If you have ever wondered what an artist’s life would be like if they put art first at the expenses of relationships, friendships and family. If so, then this is the book to read. For a few years before Lucian Freud’s death, Geordie Greig the editor from the Mail on Sunday was able to share breakfast with Lucian at his favourite restaurant, Clarkes on Kensington Church Street. Greig’s book about Freud does a worthy job of sketching out the painter’s hedonistic personal life. ‘Breakfast with Lucian’ is the story of an adulterous, brawler and rogue with no boundaries or restraints.
This book is written in the style of an author’s note. Interesting facts and aspects of his life are uncovered within the writing. There are many shocking tales of Freud, like the time he smelt a woman strong perfume in public, he raised his voice saying, “I hate perfume. Women should smell of one thing. Cunt! In fact, they should invent a perfume called cunt.”
Accompanying book review: Breakfast with Lucian
Freud was never willing to apologise for his inexcusable behaviour. His actions are like his paintings, were engaging and frighteningly real. Greig tried hard to give an account of Freud’s life without judgement or blame but instead, at times, I found it gossipy. It tends to focus on aspects of his life, like Freud’s role as a father. I wanted a read a different type of book. As an artist, I wanted to read about Freud’s ability to undress the human soul in his paintings.
Freud could sketch out a life for what it really was. He had the drive to work towards uncovering answer about being human. Freud explained that “When I’m painting people in clothes I’m thinking very much of naked people, or animals dressed.” Freud was able to go beyond just painting, to create an ‘intensification of reality.’ He explains, “The longer you look at an object, the more abstract it becomes, and, ironically, the more real.” In his painting practice, he dug deep making this meaning visible for others to see, while everything in his personal life was left to rot.
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There was clearly a great sacrifice from the people around Freud who put up with the death threats, his scandalous sexual exploits and escaping the Krays. ‘Breakfast with Lucian’ is clearly entertaining, but in spite of that, I wanted to know more about what Freud achieved with his art than whisperings about his personal life.
My overriding feeling is that this is a book of anecdotes which does not try to explain truly explain Freud and the reasons behind his fantastic paintings. When reading it I had to remind myself that it was written by an editor from a daily rag who undoubtedly loves scandal. It would a completely different book if it was written by an art critic, historian or even an art aficionado.
However, Freud indulgence in his art unquestionably doesn’t justify the way he conducted himself and the way he treated others. Throughout his life’s work, Freud revealed a spectacular spectrum of deep meaning about human life, one that many other artists would be fearful to delve into.