I feel this painting got hidden away at the bottom of my post Levels in Quality and I didn’t bring enough attention to its outstanding quality. Also, Sotherby’s notes included in that post do not, to my mind, get to the essence of this picture.
My intention was always to do a post just on this painting, but with the death recently of Lucian Freud I thought it would be interesting to compare it with one of Freud’s works as well.
Firstly, with the Tsarouchis painting, one is struck by the quality of its execution. Every brushstroke seems just right and sufficient for its detail and expression. There is a real person and emotion in the work. Although literally it is a young man posed somewhat incongruously bare chested with a helmet, the prop of the helmet adds so much to its meaning. It shows a young man, vulnerable, fleshy, sensitive. Such men have fought in armies throughout the ages. For me, it is an iconic expression of that opposition between the man and his role.
With the Freud self portrait, you see a more three dimensional realism, with minutely studied light effects. To me, this approach creates a more distancing connection with the subject. Freud paints a substantially solid physical realism with the flesh seemingly in unglamorous decay. This physical reality seems to be the subject of his works.