Tate Britain presents a very significant private collection of paintings by the octogenarian artist frank Auerbach, taken from the personal collection of his dearly departed friend Lucian Freud. Collected over many years; the artist’s works hung in Freud’s house until his death in 2011. Earlier this year the collection was accepted in lieu of inheritance tax and has been acquired for the nation. Although the collection is to be split between allocated public museums and galleries.
The exhibition covers Auerbach’s work from his student days in the late 1940s up to 2007. The artist would continually return to the same subjects; the familiar landscapes of London, particularly Camden Town, and portraits of family and friends. Auerbach would return to these same subjects over many decades. The artist constantly found new and different ways to explore what he saw as indefinable qualities and raw sensations that were stimulated by the forms and structures found in the Auerbach’s environments.
The portraits of the artist’s friends represent another physical sensation; comprised of works on paper of this intimate group of sitters, including Estella (Stella) Olive West who is referenced as (‘E.O.W.’) in the Auerbach’s works, and was his principal model between the early 1950s and 1973, and his wife Julia. They include the celebrated charcoal Head of E.O.W. 1956 and Head of Julia 1985-86. The works on display often highlight a use of paint that the viewer could easily imagine turning Freud’s head. It is not surprising that the two great artist’s formed a long-standing friendship.
The exhibition also serves to highlight this intimate relationship between two of the Uk’s most important artists. Lucian Freud’s collection of his friends work includes hand-drawn birthday cards, one of which features a typically Auerbachian sketch of a famous photo of the two artists sitting together having breakfast at the Cock Tavern, Smithfield, taken in 2002. The other is an affectionate subjective portrait by Auerbach of himself and his wife in typical loose lines, with the words ‘Dear Lucian many happy returns, love from Julia and Frank’
The addition of Auerbach’s communications with Freud add a highly personal dimension to the exhibition; the viewer is privy to the warmth of friendship between the artists; creating a truly touching element to the collection.
This exhibition affords the viewer the final opportunity to see Auerbach’s body of work intact and as curator Elena Crippa and Freud’s professional eye would have you view it. An incident that will never be repeated; and with this transposition from Frued’s estate and house to the white cube of Tate Britain comes a very personal experience of friendship not to be missed.
BP Spotlight Frank Auerbach: Painting and Drawings from the Lucian Freud Estate Tate Britain until 9 November 2014.
Words: Paul Black © Artlyst 2014 Photos Courtesy of Artlyst all rights reserved