LONDON – With the current major retrospective on view at Tate London and Catherine Lampert’s new monograph on the artist, there is a renewed appreciation for the work of Frank Auerbach.
Auerbach has chosen to paint only a select few landscapes and none more important than his treasured Primrose Hill. Describing this area that he has called home for most of his life, he said: “This part of London is my world. I’ve been wandering around these streets for so long that I have become attached to them, and as fond of them as people are of their pets.” Fields of canary yellow, deep orange, and forest green emerge from a dense lattice of fierce jagged brushstrokes and vigorous swirls. The chromatic intensity of Primrose Hill and the other two works in this group – stands in contrast to his muted, earth-toned early practice and exhibits a joy and liveliness that is truly unique. Included in many key exhibitions – it has remained in the same private collection for over three decades. The sister painting is currently on view at Auerbach’s major retrospective at Tate Britain, and is discussed in his son, Jake Auerbach’s, new film Frank.
A SELECTION OF WORKS BY AUERBACH IN THE CONTEMPORARY ART DAY SALE IN LONDON ON 11 FEBRUARY.
From early in his career Auerbach has followed a rigorous routine, scraping off the paint and beginning again if he has failed to capture his subject. His idiosyncratic creative methodology enables long sittings at the studio when he works on a portrait, but prevents him from working en plein air. In order to create his landscapes, Auerbach relies partly on memory and partly on the countless sketches that he skillfully produces on the spot, exemplified in his works on paper. Once back in the studio he begins an intense process of continual erasure and painting. Nonetheless, in his landscapes Auerbach successfully achieves his aim to “catch hold of the world of fact and experience at some point at which it hasn’t been caught before, so that one remakes it in a sense that speaks to oneself directly.”
FRANK AUERBACH, PRIMROSE HILL. ESTIMATE: £1,800,000—2,500,000.
J.Y.M. in the Studio V is a portrait of model Juliet Yardley Mills, who first posed for Auerbach in 1956 while he was teaching at the Sidcup College of Art. With its striking primary palette it marks the concerted effort Auerbach made in the early 1960s to break free of his earlier style, somewhat weighed down by incredibly thick tranches of paint, and a palette of heavy muddy browns and greys. A crucial component of this change in style in the early 1960s was Auerbach’s burgeoning professional relationship with the present sitter. According to him, J.Y.M. “was brought into the world to be a model, she came and sat and it was not quite like anything else… She took poses that were natural to her ... It became like a central spine of what one was doing.” So fruitful was their working relationship, and so effective were the resultant portraits, that she continued to pose at least twice a week for more than forty years, arriving every Wednesday and Sunday until 1997.
FRANK AUERBACH, J.Y.M. IN THE STUDIO V. ESTIMATE: £500,000–700,000.
Also offered in the Evening Sale is a superlative depiction of the artist’s most celebrated sitter, Estella (or Stella) Olive West, E.O.W. who featured in more than 70 paintings by the artist over 25-years. E.O.W’s Head on her Pillow l is from a small group of three jewel-like paintings created in 1965-66. Painted from life late at night, the bright glare of a single electric light illuminates this extraordinary painting: thick layers of white paint lavishly denote her skin as her head lays peacefully on a white pillow, placed on a cool blue bed sheet. An important small group of works for the artist, another painting from this series used to be held in the illustrious collection of Auerbach’s close friend, the artist Lucian Freud.
FRANK AUERBACH, E.O.W.'S HEAD ON HER PILLOW I. ESTIMATE: £300,000–400,000.
The Day Auction offers a selection of paintings and drawings produced over four decades by Auerbach from a private collection. Evoking the essence of Auerbach’s London, this collection presents several en plein air sketches of Primrose Hill, the Camden Theatre and Mornington Crescent that lay the foundations to the painting The Studios Under Snow, a superb rendering of the exterior of his studio from 1991. Two portraits – of his long-time sitters Ruth Bromberg and David Landau – are joined by a self-portrait in pencil and charcoal from 2012. The extraordinary works within this collection encapsulate Auerbach’s working practice and provide us with an opportunity to share the resolute journey embarked upon by one of the great painters of our generation, and an uncompromising artistic force at the forefront of British art today.