Frank Auerbach Painting for Bonhams 20th Century British Art Auction

An important and large painting Looking Towards Mornington Crescent Station (1972 -74) by the highly acclaimed artist Frank Auerbach will be sold by Bonhams in the 20th Century British Art auction at New Bond Street on November 17th 2010. The painting, which has never appeared at auction before and hasn’t been since in public since the late 1970s, is estimated to sell for £800,000 – £1,200,000.

In June Bonhams achieved the highest ever price at auction for a small painting by Auerbach (Head of E.O.W. III for £860,000) and is now looking forward to offering this dynamic oil in November, along with a group of sketches by the same artist from the same collection.

Considered one of Britain’s greatest living artists, Auerbach has been based in North London for his entire career, spanning over fifty years. His studio which he’s worked in since 1954 is five minutes walk from Mornington Crescent station.

During the last seven years just one oil painting of Mornington Crescent from this period has been offered at auction but the date of this work means that this picture is of particular interest. Furthermore, the painting has had only one previous owner who bought the work in the 1970s.

Matthew Bradbury, Head of the 20th Century British Art Department, comments, “Bonhams is proud to be offering this large oil by one of Britain’s most esteemed and sought after living artists. His reputation is now firmly recognised on the international arena. The location of the work is very close to Auerbach’s studio, but the other oils from this period depicting Mornington Crescent show the scene at night, whereas this is clearly the daytime with an upbeat and vibrant palette. The artist’s trademark thick impasto is very much in evidence in this piece.”

Auerbach was born in Berlin in 1931 and moved to England in 1939, remaining here ever since. He is best-known for his paintings depicting female models as well as his scenes of London. Recurring subjects in his Camden landscapes are Mornington Crescent, the adjacent Art Deco former Carreras cigarette factory and nearby Camden Palace dance club (originally a music hall); the most pastoral setting is nearby Primrose Hill.

Looking Towards Mornington Crescent Station belongs to a small body of work on an ambitious scale from the early 1970s. During the 1950s and 60s Auerbach was devoted to a handful of trusted models, so this new phase of his depiction of townscapes required a less personally involved scrutiny.

For his portraits, Auerbach does not prepare under-paintings or sketches, and he relies on his sitters being able to reassume the same pose session after session. However, for the landscapes he sketches in the field and brings them back to the studio to work up into large scale works, sometimes using as many as 200 sketches for a single painting. With Looking Towards Mornington Crescent Station Auerbach has used a heavy impasto and a vibrant and adventurous palette in contrast to his monochrome paintings from the 1950s and 1960s.

He has said of the subject of Looking Towards Mornington Crescent Station:
“I have painted [Mornington Crescent] … because I feel London is this raw thing…This extraordinary, marvellous unpainted city where whenever somebody tries to get something going they stop half way through, and next to it something incongruous occurs.. this higgledy- piggledy mess of a city”

This painting is a superb example of just how successful Auerbach is at rendering the city in which he lives. Many of his most critically acclaimed works represent the surroundings outside his studio.

The painting will also be exhibited in our prestigious New York, Madison Avenue gallery in September.

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