Frank Auerbach. Tate Britain.

Author : Jacqueline Knox

Frank Auerbach’s paintings are of people and urban landscapes near his studio at Camden town, North London. Each work is to be considered individually and there is a chronological order to the paintings but highlights how his work has evolved from the 1950’s to today and as such emphasises the paintings not the artist. . The subject matter is either his sitters or the local urban landscape thus allowing for a comparison of his evolving technique within the same subject.

Self-Portrait 1958 Charcoal and chalk on paper 768 x 565 mm Courtesy of Daniel Katz Gallery, London © Frank Auerbach, courtesy Marlborough Fine Art

Self-Portrait
1958
Charcoal and chalk on paper
768 x 565 mm
Courtesy of Daniel Katz Gallery, London
© Frank Auerbach, courtesy Marlborough Fine Art

This self portrait of 1958 is in the first room of this exhibition. It is full of expression and texture, with scratches on the face in chalk and charcoal and has an intensity and depth to the black penetrating eyes. It is mesmerising, as was the rest of this exhibition. It is easy to see in these large charcoal drawings Auerbach’s repeated rubbing out and reworking. They are full of expression.

E.O.W., Half-length Nude 1958 Oil paint on board 762 x 508 mm Private collection courtesy of Eykyn Maclean, LP © Frank Auerbach, courtesy Marlborough Fine Art

E.O.W., Half-length Nude
1958
Oil paint on board
762 x 508 mm
Private collection courtesy of Eykyn Maclean, LP
© Frank Auerbach, courtesy Marlborough Fine Art

This reworking and rubbing out and repainting results in huge expanses of thickly massed paint, in places a few centimetres thick and giving such depth to the work. This is not possible to appreciate by looking at images in a book and for me seeing this paint so thickly applied with such restless energy was a real highlight. This is less so in his works from the 1960’s onwards where Auerbach would scrape back the whole surface before the next attempt.

 

Primrose Hill 1971 Oil on board 1141 x 1393 x 110 mm Private collection, courtesy of Daniel Katz Gallery, London © Frank Auerbach, courtesy Marlborough Fine Art

Primrose Hill
1971
Oil on board
1141 x 1393 x 110 mm
Private collection, courtesy of Daniel Katz Gallery, London
© Frank Auerbach, courtesy Marlborough Fine Art

Auerbach’s urban landscapes are from around where his studio is and living in London it is very meaningful to have an artist portray scenes and landscapes that are so familiar. His ‘Building Site, Earls Court’ , Winter 1953 could have been painted yesterday as Earls Court in London is a permanent building site and will be for the foreseeable future so, for me anyway, there was humour in them.

Mornington Crescent 1965 Oil paint on board 1016 x 1270 mm Private collection courtesy of Eykyn Maclean, LP © Frank Auerbach, courtesy Marlborough Fine Art

Mornington Crescent
1965
Oil paint on board
1016 x 1270 mm
Private collection courtesy of Eykyn Maclean, LP
© Frank Auerbach, courtesy Marlborough Fine Art

Head of William Feaver 2003 Oil on board 451 x 406 mm Collection of Gina and Stuart Peterson © Frank Auerbach, courtesy Marlborough Fine Art

Head of William Feaver
2003
Oil on board
451 x 406 mm
Collection of Gina and Stuart Peterson
© Frank Auerbach, courtesy Marlborough Fine Art

The qualities in this painting were extraordinary. It had a restless energy to it but at the same time tremendous depth.

Hampstead Road, High Summer 2010 Oil paint on board 562 x 562 mm Property of a private trust © Frank Auerbach, courtesy Marlborough Fine Art

Hampstead Road, High Summer
2010
Oil paint on board
562 x 562 mm
Property of a private trust
© Frank Auerbach, courtesy Marlborough Fine Art

This recent painting does evoke memories of Hampstead. It is full of colour and movement and yet somehow reminds us of urban London with its runner chasing through the streets with his yellow backpack. It brought a wry smile to my face.

This exhibition needs to be seen. I went late on a Friday night and Tate Britain was quiet. I almost had the gallery to myself. It demands a second viewing, these paintings are fabulous up close.

It is also worth visiting Primrose Hill. The nearest tubes are Regents Park and Camden Town. It is a 20 minute walk through Regents Park, beyond the zoo and up the hill but so worth the walk and the views at the top of ‘the hill’. If you go down the other side there is a street full of pubs, for a lunch or cafes for coffee and browsing……it is off the track of central London but all the more charming for it.

Jacqueline Knox

 

All images are kindly reproduced with permission from the ©Tate .

9th October 2015-13th March 2016

http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/frank-auerbach

 

 

 

 

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