Frank Auerbach

Oxford Street Building Site I

1959–60

Medium
Oil paint on board
Dimensions
Support: 1981 x 1537 mm
frame: 2136 x 1670 x 110 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1961
Reference
T00418

Display caption

Building sites in London were a favourite theme for Auerbach in the 1950s. This painting was based on drawings made looking down onto the area between Oxford Street and Cavendish Square.

Auerbach’s characteristically thick paint and earth tones evoke the grime and dirty excavation of the scene. He was interested in the complex structure made by the cranes and scaffolding; their linear pattern is etched into the paint. This is reminiscent of the strong structure often employed by Bomberg.

Gallery label, September 2004

Catalogue entry

T00418 OXFORD STREET BUILDING SITE 1 1959–60
 
Not inscribed.
Oil on hardboard, 78×60 1/2 (198×154).
Purchased from the Beaux Arts Gallery (Grant-in-Aid) 1961.
Exh: Beaux Arts Gallery, April–May 1961 (8, repr.).

The above-mentioned exhibition included three small oil sketches of the building site (Nos.5, 6 and 7) as well as another large picture purchased for Melbourne (No.9). The artist wrote (30 May 1961): ‘The drawings from which the painting was started were made from above a building site which stretched from Oxford Street to Cavendish Square, but I cannot be certain whether it formed the foundation of the John Lewis extension or of the building next to it. I also made, at some point, drawings from a model for the figures. “Oxford Street Building Site II” (purchased by the Felton Bequest) was started before the picture purchased by the Tate in spring 1959, but finished after it, in December 1960. The Tate picture was, I think, started about September 1959 and finished towards the end of November 1960.’ See T00451.

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