30.03.2015
14:56

Freud Museum

Address:

20 Maresfield Gardens, Hampstead, NW3 5SX

Phone:

020-7435 2002

Website:

www.freud.org.uk

Opening times:

Wed–Sun 12:00–17:00

How to get there:

Tube: Finchley Road

Entry fee:

Admission charge

Additional information:

Shop

In June 1938 Sigmund Freud (1856–1939), the father of psychoanalysis, was forced by Nazi oppression to leave his native Vienna. An anglophile, with a son already living in St John’s Wood, he bought this relatively modern (1920s) house on a quiet tree-lined street of Victorian red-brick mansions in an area popular with Jewish refugees. After his death from cancer of the jaw in September 1939, his wife Martha and daughter Anna continued to occupy the house, keeping it much as it had been left by Freud. On Anna’s death in 1982, it was decided to open the house as a museum, which welcomed its first visitors in 1986.

Ground floor

In a sense, Freud himself was the first curator of the museum. In preparation for his arrival, the contents of his Viennese home were rearranged here as accurately as possible by his faithful housekeeper. The main room on the ground floor was his working library, where he completed Moses and Monotheism, began his Outline of Psychoanalysis, and continued to see patients until two months before his death. Along with the famous couch, given to him in fact before his development of the ‘talking cure’, while he was still a research neurologist, the centrepiece of the room is his desk and chair. The latter was purpose-built for Freud’s peculiar reading posture—he liked to study books with one knee slung over a chair arm—by architect friend Felix Augenfeld, with arms designed to double as leg rests. His large desk supports a massed array of Greek, Egyptian, Asian and Chinese statuettes and figurines. These form part of his extensive and important private collection of antiquities, carefully positioned in glass cabinets and in every available space around the room. They include Egyptian gods, goddesses and mummy masks, Bodhisattvas and Chinese buddhas (one a rare walking penitent), as well as Greek and Roman sculpture. (There are no explanatory labels because of the need to maintain the display exactly as it was known to the great man.) A small statue of Athena was the mascot of the family’s emigration to England, sent ahead for safe-keeping to Princess Marie Bonaparte in Paris before they left Vienna. While many of the sculptures are exceptional pieces in themselves, what makes them doubly interesting is their meaning for Freud: as Marina Warner says in the preface to the museum guide, they represent the ‘tools of thought’.

On a table at the foot of the couch, itself covered by a Qashqa’i carpet, is the Freud azmalyk, one of only 12 in existence, a five-sided Turkoman rug woven by the nomadic Tekke tribe to cover the leading camel in a wedding procession. Many of these Oriental furnishings were obtained by Freud’s brother-in-law. The other room on the ground floor contains Anna Freud’s collection of 19th-century Austrian peasant furniture, the most complete of its kind outside Austria: stout wooden bridal chests, wardrobes and cupboards decorated with exuberant floral patterns. Beyond is the gift shop in the loggia, transformed into a conservatory by architect son Ernst Freud, father of Clement and Lucien.

Upper floor

Up the wide staircase from the hall, filled with natural light in a way that put Freud in mind of a palace, the stairwell is hung with screenprints specially commissioned for the museum by Patrick Caulfield, Cornelia Parker, Claes Oldenburg and other contemporary artists. Pride of place on the landing goes to a portrait sketch of Freud made from life by Salvador Dalí in 1938. Nearby, two paintings by the Wolfman (Russian aristocrat Sergei Pankejeff) depict the dream that gave the artist his name, showing wolves perched on the branches of a leafless tree. In celebration of the centenary of the publication of The Interpretation of Dreams (1999), ‘interventions’ in the form of printed excerpts have been positioned at significant points around the house, encouraging visitors to explore some of the major themes of Freud’s work.

Of the three rooms open to visitors on the first floor, the largest is given over to Anna Freud and her own pioneering work in child psychoanalysis. She started the renowned Hampstead Child Therapy courses in 1947, opening a clinic in Maresfield Gardens five years later, now called the Anna Freud Centre. Standing in the corner is her loom, which she herself found to be of great therapeutic value. The other rooms are given over to temporary exhibitions relevant to the Freuds, and two 20-minute videos on a loop: one concerning the history of the house followed by a rare recording of Freud's own declaration of purpose, and the other an intriguing collection of home videos from the Freuds’ days in Vienna, narrated by Anna. The museum still contributes to the advancement of the cause of psychoanalysis through conferences and archival research.

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MUSEUMS & GALLERIES OF LONDON

Details below are taken from our Blue Guide Museums and Galleries of London.  This is a 2005 title, here generally updated for website address and opening times, with useful comments from some of the museums themselves.  More recent information is given in Emily Barber's magisterial new Blue Guide London, "Exceptional update to a classic and useful guide to this amazing city" (Amazon reader review).

FULL LISTING of CURRENT EXHIBITIONS in London from Apollo Magazine »

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