Lucian Freud (1922 - 2011)

The Sleeping Cat Sold

Pen and black ink and black wash.
Signed Lucian Freud in green pencil at the lower left.
272 x 178 mm. (10 3/4 x 7 in.)


Cats appear only rarely in Lucian Freud’s work. A pen and ink drawing of the eyes of a cat, of approximately the same date as the present sheet, was formerly in the collection of Lincoln Kirstein and appeared at auction in 1989 and 2006. Among stylistically comparable drawings in pen and ink by Freud is a study of a stuffed owl on a cane chair, drawn in 1945, which was recently sold at auction in London.

The present sheet was given by the artist to the artist, socialite, writer, diplomat and fashion editor Fleur Cowles (1908-2009), who founded the magazine Flair in New York in 1950. Lavishly designed and produced, the magazine was known for its bold design, lavish production and expensive stock, and among the contributors to the first issue of the magazine were Lucian Freud, W. H. Auden, Jean Cocteau and Tennessee Williams.

As Cowles recalled many years later, ‘An unplanned act of barter brought me two of [Freud’s] superb drawings and a painting of roses. One is a charming study in black and white of a black cat folded up on a soft black and white striped sofa. The other is a meticulous pen and ink portrait of Clarendon Crescent in Paddington, where he had his studio. Neither reveal the darker side of his Baudelairean nature. They unexpectedly became mine after Freud had come to New York at the time I published the reproduction of his paintings. Before he went back to England, the penniless painter wanted to buy a wardrobe for his new-born child. I paid for it. On my next trip to London, he repaid his debt with this work.’

Acquired from the artist by Fleur Cowles, New York, London and Sussex
Her (anonymous) sale, London, Christie’s, 22 October 1997, lot 25
Kay Saatchi, London, until 2011.

Fleur Cowles, An Artist’s Journey, London, 1988, p.56; Ines Rüttinger, Lucian Freud und das Tier / Lucian Freud and the Animal, exhibition catalogue, Siegen, 2015, pp.13-14 and pp.42-43.

Lucian FREUD

The Sleeping Cat


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