Three Studies of Lucian Freud

Last updated

Three Studies of Lucian Freud
Three Studies of Lucian Freud.jpg
Artist Francis Bacon
Year 1969 (1969)
Medium Oil on canvas [1]
Subject Lucian Freud
Dimensions 198 cm× 147.5 cm(78 in× 58 in);for each canvas
Owner Elaine Wynn [2]

Three Studies of Lucian Freud is a 1969 oil-on-canvas [1] triptych by the Irish-born British painter Francis Bacon, depicting artist Lucian Freud. It was sold in November 2013 for US$ 142.4 million, which at the time was the highest price attained at auction for a work of art when not factoring in inflation. That record was surpassed in May 2015 by Version O of Picasso's Les Femmes d'Alger series. [3]

Oil painting process of painting with pigments that are bound with a medium of drying oil

Oil painting is the process of painting with pigments with a medium of drying oil as the binder. Commonly used drying oils include linseed oil, poppy seed oil, walnut oil, and safflower oil. The choice of oil imparts a range of properties to the oil paint, such as the amount of yellowing or drying time. Certain differences, depending on the oil, are also visible in the sheen of the paints. An artist might use several different oils in the same painting depending on specific pigments and effects desired. The paints themselves also develop a particular consistency depending on the medium. The oil may be boiled with a resin, such as pine resin or frankincense, to create a varnish prized for its body and gloss.

Triptych three-part polyptych

A triptych is a work of art that is divided into three sections, or three carved panels that are hinged together and can be folded shut or displayed open. It is therefore a type of polyptych, the term for all multi-panel works. The middle panel is typically the largest and it is flanked by two smaller related works, although there are triptychs of equal-sized panels. The form can also be used for pendant jewelry.

Francis Bacon (artist) Irish-born British figurative painter, 1909–1992

Francis Bacon was an Irish-born British figurative painter known for his emotionally charged raw imagery, fixation on personal motifs, and heavy experimentation.



Bacon and Freud were friends but artistic rivals. [4] Introduced in 1945 by artist Graham Sutherland, they swiftly became close friends who met frequently. The two artists painted each other several times, starting in 1951, when Freud first sat for Bacon. [5] Two full-length triptychs of Freud by Bacon resulted. Three Studies of Lucian Freud is the later of the two; the first one, created in 1966, has not been seen since 1992. [6] They form part of a series of large triptych portraits of Bacon's friends painted in the 1960s; other subjects include Isabel Rawsthorne, Muriel Belcher and his partner George Dyer. [7] Bacon and Freud's friendship ended after an argument in the mid-1970s. [5]

Graham Vivian Sutherland OM was an English artist who is notable for his work in glass, fabrics, prints and portraits. His work was much inspired by landscape and religion, and he designed the tapestry for the re-built Coventry Cathedral.

Muriel Belcher British bartender

Muriel Belcher was the founder and proprietress of a private drinking club known as The Colony Room at 41 Dean Street, Soho, London.


All three panels, in Bacon's typical abstract, distorted, isolated style, [8] show Freud sitting on a cane-bottomed wooden chair within a cage, on a curved mottled-brown surface with a solid orange background. Behind each figure is a headboard of a bed, originating in a set of photographs of Freud by John Deakin which Bacon used as a reference. [1] Michael Peppiatt writes "Trapped here in a series of Baconian cages, a contorted Freud hovers from panel to panel like a coiled spring about to shoot out of the flat, airless picture plane." [9] The central panel portrays the figure face on, in a pose similar to that Bacon used for George Dyer, his lover. Brett Gorvy of Christie's considers the work to represent "a marriage of the incredibly important people in Bacon's life." [10] The three canvases of the triptych are the same size and are each individually framed. [1] The colouring is brighter than is typical of Bacon's works. [11]

John Deakin English photographer

John Deakin was an English photographer, best known for his work centred on members of Francis Bacon's Soho inner circle. Bacon based a number of famous paintings on photographs he commissioned from Deakin, including Portrait of Henrietta Moraes, Henrietta Moraes on a Bed and Three Studies of Lucian Freud.

Michael Peppiatt is an English art historian, curator and writer.

