Lucian Freud. British painter and draftsman. Grandson of famous psychologist Sigmund Freud. One of the most influential artists of the past century.
Want more facts? Here they are.
1. Freud’s paintings are autobiographical. Almost all the people he chooses to paint tell a story about himself and his values (he rarely worked on commission).
2. He only once completed a portrait of a person he did not like, a book dealer called Bernard Breslauer. He so disliked the model that he was deliberately unkind and over-egged the pudding of a man in front of him, making him “even more repulsive than he actually was”. The unhappy sitter, on acquiring the portrait, sent Freud a letter saying that he had “contravened an unwritten contract between painter and sitter.” The painting in question was destroyed by the model.
3. Freud did not begin to employ thick sculptural brushstrokes until later in his career, a decision which lost him some important supporters in the art world at the time.
4. Freud knew a great many artists but remained a great individualist and did not bow to other talent: Picasso was “absolutely poisonous”, Man Ray “noisy and vulgar”, and German expressionist Max Ernst a “heavy and stiff” dinner companion.
5. Freud had an almost visceral hatred of almost all art of the Renaissance.
6. Freud disliked art that looks too much like art. A 1950 painting called ‘Boy Smoking’, for example, is not a realistic portrait. The eyes are glassy and hollow, the face so flat you could tear it. But the flatness here tells us something of the boy’s circumstances: it is as if a hard expression has been ironed in place on his youthful skin. Freud met the boy, named Charles Lumley, when he and his brother were “in the act of breaking into his studio”. Freud was living in Paddington, a working-class area at the time, and he befriended some of his criminal neighbors.
7. He famously painted a rather unflattering portrait of the Queen and celebrities like Kate Moss, but he also admired – and loved to paint – friends.
8. Freud used to say that time was his one great luxury in life. He took a great deal of time to get to know his subjects, and sometimes would be painting them for years. He asked that of his audience too: every Lucian Freud portrait has a different presence, requires time to get to know.
9. Freud rarely talked about his art. He almost always refused interviews.
10. Freud saw every object in the world as possessing a unique character. Even into the sixth decade of his career, he still celebrated the unique history of each material thing he drew and painted.