Rare Pairing of Portraits of Lucian Freud’s Daughters Heads to Auction

The artist reconnected with them in their twenties.

Lucian Freud, Head of Esther (1983) and Head of Ib (1983–84). Photo: courtesy Christie's.
Lucian Freud, Head of Esther (1983) and Head of Ib (1983–84). Photo: courtesy Christie's.
Lucian Freud, Head of Esther (1983). Photo: courtesy Christie's.

Lucian Freud, Head of Esther (1983).
Photo: courtesy Christie’s.

Prospective buyers at the post-war and contemporary art evening auction on February 11 at Christie’s in London will have the chance to view two of Lucian Freud’s daughters in an arrangement only seen in his major retrospectives.

“Never have we seen two small portraits of this quality [at auction],” Christie’s chairman Francis Outred said in a statement. At the time, the artist was reconnecting with his two daughters, who were then in their early 20s.  “He carves and caresses them through the medium of paint,” Outred wrote in an email to artnet News.

Head of Esther (1983) depicts Esther, born in 1963 to Bernardine Coverley, while Head of Ib (1983–84) is a portrait of Suzy Boyt’s daughter, Isobel, born in 1961. Both paintings carry a pre-sale estimate of £2.5 million–3.5 million ($3.5 million–5 million). The two works date from a time where Freud was receiving widespread recognition for his work, being honored as a commander of the British Empire and hailed, alongside Francis Bacon, as the father of the “New Figuration” movement.

Lucian Freud, and Head of Ib (1983–84). Photo: courtesy Christie's.

Lucian Freud, and Head of Ib (1983–84).
Photo: courtesy Christie’s.

“I only ever paint the people who are close to me. And who closer than my children?” the artist was quoted as saying in L. Gowing’s 1982 book, Lucian Freud.

A notorious womanizer (who also wrote love letters to poet and critic Stephen Spender as a young man), Freud actually had no less than 14 children by six different women. Married two times, Freud triggered a bitter inheritance battle by leaving four of his illegitimate offspring out of his will when he died in 2011.

Lucian Freud in 2010 Photo: Stephan Agostini/AFP/Getty

Lucian Freud in 2010.
Photo: Stephan Agostini.

Outred called the works “jewels that date from arguably the most important moment of his career,” in a statement.

The two paintings have been shown together in major retrospectives of Freud’s work at the National Portrait Gallery in London (2012); Tate Britain, London (2002–03), and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC (1988). Prior to the upcoming auction, the portraits will be displayed at Christie’s Rockefeller Center location in New York from January 15–20.

In addition to Freud, the sale will feature Francis Bacon’s Two Figures, the artist’s memorial to George Dyer, as well as works by David Hockney and Peter Doig.


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