Figure on a Bed II, an early masterpiece by the British painter Frank Auerbach, leads Bonhams Post-War and Contemporary Art Sale in London on Wednesday 27 June. Offered at auction for the first time, it is estimated at £800,000-1,200,000.
Auerbach (b 1931) is one of the elder statesmen of British figurative painting and, with his friend and fellow painter, Leon Kossoff a leading member of the London School. His work often explores the same subjects and models from different perspectives. He is known for painting with relentless intensity – using his fingers as well as brushes – and he returns repeatedly to the same work, scraping away the paint and remaking the image until he is satisfied.
Figure on a Bed II, was painted in 1967, and is one of a series of pictures executed in the latter part of the 1960s. They all portray the professional life model Juliet Yardley Mills (referred to as J.Y.M. in the title of some of the artist's works) sitting or reclining on a bed. The work glows with brilliant red, green turquoise and yellow. In 1965 Auerbach had joined the Beaux Art Gallery in London, and he used his greater financial security to extend the range of coloured pigments deployed in his paintings.
Bonhams Global Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art, Ralph Taylor said: "Figure on a Bed II is a perfect example of the blossoming of Auerbach's work in the late 1960s. He expanded his palette, and his composition became more linear as seen in the horizontal bands of colour in the work for sale. It is a mesmerizing painting."
Writing in the summer edition of Bonhams Magazine, the art critic of the Sydney Morning Herald, John McDonald said: "The reason Auerbach's work is now so highly valued and sought-after has much to do with his willingness to stick with the same subjects, methods and models that have served him well for more than 60 years."
Bonhams has a strong record of selling works by Auerbach. Recent successes include, E.O.W. on her blue Eiderdown which sold for £1,750,000 in February 2016, and Reclining Model, back View which made £872,750 in March this year.
Other highlights of the sale include:
- Mire G 13 (Bolivar) by Jean Dubuffet (1901-19895). Estimate: £180,000-250,000.
- Shock Red by César (1921-1998). Estimate: £100,00-150,000
- Kreuz by Arnulf Rainer (b1929). Estimate: £100,000-150,000.