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    Sale 7738

    Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction

    30 June 2009, London, King Street

  • Lot 25

    Frank Auerbach (b. 1931)

    Head of Debbie Ratcliff II

    Price Realised  


    Frank Auerbach (b. 1931)
    Head of Debbie Ratcliff II
    oil on canvas
    26 x 26in. (66 x 66cm.)
    Painted in 1983-84

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    Painted in 1983-1984, Frank Auerbach's Head of Debbie Ratcliff II was exhibited at the XLII Biennale in Venice in 1986, when the artist himself shared the prestigious Golden Lion prize with Sigmar Polke. This picture dates from the period when Auerbach painted what are arguably his greatest portraits, including the seminal Head of J.Y.M. which adorns the cover of Robert Hughes' major monograph of the artist and which is illustrated mirroring this work within the book.

    During the 1980s, Auerbach tended to paint a small group of people on a regular basis, each of whom served a different purpose or had particular feature, be it in terms of their appearance or their relationship, with the artist. Deborah Ratcliff was modelling at the Slade when Auerbach asked her, in 1983, to come to a sitting in his own studio, apparently intrigued in part by her angular features. Despite this, in her first session modelling for Auerbach she posed nude, facing away from him.
    Writing about that first visit to the studio, she recalled:

    'Frank greeted me with the urgency of a lover. I entered a large dim studio space, dripping and reeking of oil paint. The floor was spongy underneath my feet when I took off my shoes and socks. A small prepared canvas was resting on an easel facing a bed that was covered in purple chenille. Sheets of newspaper were hung out to dry on various lines of string. Heating and gas were minimal' (Debbie Ratcliff, quoted in C. Lampert, N. Rosenthal & I. Carlisle (ed.), Frank Auerbach Paintings and Drawings 1954-2001, exh.cat., London, 2001, p. 30).

    She recalled the sexual tension of these sessions, although she would soon relax enough to enjoy conversations about art and literature with Auerbach. In this picture, Auerbach has deliberately emphasised the contrast between the scumbled background and the more massy build-up of brushstrokes that coalesce to form the structure of the sitter's head. The sensuality of these brushstrokes in Head of Debbie Ratcliff II hint at the electric atmosphere of the sittings. Certainly, within a short time, she briefly formed a part of Auerbach's small canon of regular sitters such as J.Y.M., Catherine Lampert and David Landau; she featured in a number of his paintings, going back to his studio again and again before returning to her native Australia, where she is a writer.

    Special Notice

    Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
    VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 15% on the buyer's premium


    Marlborough Fine Art Ltd., London.
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1984.

    Pre-Lot Text



    R. Hughes, Frank Auerbach, London 1990, no. 75 (illustrated in colour, p. 114).
    Frank Auerbach: Paintings and Drawings, exh. cat., London, Royal Academy of Arts, 2001, fig. 20 (illustrated in colour, p. 30).


    Venice, XLII Biennale di Venezia, British Pavilion, Frank Auerbach: Paintings and Drawings 1977-85, June-September 1986, no. 31 (illustrated in colour, p. 49).
    Hamburg, Kunstverein, Frank Auerbach, October-November 1986, no. 36 (illustrated in colour, p. 71). This exhibition later travelled to Essen, Museum Folkwang, January-March 1987.
    Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Frank Auerbach : retrospectiva, 1954-1985, April-May 1987 (illustrated in colour, p. 67).