Francis Bacon News 

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
 

                                                                                                                                                   2009-2011

 

 

       

 

Are these Bacon artworks really kosher?

 

Experts spilt over supposed lover's claim that hoard of drawings is work of revered artist

 

Dalya Alberge, The Independent, Friday 30 December 2011

 

 

An Italian who claims to have been Francis Bacon's lover for 15 years is fighting to prove the authenticity of hundreds of drawings which he says were given to him by the artist.

Cristiano Lovatelli Ravarino, from Bologna, insists they are gifts marking a relationship that endured until Bacon's death in 1992, but experts are divided about their origin and the drawings are now expected to be debated at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London next month.

Opinion could not be more polarised. Edward Lucie-Smith, a leading art historian, told The Independent that he did not doubt the drawings were the work of Bacon, arguably Britain's foremost 20th-century master whose works now change hands for millions of pounds.

Conceding that some drawings were not as good as others, he saw the master in images such as depictions of priests, related to Bacon's iconic Popes after Velázquez.

"They are the work of a Laocoön, a man struggling hard to escape from the entwining serpents of his own myth, and to return to the pleasure of making art for its own sake – no other reason than that," he said.

However, Martin Harrison, editor of The Francis Bacon Catalogue Raisonné, a definitive study to be published in 2013, does not detect the artist's hand: "Anyone who's not blind ought to know from about three countries away," he said. "The whole thing would hinge first of all on the likelihood... that Bacon made 600 presentation drawings."

Although Bacon denied making the preparatory drawings, authenticated sketches were found in his studio and others were given to the poet Stephen Spender and later acquired by the Tate. There is also an early filmed interview in which he admitted drawing. But unlike the Ravarino drawings, those were not signed.

"They're works to a purpose," Harrison said. But Lucie-Smith responded: "If I give a book I've written to a friend, I sign it. Why wouldn't Bacon sign drawings given to a close friend? It would seem odd to me if he didn't."

While Harrison questioned whether Ravarino was ever Bacon's lover, Lucie-Smith spoke of witnesses. "Bacon regarded his relationship with Ravarino as unofficial, in the sense that he could never get his friend to commit himself to something fully public – Ravarino worried what his family would say. One of his favourite places for escapes... was Italy. A constant companion in his Italian adventures was... Ravarino... they were often seen together."

Umberto Guerini, Ravarino's lawyer, named several art historians who support the drawings' authenticity, and claims to have clinching evidence in scientific tests of the paper and studies of the signatures by a graphologist. He welcomed the chance to show the drawings at the Courtauld.

Titled 'The Challenges of Authenticity: Francis Bacon, A Case Study' it will take place on 25 January

 


The trouble with authenticating Bacon

 

Disputed sketches due to be discussed at Courtauld Institute forum

 

By Martin Bailey, The Art Newspaper, 20 December 2011

 

The Courtauld Institute of Art in London and the Francis Bacon catalogue raisonné project, set up the artist's estate, are due to host a debate on the problems associated with authenticating Bacon's work.

More than 600 disputed drawings, said to be by Bacon and acquired by Bologna-based Cristiano Lovatelli Ravarino, who says he was Bacon’s lover (The Art Newspaper, December 2011, pp.1,8,9), are due to be discussed during The Challenges of Authenticity: Francis Bacon, A Case Study on 25 January. 

Key people involved with the sketches have been invited, including Ravarino, along with leading Bacon specialists from the Tate and Dublin's Hugh Lane Gallery (which displays Bacon's reconstructed studio). It is expected some of the drawings will be available for inspection. 

 

 

 

 

The law vs scholarship

 

Taking academics to court over authentication issues is eroding independent expertise

 

By GEORGINA ADAM & RIAH PRYOR, THE ART NEWSPAPER, ISSUE 230, 08 DECEMBER 2011

 

 

 

 

LONDON. The news that a leading scholar felt constrained by legal advice from giving a full opinion on a group of drawings attributed to Francis Bacon highlights a growing fear among experts that they might be sued for giving their opinion. 

On the advice of lawyers, Martin Harrison, who has published widely on 19th- and 20th-century art and is the editor of the Bacon catalogue raisonné, will only go as far as saying that these drawings, which some suspect are fakes, are “unlike any authenticated works”. An open seminar on these drawings is due to be held at the Courtauld Institute on 25 January. 

When art history disputes do end up in the court, it is often the least appropriate place for them. “The law courts, certainly since the Ruskin vs Whistler trial in 1878, have often been little more than a vehicle for the judiciary to parade its ignorance,” says Harrison. Manifold cases have seen judges dismiss expert opinion: for example, in the case of an Alexander Calder work, the judge declared the piece authentic, ignoring the opinion of the leading Calder dealer and the Calder Foundation, saying it was not a forgery but mis-assembled. The mobile, which cost the owners $500,000, is not in the Calder catalogue raisonné and reportedly languishes in a basement, now considered unsellable. 

As a result even flagrant fakes are not denounced, meaning that innocent people could be deceived. The authors of this article empathise with Eugene Thaw, who, when asked why he would not specify reasons for doubting a Pollock attribution, said: “It would land me in court.”

 

 

 

   Christie's

 

     Post-War Contemporary Evening Sale

 

       8 November 2011  New York, Rockefeller Plaza

 

       SALE 2480/ LOT 41

 

            

                                    Study of a Man Talking 1981 Francis Bacon 


 

Unsold

Lot Description

Francis Bacon (1909-1992) Unsold
Study of a Man Talking 
signed, titled and dated 'Study of a Man Talking Francis Bacon 1981' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas  78 x 58 in. (198 x 147.3 cm.) Painted in 1981. 

Provenance

Marlborough Fine Art, London
Acquired from the above by the present owner 

Pre-Lot Text

PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTION

Exhibited

Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Francis Bacon Retrospektive, June-October 1987, no. 35 (illustrated in colour). 

 

Lot Notes

"I know John very well, and have looked at his face a great deal (but, even) if I know the person very well, I (still paint the portrait)... from photographs rather than from having the person there because I find I'm less inhibited" (Francis Bacon in conversation with David Sylvester in 1984, quoted in Francis Bacon A Terrible Beauty, exh. cat. Dublin, 2009, p. 36).

Painted in 1981, Study of a Man Talking is a large and imposing full-length portrait of a man standing in an ambiguous space in Francis Bacon's Reece Mews studio. A powerful and somewhat typical Bacon portrait based on a photograph of his friend and companion, John Edwards, the painting is one of the first of a series of works made at this time that distinguish Bacon's late style.

Suggestive of a figure standing in a doorway talking, the painting marks in many respects the return to a subject and a theme that had persisted periodically throughout Bacon's career from the 1950s onwards - that of the lone figure of a man standing in an uncertain or ambiguous space at the center of the canvas. Often compared to the great standing portraits of Velásquez and Manet - two artists who seemed to express a similarly existential poignancy in their portraits of lone figures standing alone against non-descript backgrounds - Bacon's portraits of standing figures seem to directly and strongly contrast the animate and living nature of his figures with strange, uncomfortable, and often ambiguous angular planes of empty space. In one of the first of these standing portraits, for example, his 1951 portrait of Lucien Freud talking to the artist while leaning in through the door to his studio, Bacon's emphasis is firmly placed on a powerful sense of alienation between the figure and its surroundings. The same can be said for the central panel of his great 1971 triptych of George Dyer, in which Bacon's former lover was shown as a shadow ominously departing through a doorway and over a pile of similar newspapers to those seen in this work. In Study of a Man Talking, the almost nonchalantly relaxed pose of the figure and the turning nature of his head, seemingly caught in motion, is more subtly and elegantly set at odds with the empty angularity of the space around him through a simple use of geometric form. The figure, echoing somewhat the empathetic humanity of Manet and Velásquez's portraits, is set firmly at the center of the canvas while, strangely for Bacon, the simple, abstract and black geometrical planes of space and raw canvas, seem to be almost arranged around him.

The dual-tone structure and composition of the painting in fact derives directly from an Edward Quinn photograph of Bacon and John Edwards standing together in Bacon's South Kensington studio in 1980. It is this photograph that Bacon has abstracted, removing himself, the easels in the background, and the meat carcass visible in the painting on the easel to leave only the solitary figure of Edwards set against the bleak angular background of the studio and the canvas. Indeed, in Study of a Man Talking these two spaces - the studio and the interior space defined on the canvas - have become confused into a simple stage-set like structure - an ambiguous abstract quality that is further encouraged by Bacon's strictly graphic use of a line drawn from the bottom corner of the picture-within-a-picture to the central bottom edge of the painting itself. It is solely this line, suggestive of both perspective and of a division between rooms or spaces and echoing the simultaneous opening/closing paradox of a favourite image of Bacon's, Marcel Duchamp's Door: 11, rue Larrey, that establishes the ambiguity and artifice of the picture's space.

Aligned to the flat abstract nature of the background, it is this spatial ambiguity that both intrigues and sets off the vivid animate presence of the figure in the room by contrasting so directly its simple flat forms with the busy, sweeping brushwork that constitutes the figure. Most notable in this respect is the way in which the apparently turning head of the figure, with its smeared brushwork and distorted form so suggestive of a face caught in motion is set against a flat black rectangle. Indicative perhaps of another doorway, this black rectangle is used here as a device that Bacon frequently employed in his portraits of John Edwards to emphasize the distorted outline and portrait nature of his painting of Edwards' head. On the canvas in the source photograph - an early version of Bacon's 1980 painting Carcass of Meat and Bird of Prey now owned by the Muse des Beaux-Arts in Lyon - this rectangle is absent. Here in Study of a Man Talking the carcass of meat, too, has been removed and effectively replaced by the standing figure of Edwards whose animate and motional nature is deliberately emphasized by the nature of Bacon's portrait of his head in motion set against this static black rectangular background. A similar expression of the existential contrast between animate fleshly life and inanimate sterile geometry and space to Carcass of Meat and Bird of Prey, Study of a Man Talking is also, and perhaps paradoxically, a fond portrait.

