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David Bowie’s Laura Ashley wallpaper tribute to Lucian Freud (with a Brian Eno assist)
12:54 pm


David Bowie
Brian Eno
Lucian Freud
Laura Ashley

David Bowie once concocted an intriguing homage to Lucian Freud by combining an artwork of his with a lush Laura Ashley wallpaper pattern. It was exhibited at that year’s “New Afro-Pagan and Work: 1975-1995” show and soon after taken up by Brian Eno for a charity he was involved with.

The fashion event was called “Pagan FunWear,” for which the beneficiary was the charity War Child; it showcased, among other things, “a quirky leather tie” by Lou Reed, some “strange shoes” by Jarvis Cocker, and “a suit of bandages” by Bowie. According to Paul Gorman, Eno also put together a “soundtrack” for the event called Antennae #1, which took the form of a limited edition box that included a CD of Eno’s soundtrack, a photo by Anton Corbijn, a watercolor by Patrick Hughes, and a “scrap” of Bowie’s wallpaper.

Eno helpfully supplied an “instruction manual” for those who ponied up the hundred pounds for a copy of Antennae #1, which today can be purchased on eBay for 275 pounds (about $340), although all you get is the CD, none of the other fun doodads such as the swath of Bowie’s wallpaper.

Here’s the wallpaper, which as mentioned incorporates an image of Freud’s:

Gorman discussed an encounter with Bowie in connection as a result of that event:

I met David Bowie when I was a member of a small think-tank for the charity War Child, working on the 1994 London art show Little Pieces From Big Stars which exhibited and then auctioned artworks produced by musicians. The exhibition and auction dinner were organised by Brian Eno and his wife Anthea. Bowie was very engaging, evidently super-bright and witty.

Gorman noted his impression that the wallpaper represents something like the essence of Bowie’s work and personality: “The fact that this shred depicting the great and serious artist Freud uses as its base a quintessentially English Laura Ashley print makes it funny, and, somehow, for me, very, very Bowie.”

Interestingly, Bowie himself was not entirely effusive about Freud’s work. In 1998 he desisted from signing on to the painter’s greatness, telling the New York Times that “I admire the trickery of his work, the cankerous skin, which is nice and grungy. But I don’t buy into him being the greatest painter that we have,” presumably referring to the United Kingdom there.

According to Reuters, Bowie actually created two Laura Ashley wallpapers for the “New Afro-Pagan” show. The design of the other pattern featured a minotaur, but the Laura Ashley people apparently insisted on censoring the private parts of the creature. This led to Bowie humorously noting of the work process with Laura Ashley, “It’s been a good working relationship, apart from the castration, that is.”

Hey Laura Ashley, when are you going to make a product line of this so that us Bowie nuts can use it for real?
via Church of David Bowie

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Francis Bacon’s lost painting of Lucian Freud turns up after 45 years
‘Song portraits’: What does music by Radiohead, Stevie Wonder & David Bowie LOOK like?

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Photographing Demons: The ‘brutal’ photographer who rivaled Francis Bacon
10:23 am


Francis Bacon
Lucian Freud
John Deakin

Portrait of Francis Bacon.
The photographer John Deakin was usually pissed as a fart. He haunted the bars and after-hours drinking dens in and around Soho during the fifties and sixties. He cadged booze and on occasion hawked “dirty pictures” to sailors at ten-bob a throw. Most who saw this shabby character drifting through the London streets dismissed him as a bit-player, a hanger-on, part of the alcoholic detritus heaved-up on the sidewalk. To those who knew him Deakin was either loved or loathed—there was no halfway house.

Lucian Freud described Deakin as:

Like Cinderella and the Ugly Sisters at the same time.

While socialite and Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton said he was:

The second nastiest man I ever met.

Who the first was, we can only imagine. No matter the divisive response Deakin’s personality engendered, there was one thing about John Deakin everyone agreed upon—he was a genius photographer whose work was uncompromising, almost brutal in its full-frontal honesty.

