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    Sale 13100

    Defining British Art Evening Sale

    30 June 2016, London, King Street

  • Lot 7

    Lucian Freud, O.M., C.H. (1922-2011)

    A Girl (Pauline Tennant)

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    Lucian Freud, O.M., C.H. (1922-2011)
    A Girl (Pauline Tennant)
    conté crayon and coloured chalk on grey/green paper
    17 ¾ x 15 ¾ in. (45 x 40 cm.)
    Executed circa 1945.


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    Frank Auerbach once recalled of his friend Lucian Freud ‘when I think of Lucian, I think of his attention to his sitters’ (F. Auerbach, ‘On Lucian Freud’, W. Feaver, exhibition catalogue, Lucian Freud, London, Tate Britain, 2002, p. 51) – an observation that is descriptive of the majority of Freud’s long career. However, the origin of this distinctive quality of Freud’s work can perhaps be pinpointed to his drawings of the mid-1940s. A Girl (Pauline Tennant) was executed at a pivotal moment in Freud’s career, which William Feaver characterises as ‘a gradual transition, from the fanciful to searching exactitude’ (W. Feaver, exhibition catalogue, Lucian Freud Drawings, London, Blain Southern, 2012, p. 12). There is an almost startling clarity to his drawings of the mid-1940s, when contrasted to the naivety of his early wartime work. The immaculate nature of these examples is arguably epitomised in A Girl (Pauline Tennant).

    The striking intensity of A Girl (Pauline Tennant) is reflective of Freud’s approach to his sitters at the time. Freud admitted that his early portraits emerged from his ‘visual aggression’, which in turn resulted in the intense psychological quality of the portraits from the mid-to-late 1940s. He claimed ‘I would sit very close and stare. It could be uncomfortable for both of us’ (Freud quoted in an interview with Michael Auping, 2009, S. Howgate, M. Auping, J. Richardson, exhibition catalogue, Lucian Freud Portraits, London, National Portrait Gallery, 2012, p. 208). This particular technique can provide an explanation for portrayal of Tennant’s features. Despite first impressions of the drawing, which suggest it is a consistently detailed work; there are discernible disparities in Freud’s technique. This is most noticeable in the contrast between the complexity of the artist’s rendering of Tennant’s hair, and the comparatively two-dimensional depiction of the left sleeve – pictured only by the single-mark outline. Tennant is depicted with the large, compelling eyes that became a feature of Freud’s portraits of this time, also noticeable in the portraits he made of his first wife Kitty Garman. Freud has suggested that some of the facial features of his sitters underwent a form of ‘involuntary magnification’ as a result of his intense concentration on the subject (ibid.). It is possible to assume that this technique is a conscious attempt of Freud’s to replicate some of the qualities of human sight; particularly a viewer’s tendency to focus on specific details of the object of their focus. Thus, by picking out certain features of Tennant’s face, such as the eyes, hair or curve of the lips, Freud could have been attempting to emphasise areas he was most drawn to as a viewer. This view perhaps goes beyond the objective artist-model relationship. The drawing demonstrates the representation of a young woman described as being ‘as beautiful as it was possible to be’ through the eyes of Freud, who was undoubtedly infatuated with her for a short time (as described by Michael Wishart and quoted in The Telegraph, 12 December 2012).

    The dramatic tonal chiaroscuro created with Freud’s skilful use of contrasting chalk and crayon serves to make the play of light a main feature of the work. The right side of Tennant’s face is starkly illuminated with an almost ghostly white chalk highlight, all except for her iris – which, shaded by her eyelashes, is plunged into darkness. This serves to create a remarkable contrast with the minimal shading of the left eye. The juxtaposing lines of white chalk and charcoal used to demonstrate Tennant’s hair, not only depict the thick texture of it, but they also successfully evoke Tennant’s blondness – something she was known for "[she was] young enough to dance alone, in an irresistible scarlet dress, her blonde tresses flying." (ibid.). The tonal effects on the lower half of the drawing are more subtle but just as effective. Delicate charcoal lines and shadows are used to define the shape and style of Tennant’s loose collared blouse. The soft shadows are interspersed with areas of yellow/green crayon, which highlight the undulations of the light fabric of the blouse. The choice of simple clothing – which is unclear as to whether it was dictated by Freud or chosen by Tennant – gives the work a timeless quality. Tennant is portrayed as a young woman removed from her situation in bohemian, post-war British society.

