March 17 - April 29, 2022
Marlborough London presents Figuration, a group exhibition showcasing works by Frank Auerbach, Lucian Freud, R.B. Kitaj, Leon Kossoff, Celia Paul, Paula Rego and Euan Uglow. Spanning eight decades and including painting, prints and works on paper, this exhibition celebrates the achievements of a group of artists whose pioneering work played a key role in the reinvention of British figurative painting.
They all established their careers in London, which after the Second World War had transformed into a hub of international artistic exchange, rapidly blossoming and expanding with the arrival of artists from across the world.
At the height of the minimal and conceptual art movements, Auerbach, Kitaj, Freud, Kossoff and Uglow deliberately rejected abstraction and dedicated their practices to figurative painting. Often referred to as the ‘School of London’, these artists shared the firm belief that the representation of the human form could still be relevant in the modern world, and that it could serve as a means to reassert individuality and purpose after the traumatic experience of war.
One of the focal aspects explored in this exhibition are the lasting personal relationships some of the artists nurtured with their sitters. Frank Auerbach works with a small group of mainly friends and family, whom he has portrayed many times over the course of several decades. The thick impasto paint layers mirror his persevering scrutiny of the sitter, striving to capture the unique presence, the very essence of the person seated before him.
Lucian Freud’s arresting portraits also depict the ‘people in his life’, captured with an unrelenting, psychological penetration and observational intensity. Committed to an uncompromisingly direct exploration of the human flesh, his naked portraits don’t shy away from explicit details.
Leon Kossoff’s and Celia Paul’s portraits on the other hand share a sense of gentle affection and intimacy. The moving and profound depiction of Paul’s mother is one of the many portraits the artist painted of her over the course of 30 years.
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, RB Kitaj’s unique and highly personal visual language reflects his complex involvement with historical sources, contemporary events and personal experiences, expressed in an adroit mix of drawing and painting.
Euan Uglow’s oeuvre demonstrates the impact of the Euston Road School, a group of artists who asserted the importance of traditional subjects and a naturalistic painting style. His nudes and still life paintings relied on meticulous markings and measurements and were usually preceded by painstakingly composed life drawings.
Portuguese-born painter Paula Rego briefly experimented with abstracted bodily forms before developing the idiosyncratic figurative style of ‘pictorial storytelling’ she is widely known for today. Exploring the emotional aspects of human relationships though often dark, subversive narratives, her imaginative works mostly derive their themes from literature, folklore and contemporary history.