Rare Lucian Freud Portrait Once Owned by George Orwell’s Wife Goes to Auction

It's the only Freud self-portrait to also feature his wife.

Lucian Freud, Flyda and Arvid (1947). Photo: Courtesy Sotheby's.

Flyda and Arvid, a psychedelic Lucian Freud self-portrait featuring his wife, Kathleen “Kitty” Garman, will go to auction at Sotheby’s London on November 17 after being held in a private collection for decades. It is believed to be Freud’s only self-portrait that also features his spouse, and is estimated between £600,000–800,000 ($913,662–1.2 million).

Freud produced the drawing in 1947 and later gifted it to his close friend Sonia Brownell, the second wife of famed writer George Orwell, who is thought to have served as the inspiration for the character Julia in Orwell’s masterpiece Nineteen Eighty-Four. Brownell kept the drawing until her death in 1980, and it has since been passed down through her family.

“This has not been seen since 1948,” Sotheby’s director Simon Hucker told the Guardian. “It’s not in any of the books, it has just been in Sonia’s family’s collection—nobody has really known about it, nobody has managed to find it, it has just been off the radar.”

The sketch was initially commissioned for a book by French author Marie Bonaparte, who was a disciple of Sigmund Freud and took to the idea of using his grandson to illustrate her book. However, the project fell apart, leaving Freud with five drawings which he included in a small solo show in 1948 before gifting one to Brownell.

While this is the only known portrait of the couple, Garman often served as Freud’s muse. He painted her eight times between 1947 and 1951, including in notable works like Girl with a Kitten (1947) and Portrait of Kitty (1948-49).

Lucian Freud, Girl with a Kitten (1947). Photo: Tate.

Lucian Freud, Girl with a Kitten (1947).
Photo: Courtesy of Tate.org.uk.

Rumors have swirled for years that perhaps there was more to Freud’s relationship with Brownell than friendship, but Hucker believes intentions were pure on both sides, especially seeing as the portrait Freud chose to gift her was one featuring his wife.

“Lucian and Sonia would have…been part of the Soho and Fitzrovia drinking and literary set. Freud was also, of course, good friends with Francis Bacon and I suspect the three of them went out on the tiles.”

Flyda and Arvid will be featured in Sotheby’s Modern & Post-War British Art Sale on November 17.


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