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The Crack Magazine


Naked Portrait (A Memoir of Lucian Freud) by Rose Boyt

Rose Boyt’s memoir, Naked Portrait, is the story of childhood trauma, her father, her mum and, to my mind, how a couple of challenging years in Boyt’s early thirties proved to be a kind of hinge to her future life. Based on diary entries she looks back and tries to pick apart how she managed not only to survive her family in all its confusing multiple parts, but to find her place as a writer, visual artist and, eventually, mother. At times in her diaries, she seems like a woman on the edge of a nervous breakdown, but also like a woman whose disarming honesty, determination and fierce intellect will get her through no matter what. As anyone who’s been there will know, a person’s late twenties/early thirties living messily and precariously in London can be a strange time to figure out what the future holds and more broadly just what the hell is going on. In Rose Boyt’s case with her artist father, an extraordinary painter but a predator with a taste for young flesh (who seemingly could never keep his cock in his pocket), with her odd (useless?) psychotherapist and with her huge extended family (Lucian Freud fathered at least fourteen children). Extraordinarily measured and brutally self-aware she’s scrupulously fair even when the evidence suggests otherwise (although her description of sitting naked for one of her father’s portraits is excruciating). For Lucian Freud lovers there’s plenty about the art, the man and plenty of his stories about London high and lowlife, but I’m not quite convinced that the subtitle shouldn’t have been A Memoir of Rose Boyt. And why not? She’s a great writer, whose diaries provide a unique way to contextualise and hash through childhood trauma, the art monster conundrum and how a life should be lived. Totally recommended.

Naked Portrait (A Memoir of Lucian Freud) – Rose Boyt - publ. by Picador - £22.00

Steven Long