Sunday, 7 June 2015

Lucian Freud: Juicy Fruit

An extraordinary cache of intimate letters by Lucian Freud, kept secret for more than 70 years, reveals for the first time details of his close relationship with the 1930s poet Stephen Spender.

The correspondence was locked away by Spender’s family because it was deemed too revealing about the two men, with strong suggestions of homosexuality between the poet, then in his 30s, and the teenage Freud. Homosexuality at that time was not only taboo, it was illegal.

The letters were released by the Spender family following the death in 2010 of the poet’s widow Natasha, who always insisted that her husband’s ‘homosexual phase’ ended with her marriage to him in 1941. They are being sold at Sotheby’s next month for £35,000.

The letters were kept back from Spender’s official biographer, Professor John Sutherland, and he now sees them as crucial pieces of evidence that confirm a homosexual relationship between the two men.

Sutherland is convinced of a physical relationship despite the famously promiscuous, heterosexual life of Freud, who fathered at least 14 acknowledged children and as many as 25 others. He was married twice and is reputed to have had as many as 500 female lovers.

Freud signs himself off to Spender with the saucy pseudonym Lucio Fruit or Lucianus Fruititas (juicy fruit). They are jokey and affectionate, with Freud writing: ‘Could you have seen that feeble expression of pure joy creeping over my features (and filling my eyes with a dim light) as I recognised your familiar hand!’ There is mention of venereal disease and shaving accidents, as well as accounts of new pictures being painted. According to Sutherland, the tone of at least one letter is ‘lubricious’, with Freud pointedly referring to the ‘delicate subject below the waist’.

Sutherland added: ‘The tone of Freud’s letters is not of a child to a parent figure or older brother, but frankly sexual.

‘To call yourself as a teenager a luscious fruit to a known and practising homosexual suggests either a relationship – not necessarily completely physical – or teasing of an improbable kind. I’m persuaded there was a mutually acceptable sexual relationship.’....


What would grandpa Sigmund say?

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