As Bacon once said, not only is "one image" often "deeply suggestive in relation to another," as can be seen in the way in which this picture seems to have come into being from Quinn's photograph of Edwards and Bacon in front of Carcass of Meat and Bird of Prey, but ultimately, the picture's composition plays little more than a support role to the main center of interest in the picture, which is almost always the portrait (F. Bacon, quoted in D. Sylvester, Looking Back at Francis Bacon, London, 2000, p. 66). "I don't think the layout of pictures is to me really that important," Bacon once told David Sylvester. "I mean, you can use the same layout for the whole of your life. It's the way that they are painted that matters. You can use the layout; why change the subject even?" (F. Bacon, quoted in Ibid, p. 232). It was essentially for this reason that portraits were for Bacon the most important art form and the subject that constitutes the vast majority of his work. One of Bacon's first portraits of John Edwards, Study of a Man Talking dates from a period when, with Edwards now established as a regular companion who was often around the studio, Bacon had settled into a comfortable routine centered around the small Reece Mews studio where he both lived as well as worked. As Edwards later recalled, "By day, (Bacon's) time was spent between the studio and the kitchen/bathroom. In the winter months he found it cosy to sit by the gas oven with the door open to keep him warm, especially if he was having a bath later. The bedsitter was for nights and for drinking. The studio was only for work and had a different atmosphere. I would often sit in there talking to him as he painted. He held the brush like a sword and stood far back from the canvas, like he was fencing with an unseen opponent. I never saw him clean his brushes, but he'd occasionally wipe them on his dressing gown or an old sock or shirt" (J. Edwards, quoted in 7 Reece Mews, Francis Bacon's Studio, London, 2001, p. 13).

Edwards was evidently one of the very few people whom Bacon allowed to be with him while he worked. Something of this atmosphere of relaxed informality and of the easy companionship between Bacon and the much younger Edwards informs the mood of Study of a Man Talking. With its compositional structure articulating the unique and comparatively small enclosed space within which Bacon worked, the relaxed and, for Bacon, strangely unthreatening atmosphere is conveyed solely by the casual pose of the figure seemingly leaning against both a door frame and the edge of the canvas. To the left of him hanging, as it did in Bacon's studio, isolated against a black background, is that most existentialist of Baconian motifs - the light switch - suspended in a void of darkness.

At the center of all this carefully set-up articulation of place and mood is the contrastingly colourful and distorted features of the central figure. Not only is the head caught turning as if in motion, its mouth blurred into a smear as it talks, but the rounded shape of the figure's head has been indented almost as if the black rectangle behind it is slowly engulfing it. In addition, Bacon has superimposed over the portrait two colourful rectangles, one impressed in orange lending it a sinister almost wounded quality, the other a square grid drawn out in pale blue around the figure's eye. It is in this way that Bacon infuses the entire painting with a dramatic and surprising sense of animate vitality.

There are many potential photographic sources among the debris that littered the floor of Bacon's studio that might have served as a prompt for the kind of distortions and geometric additions to the face that Bacon has used, ranging from diagrammatic positionings of the body in radiology to Baron von Schrenk-Notzing's images of supernatural manifestations. But perhaps most pertinent in respect of the blue square drawn around the figure's eye in this work is the fragment of a book leaf from Jacques Penry's How to Judge Character from the Face showing rectangular crops of people's eyes in a manner similar to the way in which Bacon has sought to isolate the eye from the face here. Alternatively, this strange and comparatively rare use of a square painted around the eye could refer, in a more conceptual way, to the fact that Edwards was often himself looking at Bacon through a grid, being a particularly keen photographer. Indeed, it was Edwards who, after John Deakin's death, effectively came to replace Deakin as what Bacon often referred to as "my photographer."

"When you are painting somebody, you know that you are, of course, trying to get near not only to their appearance but also to the way they have affected you, because every shape has an implication," Bacon pointed out, so whatever the source or inspiration for this motif, it was only thought of by the artist as a means through which to heighten the image and attain a more accurate, vivid, and startling picture of his friend (F. Bacon in conversation with D. Sylvester, quoted in Francis Bacon A Terrible Beauty, exh. cat. Dublin, 2009, p. 36). Quoting Van Gogh on this subject in a letter of 1988, Bacon asserted that such strange or elaborate motifs were ultimately one of his solutions to the problem of "how to achieve such anomalies, such alterations and refashionings of reality that what comes out of it are lies if you like but lies that are more literal than truth" (F. Bacon quoted in A. Sinclair, Francis Bacon, His Life and Violent Times, New York, 1993, p. 296).

 

 

 

   Sotheby's
 

      Contemporary Art Evening Auction


       New York | 09 Nov 2011, 07:00 PM | N08791

 

        LOT 16

 

              

                                                            Left Panel of Three Studies for a Self-Portrait 1967


 


PROPERTY OF A EUROPEAN COLLECTOR
 

FRANCIS BACON BRITISH 1909 - 1992
THREE STUDIES FOR A SELF-PORTRAIT

titled and dated 1967 on the reverse of the right panel
oil on canvas in three parts
Each panel: 14 x 12 in.  36 x 30 cm.


ESTIMATE 15,000,000-20,000,000 USD

SOLD 19,682,500 USD

 

PROVENANCE

Marlborough Fine Art, Ltd., London
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 1967


EXHIBITED

London, Marlborough Fine Art Ltd., Francis Bacon: Recent Paintings, March - April 1967, p. 22, illustrated (detail,
center panel) and cat. no. 15, p. 23, illustrated in colour
Paris, Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais; Düsseldorf, Städtische Kunsthalle, Francis Bacon: Rétrospective, October
1971 - May 1972, cat. no. 70, p. 84, illustrated in colour
Edinburgh, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art; Hamburg, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Francis Bacon: Portraits and
Heads, June 2005 - January 2006, cat. no. 34, p. 67, illustrated in colour
London, Gagosian Gallery, Francis Bacon: Triptychs, June - August 2006, n.p., illustrated in colour

LITERATURE

John Russell, Francis Bacon, Greenwich, 1971, pl. no. 93, illustrated in colour
Lorenza Trucchi, Francis Bacon, New York, 1975, pl. no. 114, illustrated in colour
Gilles Deleuze, Francis Bacon: Logique de la Sensation, Paris, 1981, vol. II, pl. no. 71, illustrated 
Exh. Cat., London, Marlborough Fine Art Ltd., Francis Bacon, 1909 - 1992: Small Portrait Studies, 1993, n.p., illustrated 
Milan Kundera and France Borel, Bacon: Portraits and Self-Portraits, London, 1996, pp. 46-48, illustrated in colour

CATALOGUE NOTE

Three Studies for a Self-Portrait, 1967 was exhibited for the first time by the Marlborough Gallery in London shortly
after it was painted. The exhibition, entitled Francis Bacon–Recent Paintings, took place from March to April 1967
and this triptych was purchased by the present owner later that same year. On the occasion of the exhibition of this
artist, who was already a leading light of the art gallery and considered to be the most important living English painter,
a sumptuous catalogue was published with an introduction by Michel Leiris, together with a new transcript of an
interview with David Sylvester, recorded and filmed for BBC Television in May 1966. This marked the first publication
of an interview between the artist and Sylvester. The catalogue included a series of five "studies of portraits" including
Three Studies for a Self-Portrait which is the only one from this series in which the figure of Bacon appears, and it is
probably the first small triptych that is a self-portrait.

Significantly, the catalogue contained an insert at the front of the catalogue, possibly slightly larger than the original, of
a photo-booth picture of the artist, composed of three shots arranged vertically. By comparing these images to Three
Studies for a Self-Portrait one sees that two of these shots were used as the basis for the three portraits in the
triptych: the first photo for the head on the left and the second for the one in the center; the last photo, however, was
not used. Instead, the third panel with a compressed jaw turned towards the left comes from the third photo of
another photo-booth strip, shot on the same day and during the same session, which was found later glued to a torn
book cover, next to a strip of photo-booth portraits of George Dyer and another of David Plante. All these photos
were taken in booths in Aix-en-Provence in 1966 when the three friends were visiting the writer Stephen Spender.

(Martin Harrison, In Camera: Francis Bacon, London, 2005, p. 169 and pl. 188, p. 172, illustrated).


In the catalogue published by Marlborough, the reproduction of the triptych is accompanied by a photograph of the
back of the first canvas in which one can read in the underlined and sloping handwriting of Bacon Three Studies for a
Self-Portrait. Why did the editors of the catalogue take the trouble to reproduce this "canvas verso"?  Perhaps it was
to draw attention to the rare subject, for Bacon had painted few self-portraits before this date and never in this format,
and also to emphasize the sententious tone of this title, the importance of the "Self-Portrait" with its capital letter. 
They are, of course, "studies", like all the small portraits he painted during that period. The two lines of writing prove
not so much the undeniable fact that Bacon painted them but that he chose himself as the subject – a very rare
approach at that time – and there can therefore be no confusion as to the identity of the model.

