Large Interior W11 (after Watteau) #britishart #expressionism pic.twitter.com/KAd9fan05e
— Lucian Freud (@artistfreud) September 11, 2018
In July, the Seattle Art Museum announced a new series, A Cultural Legacy, in collaboration with the Paul G. Allen Family Collection that would feature "singular paintings of importance" from the late philanthropist's extensive and storied personal collection of art.
British painter Lucian Freud's "Large Interior, W11 (after Watteau)" is the first of three announced paintings to be displayed on the third floor near the escalator (to be followed by "The Madonna of the Magnificat" by, omg, Sandro Botticelli and "White Rose with Larkspur No. 1" by Georgia O'Keeffe) over the next year. Visitors are not allowed to take a picture of the painting itself in the museum—probably something to do with copyright—so, please enjoy this low-res picture I found on Twitter of this impressive piece by Freud.
I'm used to goopy, textured, psychological, nude portraits by Freud (who, yes, was the grandson of that Freud) of celebrities, neighbors, loved ones. Though this painting is certainly less nude, it's no less psychological.
Antoine Watteau ( French Rococo painter, 1684 - 1721)
Pierrot Content, c.1712
📍🏛🖼 Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza @museothyssen
Beauty in #Art
— History of Art (@AHistoryofArt) May 14, 2018
Inspired by 18th-century French painter Jean-Antoine Watteau's "Pierrot Content" (pictured above, also from Twitter), which in turn was inspired by commedia dell'arte, Freud used his family members to stand in for characters from Watteau's composition. Depicted inside of the artist's studio, there's a stiltedness to the scene, a sense of uneasiness between the figures, that betrays a certain uncomfortable and strange family dynamic. The painting is large enough to encompass your field of vision, if you stand close enough.
My biggest qualm with the series is that nowhere did it mention where this painting was in Allen's house. I'm not trying to be creepy, but have you ever been to an art collector's pad? It's completely reasonable if you haven't, but you should know that collectors will casually place a Julian Opie painting in their bathroom, covered in a light smattering of fecal spray, or a Kara Walker piece right next to the kitchen sink. For someone who has been beaten with the sanctity and fragility of art, these placements are stressful as hell.
It's also a giant flex, a reminder of how much richer said art collector is than you, so much so that they can put expensive art wherever the hell they want. Though I imagine Allen kept this puppy in some kind of art-tight storage, it's equally likely this hung in his rarely used half-bath for guests to ponder while they took a dump. Now you can experience it, too, in the quiet (and cleanliness) of a museum.