Portrait of boy who calmed suicidal Freud set to sell for £4m
Rob Sharp is a freelance journalist specialising in arts and culture. He was on staff at The Independent from July 2007 to December 2011, first as a features writer, and then as the paper’s arts correspondent. He has written for a wide range of newspapers and magazines. For more information visit his website, www.robsharp.com or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday 12 September 2011
A painting by the late Lucian Freud that provides a fresh glimpse into his state of mind during one of the most turbulent periods in his life is expected to fetch £4m when it is sold at auction next month.
The 1952 work, Boy's Head, is one of the most recognisable of Freud's early paintings. It depicts Charlie Lumley, who lived near the artist in Paddington in London when he was a boy, and became one of the artist's most celebrated subjects.
Speaking ahead of the auction, Mr Lumley, now 79, described how he had to "babysit" Freud because Freud's friends, including the painter Francis Bacon, feared for his life. He said Freud was "fraught" because of his relationship with Lady Caroline Blackwood, Freud's wife at the time and another of his subjects.
"Francis [Bacon] said to me, for Christ's sake watch him because I'm afraid he's going to jump off the roof," said Mr Lumley. "So I had to babysit him for a while."
Several months before the painting was made, Freud, who died in July, had eloped to Paris with Lady Caroline, a member of the Guinness dynasty. Sotheby's says the canvas for Boy's Head was made in Paris, suggesting it was purchased by Freud during his flight from London. Lady Caroline was immortalised in Freud's 1952 works Girl in Bed and Girl Reading.
Soon after the artist's stay in Paris Freud returned to his Paddington flat, where he had forged a close relationship with Mr Lumley and his brother Billy.
Mr Lumley said he and Freud would visit nightclubs after periods of sitting at night. "You had to know you were in for a long sitting," he said. "No stops or breaks or things like that. Sometimes he'd do the background so you could relax, or if he was working on the hands you could shut your eyes."
Freud's marriage to Lady Caroline dissolved within several years. She moved to New York to study acting in 1957, and they were divorced.
Mr Lumley said Freud "never stopped talking". "He could converse on anything, you know," he said. "He had a marvellous memory. He could talk about boxing, which I used to talk about a lot, though how he knew about boxing, God only knows."
Michael Macaulay, deputy director of specialist contemporary art at Sotheby's, said buyers' interest in Freud's work had increased since the painter's death. "It's a very recent event and that's usually what happens," he said. "The estimate for this work is extremely realistic, and we are feeling confident."
In 2005 Freud said of this period: "I felt that the only way I could work properly was using absolute maximum observation ... I had a lot of eye trouble."
Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beachart
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Pro-Russian rebel 'admits to shooting down plane'
- 2 Israel has discovered that it's no longer so easy to get away with murder in the age of social media
- 3 Israel-Gaza conflict: The myth of Hamas’s human shields
- 4 Amy Winehouse unpublished 2004 interview: ‘Ten years from now I’ll be 30, so I’ll maybe have one baby’
- 5 Dutch paedophile club to fight their ban at the European Court of Human Rights
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?
Hercules, review: Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson takes centre stage in preposterous film
Fight Club 2: Chuck Palahniuk sequel is a 'meta-fictional comment on the cultural response to the original'
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash: 'Nine Britons, 23 Americans and 80 children' feared dead after Boeing passenger jet is 'shot down' near Ukraine-Russia border
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia