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Christie's to offer a portrait of Lucian Freud's daughter Bella; On view in London during Frieze Week
Lucian Freud (1922-2011), Naked Portrait on a Red Sofa, 1989-91. Oil on canvas. 39. x (99.5 x 90.7cm.) Estimate: $20,000,000-30,000,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2015.

LONDON.- Christie’s announced the sale of Lucian Freud’s, Naked Portrait on a Red Sofa, an intimate and poignant portrait of one of the artist’s most personal subjects, his daughter Bella, which will be a centerpiece of the curated sale The Artist’s Muse. Described by Bruce Bernard as ‘a masterpiece of impulsive, speculative and judicious application of paint’ and ‘one of Freud’s most audacious and sensitive works’, the painting is the culmination of a major series of portraits of his daughters the artist painted in the 1980s. The upcoming sale this November marks the first time this portrait is appearing at auction. Carved out from layers of paint, her face sculpted by a rich impasto, Bella appears stretched across the now iconic red leather sofa, the setting for so many of his portraits and muses. Estimated $20,000,000-30,000,000, the painting will be presented in London from October 10 – 17 before being auctioned in New York on Monday November 9 at Christie’s Rockefeller Centre.

Francis Outred, Chairman and Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art EMERI: “Following last season’s record-breaking success of Benefits Supervisor Resting we are privileged to bring Lucian Freud’s Naked Portrait on a Red Sofa to auction next month. Naked Portrait on a Red Sofa is the culmination of the brave creative endeavor shared by father and daughter that developed over a 40-year period and in 11 paintings we see the growth of Bella into the globally renowned fashion designer today. This portrait captures the intense yet fragile relationship between father and daughter, artist and muse. I am delighted that London has her company for the next week, before she travels to New York to be a part of our much-anticipated Muses sale of 20th-Century art in November.”

Bruce Bernard Lucian Freud, New York (1996): ‘Bella, who six years afterwards would materialise anonymously on a red couch in a masterpiece of impulsive, speculative and judicious application of paint. In Naked Portrait on a Red Sofa, (1989-91) she is daubed, stroked and trowelled over with a knife and brush that seem to have been working on at least three different paintings, and the result isn’t the sex-crime or unkindness that some might at first feel it to be. It is surely more intimate and could even be about deep affection combined with some kind of anger, impatience or self-reproach. Quite soon it seems as warm as its dominant colour and it is for me one of Freud’s most audacious and sensitive works. Bella herself very much appreciates it, and I like to think that Degas would have wanted to collect it.’

Completed just before Freud began his working relationship and friendship with the New York dealer, William Acquavella, Naked Portrait on a Red Sofa appears at a pivotal moment in the artist’s career when Freud’s paintings were to enjoy a renaissance and global recognition. At this point the deeply sculptural nudes and family portraits of the 1980s were developed into large-scale masterpieces of a new group of sitters, including both Leigh-Bowery and Sue Tilley. In Naked Portrait on a Red Sofa, the final 1980s portrait of Bella, the intimate scale and intensely worked surface creates a deeply charged atmosphere, where the viewer is given an insight into the otherwise private relationship of artist and sitter.

Described as her ‘unshakeable ally’, Bella and her father were undeniably close by the time of Naked Portrait on a Red Sofa but, as with many of his children, Freud was for the most part an absent figure for much of Bella’s childhood. Painted when Bella was in her twenties, Naked Portrait on a Red Sofa is one of the finest examples of their growing relationship as seen in paint, which resulted in 11 works across his career. Naked Portrait on a Red Sofa can be seen as the culmination of the relationship that began with Pregnant Girl (1960-1) when her mother Bernardine Coverley was pregnant. While many of the portraits of the 1980s show Bella clothed, either as part of a group, or closer compositions of her face and hands, the freedom and confidence felt in Naked Portrait on a Red Sofa marks it as one of the most honest and personal images of his daughter.

The tenderness of Naked Portrait on a Red Sofa is offset by not only his objectivity but also her anonymity: 'However troubled I was I always felt that I left it at the door' she recalled, 'and then he always made a very nice atmosphere and he was very considerate, it was always nice and warm and there was lots of lovely food or we would go out ... he would make (everything) in a way that was special for each person so he could get our maximum cooperation or enjoyment' (Interview with Bella Freud, Jake Auerbach and William Feaver, Sitting for Freud, BBC Films, 2004).

After the resounding success of Christie’s innovative, cross-category approach to its major May sales series, which generated $1.7 billion in total sales, once again all the major works from its Impressionist, Modern, PostWar and Contemporary sales will be exhibited in New York at the same time and sold in one week. Christie’s will host three Evening Sales and two Day Sales that week, beginning with The Artist’s Muse on Monday November 9.

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