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Sotheby's to sell exceptional private collection of fresh-to-market drawings by Lucian Freud
Lucian Freud, Head of Success II. Charcoal and crayon on paper. Executed in 1983. Estimate: £100,000-150,000. Photo: Sotheby's.

LONDON.- In the wake of the strong prices achieved for works on paper by Lucian Freud in 2011, including the auction record which was established by Sotheby’s London in June 2011**, Sotheby’s announced that it will offer for sale an outstanding group of works on paper by Lucian Freud in the forthcoming Evening Auction of Contemporary Art on Wednesday, February 15th, 2012. This exceptional and encyclopaedic fresh-to-market private collection of five drawings spans more than four decades and attests to Freud’s masterful draughtsmanship. Combined, these extraordinary works are estimated to realise in excess of £1.5 million.

Commenting on the sale of these drawings, Oliver Barker, Deputy Chairman Sotheby’s Europe and Senior International Specialist in Contemporary Art, said: “These remarkable works on paper provide a fascinating perspective on Freud’s method and the pivotal importance of drawing throughout his career. Each drawing testifies to his extraordinary powers of analysis, in both form and character, as well as his meticulous and masterful draughtsmanship. The appearance of these works at auction, two of which have never before appeared on the open market as they were acquired by the present owner from the artist, is set to generate significant interest among the collecting community.”

Highlighting the group is Lucian Freud’s black charcoal on paper Lord Goodman, executed in 1985. This masterful portrait magnificently illustrates the artist’s inimitable analysis of the human subject and his incomparable aptitude as a draughtsman. Paralleling a smaller drawing of the same sitter that is now held in the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery, this drawing is of museum quality and ranks in the very highest tier of works on paper by Freud from the 1980s. A leading London lawyer and partner of the firm Goodman, Derrick & Co, Arnold Goodman was a renowned and fiercely intelligent solicitor and advisor to senior politicians, including Prime Minister Harold Wilson, and later became one of the most powerful figures in Arts and Culture policy in the United Kingdom. Between 1965 and 1972 he was chairman of the Arts Council, overseeing the establishment of the South Bank Centre and securing regular funding for many galleries and theatres throughout England, as well as being Director of the Royal Opera House and Sadler's Wells, and Governor of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. He was created a life peer as Baron Goodman of the City of Westminster in 1965 and Companion of Honour in 1972. Freud's Lord Goodman is one of the outstanding portrayals in the medium of Lucian Freud's entire oeuvre and is estimated at £400,000–600,000.

Cacti and Stuffed Bird, illustrated left, is an archetypal example of Freud’s work as a young artist, having been among the highlights of a series of Lucian Freud: Early Works exhibitions around the world in the last two decades. The drawing, executed in 1943 when Freud was just 20 years old and whilst he still studied under Cedric Morris at Benton End in Suffolk, depicts a frequently recurrent theme throughout Freud’s career, in which animals and birds occupy a notably privileged position. From an early age Freud maintained a profound keenness for animals, and particularly birds: "I have always been excited by birds. If you touch wild birds it's a marvellous feeling" (the artist cited in: William Feaver, 'Lucian Freud: Life into Art', in: Exhibition Catalogue, London, Tate Britain, Lucian Freud, 2002, p. 23). The taxidermy bird in the picture is an emblem of his obsession with the beauty of wild birds, as well as a forerunner to the other marvellous taxidermied animals he would come to collect and be given by friends and lovers. Famously, Freud kept two sparrowhawks in his Paddington studio during the late 1940s and amassed an impressive collection of taxidermy animals, including the famous zebra head. This work was included in Freud’s first-ever show at the Lefevre Gallery in 1944 and has been substantially displayed in major Lucian Freud exhibitions ever since. Cacti with Stuffed Bird is an exemplary and iconic manifestation of Freud’s precocious emerging talent as a draughtsman and carries an estimate of £400,000-500,000.

Gorse Sprig, which comes to the market for the first time in nearly 40 years and is estimated at £300,000-400,000, is a remarkable work which also featured prominently in Lucian Freud’s first-ever exhibition in 1944 in London at Lefevre Gallery. This work documents the period between 1943 and 1944 during which Freud regularly drew the wildlife at London Zoo, as well as “ferns and other plants at Kew Gardens”, and it embodies the moment the young artist first hit his stride whilst marking the genesis of a lifelong fascination with plants.

Coming to auction for the first time ever is Head of Success II, an evocative study of a horse’s head strapped in by reins (est. £100,000-150,000). This exquisite charcoal and crayon sketch was last exhibited in 1993, and is a fine example of Freud’s remarkable corpus of animal studies.

Drawing for Naked Figure has not been exhibited for 20 years, since it was shown in Japan and Australia as part of a travelling exhibition dedicated to Freud’s works (est. £250,000-350,000). This exquisite sketch was made the cover image of the Hayward Gallery’s presentation of Freud drawings in 1974.

*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium
**Lucian Freud’s Beach Scene with a Boat, colour chalk and pen and ink, executed in 1945, sold at Sotheby's London on June 15, 2011, £2.6 million ($4.2 million)

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