Freudian economics

Lucian Freud is 75 and arguably the nation's greatest living painter, yet he hasn't quite become the grand old man that this description might suggest. Far from it in fact. For all his celebrity and grandeur something about him has always been a bit close to the edge. On one hand he's a kind of national treasure, feted in high places and the only artist holder of the Order of Merit (a rare honour shared with the likes of Nelson Mandela and Yehudi Menuhin). On the other, he remains a dark and rather mysterious character aligned through his models - the late Leigh Bowery and Big Sue Tilley - to a kind of bohemian club culture. It is a curious contradiction, but one that reminds us that Freud is as much of a contemporary artist as any of the current crop of young fashionables that could be his grandchildren.

Doubtless this sounds rather obvious, but the point is that Freud has been making remarkable pictures for well over 50 years and the work that he makes now is every bit as true to its time as were the hard-edged, hollow-eyed, portraits that he painted after the war.

His latest pictures went on show in London earlier this week: all of them painted since 1992 and most of them in the last three years. It's a fine selection which includes a number of the large, unflinching nudes that have dominated his recent output, alongside some surprisingly intimate smaller works such as Lost Head of Leigh Bowery and Esther and Albie, a study of his grandchild at the breast.

It's exactly the sort of show that would normally be staged by an artist's dealer under the title "Recent Work", but because he's Freud it's Some New Paintings and the venue is the Tate Gallery. He hasn't had a London dealer for many years, nor does he seem to need one, as most of his work sells overseas as soon as it leaves the studio. As if to prove the point, almost all of these paintings have been borrowed back from America - it's worth seeing them now before they disappear for good.

Lucian Freud, Some New Paintings, The Tate Gallery, Millbank, London SW1 (0171-887 8000) to 26 July

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