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Biography

1922-2011

Lucian Freud was born in Berlin in 1922, a grandson of Sigmund Freud. His family moved to London in 1931. He served in the British Navy during World War II, and since then has worked full time as a painter.

Freud has built up a formidable reputation as one of the most powerful contemporary figurative painters of nudes, portraits and faces. His is a gutsy realism characterized by strong forms and arresting detail, rendered with rich dynamic brushwork.

Freud's approach to his subjects is subjective and intense, placing him in the Expressionist tradition. Whether in groups or single figures, there is always emotional tension in the work, and Freud's relationship to the subjects is complex. Family members, friends and favorite models all play a role in the human drama of Freud's studio.

Lucian Freud, Naked Man, Back View, 1991-92
Lucian Freud: Monumental
April 5 - May 24, 2019
Henri Matisse, Boléro Violet, 1937
The Path of Modernism
From Impressionism to Today January 8-March 15, 2019, Open Monday - Friday, 10 am to 5 pm
Ed Ruscha, Rusty Silencers, 1979
Off Canvas: Drawing
April 14 – June 11, 2015
Lucian Freud, Palm Tree, 1942
Lucian Freud Drawings
April 30 – June 8, 2012
Pablo Picasso, Courtesan and Warrior, March 1-3, 1968
Works on Paper from Cézanne to Freud
September 26 – October 28, 2010
Lucian Freud, The Painter Surprised by a Naked Admirer, 2004-2005
Lucian Freud: Recent Work
November 1 – December 19, 2006
Lucian Freud, Eli, 2002
Lucian Freud: Recent Paintings and Etchings
April 27 – May 26, 2004
Lucian Freud, Louisa, 1998
Lucian Freud: Recent Work
April 9 – May 18, 2000
Lucian Freud: Monumental catalogue cover (Naked Man, Back View)
Lucian Freud: Monumental
April - May 2019
Off Canvas: Drawing cover
Off Canvas: Drawing
April 15 - June 12, 2015
Lucian Freud Drawings Catalogue Cover
Lucian Freud
Lucian Freud Drawings May 1 - June 9, 2012
Works on Paper from Cézanne to Freud Catalogue Cover
Works on Paper from Cézanne to Freud
September - October 2010
Lucian Freud, Ria, Naked Portrait, 2006-7
Whitehot Magazine of Contemporary Art
Lucian Freud at Acquavella May 2019

By Jonathan Goodman

Lucian Freud, Eli and David, 2006
Juxtapoze Magazine
Paint as Flesh / Flesh as Paint: Lucian Freud's 'Monumental' Exhibition at Acquavella Gallery May 20, 2019

By David Molesky

Lucian Freud, Leigh Bowery (Seated), 1990
Tablet Magazine
Lucian Freud's Fat Lady Sings May 21, 2019

By Jeremy Sigler

Flesh, set free by a ‘despicable genius,’ or ensnared in the male gaze?

 

Lucian Freud, Sunny Morning-Eight Legs, 1997
Hyperallergic
Lucian Freud's Mountains of Flesh May 18, 2019

By Thomas Micchelli

Freud's forlorn, isolated figures and grotty interiors resonate appallingly with the steep cultural and social decline fated by Brexit, if it ever takes effect.

Lucian Freud, Naked Solicitor, 2003
Galerie Magazine
5 Museum-Quality Gallery Shows to See in New York this Summer May 20, 2019

Rounding up a selection of exceptional exhibitions at Upper East Side and Chelsea galleries, we take you on a timely tour of museum-quality shows that definitely deliver the goods.
 

Lucian Freud, Naked Portrait, 2004
The New York Times
New York Art Galleries: What to See Right Now April 17, 2019

Lucian Freud’s nudes from the 1990s and 2000s; a Gretchen Bender retrospective revisits her TV-based installations; and artists address social justice issues in “Perilous Bodies.”

