• Brian Sewell - Critic & Collec auction at Christies

    Sale 13731

    Brian Sewell - Critic & Collector

    27 September 2016, London, King Street

  • Lot 236

    John Craxton, R.A. (London 1922-2009)

    Lucian Freud

    Price Realised  

    John Craxton, R.A. (London 1922-2009)
    Lucian Freud
    signed 'Craxton' (lower left), dated '26.10.46.' (lower right), inscribed 'Lucian' (upper right) and inscribed again and dated again 'Lucian Freud/poros 1946' (on the backboard)
    pencil
    22 x 17 in. (55.8 x 43.2 cm.)


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    John Craxton landed in Athens in May 1946, and moved to the nearby island of Poros shortly afterwards. His best friend, Lucian Freud, joined him in September. Freud remained in Greece for six months; Craxton stayed on for most of the following six decades.

    Born two months apart, Craxton and Freud were introduced in London by arts patron Peter Watson when turning nineteen. Soon the benefactor had installed them in a St John’s Wood maisonette, with a floor apiece for studios. From 1942 they attended life-drawing classes at Goldsmiths College, but learned most from one another. 'He made me scrutinise, I gave him confidence', Craxton would recall. They drew together, often on opposite sides of the same sheet of paper, sometimes on the same drawings. Eventually these loving acts of intensity and economy would lead to the collapse of a faltering friendship as the juveniles' works of great wit and invention appeared on the market with serious questions around who had done what.

    Trapped in menaced and ravaged Britain during the war years, Craxton and Freud responded zestfully to the warmth and freedom of Greece. As their 24th birthdays approached, they set about portraits of one another – Freud tackling a painting of Craxton sporting a new moustache and sunburn. The subject recalled the 'absolute misery' of protracted sittings, and added: 'He always started with an eyeball, then he imprisoned the eye and then an eyebrow, then a nostril…' The beautiful drawing Craxton made of Freud – capturing the curl of his hair and the burn of his stare – was completed within thirty minutes. In Greece the light and the sense of liberation had turned Craxton into a camera, with a firmness of focus from which he felt his portrait drawings emerged automatically. In a letter to David Attenborough fifty years later, he also credited the precision produced by conté pencils, forever his favourite drawing medium since their discovery by him at Goldsmiths. He wrote: 'Both Lucian and I were determined at least to try one line right or wrong'.

    I.C.

    Special Notice

    Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.


    Provenance

    Purchased by Brian Sewell at the 1993 exhibition.


    Literature

    G. Grigson, 'John Craxton Paintings and Drawings', Horizon, London, 1948, no. 4, illustrated.
    I. Collins, John Craxton, Farnham, 2011, p. 79, no. 90, illustrated.


    Exhibited

    London, Christopher Hull Gallery, John Craxton: an Exhibition of Portraits, 1942-1992 Including Recent Work, 1987-1993, October 1993, no. 3, illustrated.
    Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, A World of Private Mystery: John Craxton RA (1922-2009), December 2013 - May 2014, no. 16, illustrated.