A second work by Willi Sitte. But beyond that i know no more. i am unable even to speculate what the GDR subtext, here, was. But i offer it up, on this the 24th anniversary of the, ‘Fall of the Berlin Wall’
The thirty year old artist’s young friend, and neighbour: twenty year old, Charlie Lumley.
Lucian Freud, 1922-2011 - Boy’s Head, 1952, oil on canvas.
Discussing this work and its auction sale, Oliver Barker, Sotheby’s Europe, said: “This portrait was executed at the beginning of the 1950s when Freud was recognised as one of the leading artistic talents of his generation and even amid the artist’s epic oeuvre, spanning seven full decades, the present work is a perfect visual example of Freud’s titanic output. The young sitter, Charlie Lumley, is subjected to the unyielding dissection of Freud’s gaze in this masterful zenith of his painterly analysis, which has become the stuff of legend. We expect this oil on canvas to generate tremendous interest among the collecting community.”
(Boy’s Head: sold for 3.2 million)
Enclosed within the glassy marbles of the boy’s eyes, his depthless black pupils and serene grey-blue irises emit a hypnotic intensity that pierces out to confront and transfix the viewer. The features of the boy are physically and compositionally held in place by the palm of his left hand, which buttresses against his cheek and jaw bones. The drooping flesh of the boy’s ample cheek is pulled taught by his hand, stretching the mouth open to bare the pearly young teeth below. This remarkably observed detail accentuates dramatically the psychosomatic character of the sitter. The artist’s careful selection of a focused scale, consistent with works of this period, is here fundamental to its impact as it enables the maximum exertion of control over the subject. Most comparable is the legendary painting Francis Bacon of 1952, which was completed over two to three months. Boy’s Head is extant counterpart to that masterpiece, providing another side of Freud’s incomparable interpretation of the human animal.
In 1943 Freud moved from Abercorn Place to a flat by the Regent’s Canal in Delamere Terrace, Paddington and described the areas as, “…extreme and I was conscious of this. A completely unresidential area with violent neighbours. There was a sort of anarchic element of no one working for anyone…”**. Among his neighbours were the brothers Billy and Charlie Lumley, with whom the artist forged a close friendship.
**The artist, cited by William Feaver in: Exhibition Catalogue, London, Tate, Lucian Freud, 2002, p. 21.
Sitting for Lucian Freud
A 2011 interview between Sotheby’s, Michael Macaulay and Charlie Lumley, sitter for Boy’s Head, 1952
Michael Macaulay: Charlie, you were Lucian Freud’s model for this extraordinary painting, Boy’s Head of 1952, and so I wanted to ask you about your memories of that portrait, of sitting for it, and of Lucian. First of all, I know there is a story that you first met him when you were breaking into his flat, but you’ve told me that that is not true. So how exactly did you first meet him?
Charlie Lumley: Well, we used to live in Delamere Terrace, that’s on the other side of Little Venice, you know? Well it’s all pulled down now, but both houses were old Victorian houses with big balconies out the front and columns from the steps. Well we never had keys, me and my brothers, so to get in we used to have to climb up this pole, next to the pillar, onto the balcony and into the front window. And next door, the other side there lived a greengrocer, and he’d retired, and he used to sit out on the balcony all the time. And every time I used to climb up there I used to hear this deep voice murmuring “Bloody cat burglar!” And Lu moved in next door to me, and he heard this. He moved in and I went up onto the balcony, and he was standing there with John Craxton, and that’s when we first met.
How did he first ask you to sit for him?
It was in the war you know, that was when the first portrait came out – the pastel. It was during all the bombing and everything and we used to go down Warwick Avenue tube shelter and, being neighbours, we’d be there together. Being potless he never had a penny and my mother used to make him a sandwich and that. She used to cook next door, and would say “pop this into Lu” or “ask him if he wants a sandwich”. Then we became really good friends, all through the war. There was a bomb dropped at the back, and that joined everyone up a bit.
This painting came a few years later, in 1952. What do you remember about the process of sitting for it and Lucian working?
