Man with a Blue Scarf or Lucian Freud

You’ve got to love your local library.

Man with a Blue Scarf by Martin Gayford was published last year and was very tempting to buy. But no need.

Could not put it down. All about the making of a portrait seen from the sitter’s point of view.

The thing that really struck me was how Freud constructs his portraits. Most portraiture is done in an all-over manner.

But not for Mr Freud… his methods tend to be unusual. He starts with a very rough sketch then paints from the middle and slowly works out from it “creating a mosaic pattern of pigments that spreads across the canvas”.  You can see this method in the unfinished portrait of Francis Bacon below.

| Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, 1956-57, image from Man with Blue Scarf, Martin Gayford, 2010 |

At one point Freud struggled with the colour of the royal blue scarf. Gayford’s wife reminded her husband that he had two royal blue scarves, one half a tone darker, and had been accidentally wearing the different ones at different sittings. Not sure whether Gayford ever told Freud this.

As the author mentions, the scarf is almost a novelty in this work. Freud says ‘I’ve never wanted beautiful colours in my pictures, for people to say, “you know the picture with beautiful colour in it,” but this blue is a beautiful colour.’

Royal Academy of Arts

Julia Ritson

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