Mothers at Maastricht

March 21 2011

Image of Mothers at Maastricht

The picture I most coveted at The European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht was Thomas Lawrence's portrait of his mother (above left). I first saw it at Christie's, and was not in the least surprised when it soared above its estimate of £50-80,000 to make £373,000. Painted in 1797 shortly before she died, it is a dazzling display of Lawrence's genius in oil. I found it very moving.

I was surprised also to find in Maastricht Lucian Freud's similarly treated portrait of his mother (right), painted in 1972. I have no idea if Freud knew of Lawrence's portrait. But I was struck by the similarities between the two. Both are unfinished, and both show their sitters looking awkwardly to the side. Neither are painted with any obvious sign of affection. And yet in both it is the unusual intensity that reveals the deep bond between subject and sitter. 

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