September 23, 2007

Modeling for Lucian Freud

Lucian Freud's “Ria, Naked Portrait 2007,” Tate Modern,
London. From October 5.

Ria Kirby modeled for Lucian Freud, and Martin Gayford watched the work as it progressed over sixteen months, seven days a week. In Telegraph Magazine, he tells the story. “Often – especially with new sitters – he begins with the head even if the painting is to be one of the entire body. It's a way, as far as he's concerned, of getting to know the sitter (that's how he began to paint Leigh Bowery, the performance artist, whom he painted and etched at least half a dozen times). After the rest of the body has been depicted, he may return to the head and repaint it, now that he knows the person better. That is what happened with Kirby. The final version of her face is covered with a thick, buttery impasto of chunky brushstrokes that seem to echo her thick blonde curls. But that effect only materialised quite late in the painting process. 'I didn't worry about whether it looked like me, or how it looked,' Kirby says. 'I just thought of it as a whole picture.' As the painting neared completion, every aspect – the section of floor to the right, the surface of the cover on the bed, which over those innumerable hours of posing had taken on the shape of Kirby's body, the radiator, the screen behind – became clearer, stronger and more closely meshed into the total image.” Read more.

Ms. Kirby, who notes in Telegraph Magazine that she has a day job in addition to modeling for Freud, works on the collections team at the V & A Museum in South Kennsington. The museum's goal is to encourage the exploration of childhood themes, both past and present. According to a 2006 website post, Ms. Kirby's main priority in her assignment at the V & A Museum of Childhood was to find all of the toys and get them ready for the mount makers. "As you may imagine," she wrote, "the mounts for our objects can be very complicated, for example trying to make a poodle puppet stand up is no easy task!" Read more. A painter herself, her artwork can be viewed at Saatchi Online.

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