With a display of Frank Auerbach works collected by his great friend Lucian Freud currently at Tate Britain, we kick off a series looking at friendships, feuds and affairs between artists 

  • Birthday card from Frank Auerbach to Lucian Freud
    Birthday card from Frank Auerbach to Lucian Freud (drawn from a photograph by Kevin Davies of Frank Auerbach and Lucian Freud having breakfast at the Cock Tavern, Smithfield in 2002).

A display of art by one of Britain’s greatest living artists is a wonderful thing. What’s perhaps more interesting, though, is a display of his works collected by a lifelong friend and rival.

Lucian Freud collected the paintings and drawings of his friend, Frank Auerbach, throughout his life and displayed them in his home until his death in 2011. The collection, currently on temporary display at Tate Britain, comprises landscapes of London and portraits of Auerbach’s friends and relatives - which is apt; perhaps Freud chose pieces that showed a personal side of the artist he knew so well. The display also contains items that Auerbach gave to Freud. In 2002, a photograph was taken of the pair catching up over breakfast at Smithfield’s Cock Tavern; Auerbach made a sketch of it (above) and sent it to Freud as a birthday card.

Friendship — or feuds, for that matter — are not uncommon between artists, and it’s to our advantage that they’re often documented in letters, accounts, portraits and collections. If we’re lucky, as we are with these two icons of British art, we get to see an artist through the eyes of a great confidant or collaborator.

Over a coming series, we’ll be looking at what else we can learn from the relationships between artists, from the intense friendship and rivalry between Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse to the love triangle between John Ruskin, his young wife Effie Gray and John Everett Millais. That’s right; we have an archive full of gossip — come back to hear it soon! 

Kevin Davies' photo of Lucian Freud & Frank Auerbach in the Cock Tavern in Smithfield, 2002
Kevin Davies, Lucian Freud & Frank Auerbach in the Cock Tavern in Smithfield, 2002 (not on display)

BP Spotlight – Frank Auerbach: Painting and Drawings from the Lucian Freud Estate is at Tate Britain until 9 November 2014.

Comments

Why is it that i should suppose  my beautifully rendered Impasto Paintings (an Amaryllis and Oriental poppies - respectively) are attributable to Mr. Auerbach?  In this era of suspicion/authenticity/ provenance is king.  Whether the comment made by  one art vivant that if the work has not been recorded by William Feaver's exhaustive effort then, it does not exist.  They are my personal treasures and research into them has revealed such depth of association and context and bestowed upon me the opportunity for an overdue art education for which i all the richer.  Mr. Auerbach has, as if a phantom,  had me join hands with  British illustrative History, Pinocchio, Alice's  wonder-filled world and even the film A Streetcar named Desire, to name a few of inferences inspired by his work and explored my online.  Strange bedfellows it may seem but, where my illuminated journey has taken me as i delve into the depths of all things Auerbach.   Deep as the layers of his Impasto canvas' layers are the new meanings and appreciation givento me in my renewed regard for art history