Lucian Freud teams up with an old friend for V&A exhibition

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The Independent Online

New works by the octogenarian artist Lucian Freud go on display today alongside paintings by Frank Auerbach, his contemporary and friend, and his artistic inspiration, John Constable.

Freud chose the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, as the venue to show the new works because he so enjoyed working with its staff when he borrowed items from the V&A for an exhibition on John Constable he curated in Paris four years ago.

The V&A follows the Wallace Collection and the National Portrait Gallery in getting the chance to show recently completed paintings, before they disappear into the hands of new owners - frequently in America.

But there is novelty, too, in seeing his works alongside those of his friendAuerbach, 75, in the V&A's Paintings Gallery, which houses the museum's collection of works by J M W Turner as well as Constable.

This is the first show to promote the two men alongside each other. None of the eight paintings and two etchings has been displayed in public before.

William Feaver, Freud's biographer-curator, who also models for Auerbach, said there was a strong mutual admiration between the two men, who were both born in Germany but made their lives and careers in Britain. Although widely regarded as figurative painters, both also produce landscapes, the genre for which Constable and Turner were famed.

A painting of Freud's garden and a view of Mornington Crescent, near Auerbach's studio in north London, are among the new works, although most are portraits. "Auerbach is Freud's favourite painter. He's very clear that he admires everything about him - his speed, his elan, just his amazing application in both senses of the word," Mr Feaver said.

"And Auerbach thinks that Freud is the greatest living painter. He admires the way he pushes every painting. When most people would have finished, Freud just goes on and on. "They get on very well, they're very jokey and sing songs and compete on the amount of poetry they know by heart. They have a longstanding and easy friendship."

Among the new works is an etching of Freud's doctor of many years, who treated him for an unspecified illness last year and has been given the piece as a gift. Freud, 83, is on fine form now. "As far as old age pensioners go, he's probably the most active in living memory," Mr Feaver said. "The only possible test of old age is whether you can paint this way and if you can, there's nothing wrong with you."

Mark Evans, the head of paintings at the V&A, said the display showed a continuity between the art of the past and painting now. "There are similarities of mood that links, say, Turner and Auerbach and, for that matter, Constable with Freud. I hope that people will be encouraged to come in and see this remarkable juxtaposition."

The new paintings are on display until 29 May.

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