It’s going to be a big month for Lucian Freud. This week, the National Portrait Gallery in London will open a show of his work and then, next week, an important collection of his drawings will be sold at Sotheby’s.
Now recognized as 20th Century Britain’s most famous painter, the Telegraph spent some time with his cousin, Carola Zentner, who has mixed feelings about the man who painted some cruel portraits of his own mother, Lucie (a woman he had an exceptionally close relationship with,) but none about the artist:
“I don’t think Lucian saw his models the way the outside world sees them in his pictures. I don’t think he set out to anger, embarrass or humiliate any of the people he portrayed. He was simply curious to know what this person was and what they were about.
“As for the later paintings of Lucie, I’m not sure I would have done them myself, but I’m not an artist.”
Eventually, she fell out with Freud herself, over a remark made at the time of her mother’s death. “What he said was completely unforgivable. That was 20 years ago. I never saw him again. He lived by his own rules. He was completely uninterested in what you, the recipient of his behaviour or remarks might feel.”
Does that mean that Freud, believed by many to be a great painter of humanity, simply didn’t care about others?
“I don’t think that necessarily follows,” says Zentner. “What he said to me I would never have forgiven him for. What he did in walking out on the mothers of his children is different – far more serious. I wouldn’t say he didn’t care for them, after his fashion. But in this world genius is excused everything, and in my opinion and the opinion of a great many others Lucian was a genius.”