Christies British auction house

Christie's is a British auction house. It was founded in 1766 by James Christie. Its main premises are on King Street, St James's, in London and in the Rockefeller Center in New York City. The company is owned by Groupe Artémis, the holding company of François-Henri Pinault. Sales in 2015 totalled £4.8 billion. In 2017 the Salvator Mundi was sold for $450.3 million at Christie's, and which at that time was the highest price ever paid for a single painting at an auction.

Francis Outred of Christie's describes the 1969 triptych as "a true masterpiece" and "an undeniable icon of 20th Century art" which "marks Bacon and Freud's relationship, paying tribute to the creative and emotional kinship between the two artists." [6] Art historian Ben Street describes the work as "not an A-grade Bacon." [5] It was among Bacon's favourites of his works. [6]


The triptych was painted in 1969 at the Royal College of Art in London, where Bacon had a large enough studio to work on three adjacent canvases simultaneously. [10] [12] It was first exhibited in 1970 at the Galleria d'Arte Galatea in Turin, and then was included in a retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris and the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf in 1971–72. [1] [12] The three panels of the triptych were sold separately in the mid-1970s. [12] Bacon was unhappy that the panels had been split up, writing on a photograph of the left-hand panel that it was "meaningless unless it is united with the other two panels." [6] The panels were held by different collectors until the late 1980s, when one of the original purchasers, a collector from Rome named in some sources as Francesco De Simone Niquesa, reassembled the work. [10] [13] The reassembled triptych was exhibited in the US, at the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut in 1999, but the entire work was not exhibited in the UK until October 2013. [6]

Royal College of Art public research university in London, in the United Kingdom

The Royal College of Art (RCA) is a public research university in London, United Kingdom. The only entirely postgraduate art and design university in the world, it offers postgraduate degrees in art and design to students from over 60 countries. As of 2015, the RCA has consistently placed first in the QS World University Rankings in the Art and Design subject area.

London Capital of the United Kingdom

London is the capital and largest city of the United Kingdom. Standing on the River Thames in the south-east of England, at the head of its 50-mile (80 km) estuary leading to the North Sea, London has been a major settlement for two millennia. Londinium was founded by the Romans. The City of London, London's ancient core − an area of just 1.12 square miles (2.9 km2) and colloquially known as the Square Mile − retains boundaries that follow closely its medieval limits. The City of Westminster is also an Inner London borough holding city status. Greater London is governed by the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.

Turin Comune in Piedmont, Italy

Turin is a city and an important business and cultural centre in northern Italy. It is the capital city of the Metropolitan City of Turin and of the Piedmont region, and was the first capital city of Italy from 1861 to 1865. The city is located mainly on the western bank of the Po River, in front of Susa Valley, and is surrounded by the western Alpine arch and Superga Hill. The population of the city proper is 878,074 while the population of the urban area is estimated by Eurostat to be 1.7 million inhabitants. The Turin metropolitan area is estimated by the OECD to have a population of 2.2 million.

On 12 November 2013, the triptych sold for US$ 142.4 million (including the buyer's premium) to Elaine Wynn [2] at Christie's New York auction house, nominally becoming the most expensive work of art ever to be sold at auction. [4] [5] [12] [13] When inflation is taken into account, a higher price was reached at the same auction house for Van Gogh's Portrait of Dr. Gachet , which in 1990 sold for $155 million current dollars. Bacon's triptych did surpass the constant dollar record of $119.9 million set by the fourth version of Edvard Munch's The Scream in May 2012. [4] [14] The 2013 sale also represents the highest price paid for a work by a British or Irish artist, beating Bacon's Triptych 1976 , which fetched $86.3 million in May 2008. [4] [13] [15]

United States dollar Currency of the United States of America

The United States dollar is the official currency of the United States and its territories per the United States Constitution since 1792. In practice, the dollar is divided into 100 smaller cent (¢) units, but is occasionally divided into 1000 mills (₥) for accounting. The circulating paper money consists of Federal Reserve Notes that are denominated in United States dollars.

Elaine Farrell Wynn is an American billionaire businesswoman, philanthropist and art collector. She co-founded Mirage Resorts and Wynn Resorts with her former husband, Steve Wynn. She has supported education causes, the performing arts and the visual arts.

In economics, a real value of a good or other entity has been adjusted for inflation, enabling comparison of quantities as if prices had not changed. Changes in real terms therefore exclude the effect of inflation. In contrast with a real value, a nominal value has not been adjusted for inflation, and so changes in nominal value reflect at least in part the effect of inflation.

