A late masterpiece by British painter Lucian Freud “Portrait on a White Cover” was sold for around Rs 205 crore (almost $30 million) in the Contemporary Evening Sale by art auctioneer Sotheby’s London on Tuesday. The painting is reclining nude of Sophie Lawrence, who worked for Tate publishing and was spotted by Freud whilst preparing for his Tate retrospective in 2002. This is her only known portrait, and was created towards the culmination of Freud’s career. He was 80 years old when he commenced the work, as per Sotheby’s, and he had already achieved almost all that one could as an artist. The painting was created in 2002-03.
It has become the most valuable work by the artist ever to be sold in London, superseding the sale of another of his portraits — “Pregnant Girl” of his expectant lover Bernardine Coverley. This was the auction debut of “Portrait on a White Cover”. Freud is known to paint only those close to him. However, Lawrence was not “one of the artist’s lovers, children, or celebrity friends”.
“All portraits are difficult for me. But a nude presents different challenges. When someone is naked, there is in effect nothing to be hidden. You are stripped of your costume, as it were. Not everyone wants to be that honest about themselves. That means I feel an obligation to be equally honest in how I represent their honesty. It’s a matter of responsibility,” Freud was quoted as saying in Phoebe Hoban’s book, “Lucian Freud: Eyes Wide Open”. The British portraitist died in 2011. The Contemporary Evening Sale saw a number of artworks being sold at record prices, with Freud’s painting leading the auction.