Frank Auerbach (born April 29, 1931) is a German-born, British painter. His work typically portrays either one of a small group of female models or scenes around London, especially Camden Town, where his studio is located.
Auerbach was born in Berlin, but his parents sent him to England in 1939 to escape the Nazis (the family was Jewish). He has remained there ever since, taking British nationality in 1947.
He studied art first at St Martin's School of Art in London and later at the Royal College of Art. He also had lessons with David Bomberg at Borough Polytechnic, who encouraged him to take inspiration from Paul Cezanne.
Auerbach is a figurative painter, usually taking personal friends as his subject, with three people being used time and again: his wife Julia; the professional model, Juliet Yardley Mills (usually referred to as J. Y. M. in titles); and his personal friend, Stella West (usually referred to as E. O. W.). He has also made a number of landscapes of scenes close to his London home, often taking building sites as the subject rather than the traditional hills and sheep.
Auerbach's work might broadly be called expressionist. Many of his paintings display an extremely thick impasto, something which he was criticised for at his first solo show in 1956. The impasto is sometimes so heavy that the paint seems to have been sculpted rather than brushed on. In his building site pictures in particular, lines are sometimes defined not by their colour, but by a mark left by the stroke of Auerbach's painting-knife through thick paint.
A similarly sculptural aspect can often be found even in his drawings: Auerbach layers multiple sheets of paper as much as half an inch in thickness and in some parts of the drawing he may erase so heavily as to go through several sheets. This can be readily seen in the area surrounding the upper part of the head in his 1960 Head of Julia.
The first major retrospective of Auerbach's work was presented in 1978 by the Arts Council of Great Britain for the Hayward Gallery, London, and then toured to the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh. Other major shows have included "Frank Auerbach: Paintings and Drawings 1977-85" at the British Pavilion at the XLII Venice Biennale (1986), where he shared the Golden Lion prize with Sigmar Polke; "Frank Auerbach at the National Gallery: Working after the Masters" (1995), at the National Gallery, London, presented drawings made over a thirty-year period from paintings in the National Gallery's collection; a major retrospective at the London's Royal Academy in 2001. Many of his works are in the permanent collection of the Tate Gallery.