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