A very rare, museum quality work by Freud in excellent condition. Freud’s immensely powerful etching featuring Sue Tilley is amongst his most ambitious featuring penetrating psychological tension and a radical...
A very rare, museum quality work by Freud in excellent condition.
Freud’s immensely powerful etching featuring Sue Tilley is amongst his most ambitious featuring penetrating psychological tension and a radical compositional arrangement. We see her from extremely close quarters, her body mass appearing to hang in mid-air and float out of the frame in a truly astonishing exhibition of his unrivalled powers in the depiction of human mass.
“If I am putting someone in a picture, I like to feel that they’ve fallen asleep there or they’ve elbowed their own way in: that way they are there not to make the picture easy on the eye, but they are occupying the space of my picture and I am recording them.”
This unflinching gaze produced works that resonate deeply with viewers.
Freud is often called the greatest realist painter of the 20th century and was separate from the mainstream of art history during the modern period, when abstraction and other non-objective styles were in ascendance. During the 1950s, he was propelled to fame as part of the Soho set around the Colony Club that included Francis Bacon, Michael Andrews, Leon Kossoff and Frank Auerbach. His works display an iconic power unique in contemporary art.
Woman Sleeping is related to Freud’s seminal work 'Benefits Supervisor Sleeping', 1995, sold at Christie's in 2008 for £17,000,000, making it the most expensive artwork by a living artist to be sold at auction. In this large painting, Tilley is portrayed asleep in a chair inside Freud’s studio.
The most noticeable alteration between the painting and etching of this model is Freud's removal of extraneous background detail. The chair on which the model sits, head and right shoulder resting on the large, padded arm, is not included. As a result, the model's position of repose in the painting is transformed into one of uncomfortable and inexplicable contorsion. Paring down to essentials of line, he achieves a degree of abstraction by eliminating any background or context for his figures. The resulting tension between the physicality of the figure and the flat plane of the paper gives this subject its disturbing impact. Without the background elements of the chair and room in the etching, the full weight of her body is left to float, illogically weightless, on the flat surface of the paper.
A powerful amalgamation of awkward posture with unabashed intimacy with a raw sensuality skirting a line between familiarity and uncomfortable proximity. Freud unites ambitious grandeur in scale and dynamic force of etched lines with skill in creating tone and shadow through hatched etched lines. Removing the colour of paint and the shading of drawing, Freud instead relies on the black line alone. Though he worked with a thin needle, his lines carry a vehement weight, and, in areas such as the face, knees, and left arm, he works quite heavily; other passages are entirely free of markings.
He scrutinised, with an unmatched rigour, anatomy, the appearance of flesh and skin, and the more elusive qualities of psyche and emotion. Famed for his highly detailed yet expressive and painterly style, Freud's seven-decade career was marked by a relentless obsession and dedication to his work.
Freud de-idealisation of the human body, breaks with the tradition of representing a female figure as a beautiful and flawless object, and insists on the corporeality of all bodies. His realism in this respect is similar to that of Caravaggio, which can be seen in his works such as the Entombment of Christ or Crucifixion of Saint Peter. In a similar manner, Caravaggio’s highlights the imperfection of the human body and human nature.
Both works also show a similar contrast of subject matter with the background and rather awkward, realistic, angles and positioning.
Freud’s large etchings have an immensely commanding presence from far across a room or gallery. They are far bigger than traditional etchings and, in this way, they manage to both extend and subvert the centuries-old tradition of etching, an exquisitely linear technique that beguiled artists from Rembrandt to Picasso. Not a typical printmaker, he treats the etching plate like a canvas, standing the copper plate upright on an easel and working slowly over the course of several weeks or months to complete his image. Unlike most other artists who have made as many prints as he, Freud does not work in any print technique other than etching, nor has he ever incorporated colour into his etching. He works on prepared copperplates in his own studio, delivering them to a trusted printer for proofing only after the image is complete. For him etching is an intimate, autographic medium, comparable to drawing but with what he has called an “element of danger and mystery. You don’t know how it’s going to come out. What’s black is white. What’s left is right.”
Freud’s etchings are often directly related to specific paintings and are sometimes part of an extended series of works dealing with a particular subject. He makes them not by consulting his paintings, but by undertaking a separate round of sittings in the studio; each new encounter provides its own fresh revelations. Painting and printmaking offer him alternative means of acquainting himself with a subject—one gestural and colourful, the other linear and black and white—and, in fact, etchings have largely taken the place of drawings in Freud’s oeuvre. Contrary to possible assumptions, Freud’s etchings sometimes precede rather than follow the execution of related paintings. When etching, Freud always works directly from his models and uses variously bunched, feathered, and hatched lines to bring their individual features into relief.
Freud is known as a very slow worker. Each painting takes from several months to more than a year to complete, and each etching also typically occupies months of the artist’s time. The finished works bear the evidence of progressive revision and reinforcement. Freud’s global standing, very low output and monumental works made works such as Woman Sleeping incredibly good value.
Major retrospectives have been held at the Metroplitan Museum of Art, New York, 1994, MoMA, New York, 2008, the National Portrait Gallery, London, 2012, and Kunsthistorisches Museum, Wien, 2013. His work is held by all major international public collections.