‘The way you paint yourself you’ve got to try and paint yourself as another person. Looking in the mirror is a strain in a way that looking at other people isn’t at all.’ – Lucian Freud 1992:
A recently discovered unfinished self-portrait of Lucian Freud (1922-2011) has been accepted in lieu of inheritance tax from the estate of the artist and allocated to the National Portrait Gallery. Smaller than life-size, the head and hair are painted in detail, although the chin area remains incomplete. The self-portrait demonstrates Freud’s method of beginning working in the centre of the face and developing the composition out from that point. The self-portrait, thought to date from the mid-1980s, will join the archive of Freud’s sketchbooks, drawings and letters which were allocated to the Gallery under the scheme in 2015. A selection of these, together with the self-portrait, will go on show at the National Portrait Gallery from 11 June, as part of a small display that includes other portraits by the artist from its Collection together with important loans.
The portrait fragment is a rare example of an unfinished painting by the late artist and bears a close resemblance to ‘Reflection (Self-Portrait)’, 1985, in its direct pose and composition, which would suggest that it was painted around the same date. The work reveals much about the working practice of Freud, one of the most important and influential painters of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Self-portraits were a consistent thread running through the artist’s work from his teenage years until the end of his life. They represent one of his greatest artistic achievements, yet there are very few examples in UK public collections.
Sarah Howgate, Senior Curator, Contemporary Collections, National Portrait Gallery, and Curator of Lucian Freud Portraits, the last exhibition of his works exhibited at the gallery in 2012, says: ‘This compelling self-portrait is one of the most intriguing of Freud’s unfinished oil studies.’
This unfinished self-portrait is an important addition to the Gallery’s collection of Lucian Freud portraits, and provides an interesting counterpoint to its earlier self-portrait, which dates from 1963. In addition to the recently acquired archive of sketchbooks, drawings and letters, the Gallery also has a charcoal drawing by Freud of Lord Goodman; and the artist is represented as a sitter by a sculpture by Sir Jacob Epstein, drawings by Frank Auerbach and David Hockney, and many photographs.
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said: ‘It’s fantastic that this rare unfinished self-portrait will be joining Lucian Freud’s extensive collection of drawings and letters at the National Gallery. Thanks to the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme, these fascinating pieces will now be enjoyed by the public for years to come.’
Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director, National Portrait Gallery, said: ‘Following the recent allocation of Freud’s archive of sketchbooks, drawings and letters to the National Portrait Gallery, we are delighted to receive, on behalf of the nation, this unfinished self portrait. We look forward to displaying this important painting alongside selections from his sketchbooks and other works, offering visitors a unique insight into the practice of one of the greatest portrait painters.’
Edward Harley, Chairman of the Acceptance in Lieu Panel, which advises Ministers on offers in lieu said: ‘The Acceptance in Lieu scheme enriches our public collections and we are delighted that Lucian Freud’s estate has made this latest offer. Following the success of the National Portrait Gallery’s Lucian Freud Portraits exhibition in 2012, it is wonderful to see this exceptional self-portrait join its collection.’
Born in Berlin, Lucian Freud was the grandson of Sigmund Freud. He emigrated to England with his family at the age of ten. Freud studied at Central School of Art and then the East Anglian School of Painting under Cedric Morris. His first one-man exhibition was at the Lefevre Gallery in 1944. In 1951 Freud won the Arts Council prize at the Festival of Britain and in 1954 his work was shown in the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. His first major retrospective was staged by the Arts Council in 1974. Freud is celebrated for his clinically raw and intensely observed portraits and nudes. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest figurative painters of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Freud’s work is represented in many major collections, including those of Tate, The British Council, National Galleries of Scotland, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
The acceptance of the self-portrait settled £559,773 of tax. The Acceptance in Lieu scheme is administered by the Arts Council. The Acceptance in Lieu Panel, chaired by Edward Harley, advises Ministers on whether property offered in lieu is of suitable importance, offered at a value which is fair to both nation and taxpayer and whether an allocation wish or condition is appropriate. AIL enables taxpayers to pay inheritance tax by transferring important works of art and other important heritage objects into public ownership. The taxpayer is given the full open market value of the item, which then becomes the property of a public museum, archive or library. In the last decade the scheme has bought over £250m of cultural property into public collections
DISPLAY: LUCIAN FREUD UNSEEN 11 June- 6 September 2016 National Portrait Gallery, Room 40, Lerner Contemporary Galleries