Important Frank Auerbach portrait could bring £1.5 million at Bonhams
An important Frank Auerbach portrait will be offered for sale at Bonhams next month, when it hits the auction block for the first time in half a century.
Painted in 1963, 'E.O.W. on her Blue Eiderdown V' has spent the past 50 years hidden from the public in a private collection, and is now expected to sell for £1-£1.5 million ($1.4-$2.1 million).
The portrait depicts Estella West, Auerbach's most inspirational model with whom he shared a highly intimate relationship. Having met as part of a theatre group, the teenage Auerbach became first the lodger and then the lover of the widowed mother of three.
The pair's fiery relationship lasted 23 years, finally ending in 1973, by which time Auerbach's portraits of 'E.O.W' had earned him critical acclaim.
"E.O.W. on her Blue Eiderdown V is a remarkable testament to the artist’s intense and almost obsessive observation of his model," said Matthew Bradbury, Bonhams’ specialist on the works Auerbach.
"It was during the years 1962-63 that Auerbach begun using colour more freely and the paintings, with their wonderfully thick impasto, appear three-dimensional. E.O.W. on her Blue Eiderdown V is the largest and undoubtedly most impressive of the first five oil works in this series.
"It is very rare to find an Auerbach figurative oil of this size presented for sale and one so crucial to our understanding of his development. It’s incredibly exciting to see it re-emerge after so many years."
Regarded as one of Britain's greatest living painters, Auerbach is currently the subject of a retrospective at Tate Britain which runs until March 13. The exhibition features a large number of 'E.O.W' portraits, including 'E.O.W. Nude on Bed', painted in 1959, which previously sold at Bonhams in November 2011 for £780,000 ($1.1 million).
The Bonhams Post-War and Contemporary Art sale takes place in London on February 11.
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