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The Eulogizer: British painter Lucian Freud, more on Myra Kraft

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JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Eulogizer highlights the life accomplishments of famous and not-so-famous Jews who have passed away recently. Learn about their achievements, honor their memories and celebrate Jewish lives well lived with The Eulogizer. Write to the Eulogizer at eulogizer@jta.org. Read previous columns here.

Lucian Freud, 88, British painter

Lucian Freud, one of the seminal British painters of the 20th century, and a grandson of Sigmund Freud, died July 20 at 88 in London, as has already been noted by JTA. But more must be said about Freud, a Realist painter whose work has been compared to that of American master Edward Hopper and whose outsized personality will guarantee a long afterlife in the British consciousness.

“His paintings demonstrate that significant art can come from the acute observation of ordinary events, and, again like Hopper but in a very different way, a similar atmosphere of unease is created,” a British arts website said.

Freud twice was a finalist for the Turner Prize, and his painting “Benefits Supervisor Sleeping” sold in 2008 for 17.2 million pounds ($34 million), which set  the current world record for the most expensive price paid at auction for a work of art by a living artist.

British art critic William Feaver described Freud as "a good cook, a man of rude letters, a passionate, shy, gambler, a stylish dresser and father “who nevertheless always put painting first.”

Nicholas Serota, director of London’s Tate Gallery, said that "the vitality of [Freud's] nudes, the intensity of the still life paintings and the presence of his portraits of family and friends guarantee Lucian Freud a unique place in the pantheon of late 20th century art. His early paintings redefined British art and his later works stand comparison with the great figurative painters of any period."

Freud was “a master of capturing the quintessence of a sitter, his paintings being, as he said, not like people but of people," the Telegraph wrote. "Though his stature was perhaps increased by his having few great contemporaries, he was hailed as the heir of Rembrandt and Hals.”

For some, Freud’s personal life outstripped his art. A British tabloid, the Mirror, said that Freud’s death will release a “very public battle,” as his estate, worth about $200 million, will be fought over by many."

“The great artist, who devoted his life to painting naked bodies … is said to have fathered as many as 40 children and the painter’s conquests are as legendary as his valuable masterpieces," the London Evening Standard wrote. "As recently as eight years ago, the then 80-year-old Freud was enjoying an affair with his 29-year-old model Emily Bearn,” now an author of children’s books.

Along with an extensive gallery of Freud’s paintings, the Mirror article offers lurid tales of conquests and Freud’s “fiery temper.”

Freud fled Nazi Germany with his family in 1933. He became a British citizen in 1939 and attended but later left several arts schools. His accomplished family included his father, Ernst Ludwig Freud, a successful architect; his older brother, the broadcaster, writer and politician Clement Freud; and his niece, writer Emma Freud, not to mention his grandfather, Sigmund.

More on Myra Kraft

The passing of Myra Kraft, 68, from cancer, also was noted in some depth by JTA, yet there is much more to be said about the philanthropist who gave time and money to Israel, Jewish organizations, theater, youth and Brandeis University, among other causes.

An ESPN column and a sports column on a Boston website quoted numerous present and former New England Patriots’ players on the impact Kraft made on them, some of whom she welcomed to her home on Cape Cod, others who traveled to Israel  with Kraft and her husband, Robert, the team’s owner.

“She embraced me and my wife and made us feel like one of her own,” said former Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe. “We were living far away from home, and the time we spent with Myra and Robert was so special in the way that they made us feel like we were a member of their family.”

Among the programs that Kraft helped set up include the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation, which engages every player to take part in 10 charitable events a year, and the Myra Kraft Giving Back Scholarship Fund at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston, which is where the family is directing donations in lieu of flowers.

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