Thursday, 1 September 2011

Lucian Freud and me, part two

One Yes, I know I spelled Freud’s first name wrong in the previous posting. I realised that before I posted it but decided to leave it in because I always seem to spell it wrong. I don’t really know why.

It’s not that I don’t know I do it. The only possibilities I can think of are that it’s because I have the spelling stuck in my head from the singer John Lucien. Or even Jon Lucien. Or it’s just a — wait for it — Freudian slip.

Okay, but if it is a slip, what does it reveal? The only think I can think of is that I link his name not with its real, classical Roman forebear — the satirist Lucian, probably — but with that familial derivation of Lucien, from the Latin lucius. Which, suitably for a painter, comes from lux, Latin for light. Which leads to . . .

Two In the aftermath of Freud’s death, my local paper had a reminiscence from an ex-lover. (That’s the kind of gossip you have to put up with in your local paper if you live round my way.) She said that her name for him — others used it, too — was Lux.

Three I had a thought about Freud’s nudes — most of his recent work, after all. What is so unusual (and to my mind original) about Freud’s nudes is their almost complete disconnection from/with sexuality. And whether it’s honest enough to own up to it or not, a lot of nude painting is some kind or other of sexual desire.

Not Freud’s work, though. Which, given the way he carried on, is a bit odd. Worthy of remark even. A renowned real-life skirt-chaser who doesn’t even seem, in his painting, to lust after Kate Moss — who I have seen in person and she really is gorgeous.

So? So there is something plain and ordinary and quotidian about his nudes. They’re not nudes even, really. They’re nakeds. And what I thought is this: there is something about them that reminds me of simple basic photographs of ordinary people, naked — ie not pornography or its ten-bob cousin, erotica.

And I found myself thinking of WW2 camp photographs — the violent intrusions of Nazi pictures of camp inmates etc. How this was another degradation. And I found myself wondering if at some level, conscious or unconscious, the banal demoticness of Freud’s nudes/nakeds is, in part, a way of reclaiming ordinary naked humanity from the grip of Nazi violence.

Which, surely, must have had a place in his memory. He was born in 1922. Hitler came to power in January 1933. Freud saw the Reichstag born — and was ‘excited’ by it The same year, his family moved from Berlin to St John’s Wood. Five years later, in the wake of Kristallnacht (Germany) and the Anschluss (Austria), his grandfather and his family joined them. (He long refused to show his paintings in Berlin and to this day there has never been a show in Vienna.)

Given what then came to pass, he must certainly have seen in those Nazi photographs a future of his own that never came to pass. And by painting the way he did, he kind of stole those horrific images back and reclaimed them — or rather what they showed — for their rightful owners. Their subjects, that is. All of us, by extension, perhaps.

PS After I’d written this but also after I’d put up my first Lucian Freud post, I was contacted by someone I know a little — little enough, in fact, not to know that she’d been painted by Freud. She was pissed off at me for spelling the name wrong. I hope she’s unpissed by my explanation.

Some distraction?

One I was in Cornwall for a bit, caught the riots. See here . . .

Two 'My nose and ass/They're both big/I use hot sauce on my lox and bagels'

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