It should be remembered that initially the portraits of Bacon, which now seem to be of such a high quality and which
enhance the image of their model, were not considered to be very appealing. Most people felt these portraits were
aggressive and expressed an almost unbearable violence towards the model. The painting gestures, the blotches
and marks were perceived as slaps in the face or blows, and in any event, attempts to destroy the physical and moral
identity of the model. Francis Bacon was seen as a painter who wavered between classical portrayal and Abstract
Expressionism, but it was not known how he worked. What is more, nobody had yet suspected that photography
would play such an important role in his work. (Martin Harrison, Francis Bacon, la chamber noire, la photographie, le
film et le travail du peintre, Paris, 2006). This notion was inconceivable because photography was considered to be a
lifelike art whereas the paintings of Bacon were seen as works that went against resemblance, or at least to a degree
that was, to a certain extent, metaphysical.

This is why Bacon only chose models from his close circle of friends: the Colony group, including Muriel Belcher,

Lucian Freud, Isabel Rawsthorne who modelled for Giacometti, and George Dyer his friend.  He even asked one of
the members of the group, John Deakin, to photograph them. After the death of Bacon, these photos were discovered
in large numbers among the papers piled on the floor of his studio, and judging by the traces of paint and their
proximity to the paintings, they proved that Bacon used them prolifically and directly while he was actually working. 
Thanks to his use of photography, he was not obliged to wait for his models or disturb them while painting.  Bacon
was perfectly aware of the fact that his painting had a disturbing aspect as revealed in his interview with David
Sylvester. 

 "David Sylvester: When somebody you've already painted many times from memory does actually sit for you, what
happens?"
Francis Bacon: They inhibit me. They inhibit me because if I like them, I don't want to practise the injury that I do
them in my work before them.  I would rather practise the injury in private by which I think I can record the facts of
them more clearly.
DS: In what sense do you conceive it as an injury?
FB: Because people believe – simple people at least – that the distortions of them are an injury to them no matter how
much they feel for or like you ". (Exh. Cat., London, Marlborough Gallery, Francis Bacon: Recent Paintings, 1967, p.
37).
 

By painting himself, he did not have to disturb anyone. As he admitted later, "I hate my face. I only made self-portraits because I had no one else to paint."  (David Sylvester, Interviews with Francis Bacon, London, 1975, pp. 129 and 249).

The numerous photographs of Bacon show a person who is rather ill at ease with a camera except when in the company of friends, or when his jovial mood made him forget the camera lens. More intense, entirely focused on the face and devoid of the broad naked surfaces of large-scale compositions, Three Studies for a Self-Portrait 1967 was a new exercise with far-reaching influence in his oeuvre. Like all the small triptychs in this series, "they participate in 
a life that is different from that of big compositions precisely because they escape from the concerns of compositions. 
They are there, handed over for their own sake, revealed in their evidence and in the evidence of their work."
(Yves Peyré, L'espace de l'immediat, Caen, 1991, p. 19).

The staging of his face in a photo-booth is of particular interest. Bacon parodies the sequential order of the mug shots
of criminals taken by the police; right profile, front view, left profile; he shies away while at the same time presenting
himself, as he also did in real life. He is fully aware that the photo-booth is, to a certain extent, a democratized legal
machine, a kind of self-documenting instrument within the reach of everyone and installed in public areas. During his
visit to Aix, the use Bacon made of it was a way of diverting away from the rigid frontal shots of the machine. The
Surrealists and Queneau did this before Bacon, and like him, amused themselves by parodying the use of photography
as an instrument to impose social order. But Bacon also understood the benefit he could derive from it as a perfect
tool for preparing his paintings.

In 1967 he even made a self-portrait, repeating the series of four superimposed images, but by widening the frame
towards the sides, as if he were reproducing the filmstrip of a movie or a chronophotography by Muybridge, in which
the interval between each image is very short (Harrison, In Camera, p. 173). The photo-booth portrait implies a longer
duration, one that is sufficient to allow the model to change poses, or to add a gesture to transform the composition of
the image and the angle of the face.  Bacon even had an intuition that he could in this way revert to the principle of a
triptych arrangement as long as he treated the subject more densely.  He could also allow himself to abandon the
"glass cage", so widely used in his large-scale compositions. With the photo-booth, the body of the subject is 
constrained not only by the frame enclosing the head and shoulders but also by the narrow space of the photo-booth,
which places the subject mechanically in a situation of oppression. Bacon realized this enabled him to continue to use
the glass cage without painting it, leaving it off camera in such a way that people viewing his paintings could guess
that something was having an effect on the subjects, but without being able to understand the origin, and this is what
intensified the power of his painting.

Bacon's pictorial technique and his way of putting paint on certain areas of the canvas are what create his signature. 
Three Studies for a Self-Portrait belongs to the "classical" period of the artist, between the late fifties and the middle of
the seventies. This is the period of "blurs" that "exude from the heads" (Ibid., p. 205), to borrow the words of Martin

Harrison, in which the faces seem to be pressed against a glass pane. This characteristic can, in fact, be found in
most of the works by Bacon as he liked them to be covered by glass, and it is particularly visible in the middle picture
of this triptych, in which the face of the model, Bacon in this case, seems to melt into himself, like a movie film that is
blocked in a projector.

It is not inappropriate to detect in it a clue to the self-destructive tendencies of the artist. "He used to say that his
reputation was built on a lot of nervous chic and that his real passion was gambling – he had once won four dollars in
Monte-Carlo. It was a dangerous mental joust in which he placed himself in the perilous situation of revealing a secret
that would destroy him." (Ted Morgan as quoted in Daniel Farson, Francis Bacon, Aspects d'une Vie, Paris, 1994, p.
171). Painting offered him another kind of arena where he could put himself physically and mentally in danger.  Bacon
claimed he wanted his paintings to be "heartrending" so that they would catch viewers by their throat and wrench their
heart.  In 1949, he announced his wish to transcribe "the itinerary of his own nervous system on the canvas."
(Harrison, 2005, p. 231). The three panels of Three Studies for a Self-Portrait are like three phases in this intense
experiment with his own appearance. The face on the left seems to be scratched and puffed up to the point of
bleeding. The eyes and mouth are closed and swollen, as if the figure was beaten up. The hair forms a crest standing
out against an emerald green background. The middle panel is even more astonishing. Although it evokes a melting
filmstrip, one can also see it as an anamorphosis. Bacon, who lived in London, knew by heart the Ambassadors
by Holbein with its ghost-skull in the National Gallery. He knew how fascinating it could be and how this change in
perspective could modify the emotions viewers felt when looking at the painting. Portraying himself with a face deformed
to such a degree, thus giving an impression that the visage would be visible from another point of view, was like painting
himself from a parallel world beyond, the crossing point being the center of the triptych. Bacon has clearly done
everything possible to ensure there would be nothing logical about this "deformation", especially since the background
seems to be of a perfect passiveness, invariably green and neutral, without any special dynamism, and providing no
visual distraction to this human metamorphosis.

This green colour is intriguing. Bacon only used it during those years, and it adds a special density to the paintings. 
When I visited the Francis Bacon retrospective at the Centre Pompidou at the end of June 1996 with Anselm Kiefer, I
was surprised to see how intensely the German artist scrutinized each painting, never distancing himself more than a
few dozen centimetres away from the surface of the canvases. From the way he turned his head, looking above,
below or sideways, he was obviously seeking to discern, through the reflections and underneath the glass, how it was
painted, how Bacon worked. At the end of the visit, Kiefer came towards me, and just as I was expecting some
comments about the exhibition, said instead, "it is amazing, to obtain his plain backgrounds, such homogenous
backgrounds, Bacon dipped his canvas directly in liquid paint."  And in fact, at the back of the central panel of Three
Studies for a Self-Portrait, the green colour clearly runs over the edge, indicating that it had not been painted with a
brush but spread directly and without a tool. The background thus achieves an intensity and neutrality of treatment
that contributes to giving the painted forms an even more striking presence, making them stand out against a space
where the hand of the artist did not intervene; it is constructed pictorially according to a different logic than the kind of
touches usually revealed by the use of brushes. This plain green background is all the more striking in that in the
photo-booths that served as models, a curtain can be seen, the kind that is either held open or drawn closed when
one is ready to be photographed, and that Bacon used at the end of the forties, in particular for his portraits of Popes.
This radical treatment is just as evident in the last panel, the one on the right. The face is no longer swollen, and is
even deprived, as if a large section on the left had been torn off. The strident green background occupies half of the
surface of the painting and accentuates the void. Is this a distortion, flow or collapse of the face onto itself, with the
nose and mouth twisted in the corner of the jaw?  The whole is obviously reminiscent of the photos of the severe First
World War casualties, especially the one of a soldier whose left profile shows a gaping hole, one of the most startling
images of a "broken face" that has been preserved. Bacon must have seen it, marked as he was by the shadow of the
two world wars. (Francis Bacon, Interviews with Michel Archimbault, Paris, 1996, pp. 123-124).

Three Studies for a Self-Portrait is consequently one of the most radical works of Francis Bacon, those that reflect
how his pictorial style was applied with an incredible rigour and efficiency, the one in which for the first time he
portrayed himself three times in a row, even though he always found it distressing to see his image.

 

This is the outcome of the happy memories of his experience in a photo-booth in Aix, the certainty of having made great progress through his new series of triptychs, in achieving perfect control over his work, and developing a capacity to incorporate his obsessions while increasing their effectiveness in his art. Three Studies for a Self-Portrait is a particularly accomplished example of his painting, a work that is rarely exhibited but which Bacon made sure to include in the selection for his retrospective at the Grand Palais in October 1971, the most important exhibition of his life.


Fabrice Hergott

Co-curator of the Francis Bacon Retrospective at the Pompidou Center in 1996
Head of the Musée d'art moderne de la Ville de Paris.

