Lucian Freud (1922-2011)
Lucian Freud (1922-2011)

Francis Bacon

Lucian Freud (1922-2011)
Francis Bacon
conté crayon on paper
21½ x 16¾in. (54.7 x 43cm.)
Executed in 1951
The Hon. Garech Domnagh Browne, Ireland (acquired directly from the artist in the 1950s).
Thence by descent to the present owner.
W. Feaver, Lucian Freud, New York 2007, p. 472, no. 69 (illustrated in colour, p. 105).
M. Holborn (ed.), Lucian Freud On Paper, London 2008, p. 267, no. 101 (illustrated, p. 165).
Dublin, Irish Museum of Modern Art, The Moderns: The Arts in Ireland from the 1900s to the 1970s, 2011, p. 580, no. 99 (illustrated in colour, p. 163).
London, Blain Southern Gallery, Lucian Freud Drawings, 2012, p. 215, no. 66 (illustrated in colour, p. 121 and p. 215). This exhibition later travelled to New York, Acquavella Galleries.
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
This work will be included in the forthcoming publication of the Lucian Freud catalogue raisonné.


‘[Bacon] had a very interesting, asymmetrical face. Everyone thought of him as a blur; but he had a very specific face. I remember wanting to bring Bacon out from behind the blur. I wanted to know him not just as an art world person, but as ... I don’t know ... as a friend I suppose. I have often painted people because I want to know them’
–Lucian Freud



‘Francis always said that Lucian was the most entertaining and stimulating person he knew’
–David Sylvester

Rendered with intense precision and an impeccable control of line, Lucian Freud’s exquisite pencil studies of Francis Bacon are among the most intimate records of one of the twentieth century’s greatest artistic relationships. Unseen in public until 2011, they were acquired directly from the artist during the 1950s by the distinguished Irish collector and cultural patron the Hon. Garech Browne: a friend and supporter of both Bacon and Freud, and cousin of the latter’s second wife Lady Caroline Blackwood. Executed in 1951, the present two works belong to an outstanding group of three studies that represent Freud’s first depictions of Bacon, prefiguring the masterful painterly portraits of one another that would punctuate the artists’ respective practices. Like the sparring between Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, or the rivalry between Titian and Tintoretto, the turbulent dialogue between Bacon and Freud changed the course of art history, transforming the traditions of figurative painting in the post-War period. The present drawings depict Bacon in a spontaneous moment of characteristic irreverence: flies and shirt unbuttoned, eyes downcast, hips flexed and chest bared. We also catch a glimpse of Freud: the careful draughtsman and astute observationist, who not only registers Bacon’s likeness, but also captures a flickering vulnerability behind his ostentatious pose. In these two works, unlike their companion, Freud’s depiction of Bacon fills the entire page, his form extending to the very edge of the paper. Despite the delicacy and lightness of his touch, the line is assured and confident, tracing the contours of its subject with the deft economy of means that defines Freud’s graphic practice.

Bacon and Freud were introduced by the painter Graham Sutherland in 1945. As Freud later recounted, ‘I said rather tactlessly to Graham “who do you think is the best painter in England?” and he said “Oh, someone you’ve never heard of; he’s like a cross between Vuillard and Picasso; he’s never shown and he has the most extraordinary life; we sometimes go to dinner parties there”’ (L. Freud, quoted in W. Feaver, Lucian Freud, exh. cat., Tate Britain, London, 2002, p. 26). Sutherland invited the painters to visit him and his wife in the countryside, and the two travelled together from Victoria Station. They quickly struck up a rapport, imbibing the spirit of post-War London through their shared fondness for the decadent temptations of Soho. Throughout the 1950s, the two were inseparable: Freud found great inspiration in Bacon’s impulsive painterly language while Bacon appreciated his companion’s witty vitality. Both artists shared a fascination for the ‘human comedy’, exchanging gossip and observations in between bouts of gambling. Frequenting Wheeler’s, the Gargoyle and the Colony Room on an almost daily basis, the two painters were fully ensconced in each other’s lives. As Lady Caroline recalled, ‘I had dinner with [Francis Bacon] nearly every night for more or less the whole of my marriage to Lucian. We also had lunch’ (C. Blackwood, quoted in M. Peppiatt, Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma, London 1996, pp. 192-193).

It was during this period that Browne – then a young boy – first came to know the two artists. A member of the extended Guinness family, via his mother Oonagh, he first met Freud at the age of twelve, during the early years of the artist’s marriage to Lady Caroline. The couple had eloped to Paris in 1952, and were wed the following year; they would divorce by the end of the decade. Through Freud, Browne was introduced to Bacon, and by extension the thrilling haunts of 1950s London. ‘I remember well my years in Soho’, he recalled, ‘even sometimes with my younger brother Tara, who inspired the Beatles song A Day in the Life. We often went to the Gaston Berlemont’s French pub, officially called the York Minster, and had lunch with Francis, my first cousin Caroline Blackwood (then Caroline Freud) and Lucian in Wheelers restaurant, with my mother. We would then proceed to the Colony Club where the proprietress Muriel Belcher, one of the three known women Bacon ever painted, told me I was the only “member” ever allowed in under the age of 12. Later, Lucian would take me to the Gargoyle Club where Johnny Minton, Francis Bacon and Stephen Spender were often to be found. I would not be allowed in by the bouncers, so Lucian would put me under his long overcoat and I walked on his feet to gain entry … Many of the inmates were to be painted by both Francis and Lucian’ (G. Browne, quoted at index.asp?int_sec=2&int_new=26315&b=kunsthall#.W3a5jM5Ki70 [accessed 17 August 2018]). Browne would go on to acquire works by both Freud and Bacon, including the latter’s 1969 Portrait of Henrietta Moraes – another mutual friend.

