Melanie Andrews on growing up with the School of London artists

From left, The School of London artists: Tim Behrens, Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, Frank Auerbach and Michael Andrews
From left, The School of London artists: Tim Behrens, Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, Frank Auerbach and Michael Andrews Credit: John Deakin / Getty

Melanie Andrews, the daughter of artist, Michael Andrews, recalls spending her childhood with Freud, Bacon and Auerbach in this interview with the Telegraph Magazine. 

This picture was taken in 1963, before  I was born, by the photographer John Deakin. He had the devil of a time trying to herd the School of London artists all together – it took three or four attempts to get them to [the restaurant] Wheeler’s, in Soho.

If you look closely at the picture, you’ll see that the glasses are empty and the cork is still in the bottle – so it’s completely posed. I am an only child and was a nightmare for babysitters. Mum and Dad took me wherever they went, and told me to behave. So at the age of four I’d often be eating at Wheeler’s with all the artists, and when I’d had enough I’d just climb under the table and go to sleep.

If you look closely at the picture, you’ll see that the glasses are empty and the cork is still in the bottle – so it’s completely posed

Wheeler’s was jokingly known to them as ‘the fish and chip shop’. They used to go  there a lot, and then on to the Colony Rooms afterwards. They became friends with all the Wheeler’s staff – there was John the barman, and Henry the doorman, who used to give them gambling tips. He’d hiss in their ears things like, ‘Lollipop will take a lot of licking…’

Lucian and Francis probably bet on his tips, I don’t think my dad did. They were a gang. Tim Behrens and Dad were at the Slade together, and I remember that my dad loved and admired Francis. Mum and Dad met at a party thrown by Lucian in the 1950s; he used to come round for supper a lot.

I would often save the best bit of food till last – I’d eat my vegetables and leave a choice piece of steak on the side of my plate – and suddenly Lucian’s fork would loom and my meat would disappear into his mouth. He’d say, I thought you didn’t want it. That was Lucian. He’d also come to us for Christmas Day – it became a tradition.

Melanie and Me Swimming by Michael Andrews, 1979  Credit: Tate

David Hockney was a neighbourand other artists like Peter Blake would often drop in. Craigie Aitchison was my godfather – he was lovely.  Frank was always a presence but I mainly got to know him after Dad died [of cancer, in 1995]. He was the most marvellous friend and support to Mum and me – he would take us out and feed us red meat – he felt we’d got run down during Dad’s illness. 

I used to complain that my dad never took weekends off, but his studio was at home, so he was always there. He was very disciplined – he would go to bed early and get up at the crack of dawn: it was all about the light.   He had his moments, but on the whole Dad wasn’t really wild. He was quite shy and essentially an observer of human behaviour.

Michael Andrews: Earth Air Water is at the Gagosian Gallery until March 25; gagosian.com

Bacon and Freud: Graphic Works, 18 January 2017 – 25 February 2017, Marlborough Graphics, London, marlboroughlondon.com

Interview by Jessamy Calkin