Saturday 27 May 2017


What is known as the ‘creative’ process is a mysterious act that engages theorists and analysts, academics who specialise in rational thought and review outside of the artists’ world. It is as if they might know. Yet the attempt to establish some sense and understanding of the process is still made. One wonders why, because it has frequently been pointed out that the process is not a matter of applying any rules or patterns of thought to a situation, no matter how inventive these might appear. The artists’ act is more than reasoned invention.*

Occasionally artists write about their experiences and try to offer insights into their different world. Their efforts to explain their emotional journey, their ‘creative’ enterprise, seek to elucidate events for others to comprehend. Only once in his life did Lucian Freud write about his experience of painting. Towards the end of Freud’s life, Geordie Greig tried to get him to once more write about his art. Freud was reluctant, and, after some thought and time, simply confirmed his previous text and added a few cryptic notes to it. Greig published these comments along with the original writing in the Tatler.

Geordie Greig

The following are a few notes on the subject recorded from Breakfast with Lucian A Portrait of the Artist by Geordie Greig. It is interesting to read the words in association with some of Freud's paintings.

Lucian Freud, in spite of his unique lifestyle, liked his privacy. He hated to be watched. He disliked blatant promotion, but did enjoy its outcomes in spite of this position. He wrote about his act of painting only once, in Encounter[‘Some Thoughts on Painting’], a publication edited by Stephen Spender.

Freud's mother

Lucian had not seen a copy of Encounter for decades and enjoyed seeing reproductions of his pictures . . . As we sat in Clarke's (the breakfast venue) I read aloud part of his 1954 essay . . . 'My object in painting pictures is to try and move the senses by giving an intensification of reality. Whether this can be achieved depends on how intensely the painter understands and feels for the person or object of his choice.'

Francis Bacon

His views had barely altered . . . The original words, Lucian said, had been hard-wrought, chosen with the same perfectionist zeal with which he applied paint, almost chiselled from his mind. He had expressed disdain for abstract art, arguing vigorously the case for the superiority of figurative art: 'Painters who deny themselves the representation of life and limit their language to purely abstract forms are depriving themselves of the possibility of provoking more then an aesthetic emotion.'

Freud's mother

He believed the human body was the most profound subject and he pursued a ruthlessness of observation, using the forensic exactitude of a scientist dissecting an animal in a laboratory. . . .

I carried on reading: 'The subject must be kept under closest observation: if this is done, day and night, the subject – he, she, or it – will eventually reveal the all without which selection itself is not possible; they will reveal it, through some and every facet of their lives or lack of life, through movements and attitudes, through every variation from one moment to another.'

Queen Elizabeth 11

The essay was a justification of his way of life. 'A painter must think of everything he sees as being there entirely for his own use and pleasure. The artist who tries to serve nature is only an executive artist.’

. . .
His ambition, he had written in Encounter, was to give ‘art complete independence from life, an independence that is necessary because the picture in order to move us must never remind us of life, but must acquire a life of its own, precisely in order to reflect life.’

David Hockney

. . .
His new, very short manifesto contained his final published words. ‘On re-reading it [‘Some Thoughts on Painting’] I find that I left out the vital ingredient without which painting can’t exist: PAINT. Paint in relation to a painter’s nature. One thing more important than the person in the picture is the picture.’

Francis Bacon
Freud started painting from one point, finishing the parts as the picture developed

. . .
On the walls of his studio were scribbled three words: ‘urgent’, ‘subtle’ and ‘concise’. He explained how those words defined his purposes: (see p. 130 - 131)

Breakfast with Lucian Vintage Books, London, 2015: p.128 – 129

'the greatest British painter of the past one hundred years.' TOM WOLFE

‘He said that the important thing in painting is concentration; he stressed this as if it were a revelation.’ (p.161 BWL) #

Lucian aimed for a higher truth through intense observation . . . ‘Lucian saw the world more differently than most. There was an acuity and a penetration in his scrutiny of your face and in his search for the smallest details of appearance as a clue to character.’ (Sir Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate) . . . ‘I hope that if I concentrated enough, the intensity of scrutiny alone would force life into the pictures,’ (Lucian Freud) (p.163 BWL)

Goodhart's law is an adage named after economist Charles Goodhart, which states: "When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure." This follows from individuals trying to anticipate the effect of a policy, then taking actions which alter its outcome. In art, the 'law' becomes: once something useful has been measured and applied, it ceases to become useful. 

The description of the traditional craftsman's method is: Having concentrated, he set to work.

Friday 26 May 2017


The critique of the book Breakfast with Lucian A Portrait of the Artist - Vintage Books, London, 2015, (see: ), pointed out the quirky indulgence and awkwardness of the graphics that seemed just too clever to be sensible: too 'arty-farty;' ill-considered. After reading the book, one might be tempted to note that the graphics could have been inspired by the life – Lucian Freud's life. What could be more appropriate? His life was chaotic; indulgent; self-important; self-centred. He knew no guilt, and had little respect for others; his lovers. He was the core, the linchpin of his circle of 'friends,' and demanded secrecy between all of the separate involvements; independent knowledge. Everything centred on Lucian. Only he could share the experiences – and he did freely, to suit his own purposes and whims irrespective of others.

