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Lucian Freud, realist painter, dies at 88

LONDON -- Lucian Freud, a towering and uncompromising figure in the art world for more than 50 years, has died, his New York-based art dealer said yesterday. He was 88.

Spokeswoman Bettina Prentice said that Freud died after an illness at his London home late Wednesday, but she gave no further details.

Freud was known for his intense realist portraits, particularly of nudes. In recent years his paintings commanded staggering prices at auction, including one of an overweight nude woman sleeping on a couch that sold in 2008 for $33.6 million.

Freud stubbornly refused to follow the trends of the art world, insisting on using his realist approach even when it was out of favor with critics and collectors. He developed his own unique style, eventually winning recognition as one of the world's greatest painters.

"He certainly is considered one of the most important painters of the 20th and 21st centuries," said Brett Gorvy, deputy chairman of the postwar art department at Christie's auction house in New York. "He stayed with his figurative approach even when it was extremely unpopular, when abstraction was the leading concept, and as time moved on his classic approach has proven to be very important. He fought the system and basically won."

He said Freud remained totally dedicated to his work, overcoming all obstacles and painting long hours every day well into his late 80s in a sustained bid to complete his life's work before death overtook him.

Freud was the grandson of Sigmund Freud, a leading pioneer of modern psychoanalysis. He was born in Berlin in 1922 and moved to London with his parents in 1933 after Hitler rose to power in Germany.

He was naturalized as a British subject six years later and spent almost his entire working life based in London, where he was often seen at fashionable restaurants, sometimes with beautiful younger women, including the fashion model Kate Moss, whom he painted nude, and other luminaries.

But there was little beautiful or sexy in Freud's nude portraits, which did not gloss over a subject's flaws. The intimate detail of his paintings sometimes left viewers uncomfortable.

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