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About £500 million of works by the biggest names in art, from Pablo Picasso to Francis Bacon, will be going under the hammer at London’s auction houses in the next fortnight.

Works by artists including Salvador Dali and Pierre-Auguste Renoir are on free public show from today before some of the most expensive UK sales ever seen — expected to raise between £385 million and £545 million.

Highlights at Sotheby’s include a monumental portrait of Picasso’s muse Marie-Thérèse Walter, which could fetch as much as £35 million, one of Claude Monet’s giant waterlilies works at £12 million to £18 million and Three Studies For A Self-Portrait by Francis Bacon at up to £15 million.

Christie’s offers paintings including a portrait by Amedeo Modigliani of muse and lover Jeanne Hébuterne at £16 million to £22 million as one of a string of female portraits by artists including Berthe Morisot, Picasso and Renoir.

It also boasts “the strongest array of the art of the Surreal ever to be offered at auction” — led by a rare Joan Miró, The Ladder Of Escape, which has not been seen at auction for nearly 60 years and could fetch £8 million.

Chris Sabian is a portrait artist with http://www.kutefineart.com and owner of http://www.paragonprints.co.uk