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Elizabeth Lamle

Visual Arts, University of Birmingham

Thesis title:

Lucian Freud's Childhood Correspondence and Drawings

In collaboration with the National Portrait Gallery (NPG), this CDA focuses on examining the recently acquired materials from the Lucian Freud Archive, which includes a range of childhood drawings, sketchbooks, and his family’s correspondence from 1928 to ca. 1951. The letters were well kept by the family in their personal archives, and the timeframe covers before, during, and after their flight from Nazi Germany to England. Therefore they offer a uniquely detailed and documented case study of pre- and post- migration within the history of Nazi refugees. Alongside letters from Lucian Freud to his parents, grandparents, and several other relatives, key insights are offered by the letters from his mother Lucie to his father Ernst, which address the concerns and practicalities about their emigration that is not only to do with themselves, but also describes the development and post-migratory integration of their children. The material allows a rare insight into generational perspectives on migration from within one family. So far, a lot of scholarship on child refugees from Nazism, such as by Hammel, Lathey and Nahl, has concentrated on the Kindertransport, despite children also migrating with their families (Lathey, 1998 and Nahl, 2019 on Kerr). The analysis of the correspondence by Lucian and his parents can therefore contribute to the increasing literature on family migration for other periods (Hollis-Touré, 2015; Schmalzbauer, 2014) while offering a little-explored perspective rooted in the history of Nazi refugees. Furthermore, in contrast to current scholarship that focuses on biography or later works (Dawson, 2019; Gayford, 2010; Howgate, 2012) this project also offers an opportunity to explore Freud’s life and work from a new perspective, in relation to childhood and social relations, taking the scholarship on Freud beyond a (psycho)biographic focus. This research will address key questions such as: how can Freud’s early drawings provide a new understanding of his work and of artist childhood studies? What can this correspondence between Freud and his family reveal about multi-generational family migration within exile studies? What are indicators of a child’s perspective on exile, and how do these compare with other migrant members of the same family? What role do networks play in family migration?

Research Area

  • Art History
  • Visual Arts


  • A Child's Perspective on Migration: Lucian Freud's Unpublished Childhood Correspondence and drawings', Innocence and Experience: Childhood and the 1930s Refugees, Research Centre for German & Austrian Exile Studies at the IMLR, December 2021

Other Research Interests

  • 20th Century German visual culture
  • exile and émigré artists
  • the Spanish Civil War
  • Figurative painting
  • Gender and queer studies