t both­er about what he did­n’t need to,” said his final sub­ject. “What was impor­tant was try­ing to make the best paint­ing he pos­si­bly could. Work was what kept him going: that need to get out of bed, pick up a paint­brush and make anoth­er mark, make anoth­er deci­sion. So that was what he did. It was a good way to go about liv­ing a life.”

via Hyper­al­ler­gic

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Jack­son Pol­lock 51: Short Film Cap­tures the Painter Cre­at­ing Abstract Expres­sion­ist Art

Aston­ish­ing Film of Arthrit­ic Impres­sion­ist Painter, Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1915)

Watch Picas­so Cre­ate Entire Paint­ings in Mag­nif­i­cent Time-Lapse Film (1956)

Col­in Mar­shall writes on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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