I’d just come out of the army after doing National Service. I was twenty. The painting went on for ages and ages, on and off, after we used to go clubbing and things like that.
So it was all painted at night?
Yes, nights that was. I remember the electric lights going up in the place beforehand. He always said “Get comfortable!” You had to as you knew you were in for a long sitting. No stops or breaks or things like that. Sometimes he’d do the background so you could relax, or if he was working on the hands you could shut your eyes.
Well you were probably quite tired if you’d been out clubbing and then came back and he asked you to sit for him for hours! What was he like while he was painting?
Never stopped talking! He could converse on anything, you know. He had a marvellous memory. He could talk about boxing, which I used to talk about a lot, though how he knew about boxing God only knows! He used to talk about people we used to meet. It was very pleasurable to sit for him. With Kitty he’d lived in St John’s Wood, in Clifton Road. But with Caroline Blackwood he was pretty fraught. Francis Bacon once asked me to watch him, ‘cause they had a flat in Dean Street and Francis said to me “for Christ’s sake watch him because I’m afraid he’s going to jump off the roof!” And so I had to sort of babysit him for a while.
So it was quite a tense time, although you were also going out and having a lot of fun.
Oh yes, we used to see each other all the time and I used to do lots of things for him, looking after his mail and things like that. And clean his car. Caroline had bought him a new car for their engagement, a new Alvis. They had a place called Coombe Priory in Dorset, and I went down there a few times with them. Me and Lu used to drive down in the car, and I remember terrific scrambled eggs on toast. But he could also be quite selfish. He’d rather have a pound each way than give you the pound, you know! He liked to gamble. Terrible gambler. Most of his friends were trainers so he was always at the bookies on Portobello Road!
(artist: Edward Hopper 1882 – 1967 - French Six-day Bicycle Rider 1937
I was unable to remember the name of the rider, only that he was young and dark and quite French in appearance. I did not attempt an accurate portrait, but it resembles him in a general way. He was I think a member of one of the last French teams to win a race at Madison Square Garden. He is supposed to be resting…
The Yellow Jersy,Tour leader, is Stage Fifteen’s winner and the King of the Mountains. Chris Froome’s dominant performance at the 100th Tour de France continued with an epic ride up into the sky and onto the Mont Ventoux’s Luna landscape peak.
“This climb is so historic and means so much to this race especially being the 100th edition. And I didn’t expect to win here today. I wanted to get more of a buffer on GC but I didn’t think I could go for the win. [Nairo] Quintana is a very strong climber and I wasn’t expecting him to go from as far as he did but hats off to him, he did a great ride and he showed how strong he is. When I did catch up to him, I thought: ‘This guys is going to win the stage today and I’m going to have to settle for second’. But then, in the last 2km, he was fading a little and I still had a little bit left. We talked a little bit and I was just trying to say, ‘Man, come on just a little bit more… we’re almost there…’ but he was slipping behind.
“Near the end, I don’t think that I attacked it was just that he couldn’t ride on my wheel anymore and a gap opened up.”
Stage Fifteen: France: Givors to Mont Ventoux
(artist: Unknown to me. Whoever he/she is, i somehow doubt they slapped, Ventoux, across the centre of their watercolour.)
On the eve of France’s, Bastille Day, French man, Julien Simon escaped from his fellow 14 riders in the day’s breakaway to enter the city of Lyon on his own. With no French Stage win in this year’s Tour, French hearts fluttered. On he cycled across the city with the break away behind playing catchup. Then in the last two kilometres the long straight roads undone him. The catch was made and the stage became a sprint finish, albeit with riders who wouldn’t figure in a sprint with the top sprinters on the Tour. So as the line approached and the leaders of the bunch looked for their moment. Surprise, Matteo Trentin of Omega Pharma - Quickstep, a member of the Cavendish lead out train, broke from the rear with a turn of speed that took him over the line first. Not a first win for France, sadly, but it was for Italy.
Stage Fourteen: France: Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioule to Lyon
(artist: Fortunato Depero 1892 - 1960 - Ciclista attraverso la città 1945 Cyclistthrough the city)