12 December 2014 // Simcha van Helden //Rotterdam


Girl with a Kitten is one of eight portraits that Lucian Freud made of his first wife, Kathleen Garman (1926–2011), between 1947 and 1951. In this closely cropped composition, in which she is pictured against a beige wall, Garman holds a kitten by its neck in a tense grip, her knuckles especially prominent, seeming to half-strangle the animal without concern. Given that Garman was generally known as Kitty (a short form of Kathleen as well as a familiar term for a kitten), her treatment of the cat rises – and consciously leaves entirely unresolved – questions about her self-image. Garman stares into the middle distance with a pensive expression, while the kitten looks directly at the viewer. Every element in the painting is depicted with equal scrutiny, from the reflections in Garman’s pupils to the static energy of her wavy hair – a precision achieved through the use of fine sable brushes on finely woven canvas. A silvery light suffuses the image, granting the shadows in Garman’s pearl-like skin and the soft blue garment she wears a chill uniformity.

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