There are already rave reviews coming out of the art world for the major Frank Auerbach retrospective at Tate Britain (until 13 March 2016) – known for being an artist who paints everyday, 365 days a year, there’s certainly plenty to explore… we take a look at his long career.
Frank Auerbach: need to know
Born: 1931, Berlin. He was sent to Britain as a child to avoid Nazi persecution; his family dielater in a concentration camp.
Studied: London St Martin’s School of Art, 1948-1952. Royal College of Art, 1952 -1955. Art classes at London’s Borough Polytechnic with David Bomberg from 1947-1953.
Where: He uses the same North London studio he has used since 1954.
What: Auerbach is known for painting semi-abstract portraits of people, (friends and family) and places he knows well. He has five particular sitters who have sat for him for decades and visit his studio each week – his wife Julia, his son Jake, and friends Catherine Lampert (curator of the Tate exhibition), the late David Landau (journalist) and art historian William Feaver. Focusing on this close group over the years, has made him unusually aware of how they change from visit to vist. He has described how he has ‘a strong sense of wanting to pin experience down before it disappears.’
His process: Heavy oil paints in thick expressive impasto sweeps, scraping back the surface of the canvas to start and re-start the painting process – until the work is realised ‘in a matter of hours’.
Texture: The amount of paint on the canvas gives it great depth, texture and dynamism – almost like a sculpture. He has talked about the ‘haptic’ or tactile quality of his work. It changes as you view it from different angles.
Where to see his work: Most of the pieces in the Tate show are from private collections and are seldom on public display – so this is a rare chance to see what his work is about. You can’t get any sense of it from a reproduction.
What’s in the Tate show: Some 70 paintings and drawings from the 1950s to the present day. Curated by the art historian Catherine Lampert, who has sat for the artist for thirty-seven years. Auerbach has ‘suggested the form and the selection’ of the first six of the eight galleries, grouping work by decades and subject. They range from early portraits to urban landscapes, to large works of the 60s.
Prices at auction? The Tate show has conincided with a boom in demand for his work. In July this year, Sotheby’s sold an early portrait of his cousin, Head of Gerda Boehm, for £2.2million – way over the much more modest estimate of £250,000-350,000. And this month, Sotheby’s sold a picture of his lover of 25 years, Estella Olive West, for £1.3 million – double the estimate.
Where else to buy his work? MyArtBroker and other private dealers – see available art works here.