Frank Auerbach (b. 1931)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
Frank Auerbach (b. 1931)

Tree in Mornington Crescent

Details
Frank Auerbach (b. 1931)
Tree in Mornington Crescent
signed, titled three times and dated 'Tree in Mornington Crescent 1991-92 Auerbach' (on the stretcher)
oil on canvas
50 x 54in. (127 x 137.5cm.)
Painted in 1991-1992
Provenance
Marlborough Fine Art Ltd., London.
Elaine and Melvin Merians Collection, New York (acquired from the above in 1993).
Anon. sale, Christie's London, 30 June 2009, lot 24.
Private Collection, London.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2012.
Literature
W. Feaver, Frank Auerbach, New York 2009, no. 694 (illustrated in colour, p. 316).
Exhibited
New York, Marlborough Gallery Inc., Frank Auerbach Recent Works, 1994, no. 23 (illustrated in colour, unpaged).
New Haven, Yale Center for British Art, The School of London and Their Friends: the Collection of Elaine and Melvin Merians, 2001, p. 116, no. 12 (illustrated in colour, p. 41). This exhibition later travelled to Purchase, Neuberger Museum of Art.
London, Royal Academy of Arts, Frank Auerbach: Paintings and Drawings 1954-2001, 2001, p. 154, no. 72 (illustrated in colour, p. 110).
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.
These lots have been imported from outside the EU for sale using a Temporary Import regime. Import VAT is payable (at 5%) on the Hammer price. VAT is also payable (at 20%) on the buyer’s Premium on a VAT inclusive basis. When a buyer of such a lot has registered an EU address but wishes to export the lot or complete the import into another EU country, he must advise Christie's immediately after the auction.
Where Christie’s has provided a Minimum Price Guarantee it is at risk of making a loss, which can be significant, if the lot fails to sell. Christie’s therefore sometimes chooses to share that risk with a third party. In such cases the third party agrees prior to the auction to place an irrevocable written bid on the lot. The third party is therefore committed to bidding on the lot and, even if there are no other bids, buying the lot at the level of the written bid unless there are any higher bids. In doing so, the third party takes on all or part of the risk of the lot not being sold. If the lot is not sold, the third party may incur a loss.
On occasion, Christie’s has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. Where Christie’s holds such financial interest we identify such lots with the symbol º next to the lot number.
Sale room notice
Please note that this lot should be marked with a diamond symbol in the printed catalogue. Christie's has a direct financial interest in the lot and has funded all or part of our interest with the help of someone else.

Brought to you by

Katharine Arnold
Katharine Arnold

Lot Essay

‘I feel London is this raw thing ... This extraordinary, marvellously unpainted city’
–Frank Auerbach


Rendered with rich, tactile impasto and bathed in warm sunlight, Frank Auerbach’s Tree in Mornington Crescent (1991-92) is a glowing love letter to the landscape surrounding his North London home. With thick, intuitive brushstrokes, the artist composes a symphony of colour, form, texture, light and shade, creating a dynamic interplay between nature and architecture. Distinguished by its impressive scale, the work takes its place within the celebrated sequence of paintings depicting the streets and parks of Camden Town and Primrose Hill, where Auerbach has lived since moving to London in 1954. With examples held in museum collections worldwide, including the the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Tate London and the Art Gallery of New South Wales, these works are among the artist’s most ambitious, virtuosic and personal creations. ‘I have a strong sense that London hasn’t been properly painted’, Auerbach once said. ‘... Monet on the Thames, Derain at the docks; bits and pieces, rather spottily, by Whistler and Sickert. But it has always cried out to be painted, and not been’ (F. Auerbach, quoted in R. Hughes, Frank Auerbach, London 1990, p. 84). Channelling the influence of these forebears – particularly Monet, who similarly returned to his subjects through the seasons – Auerbach chronicled the changing light, weather and skyline of his locale over periods of weeks, months and years. Created from drawings made en plein air, the present work bears witness to this process: its layered painterly surface, repeatedly scraped off, reapplied and embellished over a two-year period, becomes a topography in its own right. Formerly held in the prestigious collection of Elaine and Melvin Merians, it was included in the artist’s major retrospective at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, in 2001.

‘This part of London is my world,’ Auerbach has mused, ‘I’ve been wandering around these streets for so long that I have become attached to them, and as fond of them as people are of their pets’ (F. Auerbach, quoted in Frank Auerbach Paintings and Drawings 1954-2001, exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2001, p. 15). It was on the desolate streets of post-War London that Auerbach found his first true inspirations: from the halls of the National Gallery, where he admired Rembrandt, Turner and Constable, to the inspirational teachings of his mentor David Bomberg, to the quotidian views from his window. Setting out early in the morning, Auerbach would complete rough sketches that he would later work up into paintings in his studio. This disjunction enabled the artist to conflate memory and experience, charting his impressions of the landscape as they sunk progressively deeper into his psyche. ‘I feel London is this raw thing’, he professed. ‘... This extraordinary, marvellously unpainted city where whenever somebody tries to get something going they stop halfway through, and next to it something incongruous occurs ... this higgledy-piggledy mess of a city’ (F. Auerbach, quoted in Frank Auerbach Paintings and Drawings 1954-2001, exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2001, p. 100). In the translation from drawing to painting, colours took on a new, hyper-real intensity, as if refracted through a prism. Trees assumed on a new prominence within Auerbach’s London landscapes after a visit to Herefordshire in 1975, where he had been captivated by the proliferation of branches outside his window. In the present work, the tree is charged with an almost human presence, bisecting the composition like a moving figure.

Auerbach claimed that his landscapes required ‘tremendous physical effort because ... the way I work means putting up a whole image, and dismantling it and putting up another whole image, which is ... physically extremely strenuous, and I don’t think I’ve ever finished a landscape without a six- or seven-hour bout of work’ (F. Auerbach, quoted in R. Hughes, Frank Auerbach, London 1990, p. 171). The scale of the present work, measuring over a metre in height and width, is particularly remarkable in this regard. Using a combination of brushes and palette knives, the artist adopted a cyclical process of painting and erasing, often scraping off the pigment whilst still wet and starting afresh. The surface thus became a residual trace of his process: a literal terrain of peaks, trough and crests that documented the fluctuations of his hand, eye and mind. Through this near-archaeological method, Auerbach brought himself progressively closer to his subject, embedding his own physicality in the grain of the pigment. Bomberg, in his early classes, had instructed his students to seek out what he termed ‘the spirit in the mass’: a notion that resonates with the quivering surface present work. ‘The sense of corporeal reality, that’s what matters’, wrote Auerbach. ‘… I wanted to make a painting that, when you saw it, would be like touching something in the dark’ (F. Auerbach, quoted in R. Hughes, Frank Auerbach, London 1990, p. 86).

More from Post War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction

View All
View All