Friday, September 16, 2011

My hero / Lucian Freud by Esi Edugyan

My hero: Lucian Freud

'I find myself deflated, and moved, and grateful, all at once'

Esi Edugyan
Friday 16 September 2011

t was in Holland that I first encountered Lucian Freud's paintings in the flesh. And I mean in the flesh. Freud's use of paint, his remarkable relishing of the human form, the unbearable beauty and sense of time passing, of ageing itself, all stopped me in my tracks. I couldn't look away. I didn't look away.

Artists – whether painters, writers or composers – often seem to doubt the efficacy of art more than anyone else. I'd been doubting the decisions in my life, the intensity of effort required for the writing of a novel, wondering what impact the art itself might make. But standing before that Freud painting, something in the physical construction on the canvas, the weight of all that paint, made me feel hollowed out. There was nothing lonely in the work itself, but the presence of a figure clearly absent led me back into myself. It was a disturbing experience, a visceral one. At the time, it affirmed something for me about art and what it is that makes us who we are.
Born in Berlin, Freud fled the Third Reich with his family and ended up in London at an early age. His personality was, by all accounts, a difficult one – a man troubled and left uneasy by his own abilities as much as by his limitations. Or so I've found myself imagining. But it's the paintings that I return to, again and again. The privilege of experiencing the human form through his dissecting eyes and fingertips. That altered way of seeing. I find myself deflated, and moved, and grateful, all at once, whenever I get the chance to see through his eyes a little of what he saw.
Esi Edugyan's Half Blood Blues has been shortlisted for the Man Booker prize 2011.

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003 My hero / Edward Goldsmith by Zac Goldsmith
004 My hero / Fridtjof Nansen by Sara Wheeler 
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020 My hero / Arthur Holmes by Richard Fortey

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037 My hero / Beryl Bainbridge by Michael Holroyd
038 My hero / Charles Schulz by Jenny Colgan
039 My hero / Oliver Knussen by Adam Foulds
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051 My hero / William Beveridge by Will Hutton
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053 My hero / Alexander Pushkin by Elaine Feinstein
058 My hero / Cy Twombly by Edmund de Waal

079 My hero / Gene Wolfe by Neil Gaiman
087 My hero / Alberto Moravia by John Burnside
096 My hero / Isaac Babel by AD Miller
097 Lucian Freud by Esi Edugyan
100 Thomas Tranströmer by Robin Robertson
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