Encarnation in the Square depicts Freud’s daughter Annie rehearsing a play of the same name, for which they intended the drawing as an advertisement poster but after several rehearsals the play was never performed. William Feaver, author of The Lives of Lucian Freud, remarked that Freud purportedly provided effusive advice on Annie’s rehearsals as well as producing several flyers for her various performances, of which very few survive. Some years later, Freud used the drawing as a basis for a poster design for his exhibition at the Hayward Gallery in 1974. The drawing was gifted to Annie on her graduation and later returned to Lucian who sold it to Raymond Jones, ‘The Man with the Rat’, a sitter and friend of Lucian, renowned for his nude portrait with a rat by the artist.
Born in Berlin in 1922, the grandson of psychologist Sigmund Freud, Freud moved with his family to London in 1933 to avoid the persecution of the Jews in Germany under the Nazi regime. He attended the Central School of Art and Goldsmiths College, befriending Francis Bacon and associating with a group of figurative artists working in London during the late 1940s. He is known for his unswervingly confrontational approach to nudes and portraits, depicting his sitters’ hyperbolised imperfections in thick impasto. Painted under intense direct observation, usually over the course of many sittings, Freud scrutinised his sitters, imbuing his pictures with a distinctive psychological space: “The longer you look at an object, the more abstract it becomes and, ironically, the more real.”
In 1983 Freud was appointed a Companion of Honour, and a member of the Order of Merit in 1993. Today, his works are held in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Tate Gallery in London, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid, among others.