Celebrating Contemporary: Lucian Freud's Standing by the Rags

  • 16 September 2011

Today, Celebrating Contemporary looks at a portrait by British painter Lucian Freud

Standing by the Rags, Lucian Freud, 1988 © Lucian Freud

Today, Celebrating Contemporary looks at a portrait by British painter Lucian Freud, who died earlier this year.

The work

Standing by the Rags is one of Lucian Freud's many paintings of the female nude. It shows a blonde woman, half-lying on a pile of rags used by Freud to clean his paintbrushes. The marks of old paint are clearly visible on the heaped cloths.

Freud's depiction of his subject is coursely physical, her skin roughly textured and her feet exaggerated and oversized. The paint on the rags is suggestive of blood, dirt and other stains. Standing by the Rags was bought for the Tate Collection in 1990 with help from the Art Fund, and can be seen at Tate Britain.

The artist

Lucian Freud, grandson of the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, was born in Berlin in 1922 but moved to Britain in 1933 to escape persecution by the Nazis. He studied at the Central School of Art in London, and later attended Goldsmiths' College.

Freud worked almost exclusively in portraiture, generally taking people from his personal life as sitters: friends, family, lovers and other painters. His treatment of his subjects was intensely, almost brutally, realistic, never flattering his sitters – even when his subject was the Queen.

Did you know?

Freud had many partners – some formal, some less so – and it remains uncertain how many children he fathered. As his obituary in the Telegraph noted candidly, "it is difficult to be precise about Lucian Freud's progeny, but there appear to be at least 13."

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