The Schmooze

Oscar Nemon, Freud's Forgotten Sculptor

Photo courtesy of Aurelia Young

Sigmund Freud did not like sitting for portraits. The results, he claimed, never justified the time he was forced to remain idle. But his devotees wanted to see the great man immortalized, the more urgently as Freud aged. In 1931, with Freud approaching his 75th birthday, Paul Federn, a physician and analyst friend, convinced him to see sculptor Oscar Nemon, a 25-year-old Croatian Jew.

None of Nemon’s subsequent representations of Freud — nor any full-sized statues of Freud, period — can be found in the city where he lived and worked for most of his life. But on June 6, Nemon’s daughter, Lady Aurelia Young, will give an illustrated talk, “Oscar Nemon: My Father and Freud,” at Vienna’s Sigmund Freud Museum, followed by a concert of music from Freud’s Vienna.

The match didn’t begin promisingly. Nemon, who had been telegraphed by Federn to rush over from Brussels to Freud’s summer home outside Vienna, initially got a brush-off. After Freud reluctantly agreed to let him make a few quick sketches, Nemon’s only pencil broke before he could capture his subject’s beard. The following morning, when Nemon returned with a clay representation, his taxi made a sharp turn into Freud’s driveway, causing the bust to fall on its nose.

But it turned out to be the start of a beautiful friendship. In a letter to Max Eitingon, a physician and analyst in Freud’s inner circle, Freud wrote: “The head, which the gaunt, goatee-bearded artist has fashioned from the dirt — like the good Lord — is very good and an astonishingly life-like impression of me.”

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Oscar Nemon, Freud's Forgotten Sculptor

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