Important Australian + International Fine Art
27 August 2014


(1922 - 2011, British)

etching on Somerset White paper

57.0 x 76.0 cm (sheet); 43.0 x 59.5 cm (image)

edition: 46/46

signed with initials and numbered below image
printed by Marc Balakjian at Studio Prints, London
published by Matthew Marks Gallery, New York

$70,000 - 90,000
Sold for $120,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 36 - 27 August 2014, Sydney

Matthew Marks Gallery, New York
Private collection, Adelaide, acquired from the above in 2001


Lucian Freud Etchings, Matthew Marks Gallery, New York, 11 November – 23 December 2000
Lucian Freud: Etchings 1946–2004, touring exhibition, 2004: Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh; Abbot Hall, Kendal; The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge; 2005: Waterhall Gallery, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery; Marlborough Fine Art, London (another example) 
Lucian Freud, The Painter's Etchings, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 16 December 2007 – 10 March 2008, cat. 85 (another example) 
Lucian Freud Portraits, National Portrait Gallery, London, 9 February – 27 May 2012, cat. 126 (another example)


Marks, M. (ed.), Lucian Freud Etchings – with Esther Freud's "Ode to Pluto", Matthew Marks Gallery, New York, 2000, cat. 42 (illus. front cover and cat. 42, unpaginated, another example) 
Hartley, C., Lucian Freud Etchings 1946–2004, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh and Marlborough Graphics, London, 2004 (illus., another example) 
Smee, S., Lucian Freud, 1996–2005, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2005, cat. 45
Feaver, W., Lucian Freud, Rizzoli, New York, 2007, cat. 303
Figura, S., Lucian Freud, The Painter's Etchings, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2008, cat. 91, pp 32, 121, 138 (illus. pl. 91, p. 121, another example) 

Catalogue text

Lucian Freud loved animals. As a boy recently arrived in England from Berlin, he used to sleep at night with the horses in the stables of his school. Later in life, he painted all forms of fauna from a rat to a baboon (the latter in lieu of one of his infamous gambling debts). Artists from Rembrandt to Giacometti have looked for 'the skull beneath the skin', but Freud was always more interested in finding what he called 'the animal beneath the clothes'. 

In his book on Freud, art critic William Feaver quotes him saying, 'I'm inclined to think of [my models] naked, or if they're dressed, as animals dressed up.'1 In many cases he preferred animals to people, both as models and companions. None more so than his whippet Pluto, depicted in this exquisitely detailed etching.

The first time Freud included a dog in a painting was in 1951 in Girl with a White Dog (collection of Tate Gallery, London). His first wife, Kitty Garman, her white breast rolling out of a lemon-coloured dressing gown, supports the head of a gray Bull Terrier whose eyes seem to be reflecting and locking in to the stare of the artist painting them. The last time a dog appeared was in the final painting before Freud died, Portrait of the Hound, 2011, featuring Eli, the great, great-niece of his beloved Pluto. Eli is said to have filled the huge gap in his life left by the death of Pluto.

In many of his portraits of humans, Freud depicts them with a certain amount of forensic cruelty. Not so with the animals, especially the dogs, for whom he has only tenderness and affection.

One of the most enigmatic elements of this etching is the hand, entering the composition diagonally from the top right, like the near-touching fingers of God and Adam in Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel. Artists from Paolo Uccello to Philip Guston have used diagonals as a formal way of activating the picture plane, and Freud uses this device with great confidence. He is presenting us with a visual riddle, and taunts us by leaving us to work it out for ourselves. Whose hand is it? Not the artist's, for he is drawing.

Pluto has a long pedigree of being at the enigmatic heart of a Freud work. As Freud memoirist Geordie Greig has written, 'The raw, naked portraits are the most recognizable of Lucian's paintings, but he also often brought narrative intrigue to his work. Sunny Morning - Eight Legs is a painting in which [Freud's assistant] David Dawson sprawls naked across a bed, his arm around Lucian's whippet Pluto ... Two of the legs referred to in the title belong to David, four to Pluto, and then there are two further anonymous male legs emerging from under the bed. Do they belong to a corpse? To someone hiding?2 Another enigma couched within a riddle.

Pluto was to have a life after his own death, and that of his master, in the company logo that Freud designed for his daughter Bella's fashion label. And the hand entering this etching looks very like Bella's hand, resting on her lap ,in the etching Bella In Her Pluto T-Shirt, 1995 (lot 20).

'Classically English with a dash of sex, drugs, or rock 'n' roll'3 is how her clothing company has been described, and it is Pluto's head that gazes out from the various T-shirts worn by Courtney Love, Madonna, Kate Moss (one of Freud's many models), and Sophie Dahl.

1. Quoted in Gaudoin, T, 'The Artist as Sartorialist', Wall Street Journal, 2 March 2012, p. 16
2. Greig, G., Breakfast with Lucian, Jonathan Cape, London, 2013, Kindle edition, p. 2103 of 4001
3. Durrant, S., 'Bella Freud Bares All', Telegraph, London, 12 November 2012, p. 17