Celia Paul cried during her first session modeling for Lucian Freud. “Nudity disarms me,” Paul wrote in his new memoir, Self-Portrait. He described sitting for him as a torturous experience and his sense of supervision as overexertion. “I felt like I was in a doctor or in a hospital, or in a morgue.” At one point, she told him that her breasts reminded her of eggs; then he boiled one, sliced ??it in half, and placed it on the plate in front of him. He had to lie still while he painted it.
This became Freud’s Naked Girl With Egg (1980-81), a bizarre and slightly surreal work which one critic noted was emblematic of Freud’s interest in female genitalia, a painting that “turns the body inside out and drags mystery into the daytime.” The mystery that is dragged into the daytime is Paul’s body, naked and twisted on the black sheet, as he cups her breasts with his hand. Her eyes turn upwards towards something in the distance so that we see their mostly whites. In front of him, on the small table, were eggs, looking like a pair of embodied breasts or yellow eyes.
Naked girl and famous artist:
This is an old story and perhaps a predictable role setting for Freud, the much older and more famous painter, and Paul, his lovely younger lover; she paints and she sits for him. But not yet. The concept of sitting occurs over and over in Paul’s book, and these roles aren’t as static as Naked Girl With Egg might lead us to believe. Nor does it sit as simply as it seems. “The act of sitting is not passive,” Paul wrote, describing it, at times, as it is almost an intense form of meditation, requiring its own kind of focus.
Self-portraits may be read as a series of sitting for a lifetime.
Paul sat down for Freud many times throughout their relationship, but he also sat for him. Likewise with his younger siblings. When Paul was just starting out as a painter, his mother sat down for him and cried because he felt like her daughter was treating him as an object. But as Paul’s career continued, sitting became a calling to his mother; he takes the train twice a week to London to sit for his daughter in his studio. Time passes, roles and the balance of power change, and the act of sitting and painting changes too. There is a traditional narrative about the painter and his subjects, his genius and inspiration. Paul tells us that, in his life, this story is at least partially true: She was the girl naked in the sheets, crying and overly exposed. But it is part of a longer story that he tells about himself and Freud and the others in his life, about the painter and the people he painted. In Self-Portrait, Paul is the subject himself, but so are the shifting conditions of the subject and objectivity, the changing relationship between the painter and the one that is painted.
Celia Paul was born in 1959 in Trivandrum, India. His father was a missionary and later a minister in rural England. Paul learned to paint while at boarding school. When he was 16 years old, after a teacher noticed his talent, he went to the Slade Art School in London. There, two years later, he met Freud, then 55 and a visiting tutor at the school. She shows him some of the drawings and paintings he’s done, and she invites him back to his flat to show him one of his own. When he kissed her, he wrote, he was a little frightened. Gradually, they get romantically involved, as she moves from rented room to rented room in London, waiting for him to make a call. Their love is rooted in painting – both the act of putting paint to the canvas and a shared dedication to art as the main goal of their life. Their relationship was also volatile. She often has other lovers, and she does that sometimes too. He has a daughter about his age. In the prologue, Paul states that one of the reasons he wrote this book was to tell the story of their relationship in his terms: “By writing about myself in my own words, I have made my life my own. Lucian, in particular, is part of my story rather than, as always, I am described as part of it. “
His account of this tale is marked by a certain problem of fact.
He combines old journal entries and letters, which float to the surface of the narrative with a certain intensity, and the images of him and his paintings. Paul’s prose is at once immovable and direct and comfortable, full of gaps. He gave us details of the delicious meals he and Freud shared in the bistro but didn’t