British painter and portrait artist Lucian Michael Freud died last week in London at the age of 88.
Not as famous as his grandfather, Sigmund Freud, Lucian was well-known nonetheless in the world of art for his “stark and revealing paintings of friends and intimates,” according to the New York Times.
Lucian Freud was born in Berlin on December 8, 1922 to Sigmund Freud’s youngest son, Ernst Ludwig Freud, who was an Austrian architect. Lucian’s mother, Lucie née Brasch, was German. As both parents were Jewish, the Freuds moved their family to the St. John’s Wood district of London in 1933 to escape Nazi Germany.
I know St. John’s Wood well and have walked down many of its streets given my grandfather lived in that district for many years. I also know the work of Lucian Freud and have always respected it for its thought-provoking nature. His earlier Surrealism works gave way to bluntly-presented nude portraitures by the 1950s, which served to shock the senses. For example, his “Naked Man with Rat” (1977-1978) depicted a man lying on a couch holding a sleeping rat.
The central figures of Freud’s paintings many times appear tired, aged, and distressed – which has unnerved some observers over the years, particularly in the United States. Yet, no matter what one thinks of Freud’s work, there is an undisputed market for it. In May 2008, his 1995 portrait “Benefits Supervisor Sleeping” sold at auction by Christie’s in New York City for $33.6 million, which set a record for sale value of a painting by a living artist.
Conformity is the enemy to both the artist and the innovator. Corporations are generally expert at promoting conformity, but seldom proficient in providing for a culture that promotes creative thought and action. And they do so at their peril.
The next time you find yourself trying to conform, ask this question: “What would Freud do?” No, not the father of psychoanalysis, but his grandson.