Frank Auerbach (British, born 1931) The Studios II 1995
Lot 13* AR
Frank Auerbach
(British, born 1931)
The Studios II
Sold for £ 422,500 (US$ 551,240) inc. premium

Lot Details
Frank Auerbach (British, born 1931) The Studios II 1995 Frank Auerbach (British, born 1931) The Studios II 1995 Frank Auerbach (British, born 1931) The Studios II 1995
Frank Auerbach (British, born 1931)
The Studios II

oil on board

56 by 56 cm.
22 1/16 by 22 1/16 in.

This work was executed in 1995.


  • Provenance
    Rex Irwin Art Dealer, Sydney
    Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 1996

    Sydney, Rex Irwin Art Dealer in collaboration with Marlborough Gallery, Frank Auerbach: Paintings and Drawings, 1996, n.p., no. 19, illustrated in colour

    William Feaver, Frank Auerbach, New York 2009, p. 325, no. 757, illustrated in colour

    It would not seem unreasonable to suggest that the studio is the centre of Frank Auerbach's world. Famous for his dedication to his art, Auerbach is a man compelled by a constant drive to paint. His days are spent studying, creating, composing and inventing. He is never happier that when he is at work, and rarely ventures far beyond the limits of his home or his work space: "Once or twice when I was young I did try to go away for a couple of days, to Brighton or Oxford, for a break, and I just didn't know what the hell to do with myself. I felt impatient and bored. But I can be alone working in London for days on end and feel completely happy" (the artist interviewed by Nicholas Wroe on, 16 May 2015). He is a man unimpressed with the trappings of his huge success, unswayed by the glamour of the art world. As a result, his world is relatively small, focused largely on a few streets in North London. "The map of Auerbach's universe is sparse. His paintings reveal a life pared down to a few significant co-ordinates; there is the studio entrance, glimpses of Mornington Crescent, the house next door, a certain tree and a few faces" (Hannah Rothschild,, 30 September 2013). His life may be geographically limited, but his artistic vision is apparently boundless. Returning repeatedly to the same few subjects, be they human faces or North London streets, Auerbach has produced a startling body of work which is notable for its huge range and diversity. As we see in The Studios II of 1995, great art can be inspired by the most simple, everyday scenes.

    The view that we are invited to contemplate lies towards the end of journey made by Frank Auerbach 365 days a year. He has been making this journey every day since he first took up residence in a Victorian building in Camden over sixty years ago. It is a place with a long history of art: before Auerbach, the building had been used by painters Frances Hodgkins and Leon Kossoff. This painting shows us a place that is obviously dear to Auerbach's heart, the approach along a narrow, unassuming alleyway to his cluttered, paint-flecked studio space. First capturing its image in 1977, this is a subject that the artist has returned to over and over again, in both small sketches and more substantial oil paintings such as the present work. And yet each version has its own unique qualities, its own distinct methods and manners. While hardly a picturesque spot in any conventional sense, the artist locates beauty in this messy corner of a busy city.

    In this painting, we find a strong, colourful palette which differs markedly from earlier, often darker depictions of the scene. Here we see Auerbach in joyful mood, and encounter a landscape of cadmium yellow and green hues imbued with a sense of life and vigour. Inspired by a quote from poet Robert Frost, the artist himself has stated such ambitions for his work: "'I want the poem to be like ice on a stove – riding on its own melting.' Well, a great painting is like ice on a stove. It is a shape riding on its own melting into matter and space; it never stops moving backwards and forwards" (the artist in; 'To drag the past into the present and re-animate it', Catherine Lampert, 20 October 2015 on In The Studios II we witness the results of this intention in all of its bright, bold beauty.

    Auerbach is often described as a member of the so-called 'School of London', a term first coined by the artist R.B. Kitaj to describe the group of artists featured in his seminal 1970 exhibition at London's Hayward Gallery entitled The Human Clay. Along with Francis Bacon, Howard Hodgkin, David Hockney and Lucian Freud amongst others, Auerbach's vital contribution to the revitalisation of figurative painting during the second half of the twentieth century is now clear. Auerbach was to become particularly close to Freud, the two men remaining friends for much of their adult lives. Both also admired and collected the work of the other, and in May of 2014 the bequest of Freud's enviable collection of Auerbach drawings and paintings to the nation was announced. Following an exhibition of the collection that same year at Tate Britain, this important group of works has been split between various institutions across the country.

    His respect for his contemporaries aside, Auerbach's influences are reassuringly traditional, with his landscapes inspired by J.M.W. Turner and John Constable, Rembrandt and Peter Paul Rubens. His technique, of course, is dramatically different to these 'Old Masters', with the painterly freedom and extraordinarily thick impasto of The Studios IIreminiscent of the landscapes of Vincent van Gogh or Chaïm Soutine. Built up over weeks and months, with sections altered and removed before being painstakingly rebuilt, the surface of an Auerbach painting bears witness too many hours of careful, painstaking devotion. After over six decades of quiet commitment to his craft, Auerbach's reputation has never been greater.

    The retrospective currently on view at London's Tate Britain demonstrates not only the variety of the artist's works, but also his global following, and includes works gathered from private collections across the world. In addition, the Tate holds many Auerbach works in its own collection, including two paintings from the The Studio series: an earlier example created in 1979-80 displays more sombre characteristics, while another from 1995 features the same vibrant tones that we see in the present work. In recent years, Auerbach has been labelled Britain's greatest living painter, and his work described as "an inescapable presence in British figurative painting" (Norman Rosenthal, Frank Auerbach: Paintings and Drawings 1954-2001, London 2001, p.11), although the artist himself would no doubt remain indifferent to such labels. He certainly stands as an example of the value of hard work and devotion over hyperbole and hype. In dedicating himself to art, particularly to painting, Frank Auerbach has steadily established himself as an artist without equal, unrivalled in both talent and prestige. For evidence of his love for art, and his passion for painting, we need look no further than The Studios II. If the artist remains something of an enigma, an intensely private man of few words, then this painting says all that needs to be said.
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  1. Amy Thompson
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