After graduating from the Painting school of the RCA in 1989 David Dawson began working for Freud’s dealer James Kirkman who took him to Holland Park to meet Freud in his studio. ‘I was so excited about this,’ he says. ’I was going to meet a really great painter.’ The studio, he recalls, was ‘the most remarkable room he had ever stepped into’, while Freud was ‘quite small, slim, very light and quick on his feet with fantastically bright sparkling eyes. His good manners and quick wit immediately put me at ease.’

The meeting was to prompt ‘the start of 20 years of a brilliant journey’ as Freud’s assistant, model, friend and witness to the creation of some of the most celebrated paintings of our age. Dawson’s unique access led to the development of a portfolio of strikingly intimate photographs of Freud which have become iconic works in their own right. Recently his image of Freud painting the Queen was chosen by both Nick Clegg and Lord Mandelson for the Whitechapel’s exhibition of works from the Government Art Collection. This exhibition features several of his most evocative photographs including ‘Working at Night’ (2005) and ‘Lucian with Fox Club’ (2005).

Less well known are Dawson’s own paintings which he would return to every afternoon after his work with Freud was done. His work reflects and records what he sees around him, the cul-de-sac in suburban north-west London where he lives and the shifting skies he witnesses from his studio window in Kensal Rise: ‘Living with my studio in my house, I would use the view out of my studio window as the motif to structure my painting,’ says Dawson. ‘I would always use this as the starting point and the reference to go back to again and again’.

Over the years Dawson was one of Freud’s most consistent models and he is the subject of the artist’s final work - an unfinished nude portrait with Dawson's whippet, Eli - which will feature alongside 100 other works spanning 70-year career at the National Portrait Gallery (9 February to 27 May 2012). NPG Curator Sarah Howgate in a recent interview with the Guardian said: ‘Freud said that he knew Dawson better than anyone else. He'd been his most consistent model, they shared a mutual understanding, a respect for one another and a love of painting.’ (20 Sept 2011).

Notes to Editors

David Dawson will be available for a limited number of interviews. Please refer all requests to Emma Robertson, Press Officer at Pallant House Gallery.

The exhibition coincides with ‘Lucian Freud: Portraits’ at the National Portrait Gallery from 9 February to 27 May 2012