Lucian Michael Freud (1922–2011) was a British draughtsman and painter widely recognized as one of the greatest portrait painters of the 20th century.
Born in Germany in 1922 to Jewish parents, Freud is the grandson of Austrian psychologist Sigmund Freud. He spent most of his life in Britain after his family fled Germany in 1933 to escape the ascent of Nazism.
Freud attended Dartington Hall School and later Bryanston School in Dorset and took British citizenship in 1939. In 1941, he joined the British Merchant Marine, serving in an Atlantic convoy as a merchant seaman before being invalided out of the service the following year.
Freud studied at London’s Central School of Art, Morris’s East Anglian School, and the University of London’s Goldsmiths College. He taught at London’s Slade School of Fine Art as a visiting tutor from 1949 to 1954.
His first solo exhibition was in 1944 at the Lefevre Gallery, which included his now renowned painting “The Painters Room.”
Freud's early works show elements of surrealism, but it is the portraits he began to paint with thick impasto and muted colors in the 1950’s that brought him fame. Although Freud's portraits often just depict the sitter, he sometimes juxtaposes the subject with another element.
Freud's subjects were quite often the people that featured in his life from his lovers to friends, family, and children. He painted a number of his contemporaries during his career, including Francis Bacon and Frank Auerbach, created a group of portraits of infamous Australian performance artist Leigh Bowery, and painted British artists’ model Henrietta Moraes, a muse for many Soho artists.
The National Gallery of Australia bought Freud's odd-shaped painting, “After Cezanne,” for $7.4 million in 2001. The work has an extension at top left that was “grafted” on to the primary painting. Upon close inspection, a horizontal line can be seen where the two sections join.
In 1996, Abbot Hall Art Gallery in Kendal held a major exhibition of 27 of Freud’s paintings and 13 etchings covering his career up to that date. Tate Britain staged a retrospective of his work in 2002.
Freud was famously criticized for his allegedly unflattering paintings of Queen Elizabeth II.
Freud died in London in 2011, aged 88.