A Francis Bacon painting of Lucian Freud has sold for a record-breaking £43.4 million at auction.‘Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud’ by Francis Bacon
The work, Study For Portrait Of Lucian Freud, had not been seen in public for almost 60 years and was owned by the same person – described by Sotheby’s as a “distinguished European collector” for four decades.
It was originally estimated to make £35 million before it went under the hammer at the auction house,
The artwork was painted by Bacon in 1964 and based on a photograph of his contemporary and great friend Freud, taken in the same year by their mutual friend John Deakin.
It was last seen on display in 1965 when it was on show as the central panel of a large-scale triptych as part of a travelling exhibition to Hamburg and Stockholm.
The piece was also displayed on its own in Dublin in the same year.
Bacon separated the three individual works of the triptych shortly after they were created, with the left-hand panel in a private collection and the right-hand piece belonging to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
Bacon and Freud had been friends for 20 year prior to Bacon’s creation of Study For Portrait Of Lucian Freud and shared a friendship for over 40 years, before relations soured and the relationship ended in the mid-1980s.
Both artists painted each other on numerous occasions, with Freud often painting from real-life and Bacon preferring to work from photographs.
In the instance of Study For Portrait Of Lucian Freud, Bacon used an image of Freud sitting on a bed with his arms outstretched, fists clenched and white sleeves rolled up above the elbows.
The black and white photographs taken by photographer Deakin became Bacon’s primary source material as he painted Freud obsessively in the 1960s.
Bacon kept the photographs with him for the rest of his life, and they were rediscovered torn, crumpled and splattered with paint in his studio following his death in 1992, Sotheby’s said.
Ahead of the portrait’s sale, senior director of contemporary art at Sotheby’s, Tom Eddison, described the work as being “executed with painterly bravura at the height of Bacon’s acclaim”.
He also stated that the painting “pulsates with an intensity, a tension that mirrors the emotions which bonded these two sparring partners (Bacon and Freud) together for over four decades”.