On the edge of abstraction - a retrospective of one of Britain’s finest living painters
Although I’ve been looking at his work for a long time, visiting the retrospective, Frank Auerbach, at Tate Britain it still came as a shock to realise that the artist will be 85 next year. Born in 1931, he arrived in Britain from Germany in April 1939 and became a British citizen in 1947. His extensive training as an artist included time at St Martins, the Royal College of Art and Borough Polytechnic where he was a pupil of David Bomberg. After some years teaching art, he became a full-time artist in the mid-1960s.
Frank Auerbach is arranged in a succession of decades starting with the 1950s and ending with the 2000s. It ends with a room of works selected by the curator, Catherine Lampert, taken from across Auerbach’s oeuvre. Portraits of the same sitters (including Lampert) and locations near his studio in London are recurrent. Because of their size and the artist’s use of heavy impasto in his earlier years, his paintings do not reproduce particularly well. However I have selected some of the images which are available – many of the exhibits are marked “Private Collection". From the 1950s, Head of EOW (1955, below left) and E.O.W. half-length nude (1958, below right):
From the 1960s, Primrose Hill Spring Sunshine (1961/62 & 64, below top) and Mornington Crescent (1967, below lower):
Primrose Hill is much painted by Auerbach, for example in the 1970s, Winter Evening, Primrose Hill Study, (1974-75, below top) and Primrose Hill (1978, below lower):
In the 1980s as well as landscapes, there is some fine portraiture including Portrait of Catherine Lampert (1981–82, below left) and Head of J.Y.M II (1984-85, below right):
From the 90s onwards, the same themes are being revisited, for example Catherine Lampert Seated (1990, below left), Mornington Crescent Looking South (1997, below right) and Head of William Feaver (2003, exhibition poster above).
Among the final selection made by Lampert was the Tate’s own To the Studios (1979-80, below):
A painter whose works, more than most, need to be seen to be fully appreciated, Frank Auerbach ends on 13 March.