Auerbach was born in Berlin. Under the influence of the British writer Iris Origo, his parents sent him to Britain in 1939 under the Kindertransport scheme which helped 10,000 escape Nazi persecution. Aged seven, Auerbach came to England where he later studied at the Royal College of Art. Auerbach's first solo exhibition was in London in 1956, and was followed by regular shows in London, New York, Amsterdam and Madrid between 1965 and 2006. In 1978, he was the subject of a retrospective exhibition at the Hayward Gallery (London) and represented Britain in the Venice Biennale, sharing the biennale's main prize, the Golden Lion.
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