Frank Auerbach (British, born 1931) Reclining Model, Back View 1960-1961

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Lot 5AR
Frank Auerbach
(British, born 1931)
Reclining Model, Back View
Sold for £ 872,750 (US$ 1,148,493) inc. premium

Lot Details
Frank Auerbach (British, born 1931)
Reclining Model, Back View

dated 60-61
charcoal, crayon and pencil on paper

58 by 78.8 cm.
22 13/16 by 31 in.


  • Provenance
    Beaux Arts Gallery, London
    Private Collection, UK
    Marlborough Fine Art, London
    Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2000

    William Feaver, Frank Auerbach, New York 2009, p. 246, no. 97, illustrated in colour (dated 1960)

    Frank Auerbach's Reclining Model, Back View, from 1960-1961, appearing at auction for the first time, demonstrates the artist's unrivaled skills as a draughtsman. The rough, highly textured surface of the two superimposed sheets of paper reveals the intensity of Auerbach's technique, as he built up layers, erased them, rubbed and scratched the surface to conjure the image. Robert Hughes' description of Auerbach at work brings this process vividly to life: "As he scribbles and saws at the paper, the sticks of willow charcoal snap; they make cracking sounds like a tooth breaking on bone. When he scrubs the paper with a rag clouds of black dust fly...In the end, the likeness is retrieved, but as a ghost, the colour of very tarnished silver" (Robert Hughes, Frank Auerbach, London 1990, pp. 15-16). Hughes' choice of words is intriguing, particularly the way that he presents Auerbach as "retrieving" the image, as if pulling it back into existence, or drawing it out of the darkness. The birth of the final work is long and slow, chaotic and energetic too, often involving numerous sittings. The effort and concentration which goes into this creation, those countless hours of looking, analysing and recording, seem to be etched into the very substance of this exquisite work. The creation process makes the present work more remarkable for being one of the most complete, most finished, examples of the charcoal nudes from this period.

    Auerbach uses numerous techniques to capture his vision of reality, including painting and print-making, but his drawings are often particularly powerful. Reclining Model, Back View captures an intimate moment in the studio, a nude model reclining with her back to the viewer. Although largely an exploration of light and dark, of the atmospheric possibilities of intense chiaroscuro, the lower areas of the composition are lifted by a striking splash of verdant green crayon and even a flash of bright red. The languorous figure emerges from the umbrous background, a sinuous, silvery form which stretches across the composition. Although she is not identified in this work's title, the existence of a similar drawing in the collection of the British Museum entitled Portrait of EOW on the bed at Earl's Court from 1959, which has dashes of warm scarlet crayon, suggests that the present work might also depict Estella Olive West, or E.O.W. as she is best known. As the artist's lover, model and muse for many years she is the sitter in many of his best known portraits and these are widely seen as some of his most insightful and perceptive works. Beyond the drawing in the British Museum collection, works depicting Stella also include another charcoal work from 1959-1960 now held by the Tate Gallery, London and a grisaille oil from 1961 in the National Galleries of Scotland.

    The list of artists that Frank Auerbach admires is long, and includes names both ancient and modern. He is known for spending hours in London's National Gallery, studying and sketching works by the Old Masters. Although his art could be viewed as avant-garde, he prefers to see himself as part of a long artistic tradition: "[...] What happened in France around [Jacques-Louis] David's time and later, when people suddenly began to invent totally independent languages for noting down what they were doing, showed at least as radical a change. Géricault, Delacroix, Corot, Courbet, Ingres, Daumier – they came up with languages of a hitherto unknown disparity" (the artist in: Robert Hughes, Frank Auerbach, London 1990, pp. 7-8). The use of the demanding grisaille technique is evident throughout the art historical canon and something Auerbach would have studied in his visits to the museum. The technique, which eschews colour, was frequently employed as a means of demonstrating an artist's skill in rendering shape and form, even the effect of three-dimensional sculpture, without the use of colour whatsoever. The depth, texture and form seen in the present work, using only black and white, offset by splashes of colour at the immediate edges, is all the more dramatic in the context of Auerbach's later, almost sculptural uses of oil paint, for which he is best known.
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  1. Amy Thompson
    Specialist - Contemporary Art
    Work Chicago, United States
    Work T: +1 872 400 6314
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