A Tale of Two Freuds 6/27/10When we stumbled into the recent Lucian Freud exhibit at the Pompidou, it induced in me a moment of consolidation. The exhibit entitled L’Atelier casts a profoundly penetrating eye on “interiors” and “reflections.” After a lifetime of preoccupation with art and psychology, I discovered a vivid display of their intersection: art as psychology, psychology as art.
Lucian’s overtly grand-scale nudes and personal quotes naturally brought to mind the great Sigmund Freud, his grandfather. Stated Lucian, “I work from people that interest me and that I care about, in rooms that I know.” Sigmund, too, cared for interesting people in familiar rooms. I was suddenly struck by the notion of Sigmund using his own monumental imagination as a canvas for revolutionary ideas. No doubt his thinking influenced Lucian in art and ideas. His radical pronouncements also provided a foundation for thought, perhaps even a way of life, for many of my generation. Consider the title of Lucian’s self-portrait, “Interior with Hand Mirror” and its implications both as mirroring and self-awareness, and for intensity of scrutiny. Lucian Freud’s paintings are like journeys through the minds of his subjects. Isn’t that what Sigmund was attempting with his patients as well; to discover, uncover, explore and perhaps invent the secret of the self? The two Freuds evoked a confluence of meaning satisfying my intellect as deeply as my emotional experience of Lucian’s paintings, art at large, my own analysis.
I see the two Masters Freud as master plumbers. For many, the 70’s were about plumbing the interior. We did it with everything. We did it with sex, drugs, rock and roll, psychology and art. For others, I think these kinds of explorations were as untenable as a transition from the figurative to the abstract in art. And still there are those who maintain that art should remain an emotional experience, not one subject to analysis. I am journeying towards the abstract, but not without my need to dissect.
In pictures larger than life, Lucian Freud shows us how curiously alike we all are: naked and invulnerable, naked and frail, naked in all our permutations from the plain to the pretty, trying, oh so desperately, to feel comfortable in our skins. Is that different from what Sigmund Freud was illuminating for us?