Lucian Freud (1922-2011)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF MAGNUS KONOW
Lucian Freud (1922-2011)

Man in a Striped Shirt

Details
Lucian Freud (1922-2011)
Man in a Striped Shirt
oil on canvas
16 1/8 x 13 1/8in. (41 x 33.4cm.)
Painted in 1942
Provenance
Arthur Lett-Haines, UK.
Marlborough Gallery, London.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1978.
Literature
L. Gowing, Lucian Freud, London 1982, p. 222, no. 10 (illustrated, p. 27).
Exhibited
London, Hayward Gallery, Lucian Freud, 1974, no. 10 (illustrated, p. 42). This exhibition later travelled to Bristol, City Art Gallery; Birmingham, City Museum and Art Gallery and Leeds, City Museum and Art Gallery.
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.
Post lot text
This work will be included in the forthcoming publication of the Lucian Freud catalogue raisonné.

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Katharine Arnold
Katharine Arnold

Lot Essay

‘The object of the artist is the creation of the beautiful. What the beautiful is is another question’
–James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Painted when Lucian Freud was just nineteen years old, Man in a Striped Shirt (1942) is a rare early work that bears witness to the young artist’s preternatural talent. Held in the esteemed collection of Magnus Konow alongside many other masterpieces of the School of London, it also takes its place in a story of friendship and rivalry which would involve some of the most important figures of the twentieth-century British Avant-garde. The work is a portrait of Richard Chopping, a fellow student during Freud’s time at the East Anglian School of Art in Dedham, where they were both taught by the painter Cedric Morris. Morris himself appears in a closely related portrait by Freud from 1940, now in the National Museum of Wales; Arthur Lett-Haines, with whom Morris ran the school, was the first owner of Man in a Striped Shirt. Richard Chopping, along with his partner Denis Wirth- Miller, who also studied at Dedham, would go on to become great friends with Francis Bacon – although relations with Freud would become strained – and an important artist in his own right. Aged around twenty-five in this portrait, Chopping appears in a striped shirt, red neckerchief and rumpled brown overcoat against a dark wall of bruised blues and greens. Freud studies his distinctive features with the intense, slightly warped focus typical of his earliest paintings. The subject’s striking high cheekbones, arched brows and narrow eyes – which would also be memorably captured in a much later portrait by Bacon (Two Studies for Portrait of Richard Chopping, 1978) – are rendered in a finely-worked impasto of shifting flesh tones. With the forensic precision that would be further sharpened in his crystalline portraiture of the 1940s and 1950s, Freud pays obsessive attention to individual eyelashes, hairs, and even a tiny point of red at the inner corner of Chopping’s left eye. A near-fetishistic interest in tailoring – another hallmark of Freud’s early work – is also evident here, especially in the smooth play of light over Chopping’s striped shirt. The painting is charged with Freud’s uncompromising eye for the specific, conjuring the sitter as a forceful and utterly individual human presence.

This work’s curiously rippled texture, which appears in a number of early paintings, in is born of what Lawrence Gowing describes as a process of ‘reimagining’ reality: Freud was not yet working in the direct presence of his sitters. ‘What we watch is the actual stream of invention, the reimagining rather than a process of observation’, Gowing writes. ‘A current ripples across the picture; the surface is streaked and marbled by the imagining, as water ripples in the sand. These ripples do not model actual form; they recreate the general undulation of relief and a variation of imagined colour which is like a reference to the passage of light.’ Gowing sees this slightly surreal, memory-based approach as central to Freud’s eventual total mastery of – and devotion to – what he saw in front of him. ‘These pictures conceive the real from a certain distance. What is remarkable is that we are watching develop the capacities to envisage and to embody, which eventually equipped one of the great literal, outward-looking artists of the century. He is teaching himself to dream a dream of the real, to dream from nature’ (L. Gowing, Lucian Freud, London, 1982, pp. 13-16, 19). Although Freud always insisted that his fiercely individual approach to painting precluded any outside influence, his earliest works share much in palette and tone with the Neue Sachlichkeit artists of the Weimar Republic such as Otto Dix and George Grosz. Man in a Striped Shirt bears some of these Germanic traces, but it also shows the young painter developing his own distinctive language, and establishing a unique position in the nexus between observation, imagination and painting – the vital three-way relationship in which he would go on to forge a path as the greatest British portraitist of his time.

Chopping and Wirth-Miller fell out with Freud at the end of their time at school together in 1941, around the same time that the two became close with Francis Bacon. The precise circumstances of the rupture remain unclear; there are rumours of a stolen painting. It certainly didn’t help that Freud, who was several years younger, was Morris’ favoured student, exceedingly arrogant, and clearly poised for massive success in London. A list by Chopping of reasons for his continued enmity, written some six decades later in 2004, included ‘My anger at Lucian’s additions to my flower painting’, and more cryptic entries such as ‘The Pigeon Pie episode’, ‘The Egg-cup episode’ and ‘ARSON?!’ – the latter referring to Freud’s rumoured responsibility for the burning down of Morris’ school. Despite this rift, Chopping and Wirth-Miller continued to move in circles that overlapped with Freud’s as the decades went by. A 2016 biography by Jon Lys Turner, who inherited Chopping and Wirth-Miller’s archives, has shed light on the pivotal role the couple played in the lives of Bacon and a host of other artists and writers, who would travel from London for week-long parties at their home in Wivenhoe.

Even if he never reached the heights of Bacon and Freud, Chopping’s art – including his celebrated illustrations for the 1943 Penguin book Butterflies in Britain – also went on to achieve its own renown. He is perhaps best known for his iconic trompe-l’oeil cover designs for Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels. It was on Bacon’s urging that Fleming’s wife Ann, Lady Rothermere (also a friend of Freud’s, and responsible for his meeting his first wife Caroline Blackwood some years earlier), went to see an exhibition that included Chopping’s paintings in 1956. She recommended Chopping to her husband, and a fruitful artistic and literary partnership ensued, lasting until Fleming’s death in 1964. At the height of the Bond series’ fame, advertisements featuring Chopping’s jacket design for Thunderball (1961) were plastered in all twenty-seven stations of the Circle Line on the London Underground. Freud himself had turned down the original commission – ‘Perhaps just as well’, Chopping remarked, ‘for he was an even slower worker than I’ (R. Chopping, quoted in J. Lys Turner, The Visitor’s Book: In Francis Bacon’s Shadow: The Lives of Richard Chopping and Denis Wirth-Miller, London 2016, p. 206). As a relic of Freud and Chopping’s earlier friendship, Man in a Striped Shirt stands at the dawn of the careers of both these remarkable artists. Singular, characterful and piercingly observed, it presents the marvel of a personal relationship captured in paint, pulsing with the hard-won power that brings the best of Freud’s work to extraordinary life.

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