In a compelling blend of artistry and kinship, a rare bronze bust by the American-born British sculptor Sir Jacob Epstein of the painter Lucian Freud is set to hit the auction block at Sworders on 17 October.
This intriguing 27-inch high portrait, crafted by Epstein in 1947, captures the essence of Freud, a Berlin-born artist who flourished into one of England’s most prominent portraitists. In the same year, their artistic connection deepened as Freud married Epstein’s daughter, Kathleen “Kitty” Garman, infusing a personal resonance into the sculpture.
This bronze, estimated to fetch between £ 50,000 and £70,000, is a unique gilded iteration of Epstein’s full-bust portrait of Freud. While a plaster version is housed in Ohio’s Allen Memorial Art Museum, this auction piece stands as a one-of-a-kind marvel, exuding an aura of exclusivity.
Another Epstein work, an 18.5-inch bronze of Kitty Garman from the same period, was acquired at Christie’s South Kensington in 2015. This piece, expected to command £6,000-£7,000, was showcased at Leicester Galleries, London, in a 1994 exhibition titled “Girl with the Gardenias and Other Recent Sculpture by Jacob Epstein.”
These artworks have emerged from the depths of Colne Priory in Essex, a magnificent Georgian country house nestled within 24 acres of pristine gardens. This sale, represented as lots #127 and #128, offers a rare chance to own a piece of 20th-century history, intertwining the legacy of Epstein, Freud, and Garman in bronze.
Lucian Freud (1922-2011)
Lucian Freud, a renowned British painter, was born in Berlin, Germany 1922. He was the grandson of the famous psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud and the brother of the British television personality and politician Clement Freud.
Freud’s family fled Germany in 1933 to escape the rise of the Nazi regime, eventually settling in England. In his early years, Freud showed a keen interest in art and attended several art schools, including the Central School of Art and the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing. He developed a distinctive style characterized by meticulous attention to detail and a focus on the human form.
Freud’s paintings often featured portraits and nudes, capturing his subjects’ raw and intimate aspects. He had a reputation for intense, psychologically charged portraits depicting the vulnerability and complexity of the human condition. His work earned him critical acclaim and established him as one of the leading figurative painters of the 20th century.
Over the course of his career, Freud’s art evolved, but his commitment to realism and the human form remained constant. He continued to paint well into his later years, producing some of his most iconic works. Freud’s paintings are held in significant art collections and museums worldwide, cementing his legacy as a master of contemporary figurative art. He passed away in 2011 at the age of 88.
Sir Jacob Epstein (1880-1959)
Sir Jacob Epstein, born in the United States in 1880, was a prominent British sculptor. He moved to Europe, settling in England, where he became a key figure in the early 20th-century art scene. Epstein’s work was characterised by its bold, expressive style and a focus on the human form. He was associated with the modernist movement, challenging traditional artistic conventions.
Epstein’s sculptures often incorporated Cubism and African art elements, creating a unique blend of traditional and avant-garde influences. His subjects ranged from prominent political figures and celebrities to ordinary people, capturing the diverse essence of humanity.
One of Epstein’s most significant works is the British Medical Association’s headquarters’ decorative sculptures in London, showcasing his talent for large-scale projects. He also created the controversial but influential figures for the façade of Charles Holden’s building at 55 Broadway in London.
Epstein’s career was marked by acclaim and controversy, as his unconventional style challenged the norms of his time. He received numerous honours during his lifetime, including a knighthood in 1954. Epstein’s impact on modern sculpture and his ability to infuse emotion and vitality into his creations solidify his status as a pioneering sculptor of the 20th century. He passed away in 1959, leaving a legacy of innovative and daring artistic expression.