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Breakfast with Lucian: The Astounding Life and Outrageous Times of Britain's Great Modern Painter Hardcover – October 22, 2013

3.9 out of 5 stars 49 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Lucian Freud (1922–2011), “the greatest realist figure painter of the twentieth century,” went audaciously far beyond “nude” to shockingly naked and forever changed portraiture. Greig tells the astonishing story behind some of Freud’s most disturbing paintings and wryly observes that Freud and Sigmund, his famous grandfather, had a lot in common since it was also “Lucian’s business to get people to sit on beds or couches, and to reveal more about themselves than perhaps they wished to show.” Ironically, Lucian was a fiend for privacy, refusing interviews and derailing would-be biographers. Greig, a prominent newspaper editor, managed to get close to Freud during the painter’s last decade, meeting him regularly for breakfast near his London home and studio. Freud spoke expansively about his tumultuous and maniacal life, from his Jewish German family’s escape from the Nazis to his starving-artist years. Impudent, ambitious, and voracious, Freud did have a lot to hide. His prodigious sex life, a dizzying carousel of simultaneous partners, resulted in at least 14 children. Because he often paid his enormous gambling debts with paintings, a bookie owns the world’s largest private Lucian Freud collection. Greig’s vivid, swiftly flowing, bracingly candid, alluringly illustrated chronicle of the exploits and accomplishments of this renowned renegade artist is as arresting, discomfiting, and unforgettable as a Freud portrait. --Donna Seaman

Review

“Breakfast with Lucian is a superb, flawlessly crafted portrait of about as messy a life as was ever lived . . . out of which emerged the greatest British painter of the past one hundred years.” ―Tom Wolfe

“Both tender biography and blunt revelation . . . It is the most important book yet written on Freud.” ―Brian Sewell, The Evening Standard (London)

“Geordie Greig's book is an unapologetic mixture of intelligent perception and high gossip. It deepens the reader's understanding of Lucian Freud, as both man and artist . . . No person interested in Freud will ignore this book. It is, overall, more revealing than anything about him yet written.” ―Frances Spalding, The Guardian

“Lucian Freud was a dedicated artist. I once heard him say, ‘I will paint myself to death.' The artist was also a dedicated social butterfly. In the middle of the art and the women, titled people were never far away. Both aspects of the life would have made for a repetitive story. Geordie Greig has overcome this double hazard to write a gripping and elegant and original book, shapely and full of unexpected matter. It will surely establish him as a master biographer.” ―V. S. Naipaul

“Geordie Greig has written an extraordinary, candid book that is at times intensely shocking and at other times even more intensely moving.” ―Antonia Fraser

Breakfast with Lucian, Geordie Greig's juicy, eye-popping book about Lucian Freud . . . offers a fond but by no means whitewashed account of how Freud's spectacularly messy life relates to his extraordinary body of work . . . Along with Freud's sexual profligacy and self-destructive passion for gambling, Greig captures the intensity of the artist's ambition and drive, his exacting work ethic and his numerous ‘splintered' friendships, including with fellow artist Francis Bacon. Greig's own friendship with Freud provides access to the chaos and squalor of his home and studio--littered with used brushes, flicked paint splotches and the carcasses of half-eaten dinners. His portrait comes alive with descriptions of Freud's ‘ferret-thin figure,' ‘shabby-chic style,' penchant for silk scarves, nougat candy, wads of cash and hair-raising drives in his brown Bentley . . . Greig's book, a rare case in which the text and illustrations are equally gripping, brings into sharp focus this bold iconoclast who ‘pushed boundaries, artistic as well as sexual.' Even better, it makes us look more closely and deeply--and see more.” ―Heller McAlpin, The Los Angeles Times

“Lucian Freud was the greatest figurative painter of the 20th century, says Geordie Greig in his spirited new book, Breakfast with Lucian . . . [a] highly readable life of the artist . . . Mr Greig's is a compelling portrait of a complete amoralist who became a monstre sacré.” ―The Economist

“Greig tells the astonishing story behind some of Freud's most disturbing paintings and wryly observes that Freud and Sigmund, his famous grandfather, had a lot in common since it was also ‘Lucian's business to get people to sit on beds or couches, and to reveal more about themselves than perhaps they wished to show.' Ironically, Lucian was a fiend for privacy, refusing interviews and derailing would-be biographers. Greig, a prominent newspaper editor, managed to get close to Freud during the painter's last decade, meeting him regularly for breakfast near his London home and studio. Freud spoke expansively about his tumultuous and maniacal life, from his Jewish German family's escape from the Nazis to his starving-artist years. Impudent, ambitious, and voracious, Freud did have a lot to hide. His prodigious sex life, a dizzying carousel of simultaneous partners, resulted in at least 14 children. Because he often paid his enormous gambling debts with paintings, a bookie owns the world's largest private Lucian Freud collection. Greig's vivid, swiftly flowing, bracingly candid, alluringly illustrated chronicle of the exploits and accomplishments of this renowned renegade artist is as arresting, discomfiting, and unforgettable as a Freud portrait.” ―Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)

