Frank Auerbach is renowned for his unwavering approach to painting - meticulously scraping away and adding paint to his highly impastoed surfaces until his final image emerges - depicting serial subject matter including portraiture and views of his north London studio. The present work, Reclining Head of Julia, depicts the artist's wife, painter Julia Wolstenholme, a recurrent sitter for the artist since they married in 1958.
Auerbach's working method involves an elaborate layering process, in which he builds up the oil or acrylic, and then scrapes it away, only to paint upon the remnants of the previous layer, resulting in a heavily textured and dramatic surface. This arduous process means that a painting usually takes him at least several months-and sometimes years-to complete. Auerbach finds this laborious process of painting revelatory, stating, "To paint the same head over and over leads to unfamiliarity; eventually you get near the raw truth about it, just as people only blurt out the raw truth in the middle of a family quarrel."
London, Ben Brown Fine Arts; Hong Kong, Ben Brown Fine Arts, Frank Auerbach / Tony Bevan, What is a Head? curated by Michael Peppiatt, December 2020 - July 2021 Petworth, Newlands House, Frank Auerbach: Unseen, 2 April to 14 August 2022
William Feaver, Frank Auerbach, New York 2009, p. 348, no. 964, illustrated in colour William Feaver, Frank Auerbach: Revised and Expanded Edition, New York 2022, p. 390, no. 964, illustrated in colour