Francis Bacon’s painting of Lucian Freud is set to go under the hammer with a £35million price tag

Francis Bacon’s painting of Lucian Freud is set to go under the hammer with a guide price of £35m after six decades in a private collection

  • Francis Bacon painted friend Lucien Freud obsessively throughout the 1960s
  • The play was private for 40 years and not seen in public for nearly six decades
  • Sotheby’s said: “In this single portrait we bear witness to a masterpiece”

A painting by Francis Bacon is set to go up for auction later this month,

The Lucian Freud portrait is set to fetch over £35million on June 29 at a live auction.

The painting titled Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud has been held in a European private collection for 40 years and has not been seen in public since 1965.

Francis Bacon’s three-panel painting Three Studies Of Lucian Freud became the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction when Roman Abramovich paid £43million for Bacon’s triptych, from 1976 to 2008 .

Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud by Francis Bacon originally published as a triptych

The black-and-white photographs of mutual friend John Deakin became Bacon's main source for his frequent paintings of Freud throughout their 40-year friendship.

The black-and-white photographs of mutual friend John Deakin became Bacon’s main source for his frequent paintings of Freud throughout their 40-year friendship.

It was painted by Francis Bacon in 1964 from a photograph taken by John Deakin of Lucien Freud.

THE LIFE OF FRANCIS BACON

Bacon (1909-1992) was born in Dublin to English parents and moved to London in 1926.

Although he had no formal training as an artist, he began exhibiting his work in the 1930s and a decade later his anguished paintings of twisted and mutating forms became a sensation in the art community.

He died of a heart attack in Madrid in 1992.

Today his work is among the most popular 20th century art at auction.

Of the friendship, Sothebys said, “It is hard to think of two greater artists whose lives and works are so intertwined in the fabric of our consciousness than Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud.”

Sotheby’s British Art: Jubilee Auction is selling the piece that is the central panel of a large-scale triptych.

The piece was last shown in a traveling exhibition in Hamburg, Stockholm and Dublin six decades ago.

Prior to the completion of the study for the portrait of Lucian Freud, the couple had a strong 20-year friendship which ended in the mid-1980s.

During their 40-year friendship, the two artists painted each other several times.

Freud liked to paint from real life and Bacon preferred to work from photographs.

Portrait of Francis Bacon was fiery from the National Gallery in Berlin 30 years ago Photo: Francis Bacon and Lucien Freud

Portrait of Francis Bacon was fiery from the National Gallery in Berlin 30 years ago Photo: Francis Bacon and Lucien Freud

For Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud, Bacon worked from a photo of Freud sitting on a bed, his fists clenched, the sleeves of his white shirt rolled up above his elbows.

John Deakin’s black and white photographs became Bacon’s primary source when he frequently painted Freud throughout the 1960s.

Sotheby’s said Francis Bacon kept the photographs with him for the rest of his life, but they were found torn, crumpled and spattered with paint after his death in 1992.

Expensive: Francis Bacon's three-panel painting Three Studies Of Lucian Freud, pictured, became the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction when it sold for $142.4 million at Christie's

Expensive: Francis Bacon’s three-panel painting Three Studies Of Lucian Freud, pictured, became the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction when it sold for $142.4 million at Christie’s

The easel does: Triptych 1976, by Francis Bacon (1909-1992), purchased by Roman Abramovich in 2008

The easel does: Triptych 1976, by Francis Bacon (1909-1992), purchased by Roman Abramovich in 2008

Senior Director of Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s, Tom Eddison, said: “In this single portrait, we bear witness to a masterpiece, illuminating the deep and complex relationship between two titans of the 20th century.

“At once muses and critics for each other, it was their friendship, respect, rivalry and deep infatuation with each other that ultimately fueled their unequivocal artistic talents.

“Executed with painterly bravery at the height of Bacon’s acclaim, here we see a portrait that vibrates with an intensity, a tension that reflects the emotions that have bonded these two sparring partners for more than four decades.

“Now, having remained completely invisible to the public for 57 years, this remarkable portrait will return to London as the highlight of the summer auction season.”

How the theft of a Francis Bacon portrait is linked to the Krays

In the 1960s, Bacon fraternized with gangsters, including Ronnie Kray.

The Portrait of Francis Bacon disappeared from the National Gallery in Berlin 30 years ago.

The Mail on Sunday revealed Bacon received a ransom demand in 1989 and was close to getting the job back – only to have the operation destroyed by police error.

Barry Joule, Bacon’s neighbor in South Kensington, said the entertainer got a call from a “tough guy from the East End, probably an associate of the Krays”.

Joule recalls: ‘[The gangster] told him: ‘If you want your face shot back, put together £100,000 and wait on the phone for a call at noon exactly.’ ‘

‘Sweaty and nervous’ Bacon stuffed £140,000 into a satchel.

He was “completely opposed” to contacting the police, so he told the Tate Gallery, which bought the piece in 1952 and loaned it to the German museum in 1988 where it was stolen.

They waited for the noon roll call, but it never came.

Later, the pair spotted “three plainclothes policemen” with their “heads buried in newspapers.”

Bacon angrily shouted at the officers, convinced the mobsters had seen them.

Afterwards, Bacon “remained paranoid that the Krays and their associates would be ‘ready to take me to the police,'”

Joule said, “If it hadn’t been for the police sitting in their car right outside the building, Francis might have recovered the stolen painting.”

Bacon talked about “how much the police have dropped in my estimate”.

He then showered Berlin with ‘Wanted’ posters of the stolen image, offering a £100,000 reward for its recovery.

About Catharine C. Bean

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