Provenance: Marlborough Fine Art, London Private Collection, London
Exhibitions: Auerbach, Bacon, Freud, Kossoff, James Hyman Fine Art, London, 2000 Twentieth Century British Paintings and Drawings, James Hyman Gallery, 1 August - 27 September 2002. From Blast to Freeze: British Art in the Age of Extremes, Wolfsburg, Germany and Toulouse, France, 2002-2003. Bacon, Freud, Kossoff, Auerbach, Galerie Sander, Berlin 2003 From Life: Radical Figurative Art From Sickert to Bevan, James Hyman Gallery, London, 10 September - 18 October 2003, (cat. 27)
Literature: Auerbach, Bacon, Freud, Kossoff, Blains Fine Art and James Hyman Fine Art, London, 2000, illustrated p.7.British Art, James Hyman Gallery, London, 2001, (cat. 15), illustrated p.31. From Life: Radical Figurative Art From Sickert to Bevan, James Hyman Gallery, London, 2003, (cat..27), illustrated p.59.
One of the greatest British painters of the twentieth century, Frank Auerbach has always concentrated on the people and places that he knows best and with whom he is able to develop a relationship over time. With each model the experience is different: `When I work from a model there is a person in the room. The person creates her own energy by being present, that is, she has come to be painted. Each sitter in a sense creates, to some extent, a unique atmosphere, so that one finds oneself behaving differently because the sitter's a different person.' Frank Auerbach in `A Conversation with Frank Auerbach' (interview with Catherine Lampert) in Frank Auerbach, Arts Council, 1978.
This is exemplified by the present painting of Juliet Yardley Mills (JYM) who has been Auerbach's main model since 1963, replacing another model who was also identified only by her initials EOW. But whereas EOW rarely confronted the viewer, JYM often look directly at us, returning our gaze.
In the early 1980s Auerbach painted a major series of portraits of JYM in which the simplicity of the wooden chair upon which she sits and the frontal pose she adopts belies the immense power and sophistication of the painting. In Head of JYM the model's presence is strongly physical: Auerbach conveys the weight of the head, the strength of the neck, the animation of a person into whose space we have intruded. In this sense Auerbach's portraits of JYM recall Giacometti intimacy and Bacon immediacy, in which the subject is not simply the figure, alone, but rather the figure in space. In Auerbach's case this coexists with an emphasis on the paint as paint. Each painting is the result of a profligate approach consisting of countless failed attempts, each of which is scraped down, before finally the subject takes on its own life: a resilient, defiant, survivor. In these respects Auerbach's illustrates the qualities he, himself, admires in Giacometti:
`the whole way of conducting his life was important. He established that one went to the studio and worked there, and it wasn't any longer a question of making discoveries for other people, it was really a question of integrity - at a very deep level of amusing oneself - which I think was a new note.'
Frank Auerbach, `Going Against the Grain', Art International, Summer 1987.