Lucian Freud. The Copper Paintings

We are delighted to share with you the first book published by Less. Lucian Freud (1922–2011) is known as one of the foremost 20th-century portraitists. He was obsessed with skin, surface texture, and the sheer force that a single, precisely executed brushstroke can develop. His uncompromising focus and his conviction that true beauty lies not in the prettified but in the pure connects him to Less.

Conclusion of a ten-year research.

In the early 1950s, Freud created several works in oil paint on copper, a technique popular with 17th-century artists such as Rembrandt and Frans Hals, but highly unusual for a painter in the 20th-century. It was originally thought that Freud painted only a handful of 'coppers'—but in fact he produced more than a dozen. After ten years of research, a total of fourteen paintings could be identified. This book brings them all together for the first time.

Extremely close and astonishingly intense.

The grandson of Sigmund Freud, Lucian Freud was born in Berlin in 1922 and emigrated to England with his family in 1933. He turned to painting full-time after World War II and early on established what would become a lifelong focus on portraits and nudes, which he often depicted in arresting close-up. In May 2008 Freud's nude portrait "Benefits Supervisor Sleeping" was sold by Christie's in New York for $33.6 million, setting a world record for a living artist. Freud died in 2011 at the age of 88 at his home in London.

Lucian Freud painting Martin Gayford. Photo: David Dawson

The theft of a masterpiece.

Among Freud's copper paintings is also his famous portrait of his friend and fellow painter Francis Bacon. In 1988, the painting was stolen in broad daylight from Freud's exhibition at the Neue Nationalgalerie Berlin. It has been lost ever since. Although it was in the Tate collection for 36 years and had been prominently exhibited worldwide, only a very few photos of the work are known to exist. During the research for this book, a photograph was discovered in the archives of Neue Nationalgalerie that shows the work just minutes before the theft. This book is the first to publish it.

The beauty of truth.

Freud was an intensely private and guarded man, and his paintings, completed over a 60-year career, are mostly of friends and family. His goal was not to create portraits that please the viewer and flatter the sitter, but to create the truest portrait possible.