Jane McAdam Freud: 'How my sculpture of my father, Lucian, helped me cope with his death'


Lucian Freud's sculptor daughter, Jane McAdam Freud, has made a gigantic earthstone triptych sculpture of her late father's head, to help "keep him alive". Made in terracotta and measuring 3ft x 3ft x 1ft, the giant relief only came out of the kiln last week. "I can't put in words how it helped me with the grieving process," she says. "I was keeping him alive in a metaphorical sense – he was there the whole time I was making it."

The sculpture, which has taken up an enormous chunk of her studio at home in north-west London, will be leaving home next week to be unveiled at London's Freud Museum on Wednesday – the former home of her great-grandfather Sigmund Freud. "Home is not very far from the museum," says McAdam Freud with some sadness in her voice. "I know it will be in safe hands."

Having been estranged from her painter dad at the age of eight – the making of his giant head has special pertinence. Only reunited 23 years later at the age of 31, she spent many hours with her father, just before his death in July 2011. She made sketches for this new work, as he lay dying in bed at home. "I needed to stare at him for hours. I showed photos of the big head to him. Then it was just an enormous slab of clay with no specific features. My husband, Peter [Henson, an architect], kept asking me, 'Who is it?' I knew it was going to be my father. My father knew it too; he raised his eyebrows as it was a big job I had in front of me," she recalls. "I had to get the nose right – it changed in its profile – it was such a distinguished, shapely nose."

The sculpture, titled EarthStone Triptych, will be exhibited for the first time in the exhibition, Lucian Freud, My Father, in Sigmund Freud's former dining room at the museum. Her great-grandfather had the quirky habit of bringing his new acquisitions of ancient sculptures to the dining-room table, during meals, as a "guest of honour". Now, the arrival of Sigmund's grandson taking "the place of the guest of honour" shows its special significance.

As McAdam Freud drew in the eyes, nose and mouth and started modelling the nostrils on her dad's face – this three-dimensional relief that works in a round – helped her to come to terms with his imminent death.

"I was feeling those feelings one has on the impending death of a father. I had

previously consciously avoided using his image all my life – focusing more on Sigmund – but I had to face my father," she says. "I had to face the fact he was dying. In the end, I made it into a triptych because I think he had many sides."

McAdam Freud recalls her father pouring attention on her as a young child whenever she was drawing or painting. "He used to watch me painting and drawing on the back of these plywood orange crate lids. That's when he gave me the most attention. I remember thinking he was a constant in my life." But aged eight, her mother, Katherine McAdam, moved the family away from their father, with no forwarding address. "That relationship was severed and that was so upsetting."

When she reunited with her dad in the early 1990s, they sat for each other when he asked her how to model in wax. "He said, 'Jane, work in various scales. Don't work in one scale. Work on the intimate and the large scale.' I'd only ever worked on an intimate level. This encouragement changed my whole working outlook. I found I could express myself so much more."

The contemplation of his death also led to the imagery of other sculptural works DuoHead and Moses and Mary, but they were not created directly from him sitting for her.

"I knew he liked my work because he gave me a backhanded compliment in early 2000," she recalls. "I wanted to make medals of him. But he thought it would be vain. So he said, 'Let's do it later.'' I explained it would be more of a memento mori. I said, 'Can I do it now?' He said, 'No, it will become public because good work becomes known. We can't keep it between us.'"

Now, the two handheld medals of her late father from the sketches will go on show, alongside this earthstone triptych. The table is being removed from the dining room at the museum where her grandfather ate – to allow the giant head its own place, in front of a mirror for a good view. Visitors can also perch on a little stool and meditate over the middle head. "The middle head looks stern and a little bit like a cobra if you squint," says McAdam Freud. She describes the snake's significance "as a metaphor for protection on some level".

It took her 10 months to finish the earthstone head – and now she must let it go as it travels the UK, next stopping at London's Gazelli Art House, in Mayfair, for her solo show in April.

Luckily, the rest of her immediate family are delighted with the finished result. "My sister Lucy said it should be outside the National Portrait Gallery," she says. "Dad has one eye open and one eye closed. When you are drawing it is a way of measuring – so this portrait could be him working, close to death, dreaming or asleep, or all of these things."

Lucian Freud My Father, Freud Museum, London NW3 (www.freud.org.uk) 25 January to 4 March

Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
    There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

    In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

    The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

    It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
    The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

    Staying connected: The King's School

    The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
    Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

    Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

    Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

    The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
    Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

    When two worlds collide

    Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?