Frank Auerbach arrived in London in 1947, the same year that he met the sitter of the present work, Stella West. She was 32 when he met her and a widow, running a lodging house in Earl's Court. She sat for Auerbach until 1973 and he commented, 'All of the heads of E.O.W. were worked from E.O.W. for a period of 20 years, 3 times a week, year in year out. They were all done by electric light, in the evening. I think it may well be that electric light had something to do with the look that they had, that is, the particular colours and the paint' (see exhibition catalogue, Frank Auerbach, London, Arts Council of Great Britain, 1978, p. 14).
From 1948 Auerbach attended evening classes at Borough Polytechnic Institute where he was taught by David Bomberg. The influence of the older artist on Auerbach is clear: Auerbach recalled that Bomberg wanted him, 'to apprehend the weight, the twist, the stance, of a human being anchored by gravity: to produce a souvenir of that' (see R. Hughes, Frank Auerbach, London, 1990, p. 31).
This work is presented in a 16th Century Italian frame.