Lucian Freud is one of the most famous British artists of the 20th century, best known for his rich oil paintings of fleshy portraits. But did you know that Freud was also a pretty spectacular etcher in his later years? Toying with the medium in the 1980s, Freud picked up confidence and began to produce meticulous work on enormous copper plates.
Phillips Auction House London exhibition
The Phillips auction of 32 Lucian Freud etchings includes some of his most famous sitters, from Big Sue to his daughter Bella. The star of the show is the complex Naked Man on a Sofa (1985) which shows a nude figure tumbling off a sofa.
Sue Tilley & Lucian Freud
One person that had first hand experience of Freud's etchings was his muse for four years in the 1990s, Sue Tilley (or Big Sue as she's sometimes known). Tilley remembers in the introduction to the new Phillips catalogue a particularly exasperated Lucian Freud quote when the artist was forced to stop painting her and start an etching after she had burnt her skin. "Harrumphing back into the studio," he said, "I'm going to have to do an etching while THAT fades away".
An intimate show of one of the most thrilling British artists around - not to be missed.
Lucian Freud: Interview with Cary Lebowitz
Ahead of the sale, we spoke to Cary Lebowitz, Worldwide Director Contemporary Editions at Phillips, to learn more about this intimate display and predictions for the big hitters at auction.
How did this exhibition come about? Is there a reason that you thought these etchings would be relevant now?
There are some clients you work with over a period of time—ideas come to the surface and then disappear—I am happy this reappeared.
Although Freud is Freud, his etchings are somewhat unknown to a good chunk of contemporary collectors both with regards to their quality and somewhat affordable pricing. We felt the best way to present this body of work was here in London when a lot of people are in town.
Sue Tilley opens the catalogue with the essay 'Me and Mr Freud'. Why was it important to locate the paintings within this personal context?
Sue Tilley is a special person who was naked for Mr. Freud for a few years—her insights and anecdotes are honest smart and charming.
The last few words of the talk which opened the sale were fascinating, forensic, power and intimacy: would you say that's a fair representation of Freud's etchings?
I think that’s fair. I would also add perfect… in the sense that the pieces we look at are truly perfect—even the not greatest ones are in their own way perfectly perfect.
Freud said of etching "there's an element of danger and mystery. You don't know how it's going to turn out." In this light, how do the etchings compare to his painting? And was it difficult to marry the delicacy of the etching process with this sense of the unknown when presenting this series?
I love that Freud respected the medium—making an edition is ‘official’—very different than drawings or sketches he works on an easel looking at his subject for months but then must hand-off the copper plate to someone else to make a print—not only is there the obvious reverse printing thing in the end—its also becomes a level of trust, patience /a public process when the etching is revealed.
There was a lot of discussion about Freud's depiction of his human subjects, yet the garden etchings seemed to lack the same intensity as the portraits. Would you agree?
Probably more contemplative for both viewer and artist as there isn’t another human to interact with.
If you were to stage the exhibition in another location, where would it be? And why?
Hard to say—I am a realist and this is an auction as much as an exhibition.I would love to be entrusted to put together either a dream exhibition or a dream auction: Works I Covet by Cary Leibowitz.
If you could take one etching home, which would it be?
Usually when I am standing around during an auction preview my favourite’s change hour to hour although most of today I was coveting Large Head (Leigh Bowery).
Is there a difference between audience reaction and what will translate in terms of value at auction?
Clients are attracted to different works for the same reasons the artist makes different works. I get excited when someone loves a piece that no one else is paying attention to.
Do you have predictions for which etching will be the most successful at auction?
Hahaha. I've learned not to drive myself crazy with that sort of thinking.
|What||Lucian Freud: 32 Etchings, Phillips|
|Where||Phillips, 30 Berkeley Square Mayfair, London, W1J 6EX | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Green Park (underground)|
09 Oct 15 – 15 Oct 15, Times vary
09 Oct 15 – 15 Oct 15, 7:00 PM – 6:00 PM
|Website||Click here for more details|