Francis Bacon’s Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud will go on sale at Sotheby’s London tomorrow, June 29, and is expected to fetch over £35 million.
The 1964 work is a portrait of Bacon’s friend and contemporary, Lucian Freud. It has been in the same private European collection for 40 years, but is set to be sold at Sotheby’s British Art: The Jubilee Auction, taking place tomorrow.
The considerable excitement about this piece is understandable. In 2013, a triptych by Bacon titled the ‘Three Studies of Lucian Freud’ and dating back to 1969, garnered a whopping $142.4m price tag at Christie’s in New York. At the time, it was the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction.
Freud and Bacon’s relationship was incredibly close, but often complicated. It began in 1944, after fellow painter Graham Sutherland brought them together. Art folklore dictates that the two artists saw each other almost every day for 25 years, acting as each other’s muse. On Freud’s bedroom wall, he reportedly hung Two Figures, a 1953 work by Bacon, known to be one of his darkest. It showed two men wrestling on a bed in a sadomasochistic pose.
In later life, however, the two men fell out, finding each other’s contemporary work ‘ghastly’.
Speaking about the Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud coming to auction, Tom Eddison, senior director of Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s, said: “It is hard to think of two greater artists whose lives and works are so interwoven into the fabric of our consciousness than Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud. At the same time both muses and critics for each other, it was their friendship, respect, rivalry and deep infatuation with one another, which ultimately fuelled their unequivocal artistic talents.”
It is believed that Bacon used photographs taken by the late John Deakin as source material for the 1964 work.