Newlands House Gallery, Petworth Frank Auerbach: Unseen – 2 April 2022 – 14 August 2022
Newlands House Gallery celebrates the renowned German-British artist Frank Auerbach with an exhibition of works spanning over sixty years of his prolific career.
Tuëma Pattie: Graffham Woods. oil on canvas
Newlands House Gallery can be found in the quintessentially English country town of Petworth. Petworth, I discovered boasts many interesting and eclectic independent retailers, eateries, delicatessen and antique and interiors emporia. It is also graced by several high-quality commercial galleries, including Kevis House Gallery run by Lucy and Richard Hodgson.
Lucy and Richard opened Kevis House Gallery in Lombard Street, Petworth in January 2014, following many years working in London organising and running art fairs. The most recent of these was the Works on Paper Fair, which they ran as sole directors for ten years. Their last Fair was delivered in 2018 with Grayson Perry as their final guest speaker.
After years of working with large teams, they now relish the challenge of engaging together, to run their own gallery where they can follow their whims to pursue exhibitions and be responsible for every aspect of what they curate. Presenting new exhibitions involves considerable work but also huge reward and they love linking up with other local organisations for partnerships, such as Pallant House Gallery in Chichester and the Petworth Festival where the Kevis House Gallery exhibition The Internal Landscape is running from the 14 July 2022 – 6 August 2022.
I spent a lively hour with Lucy discussing all things art and appreciating their impressive collection, before moving on to Newlands House Gallery and the Frank Auerbach: Unseen exhibition, the primary purpose of my visit.
Newlands House Gallery is accessed from the main car park in the centre of Petworth. On the day I visited it was bathed in sunlight and beautiful wisteria. The entrance is slightly disguised with blinds closed to protect the artwork from the light but a warm welcome is guaranteed once you step inside.
The Gallery is spread over three floors — 7,500 square feet – and occupies a beautiful Grade II listed Georgian townhouse. Dressed in many chandeliers and pared back walls and floors, it presents a friendly ambience that neither challenges or interrupts the art.
Frank Auerbach (b.1931) is renowned for his resonant figurative works that are defined by rich texture and depth. The Unseen exhibition explores the evolution of his practice, with a collection of some 65 works exhibited, including nine paintings, etchings, drawings and Drypoint prints.
One of the first works you see upon entering is his intimate portrait of his close friend Lucian Freud. The pencil marks clearly demonstrate his typical working methodology; a build-up of many layers of re-workings until there is a dense mangle of lines, each mark thought through, erased and re-considered until he is satisfied… His working process results in portraits that are both an expression of his reaction to the sitter, and his own idiosyncratic way of working, creating, destroying, and creating anew.
Auerbach is inspired by the poignance of both the fleshy drama and orchestral use of colour and composition in the Old Masters that preceded him. This fascination, together with his relationship with a discreet collector, David Wilkie, is examined throughout the exhibition. Wilkie’s collection of commissioned paintings are displayed together for the first time in thirty years, since they were bequeathed to the Tate in 1993. This includes renowned oil paintings of Bacchus and Ariadne (1971), based on Titian’s classical work, and Rimbaud (1975−6) that depicts the 19th century French poet in the Cornaro Chapel, Rome.
Auerbach’s pencil work could be described as naïve. The rapid succession of marks intended to indicate the revelation of the originals. The vigour and drama of the mark making provides a very avant-garde interpretation of the Old Masters. He has created his own personal language of blobs, slabs and slashes; a shorthand that can be quite difficult to interpret, as he reduces everything to a series of intentional marks. The tension comes from the narrative of the marks as a collective. And in his paintings, the choice of colour and thickness of paint applied.
His creative approach is most successful in his painting in my opinion, however sadly he has made less of these, until his later years, mainly due to the cost
“Newlands House Gallery is honoured to present Frank Auerbach: Unseen in Petworth. Auerbach’s work is amongst the most resonant, compelling and exciting of the last century.”
– Nicola Jones CEO Newlands
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Written by Lesley Samms MSc ANLP MAC; Founder Pure Arts Group.