Opening the Grauniad earlier today I noted the inclusion of a full-page profile of Frank Auerbach which I read with interest, if with a degree of trepidation as the Grauniad‘s art critic – Jonathan Jones – is not someone who I have much time for. At first it seemed like a fairly standard piece of arts criticism, focusing particularly on Auerbach’s friendship with Lucien Freud* and on the question of influence, specifically Auerbach’s influence on Freud. Comparisons with other post-war arts are also drawn. So far, so standard. And yet while reading the profile, a strange feeling gripped me. Something important was missing.
What could it be? A quick re-read of the article revealed that the answer was the obvious (and dispiriting) one.
In an article about Frank Auerbach that focused to a significant degree on the question of artistic influence, Jones had somehow failed to mention the most important artistic influence on Auerbach: the great David Bomberg who taught Auerbach (and many others, including Leon Kossoff) at Borough Polytechnic in the late 40’s and early ’50s.
This is an omission of such spectacular magnitude that sarcastic congratulations are not only tempting but essential.
*Published arts criticism is almost always written to coincide with a new exhibition; in this instance it is of an Auerbach retrospective at the Tate comprised of the (large) number of drawings and paintings by Auerbach that used to be owned by Freud.