Lucian Freud was born in 1922 in Berlin, the son of Lucie Brasch and architect Ernst Freud. His mother was the daughter of a grain merchant and his father the youngest son of Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis. The family lived in Berlin, near the Tiergarten and spent summers at Hiddensee near Rügen on the Baltic and on Freud's maternal grandfather's estate near Potsdam. In 1933 the family moved to Britain, refugees from Nazi Germany. Freud became a naturalised British subject in 1939. Between 1934 and 1938 with his brothers he went to the progressive boarding school Dartington Hall, and after a preparatory year at Dane Court, attended Bryanston, in Dorset.
Extremely precocious, he first attended the Central School of Arts and Crafts, London, in 1938. The following year he began working at the East Anglican School of Drawing and Painting at Dedham, run by Cedric Morris, attending intermittently and moving with the school to Hadleigh in Suffolk in 1941. Early in 1942 he travelled to Liverpool and joined the Merchant Navy. After two or three months in the Atlantic as an ordinary seaman, he was invalided out suffering from tonsillitis. Between 1942-43 he undertook part-time study at Goldsmith's College, London. In 1939 and 1943, Freud's work was published in Horizon magazine, and in 1944 a room of his paintings was hung in the Lefèvre Gallery. He rented a flat in Delamere Terrace in 1943 and stayed in that area of Paddington for the next thirty years.
Freud spent the autumn of 1946 in Paris and then travelled onto Greece. In 1948 he married Kitty Garman, daughter of artist Jacob Epstein, and in 1951 he won an Arts Council purchase prize for his contribution to the Festival of Britain. He married Caroline Blackwood in 1952. Freud was a visiting tutor at the Slade School of Fine Art, London from 1949 to 1954 and on odd occasions in later years. He was represented in the 1954 Venice Biennale, where Kenneth Clark characterised him as 'the Ingres of Existentialism'. A Lucian Freud Retrospective was mounted at the Hayward Gallery, London, in 1978. Lawrence Gowling wrote a monograph published by Thames and Hudson in 1982. In 1983 Freud was created a companion of Honour. The British Council toured a major exhibition of his work to Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, the Hayward Gallery, London and the Nationalgalerie, Berlin, between October 1987 and June 1988. Lucian Freud, Paintings 1947 - 1987 was at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh in 1989 and a series of important shows followed in the early 1990s: major exhibitions of etchings in Paris, Tokyo and London in 1990 and 1991; the British Council touring exhibition Lucian Freud, Paintings and Works on Paper 1940-1992 in 1991-92; Lucian Freud at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney and Art Gallery of Western Australia in 1992-93. A major retrospective was held at the Tate Gallery, London in 2002.