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Frank auerbach:
London Building Sites 1952–62

16 October 2009 – 17 January 2010



Frank Auerbach Building the Empire Cinema, Leicester Square, 1962. Private collection © The Artist, courtesy Marlborough Fine ArtFrank Auerbach Summer Building Site, 1952. Private collection © The Artist, courtesy Marlborough Fine ArtFrank Auerbach Maples Demolition Site, 1960. Leeds City Art Gallery © The Artist


"Arresting and forceful... a compelling exhibition at The Courtauld Gallery..." The Guardian

"A pitch-perfect affair..." The New York Times

"The exhibition of paintings Frank Auerbach made for London's post-war reconstruction is thrilling..."
Daily Telegraph

"The Courtauld exhibition, expertly and sympathetically hung, makes a strong argument for the small-scale monographic display." The Spectator


"... Auerbach's immense melancholy is demonstrated in a compelling exhibition showing the rebuilding of London after the war." Sunday Telegraph


This was the first exhibition to explore the extraordinary group of paintings of post-war London building sites by Frank Auerbach (born 1931), one of Britain’s greatest living artists.

Fascinated by the rebuilding of London after the Second World War, Auerbach combed the city’s numerous building sites with his sketchbook in hand. Back in his studio he worked and reworked each painting over many months resulting in thickly built up paint surfaces more than an inch.


The exhibition reunited the complete series of building site paintings together with rarely seen oil sketches and a number of recently rediscovered sketchbook drawings. These works are among the most important contributions to post-war painting in Britain, produced at a time when Auerbach emerged alongside Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud as part of a powerful new generation of British painters. More about the exhibition


A special event series accompanies this exhibition. More about the exhibition events


Watch three movies about the exhibition
Listen to five podcasts of Frank Auerbach talking about the exhibition

Exhibition supporters:

Marlborough Fine Art (London) Ltd.

The Friends of The Courtauld

The Rothschild Foundation

and others who wish to remain anonymous



Building and Destruction:

Architectural imagery from the drawings collection

16 October 2009 – 17 January 2010

David Muirhead Bone's Study for the Great Gantry, Charing CrossJohn Christian Schetky Conflagration at the Tower of London 1841

Edward Dayes Saint Botolph's Priory, Colchester


This rich display of drawings and prints from The Courtauld collection focuses on the twin themes of construction and destruction. Ranging from the 15th to the early 20th centuries, the selected works lend insight into the various ways in which artists have interpreted the relationship between human ambition and nature through the built environment.

The display begins with a powerful vision of the ideal city by sixteenth-century Flemish artist Hans Bol and moves through mythological and biblical examples of destruction and human endeavour, epitomised by the image of the Tower of Babel. Artists such as John Constable and John Sell Cotman offer contrasting depictions of ruination as it occurs over time, as architecture gradually deteriorates and is absorbed by nature. A final series illustrates urban destruction and reconstruction, with works like John Christian Schetky’s Conflagration at the Tower of London of 1841 and Edward Dayes’ Somerset House from the Thames. Focusing on the city as artistic palette, they offer a visual prelude to Auerbach’s representation of London building sites in the 20th century.