“[An] admiring but acerbic biography of the painter . . . The Freud who emerges in this account is a slippery figure, not only for journalists who tried to explain him but also for his intimates.” ―The New Yorker

“Greig interviewed Freud . . . and many of his intimates and tells an astonishing story of appetite and accomplishment. He follows the painter from childhood to the grave, fills the book with photographs of the author and his work, and expands our notion of the capabilities of the human male . . . Greig also follows the arc of Freud's career, which took years to flower but bore plenty of fruit once it did.” ―Kirkus

“A personal, anecdotal, and utterly charming book that makes you feel you've pulled up a chair and joined [Geordie Greig and Lucian Freud] for a spot of tea. If only.” ―Lucas Wittmann, The Daily Beast

“Granted access to colleagues and models and lovers and children who, confronted by an outsider, would have kept schtum, he gains a series of often surprisingly frank interviews, the contents of which he weaves into a compulsively readable life . . . Greig's considerable powers as a tour guide of character, his well-trained eye for the detail along with his insightful study of art . . . [makes for] a riveting anecdotal portrait . . . Here is Freud from many facets: compulsive gambler, the underworld figure, the high-cultural Casanova, the social climber, the devious schemer, the affectionate dad. Even oft-told stories regain a first-person freshness . . . Everywhere there are fascinating nuggest. Some illuminate his paintings . . . Most cast a strong light, and often a harsh one, on his character . . . Breakfast with Lucian is a fond, fair-minded, thankfully non-judgmental and pretty full portrait of a person.” ―Rachel Campbell-Johnston, The Times (London)

“In addition to having conducted some of contemporary art's biggest interviews, Greig had the rare pleasure of becoming one of Freud's few close friends towards the end of the artist's life. The two regularly shared breakfast, and it was from these early morning conversations that Greig drew much of the content in Breakfast with Lucian. Greig provides a personable inside look at an unconventional, much speculated about life. Freud speaks to Greig with varying casualness, revealing personal foibles and interests (he was an avid gambler), thoughts on, of course, his art and that of others' (amongst them Spanish Baroque painter Diego Velázquez) and something more universal: first love. Lending greater depth to this memoir of sorts are thoughts from friends, romantic partners and even some of Freud's children, some who've never publicly spoken about their relationships with the painter. Breakfast with Lucian is the book art biographers have been chasing (Freud had twice denied proposed biographies). Considering their fruitless efforts, what Greig sits on top of, on the cusp of unveiling to the world, is one of the art world's most eagerly anticipated peeks over a spiked electric fence. Art aficionados: Breakfast with Lucian: The Astounding Life and Outrageous Times of Britain's Great Modern Painter is not one to be missed.” ―Leslie Ken Chu, Vancouver Weekly

Breakfast with Lucian brims with quotations from Freud's lovers, children, friends, sitters, dealers and associates, as well as from the artist himself . . . My favourite passages are those in which Greig quotes chunks of his interviews with Freud: in a flash, it feels as though we are chatting with the artist over a cup of tea, privy to his mischievous, witty and unbuttoned recollections . . . Greig also records Freud's destructive idiosyncrasies, while the final chapter, which deals with the artist's death and its aftermath, is heartfelt and upsetting.” ―Alastair Sooke, The Telegraph

“Geordie Greig, who knew him well, here reveals more about [Lucian] Freud than has ever been in print before . . . The book is excellent on Freud's extraordinary charisma, which worked its magic equally on women, men, animals and children. An especially charming passage--with accompanying photographs--describes Freud's easy playfulness with Greig's young children. The dark glamour is here, too . . . The best portraits bring their sitters vividly to life, and this book does just that. There can be no greater compliment than to say that Greig makes the reader feel exactly as if they have met Lucian Freud.” ―Cressida Connolly, The Spectator

“Geordie Greig's fascinating biography reveals a compelling but chaotic life which, until Freud's death in 2011, was largely kept veiled in secrecy by his family, friends and ex-lovers . . . The bio reveals Freud to have been a series of paradoxes . . . Greig, a former Tatler editor, revels in tracing the web of unlikely, unwieldy relationships that the artist liked to keep highly separate.” ―James Lane, 3 News

“We learn about the long and complicated personal life of Freud, as well as the techniques he employed as a painter, as a result of the informal meetings and breakfasts Greig had with him . . . Greig masterfully mixes hard-core biography with snippets of Q & A dialogue he conducts with Freud's lovers and children and Freud himself to create a memorable portrait of a portraitist. And because Greig spent so much time in the company of Freud's paintings and studio, he has earned the right to be psychoanalytical about the grandson of the world's most famous psychoanalyst . . . the reader feels by the time the paint has dried that he has been in the company of the artist.” ―David Masello, The Santa Fe New Mexican

“Greig has done a lot of legwork--tracking down lovers and confidantes and subjects of Freud's work, including Raymond Jones, who posed for the . . . painter's first full-length nude. Jones's account of sitting is revealing of the twin obsessions of Freud's life.” ―Tim Adams, The Observer