As the art critic John Russell noted this fact after Deakin’s death in 1972:

When John Deakin died, there was lost a photographer who often rivaled [Francis] Bacon in his ability to make a likeness in which truth came unwrapped and unpackaged. His portraits like Bacon’s, had a dead-centred, unrhetorical quality. A complete human being was set before us, without additives.

While Deakin said of himself, that he was:

...fatally drawn to the human race, what I want to do when I photograph it is to make a revelation about it. So my sitters turn into my victims. But I would like to add that it is only those with a daemon, whose faces lend themselves to be victimized at all.

Born in Liverpool in 1912, Deakin was educated at West Kirby Grammar School, which he left at the age of sixteen to travel across Ireland and Spain. On his return to England he met up and started a relationship with gallery owner Arthur Jeffress, who bankrolled Deakin until after the Second World War when the pair split up.

Deakin started taking photographs in 1938. During the war he served as a photographer with the British Army Film Unit, documenting the Allies’ campaign at El Alamein. During one briefing given by Field Marshall Montgomery in which “Monty” warned the assembled soldiers they were vastly outnumbered by “Wommel” and his superior German tanks, Deakin could be heard anxiously asking one of his comrades, “Do you think we are on the right side?”

After the war, Deakin started his career as a photographer in earnest achieving considerable success and notoriety as a fashion photographer for Vogue. He was fired from Vogue twice: once for losing his camera equipment (which some alleged Deakin sold to pay for booze); and a second time for his “blistering” personality. He worked at various jobs—including a stint at the Observer newspaper.

Most significantly, he was regularly hired by the artist Francis Bacon to take photographs of his models—Henrietta Moraes, Isabel Rawsthorn, Lucian Freud and George Dyer. It was his “pornographic” photographs of Henrietta Moraes that Deakin hawked around Soho’s bars for beer money. Bacon said Deakin was “the best portrait photographer since Nadar and Julia Margaret Cameron.”

Though Deakin was an alcoholic, he didn’t piss his talent up against the wall. After his death, the large portfolio of photographs and negatives he left behind revealed the extent of Deakin’s talent and utter dedication to his craft. He was a genius who never received the acclaim he rightly deserved. Critic Robin Muir wrote that Deakin’s “portraits still look starkly modern, half a century on.” While his friend the writer Dan Farson considered Deakin’s place would be: one of the most disturbing photographers of the century. The expressions of his victims look suitably appalled for Deakin had no time for such niceties as “cheese” and the effect was magnified by huge contrasty blow-ups with every pore, blemish, and blood-shot eyeball exposed. In this way, he combined the instant horror of a passport photo with a shock value all his own.

In 1991, Channel 4 broadcast a documentary The Life and Unsteady Times of John Deakin which brought together all of the key players in Deakin’s life (now all sadly dead) to discuss this strange and talented photographer’s incredible career.
Francis Bacon, 1952.
Girl in a cafe, circa late 1950s.
Jeffrey Bernard, London 1950s.
Watch the documentary, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Don Bachardy on drawing Salvador Dali, Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon

A delightful short interview with renowned portrait artist Don Bachardy, in which he tells interviewer Bradford J Salamon about drawing Salvador Dali, and his friends, painters Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon.

Bachardy was the life partner of writer Christopher Isherwood. They met on Valentine’s Day of 1953, when he was but 18 and Isherwood was 30 years his senior. They were one of the first openly gay couples in Los Angeles and together until Isherwood died in 1986 of prostate cancer. A film about their lives together, Chris & Don: A Love Story, was released in 2008.

Previously on Dangerous Minds
Notes towards a portrait of Francis Bacon

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Gallery of Lost Art: A century of vanished work by the likes of Freud, Kahlo & Duchamp

It is strange to think that some the most important works of art from the past 100 years have been lost, erased, destroyed, stolen, censored, or allowed to rot, and can now no longer be seen.

The Gallery of Lost Art is a virtual exhibition that reconstructs the stories behind the disappearances of some of the world’s best known and influential works of art. It’s the biggest virtual exhibition of its kind, and is curated by Jennifer Mundy, and is produced by the Tate in association with Channel 4 television. The virtual Gallery has been beautifully designed by digital studio ISO, and the site will be kept live for 12 months, before it is lost.

