Lucian Freud at the National Portrait Gallery

Sue Tilley in front of Benefits Supervisor Sleeping at the National Portrait Gallery. Photo: Philippa Warr

On Wednesday 8 Feb I got to attend the Lucian Freud: Portraits exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery (nipping in a few hours before the Duchess of Cambridge arrived).

I published a review of the show itself on MyDaily but I wanted to flag up a few other interesting things that didn’t fit into the review – offcuts, if you will.

1. An anecdote

A man from the gallery marketing department told me that David Hockney attended one of the preview sessions and remarked to a woman looking at the portrait Freud had painted of him: “Good, isn’t it?” The woman didn’t quite know how to respond.

2. Will I have to queue?

The gallery has received much in the way of advance interest in the show which opened on 9 Feb. When I spoke to a NPG employee on 8 Feb they confirmed that all the advance tickets had been booked for at least the first ten days of the show. As with the neighbouring National Gallery’s Leonardo show, tickets will always be available to buy on the day from when the gallery opens its doors but you may have to do a spot of queuing, especially on busier days such as the weekends. I’m not expecting anything like the queues for Da Vinci, but I thought you’d like to know it sounds like you’ll still need a spot of advanced planning when you attend.

The gallery itself sent the following tweet strongly advising advance bookings where possible:

“LUCIAN FREUD PORTRAITS is now open! We recommend advance booking for the entire run. Members get free & immediate entry”

3. What if I want more Freud-related art?

If you’re after a dose more Freud (or don’t fancy queuing/waiting at the NPG) you can pop along to the Freud Museum where the artist’s daughter, sculptor Jane McAdam Freud is exhibiting a large scale bust of her father created from sketches made in the months before his death. The bust will be in place until 4 March and admission is covered in the cost of the general entry ticket.

Portrait of the Hound, 2011 at the National Portrait Gallery. Photo: Philippa Warr

4. What were your favourite works?

My own favourite works of Freud’s were the paintings of the performance artist Leigh Bowery. I’ve read other critics saying how moved they were by the final work, Portrait of a Hound, 2011, left unfinished on the artist’s easel at the time of his death but I didn’t find myself connecting with it very well.

Perhaps the emotional response of others was partly due to the heavy flavour of mortality lent to the piece by a combination of the sitter, David Dawson’s, nakedness and the unfinished areas around the dog denoting the loss of the artist. Usually I find that kind of thing very affecting but this time not. I suspect it’s because I somehow couldn’t ‘see’ the effect of the finished work. The previous Dawson and Eli works had not particularly stood out to me either so, much as I would have loved Freud to continue creating, I struggled to attach that sadness to that particular work. I’d be interested to know whether anyone else had a similar experience.

5. Will the show break the previous record for a paid exhibition at the NPG as set by their Testino show?

“Well, that would be lovely,” responded Helen, one of the gallery’s press officers. “But we’re just really pleased people are excited to visit.”

6. What else is happening as part of the Freud show?

There are a variety of films, lectures, workshops, talks and walks. The ones I think sound the most fun are below but there’s a full list on the NPG website:

  • Various dates  – Walking tour of Freud’s London: The Early Years
  • 6.30-8.30pm, 20 April – Life drawing class led by Adrian Dutton and featuring Freud’s regular sitter “Big” Sue Tilley as sitter
  • 10.30am-6pm, 21 April – International Freud Symposium
  • 6-10pm, 18 May – Late Shift Extra: Draw The Line (a night of creative activity inspired by the exhibition)

David Dawson's photographs of Freud at work, National Portrait Gallery. Photo: Philippa Warr

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