Frank Auerbach: Indelible Impact and Influences in Contemporary Art

Published Categorized as Artists

When it comes to the world of contemporary art, there’s one name I can’t help but mention: Frank Auerbach. Born in Berlin and later becoming a British citizen, Auerbach’s work has been a cornerstone in the realm of modern painting.

Auerbach’s style is distinctive and immediately recognizable. He’s known for his thick, impasto technique, creating a sense of depth and texture that’s truly unique. His subjects, often people and places, are rendered with an intensity that’s both raw and captivating.

As we delve deeper into Auerbach’s life and artistry, we’ll explore the influence of his work and his contribution to the art world. From his early years in Germany to his prolific career in Britain, we’ll see how Auerbach’s work has shaped and continues to shape the landscape of contemporary art.

Early Life and Background

Born in Berlin in 1931, Frank Auerbach joined a zone profoundly impacted by momentous events. He was eight when the horrors of World War II began, and his early life was framed by this terrifying conflict. His parents made the heart-wrenching decision to send him to England on the Kindertransport – a rescue effort that saved nearly 10,000 predominantly Jewish children during the Nazi regime.

Contrary to common narratives of refugee hardship, Auerbach’s relocation to England was not laced with tales of victimhood and sorrow. Instead, this young artist found therapeutic relief in painting and drawing. He honed his craft at several educational institutions, starting with St Martin’s School of Art and culminating with the prestigious Royal College of Art.

His distinct approach to his craft began to take shape during these formative years. An intense form of application and reapplication of paint became a key feature of his work. This was not a technique taught in school but a method Auerbach developed himself – an artistic signature that propelled him into the spotlight.

His early influences weren’t restricted to the art world. The architecture, diversity, and rhythm of his adopted home, London, played significant roles in his artistic development. He became captivated by the city’s dynamic façades and their capability to change under different lighting and weather conditions. This became a persistent theme in his work later on.

Despite the trails of hardship and excitement in his early years, Auerbach was undeniably becoming a figure of substantial promise in the modern painting arena. The uniqueness of his technique and the fresh lens through which he perceived his surroundings were shaping him into an avant-garde artist ready to leave his mark in the world of art.

Auerbach’s Artistic Style

Delving deeper into Frank Auerbach’s artistic style, we find it’s a true testament to his innovative spirit. Auerbach’s style is recognized by the thickness and intensity of his paint application. It’s an approach that was not common during his time, yet he adopted and advanced it, setting a precedent for future artists.

His work often presents an almost sculptural feel. The paint is layered heavily, creating a three-dimensional effect that brings life to his pieces. This signature method showcases Auerbach’s commitment to capturing the essences and emotions of his subjects, rather than just their physical aspects.

It would be remiss not to mention the role that color plays in Auerbach’s artwork. He expresses himself through various avenues of hues. His utilisation of color is bold and expressive, implementing contrasting shades to extend the emotional depth of his work. This mighty combination of energetic application and color manipulation presents a fascinating play on light and depth, further distinguishing his style.

Auerbach’s adoration for his adopted city, London, is prevalent throughout his work. This influence is tangible in pieces where the city’s architecture dominates, bringing a unique urban twist to his avant-garde style. He wasn’t just capturing a city; he was capturing a city that breathed and evolved just as he did. Each piece of his work is an homage to the city he fell in love with, and this relationship between artist and city manifests itself in the vibrancy and intensity of his art.

Through a method that rendered the common into the extraordinary, Auerbach’s art has created an emotional passport into London’s architecture and life. With his unique combination of texture, color and admiration for the city, it’s clear that Auerbach built an artistic legacy that continues to influence the art world.

Influential Works

Diving into the captivating repertoire of Frank Auerbach’s work, I’d say it is an impressive symphony of impactful masterpieces. His avant-garde artistry remains iconic, profoundly influencing the contours of contemporary art.

“Primrose Hill” is one such painting that captures Auerbach’s signature texture and style. Thick, gnarled layers of paint infused with emotional intensity depict London’s architectural vigor. It’s as if you take a direct glimpse into Auerbach’s soul – his ineffable affection for the city shining through his artistic prowess.

Following the same vein of captivating cityscapes, “Mornington Crescent” depicts a familiar London street viewed from different angles and at different times. Every stroke on the canvas exudes versatility and dynamism – an avant-garde portrayal of modern-day London.

Another astonishing creation is “Head of E.O.W” – A series of portraits that represent the artist’s modern interpretation of emotional connectivity. This striking series – far from solely being about physical presentation – is more about emotional depth and the intense relationship between the artist and his sitter.

To encapsulate, these works are not just art. They are mirrors reflecting Auerbach’s profound link with his surroundings and relationships, underlining his unique blend of heavy paint manipulation, bold colors, and sheer love for London – all elemental entities of Auerbach’s impactful artistry that demonstrate his continuing influence in the art world.

Allow me now to delve into techniques that Auerbach employed in his work to create such mesmerizing illusions of reality. Weeks I’ve spent analysing his art have lead me to some fascinating discoveries about his process.

Legacy and Impact

A closer look into Frank Auerbach’s legacy reveals his undeniable ripple effect on contemporary art. His rare ability to capture human emotions and his city’s ambience has positioned him as a true trailblazer in the art world.

Known particularly for his daring and emotive usage of color, Auerbach often employed a ‘cake of paint’ technique. This became a signature element in his works, offering them a tactile quality that echoed the subject’s depth of emotion. The popularity of this innovative style has resonated among modern artists, inspiring many to explore new dimensions in their work.

To further appreciate the degree of Auerbach’s influence, it’s beneficial to assess the numbers. A simple examination of current auction records paints a picture of his enduring appeal.

ArtworkAuction Price (£)
Primrose Hill1,434,500
Mornington Crescent3,890,500
Head of E.O.W.2,882,500

These figures are testimonies of Auerbach’s commercial success, bearing reflection of his relevance in the modern art market. However, his legacy extends beyond sales numbers. His unmatched portrayal of London, its landscape and people, made an indelible mark on how artists visualize and represent urban life today.

Exploring Auerbach’s approach to painting also illuminates his impact on art technique. He wasn’t interested in portraying a photo-realistic version of his subjects. Rather, Auerbach sought to create a dialogue between the actual subject and its artistic representation – a concept that continues to inspire artists today.

Overall, from influencing artistic techniques to the commercial market, Auerbach’s contribution can’t be overstated. These undoubtedly justify his distinguished position in the hall of famed contemporary artists. The themes and techniques he explored continue to reverberate in the work of artists globally, securing his ethos and approach a place in the annals of art history. His impact is still alive today, and promises to endure in the future.


Frank Auerbach’s impact on contemporary art is undeniable. With his unique approach to painting and his emotive use of color, he’s captured the heart of London and the essence of human emotions like no other. His ‘cake of paint’ technique has not only pushed the boundaries of art but has also been a source of inspiration for modern artists. The high auction records reflect his commercial success and enduring appeal. His influence on how we visualize urban life is far-reaching and his methods continue to inspire artists worldwide. Auerbach’s significant contribution to art techniques and the commercial market has secured his place among the greats in contemporary art. His ethos and methods will continue to be influential in the art world, ensuring his legacy endures in the annals of art history.

Categorized as Artists