Lucian Freud (1922-2011)
Self-portrait: Reflection 1996
Etching with plate tone | RCIN 929197
A self-portrait etching of Lucian Freud; head and shoulders, full face, against a plain dark plate-tone background. Inscribed below the platemark, in pencil: For her Majesty from / Lucian Freud.
Lucian Freud was one of the foremost figurative artists of the second half of the twentieth century, celebrated for his intensely observed portraits. After a few youthful experiments in the 1940s, he made no further prints until he took up etching again in 1982. This was his first formal self-portrait print to be published, at the age of 74, and was one of a series of life-sized portrait etchings produced during the 1990s. The stark effects of bright light and deep shadow on the face and neck are softened by the substantial plate tone where the plate was not wiped clean of ink, particularly apparent on the shoulders. That effect is due entirely to the hand of the printer, not the etcher: the 58 impressions of this plate are highly variable in their inking, so much so that Freud was reported as wanting the printer, his long-term collaborator Mark Balakjian at Studio Prints, London, to co-sign the prints. The frontal pose and top lighting should in principle give a balanced image but Freud was concerned to document the many asymmetries in his ageing face – eyebrow, nose and mouth all rise markedly to the (artist’s) left and when one becomes accustomed to the contrasts, there is a striking difference between his lazy left eye and his piercing right pupil. Freud was appointed to the Order of Merit in 1993 and this print, aside from the numbered edition, was presented by the artist to The Queen to form part of the Order of Merit portrait series.
Text adapted from Portrait of the Artist, London, 2016
Presented by the artist to Her Majesty The Queen as part of the Order of Merit portrait series, September 1996
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