LUCIAN FREUD (1922-2011)
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 A CENTURY OF ART: THE GERALD FINEBERG COLLECTION
LUCIAN FREUD (1922-2011)

Woman in a Multi-Coloured Coat

LUCIAN FREUD (1922-2011)
Woman in a Multi-Coloured Coat
oil on canvas
22 5/8 x 16 1/8in. (57.4 x 40.8cm.)
Painted in 1939
Private Collection, UK.
Marlborough Gallery, New York (acquired from the above in 1973).
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1986.
L. Gowing, Lucian Freud, London 1982, p. 222, pl. 4 (illustrated, p. 11).
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. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Claudia Schürch
Claudia Schürch Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Painted when Lucian Freud was just sixteen years old, Woman in a Multi-Coloured Coat (1939) is a rare early work that bears witness to the young artist’s preternatural talent. It has been in the same private collection for almost four decades, having been acquired by Gerald Fineberg in 1986. The work was likely painted during Freud’s time at the East Anglian School of Art in Dedham, where he was taught by the painter Cedric Morris. Freud studies his subject with the intense, slightly surreal focus typical of his earliest paintings. A rich impasto charts her fine, quizzical features. Red lipstick highlights her smile, and her skin is flushed with shades of pink, ochre and blue. Freud pays forensic attention to the dark curls of her hair. A keen interest in tailoring—another hallmark of Freud’s youthful work—also comes into play. The woman’s coat is a sumptuous patchwork of reds, oranges and golds. A curtain of striped fabric frames her head, its fibres picked and combed into the thick pigment. A flash of woodgrain appears to the upper left. The picture is charged with Freud’s uncompromising eye for the specific, conjuring the sitter as a forceful and individual human presence.

Freud was born in Berlin in 1922, and emigrated to London with his family in 1933. After stints at several different schools, he heard in early 1939 about Morris’s East Anglian School, which had recently opened in Dedham. Attracted by its unorthodox curriculum—it was run more like an artists’ colony than a conventional teaching establishment—Freud enrolled in the summer of that year. He thrived there, inspired by the idiosyncratic Morris and his partner Arthur Lett-Haines, and stayed on, accommodated with others in a nearby pub, even after the school building burned down (possibly, Freud believed, as a result of his own lit cigarette). ‘His drawings and paintings were very witty,’ remembered fellow student Joan Warburton, ‘often grotesque and full of meticulous detail—he was only sixteen then!’ (J. Warburton, ‘Chapter 2: Awakening’, A Painter’s Progress: Part of a Life 1920-1984, unpublished autobiography, n.p.).

On the reverse of Woman in a Multi-Coloured Coat is a painting by another artist. John Craxton recalled that during the 1940s he and Freud would buy paintings from junk shops, remove the stretcher and turn the canvas over to paint on. The present work appears to be an early example of this practice. Freud painted prolifically while at Dedham. A letter to his mother, written during a stay in Wales with his friend David Kentish in November 1939, reveals that they were short on canvases. ‘I am painting much better than ever before … please telephone Mrs Pear immediately and tell her to send 6 Canvasses size about 24” x 30” to this address, on the same day if possible!’, he wrote. ‘So far, David’s mother has paid for all the canvasses (which we made ourselves), and we are just on the point of Running out, so if she doesn’t come soon, we will have to go without painting for a few days, which would be terrible’ (L. Freud, letter to Lucie Freud, 23 November 1939, in D. Dawson and M. Gayford, eds., Love Lucian: The Letters of Lucian Freud 1939-1954, London 2022, p. 41).

The work’s undulating texture, which appears in a number of early paintings, is born of what Lawrence Gowing describes as a process of ‘reimagining’ reality. Freud was not yet painting exclusively in the presence of his sitters, as he would later, but also working from memory and imagination. ‘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.’ Gowing saw this slightly fantastical approach as central to Freud’s eventual mastery of painting from life. ‘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’ (L. Gowing, Lucian Freud, London 1982, pp. 13-16, 19).

A 1940 portrait of Cedric Morris by Freud echoes the present work’s rich, fine-grained textures and its subject’s darkly gleaming eyes. Morris in turn painted Freud in 1941. The influence of Morris’s frontal, candid approach on his student is clear. ‘Cedric taught me to paint,’ Freud later said. ‘And, more important, to keep at it’ (L. Freud quoted in Sir Cedric Morris: A Retrospective Exhibition, exh. cat. Blond Fine Art, London 1981, n.p.). With their emphatic, heightened sense of physical and psychological reality—even a hint of caricature—Freud’s early works also echo stylistic elements of German Neue Sachlichkeit artists such as George Grosz and Otto Dix, whose works he saw in the London exhibition Twentieth Century German Art in the summer of 1938. Woman in a Multi-Coloured Coat carries these expressive traces. It also shows the young painter developing his own distinctive language, and finding a unique vantage point in the space between observation and imagination. With these faculties combined, Freud would go on to become the greatest British portraitist of his era.

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