London museum acquires Lucian Freud archive

Lucian Freud, 'Relection (Self-portrait),' 1985, Copyright: Private Collection, Ireland. The Lucian Freud Archive. Photo: The Lucian Freud Archive.

Lucian Freud, ‘Relection (Self-portrait),’ 1985, Copyright: Private Collection, Ireland. The Lucian Freud Archive. Photo: The Lucian Freud Archive.


LONDON – An important archive comprising Lucian Freud’s sketchbooks, drawings and letters has been acquired by the UK from the estate of Lucian Freud. The archive has been permanently allocated to the National Portrait Gallery, which in 2012 staged the acclaimed “Lucian Freud Portraits” exhibition, the gallery’s most visited ticketed exhibition.

The National Portrait Gallery plans to make the archive, which has never been published or exhibited, accessible to the public.

The gallery hopes to display a selection of representative artworks from the archive in early summer 2016. The gallery says the archive will extend its understanding of the artist’s portrait work and will give added context to the two works by Freud in the Gallery’s Collection, a 1963 self-portrait in oils and a charcoal drawing of Lord Goodman from. It will also complement the gallery’s portraits of Lucian Freud including a Frank Auerbach etching and an extensive collection of photographs by David Dawson, Bruce Bernard, Cecil Beaton and others.

Lucian Freud (1922–2011) was one of the most important and influential artists of his generation and the sketchbooks spanning his career from the mid-1940s up until his death provide invaluable insight into his working practice and will be a major resource for the study of his work.

There are numerous studies that relate to major works by Freud now in significant collections. One of the sketchbooks – originally an 18th century ledger – contains drawings of Caroline Blackwood that relate to Freud’s early masterpiece Hotel Bedroom, 1954. The sketchbooks appear to have been used by Freud, as they came to hand in the studio, at different points in time. Several drawings show the beginnings of portraits, such as Lord Goodman’s, often starting with the nose and eyes before developing outwards. These will be instrumental in tracing the evolution of Freud’s portraits from the stage of initial conception. Also included are Freud’s early designs of book covers for Nigel Dennis’s Cards of Identity (1955) and his daughter, Esther Freud’s novel, Hideous Kinky, in 1992.

Also included in the archive is a collection of childhood drawings by Freud when he was living in Germany, before his family fled to England in 1933 when Hitler came to power. The drawings were preserved by his mother, many are annotated by her with a date and place and they reveal much about the family life of the Freuds.

Sir Peter Bazalgette, chair Arts Council England said: “The Acceptance in Lieu scheme has been enriching our museums and galleries for over a century, as does this latest offer from Lucian Freud’s estate. This fascinating archive, which has never been exhibited before, offers us a real insight into the life of one of Britain’s most compelling and influential artists.”