Frank Auerbach is a German-born, British painter. His work typically portrays small groups of female models, single figures, or scenes around London, especially Camden Town, where his studio is located.
Auerbach's work might broadly be called expressionist. It is best recognised by heavily impastoed canvases in which thick brush-strokes streak across the canvas, imparting a great sense of movement. The impasto is sometimes so heavy that the paint seems to have been sculpted rather than brushed on. Over his career, Auerbach formed a small group of dedicated sitters who sat for him on a regular basis and with whom he developed very intense relationships. This commitment, from both parties, contributes to the depth of feeling felt when looking at his paintings. Often entitled ‘Portrait of...’, they are not portraits in the typical sense of the word. Auerbach said:
“As soon as I become consciously aware of what the paint is doing my involvement with the painting is weakened. Paint is at its most eloquent when it is a by-product of some corporeal, spatial, developing imaginative concept, a creative identification with the subject”.
The first major retrospective of Auerbach's work was presented in 1978 by the Arts Council of Great Britain for the Hayward Gallery, London, and then toured to the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh. In 1995 the National Gallery put on an exhibition of Auerbach’s work drawn after the Old Masters, and in 2001 the Royal Academy presented a major retrospective of his drawings and paintings.