Magazine article Tablet Magazine

Lucian Freud in Vienna: Terrible Father, Cruel Lover, Hell of a Painter

Magazine article Tablet Magazine

Lucian Freud in Vienna: Terrible Father, Cruel Lover, Hell of a Painter

Article excerpt

When the previous record for the world's most expensive painting was blown away by the price paid at auction for Francis Bacon's 1969 triptych "Three Studies of Lucian Freud" this past November, two widely held art-world intuitions were verified. First, that the art world is an annex of the Bourse, and second, the critical ascendancy of Freud, whose second-hand presence, as the subject of a painting by another famous artist, was a major reason for the fierce bidding.

Behind Freud's triumphant moment is the fact that the English do not produce more than a few great artists every century, and so they embrace them with patriotic glee. Which also means that the enigmatic and reclusive grandson of the founder of psychoanalysis must now endure a degree of scrutiny of the sort that he never tolerated while living among mere mortals. A pair of newly published biographical studies, the affectionate and scabrously judgmental Breakfast With Lucian: A Portrait of the Artist, by journalist Geordie Greig and the beautifully ruminative Man With a Blue Scarf, by art critic Martin Gayford offer up a rounded view of an extraordinary and closely guarded life: Born in 1922, into the family of architect Ernest Freudthe youngest son of Sigmundin the upscale Tiergarten district of Berlin, he was taken to London at the age of 10 by his family in 1933, as the death knell of the Weimer Republic rang. …

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