Born in Berlin, Freud was the son of an architect, Ernst Freud, and grandson of Sigmund Freud. In 1932 he settled in England with his parents, and in 1939, acquired British nationality. In the same year he was taught for a period by Cedric Morris, who encouraged his pupils to let feelings prevail over objective observation. He began to work full-time as an artist after being invalided out of the Merchant Navy in 1942. From 1948 to 1958 he taught at the Slade School, London. He first exhibited his work in 1944, and first made a major public impression in 1951, when his Interior at Paddington won a prize at the Festival of Britain. His work includes still lifes, interiors, and urban scenes, but his specialities are portraits and nudes, often observed in arresting close-up. He frequently painted people he knew well, saying: “[i]f you don’t know them, it can only be like a travel book.”
Freud’s work has been shown in numerous solo and group shows and he has steadily built up a formidable reputation as one of the most powerful contemporary figure painters. In 1993 Peter Blake wrote that since the death of Francis Bacon the previous year, Freud was ‘certainly the best living British painter’, and by this time he was also well known abroad (a major retrospective exhibition of his work in 1987–8 was seen in Paris and Washington as well as London). Freud continued working until his death in 2011.