Lucian Freud (1922-2011), widely regarded as the greatest figurative painter of our time, spent seven months painting a portrait of the art critic Martin Gayford. The daily narrative of their encounters takes the reader into that most private place, the artist’s studio, and to the heart of the working methods of this modern master – both technical and subtly psychological.
From this emerges an understanding of what a portrait is, but something else is also built up: a portrait, in words, of Freud himself. This is not a biography, but a series of close-ups: the artist at work, and in conversation in restaurants, in taxis and in his studio itself. It takes one into the company of the painter for whom Picasso, Giacometti and Francis Bacon were friends and contemporaries, as were writers such as George Orwell and W. H. Auden.
This book is illustrated with many of Lucian Freud’s other works, as well as telling photographs taken by David Dawson of Freud at work, and images by such great artists of the past as Van Gogh and Titian, discussed by Freud with Gayford.
Full of wry and revealing observations, this is a book not quite like any other: the inside story of how it feels to pose for a remarkable artist, and be transformed into a work of art.
'It will be read as long as Freud’s work is admired'
'If it is Freud who dominates the book, it is Gayford’s achievement to bring him out and to do so with wit and humour as well as acute intelligence … literally inimitable'
'One of the best books ever written about the art of painting'
Grey Gowrie, Financial Times
'A journal, an act of confession, a character study of Freud, a piecemeal survey of art history and an investigation into the practicalities of portraiture … a book that’s not just read but relished'
'Freud is vividly surprising, potent and dynamic … a portrait of an anarchic painter with views on everything from Leonardo’s failings to Princess Margaret’s voice'