Press Release: Lucian Freud Archive acquired for the nation

16 November 2015

An important archive comprising Lucian Freud’s sketchbooks, drawings and letters has been acquired by the nation from the estate of Lucian Freud through the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme. The archive has been permanently allocated to the National Portrait Gallery, which in 2012 staged the acclaimed Lucian Freud Portraits exhibition, the Gallery’s most visited ticketed exhibition.  

The National Portrait Gallery plans to make the archive, which has never been published or exhibited, accessible to the public.

The Gallery hopes to display a selection of representative items from the archive in early summer 2016. The Gallery says the archive will extend its understanding of the artist’s portrait work and will give added context to the two works by Freud in the Gallery’s Collection, a 1963 self-portrait in oils and a charcoal drawing of Lord Goodman from. It will also compliment the Gallery's portraits of Lucian Freud including a Frank Auerbach etching and an extensive collection of photographs by David Dawson, Bruce Bernard, Cecil Beaton and others.

Lucian Freud (1922 – 2011) was one of the most important and influential artists of his generation and the sketchbooks spanning his career from the mid-1940s up until his death provide invaluable insight into his working practice and will be a major resource for the study of his work.

There are numerous studies which relate to major works by Freud now in significant collections. One of the sketchbooks – originally an 18th Century ledger – contains drawings of Caroline Blackwood that relate to Freud’s early masterpiece Hotel Bedroom, 1954. The sketchbooks appear to have been used by Freud, as they came to hand in the studio, at different points in time. Several drawings show the beginnings of portraits, such as Lord Goodman’s, often starting with the nose and eyes before developing outwards. These will be instrumental in tracing the evolution of Freud’s portraits from the stage of initial conception. Also included are Freud’s early designs of book covers for Nigel Dennis’s Cards of Identity (1955) and his daughter, Esther Freud’s novel, Hideous Kinky in 1992.

Also included in the archive is a collection of childhood drawings by Freud when he was living in Germany, before his family fled to England in 1933 when Hitler came to power. The drawings were preserved by his mother, many are annotated by her with a date and place andthey reveal much about the family life of the Freuds.

Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London, said: ‘The National Portrait Gallery is grateful to the executors of Lucian Freud’s estate and Arts Council England’s Acceptance in Lieu Scheme for this very important, extensive and generous gift to the nation. The Gallery has a strong association with Lucian Freud by virtue both of its permanent collection holdings and the highly successful 2012 Lucian Freud Portraits exhibition. This archive, which will in due course be made available to the public, will be a vital source of reference for anyone interested in the life and work of the artist or in portraiture in general.’

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said: “This rare collection of Lucian Freud drawings and letters provides a fascinating glimpse into the work of one of our most pioneering artists. Bringing these never seen before treasures into public collections means that everyone can enjoy and see the early beginnings that shaped his most celebrated work." 

Sir Peter Bazalgette, Chair Arts Council England said:  “The Acceptance in Lieu scheme has been enriching our museums and galleries for over a century, as does this latest offer from Lucian Freud’s estate. This fascinating archive, which has never been exhibited before, offers us a real insight into the life of one of Britain's most compelling and influential artists.”

For more information contact:

Alison Millar, Media Relations Officer, Arts Council England
Tel: 0207 268 9648 Email: Alison [email protected]

For the National Portrait Gallery:

Neil Evans, Media Relations Manager, National Portrait Gallery: Tel.
020 7 312 2452 (not for publication) / Email [email protected]

Notes to editors

Details of the material:

The Lucian Freud Archive containing: 47 Sketchbooks, additional drawings; a collection of 162 childhood drawings and a collection of letters from Lucian Freud.
The acceptance of the material settled £2,940,000 of tax.

The Acceptance in Lieu scheme is administered by Arts Council England. The Acceptance in Lieu Panel, Chaired by Edward Harley, advises on whether property accepted in lieu is of suitable importance and offered at a value which is fair to both nation and taxpayer.  AIL enables taxpayers to pay inheritance tax by transferring important works of art and other important heritage objects into public ownership. The taxpayer is given the full open market value of the item, which then becomes the property of a public museum, archive or library. In the last five years (2010 -14) the scheme has bought objects to the value of £150m into public collections - See more here.

Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2015 and 2018, we plan to invest £1.1 billion of public money from government and an estimated £700 million from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.

National Portrait Gallery, London

Founded in 1856, the aim of the National Portrait Gallery, London is ‘to promote through the medium of portraits the appreciation and understanding of the men and women who have made and are making British history and culture, and ... to promote the appreciation and understanding of portraiture in all media’.

The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. With over 1000 portraits on display across three floors, from Elizabeth I to David Beckham, the Gallery has something for everyone. Artists featured range from Holbein to Hockney, and the Collection includes work across all media, from painting and sculpture to photography and video. As well as the permanent displays, the Gallery has a diverse and ever-changing programme of exhibitions and events which promote an understanding and appreciation of portraiture in all forms.

The Collection is displayed in London and in a number of locations around the United Kingdom, including several houses managed by the National Trust.  

The Gallery aims to bring history to life through its extensive display, exhibition, research, learning, outreach, publishing and digital programmes. These allow us to stimulate debate and to address questions of biography, diversity and fame which lie at the heart of issues of identity and achievement.

The National Portrait Gallery aims to be the foremost centre for the study of and research into portraiture, as well as making its work and activities of interest to as wide a range of visitors as possible.  Website: