Marlborough Graphics London

Auerbach and Freud: Portraits in Print

Auerbach and Freud: Portraits in Print

Frank Auerbach and Lucian Freud

Two of the most innovative and celebrated artists of their time, Frank Auerbach and Lucian Freud were also close friends for many decades. Though both artists are known most famously for their unique and influential approaches to oil painting, it is their intaglio prints that bring particular attention to each artist’s uncompromising, experimental process and ability to capture their portrait subjects both in likeness and in spirit.

Despite the immediate formal differences in their work, Auerbach and Freud pursued remarkably similar strategies to produce powerful and sensitive portraits. Working mostly with the same few subjects sitting in repeated sessions over many years, both artists believed that it was not only through meticulous observation that their portraits could be captured, but through a close, personal and long-term connection. It is for this reason that both Auerbach and Freud are usually known to render only their relatives and close friends in paint and print – the results of which the following selection of etchings celebrates. These masterful portraits produced over many decades are by no means subsidiary to the important painting works of these artists’ oeuvres, but in fact reveal other more experimental and collaborative aspects of their respective practices.

For Auerbach, etching provides multiple opportunities to work and rework, to rethink and reformulate. Shifting from techniques in oil painting and charcoal drawing, he often used trial and error to experiment with aquatint and acid baths, creating various thicknesses and qualities of line that give every one of his few editioned etchings a unique sensibility. Many of the resulting portraits, such as 'Ruth 2006', lay bare the processes and gridlines from which they have slowly evolved. Freud, on the other hand, approached his etchings with a meticulous realism, working on his plates on easels as if they were paintings. Through his intricate marks Freud is able to capture the subtlety of lines in the faces and fabric of his subjects, such as his studio assistant and confidant David Dawson, who sit or lie deep in suspense and contemplation. Both artists worked closely with the printmaker Marc Balakjian at Studio Prints in Camden, London and were able, much like with their own sitters, to nourish a productive and meaningful relationship with their collaborators over many years. For two artists who have spent many years as friends both living and working in London, it is exactly these kinds of close relationships that serve to establish their portrait etchings among the most poignant and accomplished in the medium.

Image Credit:

Frank Auerbach, 'Seven Portraits 1989-1990'

I would wish my portraits to be of the people, not like them. Not having a look of the sitter, being them.

Lucian Freud, quoted in L. Gowing, 'Lucian Freud' (Thames and Hudson, 1982)

Frank Auerbach

Julia

1989

paper: 26 x 21.5 cm; plate: 18 x 15 cm

etching on Somerset white paper, edition of 50

part of 'Seven Portraits 1989-1990'

9 EvB- Artwork 9 (Gachet) (Portraits) -

Frank Auerbach

Catherine

1989

paper: 26 x 21.5 cm; plate: 18 x 15 cm

etching on Somerset white paper, edition of 50

part of 'Seven Portraits 1989-1990'

9 EvB- Artwork 9 (Gachet) (Portraits) -

Frank Auerbach, installation image from ‘Studio Prints: A Survey’, Marlborough Graphics, London, 2018

Frank Auerbach

Ruth 2006

2006

paper: 63 x 50 cm; plate: 40 x 30 cm

etching and aquatint with engraving on Somerset white paper, edition of 40

9 EvB- Artwork 9 (Gachet) (Portraits) -

Frank Auerbach

Jake 06

2006

paper: 63 x 50 cm; plate: 40 x 30 cm

etching and aquatint on Somerset white paper, edition of 40

9 EvB- Artwork 9 (Gachet) (Portraits) -

Lucian Freud, installation image from ‘Bacon and Freud: Selected Graphic Works’, Marlborough Graphics, London, 2017

Frank Auerbach

David Landau

2007

paper: 63 x 50.5 cm; plate: 40 x 30 cm

etching on Somerset white paper, edition of 40

9 EvB- Artwork 9 (Gachet) (Portraits) -

Frank Auerbach

William Feaver

2007

paper: 63 x 50.5 cm; plate: 40 x 30 cm

etching on Somerset white paper, edition of 40

9 EvB- Artwork 9 (Gachet) (Portraits) -

Lucian Freud, installation image from ‘Bacon and Freud: Selected Graphic Works’, Marlborough Graphics, London, 2017

9 EvB- Artwork 9 (Gachet) (Portraits) -

Blond Girl

Lucian Freud

1985

paper: 89 x 72 cm; plate: 69.5 x 54 cm

etching, edition of 50

Lucian Freud

Large Head

1993

paper: 82.5 x 66.8 cm; plate: 69.4 x 54 cm

etching, edition of 40

9 EvB- Artwork 9 (Gachet) (Portraits) -
9 EvB- Artwork 9 (Gachet) (Portraits) -

Lucian Freud

Bella in her Pluto T-Shirt

1995

paper: 82 x 72.5 cm; plate: 68.5 x 59.7 cm

etching, edition of 36

Lucian Freud

David Dawson

1998

paper: 75.7 x 57.2 cm; plate: 59.7 x 42.5 cm

etching, edition of 46

9 EvB- Artwork 9 (Gachet) (Portraits) -

Frank Auerbach
One of Britain's most pre-eminent post-war artists, Frank Auerbach (b. 1931) is celebrated for his landscapes and cityscapes of his local Camden area along with his intimate portraits of a select group of close friends and relatives, who have sat for him regularly over numerous years. Auerbach was born in Berlin, Germany in 1931, arriving in England in 1939. He went on to study at the Royal College of Art and has remained in London ever since. Auerbach’s first exhibition was held at London's Beaux Arts Gallery in 1956; his works have subsequently become some of the most internationally collected of any living artist, both privately and by public institutions.

Lucian Freud
Born in Berlin, the son of architect Ernst L. Freud and the grandson of Sigmund Freud, the highly celebrated artist Lucian Freud (1922-2011) moved to England with his family in 1933. Along with his friend Francis Bacon, he rose to prominence in London in the 1950s and lived and worked in London until his death in 2011. While Freud is regarded as one of the leading figurative portrait painters of the 20th Century, his etchings are also highly acclaimed. Freud created his first etchings in Paris in 1946. The marks and techniques he employed during the etching process were a natural progression from his work as a draughtsman. In his paintings and prints, the influence of one medium on the other can be clearly identified, and indeed he treated the metal plate as he would a canvas, standing it upright on an easel and incising the image into its surface. His subjects were those close and familiar to him, though often anonymous to the viewer.

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