Head of a Man 1991

Artist or maker:
Freud, Lucian (b.1922, d.2011)
Place of production:
London, England, United Kingdom
oil on canvas
Type of object:
Accession number:


This work was made after Lucian Freud painted a more formal full-length portrait of Lord Rothschild ('Man in a Chair', 1989, National Portrait Gallery, London). The face is seen close-up and from a high viewpoint.

Freud’s original title for the portrait was 'Head of a Man', which suggests the unsettlingly close scrutiny of a form in flesh rather than the portrait of a well-known individual. The artist has said: ‘as far as I am concerned the paint is the person. I want it to work for me just as the flesh does’.

The colours and textures of the flesh are varied and were built up over a long time, in contrast to the background and clothes, which are flatter and more thinly painted. Seeing the face from above gives prominence to the sitter’s forehead, which is articulated by thickly impasted paint framing a smoother central area. A horizontal sweep of pigment above the eyebrows echoes the sweeps of similar pigment that form the eyelids. The high viewpoint means that the sitter does not look directly at the viewer, but seem to look downwards, creating a sense of introspection, even vulnerability.

The artist did not make preparatory drawings and the portrait was started immediately on the canvas. Lord Rothschild recalls that Freud did not like showing his work in progress so ‘I used to dart round whenever he left the room to have a look at the canvas.’

Juliet Carey, 2012

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
508 x 406
505 x 405 - sight
Signature & date:
not signed or dated


Purchased from the artist by a Rothschild Family Trust, 1991.
Exhibition history:
Characters: Portraits and People from the Arts Council Collection; Holburne Museum Bath 12 October 2013 to 7 January 2014
Waddesdon (Rothschild Family)
On loan since 1995



Selma Schwartz; Waddesdon Manor Guide; Waddesdon; Waddesdon Manor; 1996; p. 57, ill.
Michael Hall, An Acquisitive Gene: Lord Rothschild's Collecting for Waddesdon, Apollo, July 2007-August 2007, 44-49; p. 45, fig. 2.
Margy Kinmonth, The Baron's Birthday, The Lady, 224, 22 June 2010, 48-51; p. 51, ill.

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