A British painter, with German roots, the son of an architect and the grandson of the founder of psychoanalysis, Lucian Freud emigrated to the United Kingdom with his family in 1932, fleeing from the antisemitic tide that had taken over in his home country.
The body of his work is composed almost exclusively of portraits in which he voluptuously undresses his model. The models were almost always friends or lovers, and he painted them with deliberate parsimony, always in natural settings, in order to capture their instincts while they pose. Freud has said about this that he wants his paintings to have “the same effect as flesh.”
Although in his youth his work showed an undeniable Surrealistic influence, his evolution turned towards representation similar to the reasoning of Otto Dix and Oscar Kokoschka in the New Objectivity movement. However, he would not achieve his most genuine language until he had formed a close relationship with Auerbach and Bacon, two painters with whom he formed part of the so called School of London.
It was Francis Bacon who encouraged him to immerse himself in pictorial material with complete freedom from the requirements of the drawing. His brushstrokes became coarse and angular but without betraying his taste for details. Freud’s work is intimate, piercing, distressing. His models’ flaccid bodies disturb the spectator with their autobiographical intensity that is almost always far from any sexual intention. He did not paint a nude portrait of himself until he was well into his 70s.
His shows at the Marlborough Gallery gave him resounding success that has continued to grow since the excellent retrospective show that visited Washington, Paris, London and Berlin in the 1980s. His work smashes price records at every new auction, and nobody disputes the fact that today Lucian Freud is, in his own right, one of the most respected figures in contemporary Art.