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Home / Culture and Heritage / Ben Uri Gallery, The London Jewish Museum of Art / A Sense of Place Teaching Pack Images / Auerbach, Frank: Sketch for Mornington Crescent, Summer Morning II 2004
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Auerbach, Frank: Sketch for Mornington Crescent, Summer Morning II 2004


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2368 x 2380

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Auerbach was born in Berlin, to Max Auerbach and Charlotte Nora Burchardt, a Jewish couple, both of whom had studied art. In 1939, a month before his eighth birthday, his parents sent him to England as part of the Kindertransport programme to escape the Nazis. They later died in a concentration camp. Auerbach was sent to Bunce Court, a boarding school for Jewish refugee children in Kent, where he was recognised as for both his artistic and acting skills. He has remained in England ever since, taking British nationality in 1947. He studied art at St Martin's School of Art in London from 1948 to 1952 and then at the Royal College of Art, where he graduated with a silver medal and first class honours. However, he was more strongly influenced by lessons with David Bomberg at Borough Polytechnic which he also encouraged his St Martin's classmate, Leon Kossoff to attend.

At 17, while playing a bit part in a play, he met the 32-year-old Estella (Stella) West, a widowed amateur actress who ran a boarding house in Earl's Court. She became one of his three longstanding models. (The others are his wife Julia and a professional model, Juliet Yardley Mills.) His way of working meant that paintings took hundreds of sittings to complete. West recalled that, ‘he would spend hours on something and the next time he would scrape the whole lot down. That used to upset me terribly. I wondered what I was doing it all for.’

His first solo show was at the Beaux-Arts Gallery in London in 1956. and he had five solo shows there up to 1963. While still a student, he took over from his friend Leon Kossoff the Camden studio that has been his base ever since. As well as portraits, Auerbach has made a number of landscapes of scenes close to his studio, often taking building sites as the subject. Recurring local subjects are Mornington Crescent and the Art Deco former Carreras cigarette factory, Camden Palace dance club and nearby Primrose Hill.

Auerbach does not use outline sketches for his portraits, relying on his sitters being able to reassume the same pose time after time. By contrast, he sketches landscapes on the spot and brings these back to the studio, sometimes using as many as 200 sketches for a single painting. His work could broadly be described as Expressionist. The predominance of earth colours in his early work was largely a matter of budget. An annuity from the Beaux Arts allowed him to buy more paints and colours such as aquamarine, pink and cadmium red began to appear in his paintings.

16th Feb 2011

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