Portrait of Queen Elizabeth Two by Lucian Freud

Richard Barone

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May 23rd, 2013 - 03:29 PM

Portrait of Queen Elizabeth Two by Lucian Freud

At first this portrait looks ugly and amateurish. When you realize its size, however, you get the distinct impression that it is a very intentional work of art. One naturally asks, where is the rest of it? Only 6" x 9"? Where is her throne, her diamond necklace, her elegant dress? What you see here is all there is, a mini portrait, a pochade in terms of portraiture, not a majestic masterpiece. Having painted several portraits, I often get the urge to let the paint and brush take control. Itís a matter of freedom. Freud is showing that the Queen is no longer in charge, and he complements her by not being in charge of his brush and paint. He has said that he knows when a painting is done when it looks like it has been painted by someone else. The Queen has no real power, just as the artist defers his power to create a traditional painting. In a way it is a self-portrait, the unconscious mind of the painter taking control, the id being sublimated by the grotesque. Freud is really the court jester and, as such, can pull off such a stunt without losing his head. A perfect match between subject and artist, this is ironically a great portrait by a not-so-great artist. After all, the Queen said she liked it.
Freud: an infamous name that could not be denied, a name that lurked about the British art world with paintings bold and existential, a traitorous name seething with contempt for the unconscious and surreal, yet a name that refused to be knighted.

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