Amongst those currently on exhibition at the Gallery of Lost Art are:

Lucian Freud Portrait of Francis Bacon (1952)

This small painting was stolen in at exhibition in Germany on May 27th, 1988. It is considered one of Freud’s best early works, and although there was a police investigation and a hefty reward (300,000DM) the portrait has never been recovered.
Tracey Emin: Everyone I have Ever Slept With 1963-1995

Made in 1995, when Tracey Emin was still relatively unknown, Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963-1995 is a tent covered with the names of all the people Emin had slept with, including lovers, friends, family members and foetus 1, foetus 2. Inspired by an exhibition of Tibetan nomadic culture, which included examples of their tents, which are used by Tibetan monks for meditation, Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963-1995 made Emin an over-night sensation and one of the most controversial artists working in Britain at that time. The work was bought by Charles Saatchi, who kept it (along with hundreds of other art works), in a warehouse in London’s east end. In 2004, a fire destroyed this warehouse and most of Saatchi’s collection - including 40 paintings by Patrick Heron.

The Gallery of Lost Art - see the exhibition here, before it is gone.
More Lost Art from Kahlo, Sutherland and Duchamp, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Lucian Freud has died

Lucian Freud, one of Britain’s most distinguished and acclaimed artists, has died at the age of 88. Described as a “great realist painter,” Freud first came to prominence when he was just twenty-one, with his first highly successful one-man-show in 1944.

Freud’s early work was illustrative - doe-eyed portraits of his wife Caroline Blackwood, or his friend, Francis Bacon, which are reminiscent of the work of Stanley Spencer, and seem almost polite representations compared to his later giant nudes. Freud was greatly impressed by Bacon, and the older artist influenced Freud’s development as a painter. Freud and Bacon exhibited alongside Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff, a loose grouping of London artists,  whose work established the foundations for figurative painting for decades to come.

The critic David Sylvester named Bacon as the head, while Freud

“produced easily the best portraits painted in this country during the last decade.”

During the 1950s and early 1960s, Freud’s technique changed as he began to use impasto to create intense, almost physical assaults on his sitters. Freud said of his portraits:

“I paint people not because of what they are like, not exactly in spite of what they are like, but how they happen to be.”

The New York Times writes:

Mr. Freud, a grandson of Sigmund Freud and a brother of the British television personality Clement Freud, was already an important figure in the small London art world when, in the immediate postwar years, he embarked on a series of portraits that established him as a potent new voice in figurative art.

In paintings like “Girl With Roses” (1947-48) and “Girl With a White Dog” (1951-52), he put the pictorial language of traditional European painting in the service of an anti-romantic, confrontational style of portraiture that stripped bare the sitter’s social facade. Ordinary people — many of them his friends and intimates — stared wide-eyed from the canvas, vulnerable to the artist’s ruthless inspection.

From the late 1950s, when he began using a stiffer brush and moving paint in great swaths around the canvas, Mr. Freud’s nudes took on a new fleshiness and mass. His subjects, pushed to the limit in exhausting extended sessions, day after day, dropped their defenses and opened up. The faces showed fatigue, distress, torpor.

The flesh was mottled, lumpy and, in the case of his 1990s portraits of the performance artist Leigh Bowery and the phenomenally obese civil servant Sue Tilley, shockingly abundant.

The relationship between sitter and painter, in his work, overturned traditional portraiture. It was “nearer to the classic relationship of the 20th century: that between interrogator and interrogated,” the art critic John Russell wrote in “Private View,” his survey of the London art scene in the 1960s.

William Feaver, a British critic who organized a Freud retrospective at Tate Britain in 2002, said: “Freud has generated a life’s worth of genuinely new painting that sits obstinately across the path of those lesser painters who get by on less. He always pressed to extremes, carrying on further than one would think necessary and rarely letting anything go before it became disconcerting.”

