Marlborough Fine Art, London
Acquavella Galleries, New York
Crane Kalman Gallery, London
Sale: Christie's London, Post War & Contemporary Art, 22 June 2006, Lot 41
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner
Executed in 1984, Reclining Head of J.Y.M. exhibits Auerbach's explosive painterly technique at its most effective. Across the picture plane, layers of glistening oil paint are built up and scraped back in an eruption of vigorous brushstrokes and powerful blows. The reclining head emerges against a deep aubergine ground, its contours defined by jewel-like hues of emerald, amber and rose; each colour punctuated by expressive daubs of black. Celebrated for portraits displaying a tangible sense of both subject and surface, Auerbach himself declared, 'I don't know how they can talk about thickness, really... Is blue better than red, thick better than thin? - no. But the sense of corporeal reality, that's what matters. English twentieth-century painting tends to be thin, linear and illustrative. I wanted something different; I wanted to make a painting that, when you saw it, would be like touching something in the dark' (the artist cited in: Robert Hughes, Frank Auerbach, London 1990, p. 86).
J.Y.M., acronym for Julia Yardley Mills, is one of the cornerstone subjects of the artist's canon. She first posed for him in 1956 when she was a professional model at Sidcup College of Art, and continued to do so every Wednesday and Sunday for over forty years until 1997. When Reclining Head of J.Y.M. was painted she had been sitting for him for almost three decades. Through brilliant colour and a faultless exhibition of compelling painterly gesture, this portrait carries a remarkable psychological and emotional charge, and confirms Catherine Lampert's observation that J.Y.M. "was a force of nature" (Exhibition Catalogue, London, Royal Academy of Arts, Frank Auerbach, 2001, p. 26).
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