“Who’s number one?” John Berryman asked in 1963 when Robert Frost died. “Who’s number one? Cal [Robert Lowell] is number one, isn’t he?” Francis Bacon was number one among British painters when he died in 1992. Next came Lucian Freud, who died in 2011. And now Frank Auerbach is number one, isn’t he? The opening in October of a seven-room Auerbach retrospective at Tate Britain confirms his primacy.1

Bacon seems to have recognized his heirs long ago. In 1963, John Deakin photographed the incipient School of London in Wheeler’s Restaurant in Soho. Two tables are pushed together, the sitters arranged as if unable to do anything but evoke a Last Supper, or at least a Feast in the House of Levi....


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