Lucian Freud: Lucian Freud & David Dawson


Gallery Faurschou Beijing

09 April – 14 August 2011

Press Release:


The current exhibition at Faurschou Beijing presents the renowned British painter Lucian Freud (1922) and his assistant David Dawson (1960), who is himself a painter and a photographer. The exhibition juxtaposes one of Lucian Freud’s principal works – the masterpiece David & Eli (2003-4) – with ten photographs taken by David Dawson at Lucian Freud’s studio between 2004 -2006, giving us a unique glimpse into the every-day life of one the greatest living painters in the world today.


David Dawson has been working as Freud’s studio assistant since 1991 – i.e. for 20 years now – and they have a close friendship. David Dawson goes to Freud’s studio every morning, and after his work is done, he returns in the afternoon to his home and his own painting. Freud has great confidence in Dawson, and he is one of the few people ever allowed to take pictures in Freud’s studio. David Dawson also regularly models for Lucian Freud.


David and Eli is one of the results – a portrait of David Dawson and his whippet Eli. Beside the couch in the bare room, a plant has been placed in a basket table.

The painting has a classic Freud set-up: a nude model on a bed or sofa, and the dog (always a whippet) that is regularly present in his paintings, along with a suggestive object – here a plant.


Freud has been doing paintings of nude models lying or sleeping on his studio couch, bed, sofa or mattress for decades. He has become world famous for his ability to scrutinize every little detail of the model’s character, so that what is portrayed is not only realism, but an expression of the nature of the subject that goes beyond the picture plane and captures the personality of the model.


Freud paints with intensity to get the expressiveness he wants. It is well known that his models sit for him for hours and hours every day for months, even years, often falling asleep as they sit. This stillness has always been a condition of his art. Most of those who have sat for Freud have been family, intimates, fellow painters, friends and friends of friends. The autobiographical involvement certainly gives his works a distinct sensuality. Most of those who have sat for Freud have been family, intimates, friends, fellow painters, and friends of friends. The autobiographical involvement surely gives his works this distinct sensuality.


Freud’s early paintings are often associated with surrealism and depict people, plants and animals in unusual juxtapositions. These works are usually painted with relatively thin paint. From the 1950s on, he began to paint portraits, often nudes, to the almost complete exclusion of everything else, now employing a thick impasto technique.


In the 1960s Lucian Freud belonged to a group of figurative artists called the “School of London”. This was a collection of individual artists who were all working in London at the same time in the figurative style – in what was otherwise the boom years of abstract painting. The group was led by Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud, and included artists such as Frank Auerbach, Michael Andrews, Leon Kossoff, Robert Colquhoun, Robert MacBryde, Reginald Gray and Ronald Kitaj.


In recent years Lucian Freud has had large-scale solo exhibitions at museums inclu·ding MOCA, Los Angeles, Museo Correr, Venice, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, the Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, and Centre Pompidou, Paris.


While David Dawson is well known for his fantastic photographs of Lucian Freud, he really is a painter. His paintings are figurative too, with abstract elements; and, interestingly, they are unpeopled. He has captured street scenes, cityscapes and, most recently, the cul-de-sac in suburban North-West London where he lives as well as the changing skies he witnesses from his studio window. It is tempting to see these unpeopled worlds as a reaction to the vivid figuration that Dawson witnesses in Freud's studio every morning.


In many ways David Dawson’s inspiration from Lucian Freud can be clearly seen in the realism and acute observation – but Dawson’s paintings also incorporate, in his own language, his passion for American post-war abstraction.


At Faurschou Beijing David Dawson’s photographs of Lucian Freud at work in his studio bring us close to the working life of an artist who is reticent about himself and his work. With the painting by Lucian Freud of David Dawson and his dog, we have an opportunity to examine this fine relationship in the flesh.

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