Monday, 30 November -0001

My father, Lucian Freud

As her new exhibition opens in London's Mayfair, Jane McAdam Freud talks to The Lady about her extraordinary childhood - and how she's keeping her father's memory alive

Written by Rebecca Wallersteiner

I recognise Jane McAdam Freud easily as the resemblance to her late father, Lucian Freud, is uncanny – she has his eyes and intensity, and even moves like him. Jane has kindly come to collect me from North Harrow station in northwest London, with her boisterous seven-year-old spaniel, Lotte.

Her complexion has a healthier glow than Lucian’s, who was very pale and rather resembled a vampire. Immediately warm and friendly, she doesn’t seem like a stranger. I worked for Jane’s father for six years from the late 1980s, buying his paints and champagne, and helping to organise his exhibitions, and I have been missing him since he died last summer. Consequently, I was excited when Jane agreed to talk to me about Family Matters, her latest exhibition at Gazelli Art House in London’s Mayfair, paying tribute to Lucian.

Jane-McAdam-02-590Left: Mesh Head In Net. Centre: Us 2. Right: Bust, Chris

We enter her pleasant house, where she lives with her husband and stepchildren, and when she offers to make tea, I am a little shocked by the tidiness of her kitchen, so dazzlingly clean that you could happily eat dinner from her floor. In contrast, Lucian’s kitchen was always a splattered mess of unwashed plates piled high with oyster shells and bones of little birds – reeking of decay.

I can’t resist asking what Lucian was like as a father. Jane replies, ‘When we were little, he was attentive and playful, and we created art together, as he had a childlike side and was at ease around children. Aged three I realised that I was also an artist while shaping muddy concoctions in a sandpit.

‘Lucian adored my mother, Katherine and used to hang around our home for hours hoping to see her. She was a bit of a loner and fairly quiet – like him, really. They never argued.’

Her parents met at art school, and Jane was one of four children born to them. After tea, I ask Jane if it would be possible to see some of her new work. She leads me to her studio, also impressively tidy and ordered, and shows me her moving and rather eerie drawings of Lucian as he lay dying.

A patient sitter

Since her father died, she has dedicated much of her work to him. I have a flashback of Lucian 23 years ago looking sad as he shows me his last drawing of Lucie, his mother, made after her death – and wonder about his thoughts as he sat for Jane.

Jane-McAdam-03-590Family Matters exhibition at Gazelli art house

Lucian said that Lucie was content to sit for him quietly for hours on end after her husband died. Jane says, ‘My father was a patient sitter, and the last time I saw him was shortly before his death, when I finished these sketches. They have helped me keep him alive and to create EarthStone Triptych, a sculpture of Lucian’s head, which is going into the exhibition.’

Fascinated, I look closely at the sculpture, which has caught Lucian’s complexity and contradictions perfectly – he was intense, sensitive, refined and well mannered – but with a hint of cruelty. Jane hands me a tiny copper portrait of her father with beautiful Eric Gill-like lettering on one side, rather like a memento mori, and I begin to fantasise about buying it.

Much of Jane’s work in the exhibition is an exploration of herself, her father and family.

‘Before I was eight, my grandparents came to visit, wrote regularly and sent wonderful birthday gifts. But then my mother left Lucian, moving us to Roehampton, and things changed.’

Jane-McAdam-04-590Left: Mesh Head. Right: Drawing 4

As Katherine was by nature monogamous, Lucian’s relentless womanising eventually became too much. Jane didn’t see her father again until she was 31 and successful in her own right. She has had solo shows at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, Hunterian Museum in Glasgow and Freud Museum in London. But Jane admits that although her beloved father is a great influence on her work, there are others. Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, who supervised her post-graduate degree in sculpture at the Royal College of Art, is one. We reminisce fondly about Eduardo’s earthy charm.

Eclectic taste in art

He and I became close friends many years ago after he arrived on my doorstep out of the blue one evening, distraught after the break-up of a turbulent relationship – and complaining that he was so ugly no attractive woman would ever date him again.

We remember Eduardo strolling around, pockets bulging with plaster casts of his work that he would generously hand out to friends and students he encountered. Eduardo recognised Jane’s potential in her early 20s, saying on one occasion, ‘Gosh, Jane, you are so much more talented than I was – at your age,’ and his influence is apparent in her work.

Jane-McAdam-05-590Duohead Triptych

A little bronze in her glass cabinet, which looks like an early Paolozzi, catches my eye – it also caught Lucian’s, who was similarly impressed. But Jane explains that her taste in art is fairly eclectic, as she also likes the work of pop artist Peter Blake, Leon Kossoff, Auguste Rodin and American artists Louise Bourgeois and Louise Nevelson. She admits to being a workaholic, as were Lucian and Eduardo.

I tell Jane that I imagine her father as a spider in a huge web pulling the strings that held us all firmly entangled in it. The image has also occurred to her. We walk to the kiln at the bottom of her spacious garden and she shows me two clay sculptures that she will be firing tonight. The kiln is impressively large, rather like the witch’s oven in the fairytale of Hansel and Gretel – but for baking models of Lucian’s head rather than children.

Even her embrace as we part is like his: delicate but strong. He never liked to say goodbye, she reminds me.

Family Matters is at Gazelli Art House, 39 Dover Street, London W1, until 25 May: www.gazelliarthouse.com



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