Monday, November 20, 2017

The Freudian Truth

If, by chance, you are an aspiring Freudian—yes, such creatures still exist—I will happily save you a ton of time and an enormous effort. Your teachers will tell you that, to be a true Freudian, to get in touch with the Freudian truth, you need to spend years pouring over the master’s texts, performing every manner of  mental gymnastics and Biblical exegesis.

Trust me, I did it.

But then I had a revelation. I wrote about in my book, The Last Psychoanalyst. I discovered that you do not need to bother with the texts. They are mostly elaborate subterfuges. Look at the way the great Freudians, like Jacques Lacan, lived their lives. If you want to understand the theory,  look at what happened when the theory became flesh.

Lacan was notoriously decadent, a chronic womanizer, but in a sophisticated French way. After all, he discovered that Freudian theory was designed to make the world safe for adultery. He thrilled at breaking the rules and showing the world what the Freudian truth looked like.

And yet, even Lacan was not in the same league as Freud’s very own grandson, Lucian. You know about Lucian Freud because he was a great artist. Perhaps you did not know that he grasped one of the basic points of Freudian theory—also adumbrated in my book—namely, the dismissal of free will.

The Daily Mail reported on the sordid history of Lucian Freud a few days ago, but before recounting it in detail I include a theoretical coda, recounted by one of his sons:

He recalls: ‘I once apologised to Dad [Lucian] for something I did, and he replied, “That’s nice of you to say, but it doesn’t work like that. There is no such thing as free will. People just have to do what they have to do”.’

As for the sordidity of it all, The Daily Mail begins with his daughter Bella, recently in the news for dumping her 72-year old husband for a thirty something boy toy:

One would expect the daughter of artist Lucian Freud — and great-granddaughter of the father of modern psychology Sigmund — to cut a Bohemian dash, and Bella Freud, 56, certainly doesn’t disappoint.

The gamine fashion designer has dumped her 72-year-old husband for an artist who is 22 years her junior.

As for Lucian himself, The Daily Mail enumerates his exploits and escapades—promiscuous, louche, charming and totally selfish. Yes, indeed, Lucian was a Freudian to his marrow:

But then a lust for life is in the genes. Bella’s father was a promiscuous, louche, charismatic and utterly selfish man who had as many as 500 lovers. His female subjects were often his romantic partners, or became his lovers after sitting for him. Some went on to have children by him.

Lucian married twice, and had two daughters by his first wife, Kitty Garman, none by his second, society beauty Lady Caroline Blackwood, but at least 12 illegitimate children by five mistresses. Some friends estimate he may have fathered as many as 40.

A ruthless seducer with no interest in conventional family life, in one year alone, 1961, Freud had three children by as many different women.

By the time he died in 2011, at the age of 88, he had acknowledged 14 children — the oldest now 69 and the youngest 33. Ten of them inherited his £42 million (after tax) estate.

Some were only vaguely aware of each other’s existence. So who are these children, and what is his dynastic legacy? The answer is that the Freuds are the most unlikely clan, artists galore of all different stripes, with a dizzying number of divorces, scandals and family disasters between them. Indeed, barely a single marriage has stayed the course.

And it all comes down to us with a dash of pedophilia. This raises the important theoretical issue: when a pedophile is doing it for art is it still pedophilia? And of course, there’s the strong stench of incest in Freud’s paintings of his naked children, but, it’s for art… don’t you agree?

Annie, who was born in 1948, was painted nude by her father at the age of 14, for his 1963 portrait Naked Child Laughing. She recalled him moving her hair off her nipples with his paintbrush.

‘There was some hurt done, not intentionally, and it was nothing to do with sex — perhaps it was more an intrusion into innocence. It was all very well for Dad to say it was all right. No one else felt that it was,’ she said recently.

With daughter Rose Boyt, he waited until she was 19:

Her father painted her nude, for 1979’s Portrait Of Rose, when she was 19, a portrait she describes as ‘crew cut, open legs, naked’.  Rose Boyt

As for the non-incestuous pedophilia, we have the Bernadine Coverley:

Bernardine Coverley was 16 when she met Freud in a bar in Soho in 1959. The daughter of Irish Catholic parents who ran a pub in Brixton, she attended boarding school from the age of four. When she was 15 her parents moved back to Ireland but she headed to London where she met Lucian. The artist first painted her aged 17 and pregnant with Bella, in 1961’s Pregnant Girl. He was 37 and had been married twice. They never lived together.

Still, the question arises? Is it pedophilia or art or both? As for Freud's incest taboo, it's there to be broken.


Sam L. said...

He ain't nuthin', compared to Screaming Jay Hawkins:

James said...

The national anthem for the School of Freud: