© Frank Auerbach / Marlborough Fine Art (London) Ltd / National Portrait Gallery, London
by Frank Auerbach
pencil and graphite, 1994-2001
30 1/8 in. x 22 3/4 in. (764 mm x 577 mm)
Given by the Art Fund, 2002
This portraitback to top
Acknowledging the difficulty of 'chasing one's own shadow', self-portraits are a rare aspect of Auerbach's work and this drawing is only one of five in existence.
Linked publicationsback to top
- Rideal, Liz, Insights: Self-portraits, 2005, p. 97 Read entry
David Bomberg taught Auerbach passion for ‘form’ and Auerbach remarked that ‘It was those standards and his [Bomberg’s] impatience with anything less that I found stimulating’. Auerbach is known for this same passion and for the amount of time he spends reworking the subjects of his works, as revealed by the dating of this drawing.
- Various contributors, National Portrait Gallery: A Portrait of Britain, 2014, p. 250 Read entry
Frank Auerbach is one of Britain’s pre-eminent post-war artists who contributed to a radical new realism in British figurative painting. Born in Berlin, he arrived in England as a child refugee from Nazi Germany. His subjects are cityscapes around Camden Town, and a small group of close friends and family who he portrays repeatedly.
This drawing is a self-portrait, a rare aspect of the artist’s work. At the time of acquisition, he likened this evasive process to ‘chasing one’s own shadow’. He returned to this image, on which he had been working sporadically since 1994, in 2001, when he was preparing for his Royal Academy retrospective. Following the Gallery’s acquisition of the work, Auerbach provided a statement describing how he would usually encircle his sitters, in order to understand them ‘as a solid mass displacing space’. However, when working on the self-portrait, he only had recourse to a mirror and a photograph of himself, cut out from a newspaper, to gain ‘a certain objectivity’. This unique and powerful image comprises layers of animated lines in pencil and graphite, the silver tones the result of countless rubbings out, which the artist describes as ‘transformations’.
Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top
Events of 1994back to top
Current affairsThe Queen opens the Channel Tunnel. After seven years of digging, various financial hold-ups and technical difficulties, a long-awaited rail link is created between Britain and France. The tunnel is 31 miles long with 24 miles under the sea, the longest under-sea tunnel in the world.
Art and scienceTrevor Bayliss starts production of his clockwork radio. The innovation is a fantastic example of simple environmentally friendly design and has been found particularly useful in areas where there is no electricity supply, such as remote communities in Africa.
Blur release their classic Britpop album depicting London life, Parklife.
InternationalViolence breaks out in Rwanda. An estimated 800,000 people were massacred in the Rwandan Genocide, most of them Tutsis, murdered by extremist Hutu militia groups.
South Africa holds its first democratic elections in which full enfranchisement is granted. The African National Congress led by Nelson Mandela won the majority of the vote, and Mandela became the country's first black State President.
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