Such a Very Freudian Love Life; His Grandfather Sigmund Invented the Psychology of Sex. Lucian Freud, as Well as Being Our Greatest Living Artist, Is Utterly Engrossed by It - as the Mothers of His Countless Illegitimate Children and the Victims of His Feuds Would Readily Testify

Daily Mail (London), June 6, 1998 | Go to article overview

Such a Very Freudian Love Life; His Grandfather Sigmund Invented the Psychology of Sex. Lucian Freud, as Well as Being Our Greatest Living Artist, Is Utterly Engrossed by It - as the Mothers of His Countless Illegitimate Children and the Victims of His Feuds Would Readily Testify


Byline: ROSS BENSON

TO BE painted in spread-eagled nudity by a certain ageing roue is regarded as a singular honour by many ladies who, in the normal course of affairs, would not dream of such generosity.

The prize of immortality offered by Lucian Freud, 'Britain's greatest living painter', is a siren call that many find as irresistible as the artist himself.

The latest to expose herself to Freud's uncompromising gaze is Jerry Hall.

Her portrait is hanging in the Tate Gallery, which is staging a major exhibition of Freud's recent work. Entitled, with bland simplicity, Eight Months Gone, it depicts her rolling waves of flesh, reclining on a sofa, naked and pregnant.

Hall is a professional model and the wife of Rolling Stone Mick Jagger.

She demands to be stared at. It gives her life the dimension she craves and she will doubtless enjoy being looked over (in the name of art, of course) by the tens of thousands who will traipse through the Tate over the next two months.

Others find exposure more disconcerting, which is why the names, if not the physical particulars, of many of Freud's sitters are swathed in anonymity.

Given the explicit nature of Freud's work, keeping an identity secret is not always possible, though, as brewery heir Desmond Guinness's wife Penny found out when she was seated next to the American comedian Steve Martin at a dinner party in New York.

'I know you, don't I?' Martin asked.

Mrs Guinness replied, no, she didn't think so.

Martin was persistant. 'I know I've seen you before.'

MARTIN was right. He did recognise her. He is a collector of Freud's pictures among them a painting of Penelope Guinness in all her manifest glory. It is one of the more lighthearted stories concerning Freud (although, it must be said that Mrs Guinness does not quite share the joke). Others are not so engaging.

There is a troubled and troubling intensity to Freud whose work Large Interior, W11, sold in May for [pounds sterling]3,572,410 - the highest price ever paid for a living British artist. It gives his art its depth and lustre but the bleak vision of the world which pervades so much of his work is echoed in the man himself and has cast a malignant shadow

over so many of his relationships.

Until now very few have been prepared to discuss Lucian. But as the great artist approaches the end of his life, some of his oldest friends are at last willing to talk about the demons that drive his genius. They paint a picture of a complex character as tortured as his paintings.

He can be charming enough when the occasion demands, as the number of his sexual conquests bear witness. But he can be ruthless in his demands, breathtakingly indifferent to the feelings of others, yet unforgiving of anyone who irritates him.

A control freak, he has fallen out with just about everyone who has entered his orbit, be they friends, family, wives, lovers or business partners. If his life was a picture, it might very well be called A Study In Darkness.

'He is certainly a difficult man - aggressive, sour and unfriendly,' says the art critic Brian Sewell.

This shows in his paintings, which are notable for the way he portrays women as slack of flesh, wrinkled by age, disturbing in their imperfections.

His admirers see this as symbolic of the spiritual malaise of the postwar years. His critics regard it as indicative of the man himself. His grandfather, Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, would doubtless diagnose it as the product of his childhood.

Born in Germany in 1922, Lucian was raised in Berlin on the rising tide of Nazism. As a Jew and the grandson of Sig-mund, whom the Nazis abhorred, he had to be accompanied by a bodyguard to and from his private school. The family fled to Britain when Hitler came to power in 1933. His architect father settled in North London and Lucian attended the progressive Dartington Hall School in Devon and Bryanston public school in Dorset. …

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Such a Very Freudian Love Life; His Grandfather Sigmund Invented the Psychology of Sex. Lucian Freud, as Well as Being Our Greatest Living Artist, Is Utterly Engrossed by It - as the Mothers of His Countless Illegitimate Children and the Victims of His Feuds Would Readily Testify
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