The Courtauld Gallery has announced the most significant addition to its modern collections in over a decade – two masterpieces by Frank Auerbach; ‘Rebuilding the Empire Cinema, Leicester Square’, 1962, and ‘Summer, Tretire’, 1975. The works come from the private collection of Auerbach’s close friend, the late Lucian Freud and have been allocated to The Courtauld Gallery by HM Government Acceptance in Lieu Scheme, which is administered by Arts Council England.
It is particularly appropriate that ‘Rebuilding the Empire Cinema, Leicester Square’ finds a permanent museum home at The Courtauld as this painting was the highlight of the Gallery’s 2009-10 exhibition Frank Auerbach: London Building Sites. The exhibition presented significant new research on the work and was the first to present fully Auerbach’s building-site paintings, making the case for them to be considered among the most important contributions to post-War painting in Britain.
‘Rebuilding the Empire Cinema’ was the last of Auerbach’s building-site series, which took as its subject London’s post-war transformation following the destruction wrought by the Blitz. Its extraordinarily thick paint surface, energised through repeated reworking over many months, creates a thrilling vision of the violent and vertiginous sight of the cinema’s interior being rebuilt. The power and confidence of the work mark it out as one of Auerbach’s greatest early achievements.
‘Summer, Tretire’ is one of Auerbach’s major charcoal drawings, which are the equal of his paintings in ambition and intensity. It is one of the very few large-scale landscape drawings Auerbach has produced. It depicts a view from a window in Tretire, Herefordshire, made during one of Auerbach’s rare forays outside of London. The sheet is a significant addition to the Coutauld’s collection of drawings
“Frank Auerbach is one of Britain’s greatest living artists. We are privileged to be able to add these two major works to The Courtauld Gallery’s collection. They will transform our modern holdings and help us fulfil our ambition to extend and enrich this part of our collection. We are most grateful to the HM Government’s Acceptance in Lieu Scheme for this significant allocation. I hope it will underline the vital importance and public benefit of the Scheme in enabling the Nation to secure significant works of art that would otherwise be impossible for museums to acquire” commented Dr. Ernst Vegelin, Head of The Courtauld Gallery.
Both works will be unveiled at The Courtauld Gallery on Thursday 19 March as the highlight of a new display of modern British art, which will also include Freud’s early masterpiece, ‘Girl with a Rose’, 1947-48, a new long-term loan from the British Council.