The Egyptian Book

Lucian Freud

Freud was drawn to Egyptian sculpture made during the reign of Akhenaten (1353–1336 b.c.), who decreed that the visual arts should move toward naturalism and away from hieratic representation. This etching shows photographs from J. H. Breasted’s Geschichte Aegyptens (History of Egypt, 1936). The two sculpted heads were discovered in the workshop of Thutmose, the pharaoh’s chief sculptor, during an early twentieth-century excavation of Tell el-Amarna. Freud received a copy of the book in 1939 when he was sixteen and newly enrolled in art school. He featured his prized possession with its worn binding and creased pages, opened to the two sculptures in numerous works and staged in locations and poses normally occupied by models, such as flat on a bed or upright in an old leather chair. The book appears in related paintings, such as Still Life with Book, Oil on canvas, 1991-1992.

The installation view with another painting showing was taken at the Freud Museum, London during the exhibition Lucian Freud: The Painter and his Family, July 2022.

An impression of this etching is held in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, and the National Galleries of Scotland.

Lucian Freud (1922-2011)
The Egyptian Book
Etching, on T.H.S. Saunders wove paper
18 ¼ x 16 ¾ in : 46.3 x 42.5 cm
Framed size
21 ¼ x 19 ¼ in : 54.3 by 50.5 cm
From the edition of 40, signed and numbered by the artist
Marc Balakjian at Studio Prints, London
Matthew Marks Gallery, New York
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," May 5, 1998–September 14, 1998 (another impression exhibited)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," June 23, 2015–September 28, 2015 (another impression exhibited)
Craig Hartley, The Etchings of Lucian Freud: A Catalogue Raisonne 1946-1995, Marlborough Fine Art, London, 1995, cat no.49
David Cohen (intro.), Lucian Freud, Etchings from the Paine Webber Art Collection, Yale Centre for British Art, touring exhibition catalogue, 1999, cat no.36, illus b/w p.68
Craig Hartley, Lucian Freud, Etchings 1946-2004, National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, 2004, touring exhibition catalogue, cat no.41, illus b/w frontispiece
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