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December 21, 2001
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The Queen's latest portrait was bound to cause controversy, what with the artist being Lucien Freud. Today a photograph of it was plastered over the front pages of nearly every major newspaper. The tabloid press are, as ever, 'up in arms' about it. I rather like it, but the palace isn't commenting as yet.
posted by davehat (40 comments total)

 
This indeed makes her look like a cartoon figure. Strange combination of detailed (crown) and sketchy (face) style. The self portrait is great, however ! But can you image having to stare at your own face done in this style ?!
posted by swordfishtrombones at 5:04 AM on December 21, 2001


I agree. It's a strange combination of a highly-detailed headpiece and a rather unrealistic face. I have never really liked it when people drawn in this manner, specifically when the people drawn are royalty.
posted by GirlFriday at 5:19 AM on December 21, 2001


It's not the first controversial portrait of The Queen. Who can forget the Sausage Fingers portrait by Antony Williams ?
posted by brettski at 5:26 AM on December 21, 2001


That's not the queen, that's George Schultz...
posted by machaus at 5:38 AM on December 21, 2001


No, it's Sid James made up for one of the Carry On movies.



I like it.
posted by pracowity at 5:48 AM on December 21, 2001


could the artist have had a mild stroke and not known it? He is 78 years old, after all.....
posted by bunnyfire at 6:02 AM on December 21, 2001


machaus, you are so right...I never knew George Schultz was into drag.
posted by groundhog at 6:05 AM on December 21, 2001


Put it in the Smithsonian! It's clearly paint by number.

It also rather looks like the rotoscoping from Waking Life. What's wrong with the 'sausage finger' version? I like it. The Queen looks elderly, mature, serene.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 6:15 AM on December 21, 2001


It looks great, but she should have shaved before the sitting.
posted by luser at 6:20 AM on December 21, 2001


Lucien Freud is in my opinion one of the greatest living painters...it's a great painting, sometimes the painting is more important than the subject, who gives a rats arse about the queen anyway...



"could the artist have had a mild stroke and not known it? He is 78 years old, after all....."



Oh, and comments like the one above only prove your complete ignorance of art, bunnyfire.

posted by bittennails at 6:29 AM on December 21, 2001


bittennails: I see no need for such snarkiness. bunnyfire is entitled to an opinion about art just as much as you are. Not liking what you like is called a difference in taste, not ignorance.
posted by MrBaliHai at 6:33 AM on December 21, 2001


Calm down there bittennails, Bunnyfire was just making a jab at the painting.* You need to be less defensive.


Just because you don't like something doesn't mean you are ignorant of it.


*Of course, not like I know what bunnyfire was really thinking, but I figure I'm on the right track. Back me up here b?
posted by thewittyname at 6:37 AM on December 21, 2001


Her opinion was not about the art, but the medical condition of the artist, do you read before responding, I think it was her snarkiness I responded to, what she proffered was not an opinion, just personal nastiness towards the artist...
posted by bittennails at 6:40 AM on December 21, 2001


Am I the only one who immediately thought of Spitting Image?
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:42 AM on December 21, 2001


Perhaps this is less a portrait of the Queen's face than it is of her sense of humor. If I'd had that many awful pictures painted of me, and read the press commentary on each, I think I'd just have given up long ago...



(But I do love the title in the Sun: "One looks like one of One's corgis chewing a wasp!")
posted by Jonasio at 6:47 AM on December 21, 2001


I reminds me of the Picasso/Gertrude Stein famous conversation.



GS:"That portrait doesn't look like me"

PP:"Oh, but it will"
posted by machaus at 6:55 AM on December 21, 2001


what she proffered was not an opinion, just personal nastiness towards the artist



I didn't think that cracking wise about Freud's health was appropriate criticism either, but neither do I think that entitles you to attack bunnyfire personally, who, for all we know, may have a art degree.
posted by MrBaliHai at 6:57 AM on December 21, 2001


The 'Majesty in Toothpicks and Dog Crap" portrait I Fed-Ex'd to Buckingham Palace as a Christmas gift to the Windsor family has gone by unacknowledged to this point.

