NEW YORK.-Christies New York will offer as one of the highlights of the Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale on November 13, Lucian Freuds Ib and Her Husband, 1992, a deadly honest and deeply intriguing portrait of Freuds daughter Isobel and her partner. The painting is expected to realize in excess of $15 million. Christies set the record for Freud at auction in the London June sale when Bruce Bernard, 1992, achieved £7.86 million ($15.5 million).
Lucian Freuds portraits are intimate visions of the life and the people around him so it comes as no surprise to find that his extensive family has provided the subject matter for many of his most important paintings. Isobel, Freuds daughter, has featured in several of Freuds paintings. She was already shown as a child in Large Interior, Paddington, painted in 1968-69, where she was sprawled on the floor. Close-up views that give a sense of intense proximity have also featured in his oeuvre, as well as a later oil of her reading from 1997. Dating from 1992, Ib and her Husband, a work that has been included in several major exhibitions since it was painted, is another splendid example of the intricate father-daughter artistic relationship. The painting shows Isobel Ib with her husband as they are huddled together on a brown rug, the tattered, paint-strewn wall of the studio visible, with a distinctly utilitarian radiator, in the background. Is it the unadorned honesty of the scene that elevates this painting from a mere depiction to a conveyer of emotion, a window which offers a glimpse not only into the life of Isobel and her relationship with her husband but also, and maybe more importantly so, into her relationship with her father -- the painter.
There is a strong sense of authenticity in Ib and her Husband that reflects a deep mining of the painters and the sitters experiences and chemistry and it is precisely this quality that fills Freuds paintings with the sense of existential earnestness for which they are celebrated. In the present painting, this effect is achieved in a two-fold way Freud clearly does chart the tensions of his relationship with his daughter and son-in-law, but he also shows them very much at ease with their surroundings. It really is his insistence on his sitters being comfortable, being at home that allows Freud to capture deep and veiled aspects of their personalities.
Where Freuds early paintings tended to show Ingres-like figures, his later work is clearly of another caliber as he turned to the more painterly treatment that is evident in Ib and her Husband. Freud used thicker hogs hair brushes in order to capture the realness, the breathing moving vibrating there ness, of his sitters. A second focal point is the artists own world, his own life in a sense, which he delicately but clearly reveals to the viewer. In the present painting, Freud himself is present in the image through the rendering of his studio this crucial place at the heart of his being which he depicts in such minute detail that even the daubs of paint that have over the years accumulated on his studio wall are clearly visible. In the end, Ib and her Husband, is as much a portrait of Freuds daughter and son-in-law as it is a portrait of the artist. Auction: Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale November 13 at 7 p.m. Viewing: Christies Galleries at Rockefeller Center November 10 13.