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Frank Auerbach
TO THE STUDIOS
Estimate
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1,200,0001,800,000
LOT SOLD. 1,330,000 GBP
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27
Frank Auerbach
TO THE STUDIOS
Estimate
Irrevocable Bids
Lots with this symbol indicate that a party has provided Sotheby’s with an irrevocable bid on the lot that will be executed during the sale at a value that ensures that the lot will sell. The irrevocable bidder, who may bid in excess of the irrevocable bid, will be compensated based on the final hammer price in the event he or she is not the successful bidder or may receive a fixed fee in the event he or she is the successful bidder. If the irrevocable bidder is the successful bidder, the fixed fee (if applicable) for providing the irrevocable bid may be netted against the irrevocable bidder’s obligation to pay the full purchase price for the lot and the purchase price reported for the lot shall be net of such fixed fee. If the irrevocable bid is not secured until after the printing of the auction catalogue, a pre-lot announcement will be made indicating that there is an irrevocable bid on the lot. If the irrevocable bidder is advising anyone with respect to the lot, Sotheby’s requires the irrevocable bidder to disclose his or her financial interest in the lot. If an agent is advising you or bidding on your behalf with respect to a lot identified as being subject to an irrevocable bid, you should request that the agent disclose whether or not he or she has a financial interest in the lot.
UK: Greenford Park
Lots marked W will be sent to Greenford Park Fine Art Storage Facility immediately after the auction.
Artist's Resale Right
Purchase of lots marked with this symbol will be subject to the payment of the artist's resale right.
Double Dagger
Indicates that the lot is being sold whilst subject to Temporary Importation, and that VAT is due at the reduced rate
Guaranteed Property
Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
1,200,0001,800,000
LOT SOLD. 1,330,000 GBP
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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London

Frank Auerbach
B. 1931
TO THE STUDIOS
titled and dated 1977 twice on the reverse
oil on board
122.2 by 136.5 cm. 48 1/8 by 53 3/4 in.
Read Condition Report Read Condition Report

Provenance

Marlborough Fine Art, London
Private Collection (acquired from the above in 1978)
Magnus Konow (by descent from the above)
Sotheby's, London, 10 February 2015, Lot 32 (consigned by the above)
Acquired from the above by the present owner

Literature

Exh. Cat., London, Hayward Gallery; Edinburgh, Fruit Market Gallery, Frank Auerbach, May - August 1978, p. 18, illustrated

Robert Hughes, Frank Auerbach, London 1990, p. 99, no. 60, illustrated in colour

William Feaver, Frank Auerbach, New York 2009, p. 281, no. 389, illustrated in colour

Catalogue Note

Richly material, tactile and immersive, To the Studios is the second painting in the series of the same name, begun by Frank Auerbach in 1977. Auerbach’s beloved studio in Mornington Crescent, which had been occupied by Leon Kossoff and Frances Hodgkins prior to Auerbach’s arrival in 1954, is still inhabited by the painter to this day. In 1977, however, Auerbach dreaded being turned out of his place of work. The anxiety that such a prospect induced in him inspired the third crucial landscape motif of Auerbach’s career: the exterior of his studio and the surrounding buildings. Even though Auerbach was able to keep his studio by purchasing it from his landlord, this motif continued until 1994 through nineteen paintings and innumerable sketches. Together they belong to an inimitably personal and deeply emotive corpus of North London cityscapes that includes his pictures of Primrose Hill from the 1950s and 1960s, as well as the auburn representations of the corner between Camden High Street and Mornington Crescent. With two works from the series owned by Tate, London, To the Studios is unanimously considered one of the finest series in Auerbach’s oeuvre: these works herald the unmistakable 'all-at-onceness' of Auerbach’s vision across an exquisite range of captured moments. The present work draws upon Walter Sickert’s cityscapes of North London, as well as the quality of “individuality, independence, fullness and perpetual motion” within the landscapes of Auerbach’s mentor and teacher David Bomberg (Frank Auerbach in conversation with Catherine Lampert in: Exh. Cat., London, Hayward Gallery, Frank Auerbach, 1978, p. 8).

Rendered in a thickly-churned impasto painstakingly scraped away and re-applied, To the Studios presents a unity of architectonic structures, organic swirls, swathes and daubs, and luscious chromatic combinations of earthy autumnal hues with vegetal, swampy greens. The viewer identifies gables, archways, stairwells and rooftops amongst a symphony of nameless shapes; each such item – familiar or otherwise – forms a component of this meticulous representation of a portion of the artist’s lived experience. Influenced by the landscapes of Delacroix, Courbet, Daumier and Cézanne, Auerbach describes his own method as “always a process of invention… always a process of suddenly seeing a unity in the disparate things one’s trying to hold together” (Frank Auerbach in conversation with Catherine Lampert in: Exh. Cat., London, Tate Britain, Frank Auerbach, 2015, p. 152). The diligence and care with which Auerbach famously scrapes and reapplies paint in his compositions is an attempt to transmute the perpetual shift of lived experience – its constant alterations and corrections, its eternal and unstoppable flux. It is only “when the conclusion occurs and I feel I’ve been lucky enough to find some sort of whole for this overwhelming and unmanageable heap of sensations…[that] I think the previous attempts have contributed” (Ibid., p. 142). The raw tactility of the paint in To the Studios conjures not just the brute tangibility of the world around us, but also the sheer miracle of materiality itself.

For the majority of these paintings, Auerbach focused on a view involving the red-brick, Victorian house containing his studio to the left – signposted in crimson capitals – and a block of more modern houses to the right. These poles are separated by an inchoate, Escher-like hotchpotch of girders and beams reminiscent of vaulting Tudor stairwells. The backs of terraces are elided in the middle-ground, and the upper floors of the Egyptian Revival building Greater London House –  often gleaming white, but in this case an ochre-framed blue –  are visible in the distance at centre-right. For these compositions, Auerbach changed his practice and created sketches in situ before returning to his studio to work on the final painting over the course of many months. The earthy colour scheme with which Auerbach painted this space reflects not just the organic processes by which London breathes and changes, but the artist’s love and need for these buildings and their contents. Auerbach describes himself at this time as being “in continual fear”, fear “of being thrown out or something going wrong, and I may say that before [the studio] was re-built I think the Council… would have disapproved of it. I needed this space like a drowning man to a raft” (Frank Auerbach cited in: Catherine Lampert, Frank Auerbach: Speaking and Painting, London 2015, p. 171). One has the sense, in looking at To the Studios, of a very human activity: the return to what one knows and what one does as a means of coming to terms with one’s nostalgia for a present too easily envisaged as past.

Auerbach’s studio was modernised by Long & Kentish in 1990. The resultant space possessed several advantages over the previous – including sources of radically increased natural light and facilities for storing and accessing Auerbach’s enormous stock of paint – but it was, of course, distinct from the previous. The To the Studios series is a kind of record or document of the architectural, chromatic and emotional properties of a certain place at a certain time, for a certain person. As Robert Hughes expressed, “what counts most in Auerbach’s work is the sense it projects of the immediacy of experience… Like all painting, good or bad, it is coded. But the clear purpose of its codes is to clarify Auerbach’s struggle, not to ‘express himself’, but to stabilise and define the terms of his relations to the real, resistant and experienced world: which is what art must do, today as yesterday” (Robert Hughes, Frank Auerbach, London 1990, p. 214).

Contemporary Art Evening Auction

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London