Thursday, May 5, 2016

Defining British Art (Christie's 30 June): Lucian Freud; Frederic, Lord Leighton; & Sir Joshua Reynolds

An intimate family portrait by Lucian Freud painted in 1992; a pivotal example from 1864 of British Aestheticism at auction for the first time in 100 years by Frederic, Lord Leighton; and from 1778, an exquisite portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds on the market for the first time, are among the great works of British art to be offered in a sale alongside an exhibition which will launch Christie's 250th anniversary in London this June.

Building on the success of Christie's pioneering series of curated Evening Sales to date, including Looking Forward to the Past and The Artist's Muse in 2015, Christie's will celebrate the artistic legacy of four centuries of British artists, with Defining British Art: Evening Sale (30 June) and Defining British Art: Loan Exhibition (17 June to 15 July). 
Ever since James Christie first opened his doors for business in 1766, in St James’s London, where the headquarters remain today, Christie’s has championed British art and artists, with both Reynolds and Gainsborough among the regular visitors to Christie’s salerooms. The greatest masterpieces are those that define the artist; paintings and sculpture that reflect the quintessential nature of that artist’s lasting legacy. Christie’s Loan Exhibition and Evening Sale will present works which exemplify this.

Lucian Freud Ib and Her Husband, 1992, is a scene of family affection: (Estimate on Request: in the region of £18 million). The tender brushstrokes that describe the entwined figures of Freud’s daughter Ib (Isobel Boyt) embraced by her partner Pat Costelloe, give a glimpse into the world of the artist’s family at a moment of extreme intimacy: Ib’s pregnancy. Freud’s paintings of his daughters trace an ever-growing tenderness between father and child that was only forged later in life, since Freud had been absent for much of Ib’s childhood. This painting has been exhibited in Freud’s major retrospective, ‘Lucian Freud: Recent Work’ (1993-4) which took place in London, The Whitechapel Art Gallery; New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art and Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía.

At auction for the first time in 100 years, Golden Hours, 1864, by Frederic, Lord Leighton (1830–1896) is a celebration of youth, beauty, and love, three universal elements which transcend time and geographies (estimate: £3-5 million). Transporting the viewer to 16th century Venice and the world of Giorgione, this work is recognised as a pivotal masterpiece of British Aestheticism, allowing the viewer to revel in the seductive atmosphere, and to dream. With most major works by Leighton in museum collections, this is one of the last remaining examples in private hands. Last seen in public 20 years ago, it was exhibited in the Leighton retrospective at the Royal Academy of Arts in 1996.

Never previously offered for sale, Sir Joshua Reynolds, P.R.A. Portrait of Lucy Long, Mrs George Hardinge - a society beauty - is one of the finest works by the artist to come to the market in a generation (estimate: £2-3 million). Preserved in remarkable condition, this is a prime example of the work of the first President of the Royal Academy, who was a close friend and advisor to James Christie. Offered from the collections at Harewood House, Yorkshire, it was originally painted for Georgina, Lady Peachey in 1778. A prime date for the artist, it has passed by direct descent through the Marquess’ of Clanricarde to the present day. Last included in a public exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1934, this painting has not been seen outside of Harewood for over 80 years.