London Building Sites by Frank Auerbach
The Courtauld Gallery
London WC2R 0RN
London’s post-war landscape is vividly recalled in this retrospective exhibition of Frank Auerbach’s early paintings. Now one of Britain’s most respected living artists, Auerbach is renowned for his densely layered paintings, a surface of thick impasto that coalesces to create a textural abstraction of his subject matter.
See more of Auerbach’s take on post-war London
It was an approach well-suited to his first subject: the city under reconstruction. Having left Germany before the war - both his parents died in the concentration camps - Auerbach took British citizenship in 1947, just as he was beginning his career as an artist. Post-war austerity, rationing and rebuilding were all coming together to form a new set of national values, cautiously modern yet still fundamentally chaotic.
The forward-looking thrust of rebuilding necessitated huge upheaval, and Auerbach captured the broken city, its skyline punctuated by the first tower cranes, as steel framed buildings sprang up to replace bomb sites. The Courtauld show is accompanied by a set of archive images of the city being reformed, with the vast building sites on the South Bank and in the City of London providing a vivid illustration of the era.