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Freud: different take

04 October 2013


From the Revd Christopher Huxtable
Sir, - Canon Angela Tilby (Comment, 27 September) paints a subjective picture of Lucian Freud, which is indeed the privilege of the observer. The artist throughout history both invites and risks such a conversation. The encounter is meant to exist. Freud's own oft quoted words would bear this out: "What do I ask of a painting? I ask it to astonish, disturb, seduce, convince."

Nevertheless, her bleak conclusion about the consummation of Freud's work is troubling. She ends her column thus: "his legacy is to show us what it might mean to be damned: to be exposed as nothing but flesh, to eyes that see nothing but flesh. Kyrie eleison."

Lord, have mercy, indeed!

How about this, to place alongside Canon Tilby's reflections, offered with the greatest respect for subjective discourse?

Freud reveals the raw beauty and the vivid physicality of his models, celebrating both their wonderfully lived-in flesh and his searing exposure to their honesty before him. Is it too trite to see that the holiness of the body, the groundedness of the form, the openness of our confrontation with such spectacularly naked men and women, is actually and refreshingly a revelation of incarnation, of enfleshing?

Not damnation and no hope: instead, one is faced with realism and an invitation to revisit the God-made-flesh in all people. Hallelujah.

Stowe School, Stowe
Buckingham MK18 5EH

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