Wednesday, December 2, 2020

The Freud Affairs

"Benefits Supervisor Sleeping" by Lucian Freud (1995)

It says something—the question is what?—that the notoriety of the painter Lucian Freud may exceed that of his grandfather. Perhaps the answer relates to the fact of a celebrity culture in which a painter whose works command outlandish prices, as Lucian Freud’s do, will be more newsworthy than a doctor and scholar who treats patients and writes books in his study. The basic theme that grandfather and grandson prosecuted was, of course, sex, in the case of Sigmund through psychoanalysis and Lucian through art. In his early years Sigmund Freud’s discussion of childhood sexuality was considered scandalous (and ironically within the current culture his theories are no less controversial). Lucian Freud’s art is consumed with the body, in all its forms, some of them unbeauteous, but primarily as sexual object. Many of Lucian Freud’s models were his lovers; he had a voracious sexual appetite and numerous lovers. What’s curious is the hereditary nature of the preoccupation. Of course sexual identity is genetic to the extent that you require XY or XX genes to be male or female. However sexual preoccupation is an acquired characteristic. One would suppose that Lucian Freud’s precocity as a child might have rested in his picking up on his grandfather’s theories by osmosis and then oedipally outdoing his predecessor at his own game. Freud may have been adulterous (speculatively with his sister-in-law, Minna Bernays) , but he was not promiscuous. If Lucian Freud had become a psychoanalyst he probably would have been one of those outliers who have affairs with their patients. Lucky for him, artists are not deemed to be breaking professional ethics when they sleep with their models.

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