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Reclining Model in the Studio I, Frank Auerbach

Reclining figure in studio, Frank Auerbach

Frank Auerbach, Reclining Figure in the Studio I, 1963, Accepted in lieu of Inheritance Tax by HM Government from the estate of MJ Long / Wilson and allocated to Pallant House Gallery, 2021, © The Artist, Courtesy Marlborough Fine Art

At a glance

Artist: Frank Auerbach

Date: 1963

Materials: Oil on board

Acquisition: Accepted in lieu of Inheritance Tax by HM Government from the estate of MJ Long / Wilson and allocated to Pallant House Gallery (2021)

This tactile painting, which is made up of thick layers of almost sculptural oil paint, was produced by Frank Auerbach in his studio in North London in 1963. Auerbach inherited this rented studio from the artist Leon Kossoff in 1954 and has continued to work there ever since. The studio measures just 16 feet, 4.8m cubed. At the time Auerbach painted Reclining Model in the Studio I in the 1960s, the studio was so cold in the mornings that it would take him an hour and a half to get warm before he started work.

Auerbach’s models would sit against the back wall of the studio and the artist ‘would look at the cracked ceiling and keep my fingers crossed that it wouldn’t fall on them.’ The model in this work is unidentified but it is possible that this person is Estella (Stella) West who posed for most of Auerbach’s nude paintings and female heads before 1973. The nude in this painting can be seen laying back on a piece of furniture. The model’s head and outstretched arm are positioned in the top left-hand corner of the painting and two legs can be seen dangling down and touching the floor.

In 1990, Auerbach was able to purchase the studio from the owner and he asked the architect MJ Long to redesign the space to utilise it effectively. Due to the studio’s extreme temperatures, Auerbach recalled that ‘If MJ hadn’t redesigned it I’d probably be dead by now’. MJ Long was one of the architects responsible for the New Wing of Pallant House Gallery which opened in 2006.

Auerbach was born in Berlin to Jewish parents in 1931. At the outbreak of the Second World War, he was sent to England to escape Nazi persecution. His parents remained behind in Germany and both were murdered in concentration camps. Between 1948 and 1952 Auerbach studied art at night classes at Borough Polytechnic with David Bomberg, and in 1956, the art dealer Helen Lessore gave Auerbach his first solo show at the Beaux-Arts Gallery.