William Feaver was Lucian Freud’s collaborator, curator and close friend. He knew the ‘unknowable’ artist better than most and, over many years, Freud narrated to him the story of his life, ‘our novel’.
Those conversations have been carefully translated into two volumes of magisterial biography.
The first “Youth” covered the years 1922-1968, taking us from Freud’s middle-class Jewish childhood in Weimar Berlin, his escape from Nazi Germany in 1934 to art school in London and his time in Soho consorting with Greta Garbo and Princess Margaret.
“Fame” leads us from 1968 to Freud at the height of his creative powers, painting the most iconic works of his career in a constant and dissatisfied pursuit of perfection – whilst only just outrunning his gambling debts and tailor’s bills.
There are wild stories throughout, and Freud was an enfant terrible until the end. But what emerges from Feaver’s portrait is the personality of an artist who was wilfully, extraordinarily, oblivious to the glitter of fame and whose focus was always on painting.
Fellow-painter Frank Auerbach said that Freud was “more vivid than other people” and, as Rachel Cooke noted in her review for the Guardian, Feaver’s “great and generous achievement” in this book is to bring that vivid quality to us the readers.
Hardback, Bloomsbury, £35 – signed copies available
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