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Lucian Freud: What has made his family so successful?

Lucian Freud: What has made his family so successful?

The most famous Freud was Sigmund, the figurehead of the family, and one of the great thinkers in modern history. As founder of the discipline of psychoanalysis, he created an entirely new approach to understanding - and treating - the unconscious mind. But since his death in 1939, his offspring to this day have carried on the family name to great heights in a variety of fields.

In politics, David Freud - now Lord Freud - is the current parliamentary undersecretary of state for work and pensions, while Matthew Freud is an influential public relations chief who is married to Elisabeth Murdoch, daughter of media mogul Rupert.In the arts, Lucian Freud's heritage lives on with his daughters Bella and Esther, who are famed for being a highly-regarded fashion designer and novelist respectively.

Another prominent family member no longer with us was Sir Clement, Sigmund's grandson who had a varied career as a culinary expert, humorist, columnist, broadcaster and Liberal MP. But the Freuds are not the only family whose achievements put the average family to shame. There is the Redgrave acting dynasty, headed by Michael, his children Vanessa, Corin and Lynn and grandchildren Jemma Redgrave and Natasha and Joely Richardson.

In the US, political dynasties have become the norm - headed of course by the Kennedy and Bush families. But the Freuds are unusual in that their achievements are in such a wide range of fields.

According to Ivan Ward, deputy director of the Freud Museum, this may be because of the ideas first espoused by Sigmund Freud and his belief in independent thought as well as the importance of being told from an early age that you are special.

Sigmund, who was Jewish, lived in Austria, which came under Nazi rule after being annexed by Germany in 1938. He, his wife and youngest daughter were forced to flee their Vienna home to London after being targeted by the Nazis. His four sisters, who stayed behind, later died in concentration camps. According to Mr Ward, the sense of conflict of living in opposition was something which inspired Sigmund's independence of thought. "The upheaval of having to leave Vienna, and the Holocaust where four of his sisters died in concentration camps - all those things would have had an impact," he said.

"He was the oldest boy, and his mother used to call him the 'golden child', so there was a sense of being the favourite and the oldest boy in a Jewish family pushed him on to his achievements. "How it gets transmitted to following generations is hard to say." As a father, Sigmund was "tolerant and encouraged creativity and the ability to think", said Mr Ward. "Try and picture the scene of Freud with his children when they were small; he's trying to establish himself and he's struggling and working all hours.. it's hard to say he spent a lot of time with his children, he probably didn't. "But you get the feeling that when he did, he treated them with a seriousness and complexity that some people don't think about when it comes to relating to children." And in Sigmund's own words: "If a man has been his mother's undisputed darling, he retains throughout life the triumphant feeling; the confidence in success, which not seldom brings actual success along with it."

But do genetics play a role in a family's success?
Marcus Pembrey, a professor of paediatric genetics at University College London, said that although genetics can influence things like intelligence, it does not do it directly. "Genetic differences between genes make them highly responsive to environment but whether this is a good thing depends on the environment," he said. "If it's one where there's underachievement then they will adopt that and achieve nothing, so it works for better and worse." He said the Freuds probably have genes which are highly responsive to the environment around them so as their family is full of people who have distinctive achievements, children in the early years of development pick up on this.

Featured image: http://www.artnet.com/artists/lucian-freud/girl-with-fuzzy-hair-a-K-wsLX7_DK7dX_5XCk4Asw2