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Painters' Table: Top 10 Best Posts, July 2011

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In July 2011, painting news was dominated by the double loss of two irreplaceable old masters. First, Cy Twombly passed away at age 83 on July 5. Perhaps the greatest living abstract painter, his death came just days before the opening of his latest exhibition, a two person show with none other than Poussin. Several weeks later, on July 22, the renowned portrait painter Lucian Freud died at age 88 in London. According to his dealer, William Acquavella, Freud "painted until the day he died."

These two great painters were truly contemporaries, each creating new work right up to the end. Twombly and Freud also leave behind a shared legacy of attention to and care for tradition in art. These two artists, whose work could not appear more different, both embraced tradition as a generative force. Twombly, like Poussin before him, found inspiration in antiquity. Freud devoted his oeuvre to perceptual painting. He demonstrated total faith in observation, scrutinizing his models with an unmatched intensity.

Twombly and Freud have much to teach us about being contemporary artists. Their works provide a simple lesson: learn from the past and train an unrelenting eye on the world around you.

Two great painters are gone but the tradition continues, rich and unabated.

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