Frank Auerbach (B. 1931)
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Frank Auerbach (B. 1931)

Catherine Lampert Seated

Frank Auerbach (B. 1931)
Catherine Lampert Seated
oil on canvas
24 x 22¼in. (61 x 56.4cm.)
Painted in 1990
Marlborough Fine Art Ltd., London.
Private Collection.
W. Feaver, Frank Auerbach, New York 2009, no. 667 (illustrated in colour, p. 315).
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.


'I don't know how they can talk about thickness, really. Is blue better than red, thick better than thin? - no. But the sense of corporeal reality, that's what matters. English twentieth-century painting tends to be thin, linear and illustrative. I wanted something different; I wanted to make a painting that, when you saw it, would be like touching something in the dark' (F. Auerbach quoted in R. Hughes, Frank Auerbach, London 1990, p. 86).

Painted in 1990, Catherine Lampert Seated is an elegant, rich and painterly portrait by Frank Auerbach. Rendered in a palette of nude pink, broken up by wedges of cadmium yellow and brilliant cyan blue, the work depicts Catherine Lampert, the former director of the Whitechapel Art Gallery and curator of Auerbach's celebrated Royal Academy retrospective in 2001. In Catherine Lampert Seated she appears sitting in a high-backed pine chair, which Lampert once described as the only 'clean' piece of furniture in Auerbach's heavily paint strewn studio. Her arms casually resting at her sides, her head has a pronounced nobility and refinement, raised aloft as she looks to the artist's easel. Her features are rapidly gestured with dark strokes of paint, an indication of the familiarity that exists between the artist and his subject. The painting exudes light, the warmth of the woman's character radiating from the composition. As William Feaver once eloquently concluded 'Auerbach's heads are conceived not as busts or cameos but as presences' (W. Feaver, Frank Auerbach, New York 2009, p. 20). It is this sense of the subject's aura that is so essential to Auerbach's practice, recalling the portraits of Rembrandt he so often visited as a young man at the National Gallery in London. Indeed, still pinned above his desk amongst the creative chaos of his studio are reproductions of Rembrandt, alongside those of Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. Auerbach continually works and reworks his canvases, a propensity that is deeply apparent in Catherine Lampert Seated with its dense weave of brush strokes and interpenetrating layers of colour. For the sitter, the experience is like watching an orchestra being conducted as 'Auerbach moves noisily around the room, looks at the painting in the mirror, turns the canvas, stands back and then rushes up, and like darts or writing on the blackboard fairly brutally tries the next throw or cancels the previous one. He is continuously active, drawing in the air, talking to himself, hardly pausing' (C. Lampert quoted in C. Lampert et al. (eds.), Frank Auerbach: Paintings and Drawings 1954-2001, exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2001, p. 62).

In certain respects, Auerbach's concept, so artfully realised in Catherine Lampert Seated recalls the rhythmic lines and gestural qualities of Willem de Kooning, and in particular his Women series. Auerbach first encountered de Kooning at an exhibition of Abstract Expressionism held at the Tate Gallery in London in 1958.

He was struck by the Dutch artist's engagement with Old Master painting, one of Auerbach's own predilections, with its 'sense of edge and line, its concern with weight and definition of form, and its figure-ground contrasts' (R. Hughes, Frank Auerbach, London 1990, p. 149). De Kooning's surfaces were deeply painted, at once thick and awash with paint. For Auerbach this ability to capture what his mentor David Bomberg had described as the 'spirit of the mass', was remarkable and it greatly influenced his practice. Auerbach began energising his thick painterly surfaces with the lively brushstrokes and confident, directional vectors that were to become his hallmark and that are so evident in Catherine Lampert Seated. As Catherine Lampert has described, in Auerbach's 'masterpieces' of the [1990s], colour and facture are in modes nominally at polar opposites, but actually like the variation between opposite sexes of one species. The handling might appear lyrical from the vantage point of the sitter, as if made by a conductor's wand; on the canvas marvelous shapes arise, some raised and prismatic like cut glass' (C. Lampert quoted in C. Lampert et al. (eds.), Frank Auerbach Paintings and Drawings 1954-2001, exh. cat., Royal Academy, London, 2001, p. 31).

For almost twenty-five years Auerbach has worked simultaneously on different canvases, working with five different models throughout the week. As he once explained to Michael Peppiatt 'you make a discovery that you cant use in one painting, and it gives you an idea for another one, and sometimes if you're obsessed with one picture you think of it when you're painting another - in that way people think of their girlfriends when they're supposed to be with their wives' (M. Peppiatt quoted in C. Lampert, Frank Auerbach: Paintings and Drawings 1954-2001, exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2001, p. 31). Lampert has religiously sat for Auerbach since 1978 when she worked on his Hayward Gallery retrospective. She traditionally joined the artist in his studio on successive Monday evenings, then by appointment for a number of years before settling on Friday evenings. It is this regular practice that offers catharsis for both the painter and the model, the numerous appointments acting to chronicle the events of their lives and the passage of time. As Lampert herself has explained, the moments spent with Auerbach feel as though time has been suspended,'that odd limbo, not an unpleasant state, of drifting from practical self-reminders into daydreams and unquantifiable desires' (C. Lampert quoted in W. Feaver, Frank Auerbach, New York 2009, p. 21).