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The auction titled ‘Defining British Art’ will feature works spanning four centuries and will offer selected consignments ranging from the likes of Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792) to Lucian Freud (1922–2011).

This development follows Christie’s launch of select cross-category sales in New York last year where they staged two new themed auctions starting with Looking Forward to the Past in May and then The Artist's Muse in November.

However, judging by the lots already announced, the London sale would appear to be focusing on a much wider breadth of works than the New York events which were dominated by 20th century material.

Nevertheless, a modern work will be a major highlight in the June sale – Lucian Freud’s (1922–2011) Ib and her husband, a 5ft 6in x 4ft 10in  (1.68 x 1.47m) oil on canvas from 1992. A family portrait of the artist’s daughter Ib (Isobel Boyt) and her partner Pat Costelloe, it will be estimated ‘in the region of £18 million’.

Leighton’s Golden Hours

Also at the Defining British Art sale is Golden Hours, a 1864 painting by Frederic, Lord Leighton (1830-1896) which is estimated at £3m-5m. Billed as a ‘pivotal masterpiece of British Aestheticism’, the 2ft 8in x 4ft 1in (80cm x 1.25m) oil on canvas is appearing at auction for the first time in 100 years.

It has not been seen in public since the Leighton retrospective held at the Royal Academy of Arts in 1996.

The third important consignment announced is Sir Joshua Reynolds’s (1723-1792) Portrait of Lucy Long, Mrs George Hardinge (d. 1820). The subject of the 1778 picture was the daughter and heiress of Richard Long of Hinxton of Cambridgeshire and she is depicted here in a white dress and pearls in her hair, and with a spaniel at her side.

The 4ft 2in x 3ft 6in oil on canvas is estimated at £2m-3m.

Portrait of Lucy Long, Mrs George Hardinge by Sir Joshua Reynolds

Portrait of Lucy Long, Mrs George Hardinge by Sir Joshua Reynolds which is being offered with a £2m-3m estimate at Christie’s ‘Defining British Art’ auction.

The trio of paintings will be among the works that Christie’s will exhibit in New York and Hong Kong in the month leading up to the auction in London.

Christie’s 250th anniversary

The Defining British Art sale will coincide with a loan exhibition at Christie’s King Street premises comprising major British artworks that have been handled by the auctioneers over the years – the show is being staged to mark the 250 years since the business was founded by James Christie in 1766. The exhibition will be open free to the public and will run from June 17 to July 15.

Chairman of Christie’s UK Orlando Rock said: “The Defining British Art loan exhibition and evening sale will break new ground for Christie’s, charting the evolution of British art over the last 400 years. A fitting launch to Christie’s 250th Anniversary celebrations in London and inspired by James Christie’s own innovative spirit, the sale and exhibition will create dynamic juxtapositions and, we hope, inspire artists and collectors of the future.”

Regarding the evening sale specifically, Global President of Christie’s International Jussi Pylkkänen said: “Our specialists from across the globe have worked together to curate what promises to be a fascinating overview of the very best of British Art.”