Lucian Freud, 1922-2011


Lucian Freud, painter of fleshy figures and probing portraits, died last night in London, age 88. Along with Francis Bacon, Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff, Freud has long been considered one of Britain’s most important postwar painters.

His compelling portraits are often provocative but never lewd. His subjects, typically nude, were required to sit for many hours and many days. As a result, their likenesses are imbued with a psychological intensity, a nakedness of both body and soul, which Freud hewed from deliberate, brushy strokes.

Born and raised in Berlin, a grandson of Sigmund Freud, he moved to London with his refugee family in 1933. Coming from a wealthy family—his father was an architect—Freud had access to elite circles of society. But his favorite model in more recent years was the performance artist Leigh Bowery, a large, bald man with an imposing physique. Among his subjects were Andrew Parker Bowles (first husband of Camilla), David Hockney and his New York dealer William Acquavella.

Acquavella released a statement:  “My family and I mourn Lucian Freud not only as one of the great painters of the twentieth century but also as a very dear friend. As the foremost figurative artist of his generation he imbued both portraiture and landscape with profound insight, drama and energy. In company he was exciting, humble, warm and witty. He lived to paint and painted until the day he died, far removed from the noise of the art world.”

Freud received his first U.S. retrospective at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in 1988. Other surveys have been mounted by the Metropolitan Museum in New York in 1993, Tate Britain in 2002, L.A. MOCA in 2003 and the Centre Pompidou in Paris in 2010.