When the billionaire industrialist Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon commissioned a portrait from the British painter Lucian Freud (1922-2011), he received a painting and something else: a year-long discussion with a fellow expert on the topic of fine art. The baron was a collector of paintings and sculptures who once said that it was impossible to have a disagreeable conversation about art. In Freud, a master portraitist and famous raconteur, he found a kindred spirit. They had much in common: they were about the same age, had checkered romantic histories, and had taken risks in their lives and work, but most importantly they shared a passion for fine art. Day after day and month after month, the baron sat awkwardly in his straight-back chair, breathing paint fumes (note the pile of rags next to the chair) and trying not to fret about his companies. But what better way to experience the making of art than to be a participant in the process? It took about 15 months for Freud to complete his first portrait of the baron, Large Interior, W11 (After Watteau) 1981-3.
Cole TB. Portrait of H. H. Thyssen-Bornemisza (Man in a Chair)Lucian Freud. JAMA. 2014;311(4):334-335. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.279292