Lucian Freud

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Lucian Freud
Lucian Freud
Born Lucian Michael Freud
(1922-12-08)8 December 1922
Berlin, Germany
Died 20 July 2011(2011-07-20) (aged 88)
London, United Kingdom
Nationality British
Education Central School of Art

East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing

Goldsmiths College
Known for Painting
Spouse(s) Kathleen "Kitty" Epstein (1948–1952; divorced)
Lady Caroline Blackwood (1953–1959; divorced)

Lucian Michael Freud OM CH (/ˈən ˈfrɔɪd/; 8 December 1922 – 20 July 2011)[1] was a German-born British painter. Known chiefly for his thickly impastoed portrait and figure paintings, he was widely considered the pre-eminent British artist of his time.[2] His works are noted for their psychological penetration and their often discomforting examination of the relationship between artist and model.[3]

Early life and family

Born in Berlin, Freud was the son of a German Jewish mother, Lucie (née Brasch), and an Austrian Jewish father, Ernst L. Freud, an architect.[4][5] He was a grandson of Sigmund Freud, and elder brother of the broadcaster, writer and politician Clement Freud (thus uncle of Emma and Matthew Freud) and the younger brother of Stephan Gabriel Freud.

He moved with his family to St John's Wood, London, in 1933 to escape the rise of Nazism. He became a British subject in 1939,[4] having attended Dartington Hall School in Totnes, Devon, and later Bryanston School,[6][7] for a year before being expelled due to disruptive behaviour.[8]

Early career

Freud briefly studied at the Central School of Art in London, and from 1939 to 1942 with greater success at Cedric Morris' East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing in Dedham, relocated in 1940 to Benton End, a house near Hadleigh, Suffolk. He also attended Goldsmiths' College, part of the University of London, in 1942–43. He served as a merchant seaman in an Atlantic convoy in 1941 before being invalided out of service in 1942.

In 1943, the poet and editor Meary James Thurairajah Tambimuttu commissioned the young artist to illustrate a book of poems by Nicholas Moore entitled "The Glass Tower." It was published the following year by Editions Poetry London and comprised, among other drawings, a stuffed zebra and a palm tree. Both subjects reappeared in The Painter's Room on display at Freud's first solo exhibition in 1944 at the Alex Reid & Lefevre Gallery. In the summer of 1946, he travelled to Paris before continuing to Greece for several months to visit John Craxton.[9] In the early fifties he was a frequent visitor to Dublin where he would share Patrick Swift's studio.[10] In late 1952, Freud and Lady Caroline Blackwood eloped to Paris where they married in 1953. He otherwise lived and worked in London for the rest of his life.

Freud was part of a group of figurative artists that American artist Ronald Kitaj later named "The School of London".[11] This was more a loose collection of individual artists who knew each other, some intimately, and were working in London at the same time in the figurative style (but during the boom years of abstract painting). The group was led by figures such as Francis Bacon and Freud, and included Frank Auerbach, Michael Andrews, Leon Kossoff, Robert Colquhoun, Robert MacBryde, Reginald Gray, and Kitaj himself. He was a visiting tutor at the Slade School of Fine Art of University College London from 1949 to 1954.

Mature style

File:Freud, girl-white-dog.jpg
Girl with a white dog, 1951–1952, Tate Gallery. Portrait of Freud's first wife, Kitty Garman, the daughter of Jacob Epstein and Kathleen Garman

Freud's early paintings, which are mostly very small, are often associated with German Expressionism (an influence he tended to deny) and Surrealism in depicting people, plants and animals in unusual juxtapositions. Some very early works anticipate the varied flesh tones of his mature style, for example Cedric Morris (1940, National Museum of Wales), but after the end of the war he developed a thinly painted very precise linear style with muted colours, best known in his self-portrait Man with Thistle (1946, Tate[12]) and a series of large-eyed portraits of his first wife, Kitty Garman, such as Girl with a Kitten (1947, Tate[13]). These were painted with tiny sable brushes and evoked Early Netherlandish painting.[14]

