Frank Auerbach (British, born 1931) J.Y.M. Seated in the Studio VI 1988

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Lot 4AR
Frank Auerbach
(British, born 1931)
J.Y.M. Seated in the Studio VI

Sold for £ 687,062 (US$ 894,759) inc. premium
Frank Auerbach (British, born 1931)
J.Y.M. Seated in the Studio VI

oil on canvas

55.9 by 50.8 cm.
22 by 20 in.

This work was executed in 1988.


  • Provenance
    Marlborough Gallery, London (no. 38919.6)
    Acquired directly from the above by the present owner

    Bonn, Kunstmuseum; London, Tate Britain, Frank Auerbach, 2015-2016, p. 113, illustrated in colour

    Frank Auerbach and Mel Gooding, Frank Auerbach, Recent Work, London 1990, p. 34, no. 2c, illustrated in black and white
    William Feaver, Frank Auerbach, New York 2009, p. 306, no. 603, illustrated in colour

    Frank Auerbach's style is inimitable, sensual, studied, and timeless. The ambition of his gesture and profundity of his artistic pursuit cannot be overstated. His sitters have been a constant subject of engagement and experimentation, and for four decades, 'J.Y.M.' – Juliet Yardley Mills – was a central protagonist in the work of the German-born émigré. Depicted here by Auerbach in 1988, J.Y.M. Seated in the Studio VI is a definitive example of the artist's exquisite and accomplished style, selected by Auerbach himself for inclusion in his seminal Tate Britain retrospective in 2015. Auerbach has stood at the vanguard of painterly practice since his emergence in the 1950s, and remains today a period-defining artist who renewed the deep tradition of portrait painting with unrivalled vigour over the course of his career.

    Born in Berlin in 1931, the artist arrived in Britain a refugee in 1939. Coming of age in the war-torn London of the 1950s, Auerbach emerged alongside Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, David Hockney and Leon Kossoff as a chief member of, what has popularly been termed, the School of London; a label coined by R.B. Kitaj in the 1970s to describe the preeminent painters of the post-war period in the United Kingdom. In the midst of a close friendship with Freud – who was himself an avid collector of Auerbach's works – the two painters shared an unrelenting fascination with the live sitter. As Freud was so often cited as describing his passion for the flesh and corporeality of his subject, Auerbach instead sought to capture a likeness that evoked the intimacy of his relationship with his human focal point; the materialisation of a psychic image.

    Placing the realisation of his subject at the heart of his practice, this lifelong project to produce a work of autonomous energy is described by Auerbach as "a set of sensations of conflicting movements and experiences, which somehow one hopes has congealed or cohered or risen out of the battle into being an image that stands up for itself" (the artist in: "Frank Auerbach at Tate Britain: Images in Flux," Jackie Wullschlager, Financial Times, October 16, 2015, online). Across the variegated surface of J.Y.M. Seated in the Studio VI, the luscious coiled peaks of chromium yellow give way to level flourishes of ochre, claret, and deep cerulean blue, amounting to a virtuosic feat of artistry that rends form in passages of sculpted colour. The scrupulous and agile nature of Auerbach's style is never quite so immaculately realised as in the present work, whose curlicues of paint and unambiguous edges generate a forceful image of his sitter as a commanding, statuesque presence.

    An artist whose use of colour, form, and composition is fearless and original, Auerbach's major retrospective at the Tate Britain in 2015 was a compelling, cumulative vision of an artist striving for a perfect synthesis of the material and metaphysical. Auerbach personally selected the paintings to represent six decades of his career, of which J.Y.M. Seated in the Studio VI was one of them. Writing for the Financial Times, Jackie Wullschlager commented, "this retrospective at Tate Britain is an exhilarating mix of joy and desperation, architectonic splendour and a rush of fleeting moments [...] Many magnificently memorable images stand up for themselves in this great show" (Ibid.). Few artists will have the honour of a major, career-long survey at the Tate Britain, fewer still in their lifetimes – it is an affirmation of the importance of Auerbach's career and this present work that it should be selected to hang in the U.K.'s premier art museum as a benchmark of his oeuvre.

    A definitive image of one of his most important sitters, the present work was painted in a period of great accomplishment for Auerbach, winning the prestigious Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale, representing Britain in 1986. An artist of sterling reputation and respect amongst academic, critical and commercial circles, there are few painters whose work is so universally admired. In the raw, freshly applied, impasto surfaces of his most astute works, there is a clarity of vision and feeling that is palpable and electric. Held in museums around the world that includes the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, and the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, Auerbach remains one of the most prolific and collectible artists currently working. J.Y.M. Seated in the Studio VI is a testament to a truly great painter who has long since earned his place in the canon of art history.
Frank Auerbach (British, born 1931) J.Y.M. Seated in the Studio VI 1988
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