Lucian Freud: he was wise in his way
Martyn Gayford, an art critic, recalls a good friend and a great painter.
Talking about his fellow artist Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud once said to me, “He was wise in his way”.
Exactly the same was true of Lucian. His philosophy of life was not suited to everybody; indeed, it was probably only well adapted to one individual: himself. But nonetheless the way he saw things was endlessly enlightening. “Lucian”, his life-long friend John Richardson once said to me, “is a bit addictive”.
To the world he was a great painter, one of the greatest I believe of the last seventy years. His friends also knew him as a remarkable conversationalist, with a way of observing, and a turn of phrase (as impossible to reproduce as his voice with its amalgam of mid century RP English with an undercurrent of Middle European, especially in the rolled ‘R’s).
With Lucian, talk might turn to art – about which he had bracing views (an example of the latter being that someone should write a book about what a ghastly painter Leonardo da Vinci was). Or the talk might just as easily be about people or places Lucian had known. In the course of a long life he had known an almost infinite number of those, famous, infamous – in the case of the Kray brothers – and otherwise. His accounts of the celebrated could be epigrammatically incisive. On Ian Fleming, with whom he had clashed in the 1950s, “He wasn’t nasty, he was ghastly; he didn’t have friends, he had golfing friends.”
He could be just as insightful about anybody he met, and whole nationalities. On his only visit to the United States, he stepped into a taxi at the airport which immediately got stuck in a huge traffic jam. Any London cabbie, he pointed out would have started effing and blinding at this point. His American driver, however, remarked, “Gee, isn’t this a great country: all these people have cars”.Read more...