Lucian Freud

Man with a Thistle (Self-Portrait)


Not on display

Lucian Freud 1922–2011
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 610 × 502 mm
frame: 800 × 690 × 80 mm, 8.2 kg
Purchased 1961

Display caption

This is one of a number of self-portraits painted by Freud during the 1940s. Freud has used a realistic, but emblematic, style which derives from Old Master paintings of the Northern Renaissance.

The artist shows himself looking through a window at a spiky thistle resting on a ledge in the foreground. At the same time, the thistle may also be read as an emblem occupying flattened space at the bottom of the painting. This ambiguity allows the thistle to be interpreted as a real object, but also as a device which suggests the mood of the painting and Freud's own psychological state.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

Inscr. on back of canvas ‘Decem. 46 Lucian Freud’.
Canvas, 24×19 3/4 (61×50).
Purchased at Sotheby's (Grant-in-Aid) 1961.
Coll: Purchased by Peter Meyer from the London Gallery 1950 and sold Sotheby's, 26 April 1961 (114); bought by Mrs R. Rhys on behalf of the Tate Gallery.
Exh: Recent Paintings and Drawings by John Craxton and Lucian Freud, London Gallery, October–November 1947 (40), as ‘Selfportrait’; Arts Council tour, Three Young Collectors, 1952–3 (29); Venice Biennale, 1954 (British Pavilion, 71), as ‘Man with a Thistle’.
Repr: Penguin New Writing. No.32, 1947, between pp.96 and 97; John Rothenstein, The Tate Gallery, 1962, p.258.

Also known as ‘Man with a Thistle’. The artist made a number of other paintings and drawings of himself about the same time.

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, I



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