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Contemporary Art

Episode 1: Lucian Freud's ‘Woman in a White Shirt’

Treasures from Chatsworth, Episode 1- Lucian Freud’s 'Woman in a White Shirt'

When the 11th Duke of Devonshire commissioned Lucian Freud to paint a portrait of his wife, 38-year-old Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire, it was an unorthodox choice. The young artist was just beginning to build a reputation with his raw, utterly human realism. When it was revealed, the picture caused a stir in British society. “Some of the Duke’s parents’ friends were really quite shocked, some of them actually wanted it covered when they were in the room,” recalls Lady Burlington, the Duchess’s granddaughter-in-law. Some 60 years later, Woman in a White Shirt “is probably the most beautiful thing at Chatsworth,” says the current Duke, who was fifteen when the artist depicted his mother. Freud, he says, was “determined to paint something with much  more depth than just a likeness. And because my mother had sat for him for three hours a day for months, they became great friends.” Freud painted other members of the Cavendish family over a period of 20 years.

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LUCIAN FREUD, WOMAN IN A WHITE SHIRT, 1956–57. COMMISSIONED BY: ANDREW CAVENDISH, 11TH DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE.

Watch Treasures from Chatsworth, Presented by Huntsman at www.sothebys.com/Chatsworth

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