Selected Works

Lucian Freud was born in 1922 in Germany. He is the son of Jewish parents and the grandson of Sigmund Freud. He moved with his family to England in 1933 to escape the rise of Nazism and he became a British citizen in 1939. Freud briefly studied at the Central School of Art in London then, with greater success, at Cedric Morris’ East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing in Dedham, and also at Goldsmiths College – University of London from 1942-3.

Freud served as a merchant seaman in an Atlantic convoy in 1941 before being invalided out of service in 1942. In 1943, Tambimuttu, the Ceylonese editor, commissioned the young artist to illustrate a book of poems by Nicholas Moore entitled “The Glass Tower”. It was published the following year by Editions Poetry London and comprised, among other drawings, a stuffed zebra (-cum-unicorn) and a palm tree. Both subjects reappeared in The Painter’s Room on display at 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 for several months. Since then he has lived and worked in London.

Freud’s early paintings are often associated with surrealism and depict people, plants and animals in unusual juxtapositions. These works are usually painted with relatively thin paint, but from the 1950s he began to paint portraits, often nudes, to the almost complete exclusion of everything else, employing a thicker impasto. With this technique he would often clean his brush after each stroke. The colors in these paintings are typically muted.

Freud’s portraits often depict only the sitter, sometimes sprawled naked on the floor or on a bed or alternatively juxtaposed with something else, as in Girl With a White Dog (1951–52) and Naked Man With Rat (1977–78). The use of animals in his compositions is widespread, and often features pet and owner. Other examples of portraits with both animals and people in Freud’s work include Guy and Speck (1980–81), Eli and David (2005–06) and Double Portrait (1985–86). He has a special passion for horses, having enjoyed riding at school in Dartington, where he sometimes even slept in the stables. His portraits solely of horses include Grey Gelding (2003), Skewbald Mare (2004), and Mare Eating Hay (2006).

Freud’s subjects are often the people in his life; friends, family, fellow painters, lovers, children. Freud has painted fellow artists, including Frank Auerbach and Francis Bacon. He produced a series of portraits of the performance artist Leigh Bowery, and also painted Henrietta Moraes, a muse to many Soho artists. Freud is one of the best known British artists working in a traditional representational style, and was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 1989.

Freud was a visiting tutor at the Slade School of Fine Art of University College London from 1949-54. In 1996, Abbot Hall Art Gallery in Kendal mounted a major exhibition of 27 paintings and thirteen etchings, covering the whole period of Freud’s working life to date. The following year the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art presented “Lucian Freud: Early Works”. The exhibition comprised around 30 drawings and paintings done between 1940 and 1945. This was followed by a large retrospective at Tate Britain in 2002. During a period from May 2000 to December 2001, Freud painted Queen Elizabeth II. There was criticism of this portrayal of the Queen in some sections of the British media. The highest selling tabloid newspaper, The Sun, was particularly condemnatory, describing the portrait as “a travesty”. In late 2007, a collection of Freud’s etchings titled “Lucian Freud: The Painter’s Etchings” went on display at the Museum of Modern Art.

In May 2008, his 1995 portrait Benefits Supervisor Sleeping was sold by auction by Christie’s in New York City for $33.6 million, setting a world record for sale value of a painting by a living artist. In November 2008, letters written by Freud were obtained by The Independent under the Freedom of Information Act. They detail his bitter dispute with some of the most powerful figures in the art world after he was asked to represent Britain at the 1954 Venice Biennale, the world’s leading contemporary art exhibition. The publicity-shy portrait painter locked horns with gallery officials after a selection committee rebuffed his suggestions of works to show in Italy. The article includes a copy of the letter written by Freud to the British Council complaining about the selection process.

Selected Solo Exhibitions

  • 2003 – Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
  • 2004  – National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh
  • 2005 –  Museo Correr, Venice
  • 2006 –  Acquavella Galleries, New York
  • 2007 –  Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin
  • 2008 – Museum of Modern Art, New York
  • 2008 – Gemeentemuseum Den Haag
  • 2010 – Centre Pompidou, Paris