From the 1950s, he began to work in portraiture, often nudes (though his first full length nude was not painted until 1966),[15] to the almost complete exclusion of everything else, and by the middle of the decade developed a much more free style using large hogs-hair brushes, with an intense concentration of the texture and colour of flesh, and much thicker paint, including impasto. Girl with a white dog, 1951–1952, (Tate) is an example of a transitional work in this process, sharing many characteristics with paintings before and after it, with relatively tight brushwork and a middling size and viewpoint. With this technique, he would often clean his brush after each stroke when painting flesh, so that the colour remained constantly variable. He also started to paint standing up, which continued until old age, when he switched to a high chair.[15] The colours of non-flesh areas in these paintings are typically muted, while the flesh becomes increasingly highly and variably coloured. By about 1960, Freud had established the style that he would use, with some changes, for the rest of his career. The portraits in the new style often used an over life-size scale from the start, but were mostly relatively small heads or half-lengths. Later portraits were often very much larger, and appealed to galleries and collectors. In his late career he often followed a portrait by producing an etching of the subject in a different pose, drawing directly onto the plate, with the sitter in his view.[16]

File:Benefits Supervisor Sleeping.jpg
Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, 1995, a very large portrait of "Big Sue" Tilley (see below), showing his handling of flesh tones, and a typical high viewpoint

Freud's portraits often depict only the sitter, sometimes sprawled naked on the floor or on a bed or alternatively juxtaposed with something else, as in Girl With a White Dog (1951–52) and Naked Man With Rat (1977–78).[17] According to Edward Chaney, "The distinctive, recumbent manner in which Freud poses so many of his sitters suggests the conscious or unconscious influence both of his grandfather's psychoanalytical couch and of the Egyptian mummy, his dreaming figures, clothed or nude, staring into space until (if ever) brought back to health and/or consciousness. The particular application of this supine pose to freaks, friends, wives, mistresses, dogs, daughters and mother alike (the latter regularly depicted after her suicide attempt and eventually, literally mummy-like in death), tends to support this hypothesis."[18]

The use of animals in his compositions is widespread, and often he features a pet and its owner. Other examples of portraits with both animals and people in Freud's work include Guy and Speck (1980–81), Eli and David (2005–06) and Double Portrait (1985–86).[19] He had a special passion for horses, having enjoyed riding at school in Dartington, where he sometimes slept in the stables.[20] His portraits solely of horses include Grey Gelding (2003), Skewbald Mare (2004), and Mare Eating Hay (2006). Houseplants, often not in peak condition, featured prominently in some portraits, especially in the 1960s, and Freud also produced a number of paintings purely of plants.[21] Other regular features included mattresses in earlier works, and huge piles of the linen rags with which he used to clean his brushes in later ones.[22] Some portraits, especially in the 1980s, have very carefully painted views of London roofscapes seen through the studio windows.[23]

Freud's subjects, who needed to make a very large and uncertain commitment of their time, were often the people in his life; friends, family, fellow painters, lovers, children. He said, "The subject matter is autobiographical, it's all to do with hope and memory and sensuality and involvement, really.[24] However the titles were mostly anonymous, and the identity of the sitter not always disclosed; the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire had a portrait of one of Freud's daughters as a baby for several years before he mentioned who the model was. In the 1970s Freud spent 4,000 hours on a series of paintings of his mother, about which art historian Lawrence Gowing observed "it is more than 300 years since a painter showed as directly and as visually his relationship with his mother. And that was Rembrandt."[25]

Painting from life, Freud was apt to spend a great deal of time with one subject, and demanded the model's presence even while working on the background of the portrait. A nude completed in 2007 required sixteen months of work, with the model posing all but four evenings during that time; with each session averaging five hours, the painting took approximately 2,400 hours to complete.[26] A rapport with his models was necessary, and while at work, Freud was characterised as "an outstanding raconteur and mimic".[26] Regarding the difficulty in deciding when a painting is completed, Freud said that "he feels he's finished when he gets the impression he's working on somebody else's painting".[26] Paintings were divided into day paintings done in natural light and night paintings done under artificial light, and the sessions, and lighting, were never mixed.[27]

It was Freud's practice to begin a painting by first drawing in charcoal on the canvas. He then applied paint to a small area of the canvas, and gradually worked outward from that point. For a new sitter, he often started with the head as a means of "getting to know" the person, then painted the rest of the figure, eventually returning to the head as his comprehension of the model deepened.[26] A section of canvas was intentionally left bare until the painting was finished, as a reminder that the work was in progress.[26] The finished painting is an accumulation of richly worked layers of pigment, as well as months of intense observation.[26]

