“Naked Man, Back View” by Lucian Freud, 1991-1992, oil on canvas, 183,5 x 137,5 cm, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Lucian Freud. L’Atelier, Éditions du Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2010, p. 147 : “Naked Man, Back View”, 1991-1992, oil on canvas, 183,5 x 137,5 cm, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art. See important update below.

I want paint to work as flesh. […] I would wish my portraits to be of the people, not like them. Not having a look of the sitter, being them. […] As far as I am concerned the paint is the person. I want it to work for me as flesh does. (Lucian Freud, quoted in Lucian Freud by Lawrence Gowing, London: Thames&Hudson, 1982, pp. 190-191)

This painting is currently on view in gallery 912 of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York. See the accompanying webpage for a more general presentation of both the painting and the artist.

Below is a a photo made in 1992 by Bruce Bernard of Lucian Freud working in his studio on the painting “Naked Man, Back View” in the company of his famous male model Leigh Bowery (image retrieved from Christie’s)

“Lucien Freud working in his studio with Leigh Bowery” by Bruce Bernard, 1992, dye-bleach print. © Estate of Bruce Bernard

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There are various reproductions of “Naked Man, Back View” available online, each very different in their tone, brightness and tint. As usual, the experience also varies from one browser to another1 and depends as well on the settings of one’s monitor. The most common reproduction probably comes from the MET website: it’s by far the brightest one can find. The skin is almost white and the carpet is clearly orange. Photographer Molly Eyres offers what looks like a reproduction in a more neutral, less vibrant light: see her photo on Flickriver. The reproduction I found in the book edited by the Centre Pompidou is very different. The carpet is of a richer, warmer crimson red color (like a deep red wine). The brightest parts of skin seems to have a more natural tone, whereas the darkest parts are almost grey. That’s the reproduction I used above. See below for updates about this matter.

[UPDATE–June 20, 2012] While watching the BBC documentary Lucian Freud: Painted Life (2012) I stumble upon yet another reproduction of “Naked Man, Back View”. However, this time it was presented in context: in the documentary, the painting can be seen hanging on the wall at the MET (New York). The white walls give a better color reference. It seems the reproduction I got from the book Lucian Freud. L’Atelier may be a little on the dark side: it should be warmer (especially the skin tone). See below two different stills from the documentary. For the anecdote, the man standing in front of Lucian Freud’s painting in the second still is David Dawson, long time assistant of Lucian Freud. He’s also the photographer who took many iconic images of Lucian Freud working in his studio.

[UPDATE–November 26, 2012] I had the opportunity recently to see the painting displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The still from the BBC documentary is definitely closer to what I saw than the reproduction shown in the book by Éditions du Centre Pompidou (which is darker) or even the one available on the MET website (which is too bright).

“Naked Man, Back View”, still from the BBC documentary “Lucian Freud: Painted Life” (2012) at 1hr 17mins 40s.
Lucian Freud’s painting at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, still from the BBC documentary “Lucian Freud: Painted Life” (2012) at 1hr 21mins 42s.

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Previously: David Dawson: Lucian Freud, Working at Night (2005)

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1. For an excellent introduction to web browser color management see Gary G. Ballard tutorial on the subject (which was completely revised on March 2012). It goes without saying that one has not experience a painting until he or she has the opportunity to see the actual painting, and not merely a reproduction of it. ↩︎︎


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