Important Australian + International Fine Art
16 August 2023


(British, 1922 - 2011)

etching on Somerset Textured white paper

72.0 x 59.0 cm

edition: 6 / 36

signed with initials and numbered below image
printed by Marc Balakjian, Studio Prints, London

$35,000 – $45,000
Sold for $54,000 (inc. BP) in Auction 75 - 16 August 2023, Melbourne

Matthew Marks Gallery, New York
Rex Irwin Art Dealer, Sydney
Private collection, Sydney, acquired from the above in 1996


Lucian Freud. Naked Portraits: Works from the 1940s - 1990s, MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt am Main, Frankfurt, Germany, October 2000 (another example)
Lucian Freud 'Etchings 1946 – 2004', Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh, 2 April –13 June 2004, then
touring to: Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal; The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge;
Waterhall Gallery, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham (another example)
The Compulsive Line: Etching 1900 to Now, 25 January - 17 April 2006, Museum of Modern Art, New York (another example) 
Lucian Freud, The Painter's Etchings, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 16 December 2007 – 10 March 2008, cat. 52 (another example)


Hartley, C., The Etchings of Lucian Freud: A Catalogue Raisonné, 1946 - 1995, Marlborough Graphics and Ceribelli, London, 1995, cat. 52 (illus., another example)
Bernard, B. and Birdsall, D. (eds.), Lucian Freud, Jonathan Cape, Random House, London, 1996, pp. 336, 358, cat. 286 (illus., another example)
Hartley, C., ‘Beyond Description: Freud as an Etcher’, Lucian Freud. Naked Portraits: Works from the 1940s - 1990s, Hatje Cantz, Frankfurt, 2000, pl. 43, pp. 219 - 220, 271 (illus., another example)
Figura, S., Lucian Freud, The Painter's Etchings, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2007, cat. 39, pp. 25, 71 (illus., another example), 137
Bernard, B. and Birdsall, D. (eds.), Lucian Freud, Jonathan Cape, Random House, London, 1996, cat. 200, p. 286,  (illus., another example).

Catalogue text

By the early 1990s, Lucian Freud’s position at the apex of contemporary painting redefining portraiture was firmly cemented, with major international exhibitions placing his works alongside those of the Old Masters. Although Freud had only returned to the medium of etching in the 1980s, full scale retrospective solo exhibitions of his graphic works in this medium also appeared in galleries and museums by the early 2000s, acknowledging the central role of etching within the evolution and development of his oeuvre. A tour de force of this medium, Woman Sleeping, 1995 is a large full-length portrait of Sue Tilley, recumbent and asleep, starkly denuded in bare space. Displaying Freud’s confident mastery of this medium, its reductive and selective focus offers a refreshingly raw approach to the esteemed genre of the classical Nude. 

Sleeping Woman belongs to a small suite of intimate works made at the late height of Freud’s career, between 1993 - 1996. This series counted four large format oil paintings (today all in private hands) and two etchings, all exploring with visceral immediacy the generous forms of ‘Big Sue’ in her unguarded physical presence. A friend of the artist and of fellow Freud muse, Australian performance artist, Leigh Bowery, Tilley is also known as the ‘Benefits Supervisor’ (she was working at a government service centre in Charing Cross at the time). Closely related to a painted work completed the following year, Sleeping by the Lion Carpet, the odalisque here is removed from her spatial context, from the studio accoutrements that had conferred a regal grandeur on her physical monumentality. Without the modulated colour and physical materiality of paint, Freud instead subjects Tilley to the process of reductive formal distillation that he had been employing in his intaglio Naked Portraits since the early 1980s. In this etching Freud makes little attempt to portray volume and texture with densely shaded tones and cross-hatched lines. Floating the negative space of delicate plate-tone, her luminous flesh is contained only by bulging emphatic contours and rare judicious patches of shadow. Her weight supported by (now invisible) furniture, her awkward supine form is suspended, directly contradicting the weight-bearing contours of her body and the flat nature of the paper.
Working from life in the studio with his copper plate propped on an easel1, Freud’s Woman Sleeping, although very similar in pose to Sleeping by the Lion Carpet, is the product of a separate live study of Sue Tilley, with her limbs outstretched and foreshortened, turned towards the viewer. The composite perspective and subtle distortions in her position are incised and underscored on the copper plate with no possibility for revision. The extended period of time sitting for this portrait, both painted and etched, allowed the artist to construct a deep rapport with the sitter. Freud was yet to complete Sleeping on the Lion Carpet, his last painting of the series - this etching and the one that followed, Woman with an Arm Tattoo, 1996, were created in tandem with the suite of painted works. Through this process, his portraits of Tilley are suffused with hard-won candour, her dignified unclothed bravado challenging the idealised canons of the female nude. Freud, thus manipulating conventional codes of decorum to attract and distance the viewer in equal measure, has here created an extraordinarily powerful and visually disarming portrait.
1. Figura, S.,The Painter’s Etchings, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2008, pp. 14 - 15