Frank Auerbach

Biography of Frank Auerbach

The figurative painter Frank Auerbach is widely-regarded as one of Britain’s best loved living artists, his intense working methods and uncompromising attitude to his own work have made him a celebrated exponent of painting in the 21st century. The sheer texture and depth of his portraits and his London urban landscapes can make standing in front of his canvases an overwhelming and often unforgettable experience.


Frank Auerbach would not consider himself an expressionist painter, but one who is concerned with capturing the experience of living in the world in paint—as opposed to capturing an emotional state. The thickly applied impasto effect is distinctly his own and he has also been known to spend years on a canvas, scraping off the paint at the end of the day if he is unhappy with it and repeating the process again each day. Such methods of working can make his work incredibly hard to hang due to their weight and occasional fragility.


Frank Auerbachs working methods and paintings have attracted their critics, but he has been championed throughout his career by renowned figures such as the art critic David Sylvester, who considered him the most exciting prospect in English painting since Francis Bacon. He prefers to use the same models repeatedly, believing that familiarity of the subject ensures a more intuitive painting.


Born in Berlin in 1931 to a Jewish family, Frank Auerbach was smuggled to Britain on the outbreak of war to escape the Antisemitism then sweeping through Nazis Germany—his parents perished in a concentration camp in 1942. Showing an astonishing talent for art as well as drama, Auerbach enrolled at St Martin’s School of Art and then the Royal College of Art. He then took a class at London’s Borough Polytechnic where alongside Leon Kossoff he studied under David Bomberg.


Frank Auerbach has received a glittering array of accolades throughout his career and even represented Britain at the Venice Biennale in 1986—he shared the Golden Lion with Sigmar Polke. He has been honored with a retrospective at the Kunstverein in Hamburg in 1986 and at the Rijksmuseum Vincent Van Gogh in Amsterdam in 1989. In 2009 Auerbach had a prestigious solo show at London’s Courtauld Institute of Art in London. In 2015 Auerbach had a retrospective at Tate Britain in London to rave-reviews: The Sunday Times declaring Auerbach to be Britain’s “greatest living artist.”

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