- Lucian Freud
- Boy on a sofa
- signed and dated May 44
- pencil, charcoal and coloured chalks
London, Alex Reid & Lefevre, New Paintings and Drawings by Lucian Freud, Felix Kelly and Julian Trevelyan, November - December 1944 cat. no.24;
London, Leicester Galleries, A Selection of Pictures from the Collection of Wilfrid A. Evill, October 1952, cat. no.32;
Hampstead, The Home of Wilfrid A. Evill, Contemporary Art Society, Catalogue of the Greater Portion of a Collection of Modern English Paintings, Water Colours, Drawings and Sculpture Belonging to W. A. Evill, March 1955, cat. no.74 (as Head of a Boy);
London, The Home of Wilfrid A. Evill, Contemporary Art Society, Pictures, Drawings, Water Colours and Sculpture, April - May 1961, (part IV- section 1) cat. no.7 (as Head of a Boy);
Brighton, Brighton Art Gallery, The Wilfrid Evill Memorial Exhibition, June - August 1965, cat. no.33;
London, Hayward Gallery, Lucian Freud, 25th January - 3rd March 1974, cat. no.24, illustrated, with Arts Council Tour to City Art Gallery, Bristol, City Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham, and City Museum and Art Gallery, Leeds.
In 1943, Freud moved from Abercorn Place to a flat by the canal in Delamere Terrace, Paddington; 'Delamere was extreme and I was conscious of this. A completely unresidential area with violent neighbours. There was a sort of anarchic element of no one working for anyone...' (Freud, quoted in William Feaver, 'Lucian Freud: Life into Art', Lucian Freud, exh.cat., Tate London, p.21). Freud soon encountered his so-called 'violent neighbours', Billy and his brother Charlie Lumley, apparently attempting to break into his flat. It is a testament to the artist's sensibility that he was able to persuade them to become sitters. In Boy on a Sofa, Billy Lumley's gaze is unflinching and appropriately matched by the intensity of Freud's acute attention to detail. The work achieves an unprecedented visual clarity as he reduces the sharp features of the boy's face, clothing and the backboard of his favourite threadbare sofa, to a highly controlled yet visually arresting composition of hatching and cross-hatching, enlivened by the careful contours of coloured pencils. He later commented, 'I was always very conscious of the difficulty of everything and thought that by will power and concentration I could somehow force my way, and depending simply on using my eye and my will power over come what I felt was my lack of natural ability...' (Freud, quoted in Feaver, ibid, p.21).
Freud only painted Billy Lumley on one further occasion - he was the model for the streetwise youth leaning nonchalantly against a doorway visible out of the window in the artist's seminal early masterpiece, Interior at Paddington (Walker Art Gallery, National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside), painted for the Festival of Britain in 1951 and winner of the Purchase Prize from the Arts Council of Great Britain.
Freud's focus in the present work on the boy's scruffy and somewhat old-fashioned jacket and scarf that is slightly at odds with the sitter's young age, is reminiscent of Freud's fascination with the heavy jackets worn by the seamen he met aboard the SS Baltrover in 1941. Using prize money from a fabric design competition, Freud made his way to Liverpool and managed to join as an Ordinary Seamen on an Atlantic convoy because 'I liked the idea of adventure – the Ancient Mariner...' (Freud, quoted by Feaver, ibid, p.19). In drawings such as Naval Gunner (1941, see Lawrence Gowing, Lucian Freud, Thames and Hudson, London, 1982, plate 22), he was as much interested by the sitter's stripy scarf, thickly knit hat and large buttoned collar, as he was by the gunner himself. This interest in tailored detail manifested itself more confidently in Man with a Leather Coat (1943, see Gowing, ibid, plate 21) where the sharp upturned collar of his sitter's trench undoubtedly provides a compelling structure to frame the man's face. By 1944, Freud had perfected this device and in Boy on a Sofa, the dirty yet soft, creased folds of Billy's jacket provide a suitably grubby contrast to his clean, fresh facial features and the unruly spikes of his shortly cropped hair.
We are grateful to William Feaver for his kind assistance with the cataloguing of this work. Boy on a Sofa has been requested for loan for the forthcoming exhibition Lucian Freud: Drawings to be curated by William Feaver at Blain/Southern, London, from 13th February to 5th April 2012 and at Acquavella Galleries, New York, from 30th April to 9th June 2012.