Head & Shoulders

by Lucian Freud


Size: 30cm W x 25cm H

Head and Shoulders of 1982 was Freud’s first etched portrait since 1947 of any considerable size, much bigger than its immediate forerunners which were either fragments, or small in scale due to their creation as inserts for Lawrence Gowing’s book. The work is particularly notable, aside from its beauty, as it is the first print for which Freud deliberately reduced the plate size in order to crop the picture at the top of the model’s head, a device he was to use again in later works to great effect. The cropping was suggested by Freud’s friend, the artist Frank Auerbach, who had looked at Freud’s etchings to date and had admired what had until that time been an occasional, even accidental, device in Freud’s construction of the picture plane. Early proofs of this work were taller by almost 5cms. The work is also the last to exhibit a particular manner of shading around the edge of a contour which recalls his technique from almost 40 years earlier and which is never seen again.

The artist tended to depict friends and neighbours in his home or studio, that is people he was comfortable with in a place he was comfortable with. This 1982 etching depicts a rather buxom woman with long, uncombed hair framing her head who appears to be sitting on a mattress without sheets, the stitching of which at left resembles waves in the ocean.
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Artist Biography

Lucian Freud was born on 8 December 1922 in Berlin, Germany, the family emigrated to St John's Wood, London, in 1933 to escape the rise of Nazism. Lucian became a British subject in 1939. He is renowned for his unflinching observations of anatomy and psychology, made even the beautiful people (including Kate Moss) look ugly. One of the late twentieth-century's most celebrated portraitists, Freud painted only those closest to him: friends and family, wives and mistresses, and, last but not least, himself. His insightful series of self-portraits spanned over six decades. Unusual among artists with such long careers, his style remained remarkably consistent. Perhaps inevitably, the psychic intensity of his portraits, and his notoriously long sessions with sitters have been compared with the psychoanalytic practice of his famous grandfather, Sigmund Freud. Lucian Frued died in London on 20th July 2011.

In 2012, Freud was among the British cultural icons selected by pop artist Sir Peter Blake to appear in a new version of his most famous artwork – the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover – to celebrate the British cultural figures of the last six decades.

In 2008, Benefits Supervisor Sleeping (1995), a portrait of civil servant Sue Tilley, sold for $33.6 million – the highest price ever at the time for a work by a living artist. At a Christie's New York auction in 2015, the same work sold for $56.2 million.
On 13 October 2011, his 1952 Boy's Head, a small portrait of Charlie Lumley, his neighbour, reached $4,998,088 at Sotheby's London contemporary art evening auction, making it one of the highlights of the 2011 auction autumn season.

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