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Many happy returns - Auerbach paintings and cards collected by Freud in Tate show: Works offered in lieu of tax will eventually be dispersed among galleries around UK

August 27, 2014

Mark Brown Arts correspondent

More than 40 paintings, drawings and birthday cards by Frank Auerbach, all of them owned by his friend and admirer Lucian Freud, have gone on public display as a group before they are dispersed to collections around the UK.

In May it was announced that Freud's estate had offered the 15 oil paintings and 29 works on paper by Auerbach, one of Britain's greatest living artists, to the government in lieu of around pounds 16m of inheritance tax.

Because the bequest is so large and valuable it is being split up with museums and galleries now bidding for different works and groupings of works. Before that happens all the works are being displayed together at Tate Britain.

They include drawings from Auerbach's student days, thickly textured portraits, vibrant landscapes of Camden Town in north London where he has lived and worked for 60 years, and hand-drawn birthday cards which Freud later framed.

"The latter are particularly poignant," said Tate Britain curator Elena Crippa. "There is so much affection in them and they give the lie to the common portrayal of Auerbach and Freud as rather austere artists."

One card is a drawing of a well-known photograph that was taken of the two men in 2002 having breakfast at the Cock Tavern in Smithfield. It reads: "Dear Lucian, This very ill-timed Birthday present. I have just been in to Paxton & W [Whitfield] and wanted to get a ham before they SOLD OUT. Love Frank. PS Many Happy Returns of the 8th."

Freud did collect art - a Corot he owned is now at the National Gallery and three Degas sculptures are at the Courtauld - but he collected no other individual artist on the same scale as he did Auerbach. "As far as we know, it is the most important private collection of Auerbach's works," said Crippa.

Auerbach was born in Berlin in 1931 and was sent by his Jewish parents to England in 1939, aged seven.

The display at Tate Britain includes very early life drawings from the late 1940s when Auerbach studied at St Martin'sSchool of Art; portraits of his wife, Julia, and others of Estella Olive West ("E.O.W"), who was Auerbach's main model - and his lover - in the 1950s and 60s; and landscapes with names such as Mornington Crescent - Winter Morning 1989.

Crippa said there was something particularly thrilling about seeing the artist's works in the flesh. "There is something about Auerbach, his work does not reproduce - there is something so wonderfully tactile and you truly need to experience it. To have a chance to see such a wonderful range of works, really important works from different moments in his career, is just extraordinary."

The display comes in advance of a retrospective of the 83-year-old artist's work at Tate Britain in 2015.

* Frank Auerbach: Paintings and drawings from the Lucian Freud estate is on display at Tate Britain until 9 November.


Frank Auerbach's painting of Mornington Crescent - Winter morning 1989 (above) and a drawing (right) of his breakfast encounter with Lucian Freud at Smithfield Photograph Kevin Davies and (C) Frank Auerbach

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Source: Guardian (UK)

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