Leading article: Humanity's champion

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With the death of Lucian Freud, it is not just a towering artistic genius that the world has lost but someone who, in the words yesterday of his friend the art critic William Feaver, "stood up for humanity".

Of course, in any consideration of his work, these two virtues cannot be separated. Technique and a vision that can only be thought of as fiercely moral worked in unison to create paintings of unforgettable power and yet extraordinary sensitivity.

Conventional notions of beauty played no part in Freud's artistic outlook. His work celebrated the human body in all its flawed magnificence, achieving a poignancy that offered the viewer of his paintings both joy and consolation.

Freud lived a long and extraordinary life, escaping Nazi Germany in the 1930s, establishing himself on the post-war London art scene, but not acquiring worldwide recognition until relatively late in his career. He mixed with – and painted – every level of society, and that perhaps will be his greatest legacy. Whatever our outward appearances, he reminded us that we are all, in one profound sense, equal.

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