Human Flower Project

Lucian Freud: Cyclamen Complex

A realist painter, and psychologist’s dream, dies in London, leaving behind a legacy of nudes and a secret life, perhaps, of human flower projects.


Winter Cyclamen (n.d.) by Lucian Freud

Image: Wallpapers Free

Painter Lucian Freud died in London yesterday, age 88.

Back before his models were disrobed, he painted a startling and wonderful portrait of his first wife, Kitty Garmen. She has the frizzies and with bulging eyes (so outsized they seem almost to have been collaged onto the canvas) she glares away to the right, as if witnessing some horror out of our field of vision.

imageGirl with Roses (1947-48)

Image: via New York Times

She also holds a rose bud, the big thorns on its stem pointing menacingly at her hand. Meanwhile, on her black velvety lap, the head of another rose lies chopped off.

This work, from 1947-48, captured the critics’ attention with its freakish and anxious realism. It also wound up on the cover of Fleur Cowles’s first issue of Flair magazine (the rose was her emblem, too).

Freud became best known for his portraits of unhappy nudes splayed on dingy couches (sometimes accompanied by very poised looking whippets).

We understand that two mural paintings have been discovered in Freud’s former abodes: of flowers.

What would grandfather Sigmund have made of that? Could it be that Lucian, who allegedly fathered 40 children, was suffering from floral repression?

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