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Lucian Freud's portrait of Wolseley restaurateur to go under the hammer

The artist dined at the restaurant almost every night for the last few years of his life.

A portrait by Lucian Freud of famed restaurateur Jeremy King, who co-founded The Wolseley, is expected to fetch £300,000 at auction.

The artist dined at the Mayfair restaurant almost every night for the last eight years of his life and often sat with Mr King, talking about their “families, his peers, the past, or by singing, or saying nothing at all.”

Mr King said: “From the moment Lucian started coming into The Caprice in the 80s, he was always very much part of my world, but it was not until the opening of The Wolseley in 2003, that I really got to know him.

Lucien Freud
Lucien Freud’s portrait of Wolseley restaurateur Jeremy King (Sotheby’s/PA)

“It was a place he would adopt as his home over the next eight years, and he became, over time, the only person I would sit with in the restaurant except my immediate family.

“He would come up to six, sometimes seven times a week for dinner, often post-sittings, usually with a model, but never could I have dreamt that I would become one of them.”

“I ended up sitting for him across five years in total, first for a painting and then for the etching, typically sitting two mornings a week, and nearly always going out for breakfast too.

“I think we were drawn together because we were both quite solo people, both great observers, and there was no better place to watch the world go by than the grand café that was The Wolseley.”

Mr King said that Freud was one of the “most honest people” he had ever met and the time he was “lucky enough” to spend with him “enriched” his life completely.

Coronavirus – Wed Jun 16, 2021
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Ros Morgan, visit The Wolseley cafe restaurant, with its co-owner Jeremy King (right), (Yui Mok/PA)

Freud had invited Mr King to his studio twice a week for three years but hadn’t completed his copper plate etching, titled Head Of Jeremy King, when he died in July 2011.

The night after Freud died, a black tablecloth was placed over his corner table at The Wolseley with a single candle burning in his memory and an ice cream dessert was later named Coupe Lucian in his honour.

The portrait brings together “two absolute masters of their respective arts,” Oliver Barker, Sotheby’s Chairman of Europe, said.

He continued: “Freud was a social commentator as much as an artist, and it was not lost on him that King’s restaurants were the ultimate melting pots of their time, with King – the conductor at the centre of it all – being a natural subject for one of his portraits.

“While in the restaurant world it is often the chefs who receive the plaudits, there can be few restaurateurs or hoteliers who have been met with greater acclaim than Jeremy King.

“The portrait to be offered at Sotheby’s is a wholly personal work, one that speaks to an enduring friendship and a meeting of minds.

“Freud’s determination to continue preparing this portrait until his final days was as much a statement of his intent to remain a working artist until the very end, as it was a reflection of his wish to continue spending valuable time with his friend.

“While we will never know what Freud’s intended printed etching would have looked like, this luminous copper plate, replete with the artist’s meticulous scratches and chalk marks – laboured over for three years – is an artistic triumph in its own right, and marks the culmination of Freud’s extraordinary seven-decade long career.”

The portrait will be offered directly from Jeremy King’s collection on October 15 as part of the contemporary art day sale.