Amongst Freud’s great late paintings were his enormous portraits of the performance artist, Leigh Bowery. Theirs was a special relationship, as Freud’s portraits of Bowery revealed the shy humanity hidden behind the make-up and costumes of a performer who invested all in concealing himself.

As Bowery discovered, sitting for Freud was a challenge, as the sitter allowed Freud “maximum observation”, as the BBC reports:

Lucian Freud’s portraits were not concerned with flattery or modesty - disturbing was one adjective applied to them - and some were said to have compelling nastiness.

His early work was the product of “maximum observation”, Freud said
Though sometimes startling, his portraits could also be beautiful and intimate. Freud had been an admirer of the artist Francis Bacon and painted a striking portrait of him.

Freud, who lived and worked in London, said his work was purely autobiographical - he painted “the people that interest me and that I care about and think about in rooms I live in and know”.

A close relationship with sitters was important to him. He painted several affectionate portraits of his mother and his daughters Bella and Esther were also models.

Sittings could last for a year and sitters were often profoundly affected by the process. One of them once said: “You are the centre of his world while he paints you. But then he moves on to someone else.”

Freud seldom accepted commissions. His work is in a number of galleries in Britain and overseas, but much of it is privately owned.

He was one of few artists to have had two retrospective exhibitions at the Hayward Gallery in London.

The following short documentary looks at Lucian Freud’s portraits through the people who have posed for him, from David Hockney to Duke of Devonshire.

Rest of documentary plus Lucian freud speaks, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Francis Bacon’s lost painting of Lucian Freud turns up after 45 years

As Marc Campbell pointed out on DM last month, when a b&w Coke bottle by Andy Warhol sold for $35, “some things are recession proof.” Now, a painting of Lucian Freud by Francis Bacon has turned up after being kept in a private collection and not exhibited anywhere since 1965. This triptych goes on sale next month at Sotheby’s, in London, and according to the Daily Telegraph its $10m-$14m estimate “does not seem unreasonable.” Not unreasonable if you think of art as just a money-making exercise, like Warhol once said, “Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.”

Three Studies for a Portrait of Lucian Freud is a powerfully rendered triptych of small, 14in x 12in portraits, and is a testament to one of the most significant artistic relationships of the 20th century.

Bacon and Freud met in 1945 through the artist Graham Sutherland and became close if competitive friends, painting each other on several occasions. At one point, they met on an almost daily basis, frequently at their favourite watering hole, the Colony Room in Soho. But their friendship cooled in the late Seventies after an argument.

Only four portraits of Freud by Bacon have been at auction in the past 20 years. The last was in 2003 when a very similar small triptych sold to Pierre Chen, chairman of the Taiwanese Yageo Foundation, for $3.8 million (£2.2 million), which was record for a Bacon painting of these dimensions.

Since then, the price of Bacon has risen dramatically, climaxing in May 2008 with the $86 million (£44 million) paid by Roman Abramovich for a large-scale triptych.
However, top-drawer paintings by Bacon have been scarce at auction during the credit crunch. Since the summer of 2008, four works of varying quality have been unsold, creating a state of uncertainty in the Bacon market, and potential sellers have been waiting for someone else to make the first move to ascertain its strength. Hopefully for Sotheby’s, that deadlock was broken last November when a late painting of a cricket player belonging to Bacon’s doctor, Paul Brass, sold for $14 million (£8.7 million), comfortably above its estimate.

Considering that two small-format self-portrait triptychs by Bacon made £14 million and more in 2008, the £7 million-£9 million estimate for this triptych of Freud does not seem unreasonable. The only thing against it is that it has recently been offered privately and not sold, but that was for a much higher sum.

Sotheby’s is not saying who is selling the portrait, which was bought directly from Bacon’s dealers, Marlborough Fine Art, in 1965, apart from indicating that it is part of a family inheritance. Trade sources, however, confirm that the painting belonged to the Geneva based collector, George Kostalitz, who died last year. A private man about whom little is on public record, Kostalitz is said to have had a close working relationship with Tobias Meyer, Sotheby’s head of contemporary art.

Previously on Dangerous Minds

Warhol’s $35million Coke Bottle



Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment