The pale and introvert portraits of the muse that broke Freud’s heart. Lady Caroline Blackwood, despite having suffered a troubled childhood, was the most eligible bachelorette in London and expected to marry affluently. She was introduced to the world of art by Lucian Freud, who she eloped with to Paris in the early 50s. They married a year later while Caroline was in her early twenties, but the marriage only lasted three years at which point she left the artist on account of his gambling and reckless lifestyle. Freud, devastated, was inconsolable and yet the two remained in contact until Caroline’s death.
‘Caroline’s bond with Lucian Freud lasted all her life. In her final illness in 1996, a living wake was arranged in her hotel room in New York, described by one of her friends, Lord Gowrie, as a ‘floating party’. The visitors were interrupted by a transatlantic phone call coming through. It was Lucian Freud; the two of them talked for nearly half an hour, a private last goodbye.’
There could not be a more romantic and melancholic backdrop to an exhibition. The unique style of Freud’s early portraits add to the sombre and reflective air created by both the history behind this small collection of works and their sitter’s generally troubled demeanour, compounded by the pale, insipid yellows of Caroline’s skin and the watery blue-greys Freud uses to depict her large round eyes.
The very familiar and iconic portrait Girl in Bed is shown alongside lesser-known works. The exhibition will include The Sisters, a canvas not previously shown in the UK, depicting the eye of Caroline.
‘Photographic and archival material includes the first public exhibition of the leather-bound notebook Caroline took to her initial sitting for Freud at Delamere Terrace. Freud’s portraits of Caroline Blackwood were thought aggressive at the time, almost brutal in the way that they made a young girl seem old but since then have come to be seen as among the artist’s most tender and beautiful works.’
The Ordovas gallery has a unique commitment to fulfil a public gallery programme staging museum-quality exhibitions alongside being a platform and gallery space for selling 20th century and contemporary art. Their moving subject and selection of works for this exhibition highlights a key point in the life of one of our greatest modern masters, telling the story of his marriage in greater detail and allowing us a rare glimpse into the making of these portraits, brought together on this rare occasion.
Lucian Freud: Girl opened on the 9th June and continues until 1 August at the Ordovas gallery, 25 Savile Row, London, W1S 2ER. For more information go to www.ordovasart.com.
Maxine Kirsty Sapsford, Arts Editor