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Art Pick of the Week – Susanna

July 22nd, 2019


Lucian Freud. Susanna, 1996. Etching on paper, 50.8 x 49.8 cm. Gift of Dr. A.D. Taliano, 2006. © The Lucian Freud Archive / Bridgeman Images 2006/367

What do this week’s Art Pick of the Week and your last slip of the tongue have in common? They’re both Freudian. Susanna is a mysterious, contemplative etched portrait by artist Lucian Freud, one of the most celebrated figurative painters of our time. He also happens to be the grandson of famed Austrian neurologist and founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. Susanna can be found on Level 1 outside the doors of the Marvin Gelber Print & Drawing Study Centre.

This treasured work by Freud, part of our comprehensive Prints & Drawings Collection, is one of three at the AGO and one of only seven in Canada’s public collections. Traditional etching uses the manipulation of a metal plate with acid and an etching needle to create intricate line detail, which is then covered in ink and applied to paper. Freud’s masterful use of the medium is highlighted through the unique textures of Susanna’s hair and facial features. It’s hard not to consider what she may be thinking about.

It’s believed that Susanna was a close friend of Freud’s in his later years. She was the wife of famed New Yorker editor Alexander Chancellor and owner of two pet dogs that Freud frequently cared for. Over an illustrious career of 50+ years, the vast majority of his subjects were friends and family members from his inner circle.

A known eccentric and the subject of much folklore, Lucian Freud was a purist when it came to following inspiration and artistic purpose. In 1956 he wrote, “the painter must give a completely free rein to any feelings or sensations he may have and reject nothing to which he is naturally drawn” – giving insight into the diversity exhibited in Freud’s work. His subjects range greatly in body type and demographic and they are often depicted nude in unique, vulnerable poses that seem to tell stories. Although Susanna is only shown from the neck up, the painting absolutely leaves you wondering what story is behind the subtle, faraway look in her eyes.

Stay tuned each week for a new Art Pick.

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