At this time, Auerbach had just enrolled in St Martin’s School of Art in London where he would remain until 1952. Under the tutelage of David Bomberg, he developed his style of painting by reworking his compositions over long periods of time, building up layers of paint using brushes, palette knives and even his hands to create his signature impasto technique. Remembering his time in school, Auerbach mused: “we had life drawing all the time. For me it was an education not in drawing the figure, but in thinking about art. It wasn’t simply a repertoire of immensely varied and suggestive forms, but also the subject itself was interesting, as I think you would have to be very weird not to be interested in the naked human being” (Frank Auerbach cited in: Nicholas Wroe, ‘Frank Auerbach: “Painting is the most marvelous activity humans have invented”’, The Guardian, May 2015, online). With its gestural brushwork and formally minimal composition, Seated Nude is exemplary of Bomberg’s avocation for capturing the intensity of expression stripped of all irrelevant matter.
Deeply psychological and hauntingly severe, this early work foreshadows Auerbach’s obsessive portraits of his inner circle removed of all but the essentials of their being. The unwavering fearlessness and profound originality that mark Auerbach’s latest works can be witnessed in Seated Nude, one of his earliest, establishing it as the marker of an imperative moment in the artist’s stylistic development.
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