Lucian Freud gave us his grandfather’s chair

Published: July 28, 2011

THE chair sits proudly in the corner of the kitchen in artist Cesa Milton’s Parliament Hill flat: wooden, solid, leather-padded and with striking curves that suggest it was made during the Art Deco period. But while it is a lovely piece of furniture in itself, the chair has an intriguing story behind it – Cesa was given the piece from artist Lucian Freud in return for letting him use the family’s telephone.

And it was given to him by his grandfather, the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud.

The artist, who died last week, was based for many years in Primrose Hill, and became friends with Cesa’s family in the 1940s.

Cesa recalls meeting him as a little girl when the young Lucian lived in a flat next door to her parents in Delamere Terrace, Paddington.

She said: “Our homes were on the first floor and joined by balconies – it was therefore very easy to cross from one to another.”

This gave her family a unique role in Lucian’s life: he had scores of lady friends who would come at all hours of the night to see him, and more often than not, he didn’t want his lovers to know whether he was at home. It meant fending them off, and stopping them from climbing over the balcony to tap on his windows.

She added: “He had this endless stream of women. They would knock on our door and ask if they could see if Lucian was in, and so we would send them away for him.”

For the same reason, Cesa says, Lucian did not own a telephone and would pop in frequently to make and receive calls from their flat.

In return for their telephone and help, he would give them gifts: he painted Cesa’s father and sister in 1949, and also handed the family a painting called Girl on a Quay, completed in 1941.

Cesa said: “He didn’t have a phone because he did not want to be disturbed, he said, but it meant he was often dropping by to use ours instead.”

But then one day in lieu of a series of telephone calls he had made, he handed over his grandfather’s chair to Cesa’s parents.

Cesa added: “Lucian was a very magnetic character and he got on well with my father, though I have to say my mum wasn’t so keen on him.

“He came in one day clutching this chair and explained it had been his grandfather’s and he didn’t really have the space for it anymore, but would we like it, as he owed us for the phone bill?”