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Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTION

Reclining Figure I

Reclining Figure I
oil on paper laid down on board
30 7/8 x 22 3/8in. (78.5 x 56.8cm.)
Executed in 1965
Marlborough Fine Art, London.
Waddington Galleries, London.
Henry Vyner Collection, UK.
His sale, Christie’s London, 12 July 1974, lot 405.
Marlborough Fine Art, London (acquired at the above sale).
Private Collection, Canada.
Anon. sale, Christie’s London, 2 December 1996, lot 308.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
W. Feaver, Frank Auerbach, New York 2009, no. 188 (illustrated, p. 258).
W. Feaver, Frank Auerbach, New York 2022, no. 188 (illustrated, p. 300).
London, Marlborough Fine Art, Frank Auerbach, 1967, p. 3, no. 3 (illustrated, p. 6).
Zurich, Marlborough Galerie, Frank Auerbach: Paintings and Drawings, 1954-1976, 1976, p. 8, no. 10.
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.

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Claudia Schürch
Claudia Schürch Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Rendered in a vivid palette of red, white and black, the present work is a striking example of Frank Auerbach’s early reclining nudes. From thick twists of impasto, marbled to the point of abstraction, a sinuous female form emerges, her body outstretched with one knee raised. Executed in 1965, the work dates from a pivotal moment in the artist’s career, coinciding with his move to Marlborough Fine Art and his subsequent rise to international acclaim. The gallery represented artists including Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Francis Bacon. Auerbach, whose work chimed with the currents of both Abstract Expressionism and the School of London, mounted his inaugural exhibition there that year, unveiling the present work at the gallery two years later. Held in the same private collection for half its lifetime, it captures the luminous energy that shone through his oils on paper during this exciting early period, paving the way for the remarkable series of figures reclining upon beds that the artist painted between 1966 and 1970.

The female form had begun to play a pivotal role in Auerbach’s practice during the late 1950s. Stella West (E.O.W.), Juliet Yardley Mills (J.Y.M.) and others drove his painterly language to new heights. Conversant with the nudes of art history, the present work evokes the supine figures of Velázquez, Manet, Modigliani and Matisse. Unlike his predecessors, however, Auerbach was less interested in conveying his subject’s likeness than in capturing a sense of their raw physicality. Within the bare interior of his Camden studio, he layered, scraped away and reapplied his paint for months on end, seeking to unearth what his former teacher David Bomberg had described as ‘the spirit in the mass’. Like the visceral portraits of Bacon and Freud, or the fleshy abstract visions of Willem de Kooning, Auerbach’s figures were almost sculptural in their execution, each brushstroke alive with carnal sensation.

Moving away from the earthen tones of his earliest paintings, Auerbach’s works of the mid-1960s began to incorporate brighter strains of colour: a by-product of his newfound financial success. In 1965 he produced a series of paintings based on Titian’s Tarquin and Lucretia (1571). The present work shares the deep crimson tone that Auerbach borrowed from the latter, equally calling to mind the scarlet drapery of the artist’s The Venus of Urbino (1534). At the same time, its overarching black and white palette bears witness to the rigorous, monochromatic architecture that defined his oils on paper during this period. Its fluid gradation of light and shadow glimmers with Old Masterly chiaroscuro, throwing its subject into animated, volumetric relief. Catherine Lampert notes the artist’s use of ‘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).

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