How Lucian Freud once owed £500,000 in gambling debts to gangland Kray twins


Lucian Freud
Birth name Lucian Michael Freud
Born 8 December 1922
Died 20 July 2011 (aged 88)
Spouse Kathleen “Kitty” Epstein (1948–1952; divorced)
Lady Caroline Blackwood (1953–1959; divorced)
Nationality British
Field Painting
Training Central School of Art

East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing

Goldsmiths College


Private: Lucian Freud spoke candidly about his gambling problem

Artist Lucian Freud ran up half a million pounds in gambling debts with gangland crimelords the Kray brothers.

Britain’s most renowned living artist said the brothers ‘forced’ money on him to feed his addiction, but he was only able to repay them in small amounts.

The 87-year-old confessed he once cancelled an exhibition out of fear they would demand more money if they saw he was earning.

The situation got so bad that at one point he received a warning from the police.

In a revealing interview, the notoriously private artist discussed the nights he spent in police cells for fighting, his relationship with Kate Moss and how he escorted Greta Garbo to nightclubs.

‘She was the most famous person in the world at that stage. I was very young, she was in her late thirties,’ he said of the actress.

‘The people in the clubs could not believe it.’

He said of Kate Moss, whom he met through his fashion designer daughter Bella: ‘She was interesting company and full of surprising behaviour,’ said Freud, who in 2002  painted a portrait of the heavily-pregnant and naked model in 2002.

In an interview with the Evening Standard, he said he was sometimes annoyed when Miss Moss was late for sittings ‘only in that way that girls are’.

He believes the painting was unsuccessful because photographers waited outside his house, disturbing his obsession with privacy.

Freud had a well-documented relationship with the Kray twins Reggie and Ronnie – with Reggie counting Freud amongst his favourite painters.

Club owner: Reggie Kray, centre, with Eddie Pucci, Frank Sinatra's bodyguard and Shirley Bassey in the early SixtiesClub owner: Reggie Kray, centre, with Eddie Pucci, Frank Sinatra’s bodyguard and Shirley Bassey in the early Sixties

Their paths crossed in the swinging Sixties demi-monde of  West End nightclub life.

As club owners the Krays mixed with politicians and great entertainers of the day including Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland Shirley Bassey and Barbara Windsor.

The artist once said of his gambling: ‘I always went all out. The idea of it being a sport seemed to me insane. The thing I liked was risking everything. Losing everything to do with money.’

A self-portrait of Freud nursing a black eye after a punch-up with a taxi driver sold for more than £2.8million last monthA self-portrait of Freud nursing a black eye after a punch-up with a taxi driver sold for more than £2.8million last month

He also explained his reasons for stopping gambling: ‘As I got more money, they wouldn’t take the bets and it just became pointless.

‘If I’d been in very high-powered card games with grand, rich people, perhaps, but that wasn’t what I did.’

The artist also disclosed he has four new muses: he is painting his assistant David Dawson; artist and printmaker Perienne Christian, 26; and two restaurateurs – Jeremy King, co-owner of The Wolseley where Freud frequently eats, and Sally Clarke, owner of Clarke’s in Kensington.

Artist and gambler: Freud in 1958Artist and gambler: Freud in 1958

Freud is the grandson of Sigmund Freud and was born in Berlin where, at the age of nine, he photographed Hitler.

The family moved to England in 1933 to escape the rise of Nazism, and became British citizens six years later.

Freud reveals their naturalisation was made possible by the intervention of the Duke of Kent.

Freud’s painting Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, a life-size portrait of Jobcentre worker Sue Tilley, sold for £17.2million in 2008.

It set the world record for the highest price paid in an auction for a work of art by a living artist.

He remains ambitious though, adding: I work every day and night. I don’t do anything else. There is no point otherwise.’

This month, a self-portrait of Freud nursing a black eye after a punch-up with a taxi driver sold for more than £2.8million at auction.