 

 

  Sotheby's
 

    Contemporary Art Evening Auction
 

     New York | 09 Nov 2011, 07:00 PM | N08791

 

      ABSTRACTION - FIGURATION A PRIVATE COLLECTION

 

       LOT 41

 

          

                           Interior of a Room c. 1935, Francis Bacon

 

 

INTERIOR OF A ROOM FRANCIS BACON
oil on canvas44 x 34 in.  112 x 86.5 cm
Painted circa 1935.
 

ESTIMATE

Estimate Upon Request

This work has been requested for the upcoming exhibition titled Picasso and Modern British Art to be held at Tate
Britain, London (February - July 2012)
 

PROVENANCE

Ms. Diana V. Watson, London (acquired directly from her cousin, the artist)
Sotheby's, London, November 30, 1989, Lot 600
Mr. James Kirkman, London (acquired from the above)
Sotheby's, London, July 2, 1998, Lot 117 
Crane Kalman Gallery, London
Acquired by the present owner from the above in June 2000
 

EXHIBITED

Lugano, Museum of Modern Art, Francis Bacon, March - May 1993, cat. no. 5, p. 23, illustrated in colour
Paris, Centre National d'Art et de Culture, Centre Georges Pompidou: Munich, Haus de Kunst, Francis Bacon, June
1996 - January 1997, cat. no. 2, p. 82, illustrated in colour
Paris, Musée Picasso, Bacon Picasso: La Vie des Images, March - May 2005, fig. no. 108, p. 119, illustrated in colour
 

LITERATURE

Ronald Alley, Francis Bacon, New York and London, 1964, cat. no. 11, illustrated 
Hugh M. Davies, Francis Bacon: The Early and Middle Years, London, 1978, pl. 20, pp. 24 - 25, illustrated in colour
Richard Kendall, "Francis Bacon & Lucian Freud," Apollo Magazine, November 1996, p. 44, illustrated in colour
Christophe Domino, Bacon, Monstre de Peinture, Paris, 1996, pp. 24 & 25, illustrated 
Michael Peppiatt

, Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma, New York, 1996, p. 69 (text reference)
Christophe Domino, Francis Bacon: Taking Reality by Surprise, London 1997, no. 25, illustrated in colour
Exh. Cat., New Haven, The Yale Center for British Art (and travelling), Francis Bacon: A Retrospective Exhibition,
1999, p. 21, illustrated
David Sylvester, Looking Back at Francis Bacon, New York, 2000, fig. 5, p. 16, illustrated
Exh. Cat., Milan, Palazzo Reale, Bacon, 2008, fig. 2, p. 28, illustrated in colour

CATALOGUE NOTE

On the eve of two decades passing since the death of Francis Bacon, we are today still unravelling the compound
mysteries of his extraordinary life and art. While the embers of immediate memory inevitably grow dimmer with the
progression of time, the prism through which we acquire historical distance and perspective concurrently grows ever
clearer and sharper. Although the strata of interpretation and analysis of the past progressively accumulate, the
topography of history can of course only be assessed from the ever-adjusting viewpoint of the present. Like Caspar
David Friedrich's Wanderer above the Sea of Fog, we stand before a continually shifting vista of what has gone before
us: the impression of this panorama subtly mutating in accordance with the evolution of our perception.

In recent decades curators of museums spanning the globe have mounted grand retrospectives of artists' lives and
works to advance the critical reception and received wisdom of their subjects. On occasion, these revisionist

representations of the record of human history strike a chord of such resonance that we are forced to confront and
reassess certain assumptions and prejudices we held about the past, sometimes to the extent that our previous views
seem almost to have been blind. Such was the effect during the five month long retrospective of Francis Bacon's work
conceived by David Sylvester and presented at the Centre Georges Pompidou in 1996, when the present painting
Interior of a Room was selected as one of just three works to represent the period of the artist's life before 1944, his
thirty-fifth year. In the context of the exhibition, where it was shown alongside the ephemeral grisaille Crucifixion of

1933 and the intensely mystifying Figures in a Garden of circa 1936 (Collection of the Tate Collection), Interior of a
Room presented a stunning revelation. A sensationally multi-faceted and intricate masterwork, it is replete with
iconographic signifiers that denote the astonishingly wide-ranging sources of inspiration that fuelled Bacon's artistic
practice. Moreover, trapped within its dense layers reside the incipient indicators of much that would define Bacon's
subsequent output and enable him to advance so dramatically the course of artistic enquiry in the Twentieth Century. 
Interior of a Room encapsulates the unrestrained ambition of a man in his early twenties who, despite his relatively
young age, had already amassed quite a remarkable and astonishingly diverse life experience. Aged no more than
sixteen, in 1926 he had abruptly abandoned his home, driven away from hearth and kin by his father, and embarked
for London. At the beginning of 1927, he was in Berlin and by the spring he had arrived in Paris, staying that summer
with a family in Chantilly before moving in the autumn to the Hôtel Delambre in Montparnasse, where he endured an
impoverished subsistence lifestyle for almost a year. Returning to London at the end of 1928 he became a self-styled
furniture designer and interior decorator, forging an idiosyncratic style indebted in part to the Bauhaus and in part to
the purists Le Corbusier and Ozenfant, whose architecture and designs he must have encountered while on the
Continent. Mirrors, hanging rugs, folding screens, curved metal tubes and geometric carpets are well-evidenced as
chief components of Bacon's design style in an article in The Studio magazine of 1930 and the documentary paintings
of his fellow painter and friend Roy de Maistre. By October 1933, however, the twenty four year-old's painting was
included in the ground-breaking exhibition Twentieth Century Art held at the newly-opened Mayor Gallery in Cork

Street alongside works by Braque, Dalí, Ernst, Klee, Léger, Miró, Soutine, Giacometti, Picasso and a host of other
renowned artists responsible for defining the international avant-garde.

 Hence by the time of the present work Bacon had coasted to meteoric success in the blink of an eye, having been
selected for attention by the leading art critic, Herbert Read; exhibited in one of the best galleries; and bought by the
pre-eminent collector Sir Michael Sadler. It is near inconceivable that Bacon's newfound celebrity and success did not
spur his thoughts towards emulating the prodigious early achievements of his heroes from the pantheon of Art History,
likely none more so than the young Pablo Picasso, whose long shadow readily traversed the twenty-eight years that
separated them both. It is perhaps particularly characteristic of youthful ambition, driven by naïve and headstrong
audacity, to pursue the allure of the definitive masterpiece: autonomous greatness and the legend of genius being
prized above else at the dawn of a career. The ambition and scope of Interior of a Room, its pictorial and thematic
layering, its artistic and ideological complexity, to say nothing of its exhilarating technical execution, define it as just
such a painting: the summation of all Bacon had experienced thus far; his ultimate artistic undertaking to date; and the
defining work of his pre-war career. As declared by Anne Baldassari,
now director of the Musée Picasso in Paris,
"This work, it is true, is the prime indicator of coherence in Bacon's painting between 1933 and 1944...

This large scale canvas, a subtle construction of three broad vertical bands, seems to deploy over each a dimension
representative of space... an ambivalent world where, around the figure, there extends a surface on which the
imagination may be inscribed... This space haunted by inadmissible figures would be the one through which an
awakened sleeper or a dreamer advances, making his way."

(Exh. Cat., Paris, Musée Picasso, Bacon Picasso: The Life of Images, 2005, pp. 106-107).

Bacon rejoiced in relaying the fact that as a painter he was entirely self-taught and his insatiable capacity for
innovation finds its first fully mature expression with Interior of a Room. The editor of the catalogue for the Pompidou
retrospective, and now director of the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Fabrice Hergott, perceived there that
this "very complex composition" demonstrates not only Bacon's inherent discernment of Picasso's Analytic Cubism
and Matisse's appropriation of schematic decoration, but also marks the inception of outstanding iconographic and
conceptual themes that would reappear throughout his subsequent oeuvre. (Exh. Cat., Paris, Centre national d'art et
de culture Georges Pompidou, Francis Bacon, 1996, p. 82). Indeed, by explicitly inaugurating some of Bacon's most
influential pictorial lexica, this painting testifies to just how early Bacon was intoxicated by certain imagery and ideas
that would occupy him until his death. At the same time, Interior of a Room negotiates a steeply-raked precipice
between abstraction and figuration, drifting definitely into neither domain but brilliantly inhabiting an indeterminate
zone in which the spectator continually recognises, remembers and loses esoteric visual referents, apparently resident
of an ulterior dimension.

As a voracious student of the History of Art, the young Francis Bacon anchored his early innovation to paradigms of
the Western canon. With its vertically segregated composition, dramatic disposition of spatial compartments and
juxtaposition of interior and exterior zones, let alone a reclining white dog in the bottom right corner, Interior of a Room
is a clear reinterpretation of Velázquez' 1656 masterpiece Las Meninas. Thus, like his artistic ancestor, Bacon here
pursues archetypal concepts of perception and visual cognition; the totem of the mirror and attendant themes of
interpreting reflected realities; as well as the perplexing dynamic between painter and subject, between the viewer and
the viewed. This latest thread had been recently reinvigorated by Picasso in his famous work Painter and Model of
1928, which similarly confronts issues inherent to the nature of depiction; the silhouette profile being inscribed on his
artist's canvas in the picture apparently adhering more closely to a preconceived idea of reality than the 'actual' model.
Similarly, towards the upper right of Interior of a Room there is a black-outlined, purple silhouette that could be
interpreted as the outline of a human torso, extending from the shoulder to the elbow. Indeed, examination of this
canvas under x-ray reveals that this dark purple figure-outline may indeed have once been surmounted by a head,
which was subsequently over-painted by the purple and yellow folds of the curtain now above it. In discussing Bacon's
treatment of representation, Ernst van Alphen cites the words of Aeschylus' character Orestes, "You do not see them,
you don't – but I see them", and asks "whose vision is 'normal' and whose is 'deviant'...Precisely because these
questions are unanswerable, it becomes plausible that the problem of the instability of vision is related to the problem
of the instability of identity." (van Alphen p. 75). With the present work Bacon does indeed question the stability of both
visual cognition and, by association, the stability of identity, thereby embarking on a path of investigation he would
continue for the rest of his life.

