‘What do I ask of a painting? I ask it to astonish, disturb, seduce, convince. One quality these paintings share is that they all make me want to go back to work.’

L. Freud, The Artist’s Eye, exh. cat., London: The National Gallery, June – August 1987, p. 10 

Freud wrote these words in his introduction to the catalogue that accompanied the 1987 Artist’s Eye exhibition, for which he selected his favourite works in the National Gallery collection. The remark gives us a glimpse of what one brilliant artist might learn from another. During his lifetime Freud accumulated a fascinating collection of works by other artists, including his contemporaries Frank Auerbach and Francis Bacon and also Auguste Rodin, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot and Paul Cézanne. There is perhaps something of special significance in the view that one great artist has of another.; in particular, Freud amassed the greatest private collection of paintings and drawings by Auerbach, which was then donated to the nation after his death in 2011. In his home, Freud chose to surround himself with these works by other artists, rather than with his own.

Interior of Lucian Freud’s studio with Courbet’s L’Italienne ou La Femme a la Manche Jaune (c.1870) and Frank Auerbach’s Head of E.O.W. (1955), 2011 (photo)

Interior of Lucian Freud’s studio with Frank Auerbach’s Head of Helen Gillespie, 1962, and E.O.W. Nude (1953-54), Rodin’s Study for Iris, Messenger of the Gods’ (c.1890) and Degas’ Cheval au gallop sur le pied droit (cast 1920-21), 2011 (photo)