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Lucian Freud: Monumental

April 5 - May 24, 2019

Lucian Freud, Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, 1995

Lucian Freud

Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, 1995

Oil on canvas

59 5/8 x 86 inches (151.3 x 218.4 cm)

Private Collection

© The Lucian Freud Archive / Bridgeman Images

Lucian Freud, Sunny Morning—Eight Legs, 1997

Lucian Freud

Sunny Morning—Eight Legs, 1997

Oil on canvas

92 1/8 x 52 inches (234 x 132.1 cm)

The Art Institute of Chicago; Joseph Winterbotham Collection (1997.561)

© The Lucian Freud Archive / Bridgeman Images

Lucian Freud, Naked Man, Back View, 1991-92

Lucian Freud

Naked Man, Back View, 1991-92

Oil on canvas

72 x 54 inches (182.9 x 137.2 cm)

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 1993 (1993.71)

© The Lucian Freud Archive / Bridgeman Images

Lucian Freud, Naked Portrait with Green Chair, 1999

Lucian Freud

Naked Portrait with Green Chair, 1999

Oil on canvas

63 ½ x 61 ¼ inches (161.3 x 155.6 cm)

Private Collection

© The Lucian Freud Archive / Bridgeman Images

Press Release

Acquavella Galleries Presents


April 5 – May 24, 2019 
Opening Reception April 4, 6-8 pm 

(New York, NY, January 22, 2019) — Acquavella Galleries is pleased to present Lucian Freud: Monumental, a loan exhibition focusing on the artist’s naked portraits, a subject that has long enjoyed special significance in his oeuvre. Curated by the artist’s longtime studio assistant and friend, David Dawson, Monumental will include thirteen major paintings, including depictions of his most important models from the 1990s and 2000s.  

The exhibition begins with work from 1990, when Freud began painting the performance artist Leigh Bowery, who is featured here in two works. Inspired by Bowery’s impressive physique, Freud began working on a larger scale that emphasized the physical presence of his subjects. These large-scale portraits ushered in a new sense of monumentality in the artist’s body of work. Also on view is Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, one of two paintings in the show from the mid-1990s of Sue Tilley, the other essential model from this pivotal time in Freud’s career. Dawson himself as well as Freud’s familiar whippets also make multiple appearances in paintings in the exhibition. 

Despite the grand scale, Freud’s subjects are depicted with a sense of intimacy, penetrating honesty and psychological depth. This was due in part to the extraordinary amount of time the artist spent with his sitters. Ria, Naked Portrait required the art handler Ria Kirby, whom Freud met while installing a show at the Victoria & Albert Museum, to come to the studio nearly every day for 16 months in 2006 and 2007.  

Being naked has to do with making a more complete portrait, a naked body is somehow more permanent, more factual…. When someone is naked there is in effect nothing to be hidden. Not everyone wants to be that honest about themselves, that means I feel an obligation to be equally honest in how I represent them. It is a matter of responsibility, in a way I don’t want the painting to come from me, I want it to come from them. It can be extraordinary how much you can learn from someone by looking very carefully at them without judgement. — Lucian Freud 

The show includes important loans from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, The Lewis Collection, in addition to other private collections. 

This will be the sixth solo exhibition over the course of Acquavella Galleries’ longstanding relationship with Freud and, since the artist’s death in 2011, his estate. The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog featuring essays by Dawson and Michael Auping, longtime chief curator at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, who interviewed Freud between May 2009 and January 2011. 

David Dawson was Lucian Freud’s assistant from 1991 through 2011, and he is now director of the Lucian Freud Archive. He co-edited last year’s two-volume survey of the artist’s work published by Phaidon. He is currently preparing an exhibition of Freud’s self-portraits for the Royal Academy, London, in October. Dawson also continues to work as a painter in his own right.  

Lucian Freud (1922–2011) was one of the most significant painters from the postwar period through the first decade of this century. A grandson of Sigmund Freud, he was born in Berlin and moved with his family to London in 1931. He served in the British navy during World War II, and immediately after began working full time as a painter. Committed to figurative painting for the entirety of his career, Freud built a formidable reputation as a painter of portraiture. 

The work of Lucian Freud is represented in major private and public collections worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; and the Art Institute of Chicago as well as the Tate and National Picture Gallery in London; Centre Pompidou, Paris; and Museo Thyssen Bornemisza, Madrid; among many others. 


Media Contacts: 
For interviews, background and images, please contact:

David Simantov 
Blue Medium, Inc 
Tel: +1-212-675-1800

Emily Crowley 
Acquavella Galleries 
Tel: +1-212-734-6300

Photograph of Lucian Freud
Lucian Freud
Lucian Freud: Monumental catalogue cover (Naked Man, Back View)
Lucian Freud: Monumental
April - May 2019
Lucian Freud, Ria, Naked Portrait, 2006-7
Whitehot Magazine of Contemporary Art
Lucian Freud at Acquavella May 2019

By Jonathan Goodman

Lucian Freud, Leigh Bowery (Seated), 1990
Tablet Magazine
Lucian Freud's Fat Lady Sings May 21, 2019

By Jeremy Sigler

Flesh, set free by a ‘despicable genius,’ or ensnared in the male gaze?


