Martin Gayford on the Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud
Bloomberg‘s critic explores the relationship. Christie’s is selling Freud’s unfinished portrait of Bacon but Gayford reminds us of the completed portrait that was stolen 20 years ago:
Freud’s lost portrait of Bacon (1952) was — and one hopes, still is, wherever it is hidden — a masterpiece. “I saw a lot of him at that time,” Freud told me in 2001, “and we were very friendly, so it was natural for me to paint him.” In comparison with Bacon’s own methods — generally he worked from photographs — Freud’s paintings require an enormous investment of time from his model. [ . . . ]
In an attempt to recover the lost portrait, Freud designed a “wanted” poster (an example is on show at the Hazlitt Holland-Hibbert Gallery), which was distributed in Germany seven years ago, sadly with no success.
The later portrait of 1956-57 that is going to be auctioned is only the beginning of a picture. Still, because of Freud’s unusual technique Bacon’s face is almost complete. Freud tends to begin at a point and work outwards. In this case, when Freud had reached the fringe of his hair and the lower edge of his face, Bacon suddenly disappeared, probably on a jaunt to Tangier, leaving the picture a brooding fragment. Even so, it is a powerful record of one of the most intriguing pairings in 20th- century art.