On March 5th in London, Sotheby’s will sell this early portrait by Lucian Freud of his then brother-in-law Garech Browne. In the 1950s, Freud was married to Lady Caroline Blackwood who would go on to be married to the poet Robert Lowell and be immortalized by him. Freud and Lady Caroline spent a fair bit of time when they were married visiting, Luggala, her family home in Ireland. Luggala was a bohemian refuge overseen by the Guinness family and, eventually, Browne. Here Browne is captured in a small portrait characteristic of Freud’s approach at the time of filling the frame with sitter’s face.
Head of a Boy is being offered with a £4.5-6.5m estimate. Here is some of what Sotheby’s has to say about the picture followed by a video of Tom Eddison:
Embodying the sensational powers of observation which famously characterise Freud’s work, this tightly composed painting from 1956 is a remarkable example of portraiture executed when Freud was just 34 years of age. Small in scale and yet boasting a remarkable emotional intensity, the 18 by 18cm work is at once testament to the artist’s masterful control over his subject, and a tremendous tribute to the sitter – the late Hon. Garech Browne.
The portrait bespeaks the lifelong friendship between Lucian Freud and Garech Browne – dedicated patron of Irish music, poetry and culture, Guinness heir, and last custodian to the magical Luggala estate.
Freud first visited Luggala in the 1940s with his wife Kitty, before eloping with Garech’s cousin, Lady Caroline Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, in 1952. This painting of a young Garech was created at the Luggala estate during a potentially fractious moment in the course of Freud’s tempestuous second marriage; he and Caroline acrimoniously separated in 1957, barely a year after its execution.
Rarely exhibited and yet well known within Freud’s historical cannon, the painting speaks to both the history of Luggala and the history of Freud’s oeuvre in equally important measure. Tom Eddison, Contemporary Art Specialist at Sotheby’s London, explains:
“The first appearance at auction of a portrait of such extraordinary quality from this early period in Freud’s career is an incredibly rare and exciting moment. Head of a Boy from 1956 boasts the technical brilliance and focused scale that is so prevalent in the masterpieces of this period, and as this jewel of a painting demonstrates, Freud was unique in his ability to deliver such extraordinary impact within such a small arena. There is no question that Freud’s most arresting images are born from his closest relationships, and in this painting of Garech Browne we witness a tantalising story that is truly unparalleled – immortalising one of Ireland’s greatest cultural patrons and a bygone era of flamboyant creativity and unprecedented social synergy at bohemian Luggala”.