Lucian Freud, Eli and David, 2006
Juxtapoze Magazine
Paint as Flesh / Flesh as Paint: Lucian Freud's 'Monumental' Exhibition at Acquavella Gallery May 20, 2019

By David Molesky

Lucian Freud, Sunny Morning-Eight Legs, 1997
Lucian Freud's Mountains of Flesh May 18, 2019

By Thomas Micchelli

Freud's forlorn, isolated figures and grotty interiors resonate appallingly with the steep cultural and social decline fated by Brexit, if it ever takes effect.

Lucian Freud, Naked Solicitor, 2003
Galerie Magazine
5 Museum-Quality Gallery Shows to See in New York this Summer May 20, 2019

Rounding up a selection of exceptional exhibitions at Upper East Side and Chelsea galleries, we take you on a timely tour of museum-quality shows that definitely deliver the goods.

Lucian Freud, Naked Portrait, 2004
The New York Times
New York Art Galleries: What to See Right Now April 17, 2019

Lucian Freud’s nudes from the 1990s and 2000s; a Gretchen Bender retrospective revisits her TV-based installations; and artists address social justice issues in “Perilous Bodies.”

Lucian Freud, Naked Portrait with Green Chair, 1999
An Abundance of Flesh: Lucian Freud at Acquavella April 15, 2019
Lucian Freud, Portrait on a Grey Cover, 1996
The New Criterion
The Critic's Notebook: Lucian Freud April 15, 2019

“Lucian Freud: Monumental,” at Acquavella Galleries (through May 24): Not since Rubens has a painter been so focused on the amplitude of the nude as Lucian Freud. The English grandson of Sigmund, this famous painter, who died in 2011, made a fetish out of flesh, skinning the surfaces of his mottled canvases with a favorite selection of subjects. Now at Acquavella, a loan exhibition brings together thirteen of Freud’s major paintings, curated by the artist’s studio assistant, David Dawson.

Photo of Lucian Freud painting at night by David Dawson
1st Dibs Introspective Magazine
Editor's Pick: 13 of Lucian Freud's Larger-Than-Life Nudes Are on View April 14, 2019

Manhattan's Acquavella Galleries is showing a group of the artist's monumental works that have never been seen together.


Lucian Freud, Irish Woman on a Bed, 2004
Why Lucian Freud's Nude Portraits Are Monumental in Every Way April 7, 2019
Lucian Freud, Large Interior, Notting Hill, 1998
The Observer
Sitting for Lucian Freud: The Painter’s Longtime Assistant Describes His Meticulous Process April 4, 2019

“If you like skin, you should find people that have a lot of it,” Lucian Freud said, according to the catalogue essay authored by Michael Auping for a show of the painter’s work opening tomorrow at Acquavella Galleries.

In most of the paintings in “Lucian Freud Monumental,” that’s what the artist did. Yet that’s not to say that Freud (1922-2011), the grandson of Sigmund Freud, didn’t place less care and attention on what surrounded the person in his gaze. Often taking twelve months to complete, with the subject sitting whenever Freud painted, these huge portraits capture even the exquisite detail of the floorboards, for example, in a painting of the performance artist and nightclub personality Leigh Bowery, who became a frequent model for the artist.

Also depicted in two paintings on view is David Dawson, a painter and Freud’s assistant for two decades. Dawson organized the show at Acquavella Galleries with William Acquavella. Both pictures show the slim, nude Dawson with a whippet—one with the skeletal dog in his arms, the other with it in his lap. (A third picture puts Dawson’s head on the body of a woman nursing a baby.) Lucian Freud was not just about masses of flesh.

Observer spoke to David Dawson about working for and posing for Lucian Freud.

Observer: We’re standing here at the far end of the long gallery on the first floor at Acquavella Galleries. On the wall is a huge 1990 portrait, eight feet high, of Leigh Bowery, sitting in what looks like a velvet chair that’s too small for him. This was the first painting by Lucian Freud that you ever saw, in the flesh, as it were. What was that experience like?
David Dawson: That took my breath away. It made all of the hairs on my arm and my neck stand on end. It’s the first painting he ever did of Leigh. From then on, I saw every single painting being made, because I was with Lucian every single day.

How did you first meet Lucian Freud?
Through James Kirkman, who was Lucian’s dealer at the time. I’d just graduated from the Royal College of Art. A professor there set me up, without my really knowing I was being set up, as a part-time assistant to a dealer, four mornings a week, a run-around boy. Straight out of art school, I thought it was a good way of getting to know who the dealers were.

The Leigh Bowery paintings hadn’t been seen by anybody then. Lucian really had jumped at that point to the physical scale of the canvases.

I was thinking of coming over to New York, where you had Julian Schnabel and David Salle and Brice Marden. The buzz was over here, in America. So when I saw that painting of Leigh Bowery, I said, “Hold on a minute. This is really serious, something important is going on here. The quality of it, the visceral truth of what a portrait can be. This is serious. I’m hanging around. I won’t find better painting in New York.” Part of the buzz of New York was the hype. It was Schnabel, it was that whole excitement.

