FREUD, Lucian

Lucian Freud  British 1922-2011

Lucian Freud was a painter and draughtsman. Freud, although born in Berlin, his family emigrated to London in 1933 to escape Nazism in Germany. His father was an archtiect, his grandfather was Sigmund Freud. He attended various art colleges including  Central School of Art, Cedric Morris art school in Dedham & Goldsmiths. He was briefly in the Navy during the Second World War. Freud’s first solo exhibition in 1944 at the Alex Reid & Lefevre Gallery. In the summer of 1946, he travelled to Paris before continuing to Greece to visit John Craxton. In late 1952, Freud and Lady Caroline Blackwood eloped to Paris where they married in 1953. He otherwise lived and worked in London for the rest of his life.

Freud was part of a group of figurative artists that American artist Ronald Kitj  later named “The School of London”. This was more a loose collection of individual artists who knew each other, some intimately, and were working in London at the same time in the figurative style (but during the boom years of abstract painting). The group was led by figures such a s Francis Bacon  and Freud, and included Frank Auerbach, Michael Andrews, Leon Kossoff, Robert Colquhoun, Robert MacBryde, Reginald Gray  and Kitaj himself. He was a visiting tutor at the Slade School of Fine Art  from 1949 to 1954.

Freud spent most of his career in Paddington, London, an inner-city area whose seediness is reflected in Freud’s often sombre and moody interiors and cityscapes. In the 1940s he was principally interested in drawing especially the face. He experimented with Surrealism.  He was also loosely associated with Neo-Romanticism.  He established his own artistic identity, however, in meticulously executed realist works, imbued with a pervasive mood of alienation.

Two important paintings of 1951 established the themes and preoccupations that dominated the rest of Freud’s career: Interior in Paddington (Liverpool, Walker A.G.) and Girl with a White Dog (London, Tate). Both paintings demonstrate an eagerness to establish a highly charged situation, in which the artist is free to explore formal and optical problems rather than expressive or interpretative ones.

By the late 1950s brush marks became spatial as he began to describe the face and body in terms of shape and structure, and often in female nudes the brushstrokes help to suggest shape. Throughout his career Freud’s palette remained distinctly muted.

A close relationship with sitters was often important for Freud. His mother sat for an extensive series in the early 1970s after she was widowed, and his daughters Bella and Esther modelled nude, together and individually. Although the human form dominated his output, Freud also executed cityscapes, viewed from his studio window, and obsessively detailed nature studies. The 1980s and early 1990s were marked by increasingly ambitious compositions in terms of both scale and complexity.

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