Head of Julia III acrylic on board 30 x 30 cm. (11 3/4 x 11 3/4 in.) Painted in 1999
PROVENANCE: With Marlborough Gallery, London, where acquired by the present owner Private Collection, U.K.
LITERATURE: William Feaver, Frank Auerbach, Rizzoli, New York, 2009, p.332, cat.no.817 (col.ill.)
The deep cobalt blue background of this striking painting by Frank Auerbach is suffused with a ceramic tile-like glaze which serves to project the head of Julia towards the viewer; the flesh-coloured tones of the face are highlighted with carefully positioned strokes of brilliant, pure white paint. The result is a superbly executed portrait that takes on a spotlit, theatrical quality. The subject's facial features are further accentuated by Auerbach's typical use of a framework of thick black lines which help to stabilise the whole composition. Discussing the artist's depiction of people Feaver has noted:
'Auerbach's heads are conceived not as busts or cameos but as presences. Some may appear dumbstruck or grief-stricken; some are mussed with sleepiness or clenched with tension; all are open, of course, to conjecture.' (William Feaver, Frank Auerbach, Rizzoli, New York, 2009, pp.20-21).
The sitter is Julia Wolstenholme, the artist's wife in the late 1950s; they separated soon after their marriage. Whilst she was the subject of early charcoal drawings by Auerbach, such as his 1960 Head of Julia (Private Collection) (see Fig.1), she did not become a regular model for his paintings until their reunion in 1976.