Lucian Freud 1922-2011


Private Collection, UK


Martin Gayford, Man with a Blue Scarf: On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucian Freud, 2011, Thames & Hudson
Between November 2003 and April 2005, the art critic Martin Gayford spent hours at a time sitting for a portrait by Lucian Freud. The result was Man with a Blue Scarf, an oil painting that Gayford subsequently made famous with his book, Man with a Blue Scarf: On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucian Freud (2010, Thames & Hudson). This etching is from an edition of forty-six prints that Freud made after he had finished the portrait of Gayford. Though in this case the print follows the painting, Freud was an alert printmaker, sensitive to the needs of the reproductive medium. As with other etchings by Freud, Martin Gayford shows the remarkable manner in which the artist constructed his works using an additive process, moving sequentially over the surface of a work, building up one area at a time with his cell-like accretions of modelling. Gayford’s thick messy hair is a good instance of this, with Freud building-up each individual lock with vigorous hatching.

Freud had been practising the close-up facial portrait for decades before he depicted Gayford. His earliest efforts in this format include Boy Smoking (1950–1, Tate Collection) and a portrait of his friend and fellow painter, Francis Bacon (1952, Tate Collection). The frontal format, looking his subject straight in the eye, was characteristic of Freud’s attitude as much towards life as it was towards art. Freud gave a probing level of detail to the sitter’s face, an experience which proved a little unsettling to Gayford. He subsequently wrote: ‘I knew, while we were talking, that he liked to observe his sitters as closely as possible, and in as many ways as possible. He had an intense stare.’

The two men met after Freud sent Gayford a postcard, expressing a liking for something that Gayford had written about Titian. When he was the jazz critic for The Daily Telegraph in the late 1990s, Gayford would often take Freud with him as his plus one. The pair remained friends until Freud’s death in 2011.