Anthony Freeman

  • Title: Self Portrait
  • Medium: Oil on board
  • Width: 32cm 12 5/8in
  • Height: 45.5cm 17 7/8in
  • Year of creation: 1960
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Born at Englefield Green in Surrey, Freeman was living nearby in Egham, when Ruth Borchard first wrote to him in April 1959. She had seen paintings by him in the annual ‘Young Contemporaries’ exhibition in London, and went on to buy his self-portrait in November 1960.

After two years National Service and despite strong parental opposition, Anthony Freeman studied at Kingston School of Art from 1956-60 (where the Principal was the painter Reginald Brill, and his teachers included Lionel Bulmer). There he met a fellow student Carol Chapman whom he married in 1962; his portrait of Carol was exhibited in the 1960 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. Their daughter Amanda was born in 1963; aged four, she was the subject of a sensitive sculpture by Freeman.

Born at Englefield Green in Surrey, Freeman was living nearby in Egham, when Ruth Borchard first wrote to him in April 1959. She had seen paintings by him in the annual ‘Young Contemporaries’ exhibition in London, and went on to buy his self-portrait in November 1960.

This 1960 painting, with its palette of black and white, dusty pinks, earthy browns and puce, is a tautly focussed, close-up view of a handsome young painter. The left side of his face is in shadow, the right illumined, yet each of his rather narrow black eyes (the whites of the eyes painted partly blue) is seen to probe the viewer with an unswerving immediacy. It is a penetratingly intelligent, gentle look, with a sceptical edge. The subtle, ingenious interplay of dark and light tones here contributes to the dramatic air of irony and ambiguity which haunts the picture. Freeman loved the work of Gauguin, Picasso and Nicolas de Staël.

For a couple of years in the mid-sixties, Anthony and Carol lived in a room in the Chelsea flat of the painter William Thomson (also represented in Ruth’s collection). He frequented the Chelsea Arts Club and several pubs in the area – such as the Queen’s Elm and the Finch’s – where artists (such as Elisabeth Frink, whose sculptures he much admired) and writers gathered. He worked as a painter from a studio he shared in Putney, and also assisted the sculptor Leon Underwood in the latter’s Hammersmith studio.

In 1976, he started working at Pinewood Studios, where he made impressive sculptures for films such as Star Wars and Greystoke. Freeman has been described as ‘a sensitive, honest person, lovable, charismatic and amusing but troubled. He was completely wrapped up in his work but was sadly unable to promote himself as a painter.’