|Lucian Freud, Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, 1995|
The painting of Sue Tilley, a Job Centre manager who is now in her fifties, could be seen as a Rubenesque modern incarnation of all those reclining Venuses but you don't need to know anything about art history to appreciate either the physical presence of the woman on the couch or her significance. People seems slightly amazed that a figurative artist should have been enjoying such success in the 21st century, but has there been a time when humans have been more obsessed with the body? An overweight middle-aged woman waits for the bus beneath a vast billboard showing a svelte young model in M&S underwear; Freud makes the unspoken connection real.
|Damien Hirst, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, 1992|
|Tracey Emin, Everyone I have ever slept with, 1995|
Great artists - the same goes for writers, politicians, sportsmen - are great opportunists. Freud's famously piercing stare wasn't just for intimidating people. He was looking at us, figuring out what we wanted (or didn't want) to see, seeking out not the most beautiful but the most interesting models - looking for the one that was RIGHT. Sue Tilley was one. Kate Moss had to be another. Freud was competing for our attention with artists who could offer something new and exciting, like a tent full of real-life lovers. He chose his subjects carefully and well.
|Benefits Supervisor Resting, 1994|