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Seated Model IV

Seated Model IV
oil on paper laid down on board
43 ½ x 26 3/8in. (110.5 x 67cm.)
Executed in 1963
Marlborough Fine Art Ltd., London.
Desmond Page, London.
Galleri K, Oslo.
Private Collection, Norway.
Anon. sale, Sotheby's London, 12 October 2012, lot 28.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
W. Feaver, Frank Auerbach, New York 2009, no. 153 (illustrated in colour, p. 253).
London, Marlborough Fine Art Ltd., Studies of the Nude, 1986, p. 50, no. 1 (illustrated in colour, p. 10).
Oslo, Astrup Fearnley Museet for Moderne Kunst, Double Reality, 1994.
Jevnaker, Kistefos-Museet, Kropp: fra Munch til Melgaard, 2004, p. 65, no. 1 (illustrated in colour p. 23).
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Tessa Lord
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Lot Essay

Rendered with richly-worked layers of impasto, Seated Model IV is a sumptuous oil on paper by Frank Auerbach. Deftly modelled in black, white and grey, spiked with hints of warm russet and ochre, a female figure reclines in a chair. Executed in 1963, during the artist’s early rise to acclaim, it is the largest of three sequential works on paper dating from that year. Though the sitter is unnamed, her pose seems to prefigure the series of paintings entitled J.Y.M. in the Studio, commenced later that year and pursued until 1965. These works were the first to name ‘J.Y.M.’, or Juliet Yardley Mills: one of Auerbach’s most important models, who had begun sitting for him during the late 1950s. Caught between the poles of painting and drawing – media that nourished one another across his oeuvre – the oils on paper form a fascinating strand of his practice. In these works, writes Catherine Lampert, ‘he introduces strong black contour lines, hinting at something sculptural, as if wet, malleable pigment might be underpinned by aggressively rendered marks’ (C. Lampert, Frank Auerbach: Speaking and Painting, London 2015, p. 87). Though Auerbach had begun to experiment with a wider range of colours during this period, the present work retains the raw, monochromatic splendour of his early oeuvre, charting the reified play of light and shadow across the flesh. Simultaneously visceral and elegant, it demonstrates the artist’s desire to capture the living physical presence of his subject: a quest he would continue to pursue for the next four decades.

By the early 1960s, Auerbach had established himself among the ranks of what would later become known as the ‘School of London’: a cohort that included Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon. The latter, in particular, shared much of Auerbach’s sensibility: the two artists favoured painterly intuition over carefully-studied precision, viewing art-making as a means of pinning down human sensation. Auerbach would frequently rebuild his painterly surfaces in pursuit of this goal, stripping away layers of pigment and reconstructing them over extended periods. Having studied with David Bomberg, who incited his students to seek out ‘the spirit in the mass’, he subsequently found much to be admired in the work of Willem de Kooning, shown at the Tate during the late 1950s. The present work’s abstract painterly qualities witness this influence: significantly, Auerbach had scrutinized de Kooning’s canvases in black and white reproductions long before he saw them in the flesh. Another important source of inspiration was Alberto Giacometti, images of whose work had begun to circulate in London during the late 1940s. For Auerbach, who worked stoically in the small, bare confines of his Mornington Crescent studio, tales of the Swiss sculptor offered a great deal of hope. ‘We wanted to say something profound and precise, something sharp about truth’, he explained. ‘… The image of Giacometti who created a rich oeuvre, inventive and refined, with modest means in a small room, was very attractive. It made a life in art seem possible’ (F. Auerbach, quoted in C. Lampert, ibid., p. 92). The well-worn Windsor chair, featured here and throughout Auerbach’s oeuvre, serves as a reminder of this belief: that even the humblest settings could reveal the human figure anew.

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