Lucian Freud - Evening & Day Editions London Wednesday, January 21, 2015 | Phillips

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  • Exhibited

    New York, Museum of Modern Art, Lucian Freud: The Painter's Etchings, 16 Dec 2007 - 10 Mar 2015 (another example exhibited and illustrated p. 65)

  • Literature

    Craig Hartley 25
    Bruce Bernard and Derek Birdsall 200

  • Catalogue Essay

    “With etching, there’s an element of danger and mystery. You don’t know how it’s going to come out. What’s black is white. What’s left is right."
    -- Lucian Freud in conversation with Starr Figura, 2007

    Lucian Freud, long-time gambler that he was, found the challenge and the risk of the etching process compelling enough that it was his sole form of printmaking. The artist explained that, “the surprise element of when I have seen what I’ve done has made me want to go on.” Yet it was not the mystery of the etching process alone that drew Freud to this technique. The artist found irresistible the fine, fluid lines of etching, which offered him an alternative means of acquainting himself intimately with his subject. Unlike his gestural and richly coloured paintings of the same sitters, his etchings are paired down to the essential expression of monochromatic line, and thereby achieve a startling sense of psychological tension and formal abstraction.

    Freud re-dedicated himself to printmaking in 1982 (after some early experiments in the 1940s) and his intervening development from a tight and precise painting style, to more gestural expressions is immediately apparent. Although still small and closely cropped, Freud’s etchings departed from the tight, almost surgically incised lines of his earlier prints such as Girl with Fig Leaf, 1947, into a more fluid and dynamic expression.

    During this period, the artist also turned to etchings to develop what he described as his ‘naked portraits’: not nudes in the traditional, idealised sense, but stark, uncompromising figures displayed before the viewer in ungainly and often unflattering poses. The disquieting effect of Freud’s naked portraits is heightened with his etched figures, which, unlike his paintings, are given no context for their poses and often appear dramatically cropped or isolated against the empty white background.

    Girl Holding Her Foot is one of Freud’s first etched naked portraits, created in 1985 when he began to work on much larger copper plates. In this work we can see the artist’s enjoyment in experimenting with a larger plate, using long parallel lines that curve gently over the sitter’s folded thighs, combined with more dynamic and compulsive areas of dense hatching. The artist often attempted to capture more than one expression from his sitters, and the flickering of repetitive, intersecting lines across the girl's face gives the impression of an almost imperceptible movement, just captured as her hair slips from behind her ear and onto her sloping shoulder.

    Despite the elegance of this etching, Girl Holding Her Foot remains an intensely disorientating portrait. The sitter is suspended in the top half of the plate, an expanse of empty space beneath her to which she is in no way anchored. Freud’s lines curve and cluster around only the essential forms of the sitter, hinting at the arm of a sofa but skirting away from any commitment to a specific setting. In dispensing with any props or narrative, Freud’s etching becomes not a public statement, but a private exchange between the artist and sitter; an intimate and immediate portrait.

  • Artist Biography

    Lucian Freud

    British • 1922 - 2011

    Renowned for his unflinching observations, Lucian Freud is considered one of the greatest figurative artists. He pushed the boundaries of decorum in terms of classical portraiture and nudes in order to explore his lifelong concern to honestly render the human figure, in what he called his "naked portraits."

    In his paintings, Freud's layers of impasto jabs of paint create a surprisingly delicate, translucent depiction of flesh, while his etchings employ an economy of line that implies the figure more than it illustrates it. Charismatic but irascible, Freud worked only from sitters that he knew, consistently focusing on translating his direct perceptions. The resulting portraits are redolent with a stark and evocative psychological intensity, underpinned by an unexpected tenderness towards the subject.

    View More Works


Girl Holding Her Foot

Etching, on Somerset Satin paper, with wide margins,
I. 69 x 54 cm (27 1/8 x 21 1/4 in.)
S. 88 x 71.2 cm (34 5/8 x 28 in.)

signed with initials and numbered 42/50 in pencil (there were also 15 artist's proofs), published in 1986 by James Kirkman, London, and Brooke Alexander, New York, framed.

£20,000 - 30,000 

Sold for £22,500

Contact Specialist
Robert Kennan
Head of Sale, Editions
+44 207 318 4075

Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 22 January 2015 2pm & 6pm