Michael Glover: A huge talent, and a singular force of creative energy until the very end

Share
Related Topics

It was passion and attack from first to last of the almost seventy long years of his painting life, a six-days-a-week devotion to the often unfashionable art of showing off the human figure in all its gorgeous, swollen, egregious fleshiness that singled Freud out from the pack. He never looked over his shoulder to see what others were doing. He didn't care. It was his own trajectory that concerned him and consumed him, the need to go on painting better, more cleanly, more forcefully, more forensically. It was a no-holds-barred dedication to the task in hand – that, and a refusal to get involved with explaining and justifying his art to others. Time was too short and the task too demanding for mere talk. Let the brush do the work of explaining and discovering. Leave the scribble to others.

His last great retrospective was at the Centre Pompidou last year, and Freud, as usual, oversaw everything – the choice, the hanging – to the very last detail. He was always there when he was needed, and always absent when others would have liked him to be there. And the place that always needed him most of all was his studio, with its paint-spattered walls, its beaten down sofa and its mountain of filthy, oily rags. That studio was like a zone of battle. He was utterly devoted to his own space, and it was there that the ever self-renewing drama of his painting life was played out.

He drew some extraordinary models into his private space – most notably Leigh Bowery and Sue Tilley – and he subjected their bodies to a pitiless scrutiny that at times made you wince, and even wonder whether perhaps this time he had gone a step too far.

The recent view of him that we must now cherish is the critic Martin Gayford's account of sitting to Freud published last year. Gayford let us into Freud's working methods as no other had quite done. He showed us the extent of the unorthodoxy of the man – he would never begin a portrait in a way that could ever be regarded as conventional. He would work outwards from the first seemingly arbitrary marks, building on what to others might have seemed like wholly arbitrary and utterly unpromising decisions. He would dance his subject into submission. His style changed and changed again over a lifetime – some of his best early works owe an unlikely debt to Surrealism – but as he aged he became looser and more adventurous. He saw the fruitful possibilities of letting go.

And now the great adventure of that ferocious, pell-mell painting life has, quite abruptly, and quite frustratingly, been cut short. His knees will be drumming up against the boards of the coffin.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

When a small amount of desk space means the world

Rebecca Armstrong
It’s all in the detail; Ed Miliband with ‘Britain Can Be Better’ (AFP/Getty)  

General Election 2015: Parties must remember the 50-plus vote

Stefano Hatfield
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own