Some quick thoughts on Frank Auerbach at Tate Britain


Frank Auerbach – Tate Britain, 9th October 2015 – 13 March 2016

  1. The first thing that struck me was the sheer physicality of the paintings (they’re not in frames so much as contained within glass fronted boxes).  You don’t get this from the Catalogue (Fiona went a few weeks ago and brought back the book; I was rather unimpressed by the reproductions and was then surprised by how much I liked them in the gallery) or indeed online.
  2. There is something sculptural about about the depth of the paint in the early (1950s + 60s) works. The later paintings are less obviously built up over time, but still show more evidence of having been painted than they do of being paintings of something.
  3. They are also both in concept and appearance a bit like a picked and picked again and again scab! The word scarification comes to mind.
  4. Also the worked over drawings include patches of paper collaged on over lower – presumably damaged or at least un-erasable – generations of the charcoal chalk and paper work. The result was a sort of patchwork effect that made me think of Hockney’s 80’s print collages. Possibly a usable effect later in the course…
  5. Following on from the above comment, I think that if I were to leave only one picture of myself for posterity to gawp at, I’d rather it was not an Auerbach. If I were to leave behind two though, I’d be honoured…
  6. Like the Monet pictures of Rouen Cathedral in the Musee de Orsay in Paris, the pictures have meaning and content at a distance and then dissolve into painting as you step closer. You can see (and see in my previous comment) how upsetting this can be to people who want simple likenesses of people and things…
  7. In the leaflet that you’re given as you go in, each of the rooms (organised by decade, with the paintings chosen by the artist and then a final, career-spanning one put together by Catherine Lampert) has a short essay on one of the paintings by a critic, a sitter or another artist. These are all fine descriptions – Lucien Freud on how the size of the picture relates to the size of the idea it contains is very good indeed- and I shall return to them when I start on the fourth part of C&N
  8. Similarly a line from the piece on Building Site, Earls Court, Winter 1953 – “I actually posed a still life in the front, of a saw and a pair of pinchers and a hammer, and thought I would create some sort of connection between painting from life and painting drawings” – points towards an idea for inclusion into the constructed work for Assignment 5: combining some sort of studio shot with a location background. Hmmm
  9. And, finally, there seems to be some connection between the later, strongly coloured pictures and the Saul Leiter work that’s on at the Photographers’ Gallery at the moment. In my head at least…

And as ever, I’ll now link to the Review in The Guardian (Tim Adams, 11/10/15)

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