The first biography of the large life of one of the most important, enigmatic, yet private artists of the twentieth century. Drawn from almost forty years of conversations with the artist, letters, and papers, it is a major work written by a well-known British art critic.
Lucian Freud (1922-2011) is one of the most influential figurative painters of the twentieth century. His paintings are in every major museum and many private collections here and abroad. William Feaver's daily calls from 1973 until Freud died in 2011, as well as interviews with Freud's family and friends, were crucial sources. Freud's circle was broad, including not just other well-known artists but writers, bluebloods, royals in England and Europe, drag queens, fashion models, gamblers, bookies, and gangsters like the Kray twins. Fierce, rebellious, charismatic, extremely guarded about his life, he was witty, mischievous, and a womanizer.
This brilliantly researched book begins with the Freuds' life in Berlin, and the family's escape from Hitler to London in 1933, when Lucian was ten. Sigmund Freud was his grandfather, and Ernst, his father, was an architect. Freud's first solo show was in 1944 and at that time he met Virginia Woolf, Sonia Orwell, Cecil Beaton, W.H. Auden, Patrick Leigh-Fermor and the Aly Khan; nights were spent at the Gargoyle club, his muse was a married femme fatale, thirteen years older, Lorna Wishart. But it was Francis Bacon who would become his most important influence, and the painters Frank Auerbach and David Hockney, close friends. He would meet the artists Picasso, Giacometti, Andre Breton, Alexander Calder and Balthus. He was married twice: to Kitty Garman Epstein, the daughter of the famous sculptor Jacob Epstein, and to Lady Caroline Blackwood; he had two daughters from the first marriage, but he had twelve other children from his many liasons.
This is an extremely intimate, lively, and rich portrait of the artist, full of gossip and stories recounted by Freud to Feaver about people, encounters, and work. Freud's art was his life--"my work is purely autobiographical"-- and he usually painted only family, friends, lovers, and children, though there were exceptions, like the famous small portrait of the Queen; sittings could take up to sixteen months, each session lasting five hours, but subjects were rarely bored, as Freud was a great raconteur and mimic. This book is a major achievement that reveals the details of the life and innermost thoughts of the greatest portrait painter of our time.
Cover photograph © The Cecil Beaton Studio Archive at Sotheby's