Lucian Freud's collection of Frank Auerbach paintings goes on show at Tate Britain

By Richard Moss | 26 August 2014

Lucian Freud collected Frank Auerbach's paintings for years; now you can see exactly what caught his eye at Tate Britain

an abstract painting of deep and rust-coloured browns
Frank Auerbach, Rebuilding the Empire Cinema, Leicester Square, 1962© Frank Auerbach
They adorned the walls of a certain London home, but now a collection of paintings by Frank Auerbach that once belonged to the late Lucien Freud are lining the walls of Tate Britain.

Freud, whose own portraits are among the most highly priced in the world, was a great admirer of Auerbach and collected his portraits and landscapes – both of which are marked by the intense and expressive use of colour that have become the painter’s trademark. 

Such was Freud’s admiration for his friend and fellow painter that he amassed what Tate are calling “the most significant private collection of paintings and drawings by one of Britain’s greatest living artists”.

Building his collection over many years, Freud snapped up works spanning the entire length of Auerbach’s career from his student days in the late 1940s up to 2007.

an abstract and thickly painted portrait dominated by rich brown colours
Frank Auerbach (b.1931) Head of E.O.W. 1955© Frank Auerbach
They include works on paper of an intimate group of sitters, mainly of Estella (Stella) Olive West ('E.O.W.'), his principal model between the early 1950s and 1973, and his wife Julia together with several landscapes.

Visitors can see Auerbach classics like Rebuilding the Empire Cinema, Leicester Square 1962 and other north London and Camden Town scenes, where he has been living and working prolifically for the past sixty years.

Born in Berlin in 1931 Auerbach came to England in 1939 to escape Nazi persecution - his parents later perishing in a Nazi concentration camp. Showing an aptitude for painting, between 1948 and 1955 he progressed through St Martin’s School of Art and, via a formative period under the tutelage of David Bomberg at the Borough Polytechnic, the Royal College of Art.

His work came to prominence in the 1950s with a series of exhibitions in London galleries and he has since represented Britain at the Venice Biennale and enjoyed retrospectives worldwide. Today the octogenarian is considered to be one of Britain’s great painters.   

The Freud collection was accepted earlier this year in lieu of inheritance tax by HM Government and has been acquired by Arts Council England, to be allocated to public museums and galleries.

But for now, they are displayed at Tate Britain, where they will act as an entrée to a major Auerbach retrospective, which opens at the Bankside gallery in autumn 2015.

BP Spotlight – Frank Auerbach: Painting and Drawings from the Lucian Freud Estate is on display at Tate Britain until November 9 2014. The display has been curated by Elena Crippa, Tate.

an abstract and expressive painting of a street scene
Frank Auerbach (b.1931) Mornington Crescent – Winter morning 1989© Frank Auerbach
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