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Phillips to offer important collection of 32 Lucian Freud etchings during Frieze Week
Lucian Freud, Naked Man on a Sofa, c. 1985. Etching, on Somerset Satin paper, with full margins, I. 54.6 x 69.9 cm. Estimate £120,000 - 180,000. Image courtesy of Phillips.

LONDON.- Phillips will offer at auction a rare and important collection of 32 etchings by Lucian Freud, one of the most celebrated artists of the 20th century and a modern master of printmaking. The group spans the majority of the period from 1982 to 2004 when the artist rediscovered and rededicated himself to printmaking and when etching became integral to his practice. Highlighting the scope of his achievements in the medium, the collection includes depictions of his most famous sitters, including Sue Tilley, Leigh Bowery, David Dawson and his daughter, Bella, as well as canine portraits, landscapes and works after old masters. The collection will be subject to a dedicated exhibition on the 7th floor at Phillips Berkeley Square from 9 to 15 October, before being offered at a stand-alone auction in London on 15 October 2015.

The introduction to the catalogue is written by Sue Tilley, Freud’s muse for four years in the 1990s and the model for a number of his most famous works including Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, 1995, the most valuable painting by the artist sold at auction. The introduction offers a personal insight into the process of sitting for the artist, including the circumstances of the creation of Woman Sleeping, 1995. Sue Tilley remembers that mid-way through sitting for a painted portrait, she went to an exhibition of works by Bacon and Freud in the South of France and returned with a slight suntan, much to the annoyance of the artist. Forced to wait for her skin to fade and return to its previous shade before completing the painting, he ‘…came harrumphing back into the studio and then said, while pointing at my chest, “I’m going have to do an etching while THAT fades away”’.

Lucian Freud was an exceptional draughtsman who was particularly drawn to etching in his later years. He experimented with the medium as early as the 1940s, but it was in the 1980s that he was to return to it with intense dedication, executing approximately 80 powerful and complex compositions before his death in 2011. His outstanding talent in this medium was widely admired and was celebrated to great acclaim at the exhibition ‘The Painter's Etchings’ at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 2007-08.

The leading highlight is Naked Man on a Sofa, circa 1985, one of only two extant unpublished proofs, neither of which has previously been offered at auction. This rare work signals the beginning of an important development in Freud’s output towards much more ambitious and complex etchings. Freud returned to etching in 1982 after a break of 34 years, however the works produced between 1982 and 1985 remain small, tentative explorations. It is only in 1985 that Freud gained confidence and began to challenge himself in this particular medium, which lends itself to extremely meticulous detail. As demonstrated in this etching, Freud began to work with significantly larger copper plates, as well as standing his plates up on an easel, as one would with a painting canvas. This is a very unusual practice with copper etching but allowed Freud more breadth and strength with his etched strokes. Naked Man on a Sofa is related to the etchings Man Posing, 1985, Naked Man on a Bed, 1987, and the painting Painter and Model, 1986-87, and portrays the same model: Angus Cook, a young student film-maker.

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