Related Research Articles

Lucian Freud British painter and engraver

Lucian Michael Freud, OM was a British painter and draftsman, specializing in figurative art, and is known as one of the foremost 20th-century portraitists. He was born in Berlin, the son of Jewish architect Ernst L. Freud and the grandson of Sigmund Freud. His family moved to Britain in 1933 to escape the rise of Nazism. From 1942-43 he attended Goldsmiths College, London. He enlisted in the Merchant Navy during the Second World War.

Tyeb Mehta Indian artist

Tyeb Mehta was an Indian painter, sculptor and film maker. He was part of the Bombay Progressive Artists' Group and the first post-colonial generation of artists in India, like John Wilkins who also broke free from the nationalist Bengal school and embraced Modernism instead, with its post-impressionist colours, cubist forms and brusque, expressionistic styles.

<i>Triptych, May–June 1973</i> 1973 painting by Francis Bacon

Triptych, May–June 1973 is a triptych completed in 1973 by the Irish-born artist Francis Bacon (1909–1992). The oil-on-canvas was painted in memory of Bacon's lover George Dyer, who committed suicide on the eve of the artist's retrospective at Paris's Grand Palais on 24 October 1971. The triptych is a portrait of the moments before Dyer's death from an overdose of pills in their hotel room. Bacon was haunted and preoccupied by Dyer's loss for the remaining years of his life and painted many works based on both the actual suicide and the events of its aftermath. He admitted to friends that he never fully recovered, describing the 1973 triptych as an exorcism of his feelings of loss and guilt.

<i>Benefits Supervisor Sleeping</i> painting by Lucian Freud

Benefits Supervisor Sleeping is a 1995 oil on canvas painting by Lucian Freud depicting an obese, naked woman lying on a couch. It is a portrait of Sue Tilley, a Job Centre supervisor, then weighing about 127 kilograms (280 lb). Tilley is the author of a biography of the Australian performer Leigh Bowery titled Leigh Bowery, The Life and Times of an Icon. Tilley was introduced to Freud by Bowery, who was already modelling for him. Freud painted a number of large portraits of her around the period 1994–96, and came to call her "Big Sue". He said of her body "It's flesh without muscle and it has developed a different kind of texture through bearing such a weight-bearing thing".

<i>Study for a Self-Portrait—Triptych, 1985–86</i> triptych by Francis Bacon

Study for a Self-Portrait—Triptych, 1985–86 is a triptych painted between 1985 and 1986 by the Irish born artist Francis Bacon. It is a brutally honest examination of the effect of age and time on the human body and spirit, and was painted in the aftermath of the deaths of many of his close friends.

Triptychs by Francis Bacon series of paintings made between 1994 and 1986

The Irish-born artist Francis Bacon (1909–1992) painted 28 known triptychs between 1944 and 1986. He began to work in the format in the mid-1940s with a number of smaller scale formats before graduating in 1962 to large examples. He followed the larger style for 30 years, although he painted a number of smaller scale triptychs of friend's heads, and after the death of his former lover George Dyer in 1971, the three Black Triptychs.

<i>Nude, Green Leaves and Bust</i> painting by Pablo Picasso

Nude, Green Leaves and Bust is a 1932 painting by Pablo Picasso, featuring his mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter.

<i>Three Studies of the Male Back</i> triptych by Francis Bacon

Three Studies of the Male Back is a 1970 oil-on-canvas triptych by the British painter Francis Bacon. Typical of Bacon's figurative but abstract and distorted style, it depicts male figures isolated within flat nondescript interior spaces. Each figure is a portrait of Bacon's lover George Dyer.

<i>Portrait of Isabel Rawsthorne Standing in a Street in Soho</i> painting by Francis Bacon

Portrait of Isabel Rawsthorne Standing in a Street in Soho is a 1967 oil on canvas painting by the British figurative artist Francis Bacon, housed in the Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin. Described by art critic John Russell as one of Bacon's finest works, it depicts Isabel Rawsthorne, the painter, designer and occasional model for artists such as André Derain, Alberto Giacometti and Picasso.

