Lucian Freud painted Leigh Bowery regularly over the course of four years, fascinated by Bowery’s use of his body as a sculptural object in his performances. In his work, Bowery created incredible costumes playing with fashion, fetishism and carnival aesthetics. Freud here paints him nude, the portrait focusing on his head and shoulders. With Bowery’s eyes closed in sleep, the painting has an intimate vulnerability about it.
Date of work
Original: Oil paint on canvas 51 × 40.9 cm Tate. Purchased 1980 © The Lucian Freud Archive / Bridgeman Images
Lucian Michael Freud (1922 – 2011) was a British painter and draftsman, and is considered one of the foremost 20th-century portraitists. Although his early work contained surrealist elements, he is best known for his figurative paintings more heavily influenced by realism and intense observation. Most of his models were friends and family members, and this relationship between artist and model, often unsettling or uncomfortable, is a central theme to his work. His reputation for demanding schedules for these models was well established, with one painting taking approximately 2,400 hours to complete and requiring the model to attend all but four evenings of that time.