Frank Auerbach

To the Studios

1979–80

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 1232 x 1026 mm
frame: 1350 x 1139 x 91 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1981
Reference
T03247

Display caption

'There is a sort of magic in conjuring up a real place', Auerbach has said. In the late 1970s, he began painting the path leading to his studios in Camden Town, north London. His familiarity with the setting allowed him 'a kind of intimacy and excitement and confidence that comes from inhabiting the painting and knowing exactly where everything is'. The literal appearance of the location is transformed by the artist's expressive brushwork. Over nine months, Auerbach repeatedly scraped down and repainted the surface until the final image was achieved.

Gallery label, September 2004

Catalogue entry

T03247 TO THE STUDIOS 1979–80

Inscribed ‘“THE STUDIOS” October 1979–August 1980 Auerbach’ on stretcher
Oil on canvas, 48 1/2 × 40 7/8 (123 × 102.4)
Purchased from Marlborough Fine Art (Grant-in-Aid) 1981
Repr: Frank Auerbach: Recent Paintings and Drawings (exh. catalogue), Marlborough Gallery Inc., New York, April 1982, p.8

The subject of Auerbach's painting is the group of studios where he works and the path alongside his house leading up to them. This is the subject of a series of four paintings of 1977–8 and three paintings of 1979 and 1981. The Tate's painting is the first of the latter group, and was worked on for approximately nine months between November 1979 and August 1980. The second, which followed immediately afterwards, was finished in December 1980 and the third in April 1981.

Auerbach begins work each day by making a drawing of the motif that he paints during the day. On this occasion the motif was near at hand (he says he found life ‘distracting’ at the time) and he found ‘there was something about the pile up of the buildings which seemed challenging and worth recording, also, at dawn, when I did my drawings and it was quiet and the rooms were empty or contained sleeping people these buildings seemed a somewhat pathetic accretion of human effort’.

The paintings are worked on every day, and he scrapes off parts or the whole of the surface several times a day. He incorporates what he has learnt from that particular day's drawing in order to make what he terms ‘a mental structure, that is with recording a pictorial statement of a mental structure which somehow stands for an experience of a physical object’.

The tonality of this painting may reflect the fact that the drawings were made at first light.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1980-82: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1984