Freud - death of the portrait?

July 25 2011

Image of Freud - death of the portrait?

Picture: Telegraph

Mark Lawson has a fine piece in The Guardian today, arguing that the death of Lucian Freud marks the death of the painted portrait. His point is that Freud was the last redoubt of the portrait painter in his battle with the photographer. He concludes:

For decades, Freud succeeded in a fight that is now unwinnable. With his passing, the art of the portrait has passed from the canvas to the screen.

Nowhere is Lawson's point more obviously made than the soul-destroying photo-realist portraits one finds in the BP Portrait Award. Personally, I can't see how painting a photograph of someone is any more skilfull than photographing a painting of someone. But they seem to be all the rage these days. And the wider question is not just, was Freud the last great British portraitist, but was he the last great British painter? 

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