Art charity helps buy rare print for Salisbury

A rare print by Frank Auerbach, one of Britain's most important and influential living artists, has been acquired by the John Creasey Museum in Salisbury, with the help of The Art Fund, the UK's leading independent art charity, which gave a grant of £1,300 towards the total cost of £3,000. The purchase was also supported by the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund. The work will be on show in the Creasey Gallery, Salisbury Library & Galleries until the new year.

Ruth II, 1994 is the first work by Frank Auerbach to enter the Museum’s collection. A rare print in perfect condition, the curator of the John Creasy Museum worked hard to secure it. Auerbach, (b.1931) is a German-born British painter and a contemporary of Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon. His work typically portrays either one of a small group of mainly female models, or scenes around London, especially Camden Town.

David Barrie, Director of The Art Fund, said: ‘The John Creasey Museum has acquired some fine works recently with the help of The Art Fund, by artists such as Sir Peter Blake and Euan Uglow; this Auerbach etching is a significant addition to its collection. Prints such as this give a real insight into the artist’s creative process, and I’m delighted that The Art Fund has been able to help bring this one to Wiltshire for good.’

Peter Riley, curator at the John Creasey Museum said: ‘ It is difficult to find outstanding prints; Auerbach’s print of Ruth II is one of them, and through the help of The Art Fund and the V&A/MLA Purchase Grant Fund we have been fortunate to acquire this work. The collection continues to grow in stature and importance through their generosity.’

Auerbach maintains a close and longstanding relationship with his portrait subjects, some of whom have sat for the artist for decades. The sitter for this print, collector and art historian Ruth Bromberg, has sat for the artist every week since 1991. Auerbach is known for his sculptural approach to drawing and painting – his paintings have sometimes had to be displayed flat rather than hung on a wall for fear that the sheer weight of the many layers of paint would dislodge it from the canvas, and his drawings are often several layers of paper thick and worked and reworked over years.

To create Ruth II, the artist worked on a single drawing of his subject over an extended period of time in many sittings. This drawing was then scaled up and its main lines copied onto an etching plate of the same size. Auerbach then drew directly from life on to the plate, which being unusually large, could be set on an easel, like a painting. The metal plate was protected by a waxy ground which the artist drew upon with a point, usually a dart or screwdriver, revealing the bare metal underneath. The surface of the plate was then cleaned and the marks inked, ready for printing.

Auerbach was born in Berlin, to Max Auerbach and Charlotte Nora Burchardt, both of whom had studied art. His parents sent him to England in 1939 to escape the Nazis (the family was Jewish; his parents subsequently died in a concentration camp). He left Germany on 7 April 1939, a month before his eighth birthday, to attend a boarding school for refugees near Faversham in Kent, where he was already seen as an artistic prodigy, and where his work already showed an expressionistic style. Auerbach has remained in England ever since, taking British nationality in 1947. He studied art at St Martin's School of Art in London and later at the Royal College of Art, but was particularly influenced by artist David Bomberg.

Earlier this year, the John Creasey Museum secured The Devil’s Den, c.1930, by Bill Brandt – an important vintage photographic print – with the help of a £2,500 grant from The Art Fund. Since 1937 The Art Fund has helped museums and galleries in Salisbury acquire objects and works of art for their collections, from Roman hoards to contemporary paintings with grants totalling over £100,000. The Art Fund gives grants for a huge range of acquisitions from historic coin hoards to major masterpieces - grants awarded range from hundreds of pounds to millions.

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Notes to editors:

  1. The Art Fund is the UK’s leading independent art charity. It offers grants to help UK museums and galleries enrich their collections; campaigns on behalf of museums and their visitors; and promotes the enjoyment of art.
  2. It is entirely funded from public donations and has 80,000 members. Since 1903 the charity has helped museums and galleries all over the UK secure 860,000 works of art for their collections.
  3. Recent achievements include: helping secure Anthony d’Offay’s collection, ARTIST ROOMS, for Tate and National Galleries of Scotland in February 2008 with a grant of £1million; putting together a unique funding package to ensure Dumfries House in Ayrshire and its contents were secured intact for the nation in July 2007; and running the ‘Buy a Brushstroke’ public appeal which raised over £550,000 to keep Turner’s Blue Rigi watercolour in the UK.
  4. For more information contact the Press Office on 020 7225 4888 or visit

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