Freud At Work

Freud At Work

Lucian Freud in conversation with Sebastian Smee. Photographs by David Dawson and Bruce Bernard


Lucian Freud is not only the most celebrated artist working in England, but one of the most private. He has frequently stated his reluctance to be photographed and he has almost never agreed to be interviewed. Following the publication of the last ten years of his work by Jonathan Cape in the autumn of 2005, the painter has agreed to talk to Sebastian Smee, a writer on art whom he greatly respects, in a series of conversations rather than formal interviews. He wants to talk about painting itself, the demands of his own work and the painters he admires.

Two photographers have had access to Freud's studio. The late Bruce Bernard was a friend for many years and the subject of two of Freud's paintings. Bernard was an authority on photography, a great picture editor, and also a very fine photographer. He made a number of studies of Freud at work. Over the last five years in particular, Freud's assistant, the painter David Dawson, has been photographing the artist constantly. The results reveal various stages of works in progress, including paintings of Dawson himself, and the intensity of the activity in this very secret domain. The only precedent to such a document might be David Douglas Duncan's photographs of Picasso at work, but nothing as extensive has been published on such a major painter before.

About the authors

Lucian Freud

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Sebastian Smee

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David Dawson (Illustrator)

David Dawson was born in Wales in 1960. After leaving the Royal College of Art he combined his work as a painter with becoming an assistant to Lucian Freud, with whom he remained until Freud’s death in 2011. His photographs, alongside those of Bruce Bernard, were published by Jonathan Cape in Freud At Work in 2006. His paintings were exhibited at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester in 2012 and by Marlborough Fine Art in 2013. His photographs of Lucian Freud were exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery, London and Hazlitt Holland-Hibbert in 2004, and at the Sigmund Freud Museum in the former Freud apartment in Vienna in 2013. He divides his time between London and Wales and over recent months he has been painting in New York.
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