Ben Uri collection

Mornington Crescent, Summer Morning II

Artist information

Name Frank Auerbach (1931-)

Born Berlin, Germany

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Frank Auerbach was born in Berlin to Jewish parents in 1931 and immigrated to England in 1939 (naturalised in 1947); his parents, who remained behind, subsequently perished in concentration camps. Auerbach spent his childhood at Bunce Court, a progressive boarding school in Kent for Jewish refugee children. He attended St Martin’s School of Art (1948-52) and studied at David Bomberg’s evening classes at Borough Polytechnic together with Leon Kossoff, as well as at the Royal College of Art from 1952-55. Shortly after completing his studies, he was given his first solo exhibition (1956) by dealer Helen Lessore at the Beaux- Arts Gallery, where he exhibited regularly until 1963, and then at Marlborough Galleries from 1965 to the present. He has had retrospectives at the Hayward Gallery (1978), Tate (2016) and solo exhibitions at the British Pavilion in the 1986 Venice Biennale and the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (1989). His work is represented in collections throughout the UK and USA. Frank Auerbach lives and works in London.

Object Details

Date 2004

Object type painting

Medium oil on board

Materials and techniques oil (medium) board (support)

Unframed 51 x 51 cm

Framed 69 x 69 cm

Acquisition Acquired for the Ben Uri Collection through the support and generosity of the Art Fund, MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, Daniel and Pauline Auerbach, Frank Auerbach and Marlborough Fine Art London

Accession number 2006-18

Display status not on display

This vibrant landscape is one of a number by the artist depicting Mornington Crescent, the area in Camden Town, north London, where he has lived and worked in a studio since 1954, when it was vacated by his artist friend and contemporary Leon Kossoff (and before him the Polish-Jewish émigré artist Gustav Metzger). It is painted with the distinctive heavy impasto which characterises Auerbach’s work. In his portraits and nudes, as well as urban landscapes, Auerbach frequently returns to the same subject. Here, using a lively yellow and blue palette that contrasts with the earthy tones of his earlier urban scenes, he transforms the choking London traffic into a vigorous surge of pigment. The date ‘2004’ scratched into the paintwork suggests the urgency and transience of both life and art.

A German-Jewish émigré with a focus on a particular ‘home’ location and a ‘family’ of familiar sitters, Auerbach’s work has a particular resonance for the exploration of issues of identity and migration. As Auerbach himself has commented of his background: ‘I wasn’t British born, […] I didn’t have a family and I didn’t have anything to anchor me to whatever was going on’. Mornington Crescent, Summer Morning II combines the artist’s focus on familiar architectural structures together with a sense of place. Auerbach deliberately restricts his landscape motifs, concentrating especially on London locations and foregrounding the area around his studio and its distinctive features, which include the landmark chimney.

This painting was acquired in 2004 to fill a longstanding gap in the Ben Uri collection and has since been exhibited on numerous occasions including for the day at Surrey Street Primary School, Luton, in the initiative ‘Your Paintings: Masterpieces in Schools’, in association with BBC & The Public Catalogue Foundation in October 2013 and featured on ‘Front Row’, BBC Radio 4.

Selected exhibition history

2015 Out of Chaos – Ben Uri: 100 Years in London

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© Frank Auerbach, courtesy Marlborough Fine Art

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