Life above Everything is a major exhibition that brings together the work of two acknowledged masters, Lucian Freud and Jack B. Yeats. Exploring the affinities and interconnections between these two artists, this exhibition draws the work of these two stubbornly individual painters into dialogue, placing them side-by-side for the first time in 70 years. While Lucian Freud’s work has been exhibited in the past in group exhibitions alongside other artists from the ‘School of London’, Life above Everything is one of the few exhibitions to date in which Freud has been shown with a single other artist.
Freud’s interest in Yeats is little discussed, but he had a lifelong interest in the Irish painter’s work, holding a deep admiration for its force and energy. He did not cite Yeats as an ‘influence’ but instead seems to have felt a common purpose with his originality and independence, his continuous searching observation, and his sense of the connection between painting and life. A pen and ink drawing by Yeats, The Dancing Stevedores (c.1900), hung beside Freud’s bed for over 20 years.
Life Above Everything will include a substantial number of oil paintings by both artists, 33 by Freud and 24 by Yeats, as well as a range of works on paper, sourced from public and private collections internationally. There are five new loans of work by Freud to the IMMA Collection: Freud Project including important early works such as Girl with Roses (1947-48), Girl with Beret (1951) and Boat, Connemara (1951). Significant loans of works by Yeats include The Bus by the River (1927), People in a Street (c.1935), A Dancer (Rosses Point, Sligo) (1921), as well as From the Tram Top (c. 1925), which features one of Yeats’s rare cameos in his own work.
Unique to this exhibition is the inclusion of seven paintings by Jack B. Yeats which Freud selected for a close friend, advising him on works to acquire at auction or through the relevant gallery. We are delighted to be able to present these seven paintings, ‘approved’ by Freud, as a special grouping of Yeats’s works within this exhibition.
David Dawson, artist and Freud’s long-time studio assistant, has assisted in the selection for this exhibition, bringing to the project a unique, intimate knowledge of Freud’s interest in Yeats.
The exhibition is made possible by the IMMA Collection: Freud Project 2016-2021, a five-year loan of 52 works by Lucian Freud to the IMMA Collection by private lenders. This is the fourth exhibition to be presented as part of the project.
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