The artist has previously discussed his habit of getting into scrapes, saying: ‘I used to have a lot of fights.

‘It wasn’t because I liked fighting, it was really just that people said things to me to which I felt the only reply was to hit them.



'This Morning' TV Programme, London, Britain. - 07 Jan 2014

Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo tell ITV’s This Morning that their trial was mortifying for everyone involved, not just Nigella Lawson.

Nigella Lawson‘s former personal assistants have said they may have won their legal battle but the celebrity chef has won the hearts of the British public.

Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo spoke to ITV This Morning following their acquittal in December on charges of fraudulently using company credit cards, spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on designer goods for themselves, while working as personal assistants to Lawson and her ex-husband Charles Saatchi.

The sisters claimed every purchase had been approved by their then bosses, and they were found not guilty by jurors at Isleworth crown court in west London.

“We have won the court case but definitely she had the most support from the public. She [Lawson] is well loved and she will always be loved and I am sure she will be fine,” Francesca Grillo, 35, told the programme on Tuesday. “She is great at what she is doing and I wish her all the best.”

Lawson, whose series The Taste starts on Tuesday evening on Channel 4, said last week that her only desire during the trial had been to protect her children but that she was unable to always do so.

The mother-of-two appeared on the US TV show Good Morning America to promote her new show and was asked about the court case in which allegations of drug-taking arose.

Asked what it was like to be a witness in the trial, Lawson said: “I can’t really remember exactly because you’re so focused on answering the questions to the best of your ability that actually you don’t really have an enormous awareness of yourself.

“Maybe that’s a good thing. My only desire really was to protect my children as much as possible which … alas I couldn’t always do.”

Lawson added that having details of her acrimonious split from the art dealer Saatchi talked about in court under the glare of the world’s media was mortifying.

Nigella Lawson On Good Morning AmericaNigella Lawson tells Good Morning America she felt herself to be on trial. She was not asked about the drug claims made against her in court. Photograph: Barcroft USA”To have not only your private life but distortions of your private life put on display is mortifying, but there are people going through an awful lot worse and to dwell on any of it would be self-pity and I don’t like to do that,” she said.

She said she was looking towards the future. “Since then I’ve eaten a lot of chocolate, had a very good Christmas and am into the new year.”

Lawson admitted during the trial that she took cocaine with her late husband John Diamond when he found out he had terminal cancer, and in 2010 when she claimed she was being “subjected to intimate terrorism” by Saatchi. Police are to review her admission that she took the

The Grillos said on Tuesday it was brave of their former employer to admit during the trial that she had taken cocaine. The sisters said they did not feel guilty about Lawson giving evidence because their own “freedom was at stake”.

Francesca Grillo said: “It was tough but it was more tough to sit down in a dock and think, I might be in prison for a long time.”

She said of Lawson’s family affairs being aired publicly: “I felt sorry for all of us involved. We shouldn’t have reached that. But unfortunately you are in a position where your freedom is at stake so you have to tell your side of the story … I wish it didn’t happen, but I had to think about my freedom.”

She added: “We were in court not because of her drug use or because we wanted her to be punished. In admitting it, I think she was very brave to do so … but I didn’t feel guilty.

“It’s mortifying for her, it’s mortifying for us, it’s mortifying for everybody involved.”

Elisabetta said: “I feel sorry that we ended up in that situation, that she [Lawson] did admit to that. But no, not guilty, because it was nothing to do with me, it’s her life.”

Francesca said of being accused: “It’s like you wake up one morning and your mother says, ‘I’m not your mother any more, sorry. You’ve been with me all your life, but I don’t know you any more.'”

Elisabetta added: “There are no winners in this situation. All of us lost something.”

Francesca said it was too early for a reconciliation with Lawson. “It’s like a broken mirror – you can glue it back together but you see all the cracks.”

She said that when she was told of the jury’s verdict, her sister had a panic attack. “At that point I just wanted my sister to be well. I wasn’t very worried about the verdict.”