Freud etchings at auction

A COLLECTION of 45 works by the late Lucian Freud created over a 25-year period and said to be the most complete array of his prints ever to be auctioned is to be sold next month.

The etchings include images of sitters such as Sue Tilley - known as “Fat Sue,” an oil portrait of whom sold for £20.6m in 2008, setting a new world record – as well as his daughter, Bella.

The works, valued at tens of thousands of pounds apiece, come from the private collection of Freud’s printer, Magar Balakjian, and will be sold by Christie’s on 15 February.

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The artist and the master printer worked together for a quarter of a century, with Freud taking a painstaking interest in every detail of the printing process to ensure they were exactly right. Produced almost entirely in black and white, the works were created as Freud sketched his sitters directly on to copper plates, prior to the printing process.

He preferred to use natural light, rather than using lamps to light his subjects as he did for oil portraits.

His celebrated paintings saw him build thick colourful layers of oils to create his unforgiving and often unflattering images. The prints, however, are much simpler and stripped back, but still realistically capture the rolls of flesh, the wrinkles and the jowls.

His nude portrait of Ms Tilley – entitled Woman Sleeping – is expected to fetch between £30,000 and £50,000, as is a print of his fashion designer daughter, called Bella In Her Pluto T-Shirt. A print of Freud’s whippet, titled Pluto Aged Twelve, is estimated to sell for up to £70,000.

Freud died last July at the age of 88 and Mr Balakjian said the prints represented an “integral part” of his artistic output.

“His work was always exceptional but his character so informal that you would never know he was one of the most important living artists of the time,” he explained.

“His prints don’t just enrich his work, they are an integral part of his output. They show his versatility.”