Lucian Freud: Eyes Wide Open

Phoebe Hoban. Amazon/New Harvest, $20 (192p) ISBN 978-0-544-11459-3
Biographer Hoban (Basquiat: A Quick Killing in Art) returns with a lively, concise biography (part of Amazon’s Icon series) of realist painter Lucian Freud (1922–2011), in which he emerges as a vigorous philanderer, gambler, brawler, and social climber. According to Hoban, Freud was also a voracious, incisive observer who “never closed his eyes.” Born in Berlin, the grandson of Sigmund Freud, Lucian and his family fled Germany following Hitler’s rise to power. In England, young Freud “displayed a much greater affinity with animals than with people.” Eventually he would give his meticulously rendered portraits “an aura of taxidermy.” Hoban suggests that Freud had Asperger’s, as multiple family members believe, and speculates that his realism was “perhaps not so much an aesthetic choice as an instinctive strategy, a coping mechanism to transmute an inherited behavioral tic into highly original art.” But as an artist indebted to Ingres and Courbet, and one who changed his technique after meeting Francis Bacon, this level of determinism might be an overstatement. One of the book’s highlights is the section devoted to Freud’s relationship to his children (he fathered at least 14), informed by revealing interviews. Why Freud’s friendship with Bacon ended, and whether the two were romantically involved (as suggested by Freud’s daughter, Annie) remains vague. While not the last word on Freud, Hoban’s biography is a memorable offering. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/03/2014
Release date: 04/15/2014
MP3 CD - 978-1-4805-7079-5
Show other formats
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!