Interior of a Room exhibits further parity with Painter and Model via three-dimensional solidity being reduced to a
scored network of diagrammatic black lines. Of course Bacon's overlapping linear schema here crucially prefigure the
cage-like space frames that later enclose his Popes inside their solitary nightmares; trap anonymous businessmen
within midnight blue voids; and imprison countless actors in triptychs throughout his oeuvre. The significance of these
frames' appearance here, so critical to Bacon's definition of compositional and psychological space throughout his
subsequent career, should not be underestimated. It is fascinating to note that the rectilinear grid-like railings towards
the centre right of this composition, seeming at first to belong to the same order of scored black lines as the progenitor
space-frames and contained to a window-like portal beneath the draped curtain, are precisely analogous to the metal
bars depicted outside the windows of Bacon's studio at 17 Queensberry Mews West, South Kensington in de Maistre's
1930 painting Interior (Francis Bacon's Studio). Interior of a Room represents Bacon's earliest fully-resolved
interrogation of the organisation and potentiality of pictorial, intellectual and emotional space, proving the prototype for
his consequent declaration, "I like the anonymous compartment, like a room concentrated in a small space. I would
like to paint landscapes in a box...If you could enclose their infinity in a box they would have a greater concentration."

(Studies, p. 111) 


 The purple and yellow drapery folds of the hanging curtain towards the top right are another iconographic device that
 is both rooted in illustrious precedent, perhaps most obviously Titian's Portrait of Cardinal Filippo Archinto of 1558,
 and the inception of a thereafter recurrent trademark: hanging curtain folds coming to envelope Popes, Men in Blue
 and others such as the Sphinx III of 1954. However, of paramount importance to Hergott is the ethereal depiction of
 the dog in the lower right of Bacon's painting. While this creature finds highly comparative antecedent in Las Meninas
 and startling concurrence with the dog in Piero della Francesca's St Sigismund and Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta of
 1451, Hergott also proposes the thrilling possibility that in distortion and colour, this canine form is the direct precursor
 for the howling, anguished beings in Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion of 1944. Dogs, along with
 horses, possessed a singular psychosomatic threat for Bacon as the unwitting aggravators of the chronic asthma that
 he had suffered since a small child. According to Caroline Blackwood, "When he was a little boy his parents had put
 him astride a pony and they had forced him to go fox-hunting. He loathed the brutality of the "Sport of Kings" and
 developed a violent allergy to horses. He turned blue once he found himself on the hunting field and he started to
 choke with chronic asthma...The subject made him freeze. He became agitated whenever I broached it. He started to
 tug at the collar of his shirt as if he were trying to loosen some kind of noose which he found asphyxiating; for a
 moment he resembled the agonized figures in his paintings whose faces turn a truly dangerous shade of indigo purple
 as they go into the last stages of strangulation". At first sight the dog in Interior of a Room appears dismembered and
 headless, but closer inspection reveals the neck and head re-emerging in the shadows; the elongated neck rising up
 to bite the central green form.
The mouth as orifice of threat and violence becomes a defining characteristic of the
 awesomely terrifying demons of the 1944 triptych, and both they and this dog give physical form to Georges Bataille's
 1930 observation that "Terror and atrocious suffering make the mouth an organ of searing screams." (Georges
 Bataille, 'Dictionnaire – Bouche', Documents, no. 5, 1930, pp. 298-99). As extant prototype for Bacon's indisputable
 masterpiece of 1944, itself equal in significance to Bacon's oeuvre as Les Demoiselles d'Avignon is to that of
 Picasso's, Interior of a Room occupies a place of historic importance in the visual arts of the Twentieth Century.
 In many ways the threat of mortality inhabits every pore of Bacon's art. Danger, threat, violence and death constantly
 linger in the recesses of his canvas, for the singular reason that he deftly stated: "Consciousness of mortality
 sharpens one's sense of existing." (Studies, p. 96). Again, Interior of a Room provides abundant evidence that this
 preoccupation was all-consuming while Bacon was just in his twenties. Raised by English parents living in County
 Kildare, Ireland during violent times, Bacon's upbringing was intensely fraught and immersed in the threat of violence:
 "My father warned us that at any time, not that we would be shot, but at night someone might break in or whatever. My
 grandmother married three times, at that time her husband was the Head of Police in Kildare and in their house all the
 windows were sandbagged. I lived with my grandmother a lot. I grew up in an atmosphere of threat for a long
 time...And then I was in Berlin at the beginning of the Nazi thing, my whole life had been lived through a time of
 stress." (Studies, pp. 104-5)

Amidst Francis Bacon's manifold sources of inspiration, classical literature was a lifelong obsession. The legend of
Oedipus, exemplified by Sophocles in Oedipus Rex, specifically provided a catalogue of potent imagery on which
Bacon's creative instinct could feed, not least the denouement of the protagonist blinding himself with the broach-pin
torn from the clothes of his wife-mother after she has killed herself. The pivotal character in that narrative of the
predatory and merciless Sphinx, the mythological creature comprised of a lion's haunches, a bird's wings, and a
woman's head and breast that preys on those who cannot answer her riddle, features as recurrent iconographic
catalyst within Bacon's art, appearing in various guises, such as Study of the Sphinx of 1953, throughout the six
decades of his career. As he later explicated, "I like the Sphinx, it unlocks valves of sensation. I don't know how, but it
does. To be able to explain my work would be like being able to explain the unconscious." (Studies, p. 106). Towards
the upper centre left edge in the present work, within the pyramidal black triangle, the darker silhouette can be
interpreted as a highly schematised insignia-glyph of the Sphinx, connoting Victorian photographs of the Great

Pyramid and the Sphinx in Egypt. The yellow-green lateral rectangle that extends from beneath this to the middle of
the composition - a horizontal armature that seems to latch onto the edge of the patterned screen in order to pull it
back while simultaneously being bitten by the attenuated jaws of the wraithlike dog's head - also hints at the
suggestion of the Sphinx's leonine long front legs, so conventionally depicted in similar outstretched pose.
Surmounting all this among the geometric architecture and integrated by a very long attenuated neck is the
penetrating and all-seeing cyclopean eye. Of course, Bacon was not alone in realizing artistic stimulus in the Oedipus
myth at this time. Published and premiered in 1934, and thus likely preceding the present painting directly,
the play
La Machine infernale by the dramatist Jean Cocteau was heavily rooted in the legend. In Act II, the exchanges
between the Sphinx and Anubis, the jackal-headed Egyptian god of the afterlife, when they have ensnared Oedipus
on his journey provide a prescient rubric to the phantasm of the Sphinx and the biting dog in Interior of a Room. With
Oedipus trapped in her grasp, Cocteau's Sphinx, harbinger of death, cries "And I should make you go down on your
knees...And you'd bend your head... and Anubis would bound forward. He would open his wolf-like jaws!"

The final, objective analysis of Interior of a Room leads the spectator to just one plausible conclusion: within
astoundingly sophisticated strata of artistic and philosophical innovation lies the self-determined masterpiece of a new
artistic genius. It is an ever-changing artwork that offers myriad interpretations and no definite conclusions: as
Baldassari notes "The artwork...and model exchange their existential characteristics by dint of a stylistic transference
that shifts from the figurative to the abstract, biomorphic, or geometric mode" (Baldassari p. 96). Perhaps more
successfully even than the exemplar of the contemporaneous Picasso, Interior of a Room achieves an almost
inconceivable balancing act between abstraction and figuration. This work proves that already by this moment Bacon's
ready enlistment of diverse sources are too numerous to singularly identify or individuate, and that the scope and
extent of his creative vision already anticipated paths he would follow for the rest of his life. It is a canvas of endless
intrigue, almost as if Bacon purposefully sought to bury within its oil surface some cipher for his future development.
Indeed, a fitting coda is provided by one of Bacon's favourite passages from T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland, which he told
Hugh Davies had been a continual source of inspiration to him: "I have heard the key/ Turn in the door once and turn
once only/ We think of the key, each in his prison/ thinking of the key, each confirms a prison." (Studies, p. 102)


 

Sotheby's
 

   Contemporary Art Evening Auction


    New York | 09 Nov 2011, 07:00 PM | N08791

 

    ABSTRACTION - FIGURATION: A PRIVATE COLLECTION

 

       

                                           Corner of the Studio 1934 Francis Bacon

 

 

LOT 40


FRANCIS BACON BRITISH 1909 - 1992

CORNER OF THE STUDIO


signed and dated 34 pen, ink and wash on paper
20 3/4  x 15 5/8  in.  52.7 x 39.8 cm.

ESTIMATE 150,000-200,000 USD

This work has been requested for the upcoming exhibition titled Picasso and Modern British Art to be held at Tate
Britain, London (February - July 2012).

