I think it’s safe to say that Lucian Freud is the greatest living painter of the figure. Even his bad paintings are better than the best work of most other artists.
If you don’t think Freud is the greatest, you may still find the way he works fascinating.
He recently finished painting the 26 year old art handler for the Victoria & Albert Museum, Ria Kirby. It took 16 months of sitting for the artist, 7 nights a week, for 5 hours each night, and the sitter only had 4 nights off during that time. That’s more than 2,400 hours of sitting, or in this case lying down.
Not only is that an impressive schedule for the subject of the painting, but at the age of almost 85, the painter is showing that he can still work.
The Telegraph has a fascinating report on the whole ordeal. Ria Kirby said “To start with it was quite exhausting, because I had only about 10 minutes’ break between finishing work and beginning to pose. I went through every possible emotion in my life. At the beginning I was very conscious of trying to be a good sitter. It took a bit of practice to feel very relaxed, but be totally still at the same time. I was conscious of getting back into the same position after a break. After a month or so, it became second nature, and felt completely natural. I realised there’s no point in trying to be anything. You just have to lie there and be yourself. But in the end I found it quite a release. It was one place where I could be where I didn’t have anyone phoning me or hassling me. All I had to do was lie still, which I’m quite good at.” Telegraph
The finished painting of Ria Kirby, called “Ria, Naked Portrait 2007″ will be on show at the Tate Modern in London from the 5th of October.
The art critic Martin Gayford also sat for a portrait by Lucian Freud a couple of years ago and talks about his experience here.