Art as the Erotic - Naked Portrait with Reflection

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Art as the Erotic
How We Observe Sex in Art
Curated by Chase Coble 
Lucian Freud, Naked Portrait with Reflection, 1980

Lucian Freud, grandson to the famed neurologist Sigmund Freud, often examined the relationship between model and painter. Again, as in Dejeuner sur l’herbe we must pay close attention to the distinction between nude and naked. Freud describes his models as naked, implying his personal observations of the model, furthermore his method as witnessing the human form as flesh. His 1980 Naked Portrait with Reflection examines this relationship under sexual pretenses.

Our model sinks in a deteriorating couch, and her body language mirrors that tiredness. The viewer is given an extremely analytical perspective of her body. We witness the rawness of her skin, appearing thin and easily bruised. She seems lithe with her muscles looking relaxed, and we can see the areas of her body that hold excess fat. The nature of her positioning would indicate either sexual arousal or satisfaction, but which is it?
Freud’s inclusion of the reflection of his own feet in the upper right-hand corner of the painting lends an interesting commentary. We can assume one of two possibilities about this inclusion – the artist’s feet either emit a predatory element or a finished sexual encounter. First we should examine the likelihood of a finished reconciliation between the artist and model. 


Our model’s relaxed nature would lend itself to satisfaction, while the artist’s seemingly quick departure from the interaction would point towards his dissatisfied emotion. Maybe he suffers from a spell of “La petite mort.” Yet, the predatory nature of his feet, looking ready to move, would imply the artist’s arousal and want. Our model’s relaxation can thus be seen as acceptance and openness to the advance.          

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