Two of the artist’s greatest portraits, one intimate and poignant, the other imposing and powerful, will be offered this November in New York.
Lucian Freud’s Naked Portrait on a Red Sofa (1988-91), an intimate and poignant portrait of one of the artist’s most personal subjects, his daughter Bella, will be a centrepiece of the curated sale The Artist’s Muse. on Monday 9 November at Christie’s New York, which marks the first time this portrait is appearing at auction.
Offered for sale the following night in New York, Tuesday 10 November — and also on show in London during Frieze Week — is Freud’s majestic The Brigadier (2003-04). An important, powerful portrait of Andrew Parker Bowles, it was included in the acclaimed 2012 retrospective of the artist’s work organized by the National Portrait Gallery in London, and is a highlight of the Mezzacappa Collection, assembled by connoisseur and patron Damon Mezzacappa.
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Naked Portrait on a Red Sofa is described by Bruce Bernard, the photographer, writer and life-long friend of Freud, as ‘a masterpiece of impulsive, speculative and judicious application of paint’. The culmination of a major series of portraits of his daughters painted in the 1980s, the portrait is carved out from layers of paint, and sees Bella stretched across the red leather sofa that was the setting for so many of his portraits and muses.
Lucian Freud (1922-2011), Naked Portrait on a Red Sofa, 1989-91. Oil on canvas. 39. x 35.in. (99.5 x 90.7cm.) This work is offered in The Artist’s Muse: A Curated Evening Sale of 20th Century Art on 9 November at Christie’s New York
‘[The painting] is the culmination of the brave creative endeavour shared by father and daughter that developed over a 40-year period,’ says Francis Outred, Chairman and Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art EMERI. ‘In 11 paintings we see the growth of Bella into the globally renowned fashion designer today, and this portrait captures the intense yet fragile relationship between father and daughter, artist and muse.’
CATALOGUELucian Freud’s Naked Portrait on a Red SofaView catalogue
In his book, Lucian Freud (New York, 1996), Bruce Bernard described the painting as ‘one of Freud’s most audacious and sensitive works,’ adding ‘Bella herself very much appreciates it, and I like to think that Degas would have wanted to collect it.’
Completed just before the artist began his working relationship and friendship with the New York dealer William Acquavella, Naked Portrait on a Red Sofa appears at a pivotal moment in Freud’s career when his paintings were to enjoy a renaissance and global recognition. At this point, the deeply sculptural nudes and family portraits of the 1980s were developed into large-scale masterpieces of a new group of sitters, including both Leigh-Bowery and Sue Tilley.
The freedom and confidence felt in Naked Portrait on a Red Sofa marks it as one of the most honest and personal images of his daughter
Naked Portrait on a Red Sofa, the final 1980s portrait of Bella painted when she was in her twenties, can be seen as the culmination of the relationship that began with Pregnant Girl (1960-61) when her mother Bernardine Coverley was pregnant. While many of the portraits of the 1980s show Bella clothed, either as part of a group, or closer compositions of her face and hands, the freedom and confidence felt in Naked Portrait on a Red Sofa marks it as one of the most honest and personal images of his daughter.
Lucian Freud (1922-2011), The Brigadier, 2003-04. Oil on canvas. 88 1/8 x 54 1/2 in. (223.8 x 138.4 cm.). This work is offered in the Post-war and Contemporary Art Evening Sale on 10 November at Christie’s New York
The Brigadier is a painting of contrasts; between light and dark, the old world order and the new, and the venerable traditions of portraiture and the rejuvenation of contemporary painting. Set against the dark backdrop of Freud’s studio, the sumptuous decoration of Andrew Parker Bowles’ uniform is portrayed in resplendent detail, indicative of the subject’s status within the upper echelons of the British Establishment.
Parker Bowles was unlike many of Freud’s other models who tended to congregate in the anonymous margins of society
Lucian Freud met Andrew Parker Bowles through their shared love of horses. In his capacity as Commanding Officer of the Household Cavalry, Parker Bowles would occasionally lend Freud horses so that the artist could go riding through one of London’s magnificent parks.
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Parker Bowles was unlike many of Freud’s other models who tended to congregate in the anonymous margins of society, such as the performance artist Leigh Bowery or local government worker Sue Tilley. Born in 1939 into the upper echelons of English society (he is a great-grandson of the 6th Earl of Macclesfield), Parker Bowles was raised at the edges of the Royal Household and was a pageboy at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.
In 1960, at the age of 21, he was commissioned into the Royal Horse Guards, one of the most prestigious units of the British Army, and began a distinguished career of military service. He was married for more than twenty years to Camilla Parker-Bowles before the couple divorced and Camilla went on to marry Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales and become Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.
Christie’s holds the top 12 prices for works by Lucian Freud including the world auction record for a work by the artist at $56 million with Benefits Supervisor Resting, 1994, auctioned at Christie’s New York on 13 May 2015.
To learn more about the Artist’s Muse curated sale, please visit christies.com/muse. For more features, interviews and videos, visit Christie’s Daily