The British art world in which Freud was educated and became an artist was staggeringly different from today's. Art was a comparatively minor component of British culture then: today it is constantly in the news and a source of national pride. The middle class was hostile to modernism and still held to a passion for portraits and landscapes that had dominated British art since the 18th century. Freud took all this to heart and never deviated from his path as a staunchly "traditional" artist whose power rests in craft and skill.
Again, this is very different from today's Britain where there are so many other ways of making art.
So here is the problem. Freud's death and his posthumous retrospective at the National Portrait Gallery unleashed a universal admiration for his stupendous achievement. But was that just froth? Do the British love Freud from the heart, or just as this season's fashion? If it is from the heart – if we recognise that here was a truly great talent who put lesser celebrity artists of our time to shame – then many of us need to re-examine our attitudes to art.
Since the 1990s, all through my working life as a critic, the artistic culture of Britain has done all in its power to prevent another Freud ever again being nurtured. It is as if at some point, just as Freud was reaching his zenith, a meeting was held behind closed doors at the Tate to ensure that a genius like this must never, ever be allowed again to upset the cosy applecart of commercialised conceptualism.
Everyone now praises Freud but for there to be any more Freuds, young artists need to be encouraged to draw from life (not just as wacky doodling) and to take craft as well as concept seriously. The pressures against them doing that get more relentless all the time.
Freud does not have to be the last great British painter. It is up to us to value and nurture the art we want, the art we need.