My Father the Selfish Genius; One of Lucian Freud's 14 Children Reveals How the Sexually Voracious Artist Painted Him out of His Life - before an Extraordinary Rapprochement on His Deathbed

Daily Mail (London), November 22, 2011 | Go to article overview

My Father the Selfish Genius; One of Lucian Freud's 14 Children Reveals How the Sexually Voracious Artist Painted Him out of His Life - before an Extraordinary Rapprochement on His Deathbed


Byline: by Barbara Davies

DURING the last few days of painter Lucian Freud's life, his estranged son, David, went to sit at his bedside. The few hours he spent with the father he hardly knew were precious moments indeed and the 47-year-old might have been expected to use them to seek answers to the questions which had haunted him since childhood.

But instead, he took out his sketch pad and began frantically drawing his legendary artist father in his final hours, noting how the light played on his shrunken frame beneath the white sheets, how, even as death approached, his 88-year-old father's piercing blue eyes shone out of his withered face. Then David Freud stayed up all night painting, smearing oils with his bare hands onto a piece of canvas.

The result of his grief-stricken endeavours is a series of death-bed paintings which are now on display, giving an extraordinary insight into the painful legacy left behind by Freud, a serial womaniser who fathered at least 14 children by several different mothers and was virtually estranged from many of them.

'Painting him helped me to come to terms with his loss,' says David, a former travel agent who lives in Worthing, West Sussex, and is himself a father of four. 'I felt he was more mine when he had died. I was able to digest him without barriers. He was more available to me.'

If Lucian Freud realised that the tables had been turned on him in his dying hours and that, as the end approached in July this year, he had himself become the artist's model, he said nothing. He was in the final agonising stages of bladder cancer which had spread throughout his body.

'He found it difficult to speak,' says David.

Indeed many things between father and son were left unsaid. On the rare occasions he had the chance to tell his father how he felt about him, David felt reluctant to bother him. So painting Freud on his deathbed became a way of expressing issues he hadn't been able to say to his father in life.

HE HAS no childhood memories of Freud. He was born in 1964, at a time when it appeared that Freud's sexual appetite knew no bounds. He already had two daughters, Annie and Annabel, from his first marriage to Kitty Garman, the daughter of sculptor Sir Jacob Epstein.

But at the same time the priapic painter was fathering five children by Suzy Boyt, a former student of his from the Slade Art School, he was also living with David's mother, art student Katherine McAdam. She gave birth to four of Freud's children, Jane, Paul, Lucy and, finally, David. He later sired Bella (now a fashion designer) and Esther (a novelist), who is the same age as David, by the writer and gardener Bernardine Coverley.

Freud also had a son, Frank, now 26, with the painter Celia Paul.

David has met all his half-siblings, some of them for the first time at Freud's funeral. While Freud's will and his estimated [pounds sterling]120 million fortune are still in probate, his lawyer has indicated that his money will be divided equally among his children.

'But it's not something that's particularly important,' says David. 'I saved enough money from my days in business to be able to afford to paint.'

He was still a baby when his mother finally tired of Freud's unfaithfulness and spirited away her four children to a council estate in Roehampton, South-West London.

'At a very early age I buried the whole thing completely,' he says. 'My mother didn't really talk about him and I didn't want to hurt her feelings by bringing up the subject. If anyone asked me where my father was, I said that he had died in the war.'

Without the aid of his famous father's rapidly burgeoning earnings (he was famed for his portraits of the Queen, a pregnant Kate Moss and a nude Jerry Hall), the family often struggled to survive financially.

'We were pretty poor,' he says. 'Once, the electricity was cut off because we couldn't afford to pay the bill. …

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