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Primrose Hill, 1967-1968

Frank Auerbach

Oil paint on board | 134 x 159 cm | Tate: Purchased 1971
© Tate, London 2017 © Frank Auerbach, courtesy Marlborough Fine Art

Audio produced by the J. Paul Getty Museum


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This piece is inspired by Primrose Hill, close to where the painter lived in the north of the British capital city. The intense blue lines that run through the painting hint at reflections in a puddle, while the black zigzagging lines that spread out in the upper half may be lightning bolts or tree branches swaying in the wind. Auerbach focused on the relationships that the oil paint creates in its own right, instead of reproducing the landscape precisely.


Auerbach used very dense impasto paint here. For this reason, this landscape may undoubtedly appear to be completely abstract to some viewers. In fact, many people will wonder if it really is a landscape. It may be said that it a more conceptual than literal landscape. The painter worked on this picture for more or less one year and made up to fifty preparatory sketches. He kept going back to the piece on an almost daily basis, but he was constantly dissatisfied with the result, and so he would scraped off the base and started again. His process is unusual and reflects an obsessive, perfectionist temperament.