Frank Auerbach b. 1931


With Marlborough Fine Arts, London
Private Collection, Munich


Mel Gooding, Frank Auerbach: Recent Work, 1990, exh. cat. Marlborough Fine Art, p. 34 (illus.)
William Feaver, Frank Auerbach, 2009, Rizzoli, cat. no. 600, p. 307 (col. illus.)
This work belongs to a series of six paintings that Auerbach completed in 1988. The sitter, ‘J.Y.M.’, is Juliet Yardley Mills, a professional model who sat for the artist between 1957 and 1997. She began sitting for him after they met at Sidcup School of Art in 1956. Auerbach’s habit of initializing his sitters, rather than naming them in full, began with Estella Olive West who was referred to as ‘E.O.W.’. By concealing the identity of the sitter, the painting was released from the limited status of ‘a portrait’ and became a figure painting – a less rule-bound kind of art which was also practiced by Auerbach’s contemporaries Lucian Freud, R.B. Kitaj and Leon Kossoff.

J.Y.M. Seated in the Studio III brings together an intimate size with a full-figure subject. The work uses a similar-sized support to Auerbach’s portrait heads, while accommodating a full-length representation of his sitter. In addition to his sitter, the artist also depicts the details of the studio in which she is seated: the edge of the carpet beneath her feet, the bench-like sofa on which she sits, and the column-like electric heater at lower left which separates Mills from Auerbach. The wide sweeps of vibrant orange paint in this work are highly typical of the bravura technique that the artist developed in the 1970s and 1980s. In this work, the strokes of orange represent her skirt, a point of special interest for Auerbach in the series from 1988; the other five works of Mills seated use closely related, similarly vibrant colours to depict this item of clothing.

As one of his longest-serving sitters, Mills is depicted in some of Auerbach’s most important paintings. Examples include one of the earliest paintings of her, Jym in the Studio (1963–64, Arts Council Collection). It is notable that several international museums have sought to acquire paintings by Auerbach which depict ‘J.Y.M.’. Examples include Head of J.Y.M. (1978, Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid), J.Y.M. Seated V (1983, Portland Art Museum, Oregon), and J.Y.M. Seated IV (1992, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney).