Anew book about Lucian Freud, published at the end of last year (by Jonathan Cape, edited by Bruce Bernard), is one of the best British art books for some time and the closest thing that we have to a biography of our greatest living painter, with page after page of colour pictures - 290 of them - telling the story of Freud's extraordinary life through his own work.
Freud's later paintings are familiar from recent exhibitions and countless catalogues, but there is a real revelation in the illustrations of his earliest work made between 1937 and 1944. These chart the making of a modern master and some of the best of them are on view from today in an inspired exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh.
Freud was born in Berlin in 1922 and lived there for 10 years before coming to England. Small wonder then that his earliest work has shades of Twenties Germany, particularly (although, according to Freud, unconsciously) of George Grosz and Otto Dix. These pictures show a young man alive to the broader possibilities of European painting at a time when so many of his contemporaries were consumed by Englishness. There are smatterings of surrealism and of a kind of Northern romanticism - he was aware, but in no way derivative.
There are just 30 pictures on show at the SNGMA but the range is extraordinary - from Freud's first, rather childish oil painting of an "Old Man Running" (he was 14), to a sophisticated little panel of a "Woman with a Tulip" painted just nine years later and already displaying all the hallmarks of the intense vision that has dominated his depiction of the human figure over the last 50 years.
EYE ON THE NEW
Frank Auerbach, an old friend of Freud's from Soho in the Fifties and another of the country's best-respected painters, has a show of recent work at Marlborough Fine Art until 15 February.
Marlborough Fine Art, London W1 (0171-629 5161), freeReuse content