Freud: Living With Art We Love
Banner image: 'Woman in a white shirt' by Lucian Freud / The Devonshire Collections, Chatsworth /© The Lucian Freud Archive. All rights reserved 2022 / Reproduced by permission of Chatsworth Settlement Trustees / Bridgeman Images
In 2022, Chatsworth staged an exhibition in the house of works from the private collection of the 12th Dukes and Duchess of Devonshire. Entitled Living With Art We Love, the exhibition included several works by Freud from the Devonshire Collections, coinciding with his centenary year,
The works were on display in the house, inviting visitors to see them at home among the rest of the collection. The presentation drew particular attention to the connection between the painter and his patrons, the 11th Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, and the continuing place of his work in the collection.
Freud’s pieces in the Devonshire Collections span the entirety of his career and include the major themes of his work: portraits of his mother, partners, friends, family, and animals. His depictions of people describe the friendships he forged, while his changing technique tells us about his different approaches to materials and the art world around him.
In Freud’s story at Chatsworth there is a strong resonance with all artists who have worked at the house over the centuries. Alongside the presentation of works by Freud and throughout the house, Living with Art We Love offered art and objects collected and commissioned by the Duke and Duchess. Freud at Chatsworth, therefore, presented an immediate forebearer to the present Duke and Duchess’s lives spent working with artists, and shows the continuing creativity that is fostered at Chatsworth.
Freud’s paintings, prints, drawings and ephemera reflect a lifetime of practice that was impacted by connections to people and places, and a cultural context that spans the 20th and 21st centuries.
Born in Berlin, Lucian Freud (1922-2011) and his family fled Germany in 1933, ahead of the Nazi threat. Arriving in England, he studied at Dartington Hall in Devon and Bryanston School in Dorset. He briefly studied at The Central School of Arts and Crafts, but left to study with painter Cedric Morris at the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing.
Freud lived and worked in London, occupying houses and using studios that are the significant settings for his work. Visits to Europe and Ireland were significant to his work and social circle. At his death, he was still working, leaving unfinished a double portrait of his assistant and friend, David Dawson and his dog, Eli.
Freud said that what he asked of a painting is that it “astonish, disturb, seduce, convince”. The intense focus of Freud’s vision is apparent in all his work; it is what unites the paintings, drawings and prints, despite his changing attitudes to materials and methods.
The 10 paintings on display from the Devonshire Collections were supplemented by two paintings from private collections that were once part of the collection at Chatsworth. Additionally, there were a further 15 works on paper, including prints and drawings.
The earliest work on display was Runaway Horse from 1936. This linocut was made when Freud was still at school but embodies the subject matter and energy that was to continue in his practice. Painted not long afterwards, Hospital Ward of 1941 shows a figure convalescing: it is not a self-portrait, although Freud did spend some time in hospital following his service on a North Atlantic convoy. It is likely that these two works were gifts to the 11th Duke and Duchess of Devonshire.
A 1944 drawing of a Man with Folded Hands shows a figure with closed eyes, perhaps sleeping. It was a pose that recurs in Freud’s work; evidence perhaps of the endurance needed to sit for an artist who worked from life over long periods, but also leaving a sitter exposed to the scrutiny of an artist, whose intense looking was translated into paint or line.
Watch the Duke of Devonshire tell the story of 'Woman in a white shirt' and why he thinks it is "probably the most beautiful thing at Chatsworth" in episode 1 of Treasure Houses.