LUCIAN FREUD (1922-2011)
LUCIAN FREUD (1922-2011)
LUCIAN FREUD (1922-2011)
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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTION
LUCIAN FREUD (1922-2011)

Garden from the Window

Details
LUCIAN FREUD (1922-2011)
Garden from the Window
oil on canvas
28 1/8 x 24 1/8in. (71.4 x 61.4cm.)
Painted in 2002
Provenance
Acquavella Galleries, New York.
Private Collection.
Collection of Simon Sainsbury, London.
Thence by descent to the present owner.
Literature
K. Bradley-Hole, Lost Gardens of England: From the Archives of Country Life, London 2004, p. 110.
R. Lane Fox, 'Gardens in a bigger picture', in Financial Times, 3 July 2004.
P. Campbell, 'At Tate Britain: gardens', in London Review of Books, vol. 26, no. 13, 8 July 2004, p. 13.
M. Holborn (ed.), Lucian Freud 1996-2005, London 2005, pp. 130 and 179, no. 75 (illustrated in colour, p. 131).
S. Smee, Lucian Freud, Cologne 2007, p. 91.
C. Gibbs, 'A Search for Beauty', in Simon Sainsbury Bequest to Tate and the National Gallery, London 2008, p. 17.
M. Gayford, Man with a Blue Scarf, London 2010, p. 38 (illustrated in colour, p. 39).
S. Smee, Lucian Freud, 1922-2011. Beholding the Animal, Cologne 2012, p. 91.
M. Gayford, Lucian Freud, vol. 2, London 2018, pp. 221 and 298 (illustrated in colour with incorrect dimensions, p. 258).
G. Aloi, Lucian Freud: Herbarium, London 2019, p. 164 (illustrated in colour with incorrect dimensions, p. 165).
W. Feaver, The Lives of Lucian Freud: Fame 1968-2011, London 2020, p. 448 (incorrectly titled ‘Buddleia’).
M. Gayford, Lucian Freud, London 2022, p. 616 (illustrated in colour with incorrect dimensions, p. 570).
Lucian Freud: Plant Portraits, exh. cat., London, Garden Museum, 2022-2023, p. 13.
Exhibited
London, Tate Britain, Art of the Garden, 2004, pp. 94 and 245, no. 58 (illustrated in colour, p. 129).
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. Christie's has provided a minimum price guarantee and has a direct financial interest in this lot. Christie's has financed all or a part of such interest through a third party. Such third parties generally benefit financially if a guaranteed lot is sold. See the Important Notices in the Conditions of Sale for more information.

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Michelle McMullan
Michelle McMullan Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

An exquisite portrait of nature painted at the height of Lucian Freud’s powers, Garden from the Window (2002) offers a rare glimpse of life beyond his studio walls. With piercing, intricate scrutiny, the artist captures the dappled play of light across the buddleia at the centre of his garden, every leaf, bloom and stem a triumph of painterly observation. Cropped to near-abstract detail, the entire spectacle glows with life: veins, stamens and buds are rendered with the same exacting textures that Freud applied to human flesh, their forms entangled like limbs. Unveiled at Tate Britain, London in 2004, and formerly owned by the British collector Simon Sainsbury, the canvas belongs to a remarkable sequence of seven works depicting the artist’s garden at 138 Kensington Church Street. The wild, overgrown plot became a great source of inspiration to him during the last two decades of his life, defined by the glorious untamed buddleia that grew from a seedling before his eyes. More keenly aware than ever before of time’s inevitable passage, Freud set about capturing the miraculous flux of light and life outside his window. Here, even as the last lilac petals fade into shadow, a new, intoxicating sense of painterly freedom takes hold.

Currently the subject of a dedicated exhibition at the Garden Museum, London, Freud’s plant paintings form a vital strand of his practice. His interests in botany may be traced to his early art education in rural Dedham, where he had studied under the avid horticulturalist Cedric Morris. The region’s lush pastures, moreover, had been immortalised by John Constable, whose Study of the Trunk of an Elm Tree (1821, Victoria and Albert Museum, London) had a profound impact upon the young Freud. Initially deterred by the distractions of painting en plein air, the artist largely resorted to indoor studies of plants, rendering specimens from sea holly and thistles to zimmerlinde, roses and verbena with painstaking exactitude. In works such as Large Interior, Paddington (1968-69, Museo Thyssen Bornemisza, Madrid) and Large Interior, W11 (after Watteau) (1981-83), plants played theatrical, anthropomorphic roles. In Wasteground with Houses, Paddington (1970-72), they stood as poignant signs of life amid the rubble of human detritus. Elsewhere, Freud zoomed in closely, eclipsing all other context: the magisterial Two Plants (1977-80, Tate, London)—an important precursor to the present work—was described by the artist as ‘lots of little portraits of leaves’.

