Recently discovered sketch by the artist Lucian Freud to go up for auction in London
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Recently discovered sketch by the artist Lucian Freud to go up for auction in London
Sketch of Goldie, by Lucian Freud, circa 2003. Estimate: £40,000-60,000.

LONDON.- Lucian Freud (1922-2011) is widely regarded as one of the most important figurative painters of the 20th century and not many of his canvases have remained unknown – that is until now. Chiswick Auctions announces the discovery of a new work by the artist, titled Sketch of Goldie. Executed in charcoal on canvas, the work is the preliminary workings out of a composition that he left incomplete dating from circa 2003. It is estimated to fetch between £40,000-60,000 in Chiswick Auctions Modern & Post-War British Art sale on Tuesday 3rd December, 2019.

Never before seen in public, the study offers a rare insight into Freud’s practice and his life-time interest in horses. In 2003 Freud embarked on the work at the Wormwood Scrubs Pony Centre in West London, established and run by Sister Mary-Joy Langdon. He had been introduced to the stables by his studio assistant, the renowned artist David Dawson, who had chanced on them while walking his dogs on the Scrubs.

Over the next three years (2003-2006) Freud returned frequently to paint at the Wormwood Scrubs Pony Centre, completing three of his finest oil horse portraits there: Grey Gelding (2003, {Private Collection), Skewbald Mare (2004, Collection of the Duke of Devonshire) and Mare Eating Hay (2006, Private Collection).

Freud embarked on the present canvas depicting a Welsh cob called Goldie immediately after painting Grey Gelding, a grey-white Arab gelding called Releef and before painting the skewbald mare Sioux at the stables in 2004 and 2006.

Initially Mary-Joy was unaware of Freud’s identity and reputation as an artist, but she was deeply impressed by the painter’s quiet respect and innate understanding of the horses when he visited. She offered him a loose box in which to set up his easel and innocently gave him a book on ‘How to paint horses’!

Freud was fascinated by the stables and his connection with the horses and love of riding won Mary Joy’s trust. A strong friendship formed between Freud and Mary-Joy and in time he was granted his own set of keys. Over the next three years the stables became an off-site temporary studio for the artist, where he could combine his love of drawing, painting and riding. It was the shared fascination with horses that drew Sister Mary-Joy and Lucian together.

Describing Mary-Joy’s instinctive way with the animals Freud recalled: ‘The horse drinks tea with her, I’ve never seen in all my horse-life, such intimacy, such friendship.’ Equally as intriguing is Mary Joy’s recollection of Freud, who she says: “would often ride the horses without wearing a saddle, or a helmet!” It was a mutual appreciation that led to Mary-Joy being asked to attend Freud’s funeral on horseback.

Having painted the Arab gelding Releef at the stables face on, Freud chose to depict Goldie, the subject of the work to be offered for sale, side-on, and with the head partly truncated.

Mary-Joy recalls Goldie as, “a stunning chestnut with flaxen mane and tale. She was a Welsh cob – a big strong horse”, but Mary-Joy also knew how wilful and stubborn her character was and remembers how surprised she had been that Lucian had selected her to paint. Lucian however, was not to be dissuaded and spent a full week working on the composition, only to finally admit defeat and leave the canvas incomplete and in the care of Mary-Joy, in whose possession it has remained to this day. The result: Sketch of Goldie, is an affectionate, highly gestural work, which expresses both
the artist’s confidence in the subject and the horse’s strong character.

Commenting on the discovery of this exciting work, Krassi Kuneva, Head of Sale, Modern & Post-War British Art at Chiswick Auctions, said: “It is rare to see such preliminary workings out of a composition by Lucian Freud. He normally destroyed anything that he deemed unfinished or unworthy. In this case, instead of demolishing it, he left it in Mary-Joy’s hands, providing us with an exciting, intimate view of how he formed his initial ideas on canvas.”

Further commenting on the distinctive composition of Sketch of Goldie Krassi Kuneva continued: “The composition of Sketch of Goldie is also very revealing. Freud’s placement of his subject on the canvas is always a distinctive feature of his work. Goldie’s cropped muzzle in this instance is one the canvas’s defining features, giving the work a particular energy. While Freud didn’t see eye to eye with this particular horse and left the work unfinished, the composition was a device he clearly
wanted to explore further and the truncated side-on pose became a feature of his subsequent horse portraits that he completed at the Pony Centre – namely the Skewbald Mare of 2004 and Mare Eating Hay of 2006”.

Sketch of Goldie will be offered in Chiswick Auctions Modern & Post-War British Art sale on Tuesday 3rd December, 2019. All profits from the sale will go to the Wormwood Scrubs Pony Centre, which is celebrating its 30th Anniversary this year.

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