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Lucian Freud's Recent Show: "The Painter and His Family"

Author : Safoora Seyedi

Reading Time : 3 Minutes

What has always excited me the most about history is to trace a real character over the years. That is probably why reading Gabriel García Márquez's book "One Hundred Years of Solitude" entertains many who, like me, are curious about personal pedigrees and narratives about actual figures. Many know Sigmund Freud, who propounded ideas about dreams, neuroticism, parapraxis, unconscious, and castration anxiety. However, thanks to the most recent approaches, we know that what the old psychoanalyst had put forward is now obsolete; nonetheless, his influence on the next generations cannot be denied. Here, I aim not to confront the great Freud but his painter grandchild. Lucian Freud, the grandchild of Sigmund Freud, is a German Realist painter who escaped Germany with his family during the dominance of the German Reich and moved to England.  

Lucian was an outstanding talent since childhood and never disguised his interest in faces and humans. "The Painter and His Family" will bring Lucian's works to the grandfather's house for the first time, aiming to present a family narrative for the viewers. The show will run from July 6, 2022, to January 29, 2023, at Sigmund and Anna Freud's private house in London (Freud Museum). The exhibition features paintings, family photographs, books, letters, and drawings from the artist's childhood. Therefore, this is a subject-oriented show, just like what we see at Van Gogh Museum; all displayed works serve to introduce the artist, not his works. 

Letter and drawing from Lucian Freud to his father Ernst Freud | undated (early 1930s) | © The Lucian Freud Archive. All Rights Reserved 2022 / Bridgeman Images. Collection of the Freud Museum London 


Like his grandfather, Lucian transforms our perception. After moving to England, he turned from Surrealism to Realism and humans; a small circle of family members and a few friends that a Jewish person could find in a foreign country during the Antisemitism period. What distinguishes the event is the curator's face-to-face encounter with the artist. Few people know that Lucian loved reading books. He was always reading something. He eagerly followed the words and always looked for new forms of writing. However, horses were his most considerable fascination, as they appeared in both his works related to the Surrealist and Realist periods. For instance, "Figure with Horses,"   displayed at the Art Basel 2016, is a reminder of his Surrealist period. The show traces the artist's interest in horses back to his childhood. One drawing by the young Lucian, which dates back to 1930, is displayed in the show. The drawing was attached to a letter that he sent to his father. It shows a red horse standing on green grass with clouds in the purple sky. This is Lucian's surrealism, with signs of reality before the eyes of the audience. The "Three-legged Horse"   (1937), the only sculpture the artist created, is another proof of his interest in horses since childhood. He imagined the animal's body form in his hand and tried various media to become more familiar with it as an artistic subject. 

Palm Tree (1944) | Lucian Freud | gifted to his aunt Anna | © The Lucian Freud Archive | All Rights Reserved 2022 / Bridgeman Images. Collection of the Freud Museum London 


The "Palm Tree" which Lucian gifted to his aunt Anna Freud is also displayed in the show. The work provides the audience with a piece of evidence; it seems that, in addition to humans, the artist is interested in any living thing. The palm tree that he had bought from a garden in St John's Wood remained a part of his studio for many years. He used to drink coffee in the evening while looking at the tree. This is visible in the "Painter's Room" (1943-1944) and "Interior in Paddington" (1951).  

"The Painter and His Family" is curated by Martin Gayford, Lucian's old friend and admirer, and will be held in cooperation with the Freud Museum. Gayford, writer and art critic, has also written about Van Gogh, Michelangelo, and David Hockney. This may be why the show presents an experience similar to walking in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. For seven months, Gayford sat for Lucian to draw a portrait of him. The experience of sitting for one of the world-famous portrait painters and observing his technical and psychological process of artistic creation was then described in a book titled "Man with a Blue Scarf: On Sitting for a Portrait by Lucian Freud." In addition to Lucian's works, Gayford presents yet another thing at the event: an understanding attained based on socializing and transformed into the form of an artistic event.  




  • herfeh-honarmand.com/blog/%D9%84%D9%88%D8%B3%DB%8C%D9%86-%D9%81%D8%B1%D9%88%DB%8C%D8%AF-%D8%B2%D9%86%D8%AF%DA%AF%DB%8C%D9%87%D8%A7%DB%8C-%D9%88%D8%A7%D9%82%D8%B9%DB%8C/ 

  • www.freud.org.uk/exhibitions/lucian-freud/?utm_term=62bf0bf7cfefa60696b2fb880149ead8&utm_campaign=ArtWeekly&utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&CMP=artweekly_email 

  • www.wikiart.org/en/lucian-freud/horse-smiling 

  • artbasel.com/catalog/artwork/36552/Lucian-Freud-Figure-with-Horses 

  • www.theguardian.com/books/2010/sep/26/man-with-blue-scarf-lucian-freud-review 


Cover and Slider image:  

  • Lucian (left) with his father Ernst Freud and brothers Clement and Stephen Gabriel, c. 1930 | © The Lucian Freud Archive | All Rights Reserved 2022 / Bridgeman Images. Collection of the Freud Museum London | www.freud.org