In art critic Martin Gayford's 2010 book, Man with a Blue Scarf: On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucian Freud, Gayford chronicled the forty days he spent with Lucian Freud while sitting for his portrait. Gayford surmised that Freud sought to capture his model's individuality by, as Gayford named it, his "omnivorous" gaze. Gayford also mentions that his final portrait seemed to "reveal secrets—ageing, ugliness, faults—that I imagine...I am hiding from the world..." – suggesting how sharp and penetrating Freud's gaze is.[28]

Later career

"I paint people," Freud said, "not because of what they are like, not exactly in spite of what they are like, but how they happen to be."[29] Freud painted fellow artists, including Frank Auerbach and Francis Bacon. He produced a series of portraits of the performance artist Leigh Bowery, and also painted Henrietta Moraes, a muse to many Soho artists. A series of huge nude portraits from the mid-1990s depicted the very large Sue Tilley, or "Big Sue", some using her job title of "Benefits Supervisor" in the title of the painting,[30] as in his 1995 portrait Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, which in May 2008 was sold by Christie's in New York for $33.6 million, setting a world record auction price for a living artist.[31][32]

Freud's most consistent model in his later years was his studio assistant and friend David Dawson, the subject of his final, unfinished work.[33] Towards the end of his life he did a nude portrait of model Kate Moss. Freud was one of the best known British artists working in a representational style, and was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 1989.[34][35][36]

His painting After Cézanne, notable because of its unusual shape, was purchased by the National Gallery of Australia for $7.4 million. The top left section of this painting has been 'grafted' on to the main section below, and closer inspection reveals a horizontal line where these two sections were joined.

In 1996, Abbot Hall Art Gallery in Kendal mounted a major exhibition of 27 paintings and thirteen etchings, covering the whole period of Freud's working life to date. The following year the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art presented "Lucian Freud: Early Works". The exhibition comprised around 30 drawings and paintings done between 1940 and 1945.[37] This was followed by a large retrospective at Tate Britain in 2002. During a period from May 2000 to December 2001, Freud painted Queen Elizabeth II. There was criticism of this portrayal of the Queen in some sections of the British media. The highest selling tabloid newspaper, The Sun, was particularly condemnatory, describing the portrait as "a travesty".[38] In 2005, a retrospective of Freud's work was held at the Museo Correr in Venice scheduled to coincide with the Biennale. In late 2007, a collection of Freud's etchings titled "Lucian Freud: The Painter's Etchings" went on display at the Museum of Modern Art.[39]

Freud died in London on 20 July 2011 and on 27 July was buried in Highgate Cemetery. Archbishop Rowan Williams officiated at the private funeral.[40]

Art market

In 2008, Benefits Supervisor Sleeping (1995), a portrait of 280-pound civil servant Sue Tilley, sold for $33.6 million – the highest price ever at the time for a work by a living artist.[41]

On 13 October 2011, Freud's 1952 Boy's Head, a small portrait of Charlie Lumley, his neighbour, reached $4,998,088 at Sotheby's London Contemporary art evening auction, making it one of the highlights of the 2011 auction autumn season.[42]

At a Christie's New York auction in 2015, Benefits Supervisor Resting sold for $56.2 million at Christie’s, an auction record for the artist.[41]

Personal life

Freud is rumoured to have fathered as many as forty children[43] although this number is generally accepted as an exaggeration. Fourteen children have been identified, two from Freud's first marriage and 12 by various mistresses.[44]

After an affair with Lorna Garman, he went on to marry, in 1948, her niece Kathleen "Kitty" Epstein, daughter of sculptor Jacob Epstein and socialite Kathleen Garman. They had two daughters, Annie and Annabel Freud, and the marriage ended in 1952.[45] Kitty Freud, later known as Kitty Godley (after her marriage in 1955 to economist Wynne Godley), died in 2011.[46]

Freud then began an affair with Guinness beer heiress and writer Lady Caroline Blackwood. They married in 1953 and divorced in 1959.[45] She is said to have been the only woman who truly broke his heart. After their divorce, his friends noticed a change in him; he began drinking heavily and getting into fights. Francis Bacon became concerned that he was suicidal.[47][48]

Freud had additional children by the following women:[44]

