Surely they didn’t… did they? RICHARD KAY poses the tantalising question
They were hardly the incarnation of love’s young dream: he was stooped, disheveled, in paint-splattered trousers and a thin scarf knotted loosely around his neck; she blonde, elegant and, although pregnant, unmistakably the elf face that graced countless magazine covers.
Yet for a few heady weeks exactly 20 years ago, Lucian Freud and model Kate Moss were an inseparable if unlikely couple: dancing at Annabel’s, dining for two at trendy restaurants, and sitting late into the night as artist and muse. .
Their collaboration produced one of the most striking portraits of Freud’s long career. The nearly life-size full-length study of her portrayed Moss not as a derelict supermodel, but as a physically imposing pregnant woman reclining naked on a bed.
It also unleashed a flood of rumors and speculation about the nature of the relationship between the womanizing roué and the hedonistic party girl. Such was Freud’s reputation that even the 51-year age difference did not prevent some of the most lewd gossip. At that time he was 79 years old and Kate was only 28.
In fact, the attraction was mutual, and Moss later described Freud as “the most interesting person” he had ever met.
Close: Moss comforts Freud as he recovers from a freak accident
Now, two decades later, the model has agreed to make a film about the intimacy that grew between her and Freud, who died in 2011 at the age of 88. Perhaps to ensure her artistic integrity, she acts as an executive producer.
The story, simply called Moss & Freud, is being made by writer-director James Lucas, who in 2015 won an Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film, The Phone Call.
“Sitting in for Lucian was an honor and an incredible experience,” says Moss. “After seeing The Phone Call, I knew that James would convey the emotion in the narrative in an appropriate way, one that these memories deserve.
“Having been involved in the project and script development from the beginning, I am now very excited to see the film come to life.”
It is not yet known who will play the main characters.
So far so intriguing. For the model who almost never gives interviews, the biopic promises to offer a rare glimpse into Moss’s notoriously private world.
Earlier this week, she shed a little more light on that privacy when she publicly defended ex-boyfriend Johnny Depp during the actor’s libel trial.
Appearing as a witness by video link, he denied the claim that he had once pushed her down a flight of stairs.
The mid-1990s romance with Depp was over and Moss was pregnant with their daughter, Lila Grace, when she unexpectedly found herself swept up in the bohemian vibe of Britain’s greatest living artist, who was rumored to have had up to 500 lovers, a number to compare with even the most successful heartthrob in Hollywood.
Mutual affection: the couple meet on a London street in 2003
If he was concerned that many of Freud’s female subjects were often his romantic partners, or became his lovers after posing for him, he didn’t say so.
A ruthless seducer with no interest in conventional family life, Freud claimed 14 children by six women, though some have estimated he may have fathered as many as 40.
Kate was not the first pregnant fashionista that the artist had committed to the canvas. He had been equally obsessed with Mick Jagger’s Texas-born ex-wife Jerry Hall, painting her when she was eight months pregnant with her fourth child.
But, infuriated by her lack of punctuality for her sessions, he deleted her from his portrait of baby Gabriel nursing.
His response to his sloppy timing was both funny and cruel, replacing Hall’s head, while preserving his body, with that of his assistant, David Dawson.
Moss, raised on the strict rules of timesheet modeling, would never insult the artist by missing appointments as Jerry had.
As Freud himself later said of their partnership: “He was late just in the way girls are, about 18 minutes late.” I was angry, but tried to ignore it. I used other means to get there on time, like sending someone to pick her up.
So how did they get together? And why did Freud, who preferred not to paint famous people, fall for the charms of the model who was at the height of his celebrity?
After all, she had refused to portray Princess Diana, claiming she couldn’t get over her “glamorous glow.”
In their eyes, familiar people ‘harden’ as if they had ‘grown another skin because they have been looked at so much’.
For the same reason, he refused to paint the Pope.
With Moss, however, he was as intrigued by her reputation as a party girl as by her fame and glamour.
He was also wildly unpredictable, like Freud.
“I liked his company,” he told his biographer, Geordie Greig. ‘She was . . . full of surprising behavior.
In fact, the seeds of this highly unusual coupling began long before Moss set foot in Freud’s West London studio. In an interview with the style magazine Dazed and Confused, edited at the time by Moss’s boyfriend, Jefferson Hack (and later the father of his daughter), he admitted that Freud was one of his heroes.
“I would very much like to meet Lucian Freud,” he said. ‘I heard he was really cool.’
