NAKED GIRL WITH EGG 1980/81
Lucian Freud (1922 – 2011)
- 75 X 60.5 CM
- OIL ON CANVAS
- Accession number
On first sight, the egg included in this painting looks back to the wilfully strange Surrealist juxtapositions Lucian Freud was experimenting with forty years earlier. It makes the title sound almost like a menu, with its contents laid out as if for consumption. Their combination, however, puts appetite off its stride, and, despite the frankness of its nudity, this is not an erotic painting. To Peter Conrad, led by Freud’s portraits of pregnant women, it is expressive of Freud’s interest in the invisible processes masked by female genitalia; it “turns the body inside out and drags the mystery into daylight.”
“A naked girl lounges on a bed; beside her on a table is a dish containing a boiled egg, sliced in half. A fearfully symmetrical breakfast awaits her, looking up at us like a pair of eyes, with the two staring gobbets of yolk set in circles of globular white […] could anything in the world be more alarming than such a capsule of fertility, killed by boiling water and then cut down the middle by a knife?” 
The location is Freud’s studio, and these “eyes” observe us from a table that, at some point, has had excess paint wiped on it. In miniature, the table anticipates the paint-daubed apron that stands out of Painter and Model (1986-7, Astrup fearley Museum, Oslo); or rather, doesn’t. Such is the unrealistic flatness with which it mimics the texture of the palette Freud would have been holding in front of it. The wearer is the painter Celia Paul, one of his students during a period as a visiting tutor at the Slade School of Art in the late 1970s; her foot presses on a tube of paint and squeezes it out, and her hand holds a brush inches from the foot of the naked model, Angus Cook. William Feaver reports that Freud painted out the easel that originally stood in the way,  creating a gap that echoes that between Adam and God’s hands in Michaelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. Just like the bisected egg, or the resting painter, a creative energy has been stilled in paint for us to examine.
Importantly, given the quality of nudity in Freud, it is creation without sex, a sort of Immaculate Conception, which perhaps contributed to Feaver’s suggestion that Painter and Model “almost qualifies as an Annunciation”. It is Celia Paul, here, who is the Archangel Gabriel, however.
Also in 1981, she sat alongside some of Freud’s children – also his “conceptions” – as one of the characters in Large Interior W.11 (after Watteau)(1981/3). In recasting Watteau’s Pierrot Content (1712), a tableau based on the stylised, theatrical emotion of the commedia dell’arte, Freud was making his most sustained art-historical reference to date. Robert Hughes maintains, however, that the faces – bored rather than theatrically-expressive – prove him to be “a realist to the root [painting] once again the condition of posing for an artist over a long period of time.”
As in Girl with Egg, the expressions are consistent with the Freud’s belief that “the head must be just another limb.” They are also consistent with an essential respect for, but pragmatism about his models’ humanity; “the painting is always done with their co-operation”, he continues. As a painter, Celia Paul afforded Freud the opportunity to paint about painting from a different angle to his portraits of Francis Bacon (1952), Frank Auerbach (1976) or himself.
Tom Overton, 2010.
 Peter Conrad, ‘The Naked and the Living’, The Observer, 9th June 2002.
 William Feaver, Lucian Freud (NY: Rizzoli, 2007), p.39.
 Robert Hughes, Lucian Freud: Paintings (London: Thames & Hudson, 1987), p.24.
 Ibid, p.20.