LUCIAN FREUD (1922-2011)
LUCIAN FREUD (1922-2011)
LUCIAN FREUD (1922-2011)
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LUCIAN FREUD (1922-2011)
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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more Masterpieces from the S.I. Newhouse Collection
LUCIAN FREUD (1922-2011)

After Chardin (Large)

LUCIAN FREUD (1922-2011)
After Chardin (Large)
oil on canvas with attached wooden panels
20 5/8 x 24 1/8 in. (52.4 x 61.3 cm.)
Painted in 1999
Acquavella Contemporary Art, Inc., New York.
Acquired from the above by the late owner, 2000.
M. Gayford, "A Physical Truth," Modern Painters, London, Summer 2000, pp. 74-77 (illustrated in color).
S. Smee, Lucian Freud 1996-2005, New York, 2005, no. 35 (illustrated in color).
W. Feaver, Freud, New York, 2011, no. 309 (illustrated in color).
H. Von, Lucian Freud, Munich, 2013, p. 52, no. 3 (illustrated in color).
V. Button, Lucian Freud, London, 2015, pp. 71 and 73, fig. 47 (illustrated in color).
M. Gayford, Lucian Freud, New York, 2018, pp. 13 and 290 (illustrated in color).
New York, Acquavella Contemporary Art, Inc., Lucian Freud Recent Work, April-May 2000, no. 34 (illustrated in color).
London, The National Gallery, Encounters: New Art from Old, June-September 2000, pp. 129-133 (illustrated in color).
Ipswich Borough Council, Traveling Companions, January 2001-March 2002.
New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Lucian Freud: The Painter's Etchings, December 2007-March 2008, pp. 32-33 and 130, no. 100 (illustrated in color).
Dublin, Irish Museum of Modern Art; Denmark, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art and The Hague, Gemeente Museum Den Haag, Lucian Freud, June 2007-June 2008, p. 25 (illustrated in color).
Paris, Centre Georges Pompidou, Lucian Freud L'atelier, March-July 2010, pp. 123 and 172-173 (illustrated in color).
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Lucian Freud, October 2013-January 2014, pp. 220-221 (illustrated in color).
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Max Carter
Max Carter Vice Chairman, 20th and 21st Century Art, Americas

