Three early works by Lucian Freud (1922 2011) on new long-term loan to Pallant House Gallery
form the basis of a new display on the artists early technique. These works - Interior Scene (1948), Girl with Fig Leaf (1948) and Portrait of a Girl (1950) - are fine examples of Freuds sharp and meticulous early technique. They are accompanied by works from the Gallerys permanent collection of Modern British art, including Self-Portrait with Hyacinth in Pot (1947-48), Portrait of John Craxton (c.1942) and Unripe Tangerine (1946). The display also includes a selection of books featuring drawings and designs by Freud during the late forties and early fifties.
Girl with Fig Leaf (1948) is one of only six etchings made by Freud between 1946-48 before abandoning the technique until later in his career. The sitter was Kitty Garman, daughter of the sculptor Jacob Epstein and Kathleen Garman, whom Freud met in 1947 and married the following year. The etching is one of a series of psychologically charged portraits of her that Freud made during this period. Framed by the detailed rendering of her hair and a large fig leaf, which obscures most of her face, Kittys singular eye reflects the artists own intense and uncompromising gaze.
Interior Scene (1948) has similar elements to Girl with Fig Leaf but uses them to an entirely different effect. In contrast to the complete frond seen in Girl with Fig Leaf, Freud uses a torn and dying bramble with its spiky thorns to add a menacing atmosphere. The sitters face is again partially obscured, here peering out from between a parted curtain gives the painting a sense of narrative which hints at the literary collaborations Freud undertook during the forties and fifties.
Freuds meticulous interest in detail and the surface texture of his paintings reached a climax in the early fifties when he produced a handful of tiny oil paintings on copper. Portrait of a Girl (1950), an intimate study of Anne Dunn, is one such work. Once again, this portrait reflects Freuds complicated relationships. By the late 1940s Freud had started an affair with Anne Dunn, who sat for this painting, the year she was to marry Kittys cousin, Michael Wishart.
Freud admitted that his early portraits were the result of being visually aggressive with his sitters: I would sit very close and stare. It could be uncomfortable for both of us. His portraits appear to offer a glimpse into his complex personal relationships, and the portraits featured in this display are no exception.
In the 1940s and 1950s, Freud undertook a number of significant literary projects. These included commissions from Tamil poet Meary James Thurairajah Tambimuttu, who founded Poetry London, which became a leading poetry periodical in England. Freud illustrated covers for poetry periodicals and books including The Glass Tower by Nicholas Moore and The Equilibriad by William Sansom.
Born in Berlin in 1922, Freud moved to Britain with his family in 1933. For a short period between 1938-39 he was enrolled at the Central School of Arts and Crafts before attending the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing run by Cedric Morris and Arthur Lett-Haines until 1941-42.
During these important formative years, Freud worked in a range of materials including oil, ink, conté, pastel, crayon and etching. Even at this early stage in his career, his works reveal some of the themes that would preoccupy him throughout his life, including a fascination with individual portraits of family and friends. He also turned his unsparing gaze onto an array of every day still-life and botanical objects, often using these objects to symbolic effect in his portraits.