I made the right choice.

You then worked for him for 20 years, seven days a week. Most caregivers don’t even spend that much time with a single person.
Yeah. But we got on very well. He was good company. And he actually was interested in other people. That’s why he was a good portraitist. I think that’s what he brought to portraiture in the twentieth century.

How did you end up being the subject of his first painting of you, Sunny Morning—Eight Legs, 1997, where you’re lying on a bed with a whippet—his whippet
I was with him for six years, and then one morning he just said, “Oh, I’ve got an idea for a big painting with you. Would you sit?” I just said, “Clothes on, or off?” He went, “Off.”

So we started that day.

It lessened the time that I had for my own painting, although I did have the afternoons off. But I really wanted to watch him paint.  He would close the door to his studio when he painted other models, and I wanted to see how he made these paintings.

He worked from a very small area and built out.

And that small area he starts from is brought to quite a high level of completion. And then it moves, and it gets bigger. Nobody else paints like that.

And Pluto, his pet whippet, is in that painting with you. The picture also has your legs under the bed where you’re lying unclothed. Did that seem strange, to have another set of legs there?
It was actually my idea. Because of the shape of the canvas, there was this big area below the bed that was fairly empty. It didn’t help that painting. It needed some life in it. We tried leaving my clothes there, but that was too contrived, too dull in a sense. Because I knew that Lucian came out of the Surrealist period—he was brought up through Surrealism—that sort of strangeness is in his humor. So I said, “It would be funny if I had a pair of legs, instead of my trousers, on the floor.”

These long sittings, over twelve months, alone in a room with a painter, are the antithesis of the accumulation of digital information.  It’s a different kind of experience. It’s a challenge for people immersed in the instant digital world to understand how extended time and extended looking deepens your understanding of what you’re painting.
Over the years it will become more and more important how different Lucian’s idea of looking is to everyone who believes in filmic Instagram moments and YouTube.

Let’s talk about his paintings of well-know people. What about the Queen, whom he painted in 2001? It’s anything but monumental, 9 by 6 in. How did that happen?
He painted the portrait of Robert Fellowes in 1999, who was, at the time, the Queen’s secretary, and he had a certain admiration for the Queen. They had spoken about how she would sit for the portrait, and they were planning to have her come to the house, to the studio to sit. The press got word of it, and we closed it down for two or three years. You would have just had press outside your front door, which would have been horrendous.

Then we did a little portrait of John Richardson [the recently deceased biographer of Picasso]. I bought the canvas for that in New York for Lucian to try—it was only a small little canvas. And that gave Lucian the sense of practical reality that “I could paint the Queen in a certain amount of time, because I tried it out with John.”

John did nine days solid [for his portrait], and then we had twenty sittings with the Queen.

Where were those sittings?  
In St. James’s Palace, in a room that was very discreet. The Queen could come through Clarence House. We could turn up at the palace, jump out of the car—we’d go in, no one knew. It was all completely done quietly, without any fuss, and then the painting was made.

Was that just Freud and the Queen, in the room?
There would always be a courtier with the Queen, because the Queen can’t be left in a room on her own.

I’d go in, set up the easel, set up the paints, wait for the Queen to arrive, do my bowing, and then come in two hours later to collect Lucian.

Did the Queen enjoy it?
I think she rather enjoyed his company. They were of the same age, so they did know people in common. They loved horses, so they had a lot of horse talk.

Tell us about his painting of Kate Moss, from 2002.
They really got on. He’d read in an interview that Kate said she wanted more than anything to be painted by Lucian Freud. And he said, “Oh, I like that.” And Bella Freud, his daughter, is a fashion designer. She knew Kate.

Here we are at a show of monumental portraits. Freud was a figurative painter. How did he feel about abstract art?
Lucian only did what he believed in. He thought abstract art was a valid and brilliant moment, but that it had already gone. He thought Pollock had something quite brilliant about him.

Having spent so much time with a portraitist, do you make portraits?
No.  What I got out of Lucian was an honesty and knowing something about yourself. Paint what you know. Since I was brought up on a farm, I have a strong connection with the land, more than with people. I go back and paint that.

Lucian Freud, Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, 1995
Art Critical
Featured Listing: Lucian Freud: Monumental at Acquavella April 4, 2019

In their sixth solo presentation of the late British master’s work, a loan exhibition curated by Freud’s assistant, studio manager and friend David Dawson, flesh is writ large. The show, which includes loans from the Met and the Art Institute, is titled “monumental” and fits the bill on various fronts. The sitters were large people, starting with Australian performance artist Leigh Bowery and followed up by his friend, Sue Tilley, the “benefits supervisor”; the canvases followed suit; and being Freud, the time commitment in each canvas – from model and painter alike – was commensurately prodigious. Whippets offer moments of ectomorphic reprieve from all these folds of flesh. What is most monumental in terms of aesthetic achievement in these intimately observed naked portraits is the way the human subjects occupying their outsized frames transcend the implicit theatricality and any element of the grotesque of their massed presence. DAVID COHEN

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