Friday, 24 March 2017

The Freud Museum

20 Maresfield Gardens. NW3 5SX

Thursday, 23 March 2017

The Freud Museum is not excessively signed from the Finchley Road, but two blue plaques on the handsome house meant that Linda and I could not miss it when we arrived in good time for its opening time of 12.00 noon. (one plaque is for Sigmund, and one for his daughter Anna, a pioneer of psychoanalysis for children)
The Museum is reasonably priced at under £10.00 and it is worth having your National Trust card with you as NT members only pay half.  We could have had audio guides for a modest sum, but decided not to; and we were fine, because every room has clear labelling and a summary of key information. We were impressed with the high ceilings and bright rooms of this typical Hampstead house.
You begin in the hall, where there are some of Freud's many Classical and Egyptian heads and other small pieces.  We saw a modern artwork, an interpretation of Freud's coat, and an antique etching 'Head of Moses'.  Freud was very interested in Moses, as his book Moses and Monotheism confirms. The hall also had various family pictures.

Next come the study and library. Another modern art work is here, in the form of casts of the many objects on Freud's desk, at two thirds size, and in white. But all the rest is authentic and belonged to him: amazing numbers of books; African and Asian masks and heads; the couch on which his patients lay (and on which he also used to rest in the year he spent here, the last year of his life) His chair was out of the line of sight of his clients, and he used to look across the room at his archeological treasures while they 'free associated'.  This is how his rooms were in Vienna, before he was forced to leave, which was not until the summer of 1938.
It was interesting to learn how this was made possible:  he seems to have thought that, as an atheist and a celebrity, he would be safe, even after the Anschluss.  But rampant racism is not like that. His house was invaded and looted by members of the SA, and then Anna was imprisoned. He was lucky that his distinguished colleague and admirer, Princess Marie Bonaparte, paid a kind of ransom, which released him and his family and possessions, with an 'exit-only' visa. 

(That bit of information was of particular interest to me:  my dear friend Margit, who taught me German and came from the Sudetenland of Czecholovakia in 1939, showed me her exit visa, with the word 'wiederholt' crossed out and replaced by 'einmals' in nasty purple Gestapo ink. Not that Margit came with her desk, books and treasures, though, just her three year old daughter, Marie-Else)

Anyway, then we headed up the stairs to the sunny half landing, where Anna used to sit and sew, with her mother. Sigmund said that the house was cold, this spot must have been pleasant.  It also has her walking boots (Hampstead Heath is just up the road)

On the top landing, there is a family tree, with photographs, and a reminder that Sigmund's grandsons include the artist Lucien Freud and the chef, MP and TV personality, Clement. Sigmund had six children, and only his daughter Anna remained single. We were also taken by rather a good sketch of Freud by Salvador Dali, which you can see here.

In one of the upstairs rooms there was a screen showing various segments of film: an American photographer was able to film the apartment in the Berggasse in Vienna before it was dismantled after 45 years;  there were 'home movies' of the family, with their dogs, with a voice-over by Anna.  Among other things, she explained that Freud's passion for archeology was about 'digging down' through layers to find the truth, just like psychoanalysis.  Throughout the house we had been able to read examples of his work and stories of his patients, like the 'wolf man'.

The other upstairs rooms include Anna's bedroom, with typewriter and desk.  She also used this as a consulting room as did her partner and fellow psychoanalyst Dorothy Burlingham.  There were shelves of Anna's publications, and some of the children's books she used to facilitate communication with her young patients. We saw some colour film of her and Dorothy around the house they bought in Walberswick (and ventured to suppose that they would scarcely be able to afford it now when the village has become 'posh-London-on-sea'). 

There was also a meeting/seminar room and a further room devoted to the current modern art works on display in the house.

Then we went out into the garden, from where we had good views of the back of the house.  The large tent led us to wonder whether the place is licensed for weddings, though we did not inquire.

Although he only lived here for a year, Freud's history and work is well explained and described in this interesting house.

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