<i>Portrait of George Dyer and Lucian Freud</i> painting by Francis Bacon

Portrait of George Dyer and Lucian Freud was a 1967 oil on canvas painting by the Irish-born artist Francis Bacon, which he destroyed before it left his studio, though it was photographed and is highly regarded by art critics. Bacon was a ruthless self critic, and often abandoned paintings mid-work, or slashed finished canvases; something he often later regretted.

<i>Triptych, 1976</i>

Triptych, 1976 is a large triptych painted by the British artist Francis Bacon in 1976. It comprises three oil and pastel paintings on canvas. It is the second most expensive Bacon ever sold, after Three Studies of Lucian Freud, being auctioned for US$86 million in 2008.

<i>Three Studies for a Crucifixion</i> painting by Francis Bacon

Three Studies for a Crucifixion is a 1962 triptych oil painting by Francis Bacon. It was completed in March 1962 and comprises three separate canvases, each measuring 198.1 by 144.8 centimetres. The work is held by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.

<i>Version No. 2 of Lying Figure with Hypodermic Syringe</i> painting by Francis Bacon

Version No. 2 of Lying Figure with Hypodermic Syringe is a 1968 oil on canvas panel painting by the Irish born, English artist Francis Bacon. It is the second of two similarly titled paintings based on nude photographs of his close friend Henrietta Moraes, who is shown in a reclining position on a bed, themselves part of a wider series of collapsed figures on beds that began with the 1963 triptych Lying Figure. This later version is widely considered the more successful of the two panels.

<i>Three Studies of Muriel Belcher</i>

Three Studies of Muriel Belcher is an oil on canvas triptych painting by the Irish born English artist Francis Bacon, completed in 1966. It portrays Muriel Belcher, described by musician George Melly as a "benevolent witch", and the charismatic founder and proprietress of The Colony Room Club, a private drinking house at 41 Dean Street, Soho, London, where Bacon was a regular throughout the late 1940s to late 1960s. The two became friends soon after she opened the club in 1948, and Bacon helped her cultivate its reputation as a seedy but convivial meeting place for artists, writers, musicians, homosexuals and bohemians. At its height, regular patrons included Lucian Freud, Jeffrey Bernard, John Deakin and Henrietta Moraes.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 "Release: Francis Bacon's Three Studies of Lucian Freud an Icon of Twentieth Century Painting". Christie's. 12 November 2013. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  2. 1 2 ""Tax Break Flap Over Painting Dogs" Elaine Wynn". Retrieved 2015-07-22.
  3. "Picasso's Women of Algiers smashes auction record". [BBC]]. 11 May 2015. Retrieved 11 May 2015.
  4. 1 2 3 4 Vogel, Carol (12 November 2013). "At $142.4 Million, Triptych Is the Most Expensive Artwork Ever Sold at an Auction". The New York Times . Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Sherwin, Adam (13 November 2013). "When Lucian met Francis: Relationship that spawned most expensive painting ever sold". The Independent . Retrieved 14 November 2013.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 "Bacon painting of Freud expected to fetch $85m (£53m)". BBC. 10 October 2013. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  7. Hyman, J. "Bacon, Francis (1909–1992)" Oxford Dictionary of National Biography , Oxford University Press, 2004 (accessed 14 November 2013) (subscription required)
  8. "Francis Bacon Biography, Art, and Analysis of Works". The Art Story. Retrieved 2016-01-15.
  9. Peppiatt M. "Francis Bacon: Three Studies of Lucian Freud", Caravaggio/Bacon, 2010 (quoted in )
  10. 1 2 3 Crow, Kelly (7 November 2013). "Bringing Home the Bacon". The Wall Street Journal . Retrieved 14 November 2013.
  11. Jones, Jonathan (12 November 2013). "Why Francis Bacon deserves to beat The Scream's record-breaking pricetag". The Guardian . Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  12. 1 2 3 4 "Bacon painting fetches record price". BBC. 12 November 2013. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  13. 1 2 3 Swaine, Jon (13 November 2013). "Francis Bacon triptych smashes art auction record". Telegraph Media Group . Retrieved 14 November 2013.
  14. Vogel, Carol (2 May 2012). "'The Scream' Is Auctioned for a Record $119.9 Million". The New York Times . Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  15. Vogel, Carol (15 May 2008). "Bacon Triptych Auctioned for Record $86 Million". The New York Times . Retrieved 13 November 2013.