Lucian Michael Freud (/ˈljuːsiən ˈfrɔɪd/; 8 December 1922 – 20 July 2011) was a British painter and draftsman, specializing in figurative art, and is known as one of the foremost 20th-century portraitists.
He was born in Berlin, the son of Jewish architect Ernst L. Freud and the grandson of Sigmund Freud. His family moved to Britain in 1933 to escape the rise of Nazism. From 1942-43 he attended Goldsmiths College, London. He enlisted in the Merchant Navy during the Second World War.
His early career as a painter was influenced by surrealism, but by the early 1950s his often stark and alienated paintings tended towards realism. Freud was an intensely private and guarded man, and his paintings, completed over a 60-year career, are mostly of friends and family. They are generally sombre and thickly impastoed, often set in unsettling interiors and urban landscapes. The works are noted for their psychological penetration and often discomforting examination of the relationship between artist and model. Freud worked from life studies, and was known for asking for extended and punishing sittings from his models.
Freud briefly studied at the Central School of Art in London, and from 1939 to 1942 with greater success at Cedric Morris’ East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing in Dedham, relocated in 1940 to Benton End, a house near Hadleigh, Suffolk. He also attended Goldsmiths’ College, part of the University of London, in 1942–43. He served as a merchant seaman in an Atlantic convoy in 1941 before being invalided out of service in 1942.
In 1943, the poet and editor Meary James Thurairajah Tambimuttu commissioned the young artist to illustrate a book of poems by Nicholas Moore entitled The Glass Tower. It was published the following year by Editions Poetry London and comprised, among other drawings, a stuffed zebra and a palm tree. Both subjects reappeared in The Painter’s Room on display at Freud’s first solo exhibition in 1944 at the Lefevre Gallery. In the summer of 1946, he travelled to Paris before continuing to Greece for several months to visit John Craxton. In the early fifties he was a frequent visitor to Dublin where he would share Patrick Swift’s studio. In late 1952, Freud and Lady Caroline Blackwood eloped to Paris where they married in 1953. He remained a Londoner for the rest of his life.
Freud was part of a group of figurative artists later named “The School of London”. This was more a loose collection of individual artists who knew each other, some intimately, and were working in London at the same time in the figurative style (but during the boom years of abstract painting). The group was led by figures such as Francis Bacon and Freud, and included Frank Auerbach, Michael Andrews, Leon Kossoff, Robert Colquhoun, Robert MacBryde, Reginald Gray and Kitaj himself. He was a visiting tutor at the Slade School of Fine Art of University College London from 1949 to 1954.