William Feaver (1942–)
The artist of this print, Frank Auerbach, is best known as a painter rather than printmaker. Although he first tried his hand at printmaking during his student days in 1950s, he has only returned to the medium intermittently throughout his career. His first series of prints, studies of nudes, were executed in drypoint, but since that time Auerbach has turned to etching, finding satisfaction in the different effects that can be produced by manipulate the variables of the technique. Looking at Auerbach’s prints, the viewer is immediately struck by the heavy treatment of some of the plates. While some are clearly only lightly bitten, producing comparatively fine and simple lines (such as in P.19-2000); in others the lines are thick and jagged with fuzzy edges, resulting from hours of immersion in acid, (see P.26-2000). The lines in Auerbach’s prints vary enormously, deriving not only from length of time the plates are exposed to acid, but also from an earlier part of the etching process. Auerbach has been happy to use the most basic of tools to draw on the plates. He is known to have used implements such as darts and screwdrivers to expose the metal beneath the etching grounds.
The majority of Auerbach’s prints are portraits, but the artist has a different approach for nearly every plate, suggesting that "each adaptation of etching seems to respond to the character as much as the form of the sitter" (Hartley p.8). Some portraits are composed of more than one plate, inked in different colours, such as P.96-1999. The poses of his sitters also vary: models resting or asleep contrast with heads at extreme angles. “Bill” in this print is the artist's friend, William Feaver, the art critic and writer who has curated exhibitions of work by Auerbach. The artist often returns to the same sitter over again: Feaver is also the sitter in Auerbach's 2007 etching P.145-2007. The sitters in his portrait series of 1980–2 and 1989–90 are all close friends or relatives. In the 1990s Auerbach concentrated on portraits of his wife Julia and the author Ruth Bromberg. This latest print is on a much smaller scale to his last three prints, produced during 2006-7. It is much closer in size to the prints of Ruth Bromberg of 2002.
The Fitzwilliam Museum owns an impression of every print Auerbach has produced, thanks to the generosity of the artist himself and to people closely connected to him. In 2007 a virtual exhibition was put together to complement a gallery display of Frank Auerbach's etchings and drypoints 1954–2006
Since 1989, all of Auerbach's prints have been proofed by Marc Balakjian at Studio Prints in London and published by Marlborough Graphics, Auerbach's dealers. Marc Balakjian is also a printmaker, and earlier this year he and his wife, the artist Dorothea Wight, donated a large number of their prints, which are mostly mezzotints.
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Museum Number: P.86-2009