Freud Dynasties & The Art Verses Commerce Saga
Written by Stuart Griffiths
In January 2014 it was reported that thieves had stolen Sigmund Freud’s ashes in a raid on a North London crematorium on New Years Eve. The burglars “severely damaged” the 2,300 year old Greek urn, which was a gift to Sigmund from Princess Marie Bonaparte, the great grandniece of Napoleon, that contained the remains of Sigmund and his wife Martha. They attempted to take it from Hoop Lane Cemetery in Golders Green, which has seen the funerals of many notable figures, including Dracula novelist Bram Stoker, comedian Peter Sellers, singer Amy Winehouse and the great train robber Ronnie Biggs. Detective Constable Daniel Candler who was handling the case said, “This was a despicable act by a callous thief”.
What savage bastard would want to take off with someone’s ashes I asked myself? What crazed mind-set or drunken frenzy would make you want to steal the ashes of the great late Sigmund Freud? I quizzed an innocent bystander stood outside Golders Green tube station with a electronic bong and a brown brindle Staffordshire Bull Terrier, who seemed to know all about Freud’s book The Interpretation of Dreams. “Maybe someone thought that it would be good idea to mix his ashes with cocaine?”
Sigmund Freud (born 1856) is the great father of psychoanalysis and a hero of our times for many interested in the sub-conscious. He was also a physiologist, medical doctor, psychologist and influential thinker of the early 20th century. Working initially in close collaboration with Joseph Breuer, Sigmund Freud elaborated the theory that the mind is a complex energy- system, the structural investigation of which is the proper province of psychology. He articulated and refined the concepts of the unconscious, infantile sexuality and repression, and he proposed a tripartite account of the mind’s structure — all as part of a radically new conceptual and therapeutic frame of reference for the understanding of the human psychological development and the treatment of abnormal mental conditions. Notwithstanding the multiple manifestations of psychoanalysis as it exists today, it can in almost all fundamental respects be traced directly back to Sigmund Freud’s original work.
Freud’s innovative treatment of human actions, dreams, and indeed of cultural artifacts as invariably possessing implicit symbolic significance has proven to be extraordinary fruitful, and has had massive implications for a wide variety of fields including psychology. Anthropology, semiotics, and artistic creativity and appreciation. His most important and frequently re-iterated claim, that with psychoanalysis he had invented a successful science of the mind, remains the subject of much critical debate and controversy. In 1938, Sigmund Freud moved to Britain to escape Nazi occupied Austria. He died a year later, aged 83.
The Freud family tree spans far and wide with the Freud ‘dynasty’ being as powerful as ever. Many will know of Sigmund’s prolific grandson Lucian the great artist painter. Born in Berlin in 1922, he too fled Nazi occupied Germany, as a young child, along with his Granddad Sigmund. Lucian studied briefly at London’s Central School of Art, before continuing his studies at East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing and later Goldsmith’s College from 1942. Today, Lucien Freud’s paintings are worth a fortune, let alone his early works, especially since his death in 2011.
Many stories have been written of Lucian’s charismatic life, his womanizing, and how he was such a ‘cruel lover’ and ‘terrible father’ but ‘one hell of a painter’. A life-sized Lucian Freud painting of a sleeping, naked woman has set a new world record price for a work by a living artist. The 1995 portrait, titled Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, sold for $33.6m (£17.2m) at Christie’s in New York. Lucian Freud never stopped working throughout his epic life and painted many people from the likes of the supermodel, then pregnant, Kate Moss, to Queen Elizabeth II. So, having your life scrutinized by everyone, from writers to journalists, was nothing new to someone like Lucian, it was just part of the ‘fame game’ — the baggage that comes with the territory of being in the limelight, famous and of course super rich.
It could be said that the legacy of the Sigmund Freud ‘dynasty’ is split into two camps. One ‘side’ of the Freud Dynasty is that of the ‘Arty Side’ of Lucian Freud, who famously fathered over 30 children and had over 500 lovers. His most well-known and successful daughter(s) are Bella (born 1961) who studied fashion in Rome and quickly paved her way as one of Britain’s leading fashion designers. Bella began working with Vivienne Westwood during the 1980’s before setting up her own fashion label. Bella’s sister, Esther (born 1963) is a British novelist, Esther is author of The Wild, Gaglow, The Sea House, Lucky Break and Hideous Kinky that was later made into a film starring Ewan McGregor and Kate Winslet surrounding Esther’s bohemian childhood.
On the other side of the Freud spectrum are the siblings of the late Clement Freud, who died in 2009. Clement was a Member of Parliament and Britain’s first TV celebrity Chef, a Broadcaster and columnist for many newspapers, he was also well known for appearing in a famous dog food commercial and a panelist on the long-running Radio 4 show Just a Minute. Clement Freud’s camp is the ‘Commerce Side’. His best known children are daughter Emma (born 1962), who has worked in television and journalism, all throughout her career, along with radio, and film, editing scripts with her film director partner Richard Curtis, known for his debut film Four Weddings and a Funeral, and other films including Notting Hill and The Vicar of Dibley.
Clements son Matthew Freud (born 1963) is known for his communications PR Company Freud Communications. Which he founded 28 years ago; its clients include PepsiCo, BSkyB, Vodafone and the Department of health. He made around £2m selling his stake in M&C Saatchi in 2012, brought back control of his agency from Publicis Groupe in 2011, and a turnover of £35.6m also in the same year.
Born into one dynasty and married into another, Elizabeth Murdoch, daughter of media tycoon Rupert Murdoch. Matthew and Elizabeth have a shared fortune worth over £225m. Matthew Freud brings together the world of politics, showbiz, media and big business. They own Burford Priory, in west Oxfordshire and are considered members of the ‘Chipping Norton Set’. But post-phone hacking scandal and the Leveson Enquiry that followed, the Chipping Norton set is not what is once was.
