Lucian Freud’s Girl with Roses (1947-8)

One of Freud's earliest paintings, Girl with Roses, depicts a girl with enlarged eyes gazing off to the right. She grasps the stem of a rose with one hand while another cut head rests in her lap. 

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Captions for image(s) above:

Freud, Girl with Roses (1947-8) Oil on canvas. Courtauld Institute, London.

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In her hair, though, on the left hand side, is a pattern of forms remarkably similar to Freud's own profile, especially that in a self-portrait in shade in Hotel Bedroom, from several years later (1954-5). The shaded face, unfortunately, is too dark to reproduce here.

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Captions for image(s) above:

L: Detail of Freud's Girl with Roses
R: Detail of Freud's Girl with Roses with diagram

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Instead you can tell from his earliest self-portrait that he depicted himself with a nose as long as that suggested by the girl's hair. Many years later Freud was to shape his own hair in a self-portrait into the form of Queen Elizabeth II's crown and embed his profile again into the Queen's bouffon hair.  

See conclusion below


 

Captions for image(s) above:

L: Detail of Freud's Girl with Roses
R: Detail of Self-portrait (1939-40)

Click image to enlarge.

Many artists have made use of a woman's hair to hint at the presence of another form. Leonardo, for instance, is famous for drawing long locks of hair to resemble flowing water. Others, like Dürer, used fur in the same way for its resemblance to the hairs of a paintbrush.1 Freud combined the shifting patterns on hair along with his own faceted style to recall other forms throughout his career in a method we call visual metamorphosis. The girl with a rose, a pregnant symbol, is Freud himself in his own imagination as his silhouette in her hair suggests. 

 

Notes:

1. Koerner, The Moment of Self-portraiture in German Renaissance Art (University of Chicago Press) p. 169

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