  • Suzy Boyt (born 1935), a pupil of Freud's at the Slade art school:[49][50]
  1. Alexander Boyt (born 1957)
  2. Rose Boyt (born 1959)
  3. Isabel Boyt (born 1961)
  4. Susie Boyt (born 1969)
  • Katherine Margaret McAdam (1933–98):
  1. Jane McAdam Freud, artist/sculptor[51] (born 1958)
  2. Paul Freud (born 1959)
  3. Lucy Freud[52] (born 1961)
  4. David McAdam Freud (born 1964)
  • Bernardine Coverley, a teacher (1943–2011):
  1. Bella Freud (born 1961), a fashion designer
  2. Esther Freud (born 1963), a writer
  1. The Hon. Francis Michael Eliot (born 1971)[53]
  1. Frank Paul (born 1984), an artist[54][55]

Selected solo exhibitions

See also

External video
Lucian Freud, Standing by the Rags, 1988-89, Smarthistory[56]


  1. William Grimes. "Lucian Freud, Figurative Painter Who Redefined Portraiture, Is Dead at 88". The New York Times. 21 July 2011.
  2. Hogrefe, Jeffrey (14 December 1997). "Lucian Freud Bio Killed Amid Much Heavy Breathing". The New York Observer. Retrieved 22 July 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> Also see Rimanelli, David (January 2012), "Damien Hirst", Artforum: "With the recent death of Lucían Freud, some might argue that Hirst is now the greatest living British artist". Retrieved 2012-10-28. Also see Kennedy, Maev (21 December 2001), "Palace unveils Freud's gift to Queen", The Guardian, who calls Freud "the artist regarded as the greatest living British painter". Retrieved 2012-10-28. Darwent, Charles (28 November 1999), "The 1990s in Review: Visual Arts", The Independent, says "Freud becomes the greatest living British artist after his Whitechapel show [of 1993]". Retrieved 2012-10-28.
  3. Smith, Roberta (14 December 2007). "Lucian Freud Stripped Bare". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 July 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 Spurling, John. "Portrait of the artist as a happy man", The Independent, 13 December 1998. Retrieved 19 June 2010.
  5. Jeffrey St. Clair (5 April 2003). "Flesh and Its Discontents: the Paintings of Lucian Freud". CounterPunch. Retrieved 22 July 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "London Exhibition Showcases the Best of Bryanston Art and Design". Bryanston Art: Past and Present. Bryanston School. 12 October 2008. Retrieved 25 July 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Lucian Freud (P '40) "Painted Life"". Bryanston. Bryanston School. 8 February 2012. Retrieved 20 February 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Obituary: Lucian Freud, OM". The Daily Telegraph. London. 21 July 2011. Retrieved 20 February 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "From late 1946 to early 1947, he and Freud painted on Poros" – John Craxton Guardian Obituary
  10. "He had met Freud by 1949...the acquaintance was well-developed by 1950 when we shared the ground-floor of a house in Hatch Street together. Lucian, who was staying in Ireland, used to come around in the mornings to paint, so that sometimes when I would surface around ten or eleven I would find them both at work in the studio next door." — Anthony Cronin, Patrick Swift (1927–83), IMMA Retrospective Catalogue, 1993; "Freud…came to Dublin in 1948…In September 1951 Kitty Garman wrote to her mother…She mentions Freud working on a painting in Paddy Swift's Hatch Street studio, Dead Cock's Head 1951" – Freud: Prophet of Discomfort, Mic Moroney, Irish Arts Review, 2007
  11. Kitaj's essay in the catalog for "The Human Clay" exhibition, Hayward Gallery, London, 1976.
  12. Tate, Man with Thistle
  13. Tate, Girl with a Kitten
  14. NPG, section (= room) I, Tate, Man with Thistle
  15. 15.0 15.1 NPG, II
  16. NPG, "Etchings"
  17. Naked Man With Rat
  18. Edward Chaney, 'Freudian Egypt', The London Magazine (April/May 2006), pp. 62–69, complete refs in Chaney, Edward (2006). 'Egypt in England and America: The Cultural Memorials of Religion, Royalty and Religion', Sites of Exchange: European Crossroads and Faultlines, eds. M. Ascari and A. Corrado. Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi, pp. 39–69.
  19. Double Portrait
  20. Gayford, Martin "Freud's Animals", Apollo, 2006-11-01. Retrieved 2009-06-05.
  21. Tate, Two Plants 1977–80
  22. NPG, VII; Tate, Standing by the Rags, 1988-9
  23. NPG, IV & 25
  24. "Lucian Freud", British Council, 2009. Retrieved December 18, 2010.
  25. Jones, Jerene (24 April 1978). "Is Lucian Freud's Relationship with Mother Odd, or Is It Art?". People. Retrieved 22 July 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 26.3 26.4 26.5 Martin Gayford (22 September 2007). "Gayford, Martin. Lucian Freud: marathon man". London: Retrieved 22 July 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. NPG, V
