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Lucien Freud Self-Portrait on the Auction Block

Erika Heet

A brutally realistic rendition of the results following an altercation between Lucien Freud and a cab driver, the relatively unknown Self-Portrait with a Black Eye, will be offered at Sotheby’s London Evening Sale of Contemporary Art on February 10. The circa-1978 painting, which has been in a private collection for more than 30 years and has not been revealed to the public until now, is expected to bring between $4.83 million and $6.45 million. “I used to have a lot of fights,” Freud once said. “It wasn’t because I liked fighting. It was really just that people said things to me to which I felt the only reply was to hit them…. But it could be said that if you’re an adult, hitting someone is really a shortcoming, couldn’t it?”

Known for his stark figurative representations, Freud bridges a gap between realism and abstract expressionism in this painting, with realistic features, namely the black eye, giving way to abstract brushstrokes within the forehead. According to Oliver Barker, Sotheby’s senior director and senior international specialist in contemporary art, this will be the third self-portrait by the famously meticulous artist ever to be auctioned, and stands as “a remarkable rediscovery, which exhibits all the psychological intensity and painterly virtuosity of Freud’s most celebrated works.” The sale, which includes four other Freud works, including the 1981 oil Guy and Speck and a 1948 crayon-on-paper portrait of French designer Christian Bérard, will serve as a fitting prelude to the retrospective of Freud’s work at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, opening March 10. (www.sothebys.com)

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Courtesy of Shakespeare and Company - Paul Foster Books - the NY Antiquarian Book Fair
Photo courtesy of Klein Sun Gallery, New York; Li Hongbo