Not a Very Nice Man

By Lowell, Ivana | Newsweek, August 15, 2011 | Go to article overview
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Not a Very Nice Man

Lowell, Ivana, Newsweek

Byline: Ivana Lowell

Ivana Lowell, whose mother married freud, recalls his dark side.

I asked my mother why she had never had any children with Lucian Freud. He had been her first husband, was intelligent, talented, and handsome--all qualities that were vital to her and that she wished for her own children. "Because he was just not very nice" was her answer, and it made sense.

My mother, the writer Caroline Blackwood, had been introduced to Lucian at a ball in London when she was 18 and had been immediately attracted to his Byronic looks and raffish air. He was a German-Jewish emigre, and although his grandfather Sigmund was one of the most famous intellectuals of the day, Lucian was treated with suspicion by some of the English aristocracy into which my mother had been born.

Having led a sheltered life under the auspices of my snobbish grandmother Maureen, who was born a Guinness and became the Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava, my mother was desperate to escape the confines of her upbringing. She had never met someone as exotic and dangerous-seeming as Lucian. The fact that he was an outsider appealed to her, and she saw in him an entree into a more bohemian world.

Lucian, it seems, was equally taken with my mother. She was shy with vast, cloudy blue eyes, and, although she was fiercely intelligent, she came across as vulnerable and in need of protection. While my grandmother and her social group watched Lucian's pursuit and ultimate conquest of my mother in horror, there was an irony: Lucian was also a snob, and as mindful of social status as they were. My mother represented everything he wanted to be a part of. They married quietly, dashing my grandmother's hopes of a grand wedding.

Lucian was not unaware of the anti-Semitic sentiments of his mother-in-law's friends. When my mother boldly brought him to a party, Randolph Churchill (Winston's son) shouted as they entered the room: "What the bloody hell is Maureen doing, turning her house into a bloody synagogue?" Lucian kept his cool then, but the next time he ran into Randolph he knocked him down.

The young couple moved to Paris, where my mother sat for what were to be three astonishingly beautiful portraits. She said she knew he was a sort of genius when she met him, she just didn't know why. After spending months being painted by him slowly (he painted painstakingly), seeing herself transferred onto his canvas, she understood why.

Lucian's extraordinary talent, however, did not make him an easy husband. The years of their marriage were the loneliest of her life. Lucian would disappear for hours gambling on horses.

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