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Frank Auerbach

British Painter

Frank Auerbach Photo
Movement: School of London

Born: 1931 - Berlin, Germany

"Painting is not manufactured. Each picture has its own history. The only constants are the fact that it always takes a long time, sometimes a very long time...."

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Summary of Frank Auerbach

An intensely private man who prefers to let his paintings speak for themselves, London-based painter Frank Auerbach occupies the position of a Modern Master. His fusion of realism, abstraction, and psychological introspection in sculptural layers of paint took post-World War II painting in new directions. But more than rendering his own subjective view of a person or a landscape, Auerbach thematizes seeing in his paintings, insisting that viewers take notice of how we perceive and form images in our mind and give them meaning.

Part of the influential School of London, Auerbach formed close friendships with Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon, but he also influenced scores of more contemporary painters who are exploring the human body and flesh, including Jenny Saville, Cecily Brown, Adrian Ghenie, and Antony Micallef.

Key Ideas

Like many post-World War II artists, Auerbach saw little need to make sharp distinctions between figuration and abstraction. Instead using boldly gestural strokes and thick impastos of paint to render his subjects, Auerbach painted psychological portraits and moody landscapes that captured the cultural weariness and melancholia of the time brought on by the devastations of the war.
Known for his densely painted canvases, sometimes inches thick, Auerbach's paintings seem archaeological, with the viewer attempting to excavate the layers of the composition to uncover various perspectives and memories that went into the creation of the final image before them.
Auerbach's portraits and landscapes both emerge from the canvas and dissolve into the paint, suggesting their mutability and impermanence. Calling attention to the instability of self-perception and nature, Auerbach's paintings expose the methods by which we make sense of ourselves and the world around us.
Frank Auerbach Photo

Frank Auerbach was born in Berlin in 1931 to an upper-middle class family that descended from a line of rabbis. His mother Charlotte was a former art student, and his father Max was a patent lawyer.

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