Girl with Beret
A finely painted, close-up head and shoulders portrait of a young woman wearing a plain blue/grey jumper and beret. She has pale skin and glassy blue eyes, which are looking off to the left. Her hair is parted to one side and she wears a small gold hoop earring in her left ear. She is set against a muted background. Lucian Freud described his early portraits as "purely autobiographical", for he was painting people with whom he had a close personal relationship. He sought to capture the essence of someone he knew well. Here, the sitter is the Irish actress Helena Hughes (aged 23 at the time) to whom Freud was introduced by his lover Anne Dunn during one of his frequent visits to Dublin in the 1950s. Hughes had invited Freud to Paris in 1950 where she was working on a stage production with Orson Welles. As with all his portraits, he made her sit for 150 hours or more, so the intensity of their relationship could be sensed within the painting. The critic John Russell described Freud's technique as "a particular kind of scrutiny (which) involves a long slow stalking of the thing seen". Until 1954 Freud painted with great precision, using incredibly fine sable-haired brushes. He recorded only what he saw as honestly and directly as possible. He paid attention to every detail, including skin tone, hair, accessories and clothing. Despite being painted over 60 years ago, the woman appears contemporary. She does not meet our eye, nor follow us around the room. She stares into the distance, appearing self-absorbed, suggestive of a life beyond the painting.
Girl with Beret 1951 Lucian Freud born 1922 Oil on canvas Freud is one of today's best known figurative painters. He is the grandson of Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis. In his early paintings, such as this one, he was inspired by painters of the Northern Renaissance like Jan van Eyck. Freud mostly paints people he knows. He often makes them sit for 150 hours or more in total. The subjects often look hunted. The critic, John Russell once described Freud's technique as 'a particular kind of scrutiny (which) involves a long slow stalking of the thing seen'. Purchased 1952.278
Girl with Beret
Canvas: 35.5cm x 25.6cm
Frame: 49cm x 39cm
Place of creation
© By permission of the artist Lucian Freud