    A Girl (Pauline Tennant) - thought to be the only drawing he completed of Pauline Tennant (then only 17 years old) - has not been seen at auction since 1971. Tennant, described as a ‘true bohemian, aristocrat, actress, poet and socialite’, was the daughter of The Hon. David Tennant - the co-founder of Soho’s iconic Gargoyle Club – and his wife, the actress Hermione Baddeley, who appeared in Brighton Rock (1947) and Mary Poppins (1964). The Gargoyle was said by her close friend Michael Wishart, (the cousin of Kitty Garman, whom Freud married in 1948) to have been ‘Pauline’s nursery’ and throughout the 1940s was frequented by hosts of ‘bright young things’ and artistic and literary figures of the day, including: Francis Bacon, Freud, and Cyril Connolly. Her parents are credited with having invented the ‘pyjama party’. Tennant and Freud’s brief romantic relationship coincided with Freud’s move to Delamere Terrace in Paddington in 1944. They met after the wartime years Freud had spent studying at the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing under Cedric Morris and his ill-fated 3-month’s service in the North Atlantic, and prior to his travels to Paris and the Greek island of Poros in 1946.

    The Gargoyle Club and its circle of members was an instrumental part of Freud’s early success as an artist. Cyril Connolly co-founded the influential literary and arts magazine Horizon (which ran from 1940-1949) with Peter Watson as its financial backer. Not only did Horizon publish some of Freud’s work in 1940 and 1943, Watson acted as a financial backer and patron to several artists including Freud. In 1941-1942 Freud had a studio in a maisonette at 14 Abercorn Place, St John’s Wood with John Craxton, which was financed by Watson, thus allowing him to focus on the progression of his technique.

    A number of art historians and critics have likened Freud’s 1940s style to the inter-war German Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) movement and artists such as Christian Schad (1894-1984) and their cool and unsympathetic realism. This was a comparison Freud ardently rejected, and instead cited the illustrious Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) and the German Renaissance as being part of his early inspirations. He remembered reproductions of Dürer’s drawings hanging in his childhood home in Berlin. Dürer’s influence is rife in the present work and perhaps most evident in Freud’s development as a draughtsman. The special emphasis Freud placed on the intricate detail of Tennant’s hair can be compared to Dürer’s depiction of a Young Hare (1502, Albertina, Vienna). As in Dürer’s drawing, Freud has executed a confident and precise line to demonstrate each individual strand and utilises highlights to depict the strong and waxy texture of Tennant’s hair, which bleached by the side light at the edges, is alive with static. Bruce Bernard remarked that Freud had managed to replicate ‘nearly the whole evolution of European Painting … while almost hermetically sealed in his studio with his models’ (B. Bernard, D. Birdsall (eds.), Lucian Freud, London, 1996, p. 8). In this case, this period of Freud’s work can be considered the transition from the Middle Ages, and the child-like primitivism of his earlier work, to the dawn of the early European Renaissance. These early portraits, including A Girl (Pauline Tennant) also evoke the conventions of early Renaissance portraiture in their construction. Freud’s use of a cropped composition, with the sitter portrayed at a three-quarter angle is borrowed from fifteenth-century portraitists, particularly of Netherlandish masters, such as Robert Campin and Rogier Van de Weyden. Freud continued to use this compositional framework throughout the 1940s, later introducing further references to Renaissance inspiration through the introduction of props or icons – such as Girl with a Kitten (1947, Tate) and Girl with Roses (1948, British Council), where the props clutched by the sitter are reminiscent of symbolic representations in Renaissance portraiture.

