Painter Lucian Freud dies aged 88

media captionDavid Sillito looks back at artist Lucian Freud's famous works

Realist painter Lucian Freud, one of Britain's most distinguished and highly regarded artists, has died aged 88.

New York dealer William Acquavella said Freud had died at his London home on Wednesday after an unspecified illness.

Freud, a grandson of the psycho-analyst Sigmund Freud, was born in Berlin in 1922 and fled to Britain with his Jewish family in 1933, when he was 10.

Freud - particularly known for his paintings of nudes - became a British citizen in 1939.

image captionBoy on a Sofa fetched £1.49m last year, a record price for a work on paper by Freud

His works have been increasingly sought after at recent auctions and his portrayal of an overweight nude woman sleeping on a couch sold in 2008 for $33.6m (£20.6m) - a world record for a work by a living artist.

'Lived to paint'

Mr Acquavella described Freud "as one of the great painters of the 20th Century".

"In company he was exciting, humble, warm and witty. He lived to paint and painted until the day he died, far removed from the noise of the art world."

Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate gallery, said: "The vitality of [Freud's] nudes, the intensity of the still life paintings and the presence of his portraits of family and friends guarantee Lucian Freud a unique place in the pantheon of late 20th Century art.

"His early paintings redefined British art and his later works stand comparison with the great figurative painters of any period."

Former Observer art critic William Feaver, who knew Freud for more than 40 years, said Freud was someone who had "restored portraiture to its proper place", by focusing on all types of people, not just successful businessmen and their wives.

media captionLucian Freud muse Sue Tilley talks to BBC Breakfast about her experiences with the artist

"He said everything he did was autobiographical and a self portrait. He was a witty, impulsive artist but generous with it."

Mr Feaver said Freud had left several unfinished paintings.

He said: "He always liked to keep a couple of paintings on the go in case he dropped off the twig and I know he's done that."

Former muse Sue Tilley, who sat for the nude Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, said she had "fantastic experiences" while posing for the portrait.

"I found out last night on Twitter, bizarrely, and I did start crying," she told BBC Breakfast.

"I haven't seen him for a long time and he's not really a close friend now but it's a part of my life that's kind of gone."

Order of Merit

Freud, the son of an architect and older brother of the late broadcaster Clement Freud, went to the Central School of Art, in London and then to the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing and London's Goldsmiths College.

At first he confined himself to drawing, but when he was 17 had a self-portrait accepted for reproduction in the magazine, Horizon.

Freud was recognised early on and after a spell in the Merchant Navy in 1942, had his first one-man show in 1944, when he was 21.

After the war he went to France and Greece, and having taken up painting by then, returned to the UK in 1948 to teach for 10 years at the Slade School of Art.

Freud was married twice, first to sculptor Jacob Epstein's daughter, Kitty, the subject of his celebrated Girl With a White Dog. His second wife was the daughter of the Marquess of Dufferin and Ava.

Freud's other key works include Naked Girl Asleep and Reflection (self portrait). The Queen and supermodel Kate Moss are among those to have sat for the artist.

Freud was a member of the Order of Merit, one of Britain's most prestigious chivalry honours presented to individuals by the Queen for great achievement in the fields of the arts, learning, literature and science.

The honour is restricted to 24 members at any one time, plus additional foreign recipients and past recipients include Florence Nightingale, Sir Winston Churchill, Sir Edward Elgar and Mother Teresa.

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