Frank Auerbach is a German-born British painter. He has been a naturalised British citizen since 1947. Auerbach was born in Berlin. Under the influence of the British writer Iris Origo, his parents sent him to Britain in 1939 under the Kindertransport scheme, which brought almost 10,000 mainly Jewish children to Britain to escape from Nazi persecution. Aged seven, Auerbach arrived at Southampton on 7 April 1939. Left behind in Germany, Auerbach's parents later died in a concentration camp in 1942.
In Britain, Auerbach became a pupil at Bunce Court School, near Faversham in Kent, where he excelled in not only art but also drama classes. Indeed, he almost became an actor, even taking a small role in Peter Ustinov's play House of Regrets, at the age of 17. But his interest in art proved a stronger draw and he began studying in London, first at St Martin's School of Art from 1948 to 1952, and at the Royal College of Art from 1952 to 1955. Yet, perhaps the clearest influence on his art training came from a series of additional art classes he took at London's Borough Polytechnic, where he was taught by David Bomberg from 1947 until 1953.
From 1955, he began teaching in secondary schools, but quickly moved into the visiting tutor circuit at numerous art schools. Auerbach is a figurative painter, who focuses on portraits and city scenes in and around the area of London in which he lives, Camden Town. In his work, the experience of the world is seen as essentially chaotic with the role of the artist being to impose an order upon that chaos and record that order in the painting. This ambition with the paintings results in Auerbach developing intense relationships with particular subjects, particularly the people he paints, but also the location of his cityscape subjects. This leads Auerbach to paint an image and then scrape it off the canvas at the end of each day, repeating this process time and again, not primarily to create a layering of images but because of a sense of dissatisfaction with the image leading him to try to paint it again.
As well as painting street scenes close to his London home, Auerbach tends to paint a small number of people repeatedly, including Estella Olive West (indicated in painting titles as EOW), Juliet Yardley Mills (or JYM) and Auerbach's wife Julia Auerbach. Again a similar obsession with specific subjects, and a desire to return to them to 'try again' is discernable in this use of the same models.
A strong emphasis in Auerbach's work is its relationship to the history of art. Showing at the National Gallery in London in 1994 he made direct reference to the gallery's collection of paintings by Rembrandt, Titian and Rubens. Unlike the National Gallery's 'Associate Artist Scheme', however, Auerbach's work after historic artists was not the result of a short residency at the National Gallery, it has a long history, and in this exhibition he showed paintings made after Titian's Bacchus and Ariadne, from the 1970s to Rubens's Samson and Delilah made in 1993.
Auerbach's first solo exhibition was at the Beaux Arts Gallery in London in 1956, followed by further solo shows in London and New York. In 1978, he was the subject of a major retrospective exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, London, and in 1986 he represented Britain in the Venice Biennale, sharing the biennale's main prize, the Golden Lion, with Sigmar Polke. Further exhibitions have been held in several galleries around the world, the last one being a solo exhibition at the Tate Britain in 2015.