Auerbach is a figurative painter, who focuses on portraits and city scenes in and around the area of London in which he lives, Camden Town.Although sometimes described as expressionistic, Auerbach is not an expressionist painter. His work is not concerned with finding a visual equivalent to an emotional or spiritual state that characterised the expressionist movement, rather it deals with the attempt to resolve the experience of being in the world in paint. In this the experience of the world is seen as essentially chaotic with the role of the artist being to impose an order upon that chaos and record that order in the painting.This ambition with the paintings results in Auerbach developing intense relationships with particular subjects, particularly the people he paints, but also the location of his cityscape subjects. Speaking on this in 2001 he stated: "If you pass something every day and it has a little character, it begins to intrigue you." This simple statement belies the intensity of the relationship that develops between Auerbach and his subjects, which results in an astonishing desire to produce an image the artist considers 'right'. This leads Auerbach to paint an image and then scrape it off the canvas at the end of each day, repeating this process time and again, not primarily to create a layering of images but because of a sense of dissatisfaction with the image leading him to try to paint it again.
As well as painting street scenes close to his London home, Auerbach tends to paint a small number of people repeatedly, including Estella Olive West (indicated in painting titles as EOW), Juliet Yardley Mills (or JYM) and Auerbach's wife Julia Auerbach (née Wolstenholme).Again a similar obsession with specific subjects, and a desire to return to them to 'try again' is discernable in this use of the same models.
Auerbach's personal history, and his painting style, are the basis for the character "Max Ferber" in W. G. Sebald's award-winning novel, The Emigrants (1992 in Germany, 1996 in Britain).Wikipedia