Selected Works: 1978-2016
“I want everything in the painting to work,” Frank Auerbach says. “Every force, every plane, every direction.” In this solo exhibition of the celebrated artist’s portraits and landscapes from the last fifty years, the edges of the rectangular canvas are often hard to trace, so belabored with thick, impasto strokes are the surfaces: Auerbach scrapes the canvas down after each attempt before he reaches a final work that satisfies him.
Favored sitters, some of whom he’s returned to over and over in his daily painting routine, make appearances here, such as his wife, Julia, seen four times in this show. Flesh takes on distinctive tones: purplish oranges, muddy greens, and feverish ochre. Certain strokes are applied only to smear, to obfuscate: Catherine Lampert - Profile (1997) is barely parse-able as such, or even a portrait at all.
A naturalized citizen of England as a refugee from the Nazi regime as a child, Auerbach’s landscapes are indelibly impacted by a bombed and shell-shocked London during World War II. His strokes are sometimes unbearably textured, such as in the alternatively scarred and slashing lines and careening angles of Chimney in Mornington Crescent – Winter Morning (1991). In his work, Auerbach intends to make “Something that has never been seen before… that stalks into the world like a new monster.”
Frank Auerbach, Head of David Landau, 2016. Oil on canvas, 18 1⁄4 x 20 1⁄8 inches. Private collection.