101 YEARS OF LUCIAN FREUD
Last week I went to the archives of the National Portrait Gallery to look at some of the 47 sketch books our family donated after my father's death in 2011.
Sarah, Tanya and Carys, the wonderful team there, had chosen some books, and one was open on the page of a little charcoal drawing of me wearing the dog t-shirt. It must have been part of the prep for the etching he made called Bella in her Pluto t-shirt. Over the years I sat for a total of 10 paintings - one includes 'Baby on a Sofa' when I was only a few months old, if that counts as sitting; and a number of etchings and drawings. I loved sitting for my father, I loved the connection, it was how I got to know him. I loved the being useful, while the action was a passive one. But it wasn't really passive as I put all my energetic force into my pose. I knew when it was fine to talk - most of the time - and to stay silent if he was painting my mouth or if the picture wasn't going right. When the painting didnt go right it became suddenly tense, as though the temperature changed. He would hiss the occasional 'No!' to himself, and sometimes he would stab the end of his paintbrush into his leg in despairing exasperation. I found myself holding my breath, willing it to turn a corner. My father never gave me advice, but watching him go through this process was perhaps the most useful example I could witness: if things are going wrong, don't give up.
Planning my NPG visit, I made the date close to what would have been dad's 101st birthday - December 8th. I invited three people to come with me to the archives: my dear friend the artist Pippa Healy whose work I like very much, and whose company I find comforting and stimulating. My friend and now my colleague Fabrizio Malverdi who I first met in an Italian factory in the 90's when I worked for Vivienne Westwood. He is a marketing genius and he also has a discerning eye for art. And the astonishingly brilliant Es Devlin, a new friend, someone I am fascinated by and admire for her brilliance, beauty, and optimism for life: the most uncomplacent and undaunted person who takes on the enormity of her projects with a calm relish. I want to learn some of this from her.
My three friends asked questions as we looked at the different books. Carys was the official page turner, while I gave the backstory of the moments I took part in, or people I recognised. I managed to identify a sister by the angle of her knee in one faint sketch. It made me incredibly happy to know these things. My family is such an unconventional structure and we are all brought together through our father's work, and our love.