Room 8 takes us into the 1990s, when Freud began painting a friend of Leigh Bowery’s named Sue Tilley. She worked at an office of the Department of Health and Social Security, as emphasised in the title Benefits Supervisor Resting 1994. Sue’s size led her to be nick-named ‘Big Sue’; Freud admitted ‘I have a predilection towards people of unusual or strange proportions’. Sue herself admitted she was nervous about the prospect of being painted by Freud: ‘I used to think “Oh my goodness, what are people going to say?” But then I was so pleased to be painted by him that I didn’t really mind.’ 

Although new sitters were introduced, Freud also continued to work from members of his family; his daughter Isobel (‘Ib’), painted as a child in the 1960s (Large Interior, Paddington 1968-9, in Room 4) re-appears as a grown woman in Ib and her Husband 1992. 

Benefits Supervisor Resting 1994

Sue Tilley, who modelled for this painting, was introduced to Freud by Leigh Bowery, who had sat regularly for him in the early 1990s. Sue was an official at the DHSS; she was understandably nervous about sitting for Freud, although she became more confident as she got to know him. She was relieved when Freud bought a sofa especially for her to pose on, as modelling sessions for an earlier painting had involved her lying on bare wooden floorboards in a very uncomfortable position. Freud has said of Sue that he was ‘very aware of all kinds of spectacular things to do with her size, like amazing craters and things one’s never seen before’, though he also admitted ‘I have perhaps a predilection towards people of unusual or strange proportions, which I don’t want to over-indulge’.

Ib and her Husband 1992

‘Ib’ is the nick-name of Isobel Boyt, Freud’s daughter. Freud had painted her as a young child, in the late 1960s, in Large Interior, Paddington 1968-9, where she was shown lying on the floor of her father’s studio beside an enormous plant. Here she poses once again in Freud’s studio, this time with her husband. The paint on the wall above the radiator is the accumulated scrapings which Freud removed from his canvas, wiped from his brush, and pasted onto any wall that was within reach.