She added: “Like, for the 80s, apparently it’s really hip and cool.” Any pleasure Freud might have derived from the comments must have been mitigated by the overestimation of his age. At that time, the interview was in June 1998, Freud was 75 years old.
As the new millennium dawned, Freud was as busy and, more importantly, as successful as ever. Figures like Madonna clamored to be painted by him, but he was undeterred by his offer.
The Artist’s Muse: Freud’s Painting of a Pregnant Kate Moss
Instead, in 2001, to the surprise of many, he decided to paint the Queen. Critics were divided over her treatment, with one accusing the artist of giving her a five o’clock shade and another complaining that she had made her look like one of her corgis.
It mattered little to Freud that he had not forgotten the Moss interview. He caught sight of his fashion designer daughter Bella, whose clothes Moss wore.
‘I asked Bella if this [the interview] It was true. When I found out that she had said that she wanted me to paint her, I told Bella to send her.
They met at Clarke’s restaurant near her home in Kensington, west London, and reportedly “got on like a house on fire”.
He was captivated not only by her appearance, but also by her Croydon origins and quickly forgot her stipulation to paint only ‘real’ people and not those ‘practiced posers’, as Moss no doubt was.
It took Freud six months to a year of regular sessions to complete a painting, but Moss was not concerned. His pregnancy set a natural deadline. And instead of worrying, he embraced the newness of it all.
It was also flattering to pose for a man whose last famous subject had been the Queen, never mind that the brutal finished portrait could hardly have pleased Her Majesty.
The odd couple soon settled into a routine. Dine first at the elegant Locanda Locatelli in Mayfair or the Marquee in South Kensington before retiring in Freud’s vintage Bentley to his studio to pick up brushes and paint.
He would then go to her house where she would sit and he would paint until 2am, sometimes even later.
One canvas was said to have been destroyed because the perfectionist painter was not satisfied.
At the time of their collaboration, there was no living painter with as intimidating or sexual a reputation as Freud, to which the long list of female models before Moss could surely attest.
“Like Svengali, he hypnotizes women into capitulating,” said his friend, the late critic and writer Daniel Farson.
Inevitably, when news of these nightly Moss-Freud sessions emerged, questions were raised about the closeness of artist and sitter.
Despite his own energetic life in the spotlight, it’s unlikely there was much he could have taught the old master about parties or exotic behavior. For Freud, painting and sex were not unconnected. According to his confidante John Richardson, they were interchangeable.
“It turns sex into art and art into sex,” Richardson observed.
At the time, Freud, like Moss, had a partner: the spirited journalist Emily Bearn. At 28, she was the same age as Moss and had also been the subject of several of his mistress’s paintings.
“There was definitely a connection between Kate and Lucian, a friendship for sure,” remembers a figure who saw the two together.
He loved to dance and so did she, and they both liked to sing.
But was there something else? I’m not sure.’
The truth is that their relationship survived the finished portrait, although Freud was not entirely happy with it. He later said that “it didn’t really work out”.
When asked why, he replied: “That’s like asking a footballer after a game why he didn’t score.”
It was still sold at auction to an unnamed bidder for £3.5 million.
As for their relationship, there was another equally permanent memory: the tattoos he made of two small swallows at the base of Moss’s spine.
Surprisingly, he made them while riding in a taxi.
Freud, who learned his technique during World War II when he served in the Merchant Navy, explained how he drew the birds and rubbed them with India ink using a pin until blood came out. It was, he told his biographer, “very primitive.”
Meanwhile, new mother Kate was making changes to her private life. After splitting from Jefferson Hack 18 months after their daughter’s birth, she joined musician and drug addict Pete Doherty, who just this week made the disturbing claim that both of his earlobes had been ripped off, one in an altercation. with paparazzi, and the other in a pub in Stoke. It was the beginning of a dark and chaotic period in the life of the young model.
Freud remained an on-and-off presence, arriving at a party thrown for her in 2004, where she said they enjoyed “20 minutes of intensive dancing” before leaving.
Unlike many of his seductive female muses, painted and then discarded, Freud maintained a touching soft spot for the sitter.
A year before his death, he suffered a freak accident while filming a promotional movie with a zebra. The animal got scared and bolted, knocking Freud to the ground and dragging him along the ground. Panicked aides rushed him to the hospital, but he had suffered nothing more than a groin strain.
Kate was famously photographed hugging Freud as he recovered in bed.
It remains to be seen how much of the intimacy that was clearly part of this most enigmatic relationship makes it to the screen. Either way, the story of Kate Moss and Lucian Freud will forever be one of the most fascinating encounters in the art world.