The Value of Painting

Telegraph Magazine just ran an interesting article on the way Lucien Freud worked on his most recent figurative portrait, Rita, Naked Portrait (2007). We might call this a process profile, given that it details the intimate and somewhat grueling labor–on the part of both artist and model–that went in to creating the painting.

The reason why I bring this up is that some find it difficult to understand why painting remains the pinnacle of art world fetish item that it is, and this look into the way that Freud works with his models offers the uninitiated an very rare glimpse of the kinds of time and effort that many painters (though, of course, not all) require to produce their work. Yes, it is a 19th Century method, but there is something of the archaic in it, which is why collectors are always willing to spend great deals of money on painting. Photography, video and installation are still far too contemporary in their reflections and exploitations of current production techniques to attain the kinds of alchemy that paintings regularly evoke.

Of course this is not meant as a defense of the fetish; it is only meant to point out how painters paint, and why there is much wrapped up in that activity that few viewers or collectors of art ever understand.

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