Feature: ArtScene

ArtScene: Reflection, 1985, Lucian Freud

By , Columnist

Reflection - Lucian Freud

London. You can’t go on being living famous. We all pop-off when Peter calls. Three score years and ten seems nothing nowadays, but the numbers don’t much matter.  It’s what you’ve done when the bell tolls. The priest with the you’re-quite-safe-with-me watery eyes and wet lisp was telling me that on the Eurostar back from Paris.

He then added “So, we must be careful with our memories”.

Normally I don’t do philosophy on the first Paris to Pancras in the morning.  Puzzling Le Figaro’s take on M. Sarkozy’s non-future and non-spill coffee is about me.

Then he says “Take your own portrait of our dear Prince Michael. I hear it’s being called forward for the Royal Portrait Painters show.” That’s a coffee spill moment.

A priest, a total stranger, clocks you on the 7.13am Eurostar? Sting? Set up? What’s a priest doing First Class anyway? He smiles. Wet lip smiles are a bit scary.

freud_girl_300.jpgThen he explains: he was at the unveiling of the HRH Michael. At the back - he says.  Do I believe him? I don’t think I do. Does it matter? Scary Number Two: we’re both going to London for next week’s Lucian Freud at the National Portrait Gallery. Must make sure my Number One Fan will be there.

So I take refuge in first year philosophy of life. Freud died last year.  Every time I look at one of his portraits I remembering him saying that he was only trying to do what he couldn’t do.

The Lisping Father nods. He says it’s an ambition for us all. Maybe. I simply want to drink in Freud for as long as it takes. The NPG’s exhibition is one hundred and more paintings that Lucian wanted us to see. Why? Because these portraits were the people in his life.

The NPG could call it Friends & Lovers. Bit tacky? But add family and that’s what it’s about. He didn’t paint a picture.  He painted the person. It could hurt. But the sitter knew when it was true. Lucian certainly did.

Look at his 1985 self-portrait and look carefully at the eye that follows you. It’s the left one. The dull one, not the sharp right eye. Was that Freud? Still with us?

I’m thinking this when I realize Mon Père Lisp is looking into my eyes.  Oh dear! Maybe that’s what it was with Lucian Freud. The sitter is so much more than the image that walked into the studio.  And when you can’t look into the face nor look at the body anymore? What’s left when the three score and ten are done? Freud made older bones (1922-2011) - few of them wasted. No, none of us goes on being living famous, or even living obscurity.  But we leave much behind. We all do. Don’t ask the children. They know nothing until your dead. Ask the friends.

Go look at Freud at the NPG and see what he thought of his friends & lovers. Lucian Freud Portraits 9 February through 27 May.

ArtScene Quote

I paint people not because of what they are like… but how they happen to be -- Lucian Freud

Share this story About the author

Fiona Graham-Mackay, is London's newest royal portrait painter. She is also recently back from painting in the Pakistan-Afghan border. She studied at London's Royal College of Art, had a studio in Paris before returning to the UK to paint and teach in London, Spain and Italy. Her next assignments are…

View Profile

More from Fiona
Related Tags

Connect With TMR

Recent Writers

View all writers »

February 2021
1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27