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Self-Portrait with Hyacinth in Pot, Lucian Freud

Self portrait by Lucian Freud showing his head and shoulders three-quarter turned to the right. To the right on the corner of a table is a pot of hyacinth flowers against a yellow background.

Lucian Freud, Self-Portrait with a Hyacinth Pot, 1947-8, Black, white and yellow crayon on paper, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester (Wilson Gift through The Art Fund, 2006) © The Lucian Freud Archive / Bridgeman Images

At a glance

Artist: Lucian Freud

Date: 1947 – 1948

Materials: Black, white and yellow crayon on paper

Acquisition: Wilson Gift through Art Fund (2006)

This self-portrait by Lucian Freud is one of his early works. At the time his style was characterised by a controlled and linear approach, intense observation and a tendency towards the surreal. Freud made his self-portraits using a mirror. His gaze is confrontational, yet there is also an atmosphere of isolation in the drawing. This is made more apparent by the stark colours and bare background. Between 1946 and 1947, Freud lived for five months on the Greek Island of Poros. During his is time there he was inspired by the austerity and quality of light, which can be seen in this self-portrait.

The artist depicts himself next to a wilting hyacinth in a pot. Freud would often choose decaying houseplants as subjects in his paintings. Plants which did not conform to traditional notions of beauty. He had been taught by the artist Cedric Morris in the late 1930s. Morris was both a keen gardener and encouraged his pupils to put feeling over objective observation in their work. Freud gives a startling human-like quality to his depictions of plants. His approach to still life was the same his approach to portraits and the human-figure.

Lucian Freud was born in Berlin, he was the grandson of the famous psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. He came to Britain as a child with his family in 1932. Whilst an art student during the Second World War, Freud lived with fellow artist John Craxton in a studio in Abercorn Place. At the end of the 1950s Freud changed his style from the magic-realist approach of works such as Self-Portrait with a Hyacinth Pot, to a more objective painting style. This new style heightened sensuality and boldness in his treatment of the human body.