In July 2011 the closure of Britain’s favorite Sunday tabloid newspaper The News of the World, which weekly dug the dirt on celebrity and the wealthy opened the flood-gates on the methods of News International journalists and the Chipping Norton set, which included the British Prime Minister David Cameron, former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks; Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson and Alex James from that ‘Brit’ band Blur.
Guardian journalists and Police investigators have desperately worked tiredly to unravel the spider web knot of connections at the center of the phone-hacking scandal, with Matthew Freud keeping well out of coverage. When Matthew Freud turned fifty, he banned Rupert Murdoch from his party, because former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was attending; notably Rebekah Brooks, the former News of the World editor was also absent.
This is impressive, because he is so responsible for lacing the Murdoch family into contemporary British society. “The Murdoch’s, in their nature, are not glamour-pusses,” says Michael Wolff, author of the Murdoch biography The Man Who Owns the News. “The Murdoch’s in London are a Matthew Freud creation. It was Matthew who promoted these people into this incredibly rarefied status and built the social circle around them. He turned them into the Kennedys of London.”
There is a lot of debris in the fast lane nowadays. Or at least that was the feeling when I visited Chipping Norton recently, which ended up in a savage alcohol fuelled lock-in, in the popular Chequers Bar. I was here to tie any loose ends with my story and as I’d been there a few years back working on an article on young drunken British Royals, I was already aware of this close-knit environment. When I started probing questions about Matthew Freud, it typically went quiet, like you could hear a pin drop. For many people here in the idyllic upper-class southern western frontiers of the Cotswold’s, being in the public eye, whether good or bad, can still be a honest belief that “all publicity is good publicity” it can be helpful for many, except the super rich, who ‘organize’ the publicity rather than being on the receiving end. People like Matthew Freud, who would rather avoid the spotlight and instead control publicity in the shape of a lavish and hugely important charity event only for the privileged and invited.
The phone hacking scandal has ‘slightly’ tainted Matthew Freud’s social standing and shifted the limelight off his PR Company and exposed his personal life with his Father in Law, the media ‘tycoon’ Rupert Murdoch. “That Leveson gig has blown their cover,” said a local poacher stood at the bar having a ‘quite pint’. “I personally blame that shit-stirring newspaper (the) News of the World,” He said, beating his swollen fist on the bar, making me feel slightly nervous.“Its about time the shoe was on the other foot” he said, gulping down his tankard of Fullers Ale. All the hysteria surrounding the ‘phone-hacking’ case and the feud between the Freud and Murdoch clan, has now sent weird vibrations throughout the Cotswold’s. Many areas of the media are now going through many transitional changes, making the very belief of ‘free speech’ uneasy to digest and regulate.
Despite the Chequers Bar being filled with drunken country folk clad in tweed flat caps and Holland Cooper shooting gilets, all around you could feel the mistrustfulness torwards journalist that is so thick in the air you can smear it over your body like wax-cotton oil . . . This small world likes it this way – The rich want their privacy just like want blacked out Range Rovers.
But that was the last thing on my mind now, as I was now living the Cotswold life, or at least trying to in the name of journalistic purity and a magazine deadline. I was driving a rented Mariana black Range Rover Sport SDV8 with tinted windows through Woodstock and Stow-on-the-Wold, And its fine by me, here in this place, which reminds me of Chelsea by the countryside . . . Because I am lightheaded from all the cocaine the night before. In the back seat are two beautiful lesbians, who are telling jokes in French, wearing only Bedale Barbour jackets and red shiny Hunter Wellingtons, because of the terrible weather.
We are on our way to an orgy, in a mansion not far from the Cotswold Hills to hang out with an incestuous collection of affluent, louche, power-hunger and amoral Londoners . . . The girls are drinking Don Perignon from magnums we bought in a Sainsbury’s Champagne Store. One of them is tipping booze in to my mouth as we slow down approaching a roundabout. The car stereo is playing Night Call by London Grammar when a newsflash suddenly blasts from the car stereo that Chipping Norton regular and former News International Chief Executive Rebekah Brooks has finally been acquitted of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office.
I came to Chipping Norton to somehow get nearer to the Freud ‘Dynasty’, but I was not going to get any profound ‘Freudian’ wisdom anywhere here today, either in Chipping Norton or at the VIP orgies in central London, despite knowing a few well-connected artists who can get my name on any guest list. The notion ‘loose lips sinks ships’ has now gone into hyper-drive with the aftermath of the phone hacking scandal.
There was one art event I clearly remember attending, a few years back, which was held at the Sigmund Freud museum, where the likes of a the singer P J Harvey mingled with the art crowd. It was an exhibition of work by the British Artists Tim Noble & Sue Webster, titled “Polymorphous Perverse” and was curated by James Putnam. According to Sigmund Freud, young children are, by nature, “polmorphously perverse”, which is to say that they can display inchoate sexual tendencies that adults would regard as perverse. Education suppresses infantile sexuality but it is not obliterated; it is retained in the unconscious mind of adults.
The art crowd are now a very cautious breed and wary of people not in the inner circle. For many in these ‘circles’ nowadays, anyone with a Freud ‘connection’ is a closely guarded secret. So, to get anywhere near this exclusive ‘elite’ connected to any member of the Freud ‘dynasty’, you would at least have to get on familiar terms with a relative firstly, or if you are lucky, a direct family member like Bella or Esther, which could take years of trust and is never going to be easy, unless you are rich.
Originally published in L’Optimum