Mornington Crescent, Summer Morning II
This vibrant landscape is one of a number by the artist depicting Mornington Crescent, the area in Camden Town, north London, where he has lived and worked in a studio since 1954, when it was vacated by his artist friend and contemporary Leon Kossoff (and before him the Polish-Jewish émigré artist Gustav Metzger). It is painted with the distinctive heavy impasto which characterises Auerbach’s work. In his portraits and nudes, as well as urban landscapes, Auerbach frequently returns to the same subject. Here, using a lively yellow and blue palette that contrasts with the earthy tones of his earlier urban scenes, he transforms the choking London traffic into a vigorous surge of pigment. The date ‘2004’ scratched into the paintwork suggests the urgency and transience of both life and art.
A German-Jewish émigré with a focus on a particular ‘home’ location and a ‘family’ of familiar sitters, Auerbach’s work has a particular resonance for the exploration of issues of identity and migration. As Auerbach himself has commented of his background: ‘I wasn’t British born, […] I didn’t have a family and I didn’t have anything to anchor me to whatever was going on’. Mornington Crescent, Summer Morning II combines the artist’s focus on familiar architectural structures together with a sense of place. Auerbach deliberately restricts his landscape motifs, concentrating especially on London locations and foregrounding the area around his studio and its distinctive features, which include the landmark chimney.
This painting was acquired in 2004 to fill a longstanding gap in the Ben Uri collection and has since been exhibited on numerous occasions including for the day at Surrey Street Primary School, Luton, in the initiative ‘Your Paintings: Masterpieces in Schools’, in association with BBC & The Public Catalogue Foundation in October 2013 and featured on ‘Front Row’, BBC Radio 4.