Thursday, March 3, 2016

Frank Auerbach's Grecian Urn

Double Portrait of Lucian Freud and Frank Auerbach, l964 by Francis Bacon 
In a essay about the current Frank Auerbach retrospective at the Tate, entitled “Auerbach’s defeat of death,” (The New Criterion, 12/15), Dominic Green employs the artist's own words to make the following comment: “The fury of the paint is Auerbach’s struggle to ‘pin down something and take it out of time’—to fix the truth of the image and prepare if to for an independent future.” Auerbach as Green points out, like Lucian Freud was a German Jew and “both were encouraged by Bacon and denied the influence of German Expressionsim.” All three were friends and Bacon painted a work entitled “Double Portrait of Lucian Freud and Frank Auerbach.” But while Green’s portrait of Auerbach throws light on his style and its relation to his two colleagues, it’s a telling statement about the parallel universe in which the artistic image lives. That's to say art, particularly of the mimetic kind, emerges from a particular time and place. The attachment to reality is partially the beauty of the great portraits of a Rembrandt or Sargent. On the other hand a painting occupies a universe all its own, to the extent that like Keats’ "Grecian Urn," it achieves another time line. Despite the fact that everything will one day pass into oblivion, art tempts immortality. Auerbach’s subjects may be long dead, but the painting lives on. “Fury” is a good word to describe a painting style, which attests to the agony that accompanies the birth of all artworks and the creative act itself.

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