Kirkus Reviews QR Code


The Astounding Life and Outrageous Times of Britain's Great Modern Painter

by Geordie Greig

Pub Date: Oct. 22nd, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-374-11648-4
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

The editor of the Mail on Sunday and a veteran art critic explores the outsized talent and Pangaea-sized libido of painter Lucian Freud (1922–2011), grandson of Sigmund.

The exploits of Lothario, Casanova and Don Juan seem to pale in comparison to the astonishing sexual appetites and attitudes of a man who seemed interested in only two things: painting and sex. OK, gambling on horse races, as well (he lost millions of pounds). Freud’s personal privacy was, as Greig (King Maker, 2011, etc.) shows, quite difficult to penetrate—unless, of course, you were a young woman, in which case Freud would find a way to…work you in. The author had a relationship with Freud, meeting him, late in his life, for weekend breakfasts at a favorite restaurant, one that allowed Freud the privacy he craved. Greig interviewed Freud—there are some transcripts here—and many of his intimates and tells an astonishing story of appetite and accomplishment. He follows the painter from childhood to the grave, fills the book with photographs of the author and his work, and expands our notion of the capabilities of the human male. Freud had several wives and fathered 14 children (whom he basically ignored, though he did paint several of them, including nudes of 14-year-old Annie), most of whom remained devoted to him. Freud always had multiple relationships going—with models, with women he met accidentally, daughters of friends, whomever. Some partners accepted his busy agenda (or at least endured it) better than others; some were devastated by his betrayals. Greig also follows the arc of Freud’s career, which took years to flower but bore plenty of fruit once it did.

Greig tries hard to avoid judgment, but in this case, mere reporting supplies judgment enough. Of interest to art history students and ardent fans of Freud’s work.