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  • Lucian Freud adored dogs. Praising their ‘lack of arrogance, their ready eagerness, their animal pragmatism’, the artist included them in his art as early as 1951, depicting his first wife Kitty Garman and their white bull terrier in the renowned painting Girl with a White Dog. Known primarily for his expressionist oil paintings, Freud returned to etching in the early 1980s. His etchings are a striking and unique example of cross-pollination between mediums, as the artist integrated painterly techniques, such as positioning the copper plate upright and always working with live models, into his working practices.

     

    The work presented here, an etching of Freud’s beloved dog Pluto, is bathed in a quiet intimacy. Executed in 1988, the same year Freud acquired her, Pluto slumbers at the feet of a figure as she affectionately rests her arm on her back. Due to the cropped nature of the image, the work is imbued with a voyeuristic capacity akin to a quick family photograph - a snapshot of everyday life -  intent on capturing the fleeting moments of domestic conviviality. Similarly, the fact that the figure appears dressed, as opposed to nude, situates the work within a mundane setting. In so doing, Freud taps into our collective sensitivities which conceptualise the dog as a primary feature of the stable, permanent home.  The animal’s limbs folded in repose echo the other’s, as their bodies overlap through their proximity. Such juxtaposition of human and animal forms poignantly resonates throughout Freud’s practice. Often referring to his human models as ‘animals dressed’, the artist’s principal focus remained, irrespective of his subjects, to convey the psychological implications of flesh. On the topic, he commented: ‘I’m really interested in people as animals…part of my liking to work from them naked is for that reason…I like people to look as natural and as physically at ease as animals, as Pluto my whippet’.

     

    Lucian Freud, Double Portrait, 1985-86 ©The Lucian Freud Archive / Bridgeman Images
    Lucian Freud, Double Portrait, 1985-86 ©The Lucian Freud Archive / Bridgeman Images

    As a testament to their close relationship, Freud realised a second etching of his canine companion twelve years later, and the dog would even go on to serve as the face of his daughter Bella Freud’s fashion label. In contrast to the 1988 work, Pluto Aged Twelve is nostalgic, depicting the whippet towards the end of her life. Freud’s etchings of Pluto are sophisticated in their precision, representing the dog as a dignified subject capable of perceiving and expressing the psychological affects of youth, old age, and human relationships.

     

    Lucian Freud, Pluto Aged Twelve, 2000 ©The Lucian Freud Archive / Bridgeman Images
    Lucian Freud, Pluto Aged Twelve, 2000 ©The Lucian Freud Archive / Bridgeman Images
    • Literature

      Craig Hartley 37
      Print Quarterly 38

    • 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.

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Property from the Estate of L. Jane Schoelkopf, New York

111

Pluto (H. 37)

1988
Etching and drypoint with hand-colouring in grey watercolour, on Somerset Satin paper, with full margins.
I. 29.5 x 60.6 cm (11 5/8 x 23 7/8 in.)
S. 41.6 x 68.9 cm (16 3/8 x 27 1/8 in.)

Signed with initials and numbered 34/40 in pencil (there were also 10 artist's proofs), co-published by James Kirkman, London and Brooke Alexander, New York, framed.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
£70,000 - 100,000 ‡ ♠

Sold for £75,600

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Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 14 - 15 June 2021