Art | Need To Now

Freud’s etchings go on show – and up for sale

London hosts an exhibition and auction of the great artist’s drawings

Freud’s etchings go on show – and up for sale

January 14 2012
Lindsay Macpherson

It might not generate the heights of hysteria surrounding the London National Gallery’s Leonardo exhibition, but Lucian Freud’s retrospective round the corner at the National Portrait Gallery (opening on February 9) is set to be a major draw for art lovers in the capital, covering seven decades of the artist’s portraiture and featuring more than 100 works filling almost the entire ground-floor gallery space.

February is also set to see another London institution hosting tribute to the great British painter, as Christie’s London is holding a single-owner sale of Freud’s etchings, which will be the most complete survey of the artist’s prints ever sold at auction. Taken from the private collection of Freud’s London-based printer and friend Marc Balakjian – with whom the artist worked for over 25 years – the auction’s 45 etchings were each created directly from life as, unlike a typical printmaker, Freud etched directly onto the copper plate, which he placed on an easel in front of the sitter.

Many of the artist’s most famous subjects are represented in the auction (which takes place on February 15), including Sue Tilley (estimate £30,000-£50,000), the benefits supervisor dubbed “Fat Sue” whose portrait was sold to Roman Abramovich for a world-record-breaking £20.6m in 2008, as well as a number of dog portraits such as the etching of the artist’s beloved pet whippet Pluto (Pluto aged Twelve, pictured, estimate £50,000-£70,000) executed in the same brutally honest (some might say unforgiving) realism.

To see the artworks prior to the auction, head to the Museum of Mankind, where from January 16 to 27, they will be exhibited alongside a further six prints on loan from the Studio Prints archive.