Frank Auerbach was born in Berlin. With both of his parents being Jewish, he was sent to England in 1939 in order to escape Nazism. Both of his parents died in concentration camps and so he spent his childhood in a boarding school for Jewish refugee children. From 1948 – 1952, Auerbach went to St Martin’s School of Art, London and also studied with David Bomberg in night classes at Borough Polytechnic. He then went to the Royal College of Art from 1952-1955.
In 1956, Frank had his first solo show in the Beaux-Arts Gallery in London. Some people criticised him for applying the paint too thickly, but to encourage the artist, David Sylvester said, ‘the most exciting and impressive first one man show by an English painter since Francis Bacon in 1949.’ Another critic said, ‘in spite of the excessive piling on of paint, the effect of these works on the mind is of images recovered in the barest and most particular light, the same light that seems to glow through the late, great, thin Turners… an unpremeditated manifestation arising from the constant application of true draughtmanship’.
In 1978, Auerbach was given an Arts Council retrospective at the Hayward Gallery, London and he also had solo exhibitions at the British Pavilion in the 1986 Venice Biennale.