A former muse of artist Lucian Freud today expressed her sadness at the news of his death at the age of 88.
The British painter, a towering figure in the industry for more than 50 years, died after an illness.
In a statement yesterday, Diana Rawstron, who has represented Freud for many years, said: “Lucian Freud, artist, born 8 December 1922 in Berlin, died peacefully last night at his home in London.”
Sue Tilley, who sat for the nude Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, said today she has had “fantastic experiences” as a result of posing for the unflattering portrait. Speaking on BBC Breakfast, she said: “I found out last night on Twitter, bizarrely, and I did start crying. I haven’t seen him for a long time and he’s not really a close friend now but it’s a part of my life that’s kind of gone.”
Ms Tilley has etchings that Freud gave to her, which are potentially worth thousands of pounds, but says that money is not an issue.
“Money’s not really important. Don’t you think in life sometimes experience is more important than financial gain? Because of this painting I’ve had fantastic experiences.” The portrait is characteristic of Freud’s unflinching style, but Ms Tilley said she watched the work being painted and so became acclimatised to it. “I saw it all the time because it’s so huge, you would see it while he was painting it. He’s not behind it, so it’s in front of you the whole time, so I got very much used to it.”
William Acquavella, Freud’s New York-based art dealer, said he would mourn Freud “as one of the great painters of the 20th century”. Mr Acquavella added: “He lived to paint and painted until the day he died, far removed from the noise of the art world.”
Sir Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate gallery, said: “The vitality of his nudes, the intensity of the still life paintings and the presence of his portraits of family and friends guarantee Lucian Freud a unique place in the pantheon of late 20th century art. “His early paintings redefined British art and his later works stand comparison with the great figurative painters of any period.”
Freud, grandson of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud and the brother of the late television personality Sir Clement Freud, was born in Berlin in 1922. His Jewish family had to flee the city in 1933 and he become a British citizen in 1939. The realist painter was educated at the Central School of Art, London, the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing in Dedham and Goldsmiths College in London.
He was noticed for his talent early on in his life and, after a spell in the Merchant Navy in 1942, had his first one-man show in 1944, when he was 21. His key pieces include Girl With A White Dog, Naked Girl Asleep and Reflection (self portrait), and he was particularly known for his paintings of nudes. Freud’s works have recently fetched millions at auction, including Benefits Supervisor Sleeping that sold in 2008 for £17.2 million. Last month, a portrait entitled Woman Smiling, 1958-59, fetched £4,745,250 when it went under the hammer. In another sale, Boy On A Sofa sold for £1,497,250. A self-portrait of the artist nursing a black eye after a punch-up with a taxi driver sold for more than £2.8 million last year.
The artist previously discussed his habit of getting into scrapes, saying: “I used to have a lot of fights. “It wasn’t because I liked fighting, it was really just that people said things to me to which I felt the only reply was to hit them.”
He has also created a portrait of the Queen, again in an unflattering style, with some commentators describing the monarch’s expression as “glum”. Freud was a member of the Order of Merit – one of Britain’s most prestigious chivalry honors. Founded in 1902 by Edward VII, it is a personal gift of the monarch and is awarded for exceptional distinction in the arts, sciences and other areas.
Former Observer art critic William Feaver, who knew Freud for more than 40 years, said: “He was one of the greatest painters of the 20th and indeed the 21st centuries. “Someone who restored portraiture to its proper place, not just successful businessmen and their wives, but all types of people.” Mr Feaver said Freud had left several unfinished paintings. He said: “The first time I met him was 40 years ago and he told me he always liked to keep a couple of paintings on the go in case he dropped off the twig and I know he’s done that.”
Art critic and presenter Tim Marlow, who met the artist on a number of occasions, said Freud was a “very special man” and “one of the greatest figurative artists of the 20th century”.
Culture minister Ed Vaizey said: “Lucian Freud was one of the leading representational painters on the international stage, a beacon for those who still believe in the importance of the painted portrait, with a searching visual intelligence that portrays human life in all its variations. “In over seven decades of unremitting dedication to his art he provided a body of work which was shown around the world and which drew attention to the great strength of British art in the post-war period.
“His passing marks the end of an era and he will be sadly missed by everyone who cares about the arts.”