  28. "Lucian Freud: The painter in his studio". The Economist. 23 September 2010. Retrieved 28 September 2010.
  29. "Lucian Freud's Benefits Supervisor Sleeping sells for record $33m", The Times, 14 May 2008.
  30. NPG, 33; Etching, Tate
  31. "Freud work sets new world record". BBC News. 14 May 2008. Retrieved 14 May 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  32. Lucian Freud: From "Ingres of Existentialism" to Impasto Master BLOUINARTINFO.COM
  33. Mark Brown, "Lucian Freud's final work to be shown in 2012 National Portrait Gallery show", The Guardian, 20 September 2011. Retrieved 29 January 2012.
  34. Button, Virginia. "The Turner Prize"Template:Link fixed. Tate Online, 2003. Retrieved 28 March 2007.
  35. The Turner Prize 1988
  36. The Turner Prize 1989
  37. Richard Calvocoressi, Lucian Freud: Early Works, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, 1997. ISBN 0-903598-66-3
  38. "Freud royal portrait divides critics". BBC News. 21 December 2001. Retrieved 26 February 2008.
  39. Robert Ayers (18 December 2007). "Curator's Voice: Starr Figura on Lucian Freud's Etchings". BLOUINARTINFO. Retrieved 23 April 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  40. William Feaver (January 2015). "Freud, Lucian Michael (1922–2011)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/103935.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  41. 41.0 41.1 Katya Kazakina (14 May 2015), Freud’s Lounging Naked Civil Servant Sells for $56.2 Million Bloomberg Business.
  42. Sotheby's October 2011 Evening Sales of 20th Century Italian Art and Contemporary Art Total £39.5/$62/€45 Million Sotheby's Press Release.
  43. "Freud the Lothario", Simon Edge, Daily Express, 16 May 2008.
  44. 44.0 44.1 David Kamp, "Freud, Interrupted", Vanity Fair, February 2012, page 147.
  45. 45.0 45.1 "Face to face with Freud". The Sunday Times. 22 May 2005.
  46. David Kamp, "Freud, Interrupted", Vanity Fair, February 2012, page 148.
  47. 'Lucian Freud – Painted Life' (2012), BBC Documentary
  48. Gardham, Duncan (19 February 2012). "Freud 'considered suicide'". The Daily Telegraph. London.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  49. Freud considered Boyt's child by a previous relationship, Kai, a stepson, according to David Kamp, "Freud, Interrupted", Vanity Fair, February 2012, page 147.
  50. Greig, Geordie (3 October 2013). Breakfast with Lucian. Random House. pp. 243–4. ISBN 9781448138760. Retrieved 8 January 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  51. McAdam Freud, Jane "Drawings and Sculpture, Gazelli Art House, Mayfair".
  52. Her website, using this form
  53. The Hon. Francis Michael Freud
  54. Frank Paul Drawings, Bohemia Galleries.
  56. "Lucian Freud, Standing by the Rags, 1988-89". Smarthistory at Khan Academy. Retrieved 25 September 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


Further reading

  • Calvocoressi, Richard (1997). Early Works: Lucian Freud. Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> ISBN 0-903598-66-3
  • Feaver, William (1996). Lucian Freud: Paintings and Etchings. Abbot Hall Art Gallery.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> ISBN 0-9503335-7-3
  • Feaver, William (2002). Lucian Freud. Tate.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> ISBN 0-8109-6267-5
  • Feaver, William. "Freud, Lucian Michael (1922–2011)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/103935.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  • Gayford, Martin (2010). Man with a Blue Scarf: On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucian Freud. Thames & Hudson.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> ISBN 978-0-500-23875-2
  • Gowing, Lawrence (1982). Lucian Freud. Thames & Hudson.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> ISBN 0-500-09154-4
  • Gruen, John (1991). The Artist Observed: 28 Interviews with Contemporary Artists. a cappella books.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> ISBN 1-55652-103-0
  • Hughes, Robert (1997). Lucian Freud, revised edition. Thames & Hudson.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> ISBN 0-500-27535-1
  • Sharp, Jasper (2013). Lucian Freud (Exhibition Catalogue of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna). Prestel.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> ISBN 978-3-7913-5332-6

External links