Thursday, October 15, 2015

Lucian Freud: Hellish Contours of a A Self-Centered Life

Jogger on the River Raisin, Monroe, MI

One of Lucian Freud's paintings was auctioned off for $33.6 million. Freud, the grandson of Sigmund Freud, was charismatic, brilliant, and self-centered to the end (died 2011). All this is biographed in Geordie Greig's book Breakfast with Lucian, reviewed here


  • had vast gambling debts
  • had literally hundreds of lovers
  • fathered many children by many mothers
  • painted his adult daughters nude - "They sat for him because it gave them the chance, perhaps their only chance, to spend time with him."
  • had three children in one year alone, to three different women
  • openly liked some of his children better than others
  • "systematically sought out and seduced the teenaged daughters and nieces of his former friends and lovers... Greig describes a shameful episode in which Freud slept with the extremely fragile daughter of a woman who had left him many years before. Not long afterwards this young woman died of a heroin overdose, at 17."
  • tore into waiters at restaurants and got into fist fights for no apparent reason 
  • "...fell out with people, sometimes spectacularly. He very seldom forgave."

How sad. To rarely forgive is to be filled with bitterness.

But... Freud was a brilliant artist? Does this make a difference? Cressida Connoley writes:

"Does being an important artist absolve Freud? While his stature as a painter is not, of course, affected by his private affairs, in the end this aspect of his life diminishes him and the myth of himself he took such pains to construct. The enchantment, the wit, the mystery, even the brooding and hawk-like physical beauty lose their allure."

Thomas Merton wrote that "self-love is the source of all boredom and all restlessness and all unquiet and all misery and all unhappiness - ultimately, it is hell." 

The self-centered person is a diminished soul. Self-centeredness grows the soul smaller and smaller and smaller until nothing remains, like the hellish souls who become less real in C.S. Lewis's The Great Divorce.