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In the flesh
Picasso, Bacon, Freud, Soutine

Left to right: Lucian Freud And the Bridegroom 1993, oil on canvas, 231.8 × 195.9 cm © Lucian Freud Archive/Bridgeman Art Library; Pablo Picasso Femme allongée sur un canapé (Dora Maar) 1939, oil on canvas, 97.1 × 130.2 cm © Pablo Picasso/Succession Pablo Picasso. Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney. The Lewis Collection

Six paintings from the Lewis Collection

This exhibition offers ‘in the flesh’ encounters with six remarkable paintings. It also offers an intimate encounter with six paintings about flesh and the human figure. Produced by four of the most audacious figurative painters of the past century, these works explore the strangeness, power and vulnerability of the human face and body.

In their paintings from the 1920s and 1930s, Chaïm Soutine and Pablo Picasso charge the art of portraiture with volatile new energy, rendering their subjects in fluid and fiercely coloured brushstrokes (Soutine) or jagged and flattened fragments (Picasso).

Francis Bacon, who admired Picasso and Soutine, pushes portraiture to a postwar extreme, evoking the trials of the flesh with terribly beautiful brushwork. Meanwhile Bacon’s friend Lucian Freud, likewise a Soutine admirer, treats paint as a kind of flesh, using dragged, scumbled and clotted oil paint to dramatise the life of the body.

The Lewis Collection loan

These paintings come from a group of 11 recently placed on long-term loan with the Art Gallery of NSW. Created by British businessman Joe Lewis and his daughter Vivienne Lewis, the collection includes the work of European modern masters as well as contemporary Chinese artists. Other works from the loan will be displayed in forthcoming exhibitions. A David Hockney painting will be seen in November as part of a major international exhibition, while four Chinese works, by Zhang Xiaogang, Yan Pei-Ming and Fang Lijun, will go on show in new displays in early 2015.

12 Apr – 22 Jun 2014

Free admission

Lowy, Gonski Gallery (members lounge)

Extended display

You can still see these paintings by Soutine, Picasso and Bacon and two of the Freud works, on display in the European galleries of the Grand Courts