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In 2015, former Special Projects Curator Colin Wiggins, discussed the work of Frank Auerbach and the artist’s relationship with the National Gallery.

Frank Auerbach

Frank Auerbach is one of the most significant painters working today. Arriving alone in England as an eight-year-old refugee from Nazi Germany in 1939, Auerbach studied at St Martin’s School of Art and the Royal College of Art after the war from 1948 to 1955. Nevertheless, his attendance at the evening classes run by the painter David Bomberg at Borough Polytechnic at this time were of even greater significance.

Frank Auerbach © Nicholas Sinclair

Frank Auerbach © Nicholas Sinclair

Auerbach formed lasting friendships with, among others, fellow painters, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, and Leon Kossoff. All artists who found much inspiration in the paintings of the National Gallery. In 1976, the American-born painter R. B. Kitaj referred to these artists as a ‘herd of loners’ and put forward the much debated idea of a School of London, a term rejected by the artists themselves.

In 1995 Auerbach was invited to show his versions of National Gallery paintings in the Sunley Room as part of the exhibition 'Frank Auerbach and the National Gallery: Working After the Masters'. These works were displayed together with a selection from the many hundreds of drawings he had made in front of the paintings, a practice he began in his student years. One hundred and forty-one of these drawings were generously gifted to the Gallery by James and Clare Kirkman.