Part two of last week’s interview: I had the pleasure to interview the well-respected art critic Martin Gayford, who is currently chief art critic for the arts and entertainment section of Bloomberg News.
He has written several books, such as Man with a Blue Scarf, Lucian Freud: Painting People, A Bigger Message: Conversations with David Hockney, Constable in Love: Love, Landscape, Money and the Making of a Great Painter, The Yellow House: Van Gogh, Gauguin, Nine Turbulent Weeks in Arles and many more. Most of his books are translated into other languages (including German and French). He also contributes to several art magazines and newspapers, such as to the Apollo Magazine and the Daily Telegraph.
Lisa Moravec: How did you find sitting for Lucian Freud?
Martin Gayford: I was pleased and a bit surprised that he accepted my offer to sit for him. It was a slightly different world for me because I have never actually really seen the work process of painting. I just talk about the works. It was like going through a barrier, a slightly new territory.
LM: Why have you decided to write a book about your time as a sitter?
MG: It came in stages, first of all I thought is was so interesting that I want to write down notes. My wife wasn’t quite sure if I shall do that.
These notes of the process which is rather repetitive involved just us two being in a room together.
LM: When you started to write about being a sitter for Lucian Freud was it just for yourself?
MG: No, I had the idea that I wanted to publish it. But because Lucian was so involved I showed him a proposal before I started to write the book.
LM: How has it changed your friendship with him?
MG: Well, it had changed and then it changed back. The way Lucian paints, his sitters are his most interesting subjects while he was painting – but just when he is painting. We were seeing each other so intense that our relationship had changed. But when we stopped seeing each other so often, it changed back.
LM: Has it changed your picture of him or his of you?
MG: It has deepened my idea of him and what he did. I suppose his ideas of myself are visible in the picture of me. He thought much harder about me as a subject than he did before – at least it looked very much harder for me.
LM: What were your personal feelings while sitting for him?
MG: I found I got used to it. It would be disconcerting if somebody who I did not really trust would have done it. But he was quite a good friend so I felt relaxed.
LM: Did he ask strangers to sit for him as well?
MG: He sometimes started to work with a model he did not know – for example Lee Barry, or Sue Tilley who sat for Benefit Supervisor Sleeping. He did not know them terribly well in advance but he got to know them, and he would have had a feeling that it could work when he started.
But once Freud said that he just could not work with a male sitter.