Portraiture has always been a key theme in Auerbach's career, although never in the accepted sense of the word. His repertoire of sitters is very small, being drawn from a circle of those close to him, and the appearance of certain of these mark distinct periods in his painting. The early images of friends such as his fellow painter Leon Kossoff or Stella West have become familiar to us too by the repetition of the rendering of their features, building images that capture the essentials of the sitter.
The earliest portrait images are immediately striking because of their sheer weight of paint, built up over many sessions of painting (the 1955 Head of E.O.W. (Private Collection) was the result of almost three hundred sittings), but the present painting belongs to a group of paintings which marked a shift in Auerbach's manner of execution. Characterised by the use of a thick jagged black outline to delineate the head and features, the portraits of the late 1960s and early 1970s take on a stark linear, almost caricatured quality that isolates the distinctive features of each sitter. Auerbach's friend, Paula Eyles, has sat many times to Auerbach and is one of the few sitters whose image is thus available to us from across the artist's career. However, despite the wide varieties in handling, the consistency of the image of this sitter is quite remarkable, her distinctive features and character coming through each painting.
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