Frank Auerbach

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Frank Auerbach

Frank Auerbach (as Frank Helmut Auerbach Born 29. April 1931 in Berlin ) is a British painter of German origin.


Auerbach was born on April 29, 1931 as the son of a patent attorney in a liberal, assimilated Jewish family in Berlin; his mother had studied art . One cousin was the literary critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki . In 1939 his parents decided to send him to Great Britain on a Kindertransport . Supported by the writer Iris Origo , the not yet eight-year-old left Germany by ship with five other Jewish children from Hamburg . He did not see his parents again - they became victims of the Holocaust . In Wilmersdorf at Güntzelstraße 49 there is a stumbling stone each for the engineer Max Auerbach (born April 1, 1890 in Rawitsch ) "deported March 1, 1943, Auschwitz ", and for Charlotte Auerbach, b. Borchardt (born August 12, 1902 in Memel ) "deported March 3, 1943, Auschwitz, murdered June 30, 1943".

Auerbach grew up in the country in England and attended the Bunce Court School founded by Anna Essinger in Otterden , Kent. After graduating from high school, he initially planned to study Latin . At the same time he played theater in various small acting troupes and attended art courses at a kind of community college. In 1947 he became a British citizen. From 1948 to 1955 he studied art, initially in a drawing class of the Polish painter David Bomberg , who introduced him to the work of Paul Cézanne . After a few semesters at St. Martin's School of Art , he graduated from the Royal College of Art with honors and received a silver medal in recognition of his achievements . While still a student, he took over a studio in the London borough of Camden , Camden Town, from his college friend, the painter Leon Kossoff , where he still works today. Auerbach's first solo exhibitions in London from 1956 onwards were unsuccessful; For many years the painter had to earn his living as a frame builder and art teacher . The public and critics could not do much with his portraits, chiseled out in extremely thick layers of paint .

Over time, the idiosyncratic painter developed into an insider tip in the international art scene, first exhibitions on the European continent, u. a. 1973 in Milan , followed. Auerbach's actual breakthrough as a recognized artist came in 1986 at the age of 55 with the design of the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale : together with Sigmar Polke he received the Golden Lion . Today Frank Auerbach is considered one of the most important representatives of figurative painting in Great Britain. His works are in numerous collections, u. a. represented in London's Tate Gallery ; In 2001 the Royal Academy honored him with a major retrospective . In Germany works by him a. a. On display at the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg in 2002/2003 .

Frank Auerbach is considered a workaholic . He was close friends with the painters Lucian Freud and RB Kitaj, who also worked in London .

The German writer WG Sebald , who lives in England , published The Emigrants in 1992 , the description of four refugee fates from the time of National Socialism , all based on the biographies of real people, the last "Max Aurach" and others. a. on that of the painter Frank Auerbach. In 1996 the English translation ( The Emigrants ) appeared. Auerbach had refused permission for his pictures to appear in the English edition. Sebald felt he was right to adapt Auerbach's life story because he had taken all the material from publicly available sources, but renamed the chapter “Max Ferber” - including its title in the later German editions. Sebald: "I withdraw if I get any sense of the person's discomfort".


Auerbach's idiosyncratic style of painting cannot be clearly assigned to any art direction: expressive , but not expressionistic ; Excessive use of color, but economical in the choice of his motifs - be it people, urban landscapes or buildings. He sticks to a figurative style of painting without having changed his style significantly over the decades. He worked on his portraits for months, sometimes years, which he himself called heads . The portrayed - mostly women from his personal environment and his wife Julia - sit in long sessions as models in his studio, which he rarely and reluctantly leaves. He used to make hundreds of shorthand sketches for urban landscapes , which were constantly being changed. The painter likes to visit the portrait collections of old masters in the Tate Gallery , which serve as inspiration for his minds .

In the painting process, color lines applied using the Impasto technique become arms, legs, facial features or parts of the building, which in turn influence the guidance of the painting tool. In the portraits in particular, the painter tries to knead out the inner essence of the models, which brings his “heads” close to caricatures. In recent years, however, the painter has turned from the earthy colors of the earlier years to more lively shades in his choice of colors. He also makes - very rarely - etchings.

Art historians put Frank Auerbach in line with Chaim Soutine , Ernst-Ludwig Kirchner , Alberto Giacometti and Willem de Kooning , some even with Rembrandt because of the preference for impasto paint and a similarly intimate proximity to the models . He sees himself as a loner beyond all fashions , as Robinson Crusoe of the art world. Frank Auerbach u. a. from the Marlborough Fine Art gallery in London and New York .



Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Stumbling blocks
  2. Anna's children at, accessed June 9, 2016
  3. Jackie Wullschlager: Images in flux , in: Financial Times , October 17, 2015, p. 12