Mental Floss

The Hermit of Holland Park: Lucian Freud

Andréa Fernandes

At the request of reader Lauren, today's "Feel Art Again" post features the famous—and infamous—grandson of Sigmund Freud, the 86-year-old British painter Lucian Freud. Some of the highlights of his fascinating life:

1. School was never quite up his alley. At his first school, where he often skipped his art class, "all Freud acquired was a bad reputation." He was expelled from another school, supposedly after dropping trou in public; he had already served many hours of "punishment runs." Lucian Freud continued his tradition of truancy and "erratic attendance" at the Central School of Arts and Crafts and later at the East Anglian School of Art. According to some sources, Freud's carelessness with cigarettes was the cause behind a fire at East Anglian. In 1993, Freud was offered an honorary degree from Oxford, but refused it on the grounds that he was neither an Oxford grad, nor a grad of any university.

2. He may have as many as 40 children. Although some sources dispute such a high number, Freud has at least 15 confirmed children with at least 6 different women. Every 10 years, about 15 members of the Freud brood congregate at a half-siblings reunion, though the patriarch himself never attends.

3. Although he's known as "the Hermit of Holland Park," Freud still gets out enough to spend time with some pretty famous friends. He has painted portraits of his friend and fellow artist Francis Bacon and was cozy with Kate Moss, painting a naked portrait of her while she was pregnant. While Ian Fleming was writing "Casino Royale," Freud was staying at his Goldeneye estate in Jamaica painting a still-life of bananas.

4. Freud has no qualms about denying portrait requests if he dislikes the people, no matter how famous they are. He turned down Pope John Paul II and Princess Diana, as well as Andrew Lloyd Webber, who requested a portrait of his wife Madeleine. (According to Freud, Webber "threatened" him with free tickets for his shows.)

5. When he was chosen to represent Britain at the 1954 Venice Biennale, Freud submitted his choice of paintings to the selection committee. Several paintings were "snubbed" by the committee, leaving Freud so disgusted that he wrote a series of angry letters to the council overseeing the process. The letters, one of which was written in green crayon, were full of cross-outs and spelling mistakes; the handwriting has been described as "childish.

Larger versions of Freud's 1972 paintings "The Painter's Mother III" (above left) and "Factory in North London" (above right) are available. Fans should check out Tate Britain's 2002 Freud exhibition; MoMA's 2007 exhibition of Freud etchings and paintings; the collection of Freud's work on Museum Syndicate; and BBC4's 1988 interview with Freud. "Feel Art Again" appears every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. You can e-mail us at with details of current exhibitions, for sources or further reading, or to suggest artists.