It was not until Freud’s move to Kensington Church Street, however, that the garden began to take on new significance for the artist. The artist had bought the house in 1988, and over the course of the 1990s would gradually transfer his life and possessions from his studio in Holland Park. In the fifty-foot stretch of wilderness behind the house, he let nature run its course. ‘He planted things and let them grow, grow, and grow’, recalls his studio assistant David Dawson. ‘He never touched anything because he wanted the garden to have a sense of the real, of naturalness’ (D. Dawson, quoted in Lucian Freud: Plant Portraits, exh. cat. Garden Museum, London 2022, p. 38). There were bamboo plants, hydrangeas, fig and apple trees, as well as four majestic bay trees that formed a dense, leafy canopy. ‘It was overgrown and impenetrable’, writes Giovanni Aloi, ‘and yet, at times during the day, brilliantly bathed in glistening sunshine’ (G. Aloi, ibid.). The tangled, unkempt buddleia quickly captured Freud’s imagination, taking centre stage in both the present work and Garden, Notting Hill Gate (1997). In others, including Garden Painting (1994), Small Garden (1997), Painter’s Garden (2003), The Painter’s Garden (2005-06) and various etchings from the period, Freud took a wider view of the space, painting jungle-like cross sections of the trees and shrubbery.

By the time of the present work, Constable was on Freud’s mind again. In 2002, he curated an exhibition of the artist’s work at the Centre Georges Pompidou; the following year, he produced After Constable’s Elm, in tribute to the work that had fascinated him during his youth. Working completely outside, however, was still something of a challenge for Freud, who professed his distaste for direct sunlight and lack of privacy, and preferred to paint either from his covered veranda or from the first floor window. Nonetheless, the act of depicting living plants forced Freud’s technique to evolve, instilling in him a desire to match the rhythms of the natural world. Painting the buddleia, he had previously noted, was ‘a race against autumn’, requiring a looser, freer command of impasto as the petals dropped one by one (L. Freud, quoted in W. Feaver, Lucian Freud, New York 2007, pp. 33-34). While the present work still harbours the architectural rigour of Freud’s indoor botanical studies, the entire composition pulsates with a sense of movement: no longer frozen in time, the plant comes to life through expressive, abstract surges of colour and texture, animated by the shifting sun and the rustling breeze.

As he celebrated his eightieth birthday, Freud embraced this new challenge wholeheartedly. After more than six decades of painting, the artist continued to push himself into brave new territory, buoyed perhaps by the onset of international stardom during this period. Freud’s colossal 1990s portraits of Leigh Bowery and the ‘benefits supervisor’ Sue Tilley had brought him worldwide fame, with critics hailing him as the greatest living painter. In 2001, Freud was commissioned to paint Queen Elizabeth II; the following year, he mounted his landmark retrospective at Tate Britain, London, to outstanding acclaim. The celebrated critic Robert Hughes described Freud as a ‘genuine national treasure’, who, in his creative instincts, was ‘younger’ and ‘sexier’ than the rising generation of YBAs (R. Hughes, ‘The Master at Work’, The Guardian, 6 April 2004). The garden paintings of the early 2000s took their place alongside a stream of ambitious new portraits, including The Brigadier (2003), David and Eli (2003-04, Tate, London) and the masterful Self Portrait (Reflection) (2002). In the latter, Freud’s desire to ‘keep time with nature’ is applied to his own ageing visage: the lessons of the garden are etched into his veins and wrinkles, each an essay in life’s fleeting flame.

‘My work is purely autobiographical’, Freud once said. ‘… It is about myself and my surroundings. It is an attempt at a record’ (L. Freud, quoted in Lucian Freud, exh. cat. Hayward Gallery, London 1974, p. 13). In painting his garden, Freud was—as ever—ultimately painting himself. As his own life drew to a close, he drew comfort from nature’s quiet circularity. His beloved whippet Pluto had once roamed among the bushes; by 2003, he was buried beneath them, poignantly captured in the painting Pluto’s Grave that year. Artists from Claude Monet to Vincent Van Gogh to David Hockney had painted their gardens as means of documenting their own existence; here, Freud takes his place within this heritage. Garden from the Window is ultimately a portrait of the human condition, eloquently capturing the entanglement of life and decay. On the brink of his final decade, Freud allowed time to seep through the fibres of his canvases, taking it with him into uncharted territory.

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