Memories of a louche cannon
Fiona Green is transported back to her time as Lucian Freud’s lover, thanks to the first part of a new biography of the artist
17 October, 2019 — By Fiona Green
LUCIAN was a rare beast, quite unique, and The Lives of Lucian Freud captures his many faceted qualities perfectly.
I first saw Lucian Freud in 1961: I was 18; young, and in Soho to meet my lover, the artist, William Crozier, who took me to the Colony Club, a louche establishment run by the terrifying Muriel Belcher, who treated everyone like children in her private nursery.
Standing at the end of the bar, Lucian looked like a startled hawk with piercing eyes that darted about taking everything in; and a shy smile on his lips, lending an aura of confidence. We connected, but I was hastily transferred to another bar in the same street by my jealous companion.
I loved the atmosphere of the Colony, because it was dark and smokey, and people were drinking alcohol with abandon in the daytime, something quite new to me.
It was not until 1964, when another artist,Tim Behrens, took me to Wheelers restaurant in Soho, that I encountered Lucian again, and that was it: our clandestine meetings, that were to continue for over 30 years, had begun, and on the tacit understanding that no demands be made on either side.
In the early days we talked about the school we had both been to in Devon, which figures in the second chapter. This was the experimental progressive school called Dartington Hall, where we were both on grants and each of us had only stayed a couple of vitally important years; years I loved, but which he said he hated, except for the horses with which he spent most of his waking time, down at School Farm.
We also shared a love for a little old lady called Bridget Edwards, a house parent, who seemed to understand how troubled we each were, and cared.
Lucian would sleep with the horses at school and he cleaned out the goats, this had the effect of reinforcing his solitary existence, because the smell was so bad, but he liked it that way. William Feaver’s lively and incisive book explains so much of the origins of Lucian’s particularly unusual character.
Nowadays, close by School Farm at Dartington is the Sirona Equine Therapy Centre, which is a fitting tribute to the earlier site of the school stables that had proved so therapeutic to the young Lucian.
In one intense period, I was bringing up two children virtually alone. My husband Martin away a lot, so when Lux – as Lucian was known to me – called, I went, to assuage my loneliness.
Martin, who looked like Lucian’s brother by another mother, had also a shared interest in Henrietta Moraes, a Soho habitué Lucian had painted a decade earlier. He was becoming more and more famous with major exhibitions around the world.
However, misbehaviour always stimulated him, and he loved to break rules – he was, after all, his mother’s favourite son, and he grew up with a sense of absolute entitlement. He owed millions when I knew him, and earned the same, which went on the gaming tables. But instead of repaying debts, he would gamble it all away again.
Taking other men’s wives (as he had done with me) was another favourite sport. When I was going for supervision of my therapeutic practice with the handsome analyst Masud Khan, Lucian told me: “I was sleeping with his wife (the prima ballerina Svetlana Beriosova) and I told him.” This enraged the proud Muslim aristocrat, who hit back with a ballet high kick that nearly knocked him out. Masud confirmed this story years later. It is interesting to note that the clever analyst Masud Khan, who was similar to Lucian in puckish character, died of throat cancer, just as Lucian’s grandfather, Sigmund Freud, had done.
As the mistress or muse of so many painters in my life, it is with pride that I have found my own voice in painting again now.
I have so enjoyed “meeting” Lucian again, and getting to know him better in the pages of this marvellous biography. I simply cannot wait to see the companion book covering his later years.
• The Lives of Lucian Freud – Youth, 1922-1968. By William Feaver. Bloomsbury £35