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Lucian Freud

2 of 5 portraits by Lucian Freud

© The Lucian Freud Archive / Bridgeman Images

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Lucian Freud

by Lucian Freud
oil on canvas, 1963
12 in. x 9 7/8 in. (305 mm x 251 mm)
Purchased, 1978
Primary Collection
NPG 5205

Sitterback to top

  • Lucian Freud (1922-2011), Artist. Sitter in 62 portraits, Artist of 5 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Lucian Freud (1922-2011), Artist. Artist of 5 portraits, Sitter in 62 portraits.

This portraitback to top

This is the last of three self-portraits painted in quick succession in 1963. By this time, the artist's technique had developed from being meticulously detailed to a more broadly painted, expressive style. Here, Freud's squinting gaze is arresting in its directness, but his features are abstracted into painterly swathes of flesh-colour. The portrait is entitled Man's Head (Self-portrait III). The following year, inspired by his own recent attempts to capture his own likeness, Freud caused a scandal when he set his students at Norwich College of Art an assignment to paint their own naked self-portrait which, he asserted, was ‘the most revealing, telling and believable object.’

Linked publicationsback to top

  • 100 Portraits, p. 127
  • Gibson, Robin, Treasures from the National Portrait Gallery, 1996, p. 119
  • Howgate, Sarah (introduction) Auping, Michael (appreciation) Richardson, John (appreciation), Lucian Freud: Portraits, 2012 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 9 February to 28 May 2012), p. 97
  • Rideal, Liz, Insights: Self-portraits, 2005, p. 100 Read entry

    Sigmund Freud’s grandson Lucian was born in Berlin, arriving in England in 1933. He studied for a period in Suffolk with Cedric Morris. This self-portrait, made over forty years ago, is intense and unflinching. The brush and paintwork is both smoother and more stylised than today, but his characteristic dun-coloured palette is something he retains. An arresting confrontational study, this self-portrait marks a distancing from the minute attention to detail in his major portraits of the 1950s.

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 231
  • Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 225 Read entry

    Artist Lucian Freud, the grandson of Sigmund Freud, was born in Berlin and emigrated to England with his family in 1933. He briefly attended the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London and was also taught for a period by Cedric Morris, who influenced Freud’s early precise style of painting. In the late 1950s Freud began to adopt a looser, more expressive style, using hog’s hair brushes to build a heavily impastoed surface. The result of many hours spent with sitters, his closely observed figurative works have been described as ‘excessively’ realist. The subjects are often naked and the scrutiny with which Freud consistently portrayed the human body distinguished him amongst fellow artists in the twentieth century. In this painting, one of several self-portraits, Freud turned this uncompromising gaze upon himself. Yet, the presence of the artist is implicit throughout his oeuvre, which includes portraits of lovers, children and friends, all of whom sat for him at his Paddington studio. As Freud himself has stated, ‘my work is purely autobiographical ... it is about myself and my surroundings ... I work from people that interest me and that I care about.’

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1963back to top

Current affairs

The Secretary of State for War, John Profumo is found to have lied to the House of Commons when he denied having an affair with the showgirl, Christine Keeler. The Profumo Affair was a public scandal for the Conservative party, and ultimately contributed to the resignation of Harold Macmillan.

Art and science

Doctor Who is first broadcast on the BBC with William Hartnell playing the Doctor. This long running science fiction series about an alien Time Lord who travels through time and space in his police-box-shaped Tardis has been watched by generations of viewers (often from behind the back of the sofa), and features imaginative, but traditionally low-budget, special effects, innovative electronic music, and the Doctor's greatest enemy, the Daleks.


John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Texas. The arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald for his murder did not prevent a score of conspiracy theories involving Cuba, the CIA, the KGB, and the Mafia among others.
Martin Luther King delivers his 'I have a dream' speech, marking an important moment in the civil rights movement in America and helping to secure him the Nobel Peace Prize' in 1964.

Tell us more back to top

Can you tell us more about this portrait? Spotted an error, information that is missing (a sitter’s life dates, occupation or family relationships, or a date of portrait for example) or do you know anything that we don't know? If you have information to share please complete the form below.

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Eleanor Hickey

13 May 2018, 13:58

Lucian Michael Freud was born on December 8, 1922 in Berlin, Germany. Freud was most well known for his self portraits and nude studies. A lot of his earlier work contained surrealistic elements, but he is more famous for his figurative paintings which he was heavily influenced by realism and ‘intense observation’. Most of his models that he painted were friends or family members and this relationship that he has with the model was a central theme to the painting. ‘Man’s Head’ was painted in 1969 and, much like his other self-portraits only shows just the head and neck plus the occasional arm, shoulder or even hand.

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