Perhaps Mr.Freud's unconventional treatment of her Royal Magnificience will afford me some recognition finally.
posted by daragh at 6:59 AM on December 21, 2001


If she has an art degree, it makes the crack about his health even more inappropriate, but yes, maybe calling her ignorant was rude. Life sucks and then you get abused, btw what is your opinion of the painting, balihai?
posted by bittennails at 7:11 AM on December 21, 2001


Fact is, you don't ring Freud if you want a classic, "she looks so good and she's so beautiful at 80" portrait. You hire a different artist. Or you just call Annie Leibovitz, she comes at Buckingham Palace with her 30 assistants, lights the Queen's face very carefully, takes a few pictures of Her Majesty, comes back to New York and sends you (by FedEx) your nice clean big Photoshopped color prints. Very middlebrow, OK, but everybody's going to be happy. If you call an artist who, like Freud (or Bacon, if he was still alive) doesn't really flatter his subjects, the average person is going to be disappointed. Very.

Not liking what you like is called a difference in taste, not ignorance.

To be precise about taste: there's bad taste and good taste. There are people who know what they are talking about and people who don't. There are people who understand paintings and painter's ideas (Picasso comes to mind), people who go to museums and exhibits and stuff. There are people who don't, but their opinion does not amount as much.

Freud is widely considered, by people who know their shit, just go to the library if you don't believe me, a great artist. Opinion? Well, if I post a comment like "a 56k modem really kicks ass", all you guys are going to flame me, and you'll explain that there are much faster options. If somebody writes that Freud can't paint, people who know about art will explain that he's actually one of the greats.
posted by matteo at 7:28 AM on December 21, 2001


I guess Elizabeth Richard will have to have some new pics taken now
posted by scotty at 7:36 AM on December 21, 2001


Matteo, thank you, you got my feelings out more clearly than I could, I wish I could be that lucid and not resort to rudeness, but I do love to fire back and sometimes it comes off as rude, when you respond with feeling rather than a thought out response.
posted by bittennails at 7:50 AM on December 21, 2001


>It's not the first controversial portrait of The Queen



On a related note, the Colors ads for Bennetton by Tibor Kalman raised quite a stink.
posted by webchick at 7:50 AM on December 21, 2001


De gustibus non est disputandum.
posted by Carol Anne at 8:14 AM on December 21, 2001


Amici vitia si feras, facis tua, Carol Anne
posted by matteo at 8:22 AM on December 21, 2001


If anyone thinks they can do better...
posted by vbfg at 8:41 AM on December 21, 2001


Semper ubi sub ubi.
posted by nagchampa at 9:02 AM on December 21, 2001


I can't believe you guys.



First, I did actually spend some time in art school-i only stopped when I ran out of money.



Second, I never said i didn't like the painting....as art i think it works-as a portrait of the Queen of England, I can understand why there may be a bit of discussion here.



I wish I had more time to look the study up but there was a series of paintings done by a recovering stroke victim who was also an artist-one side of the paintings were dramatically diffrent from the other......having actually read the article, it mentioned several times that one side of the portrait was different from the other.



Since this is indeed mefi, I assumed I didn't have to spell all this out-i do stand corrected....
posted by bunnyfire at 9:27 AM on December 21, 2001


Bunnyfire... I was thinking the same thing, that perhaps the artist had had a stroke or something between painting the crown and top of the head... and another between the top, and the chin.

It's really quite strange how it changes so abruptly.
posted by silusGROK at 9:51 AM on December 21, 2001


Those interested might take a look at Artists Recovering From Stroke: "This site is maintained by John O'Keeffe, a Master of Visual and Performing Arts Student at Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, N.S.W., Australia. The website is part of a project aimed at promoting the work of artists who have suffered a stroke and have returned to practice Art. My aim is to discuss the problems faced by stroke victims in returning to art; physical, emotional and stylistic problems. I welcome input from any stroke sufferers, or people and organisations associated with stroke."
posted by Carol Anne at 9:57 AM on December 21, 2001


Sic transit gloria estafan!

My initial reaction was: "Has Patricia Cornwell seen this yet? She'll probably accuse Lucien Freud of being Jack the Ripper."

I admire the self-portrait quite a bit, but know tons of people who could render the queen as well or better. Condescending chirps about "style" aside, I take a pragmatic position: if it's a trivial feat for others to emulate it remains mediocre and uninspired. Feh.

To be fair, they knew his work. If they wanted a traditional portrait they should have sought out an artist appropriate to their desire.
posted by RavinDave at 10:12 AM on December 21, 2001


Wagga Wagga?
posted by matteo at 10:16 AM on December 21, 2001


I wish I had more time to look the study up but there was a series of paintings done by a recovering stroke victim who was also an artist-one side of the paintings were dramatically diffrent from the other......having actually read the article, it mentioned several times that one side of the portrait was different from the other.

bunnyfire: you may be thinking of Katherine Sherwood, then again, you might not be -- there are many artists who continue to practice after suffering disabilities due to medical conditions, etc, (noted example, chuck close, who does beautiful work.)

Of course, for this reason, you might elaborate your comments -- especially when writing something like "could the artist have had a mild stroke and not known it?" Without any vocal inflection to place the attitude, I can understand why people took this as an attack, rather than a musing.

er. i like lucien.
posted by fishfucker at 10:20 AM on December 21, 2001


matteo is right, this is the painting you should expect when you ask Freud to do it. I'm surprised he only did her head, however. The criticism mentioned in the article seems a bit over the top - I rather like the painting. Did you guys check out the Paul McCartney painting...? Now there's a stinker...
posted by edlundart at 10:22 AM on December 21, 2001


if it's a trivial feat for others to emulate it remains mediocre and uninspired. Feh.

I've heard this argument a number of times, and the best example I can come up with to counter it is this scenario:

Let's say you were taking a cruise (to the Bahamas -- nice?) and wound up shipwrecked on a desert island with plenty of bananas and fresh water. You're not starving -- I mean, you've got the bananas -- but you're pretty damn sick of them; so you want to get off the island. I mean, the sunsets are nice -- but not that nice. One day, a crate washes ashore -- it contains all the parts necessary to put make a boat engine. Unfortunately, you don't know anything about engines, so the windfall is quite the mixed blessing -- you're not even sure what the final engine should look like, although you have all the pieces to put it together. You eat your banana mush for the umpteenth time and go to sleep. However, the morning brings a waterproof coffee table book about boat engines. You shake your first at the sky for such a contrived plot twist, but to no avail -- the coffeetable book is still there. Anyhow, now that you know fairly well how the engine is put together (the book doesn't have complete instructions, but does show the finished engine from a number of angles) and so you really have no choice but to put together the engine, build a dugout from dried banana peels and mud, and make plans to zip away to the mainland just as soon as a couple gas cans drift up (which, of course, they do, nearly immediately). Arriving on shore, you look kinda raggedy -- you've been on this island for quite a long time, really -- you look like a pirate zz top. Anyhow, you start telling everyone who will listen that you invented the boat engine -- they all look at you like you're nuts, but you keep insisting anyways. No, no -- they're constantly telling you -- the internal combustion engine was invented long ago, and after many many years of trial and error and refinement. But still you insist. Eventually, the natives don't know what to do with you, because you're running around all crazy, and it's really affecting quality of life for everyone, especially Fred, who thinks he has prostate cancer despite being an FTM transexual (photographed nine times by Nan Goldin!), and everyone really is good friends with Fred, and so they conspire to put you back on the island where you spent the last five years or so. Paul, one of your best friends before "the incident" invites you on a fishing trip on a boat that also just happens to have your fabulous invention, and you agree -- thus, both of you are off bright and early the next morning. Soon, things seem very familar to you -- as familar as ocean can be -- maybe a bit of reef catches your eye or whatnot. A thin glimmer of recognition crosses your face as a thin sand bar with banana trees appears on the horizon. Paul smiles at you -- pushes you off the boat backwards, and speeds away. You swallow a lot of seawater. A lot. And at this point, I've kinda lost whatever sort of point I was trying to make.


oh yeah. it's often easy to copy things, but usually pretty hard to invent them.
posted by fishfucker at 10:42 AM on December 21, 2001


I wish I had more time to look the study up but there was a series of paintings done by a recovering stroke victim who was also an artist-one side of the paintings were dramatically diffrent from the other......having actually read the article, it mentioned several times that one side of the portrait was different from the other.

