Unseen Works by Lucian Freud Debut at London’s National Portrait Gallery

The trove was donated by the estate in lieu of $4 million of inheritance tax.

Landscape with figures by Lucian Freud, c. 1930s accepted by HM Government from the Estate of Lucian Freud and allocated to the National Portrait Gallery, London, 2015, under the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme which is administered by the Arts Council © The Lucian Freud Archive.
Sleeping Girl by Lucian Freud; accepted by HM Government from the Estate of Lucian Freud and allocated to the National Portrait Gallery, London, 2015, under the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme which is administered by the Arts Council © The Lucian Freud Archive.

Sleeping Girl by Lucian Freud. Image ©The Lucian Freud Archive.

Lucian Freud lovers rejoice. A selection of works from the never-before-seen archive of the legendary British artist has gone on view at London’s National Portrait Gallery.

The extensive archive, which spans the period between the 1940s and the 1990s, features a newly discovered self-portrait by Lucian Freud, as well as 47 sketchbooks, a collection of 162 childhood drawings, and letters from the artist.

“Lucian Freud Unseen” offers visitors a peek at selections from the archive donated by the Arts Council on behalf of the Government, who accepted it in lieu of £2.9 million ($4.1 million) of inheritance tax from the estate of the artist.

The exhibition will feature the first display of an unfinished self-portrait, which likely dates from the mid-1980s, and closely resembles Freud’s 1985 Reflection (Self-Portrait). The rare fragment is one of very few unfinished paintings by the late artist.

Self-portrait (fragment) by Lucian Freud, c1980s; by Lucian Freud, c1980s; accepted by HM Government from the Estate of Lucian Freud and allocated to the National Portrait Gallery, London, 2016, under the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme which is administered by the Arts Council © Lucian Freud Archive.

Self-portrait (fragment) by Lucian Freud (c. 1980s). Image ©Lucian Freud Archive.

“This exciting and extensive body of valuable material will greatly expand our holdings of works by Freud in our Collection and help us to further understand the studio practice of an artist whose focus and preoccupation was the portrait,” Sarah Howgate, senior curator of contemporary collections at the museum, said in a statement.

With this new exhibition, the National Portrait Gallery is perhaps hoping to revisit the success of “Lucian Freud Portraits,” a show also curated by Howgate in 2012, which became the museum’s most visited ticketed exhibition.

Among the unseen works on display are extraordinarily early drawings, which offer a vision of the artist’s childhood in Berlin before he emigrated to England at age 10 in 1933. These vivid sketches were done in a variety of media and prefigure the imagery relating to birds and trees that would recur throughout Freud’s oeuvre.

Landscape with figures by Lucian Freud, c. 1930s accepted by HM Government from the Estate of Lucian Freud and allocated to the National Portrait Gallery, London, 2015, under the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme which is administered by the Arts Council © The Lucian Freud Archive.

Landscape with figures by Lucian Freud (c. 1930s). Image ©The Lucian Freud Archive.

Some of the later work on display is also fascinating, such as a cover design for Hideous Kinky, the 1992 novel by one of his daughters, Esther.

Other studies on display can be linked to major works by Freud, such as one drawing of his second wife, Lady Caroline Blackwood, that is reminiscent of his 1954 masterpiece Hotel Bedroom.

Anna in Venice by Lucian Freud, c. 1960; accepted by HM Government from the Estate of Lucian Freud and allocated to the National Portrait Gallery, London, 2015, under the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme which is administered by the Arts Council © The Lucian Freud Archive.

Anna in Venice by Lucian Freud (c. 1960). Image ©The Lucian Freud Archive.

“Lucian Freud Unseen” is on view at the National Portrait Gallery from 13 June- 6 September, 2016.


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