This poem is taken from Stand 222, 17(2) May - June 2019.

Antony Nicholls Poem

On Self-Portaiture

An unusual case is Lucian Freud’s work from the early years
when no one would sit for him, his portraits of inanimade objects,
a Chelsea bun, shagpile rugs and a taxidermist’s spider monkey
which he treated as self-reflections shape-shifted onto canvas.  
And I think of David Litvinov, who passed himself off in bars as Freud,
to meet women and hold court after Freud had made his name.
In the last decade, he’s ingratiated into artistic circles as himself,
becoming the subject of a work that Lucian Freud calls a self-portrait.

Eric, my retired neighbour, paints a stranger who looks like nobody
except Lucian Freud, who he says sold him work he keeps upstairs
but when I search I find only suitcases and my expression in a mirror
which I’ve seen often, it’s hard to believe, like a forecast of bad weather
and what Freud said sounds true, painting yourself is more difficult  
than painting people you can choose not to resemble your father.
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