For 10 years Geordie Greig was among a very small group of friends who regularly met Lucian Freud for breakfast at Clarke's restaurant on Kensington Church Street. Over tea and the morning papers, Freud would recount stories of his past and discuss art. It was, in effect, Freud's private salon.
In this kaleidoscopic memoir, Greig remembers Freud's stories: of death threats; escaping from Nazi Germany; falling out with his brother Clement; loathing his mother; painting David Hockney; sleeping with horses; escaping the Krays; painting the Queen; his controversial role as a father; and why Velázquez was the greatest painter. It is revelatory about his art, his lovers, his children, his enemies, and his love of gambling.
Freud dared never to do dull, speaking candidly of dancing with Garbo as well as painting Kate Moss naked. Those closest to him, after decades of silence and secrecy, have spoken frankly about what life was like living, loving or sitting for the greatest figurative portraitist of the twentieth century. Partly based on hours of taped conversations with the artist and his circle, and drawing on interviews with those who knew Freud intimately - including many girlfriends, models, dealers and bookmakers - Breakfast with Lucian is an intimate portrait of the artist as a young and old man. It is a uniquely fascinating, personal and authoritative account of one of the greatest British painters of this century and the last, and a profile of a man who makes everyone else's life seem less lived.
©2013 Geordie Greig (P)2013 Random House AudioGo
Audiobooks have literally changed my life. I now actually ENJOY doing mindless chores because they give me plenty of listening time!
The grandson of that famous other Freud, Sigmund, Lucian Freud became one of the most famous artists of the late 20th and early 21st century while fiercely resisting any sort of public exposure, including having his photos taken or giving interviews for most of his lifetime. Geordie Greig contrived after years of repeated efforts and conniving to secure a series of breakfast interviews with the notoriously monomaniacal artist, and also interviewed friends, former lovers and models after Freud had passed away in 2011; only at that point were they willing to break the vow of silence they had kept, which they weren't willing to breach before, even if Freud had acted in outrageous ways toward them, because somehow under the influence of the immense charm and influence he had exerted on them. Freud had not been above employing thugs to threaten journalists and reporters who had been working on biographies of him, so fear of his wrath was as effective a silencer as the rest.
His tremendous talent and the one passion which guided his whole life and to which all sacrifices were made was his art, which eventually evolved to his signature paintings of nude models, often of friends and his family, including his own children, or of people he met who were willing to pose for him over many months and for sessions lasting very long hours. As a person he seemed to have more disturbing faults than can be enumerated, and as a father probably sent all his children into lifelong therapy (my own conjecture only). His other singular passion was sex, which he reportedly indulged in as frequently as he could with little regard for convention, and consequently, of children, he had fourteen recognized daughters and sons, two from his first wife and 12 from various mistresses, but none of them ever had much contact with him; he gave everything he had to his art and then some, always seeking to perfect himself in that single sphere of life, which ended up paying him back handsomely in the literal sense of the word. Love him and his work or hate him, he was a fascinating character, very well read and full of culture and stories. This book, both gossipy and filled with interesting tidbits and background information about some of his most well-known paintings, is a real treasure-trove and also a great treat in the audio format as narrated by John Standing, an actor and an aristocrat who might very well have been among the kind of people Freud himself would have happily associated with in his long and fruitful lifetime.
I borrowed the print edition from the library to see what I may have missed, suspecting it was probably illustrated with many of the paintings mentioned in the text and featuring pictures as well, and that is indeed the case, so I'd say both audio and book are worth getting your hands on.
"Indulgent but fascinating"
Lots of fascinating details about one of the world's most accomplished portrait painters. We learn of Lucien Freud's relationship with his grandfather Sigmund and with his wide range of sexual partners, marriage partners, children, friends, other painters and gallery owners, and a whole lot more. While Geordie Greig tells an interesting story he also indulges us with more than we care to know about his own relationships, name-dropping and perspectives, and there is a risk of hagiography despite Lucien Freud's arrogance, hedonism, bullying, and ambiguous and contemporaneous love of women and misogyny.
Insights regarding the development of his painting style, what was entailed in sitting for him, and the range of models and family members painted are fascinating.
An important and valuable set of insights into one of the 20th Century's greatest artists. Would be great to have the artwork in front of one as one heard the background, context, description and critique. Something for Audible to work on?
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