Vibrant Auerbach for Ben Uri Gallery

  • 27 October 2006

A £44,000 Art Fund grant has enabled the Ben Uri Gallery in London to acquire a stunning painting by Frank Auerbach, one of the UK's greatest living artists.

The Art Fund’s contribution towards Mornington Crescent, Summer Morning II (2004) made up over half the total cost of £70,500. Additional funding came from the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund and Ben Uri Gallery and Museum.

Although the Gallery had several works on paper by Auerbach, some donated by the artist himself, this is the first painting by the artist to enter the Gallery’s collection, and will form the centrepiece of a new display, Recent Acquisitions 2001-2006 opening on 6 December.

Frank Auerbach was born in Berlin into a Jewish family in 1931. When he was 8 years old, his parents arranged for his escape from Germany to England. Tragically, he never saw them again; it is likely that they fell victim to the Nazis. He enrolled in Borough Polytechnic in 1948 where he studied under the artist David Bomberg, who was to have a profound influence on his work.

A London resident for most of his life, Auerbach has had the same studio in Camden Town since 1954. He restricts the subject matter of his paintings to a few personally selected models and landscapes of the immediate and surrounding area. Mornington Crescent is one of his local streets, and a favourite subject.

Mornington Crescent, Summer Morning II is a very fine example of Auerbach’s current oeuvre; vibrantly coloured, it resonates with light and optimism. Auerbach himself has acknowledged that he is ‘not displeased’ with the painting – an accolade indeed from a man who is his own harshest critic, and has been known to buy back his paintings - at market price - and destroy them.

The artist’s method is to work and rework an image, until in some cases, layers of paint inches thick encrust the surface; in others, much of the paint is scraped away and only ghostly traces of underpainting remain. His paintings can take days, months and sometimes years to create. He famously works 364 days a year, from 7 o’clock in the morning until 9 at night, stating that “simply..there’s nothing else I want to devote myself to.”

Mornington Crescent, Summer Morning II will go on display on 6 December. This is the fourth major acquisition by the Ben Uri Gallery with Art Fund help in recent years; Racehorses, an important work by David Bomberg, was acquired by the Gallery in 2004 with a generous grant from the art charity. Similar support allowed the museum to acquire Jacob Epstein’s Bust of Jacob Kramer in 2003 and Mark Gertler’s masterwork Rabbi and Rabbitzen in 2002.

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Ben Uri Gallery