Lucian Freud:Early works,1940-58.

Author: james Holland-Hibbert
Hazlitt Holland-Hibbert, London
9/10/2008 - 12/12/2008

Hazlitt Holland-Hibbert is deep in the heart of St James's, at 38 Bury Street and the Lucian Freud show of early works holds some major surprises for aficionados of Freud's recent work. The show was curated by Freud's model and assistant David Dawson, with the assistance of Catherine Lampert, who also curated the Freud retrospective in Dublin in June 2007. Most of the paintings are from private collections which offers a rare opportunity to see Freud's tentative portraits from the age of 17 and ink sketches at that time of the Scottish Highlands.

The earliest portrait of his friend Stephen Spender, in 1940, is dramatically different from Freud's recent fleshy huge portraits or pale early portraits of Kitty Garman and Caroline Blackwood. It is also worth comparing his 1952 portrait "Girl in a Blanket" (1952) of the model Henrietta Moraes( also used as a model by Francis Bacon) with recent nudes by the artist. By the mid 1950s he was well on his way to success as an artist, with the superb "Portrait of a Man" (1954) of Sir Brian "Napper" Dean Paul, with its haunting grey unhealthy skin. Stephen Spender's 1957-58 portrait is also a far cry from the 1940 gaunt portrait of Spender. "A Woman painter" (1957-58) of Elinor Bellingham-Smith, gives an idea of where he is heading, with the map-like facial details emphasised. "Lemon Sprig" (1947) is also a beautiful, clear still life, painted after a visit to either Greece or France.

The drawings range from "Still Life of Cacti", "Stuffed Bird" (1943) and "Boy in Bed with Fruit" (1943) to the stark linear "Man at Night (Self portrait)" (1947-48), "Christian Bérard" (1948) on Ingres paper and "Drawing for Narcissus" (1948), a delicate series of face studies and reflections. It is "Girl in a Dark Jacket" (1947), with her pale haunting face and "Portrait of a Man" of "Napper" Dean Paul that are the early masterpieces in this show though. It is a rare opportunity for the public to see these early works from private collections and for artists and art students a wonderful example of how early work can develop into major masterpieces. The small sketch books are interesting too but if only we could have opened them to see the other drawings!The catalogue is, at £20,an excellent backdrop to Freud's paintings and literary and art world friends, including early photographs of him too.

Heather Waddell

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