A few years back, this headline would have been inconceivable. One of Britain’s most appreciated painters, Lucian Freud has refused for decades to display his work in Vienna as a means of protest to the persecution his Jewish family had to withstand after Hitler’s annexation of Austria in 1938. But shortly before his sad passing away in 2011, the painter gave his blessing to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, one of the largest art galleries in Europe, to organize an art exhibition displaying his life’s work spanning over 70 years.
Spread between galleries presenting masterpieces by Titian and Raphael, some of Freud’s inspirations, there’s a chronological display in which you can see his style and technique evolving over the years. Starting with an early self-portrait from 1943, a portrait of Queen Elisabeth II, followed by ‘Wasteground with Houses, Paddington’, as one of his most impressive landscapes, ending with a painting he never got the chance to finish.
The selection of paintings was done by the artist himself and could be seen as a sign of closure and peace with the past that seemed to haunt him. It is unfortunate that the artist himself couldn’t witness this majestic display, but it turned out to be a suitable tribute to his life and work.
Beside 43 of his most significant paintings there is also a photography exhibition at his grandfather’s former home, turned into the Sigmund Freud museum, where David Dawson, his loyal assistant for over 15 years, gathered a personal selection of photographs illustrating the artist’s life not just in front of a canvas but also intimate portraits from his daily life. One of the most moving features is 15 minutes of previously unseen footage of the artist in the weeks prior to his death, working on what proved to be his last painting.
If you want to see this remarkable Lucian Freud exhibition, visit the Kunsthistorisches Museum before January 6th 2014. The photography exhibition closes on the same date at the Sigmund Freud Museum.