Portrait of Julia, 1992, acrylic on board

I found this painting right outside The Long Look exhibition which I visited at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

It is a painting of Auerbach’s wife – his longest serving sitter.

I was drawn to the similar attention to the sitter’s presence that Audrey Grant also focused on!

The brushstrokes conveying this investigation – not focusing on the physical likeness of the subject, but rather creating a response to the person’s being in the artist’s space – his reaction – brushstrokes translate that effectively – also something that charcoal mark-making manages to do!

“Despite many prior months of sittings, this image of her will have been completed in one final session, all the previous versions having been scraped back and begum anew each time. Does the image look like her? Or, does it portray the artist’s experience of looking?”

Auerbach was a great inspiration to Audrey Grant – so I guess this note of the artist is also a further note on Grant’s work and practice.

Again another artist, who completely erased previous stages of their work, to work anew on top of the traces of the past.

And again, an artist taking a phenomenological approach to connect to their subject – rather than trying to depict their physical likeness (I feel like I repeat this phrase so often now but it’s so true – and it just shows that the artist I am drawn to automatically reflect on my thinking – it’s so interesting how I am unconsciously drawn to works that reflect my current thinking, without even realising it until I read about their work – their intentions and process!)

But actually this process is such an important part of my thinking and process – ESPECIALLY when working with memory, which is essentially our brain’s documentation of sensory information – the sensuality is something so subjective that it needs an AUTHENTIC and RAW technique to reflect it –

observation and investigation over longer periods of time does just that!

“I frequently find myself returning to the work of [the artist] when I feel unsure, losing sight or direction in my own painting […] We have to persist and dig deep in an attempt to find something that feels both alive and honest.” – Audrey Grant, 2019

HONESTY and LIVELINESS – can only be recorded by observing and investigating the subject of prolonged periods of time – that’s when you really get to know the subject – to really understand their gestures, behaviours and reactions to certain stimuli or situations – it allows the artist the time and space for developing an understanding – in a way they are collecting qualitative research

Frank Auerbach said: “Likeness is a very complicated business indeed…if something looks like a painting it does not look like and experience: if something looks like a portrait it doesn’t really look like a person.”


Feaver, W. and Auerbach, F. (2009). Frank Auerbach. New York: Rizzoli

Head of Gerda Boehm, 1961, charcoal and chalk on paper [Feaver, W. and Auerbach, F. (2009). Frank Auerbach. New York: Rizzoli, p. 46]
The periods that most interest me in his work are: 1954-57, 1957-59 and 1960-62 – so basically his charcoal and chalk drawing period!

Those seem to display exactly what I’ve been researching and attempting throughout this term, which is very strange and quite unfortunate that I have only remembered to research him now – I will definitely take out a book on him and keep it in my studio as a source of inspiration, throughout next term!!

I was also really pleased to see so many charcoal and chalk drawings in this book – it’s so great to see such a real connection between drawing and painting! – really shows off drawing’s PAINTERLY and GESTURAL QUALITIES! – also quite interesting to consider this connection when looking at mine and Georgina’s works and the amount of similarities we find between them!

In terms of the above drawing – I like the fact that there are only a few areas of dark tone – which helps create a more indeterminate visual effect – a large focus on a block of black which takes up the middle and only an indication of the eye sockets, and other faint lines to indicate facial features, which kind of merge into the rest of the face because of their brushstroke-like appearance conveying movement.

Reclining Head of Julia II, 2007, pencil and graphite on paper (57.8 x 76.8cm) [Feaver, W. and Auerbach, F. (2009). Frank Auerbach. New York: Rizzoli, p. 223]
This one is very similar to the ones of Audrey Grant!

A mark-making technique that I could use for individual layers!


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