PROVENANCE


Gladys MacDermot, London (acquired directly from the artist in 1934)
Private Collection, Geneva
Sotheby's, London, June 26, 2009, Lot 106
Acquired by the present owner from the above


LITERATURE


Ronald Alley, Francis Bacon, New York and London, 1964, cat. no. 12, illustrated
Exh. Cat., Paris, Centre National d'Art et de Culture, Centre Georges Pompidou, Francis Bacon, 1996, p. 15,
illustrated
Michael Peppiatt, Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma, New York, 1996, p. 69 (text reference)
David Sylvester, Looking Back at Francis Bacon, London, 2000, p. 15, illustrated
Exh. Cat., Paris, Musée Picasso, Bacon Picasso: La Vie des Images, 2005, fig. no. 81, p. 94, illustrated


CATALOGUE NOTE

 

Francis Bacon's Corner of the Studio is one of the earliest surviving works by the artist and one that deeply solidifies
his connection with Pablo Picasso. Bacon destroyed many of his earliest works and the fact this work escaped that
fate only affirms the artist's belief in its success. The mysterious forms exist in an uncannily familiar environment,
eliciting a mild sense of dislocation that draws the viewer's curiosity. Most importantly, the present work begins
Bacon's confrontation with the concept of model, artist and medium – a proficiency Picasso had already so brilliantly
accomplished.  Bacon looked to Picasso's ability to absorb Surrealism and place it within a more realistic
environment, causing the viewer to teeter on the fluctuating edge of understanding and confusion, realism and
abstraction.  Bacon died in Spain, the birth place of Picasso – an undeniably poetic connection to the mythological
character of Oedipus, who died in Colonus, near to the Athenian king Theseus to whom he was indebted.

Bacon's vocation as an artist followed a brief, but nonetheless successful career as an interior designer. When he
turned from designer to painter in the early 1930s, he did so with great passion and zeal. His first studio was located
at his residence at 71 Royal Hospital Road in Chelsea, a place where he lived from 1933 – 1936. Of the eight works
known to have been painted by him during this time, Corner of the Studio is one of the clearest representations of the
space in which Bacon began his career, as well as the first indication of the intimate proximity he felt throughout his
life towards his studio environment. The other representation of the studio from these years is a pastel in a primarily
red palette, Studio Interior, which is clearer in form but less articulated in terms of architectural environment. 

The vibrancy of the background colour and the geometrically defined platform for the solitary figure anticipates the artist's later paintings. Bacon's primary studio at Reece Mews in South Kensington would become one of the most studied and remarkable artist studios in history. Perhaps as a result of his complex relationship with his father and eviction  from  his own childhood home, Bacon strongly connected with having his own space, perhaps even more so than other artists.  The studio space provided him with autonomy and control. After his death, it was determined that the seemingly chaotic space in which he had lived and worked was in actuality, quite distinctly organized into specific areas.

In the present work, the shadowy, biomorphic and "figural" form is here set against an interior that represents a door,
floorboards and perhaps a busily wallpapered wall. The rectangular framing of the figure by the shape of the door, as
well as the gridding of the floor boards, recall compositions by the modernist, Piet Mondrian. In contrast, if Bacon's
figure had been realistic, the composition would virtually lose its successful impact. The illusion of shadowy forms
within the sepia-toned wash, be it a sphinx, dog, dancer, model or the artist himself are prescient to the distorted and
loosely formed figures that would consume Bacon's oeuvre. The composition is strongly influenced by the paintings of
Bacon's friend Roy de Maistre and Picasso's Cubist works, which Bacon had first encountered on a trip to Paris in the
summer of 1927. There is also a clear reference to Surrealism, notably invoked through the chance, involuntary
marks in fluid ink wash that seek to blur distinctions between its multiple forms and also lend it a dynamic sense of
movement. Similar in composition and subject to Pablo Picasso's Bather Opening a Beach Hut, both works have a
central biomorphic creature existing within an understandable environment. Bacon was acutely aware of Picasso's
influence and stated of the aforementioned painting, "As Picasso, I believe, absorbed everything, he absorbed
Surrealism, and those images are profoundly unillustrative but profoundly real about figures. For instance a curious
curved form unlocking the door of a bathing cabin is far more real than if it was an illustration of a figure unlocking the
door of that cabin."  (David Sylvester, The Brutality of Fact: Interviews with Francis Bacon, 3rd edition, London, 1987,
p. 170
).

In the present work, the shadowy, biomorphic and "figural" form is here set against an interior that represents a door,
floorboards and perhaps a busily wallpapered wall. The rectangular framing of the figure by the shape of the door, as
well as the gridding of the floor boards, recall compositions by the modernist, Piet Mondrian. In contrast, if Bacon's
figure had been realistic, the composition would virtually lose its successful impact. The illusion of shadowy forms
within the sepia-toned wash, be it a sphinx, dog, dancer, model or the artist himself are prescient to the distorted and
loosely formed figures that would consume Bacon's oeuvre. The composition is strongly influenced by the paintings of
Bacon's friend Roy de Maistre and Picasso's Cubist works, which Bacon had first encountered on a trip to Paris in the
summer of 1927. There is also a clear reference to Surrealism, notably invoked through the chance, involuntary
marks in fluid ink wash that seek to blur distinctions between its multiple forms and also lend it a dynamic sense of
movement. Similar in composition and subject to Pablo Picasso's Bather Opening a Beach Hut, both works have a
central biomorphic creature existing within an understandable environment. Bacon was acutely aware of Picasso's
influence and stated of the aforementioned painting, "As Picasso, I believe, absorbed everything, he absorbed
Surrealism, and those images are profoundly unillustrative but profoundly real about figures. For instance a curious
curved form unlocking the door of a bathing cabin is far more real than if it was an illustration of a figure unlocking the
door of that cabin."  (David Sylvester, The Brutality of Fact: Interviews with Francis Bacon, 3 rd edition, London, 1987,
p. 170).

For Francis Bacon, his art was always based in ritual and frequently biographical. The figure in the present work is
indeed alone in the world and is suffused with solitary introspection. Corner of the Studio provides valuable insight
into the obscure early years of Bacon's oeuvre from which scant information exists, casting new light onto the thematic
and pictorial developments of one of the greatest masters of European Post-War art. Lorenza Trucchi (in translation)
notes, "Bacon's temporal dimension coincides with emotion, or rather, with instinct. His spatial dimension is reduced,
limited, condensed in the event. Time of the instance, space of the event, and – since the instinct is embodied in the
event – time and space coincide so perfectly as to create one highly concentrated existential situation." (Lorenza
Trucchi, Francis Bacon, New York, 1975, p. 3). The remaining works from his earliest years as a painter are essential
building blocks in the formation of his mature psychological and visual aesthetic and Corner of the Studio stands as a
keystone for this foundation.

 

 


 

   Sotheby's


     Contemporary Art Evening Auction
 

      New York | 09 Nov 2011, 07:00 PM | N08791


        LOT 43

 

           

                            Study for Portrait 1979 Francis Bacon

 


FRANCIS BACON BRITISH 1909 - 1992

STUDY FOR PORTRAIT

signed, titled and dated 1979 on the reverse
oil on canvas14 x 12 in.  35.6 x 35.6 cm.


ESTIMATE 2,500,000-3,500,000 USD

SOLD 4,394,500 USD


PROVENANCE

Marlborough Gallery, New York
Private Collection, United States
Christie's, New York, November 20, 1996, Lot 22
Private Collection
Christie's, London, February 5, 2003, Lot 3
Gagosian Gallery, New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 2006

EXHIBITED

London, Marlborough Fine Art Ltd., Small Portrait Studies: Loan Exhibition, October - December 1993, cat. no. 3,
illustrated in colour 
London, Olympia Exhibition Halls, Francis Bacon and Henry Moore, February - March 1996, illustrated in colour
London, Gagosian Gallery, Francis Bacon: Triptychs, June - August 2006, p. 25, illustrated in colour

CATALOGUE NOTE

If Bacon's art sought the height of painterly expression as a reflection of life, then the portraits represented the heart of
that exploration. Francis Bacon's Study for Portrait is an arresting example of the artist's ability to convey authority
over the genre of portraiture even while working in smaller scale. The beautiful composition of the present work is
arranged around a schema of framing devices. The overlapping matrices of paint hatching and modulations of texture
carefully organize the containment of the head within the frame which prepares the viewer from the outset that this
portrayal is pensive, focused and enduring. The extraordinary compression of the image, together with the scumbled
turquoise blue background heightens the drama and magnifies the prominence of the visage. The three-quarter
profile of the subject is contemplative: incorporating a rich array of colours, techniques and textures the image brings
the paint to life. Superbly combining both a dazzling display of painterly bravura and a multi-layered psychological
intensity, Study for Portrait from 1979 exemplifies the salient features of Francis Bacon's tremendous output. The
presence of Bacon's ubiquitous title prefix "Study" is laden with understatement and could not be more ironic: this
painting is in fact an intensely charged minor masterpiece. It is a classic example from Bacon's seminal suite of small
portrait heads in that it shows an intense and enclosed head flickering with the faintest movement.

 
Time and time again throughout his career, Francis Bacon returned to the portrait format steadfast in his belief that
abstraction was merely aesthetic, and that art devoid of human content lacked emotional resonance. Along with the
meticulously scrutinized faces of a handful of close friends, lovers and acquaintances, it was Bacon's own visage that
became the arena for his most ferocious and original investigations into pictorial representation. Like any committed
portraitist, Bacon was seeking to visually explain the variations of the human condition and capture the distinct psyche
and intensity of his sitters. As Christoph Heinrich notes, "Bacon paints not only 'the person', but also sets out to
convey the specific energy of very different individuals through painting." (Exh. Cat., Milan, Palazzo Reale, Bacon,
2008, p. 55). Although the subject of this painting has not been explicitly identified, it is important to appreciate it from
the perspective of two well known characteristics of Bacon's contemporaneous oeuvre. First, in the period after the
suicide of Bacon's lover George Dyer in 1971, the artist focused on self-portraiture, and depicted a close group of
friends with particular intensity. Second, Bacon possesed an extraordinary capacity to invest his portraits with
personal import, as noted by David Sylvester, "Bacon had something of Picasso's genius for transforming his
autobiography into images with a mythic allure and weight." (David Sylvester, Looking Back at Francis Bacon,
London, 2000, p. 186).
 
