Frank Auerbach at Tate Britain and the Third Curse Of Euston

Head of William Feaver 2003

Head of William Feaver 2003 by Frank Auerbach

We went to the Frank Auerbach exhibition at Tate Britain today, which is on until mid March. I am not at my best with modern painting, perhaps because I lack perception, or that third eye which may be needed to understand non-representational painting. But nevertheless I like to go to exhibitions like these if only to broaden my outlook

Auerbach is reputedly the nation’s greatest living painter. The exhibition has borrowed his paintings from across the continents, many from private collections, and is the first time they have been shown together. He paints in oils and acrylics, and puts the paint on very thickly. Some of his strokes are in fact furrows in the base paint, so thick is it. I found that I needed a very long view, about five or six metres before the image came together.

His work looks spontaneous, yet we are told that he would sand back 30, 50 or even 200 times before he achieved the image he wanted. Nightmare for portrait sitters who had to keep coming back

His studio is in Mornington Crescent in Camden, that area of London associated with other famous painters from Camden, like Walter Sickert and Spencer Gore. Plenty of paintings by Auerbach of this area of London, but I particularly like this misty one by Spencer Gore

Mornington Crescent by Spencer Gore

John Sutherland writing in the February issue of The Oldie Magazine informs us that this area is under threat from HS2, the proposed high-speed rail link between London and Birmingham. Half an hour will be clipped from the journey time, and in return we lose part of London’s art heritage.

As well as losing Mornington Crescent, the construction of HS2 will have dire consequences for Camden Lock and Camden Market, which is sought out by thousands of tourists each year, not only local but from overseas as well, so famous is it.

He describes this as the Third Curse of Euston. The first was the destruction of Euston in 1837, then the destruction of the Great Doric Arch, over which Betjeman and Pevsner wept in 1962 and now HS2, in return for which we lose an important chunk of London’s art and architectural heritage

It just doesn’t seem right, does it?


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