Lucian Freud Story Seven - old age death his mother and the book

Lucian Freud story seven - old age death his mother and the book 


Did age affect him?
No. No. I never ever thought, oh I’m hanging out with an old man. He was like a young mate. I know it’s a bit silly to say that. Lucian was very young and again he looked good. He was light on his feet, he had good balance he was jumping around. He wasn’t cruckety with an old stick, or overweight. Age didn’t mean anything it was just numbers – it literally was for him.


Towards the end did he talk about mortality?


No it just got in the way that, just something that happens. He was here to paint and he was interested in this world. He wasn’t interested in any abstract thinking of what goes beyond. And that what his work is about, it’s about the most remarkable things in this world. That’s exactly what his work is.


Last pic of you ….


Dying got in the way. Slightly bit annoying.


Did you know that his days were numbered?


Yeah, you’re with hi every day and the doctors and stuff. Well we kept him at home. He just went to bed and he got weaker and weaker. You’ve got to die of something haven’t you. Ah you’re on that journey now, here we go. But it was nice we kept him at home. It’s the best way you can do it. Stay in bed. It’s all positive really. I just kept talking about painting to him, let’s go and do a bit more on Eli. And he said he didn’t feel very well. Let’s have a rest then. It was about life. We’re not religious, don’t need any of that stuff.

He taught me how to live. That’s the job of a painter, I think, show people how to live.


How do you feel about the book

Lucian gave me the copyright for images, so I had a fair amount of control of what is out there. So when the idea of this book came to me I thought, yeah….because you need to keep books updated and there hadn’t been a bit monograph on Lucian and there’s never been a complete one so now this one is complete and for the first time we’ve put etchings, drawings and paintings together and I’ve hopefully shown with the editor Mark Holborn CHK how Lucian worked. So you can see the rhythm cos he always did etchings after the painting. He’d finished the painting and he’d do an etching of the person quite often. And the drawings were never really preparatory drawings, they were just drawings in their own right. So the book will show you how he worked really and that’s interesting.


It’s not every single painting (we’ve had to edit) but you’ll get a very good feel of the man’s life’s work.


Getting the edit right has been the hardest bit. There are a few paintings that aren’t in which I wanted in but it’s about making a book some have to go. So there are one or two that aren’t in there.


We’ve done it by the decade. So it’s amazing you can see the relationships and how he gets completely caught up with one person.  There are four or five pages of the same sitter.

At the end of the first volume it’s his mother and the beginning of the second volume there’s a another eight or none paintings or drawings of his mother. So you get to very clearly see who was in his life at what period of his life and how that relationship worked out.


Did you learn anything from it?

No, I think because I’d worked with him for so many years and done exhibitions with him I know the work very well. So there’s nothing hugely …. I mean that was the biggest thing was seeing the relationships and who he was caught up with and then that one goes and this one comes in. It was amazing seeing his mother actually. The mother paintings form quite a big chunk and that was a surprise for me.


He was always trying to get away from his mother. Cos he always felt that his mother knew everything about him and he was always wanting to run the other way! So that was his constant. But then I think because… that’s the amazing thing with Lucian because he saved her really. Because when his father, her husband died she really sunk into a very low time in her life and I think almost once tried to end it. Well he pulled her out of that by going round every morning, picking her up and painting her and he did it for eight years of something. He helped people enormously in living.  

And then I think why he could paint her because she was so caught up in mourning her husband she suddenly wasn’t interested in her son suddenly she wasn’t interested in Lucian. So he could then paint her whereas before she was this very protective mother I feel and that’s what he was really fighting against. Whereas these last few years of her life she’d gone into her own world maybe and then he could paint her. There was a distance there.


And with the second half of the book, the part you were involved in did that give you perspective?


Yeah, I could really push in. you could see how hard we, he worked and hopefully the scale. Because that’s the hard thing about a book is trying to show that the paintings

There are an awful lot of very small paintings and then there are these large paintings at the end.

I don’t like big white books and then there’s a little image….that’s what we had to try and work out – how to make the small paintings look big and then really make the big paintings make them look big.


You can definitely see the push of the last 20 years, these big paintings boom boom boom boom.

He didn’t work in a series. Each one was an individual. It wasn’t how Americans paint in series he was making individual portraits, and some of them are of the same person, but each one is very different to the last one.

What do you think is his lasting influence on you and on the art world.

Humanity. What it feels like to be human. And the tenderness and openness that that can be. And for me personally he taught me how to live, how to be a painter. He just taught me how to live better.

It’s the human ness of feeling for another individual and connection with another individual. That’s what people respond to I think. They can relate to the empathy with that portrait.

I think that’s what people take from the work. People have got to look at the paintings. I can hear people say oh they’re really cold. Well they’re not you just have to look. It is the empathy and the connection with another person. I think that’s what will always be in that work. It’s not theorised. It’s feeling. Lucian always talked about feeling when looking at a painting. It’s about what you feel looking at a painting. It wasn’t some abstract idea. It’s a sort of amazing combination between gut and brain, heart and brain. What you feel is how you live.