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BEAVERBROOK: Freud painting a marketing dream

Cathy Dobson Editor’s Note: The doors open Oct.

Cathy Dobson

Editor’s Note: The doors open Oct. 2 at the Judith and Norman Alix Art Gallery on an exhibition billed as the most important art event in Sarnia’s history, the only Ontario stop for the internationally-acclaimed Masterworks of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery. This is the second in a series of articles.

Lucian Freud, Hotel Bedroom (1954) oil on canvas, 91.1 x 61.0 cm, Beaverbrook Art Gallery: Gift of the Beaverbrook Foundation
Lucian Freud, Hotel Bedroom (1954) oil on canvas, 91.1 x 61.0 cm, Beaverbrook Art Gallery: Gift of the Beaverbrook Foundation

The Masterworks exhibition will provide Southern Ontario residents with a rare opportunity to view the painting Hotel Bedroom by Lucian Freud, and ponder the troubling self-portrait.

Freud, who lived from 1922 to 2011 and was the grandson of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, is admired for his intensity and attention to detail.

He lived a turbulent and eventful life and eventually earned worldwide respect for his moody portraits. As many as 40 children claim Freud is their father, although only 14 are recognized.

The woman lying in the bed in Hotel Bedroom is Freud’s second wife, the beautiful Lady Caroline Blackwood, a Guinness beer heiress with whom he ran off to Paris in 1952.

Blackwood appears in a number of Freud paintings, portrayed with large blue eyes and blond hair. The artist and his new wife spent most of 1953 living in a Paris hotel.

Hotel Bedroom was painted the following year and evokes an unmistakable tension between the two.

Blackwood is said to have been deeply dismayed when she saw the finished portrait. She was only 22 and a newlywed, but Freud chose to age her prematurely.

Critics have suggested it reflects their tempestuous marriage. Indeed, the union dissolved in 1957.

Freud’s work gained some early notoriety but it wasn’t until the 1980s that he began to receive international attention.

In 2003, when members of the Beaverbrook UK Foundation attempted to raise money to support the late Lord Beaverbrook’s many enterprises, they tried to take back two of the more valuable paintings in the collection.

One was Hotel Bedroom, then estimated at $5.2 million.

Prints of the painting are being made to market the upcoming exhibition, and the image currently covers the glass walls of the gallery’s ground floor.

“We did that because Freud is one of the better known artists in the collection, and his painting will create a draw,” said curatorial assistant Darryn Doull.

“The best portraits convey a sense of what the figures may be thinking and Freud is masterful at that.

“People look at his work and have a deep sense of connection.”

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