Lucian Freud: from Nazi Germany to Britain's art elite

By Jennifer Lipman, July 22, 2011
Lucian Freud, as seen in a self-portrait

Lucian Freud, as seen in a self-portrait

The celebrated painter Lucian Freud has died in London at the age of 88. Described by many as Britain's greatest living artist, he had been unwell.

Mr Freud, the grandson of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, was born in Germany. Just 11-years-old when Adolf Hitler came to power, his family moved to Britain in 1933 to escape the rise of Nazism.

He served briefly in the Merchant Navy during the Second World War, but dedicated most of his life to doing what he loved best – painting brilliant and unforgiving portraits of everyone from the famous to the unknown.

His subjects included Jerry Hall, Kate Moss and the Queen, but it was his portrait of a benefits supervisor that broke all records when it was bought by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich in 2008.

Mr Freud and his brother, the late former Liberal MP Sir Clement Freud, did not grow up in a Jewish environment. However his daughter, writer Esther Freud, explored her Jewish heritage with a novel about a Jewish family in Germany as war loomed.

Tate director Sir Nicholas Serota said the artist's work guaranteed him a "unique place in the pantheon of late-20th-century art"

"His early paintings redefined British art and his later works stand in comparison with the great figurative painters of any period," added Sir Nicholas.

Lord Jacob Rothschild, a friend of the artist's for four decades, told the JC that it was a great compliment to be asked to sit for a portrait by him. He said Mr Freud was "great company" and "terribly intelligent".

Last updated: 9:03am, July 22 2011