Looking to Francis Bacon's friends for the subject of this work, it becomes starkly clear that this physiognomy bears a
striking resemblance to that of the dapper John Edwards, Bacon's close friend and platonic companion for many
years. The first acknowledged depiction of Edwards was not to come until 1980, and perhaps this work painted a year
earlier can be viewed as an inaugural foray into the important suite of paintings done in tribute to his friend. The
vibrant yet calm palette utilized here by the artist takes on an independence of its own. The vitality of the interaction
between colours, particularly the orange and the turquoise create momentum in the background that highlights the
figure in the foreground and adds to the impact of the single head. The treatment of the present visage suggests a
confident familiarity with the muse that may stem from a particularly warm assessment of the sitter by the artist. The
gentle hollow of the cheek is tender and the general softness of the features describes a thoughtful countenance. 
Over one hundred and fifty photos of Edwards were found during the deconstruction of Bacon's Reece Mews studio in
1998, a far greater number than anyone else. John Russell claims that the single head portrait became "the scene of
some of Bacon's most ferocious investigations. Just as a gunshot sometimes leaves an after-echo or parallel report,
so these small concentrated heads carry their ghosts within them." (John Russell,
 Francis Bacon, London, 1993, p. 99).

Bacon preferred to paint in absentia relying predominantly on the combination of photographic material and memory
to inform his image production. He viewed painting by nature as an artifice and felt that having the model before him
suffocated spontaneous creative invention. Bacon spoke admirably of Picasso, especially his work of the 1920s and
1930s, in which he saw a syntax of "organic form that relates to the human image but is a complete distortion of it."
(Francis Bacon quoted in Milan Kudera and France Borel, 
Bacon: Portraits and Self-Portraits, London, 1996, p. 10). 
Study for Portrait is an excellent example of the evolution of Bacon's understanding of Picasso and his own
exploration in the realm of small portraiture. The beginning of the 1970s was marked by great sadness for the artist,
following the death of his lover George Dyer. Portraits, both of self and of others, from the beginning of the decade
are fraught with intense struggles of emotion and sadness. These deeply introspective moments gave way to works
like the present – subtly emotional and constrained as opposed to the uneasy, dissonant and grotesquely contorted
earlier examples. There is a beaming ray of reborn optimism that, almost certainly, lovingly renders the features of his
new and trusted compatriot.

 

 


 

Sotheby's
 

Contemporary Art Evening Auction


New York | 09 Nov 2011, 07:00 PM | N08791

 

     

               Elephant Fording A River 1952 Francis Bacon

 


LOT 47

PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE SWISS COLLECTOR 
FRANCIS BACON BRITISH 1909 - 1992

ELEPHANT FORDING A RIVER

oil on canvas78 x 54 in.  198 x 137 cm.
Painted in 1952.


ESTIMATE 4,000,000-6,000,000 USD

SOLD 5,682,500 USD


PROVENANCE

Hanover Gallery, London
Lefevre Gallery, London
Mr. and Mrs. William A.M. Burden, New York (acquired from the above circa 1955)
Private Collection, London
Crane Kalman Gallery Ltd., London
Acquired by the present owner from the above in June 1998


EXHIBITED

London, Hanover Gallery, Francis Bacon, December 1952 - January 1953
London, Lefevre Gallery, 
Contemporary British Painters, January 1955
New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Francis Bacon, October 1963 - January 1964, cat. no. 20,
illustrated
New Haven, Yale Center for British Art; Minneapolis, Minneapolis Institute of Arts; San Francisco, The Fine Arts
Museums of San Francisco; Fort Worth, Modern Art Museum, Francis Bacon: A Retrospective, January - October
1999
, cat. no. 11, p. 73, illustrated in colour 
Norwich, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, University of East Anglia; Milwaukee, Milwaukee Art Museum; Buffalo,
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Francis Bacon: Paintings from the 1950s, September 2006 - July 2007, cat. no. 12,
illustrated in color
Milan, Palazzo Reale, Francis Bacon, March - June 2008, cat. no. 13, p. 99, illustrated in colour


 
LITERATURE

Ronald Alley, Francis Bacon, New York, 1964, cat. no. 49, illustrated

Lorena Trucchi, Francis Bacon, New York, 1975, pl. no. 19, illustrated
Michael Peppiatt, Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma, New York, 1996, p. 138
Margarita Cappock, Francis Bacon's Studio, London, 2005, fig. 240, p. 135, illustrated in colour

CATALOGUE NOTE

 
Elephant Fording a River from 1952 is arguably as haunting for the viewer as Francis Bacon's later and more
familiar works, and for many of the same fundamental reasons. Bacon delved deeply into his work of the 1950s,
essaying various themes and experimenting with a variety of visual tools and techniques – there were sphinxes, dogs,
birds, elephants, men in suits, ghostly heads and landscapes. For an artist who eventually painted his figures in
foreshortened spatial interiors with little depth or backdrop, it is compelling to observe the full and vivid composition of
Elephant Fording a River. Just three years after the completion of the present work, Bacon would have his first
retrospective at the Institute of Contemporary Art in London in 1955 and truly enter the consciousness of the critics
and collectors alike. For Bacon, his work of the 1950s captured a richness of anticipation and when viewing the
paintings of this time one is immediately struck by the notion that something monumental is looming. He was coming
into his own as an artist and perhaps more ready than the rest of the world for the daring pictures emerging from his
genius.

In 1951, Bacon's beloved nanny died and he decided to leave his Cromwell Place studio, nomadically moving from one
rented room to the next. On this occasion the nomadic and frustrated Bacon decided to visit South Africa where
his mother had relocated after his father's death in 1940. Making stops in Cairo on his way back, the pyramids and
monumental Egyptian sculpture overwhelmed Bacon, and he was equally consumed by the natural landscape of
South Africa. His new wildlife surroundings gave birth to a small but nonetheless important series of paintings of
animals, and in these early works, man and beast are treated interchangeably. Bacon's first paintings of animals were
of dogs which were direct references to images from Eadweard Muybridge's film Animals in Motion. In the present
work Bacon's skill for depicting larger animals shines. Many of the other animals that inhabited his paintings of this
time are depicted screaming or in violent poses, while the elephant is a dark menacing animal lurking off in the
distance, undisturbed yet dangerous when provoked. Sourcing images from a favourite book, Marius Maxwell's 
Stalking Big Game with a Camera in Equatorial Africa from 1924, Bacon proceeded to engage in a prolific study of the
large animals to be found in the nature parks and preserves. The surprising agility and speed of these majestic and
seemingly ponderous animals amazed Bacon.

The energy of quick brushstrokes is palpable and the drama vivid in this painting. It is apparent to the viewer that this
scene is not only painted from source imagery but also from an internalized memory of an actual place and time – an
experience that held great importance for the artist. Throughout his career Bacon was obsessed with depicting
motion and although here the scene itself is still, the execution is quite the opposite. As John Rothenstein describes
of Bacon's painting, "the brush-stroke creates the form and does not merely fill it in. Consequently, every moment of
the brush on the canvas alters the shape and implications of the image. That is why real painting is a mysterious and
continuous struggle with chance – mysterious because the very substance of the paint, when used in this way, can
make such a direct assault upon the nervous system; continuous because the medium is so fluid and subtle that every
change that is made loses what is already there in the hope of making a fresh gain." (Ronald Alley, Francis Bacon,
New York, 1964, p. 13).

In a letter to his dealer Erica Brausen at the Hanover Gallery in 1951, Bacon describes his African vistas: "I got here
about a week ago. I stayed at [The Great] Zimbabwe [Ruins] and the country from there to here is too marvelous it is
like a continuous Renoir landscape and Zimbabwe itself is incredible." (reproduced in Exh. Cat., Norwich, Sainsbury
Centre for the Visual Arts, Francis Bacon in the 1950s, 2006, p. 144). Bacon was captivated by the luscious and
dense landscape of Africa, much like Peter Doig would be drawn fifty years later to the Carribean scenes which he
rendered with similar observational and painterly technique. Particularly aware of the effects of different times of day
and different qualities of light in the wilderness, Doig clearly looks to styles of the past, particularly artists such as
Bacon and Gauguin for their masterful ability to tackle exoticism. The present work is brilliantly distinct in depicting the
awe for the exotic that Bacon observed in Africa. The scene is a quiet and calm moment – an elephant crossing
placid waters of a river that is punctuated only by small disturbances in the water caused by its stride – and it
becomes an oddly tender moment for an animal of such authority and force. Yet, the unpredictability of the
elephant and the vulnerability of the voyeuristic observer, who is perhaps treading a bit too close, results in a sense of
danger and uncertainty. Elephant Fording a River is beautifully rendered, focusing on the animal and its reflection in
the tranquil water. The shade provided by the shadows of the leafy brush welcomes the elephant, who leaves behind
the remnants of the open blue sky. With the ochre setting sun, the fear of what looms when the landscape darkens
and the animals have complete control delivers a lasting effect on the viewer.

 

 

 

Violence, loathing, beauty, pain: How Rembrandt influenced Francis Bacon

 

 

He brutally mutilated the old master's self-portraits – then endlessly echoed them. but just how influenced was Francis Bacon by Rembrandt?

