08.12.1922, Berlin – 20.07.2011, London
Painter, graphic artist
Freud was the son of an architect who was in turn the youngest son of the founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. In 1933, the family fled Nazi Germany and moved to Britain. In 1939 he obtained British citizenship. From 1939 to 1942 he studied for a short time at the Central School of Art and Design in London, then at the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing in Dedham with Cedric Morris. In 1941, he joined the army as a volunteer, serving on a merchant ship supplying military convoys. After three months, he fell ill and was demobilised. After demobilisation, he returned to study at Morris’s school. In 1943 he found himself a studio in London’s Paddington district, where he worked until the end of his life. In 1944, he had his first solo exhibition at the Alex Reid & Lefevre gallery.
After the War, he travelled to Paris and to the Greek island of Paros. A year later he returned to Paris, this time with Kitty Garman, daughter of the famous sculptor Jacob Epstein. She was later to become his wife. Many portraits of Kitty belong to this period and are reminiscent of the pre-war German Neue Sachlichkeit school. Freud openly opposed the abstract art that was prevalent at the time, returning to figurative ainting. He was inspired by the Old Masters, particularly the works of Ingres, Frans Hals and Constable.
At the very end of the War, the so-called School of London emerged, which apart from Freud included the artists closest to him: Francis Bacon, Frank Auerbach, David Hockney, Leon Kossoff and R.B. Kitaj.
Lucian Freud was an artist with a broad range. He drew interiors, cityscapes, nudes, flowers, animals and, above all, portraits. As a rule, these are portraits of the artist’s closest friends and family members. In 1970, after the death of his father, he painted a series of portraits of his mother in order to help her recover from deep depression. These portraits are devoid of any sentimentality, like all Freud’s pictures, but the artist’s severity cannot hide the profound human emotion, which goes deeper than pity or sympathy.
Beginning in the 1960s, the main motif in Freud’s work is the nude: male, female, sometimes both, sometimes with a dog, always inside his Paddington studio. He spent as long on his paintings as Cézanne, examining every centimetre of the body’s surface with intense concentration. He depicts the body in extremely intimate situations, where his subject is absolutely naked and defenceless. As in his portraits of relatives and friends, also the self-portraits, he is harsh and unsentimental. This is the truth about the person, about his or her physical existence.
At the end of his life, Lucian Freud, whose existence for many years passed almost unnoticed (apart from in the UK), was showered with international fame. There have been highly successful exhibitions of his works in the world’s most prestigious museums. Yet there are hardly any of Freud’s paintings in these museums’ collections; they are mostly owned by private collectors.
He was awarded the Companion of Honour in 1983 and the Order of Merit in 1993. V.G.