Freud and the Putney Poets

Crossing swords with two poets Gavin Ewart and Laurie Lee

L-R Gavin Ewart, Lucian Freud and Laurie Lee


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The artist Lucian Freud crossed swords with two poets associated with Putney. Gavin Ewart (Kenilworth Court) and Laurie Lee (Werter Road) both at one point “shared” an interest with the artist.

In 1939 the up and coming poet Gavin Ewart was walking by Hyde Park Corner when teenage artist Lucian Freud jumped out followed him and started yelling “Gavin Ewart is a terrible person” and kept repeating this moronic mantra all the way to Piccadilly. Ewart had met the boy at poet Stephen Spenders flat and filed this strange incident away for a poem that appeared 50 years later,”Was he drunk,or on drugs-or was it a fugue.”

It turned out that Lucian always a violent ladies’ man had taken a shine to Ewart’s then girl friend Lys Dunlap. She eventually briefly married Ian Lubbock but not before Freud was in hot pursuit. In a letter from 1940 she tells of “Freud still being on my trail”. He tried to paint her portrait and once insisted on sitting next to her while she dined at the Ritz. She went onto star as a Cyril Connelly mistress in the recently published “Lost Girls” by DJ Taylor.

Fast forward to the end of the war. Laurie Lee has had since 1937 a tempestuous affair with Lorna Wishart who is married to a rich and liberal minded husband. But Lucian Freud catches the lady’s eye and the younger man wins. Laurie Lee confronts Freud at a bus stop in Piccadilly.
Lucian says he beat the older man . Laurie remembered words being being spoken and Lucian slinking off on the bus. When Laurie asked Lorna why she flaunted her new lover, she with the naivety of a wasp replied,”So you wont worry about where I am.”

And with Lucian, Lorna was the one in control and when she found that young Lucian had strayed it was she who packed her bags and went back to her noble and forgiving husband and the children.

Lucian turned up with a shot gun and threatened but he wasn’t the one in control. Boy versus woman, no contest. Laurie wore her ring till he died and Lucian swore “never again to love a woman more than she loved him”.

Hugh Thompson

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April 27, 2020

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