Lucian Freud and Denis Wirth-Miller trained together at the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing in Hadleigh but reportedly became fierce rivals. Their mutual dislike was said to be so great that Freud, grandson of the psychoanalyst Sigmund, spent decades denying that he painted a picture owned by Wirth-Miller, just to scupper his plans to sell it.
Wirth-Miller and his partner Richard “Dickie” Chopping, who lived in Wivenhoe prior to their death, found Man in a Black Cravat sometime during the Second World War. However, Freud, who referred to his contemporary as “Worst Miller”, denied it was his work, and apparently contacted auction houses to prevent its sale.
Freud, who died in 2011, once held the title of most valuable living artist, when his Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, sold for US$33.6m in 2008. Man in a Black Cravat would be worth around £500,000 if proved genuine.
Fake or Fortune, which airs on BBC One this Sunday, aims to prove the provenance of the painting once and for all.