In this second and final volume of the definitive biography of Lucian Freud—one of the most influential, enigmatic and secretive artists of the twentieth century—William Feaver, the noted art critic, draws on years of daily conversations with Freud, on his private papers and letters and on interviews with his friends and family to explore the intimate life of Freud, from age forty-five to his death in 2011 at the age of eighty-nine.
William Feaver, a friend and collaborator of Freud’s for 30 years, gives us a Lucian who always resisted categorisation ... Having enjoyed almost unrivalled daily access to Freud, Feaver records with little editorial filtering the egotism, the sexual prowling and the remorseless urge to produce of these later years, allowing Freud to reveal himself in his own words on every page. It’s a mesmerising picture of a paintaholic who was incorrigibly on the make ... Feaver’s vastly detailed biography is the ideal companion to Freud’s work. It resembles nothing so much as a large Freud canvas: hypnotic, occasionally reiterative, quirkily dark in places, proceeding by a process of obsessive accretion.
... exemplary ... Along with the previous installment, Fame is everything an artist’s biography ought to be—illuminating, allergic to cant, personal, enormously picaresque—but so seldom is. Mr. Feaver’s Lives of Freud cannot be praised too highly ... Mr. Feaver does not do grandiose exegesis. Insights are gleaned from conversation and canny observation.
The critic Kenneth Tynan divided playwrights into two categories, 'smooth' and 'hairy,' and one could probably make a similar distinction among biographers. Smooth biographers offer clean narrative lines, well-underscored themes, and carrots, in the form of cliffhangers, to lure the reader onward. Their books are on best-seller lists. They’re good gifts for Dad. William Feaver, the author of The Lives of Lucian Freud — the second volume, Fame, 1968-2011, is out now — exists on the opposite extreme. There’s little smoothness in him at all. His biography is hairier than a bonobo. Feaver, a longtime art critic for The Observer in London, doesn’t provide a fixed portrait of Freud, the great realist painter, so much as he leads us into a studio filled with crusty brushes, scrapers, half-completed canvases, easels, dirty floorboards, mahlsticks and distilled turpentine, and lets us poke through the detritus as if to assemble a likeness for ourselves ... Can one pick up Volume Two of this biography if one hasn’t read Volume One? Feaver seems to suggest the answer is no. He doesn’t always bother to reintroduce people or topics ... Perhaps it doesn’t matter. There’s a sense one could skip three or four pages almost anywhere in these books and not miss anything crucial.