Frank Auerbach b. 1931


Still working every day and now in his late eighties, Frank Auerbach has practised consistently and enjoyed acclaim throughout his extensive career. Instantly identifiable, his thickly impastoed works are paradoxically both spontaneous and laboured, sometimes taking years to complete. Auerbach is a notorious perfectionist and will scrape back and re-apply paint each day until he approves of the finished work. 


Painting and drawing from his studio in Mornington Crescent in London, Auerbach regularly draws inspiration from local scenes. Routine, too, is of the upmost importance in his work – he often returns to familiar subjects, taking comfort from London’s dependable and yet everchanging cityscape.


Auerbach studied under David Bomberg at Borough Polytechnic in the 1950s, before progressing to Saint Martin’s and the Royal College of Art. His first solo exhibition was given to him by Helen Lessore of Beaux Arts in 1956, where his gestural brushwork divided the critics. He exhibited at the Marlborough Gallery, London, from 1965 and was given an Arts Council retrospective at the Hayward Gallery, London, in 1978. Solo exhibitions were held at the British Pavilion in the 1986 Venice Biennale and at the Rijksmuseum Vincent Van Gogh, Amsterdam, in 1989. There was a major exhibition at the Royal Academy in 2001, whilst his retrospective was held at Tate Britain from 2015 to 16.


Important group shows include The Pittsburgh International Exhibition at the Carnegie Institute, in 1958 and 1961; Painting and Sculpture of a Decade at the Tate Gallery, 1964; British Painting in the Sixties, organised by the Contemporary Arts Society in 1964; and The Human Clay, selected by R.B. Kitaj and held at the Hayward Gallery in 1976. Auerbach is closely associated with the School of London, which included Michael Andrews, Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud, Leon Kossoff and R.B Kitaj.