Frank Auerbach was a member of the so-called School of London, a group of artist friends with a keen interest in representing the human figure, among them Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud and Leon Kossoff.

Of Jewish origin, Auerbach was born in Berlin and was sent to England in 1939 to escape from Nazi Germany. He grew up in Kent, in a boarding school for Jewish refugee children that was moved to Shropshire during the Second World War. In 1948 he enrolled at Saint Martin’s School of Art and attended the night classes taught by David Bomberg at the Borough Polytechnic. During these formative years, in which he became friend with Kossoff, he learned the importance of representing forms in an organic, unitary manner. From 1952 to 1955 he studied at the Royal College of Art and the following year the Beaux Arts Gallery in London staged his first one-man show. His impastoed technique, which emphasised the gestural nature of his brushwork and gave his work a three-dimensional quality, was heavily criticised by those who judged it to be closer to sculpture than painting, but he found major support in the critic David Sylvester. From 1965 onwards his work was shown at the Marlborough Gallery and in 1978 the Hayward Gallery held a solo exhibition of his work.

Auerbach has remained constant in the themes of his paintings over the decades. His interest in portraiture has been centred on depicting people he knows well; indeed, most of his portraits are of three sitters: his wife Julia, the professional model Juliet Yardley Mills (J.Y.M.) and his friend Estella West (E.O.W.). His landscapes usually show the area around his Camden Town studio, where he has worked since 1954.