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Giovanni Aloi: Lucian Freud’s Gardens

'Lucian Freud Herbarium' (published by Prestel) is the first book to tell the story of Freud's lifelong love for plants and gardens, which began as a child and continued through his time as a pupil of Cedric Morris.

We are very lucky to have author Giovanni Aloi join us in London to share the history of Freud’s magnificent paintings and drawings of plant life gathered for the first time in this elegant monograph. From the delicate realism of the cyclamens’ petals to the bold brushstrokes that immortalize his overgrown garden, these meticulous works reproduced in exquisite detail reveal Freud’s singular approach to plant life and show how working with plants emboldened him to experiment with style and composition.

As Giovanni writes:

“Art historians and critics have extensively appraised Lucian Freud’s original ability to reinvent the nude for the 20th century. But so far, his outstanding contribution to the history of garden painting has remained mostly unacknowledged. During the 1940s he portrayed gardens with a crisp, linear neatness that gradually unfurled into the unforgiving realism of his 1970s paintings of litter-strewn, Paddington backyards. By the 1990s the glorious canvases and etchings capturing his overgrown Notting Hill garden, reverberated with a sense of disarming honesty and intimacy.

“While friends and family of the artist point out that Freud wasn’t a keen gardener, the idiosyncratic way in which he painted gardens constitutes an invitation to look again at what we think we already know: a valuable opportunity to see infinite wealth in the ordinary and the less important.”

Speaker bio

  • Giovanni Aloi

    Giovanni Aloi

    Giovanni Aloi teaches art history, theory, and criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and serves as Editor-in-Chief of Antennae: The Journal of Nature in Visual Culture. He is the author of numerous books and essays about the intersection of nature, science, and art.

Image: Interior with Plant, Reflection Listening (Self Portrait), 1967–68 Oil on canvas, 48 x 48 in. (121.8 x 121.8 cm) Private collection