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Renoir: Intimacy

From 18 October 2016 to 22 January 2017

Early booking is recommended

Pierre-Auguste Renoir
After the Luncheon, 1879
Oil on canvas. 100.5 x 81.3 cm
Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main
© Städel Museum - U. Edelmann - ARTOTHEK

Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection

Frank Auerbach
Head of J. Y. M.
Oil on canvas
61 x 66 cm
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
Numero de inventario
INV. Nr. 455 (1978.85)

More information about this work

Frank Auerbach painted numerous portraits from life in which he combined a figurative content with a plastic language close to material abstraction, with the intention of “trapping the physical essence” of the sitter and evoking the presence of a particular individual. His concern with textures and his interest in the expressive qualities of the picture surface led him to use a very heavy, almost sculptural, impasto technique. He also made a significant contribution to the new conception of the image of man, a tragic and monstrous image that stemmed from the new modern awareness.

As may be seen in Head of J. Y. M., executed in 1978, Auerbach’s portraits, like Giacometti’s final paintings, rather than seeking to capture a particular person, are a manner of producing a painting using a model. The gestural brushwork and impasto technique are the only elements that inform the image and any reference to specific identity is accordingly concealed beneath a thick cloak that envelops the background and the figure with the same deforming effect. In order to further underline this intentional anonymity, the sitter’s name is also hidden behind her initials. The present Head of J. Y. M. in the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza collection conceals the identity of the professional model Juliet Yardley Mills, whom Auerbach often painted. Like his wife Julia and his mistress Stella West, she is depicted repeatedly in his paintings.

Paloma Alarcó

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