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Lucien Freud goes to the great gallery in the sky

Lucien Freud, the great painter, passed away at 88 in London on July 20th. He had established himself for quite some time as the last of a group of English masters from John Constable, Thomas Gainsborough to J.M.W. Turner. He was also the classic bohemian who drank hard, spent hard, screwed hard and most of all painted hard. He was only married twice but had many the lover and untold children with them.

The chaos in his life was reflected in the chaos he left on his canvases and that was his intention. His start was rocky and it took figurations in the 1980s to return to fashion for him to become a global star. But, for all the acting up that he did, he still ended up being British Art’s grand old man.

He was born into elitism in Berlin and was the grandson of Sigmund Freud, and his family had enough foresight to flee the tyranny of Hitler arriving in England when the painter was 11, in 1933. Like a great deal of people that age that were transplanted, he neither merged seamlessly into the new culture nor did he fully ignore it.

Before him, British art sat out many of the movements that were radical in America and Europe. While the art world in Moscow, Paris, New York and Berlin were following the Malevich’s abstractions, Picasso’s cubism or Duchamp’s conceptualism most in London were just mired in the legacies of the 18th and 19th century forefathers. Freud took on all the conservatism that was in London.

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