EOW on Her Blue Eiderdown II by Frank Auerbach

EOW on Her Blue Eiderdown II by Frank Auerbach

The painting EOW on Her Blue Eiderdown II presents us with seductive obscurity. Frank Auerbach was a true romantic and it shows here. This painting may seem blunt at first. But the piece demands a deeper look. It’s a loving and thoughtful portrait. EOW was the painter’s intimate partner. Prolific with portraits, Auerbach painted few women. Estella Olive West, though, he painted countless times.


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The painter protects his lover even as he renders her nude body. His thick swipes of paint shield her with mystery. She’s portrayed in the fetal position – vulnerable as a baby. But EOW remains safe. She’s not exposed. Yet Auerback still gives this work an intimate feeling. The more we look into those sultry paint strokes, the closer EOW feels.

It’s ironic. That’s because standing back from this painting makes it even clearer. We can see her body better. For instance, Estella cradles a hand under her face. This is only clear to the eye with a step away from the piece. That’s like in our deepest relationships. Sometimes it takes a bit of distance to see what’s really happening. Space gives the gift of perspective. We can find fresh insight by peering through this new frame.


EOW on her Blue Eiderdown - Frank Auerbach
Frank Auerbach – EOW on her Blue Eiderdown

Auerbach’s Protective Portrait

Frank Auerbach painted many versions of EOW in Her Blue Eiderdown. But this one’s supreme. Subtle clarity shines through its thick folds of paint. That’s because a beloved woman nestles within them. Romantic to the core, Auerbach only painted intimate subjects. Estella Olive West was his beloved and the subject of many portraits. The love resounds through this painting.

It’s protective, like Estella’s eiderdown blanket – his affection envelops her. That’s why this is one of my all time favorite paintings. We see this woman as an individual here. She’s got luscious, full hair. Her posture shows ease and body confidence. It’s evident that artist and subject have a connection. We can feel it. In fact, this work’s comforting. EOW snuggles into her down comforter and the viewer comes along for that snug. The blue blanket embraces Estella. It doesn’t cover her, though. Auerbach provides protection for EOW in Her Blue Eiderdown.

That’s his greatest gift in this painting. He shows us her beauty and strength without exploiting her. She’s sexual. Auerbach gives us a person – not an object. He paints a body without emphasizing her breasts or even shape. Instead the portrait spotlights the experience of being with Estella. She’s solace him. They share an abiding tenderness. This is the stuff of real love.


The more viewers sink into the portrait and see, the more love there is. Bits of red poke through at her face, thighs and foot. These are hot spots for the eye. With them, Auerbach directs us where to look. We skip her sensual realm. Instead, we see the whole beloved woman.



EOW on Her Blue Eiderdown II – FAQs

Where can I see EOW on Her Blue Eiderdown II in person?

Unfortunately, this masterpiece sits in a private collection. There are other versions on view at the Tate Britain. But they stand apart in color, angle, and even technique. Other versions don’t hold the glory, heart, and wonder of number II. For a high resolution II, check out the Sister Wendy book 1000 Masterpieces.

Is the painter Frank Auerbach German or British?

That’s a trick question. Auerbach is both German and British. He was born in 1931 Germany. Then he became a British citizen in 1947. Thanks to the Kindertransport program, he escaped Nazi persecution in 1939. This was a life-saving mission that saved nearly 10,000 children during World War II. Auerbach’s parents, left behind, died at a concentration camp in 1942.

What style of painting is EOW on Her Blue Eiderdown II?

Some describe Auerbach’s paintings as expressionistic. But that’s inaccurate. Expressionism visually represents emotions and mental states. This isn’t Auerbach at all. Instead, his work renders the experience of an organized world. The artist’s job here is make meaning out of chaos. It’s real world experience that’s abstract. It presents us with disorder. Auerbach’s work organizes that chaos. It creates a world that makes sense out of nonsense. He’s a contemporary figurative painter with a style all his own.

Who is the woman in EOW on Her Blue Eiderdown II?

Estella Olive West was a widow when she met Frank Auerbach. She was also an amateur actress performing in a play with him. They became friends and lovers. She posed for his paintings for 23 years after they met. This relationship overlapped with his marriage to Julia Auerbach (née Wolstenholme) his other beloved muse.