Selected by Jamie Anderson

FRANK AUERBACH, Head of Julia in Profile II, 1989


Julia Yardly Mills, or J.Y.M., was one of Frank Auerbach’s most important sitters. Their working relationship began in 1957 while Auerbach was teaching Julia at Sidcup School of Art. As recounted by Catherine Lampert, Jim (as she was known by friends) approached her tutor and said that ‘if you’d ever like me to pose for you privately, I’d be glad to.’ Julia sat for Auerbach twice a week over a period of forty years, with the artist praising her for being ‘able to sit for an infinite time, sometimes five hours without any break, quite extraordinary, and didn’t seem to mind it.’ The resulting drawings and paintings, of which ours is a remarkably fine example, rank amongst the artist’s greatest achievements.


Auerbach’s position as one of Britain’s finest artists was a hard won accolade. He suffered decades of public and commercial neglect despite the support of some of the more enlightened dealers of the age, principally Helen Lessore at Beaux Arts and latterly Marlborough Gallery. Initially Auerbach was a man out of time. Emerging through the art school system in the late 1940s and early 1950s, he found himself increasingly at odds both with the traditional academic teaching he experienced and the cultural supremacy of gestural abstraction. He sought solace under the tutelage of David Bomberg and the companionship of like-minded artists, such as Leon Kossoff.


Auerbach’s expressive use of charcoal echoes his use of oil paint and other mediums. The image appears only after a great deal of working. In the case of his charcoal drawings, marks are erased (at least partially) and reworked, creating a document of the sitter through time. The dark, determined lines of the finished composition sit on a weathered backdrop of previous marks. Head of Julia, which displays all of these characteristics, was acquired in 1990 from the Marlborough Gallery and has been in a private collection. Its display at our Savile Row gallery marks its first public exhibition for 30 years.


FRANK AUERBACH (British, born 1931)

Head of Julia in Profile II, 1989

Signed & dated

Charcoal on paper

30 x 22 in / 76 x 56 cm

October 5, 2020