A painting by the 20th century master Lucian Freud valued at £300,000 has been authenticated by the BBC. The painting was the subject of an episode of the programme ‘Fake Or Fortune’. The portrait is an early example of the artist’s work created in 1939.
Experts at Christie’s auction house identified it as a painting by Freud in 1985, however the artist who was still alive at the time denied it was his and to complicate matters further said he started the painting and abandoned it, therefore it must have been completed by another artist. The story continued to blur facts by uncovering that it was originally owned by Denis Wirth-Miller, an artist with whom Freud had a long-running feud. Denying authorship meant it was impossible for it to be sold under his name.
The painting was owned by the London-based designer Jon Turner, who inherited the painting. He spent years trying to authenticate the portrait but he believed Freud had continued to prevent his investigations. Notes uncovered from the artist’s former solicitor and further analysis prove the painting was by him.
The painting of a man in a black cravat, was unearthed during the Second World War, in a barn at the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing, where Freud taught for a brief period.
Programme presenter Fiona Bruce, said: “It was a novel and gargantuan task to overturn the reported views of the artist. It was different from anything we’d taken on until now – we had never had to arm wrestle with the words of an artist beyond the grave. Co-presenter Philip Mould said, “It was all the more frustrating as the more I worked on the picture and Fiona was able to add the background with her enquiries, the more I felt confident about it being entirely by Freud.”