Lucian Freud’s etching of Wolseley restaurant creator to be sold

A portrait by Lucian Freud of the restaurateur behind the Wolseley, the Mayfair establishment where the artist dined nearly every evening in the last few years of his life, is to be sold next month.

Freud was completing the etching of Jeremy King when he died in 2011. The two had become friends over a period of about 30 years after Freud began dining at Le Caprice, another King establishment (and a favourite of Diana, Princess of Wales’s), and at the Wolseley when it opened in 2003.

Freud ate at the classic art deco restaurant on Piccadilly, reminiscent of the grand cafes of Vienna that he remembered from his childhood, five or six times a week in the last eight years of his life.

He usually ordered Atlantic prawns or moules et frites, accompanied by his own wine which he kept in the restaurant’s cellars. Sometimes he ate alone; sometimes in the company of sitters including Kate Moss and David Hockney. On occasion, King – who, as a rule did not dine with guests – would join the table.

The Wolseley on Piccadilly
Lucian Freud ate at the Wolseley on Piccadilly five or six times a week in the last eight years of his life. Photograph: Sophia Evans/The Observer

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.

King, who was also behind the Ivy in Soho, which was frequented by Young British Artists in the 1990s, sat twice for Freud: in 2006-2007 for a painting, and then 2008 to 20011 for a copper plate etching, Head of Jeremy King, which is being sold by Sotheby’s. It is estimated to fetch up to £350,000.

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.

“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 … 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 cafe that was the Wolseley. We would enjoy our time together talking about our families, his peers, the past, or by singing, or saying nothing at all.”

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

“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, is an artistic triumph in its own right.”

The Guardian