Over the course of his life, Browne – widely known by his Irish name Garech de Brún - became a passionate collector and supporter of the arts. In 1959, he co-founded Claddagh Records: a label devoted to traditional Irish music and spoken word, whose activities played a significant role in the revival of Celtic folk genres during this period. He oversaw the formation of legendary Irish band The Chieftains, and recorded a number of poets including Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes and Robert Graves, as well as Samuel Beckett read by Jack MacGowran. Each album produced by the label featured specially commissioned sleeve notes, with artwork by artists such as Louis le Brocquy. Browne also oversaw the care and renovation of his family estate at Luggala in the Wicklow mountains, which became a thriving cultural centre. Under his direction, the eighteenth-century shooting lodge was restored and refurbished to its original splendour, with family photos and visitor books carefully archived. It remains one of Ireland’s best-maintained historic houses; John Boorman chose the lodge as the setting for his 1981 film Excalibur. From the 1960s onwards, Browne’s fabled parties at Luggala were attended by the biggest names in music, theatre and literature: from Mick Jagger, Chrissie Shrimpton and Brian Jones during the heyday of Swinging London, to figures such as Marianne Faithfull, Bono, Michael Jackson, John Hurt, Patrick Kavanagh and Brendan Behan. ‘For one weekend’, writes Paul Howard, ‘the world capital of cool was transported to a remote corner of the Irish countryside’ (P. Howard, quoted in [acccessed 17 August 2018]).

The present works mark the dawn of the reciprocal portrait practice that would come to define the relationship between Bacon and Freud. Following Bacon’s Portrait of Lucian Freud (1951, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester) – the first of his paintings to name its subject – Freud returned the favour one evening at Clifton Hill. Recalling the event, William Feaver recounts how Bacon ‘undid his shirt buttons and flies, stuck his stomach out, flexed his hips and said “I think you ought to do this because I think it’s rather important here.” Freud drew him three times in that catwalk pose: three sketches latching on to the quips of body language that Bacon was so brilliant at swiping from newspaper photos and the like. Bared hips, the deferential nape of a neck, flinching eye contact, the inertia of despair or deep sleep were Bacon’s forte; for Freud such inroads of vision and expression were enticing potential’ (W. Feaver, Lucian Freud: Drawings, exh. cat., Blain Southern, London, 2012, p. 14-15). The resulting works bear witness to Freud’s graphic practice at the peak of its development. The present two works, in particular, appear to zoom in on their subject, creating a closely-cropped intimacy that would come to define his later small-format portrait heads. Freud’s line – almost calligraphic in its controlled simplicity – has a sharply analytical quality, tracing and retracing his subject in attempt to distil the very essence of his physical character.

The following year, Freud captured Bacon again – this time in paint. The work has achieved almost mythic status – not only for its piercing scrutiny but also for its tragic fate. Originally intended for the wall of Wheeler’s restaurant, the work was later acquired by the Tate collection, but was stolen during Freud’s retrospective in Berlin in 1988. The artist described how he and Bacon sat knee to knee for two or three months until the painting was finished. ‘As I did in many early portraits, I sat very close to him, face to face’, he recalls; ‘... he had a very interesting, asymmetrical face. Everyone thought of him as a blur; but he had a very specific face. I remember wanting to bring Bacon out from behind the blur. I wanted to know him not just as an art world person, but as ... I don’t know ... as a friend I suppose. I have often painted people because I want to know them’ (L. Freud, ‘Interview with M. Auping, in Lucian Freud: Portraits, exh. cat., National Portrait Gallery, London, 2012, p. 209). The painting was much admired, even by Bacon – a notorious critic. Lawrence Gowing described it as ‘quite unobtrusive, yet biting like a serpent when it caught you, exerting the transfixing spell of an image that is tantamount to the thing itself’ (L. Gowing, Lucian Freud, London 1984, pp. 67-8).

Following the paintings and drawings of 1951 and 1952, and a further unfinished portrait of Bacon by Freud in 1956-57, the two artists did not paint each other again until 1964. It was Bacon who initiated the revival with his Double Portrait of Lucian Freud and Frank Auerbach – the only existing work of the two contemporaries – which now hangs in the Moderna Museet, Stockholm. Bacon subsequently embarked upon his second large-scale triptych using Freud as his exclusive subject. This work, now forever disassembled, exists between the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art and a private collection. By this point, the lives of the two artists were becoming increasingly intertwined: Freud painted Bacon’s beloved George Dyer on a number of occasions, whilst Bacon painted Freud fourteen times between 1964 and 1971, including two small panels, four large panels (one destroyed), two small triptychs and three large triptychs, including the 1969 masterpiece Three Studies of Lucian Freud. Though the friendship between the two artists later cooled, the force of their relationship continued to reverberate throughout their practices. Indeed, as David Sylvester recounts, ‘Francis always said that Lucian was the most entertaining and stimulating person he knew. And whatever ambivalence, he made no pretence that he very much minded the gap in his life when in later years Lucian stopped ringing up’ (D. Sylvester, ‘All the Pulsations of a Person’, The Independent, October 24 1993).

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