Lucian Freud’s Captivating Portrait That Bespeaks His Lifelong Friendship with Guinness Heir

A small-scale painting that depicts a teenage boy with a mesmerizing gaze will be up for auction for the first time after it has been kept in a private collection for more than 50 years. The tender portrait bespeaks the friendship between figurative painter Lucian and Guinness heir Garech Browne.

Garech Browne with the portriat Head of A Boy

Garech Browne, the Guinness Heir, became the most important patron of Irish music, poetry and culture of his time. This last custodian to the Luggala estate died in London last March at the age of 78.

Garech Browne in the 1950s

Lucian Freud and Lady Caroline Blackwood

Head of A Boy was painted in 1956 when Garech was sixteen. At that time, 34-year-old Lucian Freud was still married to Garech’s first cousin Caroline Blackwood. She introduced him to Luggala, her aunt Oonagh’s Wicklow home.

The painting was executed on the wild Wicklow estate given to Oonagh by her father and handed later to Garech. Freud captured the youthful features of its sitter and celebrates the artist's attentiveness to texture.

The painting was the artist’s second attempt. Lucian couldn’t complete the first one due to a fire at Luggala in 1956. He gave the unfinished version to Caroline and started again. Lucian developed a friendship with Garech and introduced him to many famous people, including Francis Bacon.

Measuring only 18 x 18cm, the painting demonstrates the artist’s ability to deliver extraordinary impact within such a small arena. He wanted to convey an almost febrile absorption in his subjects so it made sense for him to work at a scale much smaller than life size. Anything larger might have meant a loss of control.

The most comparable example is his 1952 small portrait head of Francis Bacon. It was in the Tate collection but stolen while on display in Berlin in 1988.

The portrait of Garech is rarely exhibited and yet well known within Freud’s historical cannon. It was included in Freud’s blockbuster 1974 retrospective at London’s Hayward Gallery and a 2008 show in Dublin.

Head of A Boy will go under the hammer at Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Sale on 5 March in New York with an estimate of £4.5m-£6.5m.

Lucian Freud (1922-2011). Head of A Boy

Lot no.: 14
Size: 18 x 18cm
Executed in: 1956
The Hon. Garech Browne, Ireland (acquired directly from the artist in 1956)
Estimate: £4,500,000 - 6,500,000

Other highlights from Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction

Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988). Apex

Lot no.: 28
Size: 172.5 x 218.6 cm
Created in: 1986

  • Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich / Mary Boone Gallery, New York (acquired from the artist)
  • Galerie Michael Werner, Cologne
  • Christie’s, London, 30 June 1988, Lot 640
  • Private Collection, Florence
  • Gian Enzo Sperone, Rome
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1995

Estimate on request

Gerhard Richter (b. 1932). Abstraktes Bild

Lot no.: 21
Size: 180 x 180 cm
Created in: 2009

  • Marian Goodman Gallery, New York
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: £6,000,000 - 8,000,000

Jenny Saville (b. 1970). Juncture

Lot no.: 5
Size: 305.1 x 168.3 cm
Created in: 1994

  • Susan Kasen and Robert D. Summer Collection, Connecticut
  • C&M Arts, New York
  • Private Collection, Dallas
  • Christie’s, London, 11 February 2009, Lot 12
  • Acquired from the above sale by the present owner

Estimate: £5,000,000 - 7,000,000

Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997). Vicki! -- I Thought I Heard Your Voice

Lot no.: 41
Size: 106.7 x 1067. Cm
Created in: 1964

  • Private Collection
  • Gunter Sachs, Switzerland (acquired from the above in 1969)
  • The Estate of Gunter Sachs, Switzerland (by descent from the above)
  • Private Collection, Europe
  • Sotheby's, New York, 11 November 2015, Lot 21 (consigned by the above)
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: £5,000,000 - 7,000,000

Auction details

Auction house: Sotheby’s London
Sale: Contemporary Art Evening Auction
Sale date: 5 March 2019 | 7pm
Lots offered: 68
1 March 2019|9am-5pm
2, 3 March 2019|12pm-5pm
4 March 2019|9am-5pm
5 March 2019|9am-12pm