The 87-year-old British painter Lucian Freud – Sigmund’s grandson – a diminutive figure with a blue scarf knotted around his neck, recently made a brief appearance at the London launch of Man With a Blue Scarf, an account of the critic Martin Gaylord’s eight months posing for a portrait. Freud is pictured here in a self portrait.
A private collector bought it for an undisclosed price. A larger Freud portrait, Bruce Bernard (1992), sold for 7.9 million pounds ($12.5 million) at a Christie’s International sale in June 2007.
The day after the launch of the book, Farah Nayeri, a writer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News, interviewed the author.
Here are some excepts.
Nahyeri asked Freud why he sat for an artist known for magnifying the very features that humans work hard to conceal.
Gayford: You take your chances as to what kind of image comes out, because what he’s interested in is producing the best possible work of art. I was pleasantly surprised by the painting in that respect. I thought it was quite an accurate and even flattering representation of me.
Nayeri: You didn’t fear that you might come out looking awful?
Gayford: I wondered, Is he going to notice certain things?
Nayeri: Like the hair in your ears…. Why are his portraits such a painstaking process?
Gayford: Artists have different speeds. There are some very fast painters. Van Gogh could paint a picture in an hour.
Nayeri: Why do you think Lucian Freud is a great painter?
Gayford: He can do extraordinary things with paint, and is an absolute virtuoso. Although he’s a naturalistic painter – and some would say late in the history of naturalistic painting to come along – he produces, time and time again, images that are completely fresh. They’re not hackneyed, they’re not clichéd, they’re not derived from anything.
In conclusion, Nayeri observed that she was shocked to read that Lucian Freud considered Leonardo a bad painter. He lacked a sense of weight and volume, she wrote, and the tactile qualities of what’s being painted.
“If you have that taste, you find Leonardo is soft and not substantial,” she wrote. “All the brushstrokes are cleared away, and you get a sort of airbrushed effect.”
Leaving Leonardo aside, we learn from other sources that Lucian Freud’s own hero is Titian, whose paintings mean more to him than the works of Poussin, let alone Vermeer, whose people he thinks bizarrely absent.
And by the way:
Freud is rumoured to have up to 40 illegitimate children, although this number is generally accepted as an exaggeration.