“Greig has drawn on interviews with those who knew Freud intimately--comprising countless girlfriends, models, dealers and bookmakers--to piece together the previously inexplicable existence of a man who compartmentalised all avenues of his life, as well as his anecdotes ranging from sleeping with horses to painting the Queen . . . Thoughtfully, he compares Freud to a cultural Forrest Gump of the 20th century, or an artistic incarnation of influential English rock band The Sex Pistols: ‘Every interesting and extraordinary person of the cultural and social world seemed to pass before him, yet at the same time he was this incredibly hardworking, obsessive painter.'” ―Alex Bellotti, The Hampstead and Highgate Express

“Geordie Greig, a journalist and close friend of Freud's during the latter years of his life, provides an unobstructed view into the artist's professional and private in his new memoir, Breakfast with Lucian . . . Greig delves into Freud's rarely-discussed personal life, from his burning temper . . . to his excessive gambling . . . to his close friendship with Bacon.” ―Erin Cunningham, The Daily Beast

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (October 22, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374116482
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374116484
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 1 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #72,789 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Do the "special people", the ones who have shown outstanding talents in the arts, sports, etc, deserve to be judged differently by society? Does their "greatness" exempt them from the same rules that seem to govern the rest of us? If so, then surely one example of this is the life of the late artist, Lucian Freud. Freud, grandson of Sigmund Freud, was a leading artist in the second half of the 20th century. He was known for his portraits; incredible and penetrating looks into the face, figure, and attendant ambiance of the sitter.

Lucian Freud was the middle son of three born to Lucie and Ernst Freud, in Berlin, in 1922. Ernst didn't follow his father into medicine - he became an architect - but Lucian, in a way, followed his father into the arts. The family saw the political "light" rather early on and moved to London in 1933. Did being Jewish in Germany, being German in England, give Lucian a sort of "outsider" mentality that he carried into his work? Beats me; maybe grandpa Sigmund could have given an answer to that. But Sigmund died in England in 1939 and so never knew his grandson past his youthful years.

Young Freud was an "enfant terrible" in his early years as a painter. (Actually, he was an "enfant terrible" his entire life!) Beginning in the 1940's, Freud found growing fame as an artist and also as a lover of women (and in some cases, men). He was married twice and had four children by his first wife. In all, he had 14 "acknowledged" children and possibly more who he never acknowledged. Using birth control was obviously never real high on his list of life priorities; though neither was it high to the six or so women he impregnated. A lackadaisical father - at best - Freud rarely seemed to let the responsibilities of fatherhood impinge on his life or his work.
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Full disclosure, I'm a painter who has followed the work of Lucien Freud for many years so I'm predisposed to liking anything I read about him. There were times, however, when I'd have felt like I needed to shower after reading Breakfast With Lucien if it hadn't had that erudite British voice behind it. Gossipy bordering on trashy. It made me not like Lucien very much and somehow never really explained how his charm and charisma made up for all his dicey behavior. Evidently it did because the people in his life, according to Mr. Greig, were tremendously loyal and forgiving, but I'd have liked to have a deeper explanation of why. I thought the much better book about Lucien was The Man With the Blue Scarf by Martin Gayford. But if you like the inside dirt (with the emphasis on dirt) about an artist then you'll certainly enjoy Breakfast With Lucien.
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Reviews in the New York Times keep calling this gossipy. I thought it put names to the faces of models in Freud's paintings that heretofore had been anonymous....I found it deeply interesting to know that one model may be his daughter, another his gambling agent. Very lively.
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This is a funny and appalling page-turner about a modern Don Juan, written in a journalistic style that is almost always engaging. It's also a very good-looking books with nice prints and photos. If you're a Lucian Freud fan like me, it should be pure ratnip. I meant to go on at greater length, but I just read Dwight Garner's review in the New York Times and he really says it all -- take a look.
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The design of the book is so awful, that reading it is a chore. On the left hand pages the marigin from the edge is almost 2 1/2 inches, while the body text runs into the gutter. The right hand pages have a 2 1/2 inch margin from the gutter, so the text butts up to 1/2 inch of the edge of the page. The ink on the coated stock glitters from the light of my reading lamps, so I had to hold the book at a strange angle.. On the back of the dust jacket, V.S. Naipul calls it "....a gripping and elegant and original book." Writing is not elegant when bad grammar stops the reader too many times.It is not gripping when one tires of constant name dropping of people one doesn't know or care about. Antonia Fraser calles the book intensely shocking and intensely moving. Today, nothing really shocks us, and the only moving aspect was how I was moved to finish the book as quickly as possible.
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I am an acrylic artist and am always reading about art and other artists. I found this book Breakfast with Lucian to be very interesting and a good read. It is interesting to me to learn what other artists did in order to continue to create often and what their routines and funny quirks are or were. This book is similar to some others I have read that outline the day in a life of a particular artist. This book is a great look into the life and creative mind of Lucian.
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This absolutely captivating book, dealing with the author's long history as a friend and confidante of Lucian Freud, is a complete delight. Easy to read and filled with witty stories about the reclusive genius (including one that had me in stitches, involving feeding Veuve Cliqout champagne to a rat for months on end in order to lull the lucky creature into sitting for hours as part of a portrait) the book gives luminous insight into the eccentric proclivities of one of the last great bohemians of 20th Century London. A must read.
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