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Signed Print Edition of 46
H 60cm x W 73cm
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Joe Syer, Head of Urban & Contemporary Art
This atmospheric etching was produced by Lucian Freud in 2000, and is the artist's response to Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin's painting The Young Schoolmistress (c.1737). Much like Chardin's original painting, the composition depicts an intimate moment between schoolmistress and her infant student. Produced after a pair of paintings of the same subject, this work forms part of another pair of etchings. With this etching, Freud emulates the shading of his printed version with layered striations of mark-making, which frames the two figures. With minimal marks on the etching plate on the figures' faces, the schoolmistress' dress, and the paper they read from, Freud draws explicit attention to these elements of the work.
In 1987, some thirteen years before this etching was produced, Lucian Freud was invited by London's National Gallery to participate in their exhibition series titled The Artist's Eye. Freud's was the third exhibition in this series, and the artist was invited "to disrupt for a month or so the usual historical display of the Gallery's paintings". Alongside a selection of the National Gallery's acclaimed works, Freud exhibited two of his own works to reveal the influence of these painters on his style and process.
Chardin's original painting, The Young Schoolmistress, was selected by Freud and curated alongside works which - in Freud's words - shared the quality that "they all make me want to go back to work". Indeed, Chardin's painting inspired Freud so much that he not only made two paintings responding to it, but also a pair of etchings over a decade later. Quite unlike Chardin's paintings, yet typical of Freud's style under Francis Bacon's influence, the two subjects have a pronounced hardness. The schoolmistress, with her overly accentuated nose, appears far more authoritative than Chardin's. Even more so, the child is rendered with almost grotesque scrutiny as Freud has emphasised every crevice of their plump flesh. By cropping Chardin's original composition, Freud invites the viewer into this somewhat rigid scene and gives a markedly claustrophobic atmosphere to the work. A once intimate and tender scene becomes, under Freud's commanding line, intense and almost uncomfortable.