At the time of his death at the age of eighty-eight in the summer of 2011 Lucian Freud was described as the greatest figurative artist in the second half of the twentieth century. Together with Francis Bacon, his friend, Freud redefined British art and the revelations that the human body could offer the painter. His work, which was once considered almost too direct for fashionable taste, was heralded in his lifetime and its greatness widely acknowledged. As is often the way with artists, a legend grew up around him. The grandson of the father of psychoanalysis and a child refugee from the Nazis, he was famous, if not notorious, at an early age. He was undaunted and seemingly fearless in his life. Except to a small circle of family, friends and models, Freud's private world was closed and mysterious. He was careful in his choice of associates, but was as familiar with the company of the betting fraternity as he was at the table of a Duke. But if one were able to observe fragments of Freud's life, one would see a man engaged without any compromise in the pursuit of his work. Everything else was secondary.
In the early nineties David Dawson, a painter from the Royal College of Art, became Freud's assistant. Later in that decade David Dawson began to take photographs around the studio. Making these pictures became part of the daily round. David Dawson's relationship with Freud became even more familiar as he became one of his favourite models. He was not photographing a world he was trying to enter, he was, in fact, recording his own life. He began to accompany Freud on all his excursions. You see Freud in Paris, Amsterdam, Madrid and New York, where he engages with the works of the great masters. These pictures are born of intimacy and unspoken understanding. Here there are no intrusions. He photographed Freud until his death. Each of these photographs is a fragment of a bigger picture that constitutes a portrait of the artist. It provides an unparalleled view of the man and of his work as it moved from the first brush strokes on empty white canvases to the final, layered and astonishing paintings. The photographs will be frequently accompanied throughout the book by David Dawson's own commentary both on the paintings and their subjects.