Impressions of the IMMA Collection Freud Project, with my Impressionist Father – REVIEW

By Isabelle and David Nolan

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“Lucian Freud along with Francis Bacon were probably the greatest portrait painters of the twentieth century. The collection of 30 oil paintings and 20 works on paper showed Freud’s style had not changed much over the decades from the seventies onwards when most of these works were done. This is impressive as they show no tricks of the trade, no short cuts that could have been applied from years of practice but hard work, paint on paint, strokes and what look like repeated scratching to emphases texture in clothing for example.” This introduction was written by David Nolan, my father and occasional portrait artist.

As my father and I stepped into the project space we were made aware by the curator that the exhibition had no particular order to it. We first toured the ground floor then the first floor leaving the basement to last. The basement held all the Freud’s prints while the next two floors had a range of paintings and photographs. The exhibition was littered with photographs of Freud’s studio that brought to life his artistic process, as in his studio he was positioned standing, this could even be seen by the colour of the wood flooring he stood on.

We could trace his steps to and from the easel.  

The first room we walked into was rather dark, a grey room with two large paintings of an aging grey-haired woman, Freud’s mother. His engagement with his subject showed two very different aspects of his mother’s life. She had studied Classics at the University of Munich; this was reflected in his painting of her studying a book. The other, darker, piece reflected his mother during her moments of great grief after the death of her husband. She is lying immobile in a bed, maybe a hospital trolley. It is a great reflection on the process of growing older. Freud began painting his mother in 1972, after the death of his father when she grew depressed. These two paintings were the first glimpse in the exhibition into the mind of the psychologically drawn artist.

Walking through the exhibition we noticed an underlying Irish theme throughout, with a few paintings of Irish men dotted around. The paintings chosen were chosen to represent the connection between Freud and Ireland. His affinity with this country began when he came to Dublin in the late 1940s on a part pilgrimage to Jack B Yates’ homeland.

The basement was a stark contrast to most of the other rooms that were filled with light. The room was illuminated by the prints themselves. One print stood out among the rest, Loch, of a Scottish landscape created on a visit to Edinburgh when the artist was just 21. It was the only landscape in the whole of the collection of works. It expressed another side to Freud’s work – one more interested in details rather than capturing emotions. Other than this it was made apparent by the timeline of Freud’s works that he did not vary his style or his colour palette much during his career, as Freud was more concerned with capturing moments of a person’s character.

The project follows Freud’s process; we discovered for ourselves the famous connection he made with his sitters. This is made more apparent by the number of paintings of close family and friends. The project is a short summary of just how prolific the artist was.


The exhibition is open in IMMA until mid October 2017 and admission is free for full-time students and €8/5 otherwise. Entrance is free for all on Tuesdays.


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