Freud first made six etchings as a young artist in the 1940s, however it was not until 1982 that he began to engage fully with this medium. In 2008, when The Museum of Modern Art, New York held a comprehensive survey of the artist’s etchings, this body of work amounted to more than seventy-five examples.
Many of Freud’s etchings were created either before, or in tandem with, his paintings and as such they often relate directly to his canvases. However, for Freud, an etching was not a reproduction of a painting’s subject. Instead, each etching was the result of a seperate series of sittings, providing the artist with the opportunity to revisit a subject and explore it from a range of different vantage points, using a far more linear visual language.
Etching is the only form of printmaking which Freud chose to explore, as it allowed him to continue to work alone and in private up until the final image had been produced, after which it would be sent to a printer. The element of risk involved in the process appealed to the artist and he favoured it for the, ‘…element of danger and mystery. You don’t know how its going to come out. What’s black is white. What’s left is right.’ (Starr Figura, ‘Lucian Freud, The Painter’s Etchings exh. cat. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2008, p.15)
Working in this medium, which involves incising lines directly onto a copperplate, which then appear reversed in the final image, requires an extremely high level of draughtsmanship and as such etching presented an attractive challenge to Freud.
Like his British contemporaries, Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff, Freud’s portraits depict those people that were closest to him throughout his life and in this sense they are deeply autobiographical, presenting a visual history of the artist’s private life. His portraits are often unapologetically truthful and honest observations of the human form and often present sitters at an uncomfortably close range, leaving them open to close scrutiny but enabling the articulation of the subtle nuances and details that are contained in the human face.
Angus Cook, the sitter in the present work, was a young filmmaker and one of the first people to sit completely naked for Freud. Over the course of five years, from 1985 until 1990, Freud created at least seven oils paintings and seven ‘naked man’ etchings of Cook including Man Resting (State II, 1988).
The present work marks a direct continuation from two etchings Naked Man on a Bed (state 1) and Naked Man on a Bed (state 2), created a year earlier in 1987. (Fig. 1, 2). In both of these works Freud has depicted the entirety of Cook’s sleeping body from above, as he lies on his side with his upper body turned slightly down so that we have a three-quarter view of his face. In Man Resting (State II), 1988 Freud creates a more concentrated intensity in his depiction of Cook, by focusing in on his head, cropping the image just below the top of the shoulders. He uses cross-hatching unsparingly, created a heavily worked surface which describes the exaggerated features of the human face under the effects of sleep. As Starr Figura has commented,
‘Whereas the former images derive their power from the coiled, spermatic pose of the body, Man Resting concentrates on the curiously grotesque and infantile effects that the dead weight of sleep has on the subject's head and face, where veins bulge and slackened skin crumples stiffly upon itself.' (Ibid, p.28)
Note: Despite this print's title suggesting 'two states', this is the only version to have been published by the artist.
Perry Rubenstein Gallery, New York
Rome, Palazzo Ruspoli, Lucian Freud, Dipinti e Opere Su Carta 1940-1991, 3 October-17 November 1991, cat no.76, another edition illus b/w
Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Lucian Freud, British Council, 31 October 1992-10 January 1993, cat no.64, another edition illus b/w p82, touring to:
Perth, Art Gallery of Western Australia, 1 February-14 March 1993
London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Lucian Freud: Recent Work, 10 September-21 November 1993, cat no.44, another edition illus colour, touring to:
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 16 December 1993-13 March 1994
Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, 6 April-13 June 1994
New Haven, Yale Center for British Art, Lucian Freud, Etchings from the Paine Webber Art Collection, 23 January-21 March 1999, cat no.22, another edition illus b/w p48, touring to:
San Diego, Museum of Contemporary Art, 10 April-23 May 1999
Seattle, Seattle Art Museum, 10 June-15 August 1999
Houston, Blaffer Gallery, University of Houston, 21 January-19 March 2000
Stanford, Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts, Stanford University, 7 June-13 August, 2000
Pittsburgh, Carnegie Museum of Art, 16 September-12 November 2000
New York, Museum of Modern Art, Lucian Freud: The Painter's Etchings, 16 December 2007-10 March 2008, pl.50, another edition illus colour p81 and front cover
Craig Hartley, The Etchings of Lucian Freud: A Catalogue Raisonné, 1946-1995, Marlborough Graphics, London and New York, 1995, cat no.34
Bruce Bernard and Derek Birdsall, Lucian Freud, Random House, New York, 1996, cat no.218, illus b/w
William Feaver, Lucian Freud, Rizzoli, New York, 2007, cat no.228, illus colour
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