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Masterpieces in Schools

Auerbach, Frank Helmuth, b. 1931

Mornington Crescent – Summer Morning II, 2004, oil on board by Frank Helmeth Auerbach (b.1931) from Ben Uri, The London Jewish Museum of Art
© the artist

This oil painting was made by artist Frank Auerbach in 2004. The work depicts a place called Morning Crescent which is in Camden Town, in North London. It is a place within a busy city. In the painting we can see outlines and windows of tall buildings of different shapes and sizes, a wide road and pavement in the foreground, an aeroplane in the sky overhead, a lamp-post on the right-hand side, a single car on the road and a tree in the distance. We can see that it is a summer morning as the yellow sun glows against a brilliant blue sky. Auerbach has used fat, thickly paint-laden brushstrokes of oil paint and bright colours in this work.

Auerbach paints the same small area of north London, around Camden Town and Mornington Crescent, over and over again in different weather and in different seasons. These places are a short walk from his studio. Auerbach once said, ‘This part of London is my world. I’ve been wandering around these streets for so long that I have become attached to them.’

Auerbach often creates lots of drawings before starting on his final piece, sometimes making as many as 200 sketches for just one painting. Auerbach also often uses very thick oil paint in many of his works. In his early paintings, Auerbach piled on paint so thickly that it seemed to have been sculpted rather than brushed on. If a work dissatisfied him, he would paint on top of it until, after a succession of alternative versions, he arrived at a final one. At his first solo show, some of his paintings were displayed flat rather than hanging, for fear that the paint would fall off from its own weight.

Later, Auerbach changed his technique. He scraped off each version of a painting that he rejected and created a new one on top, until having looked ever longer and harder, he was finally satisfied.

Auerbach’s work can broadly be described as Expressionist.

51.1 x 51.1 cm
Auerbach, Frank Helmuth, b.1931
Ben Uri, The London Jewish Museum of Art
Surrey Street Primary


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