Keith Miller has a perceptive review of Geordie Grieg’s book about Lucian Freud, Breakfast with Lucian: The Astounding Life and Outrageous Times of Britain’s Great Modern Painter .

He is perceptive on the paintings: “A large irony of Freuds career is that while he was, or seemed, pathologically afraid of being (or seeming) middle-class, his work was stolidly bourgeois in its narrowness of affect and laboured execution, its exaltation of a disillusioned materialism, its retro existentialism. A ‘real’ painter in a period dominated by abstractionists and conceptualists, he began as a kind of neo-Romantic, an anguished young exquisite. Then he switched from soft sable brushes to stubby hog bristle, and the spidery, opalescent elegance and surrealist grace notes of the early 1950s gave way to a joyless, staccato technique and a palette of municipal drabness though unexplained guest appearances from animals continued to feature. Occasionally in his ‘mature’ paintings theres a pleasing sense of movement, the loaded brush careering over layers of wet-in-wet paint like a five-year-old mucking around with leftover cake mix; more often, the paint mounts up in a curdled mass, the sitters eyes (such a strong feature of the early pictures) all but disappearing under stippled encrustations of raw umber and Chemnitz white. The effect is not so much the pitiless inquest into the human predicament that his admirers claim to see as the ceiling of a working mens club.”

And he is perceptive on the painter: “His strong appetite for daughters of the nobility is distinctly reminiscent of the rock stars of the 1960s, whose wicked elder brothers he in some ways resembles (in middle age they have all started to dress like him, too, with those annoying thin scarves). Some of his many children seem to think very highly of him; some dont even know they are his children. But I do feel sorry for the ones to whom he made himself known, while not troubling to disguise his indifference. Still, Freud left a pre-tax estate of 96 million, as Geordie Greig does not fail to inform us; and, as someone once said, you havent completely failed as a parent if your kids can afford their own analysis. Lucian Freud, by the way, was dismissive of his grandfathers achievements in that field; he did rate him highly as a zoologist, though, praising his important contribution to the study of sexual difference in eels.”

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Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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