    Freud spent the final years of the war drawing tirelessly and A Girl (Pauline Tennant) can be seen as somewhat of a culmination of his exhaustive practise. Of his earlier work he said ‘I thought some pictures were no good because they were too infantile. It irritated me when people talked about them being “primitive”. They mistook an inability for an affection’ (Freud quoted in W. Feaver, Lucian Freud, London, 2002, p. 22). The present drawing demonstrates the dramatic maturation of the artist’s technique in the mid-1940s: a maturity that is evident in the noticeable difference between works from just a year earlier such as Man with Folded Hands (1944, private collection) which demonstrate the more ‘primitive’ aspects Freud was so scathing of. A work comparable with A Girl (Pauline Tennant) in both the date and approach is Freud’s portrait of his patron Peter Watson (1945, Victoria and Albert Museum, London). The drawing of Watson shares Freud’s use of highlighting and attention paid to the textures of the work, most notably the hair and the corduroy of his suit, along with an intimate insight into the individual. However, it can be argued that it is lacking in the affection that is so evident in the present work, through the emphasis placed on Tennant’s facial features.

    During her career Tennant focused her attention first on acting, then later on literary endeavours. Her debut was in Great Day (1945) as Vicky Calder. She also starred in the celebrated The Queen of Spades (1949), which was directed by Thorold Dickinson, the first professor of film at the Slade School of Art. Coincidentally, Dickinson was also responsible for hiring Freud as a visiting tutor in the same year. Additionally Tennant published several translations of William Barnes’ poetry as well as poems of her own. She married three times, first to Julian Pitt-Rivers in 1946 the ‘strikingly handsome’ social anthropologist. The marriage was dissolved in 1953 and a year later she married Euan Douglas Graham, the Principal Clerk of Private Bills in the House of Lords. Her final marriage was to Sir Anthony Rumbold, 10th Baronet and former ambassador of Austria, they lived together in Hatch House in Wiltshire until Sir Rumbold’s death in 1983. Catherine Lampert has commented that Freud’s choice of Tennant as a sitter is representative of the way ‘Lucian somehow spotted exceptional people even when they were very young, and did this all his life’ (private correspondence, May 2016).


    We are very grateful to Catherine Lampert for her kind assistance in preparing this catalogue entry.

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    Provenance

    Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 7 April 1971, lot 182, where purchased by the previous owner.
    Acquired by the present owner from the above in September 2004.


    Pre-Lot Text

    PROPERTY FROM A LONDON COLLECTION


    Literature

    M. Holborn (ed.), Lucian Freud on Paper, London, 2008, pp. 30-31, 161, no. 81, illustrated, as 'A Girl' and dated 1946.


    Exhibited

    London, The London Gallery, Recent Paintings and Drawings by Lucian Freud and John Craxton, October - November 1947, no. 26, as 'Drawing of a girl'.
    London, Arts Council of Great Britain, Hayward Gallery, Lucian Freud, January – March 1974, no. 37, as ‘A girl' and dated 1946: this exhibition travelled to Bristol, City Art Gallery, April; Birmingham, City Museum and Art Gallery, May; and Leeds, City Museum and Art Gallery, June, p. 45, illustrated.
    Edinburgh, Fruitmarket Gallery, Lucian Freud: Works on Paper, June – July 1988, no. 26, exhibition not traced.
    Dublin, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Lucian Freud, June – September 2007, exhibition not numbered, as ‘Girl’s Head (Pauline Tennant)', dated 1944: this exhibition travelled to Louisiana, Museum of Modern Art, September 2007 – January 2008; and The Hague, Gemeentemuseum, February – June 2008, p. 164, illustrated.
    London, Hazlitt Holland-Hibbert, Lucian Freud Early Works 1940-58, October – December 2008, no. 17, as ‘Girl’s Head’ and dated 1946.
    London, National Portrait Gallery, Lucian Freud: Portraits, February – May 2012, no. 6, as ‘A Girl’ and dated 1946: this exhibition travelled to Fort Worth, Modern Art Museum, July – October 2012, pp. 64, 246, illustrated.