Lucian Freud, Irish Woman on a Bed, 2004
Widewalls
Why Lucian Freud's Nude Portraits Are Monumental in Every Way April 7, 2019
Lucian Freud, Large Interior, Notting Hill, 1998
The Observer
Sitting for Lucian Freud: The Painter’s Longtime Assistant Describes His Meticulous Process April 4, 2019

“If you like skin, you should find people that have a lot of it,” Lucian Freud said, according to the catalogue essay authored by Michael Auping for a show of the painter’s work opening tomorrow at Acquavella Galleries.

In most of the paintings in “Lucian Freud Monumental,” that’s what the artist did. Yet that’s not to say that Freud (1922-2011), the grandson of Sigmund Freud, didn’t place less care and attention on what surrounded the person in his gaze. Often taking twelve months to complete, with the subject sitting whenever Freud painted, these huge portraits capture even the exquisite detail of the floorboards, for example, in a painting of the performance artist and nightclub personality Leigh Bowery, who became a frequent model for the artist.

Also depicted in two paintings on view is David Dawson, a painter and Freud’s assistant for two decades. Dawson organized the show at Acquavella Galleries with William Acquavella. Both pictures show the slim, nude Dawson with a whippet—one with the skeletal dog in his arms, the other with it in his lap. (A third picture puts Dawson’s head on the body of a woman nursing a baby.) Lucian Freud was not just about masses of flesh.

Observer spoke to David Dawson about working for and posing for Lucian Freud.

Observer: We’re standing here at the far end of the long gallery on the first floor at Acquavella Galleries. On the wall is a huge 1990 portrait, eight feet high, of Leigh Bowery, sitting in what looks like a velvet chair that’s too small for him. This was the first painting by Lucian Freud that you ever saw, in the flesh, as it were. What was that experience like?
David Dawson: That took my breath away. It made all of the hairs on my arm and my neck stand on end. It’s the first painting he ever did of Leigh. From then on, I saw every single painting being made, because I was with Lucian every single day.

How did you first meet Lucian Freud?
Through James Kirkman, who was Lucian’s dealer at the time. I’d just graduated from the Royal College of Art. A professor there set me up, without my really knowing I was being set up, as a part-time assistant to a dealer, four mornings a week, a run-around boy. Straight out of art school, I thought it was a good way of getting to know who the dealers were.

The Leigh Bowery paintings hadn’t been seen by anybody then. Lucian really had jumped at that point to the physical scale of the canvases.

I was thinking of coming over to New York, where you had Julian Schnabel and David Salle and Brice Marden. The buzz was over here, in America. So when I saw that painting of Leigh Bowery, I said, “Hold on a minute. This is really serious, something important is going on here. The quality of it, the visceral truth of what a portrait can be. This is serious. I’m hanging around. I won’t find better painting in New York.” Part of the buzz of New York was the hype. It was Schnabel, it was that whole excitement.

I made the right choice.

You then worked for him for 20 years, seven days a week. Most caregivers don’t even spend that much time with a single person.
Yeah. But we got on very well. He was good company. And he actually was interested in other people. That’s why he was a good portraitist. I think that’s what he brought to portraiture in the twentieth century.

How did you end up being the subject of his first painting of you, Sunny Morning—Eight Legs, 1997, where you’re lying on a bed with a whippet—his whippet
I was with him for six years, and then one morning he just said, “Oh, I’ve got an idea for a big painting with you. Would you sit?” I just said, “Clothes on, or off?” He went, “Off.”

So we started that day.

It lessened the time that I had for my own painting, although I did have the afternoons off. But I really wanted to watch him paint.  He would close the door to his studio when he painted other models, and I wanted to see how he made these paintings.

He worked from a very small area and built out.

And that small area he starts from is brought to quite a high level of completion. And then it moves, and it gets bigger. Nobody else paints like that.

And Pluto, his pet whippet, is in that painting with you. The picture also has your legs under the bed where you’re lying unclothed. Did that seem strange, to have another set of legs there?
It was actually my idea. Because of the shape of the canvas, there was this big area below the bed that was fairly empty. It didn’t help that painting. It needed some life in it. We tried leaving my clothes there, but that was too contrived, too dull in a sense. Because I knew that Lucian came out of the Surrealist period—he was brought up through Surrealism—that sort of strangeness is in his humor. So I said, “It would be funny if I had a pair of legs, instead of my trousers, on the floor.”

