Unique Gentleness

Unique Gentleness

Unique Gentleness: Freud's Delicate Portrait Painting "Girl with Eyes Closed"

Uniquely Tender: Floyd's Delicate Portrait of "The Girl With Eyes Closed" debuts at Christie's in London

There is no shortage of works depicting sleeping women in the Western art world. The Lucian Freud painting Girl with Closed Eyes will be offered at Christie’s 20th and 21st Century Art: London Evening Sale on March 1. A masterpiece in keeping with this great artistic tradition. In this article, author Alastair Smart explores his approach to depicting the female body, as well as the tenderness unique to this work, on the occasion of its first appearance on the market.


There are many works depicting sleeping women in the Western art world, such as Giorgione's masterpiece "Sleeping Venus" (1508-1510), Canova's marble sculpture "Sleeping Venus" Sleeping Nymph (1820-1824) and Modigliani's Reclining Nude (1919), while Picasso also featured his sleeping lover Marie Marie-Thérèse Walter is the subject of several works; however, while most works depicting the Sleeping Woman portray women as the embodiment of desire, Freud's work is different.

Lucian Freud (1922-2011) Girl with Closed Eyes, 1986-1987, oil on canvas. Estimate: £10,000,000 - £15,000,000. The work will be offered at Christie's London 20th and 21st Century Art: London Evening Sale on 1 March


When it comes to the pursuit of carnal desires, Freud was certainly no ascetic. He has painted portraits of various lovers, and this upcoming auction is no exception, and when he created it in the mid-1980s, he had a brief relationship with its protagonist, Janey Longman.



However, he wants to look carefully through the paintings, not to show the sexy side of the characters. In The Girl With Eyes Closed, Freud captures Longman in close-up on his studio bed, with her eyes closed, her lips parted, and her head slightly sideways and back, as if is resting quietly.



Longman's hair was scattered on the mattress under him, while Freud's textured, three-dimensional impasto brought the messy strands to life. Using shades of fuchsia, dark blue, ochre, and pure lead white, he carefully depicts every radiance, freckle and wrinkle on Longman's skin.

The unique feature of "The Girl With Closed Eyes" is that Freud injected a unique tenderness and delicacy into the painting. True, he still paints Longman's body in a meticulous and rigorous way, as seen in the taut lines of her throat and collarbone, and the way her lips droop. However, he also uses Longman's raised chest and calm, serene expression to bring balance to the picture.



There is a softness to the painting that makes the work seem more in line with the traditional Western style of the Sleeping Woman, a departure from what people would expect from a portrait of Freud.



Longman had been part of Freud's social circle a few years before the painting. Her mother is Lady Elizabeth Longman (Queen Elizabeth II's bridesmaid), her father is publisher Mark Longman, and she is a food writer and artist herself.



In Geordie Greig's biography of Freud, "Breakfast with Lucian," Greig described Longman as "very beautiful, intelligent, and understatedly exuding aristocratic elegance and Conservation". She later had a son, Lucian, with partner novelist Edward St Aubyn in 2000.

Lucian Freud (1922-2011) The Sleeping Benefit Admin, 1995, oil on canvas, 151.3 x 219 cm. Sold for $33,641,000 at Christie's New York on 13 May 2008. Artwork: © The Lucian Freud Archive. Copyright 2022 / Bridgeman Images


Floyd is best known for his full-length nudes, such as "Benefits Supervisor Sleeping," a 2008 portrait of job center clerk Sue Tilley It was sold at Christie's for $33.6 million, making it the most expensive work ever sold by a living artist at the time.



Freud once expressed the hope that paints not only present the body, but also flesh and blood. With his bold brushstrokes, Langman does have an almost sculptural form.

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