What was the fate of “Big Sue”, which posed Freud’s grandson for the scandalous paintings that made him a millionaire
Lucian Freud and Sue Tilly: The Story of a Scandalous Muse.
If the fame of the artists could be measured in kilograms, then the scales of Lucien Freud (yes, that scandalous grandson of the great psychoanalyst) would have increased by 127 kg immediately. That was exactly what Big Sue had, the so-called model artist Sue Till, whom he depicted in one of his most famous paintings.
The woman, completely naked, seems to be sleeping soundly. And the artist is fascinated by her body: fat, not muscular and not fit, with, as Freud loved “100% made of flesh.” The folds of her massive body seem to flicker with all shades of brown, pink and white. As an artist, she crept up to her … and is the goddess angry when she wakes up?
Tilly was a close friend of the Australian artist and club promoter Lee Bowery – here they were photographed together in 1984 by parents Lee, Evelyn and Thomas.
But don’t worry. Firstly, in fact, the goddess did not sleep at all: Freud painted her in this pose for many months. And secondly, this is not really a goddess: this is Sue Tilly, while working as a social caretaker at the London Jobcentre employment center. At the time of writing, Tilly was about 30 years old, now she is 60 years old, and in recent years, the former model began to draw herself.
Tilly led a bohemian life long before she met Freud: she was a close friend of the shocking artist Lee Bowery, and when she did not pose for Freud, she spent time in nightclubs in London such as Blitz and Kinky Gerlinky in the 1980s. And especially she loved her own Bowery brainchild – Taboo. This club has been one of the “wildest” and avant-garde for decades, and its impact on the culture of London’s nightlife and fashion is still being felt.
Much has been written about the genius of Bowery. His elegantly thought out and shocking images were sometimes just nightmarish, often sexy, sometimes really beautiful, and always causing a strong public outcry. Bowery ignored the generally accepted boundaries of taste. He was amazing in every sense, but, like many of the geniuses of that era, he died of AIDS.
Sue Tilly subsequently told about her adventures in the 80s on Instagram: for example, she said that she considered the night unsuccessful if she did not drink enough to fall off her feet. But she went down in history thanks to a series of four nude portraits that Lucien Freud wrote from her at the end of his career.
The painting The Social Caretaker Sleeps (1995) is the most famous of those that Sue Tilly painted on. The first was “An Evening in the Studio” (1993), on which Tilly stretched out on the floor. In the background in the armchair sits another girl reading a book (her name has not reached our days). Interestingly, Tilly subsequently said that she felt just happy when Freud bought the sofa, because it hurt her to lie on the floor for hours.
The Social Caretaker is Resting (1994) portrays Tilly in the corner of the couch with her head thrown back, as if she had swallowed the poison – this position simply could not be comfortable for relaxation. Finally, in “Sleeping by the Carpet with Lions” (1996), Tilly is depicted sleeping in a chair, facing the viewer.
Freud paid Tilly a small amount every day, but she did not receive any money from the sale of paintings for which she was a model.
Freud once said: “If I draw someone, I like to do it as if a person fell asleep or thought deeply about something. This creates a feeling that the models do not pose and do not even suspect that they are painted. ” Thanks to a similar method, he managed to create paintings that make a deep impression on the viewer.
All Freud’s paintings by Tilly are now in private collections, owned by extremely wealthy people who can pay tens of millions of pounds for the privilege of looking at “flesh” (as Freud used to call his model).
For example, Roman Abramovich set a record for the value of a painting during the life of an artist when he bought Social Watchman Sleeps in 2008 for £ 17 million ($ 33.6 million at the time).