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
LUCIAN FREUD (1922-2011)

Lobster

Details
LUCIAN FREUD (1922-2011)
Lobster
conté crayon and graphite on paper
17 3⁄8 x 22 7⁄8in. (44.2 x 58.2cm.)
Executed in 1944
Provenance
Private Collection, United Kingdom (acquired directly from the artist).
Private Collection, United Kingdom (by descent from the above in 1980).
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2012.
Literature
C. Lampert, Lucian Freud, exh. cat., The Hague, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, 2008, p. 164 (illustrated in colour, p. 106).
M. Holborn (ed.), Lucian Freud on paper, London 2008, p. 94 and 160, no. 52 (illustrated in colour, p. 95).
M. Gayford, Man with a Blue Scarf: On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucian Freud, London 2010, p. 241 (illustrated in colour, p. 206).
Exhibited
London, The Lefevre Gallery, New Paintings and Drawings by Lucian Freud, Felix Kelly and Julian Trevelyan, 1944, p. 2, no. 14.
Dublin, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Lucian Freud, 2007, p. 164 (illustrated in colour, p. 106).
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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Keith Gill
Keith Gill Head of Department

Lot Essay

A rare work on paper held in the same family collection for more than half a century, Lobster (1944) is an exquisite showcase of Lucian Freud’s early practice. Splayed against an off-white ground, the crustacean is described in dense, delicate strokes of conté, crayon and graphite that capture its body’s every detail—mottled carapace, gleaming claws, ribbed tendrils of antennae—with lucid clarity. Burnished plates of blue and black, seamed and speckled with orange, define its intricate armour. Fronds and bristles are drawn with near-scientific scrutiny. The right-angles of claw and abdomen converge upon a beady eye at the heart of the picture. Freud makes deft, sometimes fanciful use of shadow to lift the creature off the page: a sweep of darkness bends under its arched tail; silhouetted spines project from a locked pincer; curlicues of shade where its feelers brush the ground—and a pin-sharp shadow where one leg strikes down like a stiletto—convey a heightened sense of touch, as if mirroring the intense, subtle contact of Freud’s own gaze. Freud drew Lobster on a trip to Swanage with his friend John Craxton in the autumn of 1944, when he was twenty-one years old. In November that year, it was included in his debut one-man show at the Lefevre Gallery on New Bond Street, alongside other seminal pictures such as Rabbit on a ChairScotch Thistle and Boy with a Pigeon. By 1950, having grown close to Francis Bacon, Freud would renounce draughtsmanship almost entirely for paint: these visionary early drawings are exceptionally scarce.

After an on-and-off period of learning at Sir Cedric Morris’s East Anglian School in Dedham—the influence of Morris, a keen botanist and precise painter, can be felt in his earliest works—Freud moved to Delamere Terrace, Paddington, at the start of 1944. It was here, in a canalside flat that he later shared with a pet kestrel and two sparrowhawks, that his life as an artist truly began. At the year’s close, the Lefevre Gallery exhibition surveyed the work of an extraordinary and idiosyncratic talent. His pictures were hard-lined, graphic, exacting, their settings sometimes verging on surreal. Freud depicted people only sporadically during this period, for the most part honing his vision on other life-forms, from crystalline thistles and potted palms to deceased puffins, rabbits and monkeys. Some specimens were far-gone, their bedraggled fur and plumage only increasing their pictorial interest. He would procure the monkeys from Palmers Pet Stores in Camden Town, while stuffed creatures—including a prized zebra head—were purchased from the taxidermist Rowland Ward by his girlfriend Lorna Wishart. Lorna also furnished Freud with a splendid heron found in the grounds of her country home. Freud worked on the lobster in the seaside hotel room he shared with John Craxton, who reportedly threw it out to smash on the roof tiles when it became too pungent. Their friendship intact, in 1946 the two artists travelled together to Greece, where the ‘Arcadian’ Craxton would later spend much of his life: Freud painted pictures of lemons, tangerines and sun-bleached bones in the bright Aegean light.

The lobster has a rich art-historical pedigree, ranging from the Dutch still lifes of the seventeenth century—where, like the other foodstuffs on display, it stood as a warning against decadence and temptation—to Salvador Dalí’s infamous Lobster Telephone (1936), whose surreal conjunction of objects was laden with a darkly erotic charge. Unmoored from any such tableau, Freud’s lobster appears against a blank space, presenting only the facts of its existence. Much as in the animal studies of Albrecht Dürer—a print of whose The Large Piece of Turf hung in his boyhood apartment in Berlin—Freud’s concern lies not with symbolism but with the marvellous complexity of the thing in front of him. His fascination with the lobster, from the terrazzo patterning of its shell to the articulated mechanisms of its limbs, is palpable. His attention lingers on its asymmetrical pincers: the outstretched cutting claw, more slender and serrated than the crushing claw behind, would make a marine biologist smile.

For Freud, who felt a deep affinity with the natural world, animal bodies were less objects for a still life than subjects for portraiture. ‘If you look at Chardin’s animals,’ he later said, ‘they’re absolute portraits. It’s to do with the individuality and the intensity of the regard and the focus on the specific. So I think portraiture is an attitude. Painting things as symbols and rhetoric and so on doesn’t interest me’ (L. Freud, quoted in S. Smee, ‘A Late-Night Conversation with Lucian Freud’, in Freud at Work, New York 2006, p. 33). In Lobster, this sense of portraiture as vigilance comes to the fore: it is a concentrated apparition, born of Freud’s unwavering dedication to what he sees. The work’s vivid, almost hallucinatory realism is amplified by its estrangement from setting. Freud spoke of an ‘involuntary magnification’ as he zoned in on details that attracted him, and the spare, evenly lit composition echoes the forensic focus of his gaze. The lobster’s appeal as a complicated, alien presence ultimately betrays the same interest in anatomising otherness—in laying bare the individual and the unknown—that would go on to drive Freud’s portrayals of people. ‘I’m really interested in them as animals’, he once said of his human subjects. ‘… One of the most exciting things is seeing through the skin, to the blood and veins and markings’ (L. Freud, quoted in W. Feaver, ‘Seeing through the skin’, The Guardian, 18 May 2002). Here, he finds this splendour in a variegated, porcelain shell.

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