He seemed to seek sex anywhere and everywhere. If he wasn't painting, he was womanising; fucking. One is tempted to note that the probing eye that has to delve deep into the crevice of the binding of the book in order to read it, might reflect the Freudian enterprise of what he simply described as 'having a wank' (his term) – plonking the penis into any crevice for his indulgence, completely free of any responsibility, never concerned with outcomes. Toing and froing between women and men in astonishing concentric circles of mothers, friends, accomplices, others' lovers, wives, sons, and daughters; or just, occasionally, anyone who knocked on the door. Gosh, even the author of Breakfast with Lucian got involved with a daughter of a Lucian lover who became Freud’s first wife. Did Geordie Greig feel it so necessary to become a part of the ‘Freud’ world, maybe to gain Lucian's confidence? He tells how he always wanted to interview Lucian Freud, or get him to write a piece for the Tatler magazine, the publication edited by Greig.

Painting and the act of sex were not unconnected. According to John Richardson, for Lucian they were interchangeable. 'He turns sex into art and art into sex, the physical manifestation of his life expressed through paint. His creativeness was very akin to fucking. The sex act and the intellectual act – or creativeness, or whatever you call it – of painting, were in some ways interchangeable.' (p.139 BWL)

The graphic layout of Breakfast with Lucian is awkward, seemingly as graceless as the life full of parading and pomposity that it records. Freud loved being a part of the elite, the upper crust, the aristocracy, (Geordie Greig’s great-grandfather was Lord Mowbray), just as much as he loved being a part of the local criminal world. The chaos of his self-centred life seems to have been reflected in the graphics of the book that demand twisting, manipulating, probing, spreading, for the read: many awkward orientations that delve deep into crevices. Male or female, Lucian seemed interested in getting his dick into it. In what appears to be the same self-conscious way, the reader has to get the eye into the book. In this Freudian manner, the designer seems to have had little consideration for the experience of the reader; or is it pure cynicism - maybe happenstance?

It is a long stretch to justify poor design in this way, but it is an interesting proposition to ponder. The 'Freud' life gained its prestige and interest from his legendary grandfather, Sigmund Freud, who delved into sexual lives psychoanalytically, creating the word 'Freudian.' The grandson seemed to have made his life an example, a re-enactment of the theory – fuck anything; paint it; fuck it; leave it; repeat again and again, with no necessary linear order or sequence, or conscience. Rather, there was a layering, of bodies and people – literally: and lives, willy-nilly, (yes, again literally). Freud created a complete unconcerned muddle of his life – a little like the graphics. Still the book is worth a read, if only to raise questions about art and its elite world:

Is it essential to be a recusant ‘fucker’ to be an artist? Consider Francis Bacon, a good friend of Lucian Freud, some might say an inspiration. Is it essential for the artist to be part of the aristocracy, or loved or intrigued by it; to fuck around in the glory of super self-indulgence and a surplus of money as a 'Bohemian' with quaint 'idiosyncrasies' (p.180 BWF)?

A painter must think of everything he sees as being there entirely for his own use and pleasure.  Lucian Freud (BWL p.129) 

Such is life; what is art?
Consider the latest $110.5 million for the Basquiat - see:

For the Love of God Damien Hirst 2007
(asking price 50 million pounds)

Hallucinatory Head  Damien Hirst
£36,800.00 inc VAT

Art is money? Does money know art? Does money make art? How does this art reflect life? Does it? Can it? Should it?

Transcendent Head  Damien Hirst
£36,800.00 inc VAT  

Damien Hirst and his sculpture For the Love of God

Coatlicue, the Aztec goddess of the land and fertility

What is art, that thou are ‘moneyful’ of it? (apologies to Psalmist)

Acquavella was on a different scale. He travelled by private jet. He never queried price. He had a palace of a gallery in Manhattan. He was rich and patrician and already dealt in major pictures by Picasso and Matisse. Kirkman had always been unable to find anyone who wanted to give Lucian a commercial show in New York. That changed in 1992 when Acquavella put his muscle and money behind Lucian to propel him into the big time. (p.208 BWL)

'Breakfast with Lucian is a superb, flawlessly crafted portrait of about as messy a life as was ever lived.'  TOM WOLFE #
'There were no rules really.' (p.199 BWL)

Kate Moss and Lucian Freud in bed

Freud in bed

This launched him into the world of those with cultural power and money. It would remain thus. (p.228 BWL)

Jade encrusted skull from Oaxaca, Mexico

Here one thinks of Rolf Harris: see - Harris is currently out on bail, and is again in court on sex charges. This entertainer / artist, (he, too, has painted the queen), has been haunted by reports of his sex life and incarcerated for it. Lucian’s antics seem to be somewhat plauded, or tolerated, with the “He is an artist” argument: the greater the artist, the greater the deviation accepted. One has to ask: did Harris get involved in a different class of life that has a less ‘alternative’ view of things, a less introvert acceptance of difference; one with opinions less 'open' than 'aristocratic' attitudes that seem to know how to keep things quiet and handle scandals? Or is it that he is not a 'great' artist?


31 October 2019
To get a better understanding of the bohemian ways of the British art world, the role of sex and the importance of contacts, see:

Jon Lys Turner The Visitors’ Book In Francis Bacon’s Shadow: The Lives of Richard Chopping and Denis Wirth-Miller Constable 2017.