A personal story about the artist Lucian Freud

A personal tale

In the late 1950s when my mother was a teenager, she and her friend Brenda met the artist Lucian Freud in a pub. Here she describes how he offered to paint her: “When Brenda and I were at art school we went to the Caves de France in Soho for drinks, or she did, I only ever had one rum and blackcurrant. When I was at the bar, Lucian Freud spoke to me saying I looked like a beautiful frog and would I sit for him? To my 16-year-old eyes he was an old man, so I declined. As the evening wore on, Brenda got too drunk to get the tube, so Lucian Freud said he would drive us. When we got outside, his car was a Rolls Royce and I asked him sharply: ‘Are you sure this is your car?’ Brenda got in the front and I got in the back. I asked to be dropped off first as my mother would be wondering where I was. And as Brenda had been sick in the front of his car, I was glad to leave.”

Another of my mum’s friends at the time, Bernadine, became more enamoured with Lucian, and went on to have two daughters with him, Esther and Bella.

No regrets

My mum has absolutely no regrets about refusing to be painted by Lucian, and I don’t blame her. He had a knack of making anyone he painted look like they had died a week or so before. As she says, why would she want a picture of herself looking hideous? Not that she would ever have possessed it anyway, by now it would be worth millions of pounds and be part of some rich person’s or gallery’s. art collection. Photographs of my mum show that she was stunningly beautiful at the time and she is still gorgeous now.

Only an opinion

It is easy to criticise, and as I have said in a previous article, it is hard to separate the artist from the person, which has probably tainted my feelings about Lucian’s paintings. Apart from the disparaging remarks about him made by my mother, in terms of how he treated women, Wikipedia claims he is rumoured to have fathered as many as 40 children, and I wonder how many of them enjoyed a great relationship with a loving father? To be fair, I have never read Bella or Esther saying a word against him, and even their mum Bernadine was supposed to be on good terms with him up until her death. But I am glad he isn’t my dad, who as far as I know as just had the one child, who as an only child got plenty of attention, which is never a bad thing. And look how well I turned out!

Freud family

Even if I was a big fan of Lucian Freud as a person, I don’t think I would have liked his paintings of naked women anyway, I can’t see how they can appeal to anyone unless they were a necrophiliac. Although his paintings of dogs are a different matter, as they always look glossy and glorious. But my opinion is just personal, as is my mother’s anecdote, and according to Wikipedia he is known as “one of the foremost 20th century portraitists”. Another brilliant Freud, what a family!