In a convenient coincidence that echoes the case against Peter Doig, the BBC’s Fake or Fortune is looking at a work of art that a former rival of Lucian Freud’s was sure was the great artist’s early work. Because of the show’s usual emphasis on establishing attribution, it raises the question of how long after the death of an artist does attribution ignore the artist’s wishes to declare a work his own. The painting in question was found by Denis Wirth-Miller who knew Freud but came to detest him (and the feelings were reciprocated.) Both men were in art school together in the 1940s and the painting, The Man in the Black Cravat was found nearby the school giving rise to the idea it is a student work or other early painting.
However, Freud refused to acknowledge that he painted the portrait, meaning Wirth-Miller could never sell a piece that is thought to be worth £500,000.
Mysterious events happened when auction houses and experts claimed the painting was by Freud. Jon Lys Turner, an art expert who was granted the painting by Wirth-Miller, told the Radio Times that Christie’s confirmed The Man with the Black Cravat was painted by Freud, only to change their minds after speaking to him.