Lucian Freud

Look at Lucian Freud’s grand image of the late Leigh Bowery: perched on a box or table, his body extends, tapers, reaches (pictorially if not physically) up to a skylight, graceful in its awkward pose. Full frontal nudity. There’s a penis, but also a face, feet, and hands—all given the same degree of detail. Is this uninhibited realism, or artistic indecision? If it’s hard to tell, perhaps the painter is waging psychological war against philistines and aesthetes all at once. Freud’s portrayal of Bowery—a performance artist renowned for costumes, cosmetics, and prosthetics, not nakedness, and for affectation of feminine characteristics, not masculinity—violates decorum while also countering current fashions in artistic transgression. The penis is indecorously present, yet deadpan, inactive as cultural icon; it hardly makes a statement, one way or another. Much more remarkable is the sense

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