Lucian Freud. Large Head. 1993

Lucian Freud Large Head 1993

  • Not on view

The large man depicted here with great intensity and keen observation is Leigh Bowery, a favorite model of the German-born British artist and grandson of Sigmund Freud. Bowery's brief career as a brilliant but abrasive performance artist was cut short by his early death in 1995. He performed mainly in London, where Freud first saw him, but he also appeared in New York and elsewhere. His distinctive physiognomy and massive physicality attracted Freud, who depicted Bowery in a series of paintings and prints over a period of four years. The calm repose of the figure seen here contrasts sharply with more provocative and disturbing representations of this brash eccentric artist, as shown in several large paintings.

Freud is not a traditional printmaker. Instead, he treats the etching plate like a canvas, standing the copper upright on an easel. He delineates his meticulously rendered composition across the plate, working day after day until the tightly woven representation is complete. The image is created with lines alone, which intersect, swell, and recede.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 326.

Lucian Freud is among the foremost figurative artists working today. In a career spanning more than six decades, he has redefined portraiture and the nude through his dispassionate and unblinking scrutiny of the human body. His paintings exhibit his fascination with awkwardness and his search for an anti-ideal. Breaks in perspective and seemingly unnatural distortions often render his compositions graceless. Yet these scrupulously observed depictions of Freud's family, friends, and fellow artists display an iconic power unique in contemporary art. Freud made his first etchings in 1946 and then did not touch the medium again until 1982. His rediscovery of etching unleashed an intensive period of printmaking that has resulted in sixty-four prints to date, and, since 1988, all have been made with the same London printer, Marc Balakjian of the Studio Prints workshop. Freud works directly on the copperplates at an easel while his sitters pose. One of his favorite subjects, the Australian performance artist Leigh Bowery, who died in 1995, is depicted in Large Head. The medium has usurped the role of drawing and become integral to his overall work. In fact, printed images often precede painted renderings. Freud's prints are distinguished by their penetrating psychological tension and radical compositional arrangements. Paring down to essentials of line, he achieves a degree of abstraction by eliminating any background or context for his figures. In Lord Goodman in His Yellow Pyjamas, Freud positions the viewer slightly below the face of Lord Goodman, a renowned British lawyer, to enhance the looming confrontational effect, and uses a variety of etched lines to suggest the aging figure's sagging cheeks and scruffy unshaven look. In Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, Freud creates one of his most frank and unnerving images of nakedness. The resulting tension between the physicality of the figure and the flat plane of the paper gives this subject its disturbing impact.

Publication excerpt from an essay by Wendy Weitman, in Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 226.
plate: 27 5/16 x 21 1/2" (69.4 x 54.6 cm); sheet: 31 1/4 x 25" (79.4 x 63.5 cm)
Matthew Marks Gallery, New York
Marc Balakjian at Studio Prints, London
40, plus 12 artist's proofs
Mrs. Akio Morita Fund
Object number
© 2019 Lucian Freud
Drawings and Prints

Installation views

MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos.

If you notice an error, please contact us at

If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

All requests to license audio or video footage produced by MoMA should be addressed to Scala Archives at Motion picture film stills or motion picture footage from films in MoMA's Film Collection cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For licensing motion picture film footage it is advised to apply directly to the copyright holders. For access to motion picture film stills please contact the Film Study Center. More information is also available about the film collection and the Circulating Film and Video Library.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication or, please email If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to

This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to