Let me try to get this correct, after reading the article, your conclusion was that Freud had a stroke and did not realize this fact, that is what you said in your first post.

So if he indeed has had a stroke it is a good painting, but if he had not had a stroke, it is a bad painting!! Or do you mean after painting the right side he had a stroke, brushed it off and resumed work on the left side, and a studio apprentice finished the crown.

And what art school teaches that potraits are meant to flatter? Representational art is just that, a representation of the artist's opinion.

To paint a flattering potrait of the Queen would require not only an artist recovering from a stroke, but one well on his way to blindness.
posted by bittennails at 11:02 AM on December 21, 2001


i like lucien as well...but i'm not one who believes that the purpose of art is to create beautiful things. if you just want pretty stuff--more craft than art--there is always thomas kinkade. You can purchase nice little paintings that are explained for you. OR, you can look at art which represents something you have to think about.
posted by th3ph17 at 11:06 AM on December 21, 2001


Reminds me of Alfred Hitchcock with wig and crown, and I quite like it.
Unlike some comments, I think the juxtaposition of crisp tiara and broad facial strokes adds favorable character to the work.
posted by G_Ask at 11:06 AM on December 21, 2001


hey bitten,

it's okay if you don't like me but i promise you I understand art.

My favorites are actually the PreRaphaelites but when i was actively painting i was more of an Expressionist myself.
And I can explain quite easily why abstract art is indeed art.

If you read others' comments you will see why I thought the differences in the two sides were significant.

Finally-in my painting days if i had done a portrait of the Queen that is the style that I would have been working in but as far as I know I have not had a stroke.
posted by bunnyfire at 11:53 AM on December 21, 2001


th3ph17: OR, you can look at art which represents something you have to think about.

Although I concur that the best art generally does represent something beyond a static image, I do not see this as a prerequisite. The masters I admire (you know -- the ones the modernist dabblers sneer at and tell us we're shallow for admiring ) those masters most always imbued their art with a deeper and complex meaning.

But there seems to be an overreliance on this in modern art. And for good reason -- that's often their logical "out" when their flummery is challenged. Here's the recipe:

1.) Pretend it's necessary to say something profound.
2.) Pretend your work reeks with profundity.
2.) Avoid any direct comment on said profundity (trot out some platitude like: "If you have to ask, you'll never know.")
3.) In fact, leave it to "critics" to assign the meaning (if you're "in the loop", they'll no doubt concoct something even more profound than you anyway).
4.) Benefit from the mystique your silence evokes.
5.) Laugh off people who don't appreciate your obvious genius as being peasants lacking a cultivated aesthetic sense and wholly unable to comprehend mature art.
5a.) Take a few pot shots at the soulessness of the Dutch masters or the frivolity of Norman Rockwell (pretend that they worked in black velvet and say something snarky like: "If that's what you want, buy a camera.")

Now, I'm not saying for one minute that this applies to all modern artists. My tastes are eclectic. But we all know that there is a fatted and inbred "art culture" that's more political than artistic. Many of their acolytes follow every jot and tittle in that recipe. In another MeFi message I recently descibe one of these goobers who planted a hundred thousand dollar combed rock in a city courtyard, and snorted at detractors who didn't grok his rock. Tellingly, he never bothered to educate us. (Wonder why? Hmmm ... )

If modern art is ever to be taken serious outside their ego-bloated communities, they are going to have to toss an occassional clue to the unwashed masses they love to mock -- and to distance themselves from the dilettantes glutting the bulk of their roster.
posted by RavinDave at 12:17 PM on December 21, 2001


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