In 1956 Julia Yardley Mills (J.Y.M.), a professional model, met Auerbach at Sidcup College of Art and offered to pose privately for him. She was a key sitter for a number of Auerbach's portrait works, visiting his Camden studio, every Wednesday and Sunday until 1997. Catherine Lampert notes the closeness of the relationship between the artist and model through their calling of each other, Jimmie and Frankie: 'Often she [J.Y.M.] would sense that Auerbach was depressed, his posture more bent over as he began. She realised that 'after he stops, he is working in his brain ... we had a wonderful relationship because I thought the world of him and he was very fond of me. There was no sort of romance but we were close. Real friends. Sundays now I'm always miserable' (see Exhibtion catalogue, Frank Auerbach: Paintings and Drawings 1954-2001, London, Royal Academy, 2001, pp. 26-7).
In the present work, painted in 1974, J.Y.M.'s head is tilted back and facing slightly to one side, resting against the back of a chair, which was a pose that Auerbach frequently painted her in the 1970s and 1980s. The work is painted with the thick, impasto brushstrokes which are typical of Auerbach's working methods. The dynamism conveyed in these often broad strokes convey the energy and intensity with which the painting was created. Auerbach does not use initial underpainting or outline sketches. Instead he will paint, scrape down the surface and then return to repaint his subject the next day. The result of this technique is that some oil remains, retaining an impression of what was painted before and each time Auerbach returns to his subject he is painting with a greater knowledge and intensity.