Frank Auerbach: ‘Painting is the most marvellous activity humans have invented’

Frank Auerbach
Frank Auerbach

When Frank Auerbach looks back over his nearly 70-year career as an artist he declares himself “lucky” that it was a process that moved slowly. “You’re at school and you like some reproductions in books: Van Gogh, Gauguin. Then you do a bit of painting and you think it’s fairly easy. When you start doing it more seriously you soon begin to have a nice time, you meet lots of girls … ” And all this, he says, comes with the heady allure of a freedom from responsibilities and the ties of a nine-to-five job. So why has he adhered to a regime over much of the last 60 years that is far more restrictive than anything an employer would impose, often working seven days and five nights a week and barely leaving the small patch of north London near the studio where he both works and sleeps?

“Well, you start to realise that painting is not quite as easy as you thought. In fact what you are doing isn’t really painting at all. You gradually see how much of a historical backlog there is, and if you don’t take it into account you are doing nothing more than fiddling about. At first I had to struggle to find the time to work, and then when I got a bit of time it seemed absolutely bonkers not to use it for painting. Once or twice when I was young I did try to go away for a couple of days, to Brighton or Oxford, for a break, and I just didn’t know what the hell to do with myself. I felt impatient and bored. But I can be alone working in London for days on end and feel completely happy.”

Sources: Nicholas Wroe / Saturday 16 May 2015 – Direct2Artist – http://news.direct2artist.com/frank-auerbach-painting-is-the-most-marvellous-activity-humans-have-invented-the-guardian/