Born in Guelph, Ontario, daughter of Charles and Bella (Ziselman) Freiman. Her family had settled in Montreal where she attended art classes at the AAM and the EBAM with Edmond Dyonnet, Emmanuel Fougerat and Robert Mahias (1923-24). With the help of relatives, she attended the Art Student’s League in New York City (1925). She then sailed for Paris, where she lived and worked (also in Brittany) for 13 years. In Paris, she saw the work of Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec; the work of both artists had considerable influence on her.
Describing her time in France, Judith M. Nasby noted, “… she worked regularly in Paris, in Brittany. Clusters of humanity engaging in bartering and selling – especially at the Paris bird markets and local markets in Brittany – intrigued her. She completed numerous rhythmic crowd scenes in which the figures become part of an overall swelling pattern. Some of these have a poetic lyricism, which is similar in feeling to some of the crowd scenes painted in the Laurentians by fellow Quebec artist André Biéler during the early 1930’s.” She visited Montreal in 1932 and held solo shows at the Jacoby Gallery, Montreal and at Wilson & Co., Ottawa. She returned to Paris for another year, then visited Canada and mounted a solo show at Richard Gallery, Toronto, then went back to Paris.
In 1938, the looming crisis of WWII ended her stay in France and, after a brief sojourn in Toronto, she established a studio near Carnegie Hall in NYC, where she settled that same year. Continuing with her personal history, Judith M. Nasby described Freiman’s Carnegie Hall experience as follows, “She began to attend rehearsals at Carnegie Hall to make quick sketches of the musicians. Gradually, she was accepted and welcomed as a regular. Over the years, she has painted, among others, Arturo Toscanini, Leonard Bernstein, Marian Anderson, Renata Tebaldi, Jascha Heifetz, Edith Piaf, Maria Callas and Maureen Forrester, not just as portraits but at decisive moments during key performances…. Throughout the twenties, she experimented with various techniques using combinations of pastel with crayon, charcoal and water colour on paper. As well as oil on canvas, she worked with oil on wood, hatching the surface to create different textures.” Nasby noted that her work on paper had more directness and fresh colour harmonies. Her studio was located on the 17th floor of an apartment building, which was sparsely furnished and crowded with stacks of drawings and canvas, some dating back to her student days. She collected bird cages of every shape including an authentic Louis XIV cage, many 18th-century French and English bird cages, which were mostly of women described by Nasby as having similar qualities, “… found in some Renaissance masters such as Holbein.”
Lillian Freiman died in NYC at the age 78.
At the time of her death Charles Hill, Curator of Canadian art at the National Gallery of Canada, noted of her work: "There was a reticent and lyrical quality to it and an economy of line, but she avoided making a strong statement."
"A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume 1: A-F, 5th Edition, Revised and Expanded", compiled by Colin S. MacDonald, Canadian Paperbacks Publishing Ltd, Ottawa, 1997