cover image The Lives of Lucian Freud: The Restless Years, 1922–1968

The Lives of Lucian Freud: The Restless Years, 1922–1968

William Feaver. Knopf, $40 (704p) ISBN 978-0-525-65752-1

Art, debauchery, nightlife, and lowlifes fill out this rollicking biography of the celebrated British painter. Art critic and curator Feaver (Frank Auerbach) follows Lucian Freud (1922–2011), grandson of psychologist Sigmund Freud, through his rise to the top of Britain’s art scene, where his realist portraits thrummed with tension and suspicion, perhaps because of the marathon sittings his models endured or the pitiless depictions of flesh in his paintings. Feaver has much to say about the art— “Here are individual fingernails and individual hairs, some with split ends,” he writes of the landmark Girl with Roses, “as fully realized as the golden tresses of a Dürer”—but more about Freud’s daily picaresque: the relentless womanizing (he fathered 12 illegitimate children), the studied eccentricities (he carpeted his studio with broken glass), the gambling addiction that saddled him with debts to gangsters, and the swirl of colorful acquaintances, from nobility to famous artists to petty criminals, all of whom he painted. Feaver heavily quotes from his interviews with Freud, and the artist’s chatty, insouciant voice—“I said, ‘I’m going to pay you when I’ve got the money and if you kill me you won’t get the money,’ an argument that impressed them”—suffuses the book. The result is a riotously entertaining narrative that immerses readers in Freud’s beguiling sensibility. Photos. (Nov.)