Freud and Corot
Lucian Freud (1922–2011) bought Corot’s Italian Woman at auction in 2001, and for the last decade of his life, it hung above the fireplace in the drawing room of his Kensington home. In the same room, he kept paintings by Constable, Frank Auerbach, and a bronze by Degas. Freud lived surrounded by art, and as he got older and more successful, he acquired more works for himself.
The paintings Freud owned reflected his lifelong interest in past masters, as well as his acquaintances and friendships, for instance with Auerbach. He selected works that had a deep personal or emotional significance for him, or that resonated with his own work.
Freud was known for his probing and intensely observed nudes and portraits, and his acquisition of a figure painting by Corot reflects his own artistic focus on the human body. Though best known for his landscapes, Corot painted hundreds of figures in his later years, many of them lone, contemplative female figures. Dressed in regional Italian dress, this woman is given solidity and presence through Corot’s pronounced lighting and thick, robust brushwork, which find an echo in Freud’s own technique.
When Freud died in 2011, he left the painting to the nation as a thank-you gesture to Britain for welcoming his Jewish family in 1933; they fled Berlin to escape the rise of Nazism in Germany when he was just 11. Freud went on to become one of Britain’s leading painters.