Kate To Visit Lucian Freud Exhibition as Patron Of The National Portrait Gallery
The Duchess of Cambridge's first solo public engagement to a major art exhibition will be a "fascinating" experience for her, the event's curator said today.
Kate will get a preview tonight of the Lucian Freud show that gives a comprehensive overview of the work of one of the greatest figurative painters of the late 20th century.
The royal, who has a degree in the history of art, became patron last month of the National Portrait Gallery, in London, which is staging the event.
Freud, who died last summer, was famed for his naked full-length portraits that used layers of oils to depict the sitter's flesh in minute detail - creating unforgiving and often unflattering images.
Among the artwork is a painting titled The Brigadier showing a rare clothed model - Andrew Parker Bowles - the former husband of Kate's mother-in-law, the Duchess of Cornwall.
The exhibition's curator Sarah Howgate said: "It's her first public engagement at the National Portrait Gallery, she studied art history, so I'm sure she will find the exhibition absolutely fascinating.
"I'm sure she's already familiar with Lucian's work but she won't have seen this body of work before. I think she'll thoroughly enjoy it."
One of Freud's most famous sitters, Sue Tilley - known as "Big Sue" - said she was not embarrassed about the prospect of Kate seeing four large canvasses showing her naked body, which are part of the exhibition.
She said: "I'm very excited about meeting the Duchess, I love the Royal Family.
"I'm not embarrassed about her seeing me naked - I'm a human being. I may not be the most gorgeous one under the sun but that's what I am.
"It's art, you know. Poor woman, I'm sure she's seen things before."
Freud's 1995 painting of her - Benefits Supervisor Sleeping - is part of the exhibition and set a world record price for a work by a living artist when it was auctioned in 2008 for more than £17 million.
Ms Tilley, 54, has a high regard for the painter, who was working on his last canvas a few weeks before he died in July last year aged 88.
She posed for the artist for around three years in the mid-1990s and, after a period in India, had to wait until her tan wore off before Freud would paint her again.
She said: "Do you know there wasn't one bad moment sitting for Lucian, except when I was lying on the floor - that wasn't overly comfortable, but it was such an interesting experience, it was great.
"He was a marvel, really, a complete one-off. He's a person you'll never meet again.
"Really, he did what he wanted and that was that - I think that's a trait to be admired. I wish more of us were crazy enough to do that."
Freud liked to paint family and friends but he also chose famous sitters, including fellow artist David Hockney and the Queen.
The artist, who was the grandson of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud and brother of the late television personality Sir Clement Freud, was born in Berlin in 1922 but fled with his Jewish family to England in 1933.
After studying art at various institutions and a spell in the Merchant Navy, he had his first one-man show in 1944, when he was 21.
Sandy Nairne, director of the National Portrait Gallery, summed up his significance: "Lucian Freud was one of the really great figurative painters of the second half of the 20th century.
"That was a period in which many artists were going in another direction - they were making abstract work, they were making conceptual work.
"But Lucian Freud stuck to his determined view that the human subject was the most important subject in art."
Freud's key pieces include Girl With A White Dog, Naked Girl Asleep and Reflection (self portrait), as well as his life-size canvases of the human body, including his studies of Leigh Bowery and Ms Tilley.
The artist's portrait of the Queen was described by some critics as unflattering, with others saying the monarch looked "glum".