These long sittings, over twelve months, alone in a room with a painter, are the antithesis of the accumulation of digital information.  It’s a different kind of experience. It’s a challenge for people immersed in the instant digital world to understand how extended time and extended looking deepens your understanding of what you’re painting.
Over the years it will become more and more important how different Lucian’s idea of looking is to everyone who believes in filmic Instagram moments and YouTube.

Let’s talk about his paintings of well-know people. What about the Queen, whom he painted in 2001? It’s anything but monumental, 9 by 6 in. How did that happen?
He painted the portrait of Robert Fellowes in 1999, who was, at the time, the Queen’s secretary, and he had a certain admiration for the Queen. They had spoken about how she would sit for the portrait, and they were planning to have her come to the house, to the studio to sit. The press got word of it, and we closed it down for two or three years. You would have just had press outside your front door, which would have been horrendous.

Then we did a little portrait of John Richardson [the recently deceased biographer of Picasso]. I bought the canvas for that in New York for Lucian to try—it was only a small little canvas. And that gave Lucian the sense of practical reality that “I could paint the Queen in a certain amount of time, because I tried it out with John.”

John did nine days solid [for his portrait], and then we had twenty sittings with the Queen.

Where were those sittings?  
In St. James’s Palace, in a room that was very discreet. The Queen could come through Clarence House. We could turn up at the palace, jump out of the car—we’d go in, no one knew. It was all completely done quietly, without any fuss, and then the painting was made.

Was that just Freud and the Queen, in the room?
There would always be a courtier with the Queen, because the Queen can’t be left in a room on her own.

I’d go in, set up the easel, set up the paints, wait for the Queen to arrive, do my bowing, and then come in two hours later to collect Lucian.

Did the Queen enjoy it?
I think she rather enjoyed his company. They were of the same age, so they did know people in common. They loved horses, so they had a lot of horse talk.

Tell us about his painting of Kate Moss, from 2002.
They really got on. He’d read in an interview that Kate said she wanted more than anything to be painted by Lucian Freud. And he said, “Oh, I like that.” And Bella Freud, his daughter, is a fashion designer. She knew Kate.

Here we are at a show of monumental portraits. Freud was a figurative painter. How did he feel about abstract art?
Lucian only did what he believed in. He thought abstract art was a valid and brilliant moment, but that it had already gone. He thought Pollock had something quite brilliant about him.

Having spent so much time with a portraitist, do you make portraits?
No.  What I got out of Lucian was an honesty and knowing something about yourself. Paint what you know. Since I was brought up on a farm, I have a strong connection with the land, more than with people. I go back and paint that.

Lucian Freud, Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, 1995
Art Critical
Featured Listing: Lucian Freud: Monumental at Acquavella April 4, 2019

In their sixth solo presentation of the late British master’s work, a loan exhibition curated by Freud’s assistant, studio manager and friend David Dawson, flesh is writ large. The show, which includes loans from the Met and the Art Institute, is titled “monumental” and fits the bill on various fronts. The sitters were large people, starting with Australian performance artist Leigh Bowery and followed up by his friend, Sue Tilley, the “benefits supervisor”; the canvases followed suit; and being Freud, the time commitment in each canvas – from model and painter alike – was commensurately prodigious. Whippets offer moments of ectomorphic reprieve from all these folds of flesh. What is most monumental in terms of aesthetic achievement in these intimately observed naked portraits is the way the human subjects occupying their outsized frames transcend the implicit theatricality and any element of the grotesque of their massed presence. DAVID COHEN

Bloomberg
Freud's Obese Nudes, Bohemian Cohorts Star in London Show February 6, 2012
The Telegraph
Review: A show that proves Freud's greatness February 6, 2012

The Guardian
Lucian Freud Portraits - Review February 5, 2012
The Guardian
Lucian Freud - Reflections of the Artist February 2, 2012
The Telegraph
Unseen masterpeices by Lucian Freud unveiled for the first time January 29, 2012
ARTNews
Everything was Autobiographical September 2011
Financial Times Deutschland
April 15, 2011
Wall Street Journal Magazine
The Partnership: The Master and the Gallerist April 2011
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