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The Lives of Lucian Freud


William Feaver

Lucian Freud (1922–2011) is one of the great painters of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Though ferociously private, for more than twenty years he spoke every week to his confidante and collaborator William Feaver – about painting and the art world, but also about his life and loves. The result is a unique, electrifying biography, that, shot through with Freud’s own words, is also autobiography.

In Youth, the first of two volumes, Feaver conjures Freud’s beginnings – Sigmund Freud’s grandson, born into a well-to-do middle-class Jewish family in Weimar Berlin, escaping Nazi Germany in 1933 before being dropped into successive English public schools. Following Freud through his teenage discovery of Soho – the Café Royal and the louche Coffee An’, his time as a Merchant Seaman during the war, his post-war adventures in Paris and Greece, and his setting up as a painter in the then-seedy Maida Vale, Feaver traces a brilliant, difficult young man’s coming of age, creating art entirely on his own terms.

A passionate and often destructive lover, with swathes of admirers both male and female, his marriages to first Kitty Garman, daughter of Jacob Epstein, then Caroline Blackwood, ran concurrently with other longer-term relationships and the birth of children. His friendships with men included Stephen Spender, Johnny Craxton, Graham Sutherland, John Minton, Francis Bacon and Frank Auerbach. Whether squiring Greta Garbo around town or dancing with Princess Margaret, swallowing orchids at a fancy dress ball or gambling with gangsters, his adventures glitter with glamour and life. By 1968, when this volume comes to a close, much of Freud’s post-war Paddington life was being left behind, and new homes and places of refuge were being found. His time was yet to come and it would.

Not simply the story of an epic life, but an account of a century told through one of its most important artists, The Lives of Lucian Freud is a landmark in the story of its subject and in the art of biography itself.

First published:
Published by:
Bloomsbury Publishing
Hardcover 704 pages
William Feaver - 'The Lives of Lucien Freud: Youth' Book Trailer

About the author

William Feaver is a painter, curator and author, and was the art critic for the Observer for 23 years. He is on the Academic Board of the Royal Drawing School where he also currently tutors. As well as extensive work as a broadcaster he has produced films with Jake Auerbach including Lucian Freud Portraits and The Last Art Film. His book Pitmen Painters (about the Ashington Group in Northumberland) was adapted for the stage by Lee Hall and has been performed throughout the world since 2007. He curated Lucian Freud’s 2002 retrospective at Tate Britain, Barcelona and Los Angeles, another at the Museo Correr in Venice in 2005, and the 2012 exhibition of Freud’s drawings in London and New York. He also curated the John Constable exhibition at the Grand Palais in 2002 with Freud. He has sat, weekly, for Frank Auerbach since 2003. He lives in London.