Map: Frank Auerbach’s London

From Soho clubs and East End taverns to art schools and the National Gallery, discover the places in London that have inspired the painter Frank Auerbach.

Auerbach was evacuated to Britain from Berlin in 1937 as an eight year old child. The painter has lived in Camden Town for most of his life and has unsurprisingly made the city one of his chief subjects.

The artist is a member of the School of London: a term invented by R. B. Kitaj to describe a group of figurative painters living and working in London during the 1960s and 70s which included Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud, Frank Auerbach, Leon Kossoff and himself. Many of these painters have formed Frank Auerbach’s close social circle of friends throughout his compelling career. A major retrospective of Frank Auerbach’s work is at Tate Britain from 9 October to 13 March 2016, 50% off with National Art Pass.

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  • 1. Primrose Hill
  • This park in north London near to his home and studio is the site of many of Auerbach’s paintings. Amazingly he worked on Primrose Hill 1967-8 each day for a year and made over 50 sketches for the work which is now owned by the Tate Collection. Auerbach has painted Primrose Hill in all weather and seasons.
  • 2. Camden Town
  • Previously owned by his friend Leon Kossoff, Auerbach took on his Camden Town studio in 1954 and has never left. Working here 364 days a year, Auerbach’s select group of long-serving sitters visit him on set days of the week at specific times; these include his wife, son, former lover and a professional model.
  • 3. St Martin’s School of Art
  • Auerbach studied at various art schools for more than eight years and attended St Martin’s between 1948 and 1952 where he met his lifelong friend Leon Kossoff. Together they developed a style using thickly applied layers of paint which would be scraped off and re-worked. Both artists use cityscapes and intimate portraits as their subjects.
  • 4. Kossoffs Bakery, Arnold Circus
  • To make money while a struggling artist, for a time Auerbach worked at Leon Kossoff’s family-run bakery selling bread, ‘Leon would be on the expert side selling cakes, and I was on the bread side which was more straightforward’.
  • 5. Cock Tavern, Smithfield Market
  • Opening early for the market traders and porters, the Cock Tavern served a classic greasy-spoon breakfast before it closed in 2013. This is where Auerbach and Freud met for breakfast to have their portrait taken for Tatler magazine. The two painters shared a love of big breakfasts early in the morning.
  • 6. The Colony Room, Soho
  • Unsurprisingly Francis Bacon was a member of this raucous private members’ club since it opened in 1948. Ran by the fierce Muriel Belcher, Bacon was paid in drinks to bring in rich patrons, he and his artist friends including Lucien Freud and Frank Auerbach would often meet here.
  • 7. Whitechapel Gallery
  • Lucien Freud’s 1993 solo show was hung by his great friend Auerbach who said, ‘He had no sense of hanging a show at all.’ Auerbach helped hang several of Freud’s shows throughout his career.
  • 8. Marlborough Fine Art, West End
  • This famous gallery has represented many of the School of London painters including Auerbach, Bacon, Freud and Kitaj. Allegedly Bacon rang his gallery begging them to take on the impoverished and starving Auerbach.
  • 9. National Gallery, Trafalgar Square
  • Throughout the 50s, 60s and 70s Auerbach used to visit once a week, often with his fellow artist friend Leon Kossoff to make sketches of paintings by artists who influenced his practice greatly, chiefly Rembrandt, Titian and Rubens.
  • 10. Borough Polytechnic, Southwark
  • Auerbach and fellow St Martin’s student Leon Kossoff attended Borough until 1953 and it is thought this was Auerbach’s most influential time as a student. Both were taught by David Bomberg, an English painter working in the cubist and geometric medium.