Frank Auerbach

A leading figure of the School of London, Frank Auerbach is celebrated for his portraits and landscape paintings. Forged from thick, sculptural impasto, scraped off and repainted over long periods, his works seek to capture the living physical presence of his subjects. Auerbach has returned repeatedly to the same people and places over the past 70 years, producing etchings and charcoal drawings as well as paintings. His distinctive style changed the face of figurative art during the 20th century.

Born to Jewish parents in Berlin in 1931, Auerbach arrived in Britain via the Kindertransport shortly before the outbreak of World War II. He loved art from a young age and went on to study at Saint Martin’s School of Art and the Royal College of Art in London.

Auerbach was particularly inspired by a series of night classes at Borough Polytechnic taught by David Bomberg, who encouraged his students to seek out the ‘spirit in the mass’. During this period he became close friends with Leon Kossoff, and the two became each other’s early muses. Auerbach’s Head of Leon Kossoff (1954) sold for £2,658,500 at Christie’s in 2016.

In 1954, Auerbach moved into the North London studio where he would remain for the rest of his career. Its tiny, bare interior changed very little over the decades. Seated upon a chair or bed, in close proximity to Auerbach’s easel, his subjects watched for weeks, months and years as he wrestled their forms into paint. Estella Olive West (E.O.W.) and Juliet Yardley Mills (J.Y.M.) became two of his most important muses. Others included his cousin Gerda Boehm, his wife Julia and his son Jake, as well as scholars such as Catherine Lampert and William Feaver.

Looking beyond the studio, Auerbach captured the daily flux of London life with the same intensive scrutiny. His paintings of Primrose Hill, Mornington Crescent and the streets of Camden are sought-after at auction, each a love letter to the city where he made his home.

Auerbach was also influenced by his encounters with art history. As a student he was deeply inspired by visits to London’s National Gallery, and later made several paintings in homage to its collection. Among these was After Rubens' Samson and Delilah (1993), which sold for £3,721,250 at Christie’s in 2017.

More broadly, Auerbach drew inspiration from the works of Rembrandt, Picasso, Giacometti, Soutine and de Kooning. He also formed important relationships with other School of London artists, including Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud. Portraits of him by both painters, including Bacon’s Double Portrait of Lucian Freud and Frank Auerbach (1964), bear witness to this friendship.


Frank Auerbach (b. 1931)

After Rubens' Samson and Delilah

Frank Auerbach (b. 1931)

Head of Leon Kossoff

FRANK AUERBACH (B. 1931)

Primrose Hill

Frank Auerbach (b. 1931)

Tree in Mornington Crescent

Frank Auerbach (b. 1931)

Head of J.Y.M.

Frank Auerbach (b. 1931)

Portrait of Helen Gillespie I

Frank Auerbach (b. 1931)

Head of E.O.W.

Frank Auerbach (b. 1931)

Tree in Mornington Crescent

FRANK AUERBACH (B. 1931)

J.Y.M. Seated

FRANK AUERBACH (B. 1931)

J.Y.M. in the Studio III

FRANK AUERBACH (B. 1931)

Reclining Model in the Studio II

FRANK AUERBACH (B. 1931)

Seated Model IV

Frank Auerbach (B. 1931)

Portrait of Gerda Boehm III

Frank Auerbach (b. 1931)

Nude on Bed II

Frank Auerbach (b. 1931)

Figure on a Bed III

Frank Auerbach (B. 1931)

Primrose Hill Study - Autumn Evening

FRANK AUERBACH (B. 1931)

J.Y.M. Seated II

Frank Auerbach (b. 1931)

Head of Leon Kossoff

Frank Auerbach (b. 1931)

Head of E.O.W.

Frank Auerbach (b. 1931)

Figure Seated on Bed

Frank Auerbach (b. 1931)

Self Portrait

Frank Auerbach (b. 1931)

Head of Paula Eyles

Frank Auerbach (b. 1931)

Mornington Crescent Looking South II

FRANK AUERBACH (B. 1931)

Head of Debbie Ratcliff II

Frank Auerbach (b. 1931)

Tower Block Hampstead Road

Frank Auerbach (b. 1931)

Head of J.Y.M. - Profile V

FRANK AUERBACH (B. 1931)

Catherine Lampert Seated II

Frank Auerbach (b. 1931)

Study for Tree on Primrose Hill

FRANK AUERBACH (B. 1931)

The Studios under Snow

FRANK AUERBACH (B. 1931)

Reclining Model, Back View

Frank Auerbach (b. 1931)

Figure on a Bed

Frank Auerbach (b. 1931)

Portrait of Leon Kossoff

FRANK AUERBACH (B. 1931)

Reclining Figure I

Frank Auerbach (B. 1931)

Catherine Lampert Seated

Frank Auerbach (b. 1931)

Figure on a Bed

Frank Auerbach (b. 1931)

Head of Debbie Ratcliff II

FRANK AUERBACH (B. 1931)

Portrait of Debbie Ratcliff

Frank Auerbach (b. 1931)

The Pillarbox

Frank Auerbach (b. 1931)

Primrose Hill

Frank Auerbach (b. 1931)

Head of E.O.W. I

FRANK AUERBACH (B. 1931)

Carreras Factory at Mornington Crescent

Frank Auerbach (b. 1931)

Portrait of Leon Kossoff

Frank Auerbach (b. 1931)

Reclining Head of Julia

Frank Auerbach (b. 1931)

J.Y.M. Seated II

FRANK AUERBACH (B. 1931)

Head of Jake II

Frank Auerbach (b. 1931)

Head of David Landau II

FRANK AUERBACH (B. 1931)

Head of William Feaver