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Lucian Freud (b. 1922)
Lucian Freud (b. 1922)

Man in a Headscarf (The Procurer)

Lucian Freud (b. 1922)
Man in a Headscarf (The Procurer)
oil on canvas
12 3/4 x 8 3/4in. (32.5 x 22.3cm.)
Painted in 1954
Marlborough Fine Art Ltd., London (02952)
Acquired from the above by the present owner in April 1958
L. Gowing, Lucian Freud, London 1982, no. 82 (illustrated).
B. Bernard & D. Birdsall, Lucian Freud, London 1996, no. 90 (illustrated in colour).
London, Marlborough Fine Art, Lucian Freud: Paintings, March-April 1958, no. 14 (illustrated).
London, Hayward Gallery, Lucian Freud, January-March 1974, no. 71 (illustrated). This exhibition later travelled to Bristol, Bristol City Art Gallery, April 1974; Birmingham, Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery, May 1974 and Leeds, Leeds City Museum and Art Gallery, June 1974.

Lot Essay

Few self-taught artists can ever aspire to paint like an Old Master, but the young Lucian Freud in 1954 had the precocious confidence and extraordinary talent to surpass even the greatest of Northern Renaissance painters in his ability to capture the versimilitude of the human face and the personality within. Look upon Freud's Man in a Headscarf (The Procurer) and it is difficult to escape from the vacuum of the sitter's downward and distant stare. Every detail of this sun-parched face has been scrutinized and delineated with an extreme objectivity and delicacy of touch that allows the viewer to perceive the very soul of an otherwise perfect stranger. So well does Freud seem to know the features of The Procurer that the painting has even previously been thought to be a self-portrait rather than the face of a forgotten figure that Freud had perhaps encountered in a London Soho drinking den.

The Procurer exudes a medieval quality. His weather-beaten head is wrapped in a coarse scarf and he could easily be a character out of a Breughel snow-scene. Freud uses the scarf to frame and enclose the picture, so that all concentration is focused on the face and the information implicit in the lines of the mottled skin and the grey watery well of the eyes.

Lawrence Gowing writes of the almost unreal intimacy achieved in Freud's portraits of this period: "In more than one of the pictures of the time it is the closeness with which we know the most minute and private shapes that strike us. ... Freud must have been willing from early on that painting should be found embarrassing, and thought of this as a positive quality. Perhaps a modern quality, a reversal of the terms of tradition, which are now so far out of reach, yet so much desired by Freud, and better understood by him than ever in recent. In the detail of his most faithful, most real portrayal, he was capable in the mid-fifties of being more seriously, more embarassingly surreal than anyone since the first surrealists." (Lawrence Gowing, Lucian Freud, London 1982, p. 112).

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