|Timothy Behrens by John Vere Brown|
The School of London and this mysterious missing link
Tim Behrens died two days ago aged 79. R.I.P.
It is almost impossible to find in English any written review about Timothy Behrens. Did this gentleman exist? If so, who was Tim Behrens? Apparently, he was a young artist that use to drink with Francis Bacon, Frank Auerbach, Michael Andrews, and Lucian Freud among others at infamous pubs like The Colony Room—“a private members’ drinking club for artists and other creative people at 41 Dean Street, Soho, London, founded and presided over by Muriel Belcher from its inception in 1948 until her death in 1979” (Wikipedia). The few printed references to Tim Behrens are related either to him as a model of two important paintings, of four portraits Freud did of the young pupil and close friend—Red Haired Man On A Chair (sold-out for £4,152,000 in 2005) and A Painter—, or as a young artist in a famous photograph by John Deakin: Lunch at Wheelers: L-R: Timothy Behrens, Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, Frank Auerbach and Michael Andrews.
Though ignored in England for motives nobody apparently understands, Tim Behrens has been a prolific artist for more than fifty years. He left Britain very young and very sad. Namely with Lucian Freud after nine years of intense friendship. Freud became to him a surrogate of his hatred father, a banker. Being abandoned by his teacher and close friend, Tim left England for good, spending most of his life in Greece, Italy, and Spain. I still don't understand though why is Tim Behrens missing in all surveys of the British art from the early sixties.
|Timothy Behrens. Portrait of Michael Andrews.|
The most extensive descriptions of Timothy Behrens —life and work— I could find in the British press are the following:
Celebrities and bohemians come together for Lucian Freud sale
A rare portrait by Lucian Freud of a fellow painter from the Soho bohemian artistic scene in the 1960s in London is to go on sale at Christie's next year.
Red-Haired Man on a Chair, a portrait of the artist Tim Behrens, is expected to fetch up to £1.8m in the auction on 9 February. It will go on sale next to Freud's celebrated portrait of the supermodel Kate Moss, who was painted naked and pregnant. Naked Portrait 2002, in a private collection, is one of the few occasions Freud has chosen to paint someone well known. It is expected to sell for about £3.5m.
Christie's announced the sale of the Moss painting in October; the addition of the Behrens picture will make the sale an important one. Freud's paintings rarely come up for auction. This will be one of the few occasions that two of his works have come up for auction at the same time.
As a relative unknown, Behrens, a painter and student at the Slade School of Art, was a more likely candidate for a Freud painting. He was part of the tightly knit group of artists and intellectuals who frequented the Colony Room, the infamous Soho drinking club where Freud and others such as Francis Bacon spent much time during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Other regulars have included such figures as Jeffrey Bernard and George Melly, while current members include the new generation of British artists like Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin.
Said to be a great admirer of Freud, Behrens posed in the artists' small Paddington studio in 1962 and 1963; Freud is renowned for the length of time taken to complete portraits. The painting features a pile of rags in the background which were to find their way into many other Freud pictures.
—in IndependentAnother extensive description of the relation between Timothy Behrens and Lucian Freud can also be found in a recent book by Geordie Greig: Breakfast with Lucian. A Portrait of the Artist
|Timothy Behrens. Dolphin.|
Much-married, hard-drinking Old Etonian artist who haunted Soho with Bacon and Freud
February 18 2017, 12:01am,
Although Timothy Behrens was one of the “School of London” artists, with Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud, he may be equally remembered for outselling a naked and pregnant supermodel, Kate Moss. He did not paint her; Freud did, selling the work, Naked Portrait, for £3.928 million at Christie’s in 2005. To the shock of the 200 people in the auction room that day, Red-Haired Man on a Chair, a 1962-63 portrait of Freud’s friend and fellow artist Behrens, fetched £4.152 million from an unknown buyer. It was a record price for a Freud.
Moss was said to have been rather miffed about being outshone in this way. As for Behrens, he was underwhelmed by his new-found fame. He was a painter, not a sitter. A fine bilingual poet and writer too. While he was part of the School of London in the late 1950s and early 1960s, which included Frank Auerbach, Michael Andrews and occasionally David Hockney, Behrens was a maverick, an outsider among outsiders. “The School of London never existed,” he said not long ago. “The term was invented by the media. We were just a group of guys who got together in Wheeler’s fish restaurant or the Colony Room [both in Soho], to drink. Simple as that.”
Behrens, who spent the last third of his life in Galicia, northwest Spain, where he died, was a great painter in his own right. He kept his prices low as part of his social conscience. “Call me a member of the Galician or La Coruña School, rather than the School of London,” he told a Spanish newspaper. “It disgusts me that a painting can cost more than a house. Lucian wasn’t good and he knew himself he was a pedantic painter. I detested the way he painted. I still don’t like it. I always preferred Bacon, and especially Michael Andrews.”
A painting of Behrens by Andrews — Portrait of Timothy Behrens (1962, oil on cardboard), showing a young skinny Behrens in a doorway — is in the Thyssen-Bornemisza museum in Madrid. When Behrens’s own paintings went up for sale in Spain in recent years they were snapped up.
Tim Behrens, artist – obituary
18 FEBRUARY 2017 • 7:01AM
From the Mephistophelean Freud, Behrens acknowledged, he learned to fill every centimetre of canvas with emotional energy. He said that Freud admitted that he lacked natural talent and compensated for it with intensity of effort.
So close were they that some assumed they must be in a relationship. As it was, they often went out with the same girls. Freud also shared his contacts in the art world. In 1959, Behrens had the first of three one-man shows at the avant-garde Beaux Arts gallery in London, where Bacon, Auerbach and Andrews had had exhibitions.
To Freud’s biographer, Geordie Greig, he said that the cause of his rift with Freud was his attraction to someone who looked like his first wife, shortly after she had died in an accident, although the evidence for this is debatable. He himself never revealed to friends why Freud had broken with him, who overstepped what mark, albeit Freud was to repeat the pattern with others.
The Beaux Arts having closed, Behrens let a lucrative contract with the Marlborough Gallery fall through, moved his family to rural Italy, and swapped painting in oil for acrylic. He later confessed that he did not much like the results, though the change was cathartic. While he remained ambitious for recognition, that was rather harder away from the self-regarding gaze of the London art market and without an entrée to his former circle of friends. “I was a deserter,” he mused in 2003, “and deserters don’t get easily forgiven.”
Timothy John Behrens was born in London on June 2 1937. His father Michael was a City financier who later co-owned The Ionian Bank. He was also a collector of beautiful things, among them art and women; his affair in the late Forties with Elizabeth Jane Howard led her to use him as the model for the protagonist of her novel The Long View (1956).
Bibliography related to this post
—Geordie Greig. Breakfast with Lucian. A Portrait of the Artist [Amazon] [Amazon Look Inside!]
—A Portrait Painted in Heavy Strokes. ‘Breakfast With Lucian,’ by Geordie Greig. Books of The Times. By DWIGHT GARNER NOV. 21, 2013
—About Red-Haired Man on a Chair, in Christie’s Press Release, 4 January 2005 (pdf)
—El coruñés de la escuela de Londres. La Opinión, 09.02.2017
—T. Behrens by T. Behrens
—T. Behrens and the so-called School of London
—The Colony Room school
—Tim Behrens. Sobre uma retrospectiva necessária
by John Vere Brown
bromide fibre print, 1958
10 in. x 10 1/8 in. (254 mm x 256 mm)
© Mander and Mitchenson Theatre Collection
National Portrait Gallery
Last update: 16 April 2017 10:45 pm WET