About this artwork

Auerbach made a series of portraits of E.O.W. (his companion Estella West) from the 1950s to the 1970s. He painted her regularly in her home, three evenings a week and always by electric light. The lighting is part of the reason he has used these colours. Also, the monochrome paints were cheaper. Auerbach has commented on these portraits: ‘"She was the most important person in my life at the time... The intensity of life with somebody and the sense of its passing has its own pathos and poignancy. There was a sense of futility about it all disappearing into the void and I just wanted to pin something down that would defy time, so it wouldn’t all just go off into thin air." The very thick paint, which is typical of Auerbach’s work, comes from this desire to fix and ‘pin down’.

Frank Auerbach

Frank Auerbach

Born in Berlin, Auerbach left Nazi Germany in 1939 to live in England. After the war he settled in London. In 1954 he took over the Camden Town studio of his fellow artist and close friend Leon Kossoff and he has used the same studio ever since. Auerbach has painted mainly landscapes and townscapes in the Camden Town area, and portraits of a few close friends. These friends sit for him regularly every week and have done so for a number of years. Auerbach spends a long time on each painting, making many preliminary drawings. His paintings are characterised by extremely thick layers of paint. Although this has the appearance of accumulating over several months, the artist regularly scrapes off all the paint to start afresh.