In a statement his New York-based art dealer and close friend William Acquavella said the realist painter died on Wednesday following a brief illness, but gave no further details. Freud was known for his intense realist portraits, particularly of nudes. ARTKABINETT collector members mourn the loss of this contemporary master painter.
In recent years his paintings commanded huge prices at auction, including one called Naked Woman on a Sofa that sold for $33.6 million (£20.5million) in 2008. Last month, a portrait entitled Woman Smiling, 1958-59, sold for £4,745,250.
Mr Acquavella said he would mourn Freud “as one of the great painters of the twentieth century.”
“My family and I mourn Lucian Freud not only as one of the great painters of the twentieth century but also as a very dear friend,” he said.
“As the foremost figurative artist of his generation he imbued both portraiture and landscape with profound insight, drama and energy.
“In company he was exciting, humble, warm and witty. He lived to paint and painted until the day he died, far removed from the noise of the art world.”
Freud was well known for bucking the trends of the art world, insisting on using his realist approach even when it was out of favour with critics and collectors.
He stubbornly developed his own unique style, eventually winning recognition as one of the world's greatest painters.
“He certainly is considered one of the most important painters of the 20th and 21st Centuries,” said Brett Gorvy, deputy chairman of the postwar art department at Christie's auction house in New York.
“He stayed with his figurative approach even when it was extremely unpopular, when abstraction was the leading concept, and as time moved on his classic approach has proven to be very important. He fought the system and basically won.”
Freud, grandson of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, was born in Berlin in 1922. His Jewish family was forced to flee the city in 1933 and he became a British citizen in 1939.
The artist was a member of the Order of Merit - one of Britain's most prestigious chivalry honours founded in 1902 by Edward VII. The honour is a special award presented to individuals of great achievement in the fields of the arts, learning, literature and science.
Current members include former prime minister Baroness Thatcher, naturalist Sir David Attenborough and inventor of the worldwide web Sir Timothy Berners-Lee. Members receive no rank or title apart from the initials OM after their name.
Freud’s most famous subject was arguably the supermodel Kate Moss, who he painted in the nude while she was pregnant. He named the painting Naked Portrait 2002.
He also painted a portrait of the Queen - completed in his characteristically uncompromising and unflattering style, with some commentators describing the Monarch's expression as "glum".
The Director of the Tate in London, Nicholas Serota, said: “The vitality of his nudes, the intensity of the still life paintings and the presence of his portraits of family and friends guarantee Lucian Freud a unique place in the pantheon of late twentieth century art.
“His early paintings redefined British art and his later works stand comparison with the great figurative painters of any period.”
Freud's sister-in-law Ann, told the Daily Telegraph that neither she nor her husband Stephen, knew of the painter's illness and only learned of his death through TV reports.
Mrs Freud said: "We literally out found five minutes ago and it's a terrible shock. I didn't even know he was unwell. He wouldn't keep a telephone so no one could phone him directly.”