Coda: Model into Studio; Studio into History.
“All portraits are difficult to me. But a nude presents different challenges. When someone is naked, there is in effect nothing to be hidden. You are stripped of your costume, as it were. Not everyone wants to be that honest about themselves. That means I feel an obligation to be equally honest in in how I represent their honesty.” Lucian Freud.1
If one were to conduct a public poll on painters of the nude, Lucian Freud’s name would probably be near the top of the list, or even right at the top. He hasn’t been dead long- 2011- and the fact that he painted popular celebrities like the supermodel Kate Moss has ensured his name has stayed in the public mind. Perhaps Freud is the last painter where the ensemble of artist, model and studio come together, not counting the playful postmodern treatments of Le chef d’oeuvre inconnu in 2011 by artist Richard Hamilton or film-maker Jacques Rivette in his Belle Noiseuse of 1991. In a painting of a nude like Standing Girl by the Rags (1998-99), Freud conflated the naked model with a group of rags he used for cleaning his brushes and wiping his palette knife;2 thus, he amalgamated the paraphernalia of the studio with the subject of the nude rendering them inseparable because his brushes wiped by the rags had been used to paint the figure. However, this treatment of the nude seems to suggest that the studio in all its manifestations- as seen throughout this course- is almost usurping the space of the model; this is no modelling platform- itself a kind of costume designed to challenge the “honesty” that Freud talks about- but a bed, part of the studio furniture, part of everyday life. The question might be asked: is a nude splayed on a bed a more honest one than the traditional academic type posed in a studio? Freud’s Painter and Model (above) demonstrates awareness of conventions surrounding the model, it’s not completely ingenuous; it seems to knowingly push the figure back into the history of the English model and the studio- the splattered walls and door recall Bacon’s studios of the 1960s and 1970s, the bed recalls Sickert’s spread nudes in Camden Town of the 1900s. Freud’s nude also invites questions about the model and the studio. Does Freud’s nude on a bed complete a project begun by Sickert? Where is the nude model located today? Does the nude occupy a space like the late Richard Hamilton’s “Untitled Balzac” which dissolves painters, studio and models in a welter of allusion and postmodern abandon?
2The art critic Martin Gayford sat for his portrait in Freud’s studio and produced an account in which he has interesting things to say about the artist’s studio and his working methods, Martin Gayford, Man with a Blue Scarf: On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucian Freud (Thames and Hudson, 2010).