Lot Essay

Painted in 1999, Lucian Freud’s After Chardin (Large) is an impressive display of technical bravura, and an act of deference to art history. Rendered with the raw, unrelenting precision that characterizes his wider oeuvre, it is a direct portrait of Jean-Siméon Chardin’s The Young Schoolmistress (circa 1737), held in the National Gallery, London. The painting forms part of a rare but vital cluster of works—including the masterpiece Large Interior, W11 (after Watteau) (1981-1983)—in which Freud engages directly with the art of the past. Here, he reimagines Chardin’s composition in his own painterly language, studying its contours with the same exacting scrutiny he applied to human flesh. In contrast to Chardin’s smoothed brushwork, which almost conceals any trace of human intervention, Freud’s subjects are tactile and animated, their connection brought to life by intricate, near-sculptural impasto. Painted as he took his place on the global stage towards the turn of the millennium, the work represents an intimate homage to both the artist and the institution that had inspired him throughout his career. Following Freud’s acclaimed centenary retrospective in 2022—hosted, fittingly, by the National Gallery—it stands as an extraordinary record of the act of looking at art.
The origins of the present work may be traced back to the 1980s. During this period, the National Gallery devised a series of shows entitled The Artist’s Eye in which Britain’s famed artists—including Auerbach, Hockney and Freud himself—were invited to curate a selection of works from its esteemed collection. For his exhibition, Freud chose Chardin’s The Young Schoolmistress. Curating a show of this nature was an easy task for an artist like Freud who spent countless hours in the company of the National Gallery’s prized masterpieces. The works of Rembrandt, Constable, Degas, Ingres and, prominently, Chardin certainly offered Freud a great deal of inspiration. In fact, Freud reflected on his time at the National Gallery as a form of medicine in its own right, explaining that, “I use the gallery as if it were a doctor. I come for ideas and help – to look at situations within paintings, rather than whole paintings. Often these situations have to do with arms and legs, so the medical analogy is actually right” (M. Kimmelman, Portraits: Talking with Artists at the Met, the Modern, the Louvre and Elsewhere, London, 1998). Following the success of Freud’s Artist’s Eye exhibition, the National Gallery returned to the artist in the 1990s, just as he was skyrocketing onto the international stage, with the request for him to paint a work for their forthcoming millennium exhibition. In response, Freud completed two meticulously executed canvases after Chardin, the present work being the larger of the two. He later produced two etchings in the same style, as he often did for his favorite subjects.
“I like the idea of making it as good as the original, the idea of getting near, the idea that "things may be superseded" (quoted in W. Feaver, The Lives of Lucian Freud: Fame 1968-2011, New York, 2020, p. 368).
Freud admired The Young Schoolmistress for its keen attention to the intricacies of the human form. In the picture, two sitters are engaged in a lesson. The younger, androgynous figure to the left sits precociously, prepared to absorb the knowledge offered by their close elder to the right. The young student’s face is captured in a slight blur, as if to suggest that their visage, like their mind, is still wholly impressionable. The young schoolmistress, however—both in part because of her closer proximity to the viewer and also due to her elevated education—is painted in great detail. When asked about Chardin, Freud heralded the artist’s literalism and candor, explaining that, “I think a great portrait has to do with the way it is approached. If you look at Chardin’s animals, they’re absolute portraits. It’s to do with the feeling of individuality and the intensity of the regard and the focus on the specific” (S. Smee, “Reading faces,” Prospect Magazine, London, 20 May 2004). On the topic of The Young Schoolmistress, Freud lauded the artist’s precise figuration, deeming his execution of the young girl’s ear as the most beautifully painted ear in the history of art.
Freud’s renewed fascination with Chardin’s painting—a work capturing two young figures in a domestic setting—is perhaps no coincidence. During this period the artist was spending more time with his extended family and offspring, many of whom had come to define his art over the previous few decades. Just as painting his own family was a biographical act for Freud, so too were the rare occasions in which he took art history as his subject. In Large Interior, W11 (After Watteau), Freud had combined the two strands, inviting disparate family members to assume the poses of the subjects in Jean-Antoine Watteau’s Pierrot Content (circa 1712). Other examples of art-historical restaging punctuate Freud’s oeuvre: The Egyptian Book (1994), where he muses from two unearthed busts of the pharaoh Akhenaten (1353–1336 BC) in an attempt to reorient his work toward naturalism; After Cezanne (1999-2000), a work now held in the National Gallery of Australia inspired by Cézanne’s L'Après-midi à Naples (1873-1875); and a series of etchings After Constable’s Elm (2003), a work that Freud had unsuccessfully attempted to execute as a student due to its complexity but later perfected in examples that now belong to the permanent collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Irish Museum of Modern Art. On another occasion, he and Leigh Bowery posed for a photograph in imitation of Gustave Courbet’s The Painter’s Studio (1855). The rarity with which Freud engaged in these explicit acts of homage indicates the importance of Chardin’s The Young Schoolmistress to the artist; his translation of the painting quivers with both technical and personal intimacy.
In so much as the present work is a portrait of a painting, it may also be considered a study of the practice of viewing. During a period that saw Freud’s portraiture reach new heights—with figures such as Leigh Bowery and the ‘benefits supervisor’ Sue Tilley sprawling across vast canvases—Chardin’s The Young Schoolmistress is treated with the same visceral intensity as his grandest subjects. Freud approaches Chardin’s meticulous tenderness with humanity, perfectly capturing the contours of each sitter’s face, the curvatures of their cheeks and the bridges of their noses. In technique alone, its execution is masterful. At the same time, however, it is a work of searing personal honesty, Freud’s adoration for this painting manifesting itself in his lush, expressive brushwork. Paint and artist come together in perfect symbiosis, coalescing in a canvas that illuminates the uncanny eye with which Freud captured the origins of his heart.

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