William Scott Williams

Fiction by William Scott Williams

The Way to All Flesh | The New York Review of Books

The Way to All Flesh | The New York Review of Books.

A great piece by Julian Bell on the progression of Lucian Freud’s work. Here follows a brief excerpt (please read the full piece at the NYRB website).

“Freud has also returned repeatedly to the dumb delight of making paint look like things. “Dumb,” I say, because whenever Freud renders mattress ticking, armchair leather, or floorboards (his daily vegetables: “My world is fairly floorboardish”), his brush naively falls in with the grain of the material; and that runs quite against the grain of the Old Master “painterliness” he is sometimes alleged to revive. Yet it communicates a primal, childlike interest in objects that can be truly moving. No other modern painter, again, is more eloquent about a flower, or a pattern on a blouse, or water twisting from a tap. How wholehearted, however, is his faith in material facts?”

This is all clearly visible in much of Freud’s work. For example see Factory in North London and Interior in Paddington. The first of these displays a reverence for and a fascination with the material world. The second, the complex relationship of humans within that world.

In reference to Freud’s Large Interior w9, Bell continues:

“On the floor beneath the mother and the lover, one observes a pestle and mortar. When I returned, a little older, to that picture, a nasty suspicion dawned on me: Was the Freud who hated symbolism here to be found toying with Freudian symbolism?”

Freud’s naturalism is imbued with mortality. Freud’s tactile representation of human flesh is very much an attempt to capture not only the character of the subject and place it on the canvas, but also to preserve a precise moment in fluid time.

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