Freud was born in Berlin, to Ernst Freud, the youngest son of the great psychoanalyst Sigmund, and Lucie Brasch. His parents, Lucian and his brothers – Stephen and Clement – moved to England in the summer of 1933 fearing Nazi Germany’s restrictions persecution of Jews.
He trained at art school, and in the immediate postwar years began a series of portraits that made him famous.
‘In paintings like “Girl With Roses” (1947-48) and “Girl With a White Dog” (1951-52), he put the pictorial language of traditional European painting in the service of an anti-romantic, confrontational style of portraiture that stripped bare the sitter’s social facade. Ordinary people — many of them his friends — stared wide-eyed from the canvas, vulnerable to the artist’s ruthless inspection.
From the late 1950s, when he began using a stiffer brush and moving paint in great swaths around the canvas, Mr. Freud’s nudes took on a new fleshiness and mass. His subjects, pushed to the limit in exhausting extended sessions, day after day, dropped their defenses and opened up. The faces showed fatigue, distress, torpor.
The flesh was mottled, lumpy and, in the case of his 1990s portraits of the performance artist Leigh Bowery and the phenomenally obese civil servant Sue Tilley, shockingly abundant.
The relationship between sitter and painter, in his work, overturned traditional portraiture. It was “nearer to the classic relationship of the 20th century: that between interrogator and interrogated,” the art critic John Russellwrote in “Private View,” his survey of the London art scene in the 1960s.’
‘Freud’s portraits are the realisation in paint of a relationship between artist and model that has slowly developed over time behind closed doors. His friends, family and acquaintances have always been eclectic, drawn from all walks of life, and this is reflected in the variety of faces and bodies that occupy Freud’s paintings. Although many of his subjects have led complex lives, most of them – with the exception of a few public figures – prefer to hold on to their anonymity.’
Lucian Freud died in 2011, aged 88.
The rise of Hitler and increasingly restrictive environment in Nazi Germany caused hundreds of thousands of people to flee. The German annexation of Austria in March 1938 and increase in personal attacks on Jews followed by the nationwide pogrom Kristallnacht (Night of the Broken Glass) in November and seizure of Jewish property caused around 36,000 Jews to leave Germany and Austria in 1938 and 77,000 in 1939.
On top of Jewish emigration, many academics, artists, authors and musicians whose work was labelled as ‘degenerate’ left for Europe or the United States as persecution increased throughout the decade. Degenerate was a term used to describe nearly all modern art, which was severely restricted.
In 1933 The Convention relating to the International Status of Refugees was agreed, marking the first time in an international agreement the principle that refugees should not be returned to their country of origin. However, although the Convention laid down a duty to grant asylum it didn’t create a right to asylum for individuals; this was seen to infringe on the rights of states to decide who should or shouldn’t be allowed to enter their territory. Great Britain ratified the convention along with eight other states.