Art Fund buys award-winning portrait of Freud's first wife

  • 22 May 2007

An extraordinary portrayal of Lucien Freud's first wife has been bought for The New Art Gallery Walsall, by The Art Fund. The triptych by Andrew Tift won the National Portrait Gallery's BP Portrait Award in 2006.

The Art Fund paid £15,000 for the portrait, which goes on display to the public later this week.

Portrait of Kitty, 2006, is a triptych in acrylic featuring Lucien Freud’s first wife, Kitty Godley. Kitty, now 80, was married to Freud from 1948 to 1953 and is the mother of two of his daughters, Annie and Annabel.

Freud painted Kitty many times - most memorably in Girl with white dog (1950-51) now in Tate’s collection. The daughter of sculptor Jacob Epstein and Kathleen Garman, Kitty is originally from a small village just outside Walsall.

Tift, who was born and still lives in Walsall, is a figurative realist painter who specialises in portraiture. His past commissions include a portrait of Rt Hon Tony Benn MP in the House of Commons Collection and Neil and Glenys Kinnock in the National Portrait Gallery Collection.

He became fascinated by Kitty’s face during a visit she made to the gallery in 2000 - her striking features and the changes that the passage of time had made to her face since her husband Lucian Freud painted her portrait in the 40s and 50s. Via a contact at the gallery, he managed to negotiate a day’s photographic session with Kitty - an intensely private person - at her home.

The portrait aims to capture the subject in a natural state, as if in mid-conversation, capturing her expressions as thoughts are formulated. The highly detailed portrait is painted in monochrome – its’ style was inspired by John Freeman’s Face to Face television interview series from the 1960’s. Filmed in black and white, the camera scrutinises the interviewee in intense microscopic detail from different angles.

On June 30 Andrew Tift will be speaking ‘In Conversation’ with Collections Curator Jo Digger at the New Art Gallery. To reserve a free place call 01922 654400.

Related Links:

New Art Gallery Walsall