I’ve not really heard that much about the Freud Museum, I knew it was in North London somewhere and I knew it was where Freud lived after being forced out of Vienna by the Nazis. What I hadn’t realised was that he only lived there for a year and immediately my expectations plummeted – is having a house museum about someone who only lived there a year stretching authenticity a little bit far?
However, as I made my way through the introductory panels in the first room it all became a little clearer. Freud had some very important friends and when he decided it was too dangerous to stay in Vienna due to the escalation of Jewish persecution he was not only allowed safe passage out of Austria but he was allowed to take all his belongings with him – his famous couch, his Greek and Egyptian statues and his library were all transported to this house in North London in 1938 and he continued to practice there until his death in 1939.
While not all rooms are set up as there were when Freud lived there his study and library are. You can imagine laying down on his couch and maybe feeling a little bewildered by his collection of ancient statues all around you, wondering when the blanket you’re sitting on was last washed, trying to work out where to begin with Freud himself sitting in his green chair behind you out of sight. The one thing missing is knowing you’re not in the room where he practiced for the majority of his life or where he came up with his great theories, for that you must go to Vienna, but of course, they are missing all of his belongings, the desk, the couch, the books. Maybe they should begin a campaign to get them sent back, but as it was his daughter’s wish for a museum to be set up with them in London that seems quite unlikely.
Elsewhere in the house is a room dedicated to one of his daughters, Anna, who lived with him and nursed him during his long illness with mouth cancer and who was herself a child psychotherapist. There’s also a room with films being shown including home movies and some more information about the house in Vienna and photos that were commissioned to record it as it stood before Freud had to leave.
When I went there was also a small exhibition featuring some letters between him and his wife, which provided a little extra insight into Freud as a person – they were personal and loving, with some fairly old fashioned views about the role of women in work and in the house by Freud and in one almost a little argument between the two. I’m sure some psychologists have already analysed them deeply.
I definitely enjoyed my visit and that was largely thanks to the existence of Freud’s belongings, which definitely left a strong impression on me. So for anyone interested in Freud I can imagine it is a definite must see collection.
20 Maresfield Gardens
London NW3 5SX
Open Weds – Sun 12.00-17.00
Adults – £7