2 More
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more

The Awning I

The Awning I
oil on board
18 1/8 x 18 7/8in. (46 x 47.9cm.)
Painted in 2008
Marlborough Gallery, New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owners in 2009.
W. Feaver, Frank Auerbach, New York 2009, p. 350, no. 978 (illustrated in colour, p. 350).
New York, Luhring Augustine, Frank Auerbach: Selected Works, 1978 2016, 2020–2021, pp. 48, 49 and 63 (illustrated in colour, pp. 49 and 63).
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. This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

Brought to you by

Tessa Lord
Tessa Lord Senior Specialist, Head of Department

Lot Essay

Bathed in luminous tones of yellow, orange, gold and blue, The Awning I is a radiant ode to London: the city that has inspired Frank Auerbach for over half a century. Painted in 2008, it offers a concentration of rich impasto and sweeping geometric planes, its jewel-toned palette demonstrating the ever-brighter hues that came to dominate Auerbach’s later practice. The work belongs to a series depicting the awning outside a pub near Mornington Crescent Station—Auerbach’s beloved neighbourhood since 1954. With its complex angles and perspective, the subject offered a unique technical challenge: ‘I thought there was no possible way I could paint the awning which was why I deliberately chose it’, he explains. Sketching outside in the early morning before returning to the studio, Auerbach witnessed the unseen comings and goings of the city waking up: William Feaver points out that the work features a trace of a brewery delivery man wheeling a barrel past the central one-way sign. Here, the everyday passage of life becomes a vision of thrilling, intoxicating splendour, alive with the promise of a new day.

‘This part of London is my world’, said Auerbach. ‘I’ve been wandering around these streets for so long’ (F. Auerbach, quoted in Frank Auerbach Paintings and Drawings 1954-2001, exh. cat. Royal Academy of Arts, London 2001, p. 15). Born in Berlin to Jewish parents, he had fled Nazi Germany for England on the Kindertransport at the age of eight. During holidays from his school in Kent, he would visit his older cousin Gerda and her husband in North London; later, as a student at St Martin’s and the Royal College of Art, he and fellow artist Leon Kossoff would roam the city’s war-torn streets, and spend hours together in the National Gallery. In 1954, he took over Kossoff’s old studio, located in an alley in Camden, and has remained there ever since. Images of Primrose Hill, Mornington Crescent, Hampstead and other local neighbourhoods would become the lifeblood of his art, captured over and over again in changing seasons and weather. As the city began to rebuild itself, and Auerbach took his place at the forefront of its art scene, his love affair with London intensified further still: by 2008, his paintings had taken on a near-exotic quality, here reminiscent of André Derain’s Fauvist impressions of Charing Cross Bridge.

From Impressionist boulevards to Jean Dubuffet’s Paris Circus series and David Hockney’s vivid depictions of Los Angeles, artists have long taken their immediate locales as inspiration. Claude Monet, like Auerbach, returned religiously to the same subjects, even putting London at the centre of his oeuvre for a time. The awning itself, meanwhile, seems to evoke a nostalgic dream of fin de siècle café culture, immortalised in the work of Van Gogh and Renoir, and updated here for a new millennium. For Auerbach, who also painted friends and muses with the same intense scrutiny in the confines of his studio, these works were more than just landscapes: they were, instead, portraits. Many years prior, in night classes at Borough Polytechnic, Auerbach’s tutor David Bomberg had impelled him to seek out the ‘spirit in the mass’: the young artist had taken the direction to heart, and by the time of the present work was still creating his paintings through a lengthy process of excavation, scraping off pigment and rebuilding in over periods of months and years. Here, as if from the depths of art history itself, London emerges in a blaze of fiery, incandescent sunlight, a new dawn emerging on the horizon.

More from 20th/21st Century: London Evening Sale

View All
View All