The late painter Lucian Freud won fame for his unflinching eye for detail. And with his 2011 work Portrait of the Hound – unmistakably Freud, apart from a small section of its canvas left unpainted – he concluded his career with the same formidable intensity that had earlier won him millions of fans.
Now, the artist's last portrait, which he had yet to complete when he died in July, is to go on display for the first time at London's National Portrait Gallery in February. It will conclude the biggest exhibition of Freud's work in over a decade, featuring more than 200 portraits drawn from collections across the globe. When the artist died in July he was applying the finishing touches to the painting, which depicts his assistant David Dawson and his faithful whippet Eli. Known for spending long periods with his subjects, Freud had been painting the work for four years.
"We felt it was important that the exhibition, which starts with some of his earliest work, should end with the most recent," said Sarah Howgate, the curator of Lucian Freud Portraits. "David Dawson has been Freud's most consistent model in recent years so it felt right that the exhibition reflected this collaboration."
Among the other paintings due to go on display will be four of Freud's late mother, Lucie, three of the performance artist Leigh Bowery, four of the famous "benefits supervisor" Sue Tilley and 12 self-portraits.