Charles Darwent explores a new exhibition that attempts to paint a clearer picture

 

 

By Charles Darwent, The Independent, Sunday, 16th October 2011

 

   

                Rembrandt's Self-Portrait with Beret 1659

 

 

In June 1962, the American photographer Irving Penn shot a series of portraits of Francis Bacon at the latter's studio in Reece Mews, London. One (previous page) sticks particularly in the mind. It is of Bacon standing in front of a wall which he has covered, typically, with pages torn from books and magazines. Peering down over the artist's shoulder is one of these, the crumpled image of an old man. It is Rembrandt, painted by himself, in the famousSelf-Portrait with Beret now at the Musée Granet in Aix-en-Provence.

Us looking at Penn looking at Bacon looking at Rembrandt. Penn's portrait is full of questions, prime among them the one of who chose its mise-en-scène. Did Bacon ask to be photographed in front of a dead Old Master, or was it Penn who saw a connection between the two men, and if so of what kind? Bacon was 52 when Penn's picture was taken, although, with his cherub cheeks and boot-polish-blacked hair, he looks 20 years younger. Rembrandt was 51 when he painted the Aix self-portrait and seems 20 years older. Like Bacon, he had lived beyond his means; unlike Bacon, his luck had run out. In 1660, the year of the self-portrait, Rembrandt had been forced to sell his house and printing press and to go to work for his son, Titus. Etched into his face is the pauper's grave that would wait for him a decade later. Did Penn see, in Bacon's sybaritic life, a similar end? Or did Bacon choose to have Rembrandt look over his right shoulder – the angel's side – as a token of admiration, or self-admiration?

Nothing in Bacon's life or art is ever easy, his take on Rembrandt least of all. What we do know is that there was a take – that Bacon, a tireless gatherer of scraps, admired Rembrandt above all other artists. Again and again in his quarter-of-a-century of interviews with the critic David Sylvester, Bacon returns to the Dutchman, worrying away at him as if picking at a scab, or at Rembrandt's scabrous paint. It is hard to believe that so deep a relationship between two such great artists had never been the subject of an exhibition – Bacon has been paired off with everyone from Van Gogh to Eadweard Muybridge – but this is the case. Which makes Irrational Marks, the opening show of the new Ordovas gallery in London, which looks at the work of two men side-by-side, both welcome and revealing.

Maybe acts of homage are always tinged with loathing; certainly, Bacon's seems that way. Rembrandt painted or etched nearly 100 self-portraits over 40 years. Many – the Mauritshuis gallery's Self-portrait with Gorget, say – show him as young and strong, high on the hog's back. Bacon's fascination, though, is with the man laid low, stripped bare. There are half-a-dozen of his torn-out pages in this show, all of them taken from Reece Mews and bearing reproductions of Rembrandt self-portraits post-1655, when the artist was in his fifties, widowed and broke. To the violence of the Dutchman's own life, Bacon has added another: the pages are creased and spattered with paint. The housekeeping at Reece Mews was known to be slovenly, but the treatment to which the pages have been subjected seems harsh even so, less a lack of care than an outright attack. In one plate, torn from Claude Roger Marx's monograph on Rembrandt, the old man's throat has apparently been cut. His upper lip has been gouged out.

It may, of course, have been a kind of empathy. If you saw the film Love is the Devil, you'll know Bacon's taste for the lash. Pain was beauty for him; pain was truth. In a story he told, often and in several variants, Bacon's fox-hunting father had had his 14-year-old son horsewhipped when he was caught being buggered by a stable-boy. The punishment had backfired: from then on, the artist-to-be added masochism to his repertoire of happily delinquent sexuality. To enjoy Rembrandt's pain was to pay him an accolade, to enrol him in a club: not for nothing did Bacon refer to the Dutchman's clotted brushwork as a "coagulation". But, as with his father's horsewhipping, to feel Rembrandt's pain was to turn the Oedipal tables.

If there is hate in Bacon's love of Rembrandt, then it may have something to do with their differing views of age. The master of Reece Mews once disingenuously remarked to David Sylvester that he painted self-portraits, although he "loathed [his] own face", because he hadn't "got anyone else to do". By absolute contrast, Rembrandt loves his own face, not because it is his but because it is a face.

In a sense, all of the Dutch Master's self-portraits are double portraits. They depict a man who is getting older, but they also show an artist who is growing more mature. Every vicissitude that life can throw at Rembrandt – each pouch and jowl, every newly acquired line – calls for an artistic answer. There is a blessed equity to his self-depiction. It takes experience to paint an experienced face: Rembrandt had to be 51 to paint himself at 51. Old age, suffering, become cartes de visite, advertisements of his skill. The Aix self-portrait is like a fugue in which one voice is worn down by time, the other triumphant over it.


Talking to Sylvester about the Aix image, Bacon praised Rembrandt's abstraction, his capacity to make the "irrational marks" from which this show takes its title. The Aix self-portrait, he says, is "almost completely anti-illustrational". That both is and is not true – Rembrandt, like any 17th-century painter, would have viewed the lack of resemblance as a failure – but it is certainly revealing about Bacon's own view of himself. The point of a double portrait is to understand both sitters by reference to the other. This exhibition of the two men's work does just that. Where Rembrandt's images of himself are revealed as inescapably optimistic, Bacon's are endlessly pessimistic.

Only when you see him next to Rembrandt do you realise that Bacon is all about self-effacement. In one study for a self-portrait, made in 1973 (above left), Bacon's own face is eclipsed by another, the face of a watch. You sense an 11th hour: the artist, now 64, is reduced to two forms, a double-chin and the skull-like socket of an eye. There is no redemption in his self-image, none of Rembrandt's saving virtuosity: there is only age, and time ticking away. With its grey brushwork and hazy surface, the watch-portrait feels like a picture torn from a newspaper or magazine. Its monochrome palette seems to echo the brown-on-brown self-portraits of the ageing Rembrandt, at least as shown in black-and-white reproduction. The watch-portrait is Rembrandt rubbed out and then rubbed out again, faded and re-faded. It is a self-portrait of Bacon as someone else, someone he wanted to be.

Irrational Marks: Bacon and Rembrandt is on show at Ordovas, 25 Savile Row, London W1 in London, until December 16th

 

 


  Ordovas Irrational Marks: Bacon and Rembrandt

 

    Review by Naomi Richmond-Swift, Fad, October 12th, 2011

 

 

       

         Irrational Marks: Bacon and Rembrandt 7th October – 16th December 2011

 

 

Pilar Ordovas can rightly call herself something of a Francis Bacon expert, having been responsible for the auction in 2008 of Triptych (1974 – 1977), for a record-breaking £26million, the highest selling piece ever auctioned at the London branch of Christie’s. This forms part of an impressive thirteen years under her belt at the auction house, including another huge sale, Lucian Freud’s Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, (£21 million). From Christie’s Pilar directed Gagosian London for two years, before leaving in March 2011 with the intention of starting her own gallery.

After seven months of building and preparation the gallery itself forms an impeccably chic addition to Savile Row, in keeping with its behemoth neighbour Hauser + Wirth, whose current Roni Horn exhibition seems a suitably introspective companion for Bacon’s self-portraits, Roni’s own face in You Are The Weather peering out of the window in duplicate as we cross the road.

It has been a while since I last attended an ‘inspiration’ exhibition – one which charts the influence of one artist over another. I always find them historically interesting, but great care must be taken curatorially to ensure nothing looks contrived. A very well-curated show can be satisfyingly enlightening. This isn’t a Tate-sized space but Ordovas makes the best use of her gallery to provide just enough bite-sized learning.

Bacon Rembrandt starts with two central images; the first is Irving Penn’s Francis Bacon, a photograph of Bacon in front of a poster of Rembrandt’s Self-portrait with Beret (Francis Bacon often talked about being influenced by Rembrandt and a number of source images like this were found in his studio), and the second, a coup for a commercial gallery and testament to Pilar’s art world connections; the original Rembrandt Self-portrait with Beretfrom the shot. Ordovas came across the first image in 2006 while handling the estate of Valerie Beeston, who managed Francis Bacon at Malborough Gallery, and a seed was planted.

It is a simple comparison but a very pleasing one; Ordovas surrounds Rembrandt’s face with six of Bacon’s Studies for Self-Portraits, symmetrically arranged either side instantly highlighting similarities of technique; the muted colours, the wide, sweeping brushstrokes, the darkness and shading. Rembrandt produced a huge number of self-portraits: at least thirty that are known about, the aim being a true likeness, which became a lifetime’s work. Bacon’s self-portraits manipulated the face to imply inner turmoil, so there are more jagged edges, unfinished shapes and dissolved portions.

Downstairs we are shown source documents from Bacon’s studio, and an interview with David Sylvester and Bacon from 1966, which plays on repeat but tonight is drowned by the chatter of the opening party. Ordovas herself warmly welcomes everyone and radiates a quiet pride at her inaugural (and non-commercial) exhibition here. Everything is well thought through and polished, whilst remaining open and accessible. I feel like I’ve come away with something – some of Ordovas’s knowledge happily shared, and I’m looking forward to what Pilar does next.

 

 


  Bacon and Rembrandt: Dark moments of self-appraisal

   

    The Economist, October 11th, 2011

 

 

      

                                  Self-Portrait with Beret 1659 Rembrandt

 

 

IN 1962 Irving Penn, an American photographer, went to visit Francis Bacon at his studio in London to make a portrait of him. The photograph he took shows Bacon clasping the front of his dark shirt and gazing up and away. Hanging on the wall behind his right shoulder, bent and creased and covered in paint, is a reproduction of a sombre, unfinished painting by Rembrandt, Self-portrait with Beret (pictured), from about 1659. 

Bacon's debt to Rembrandt's self-portraits is the subject of 
Irrational Marks, the first show at Ordovas, a new gallery on Savile Row in London. Pilar Ordovás, the gallery’s owner is something of an art-world wunderkind, responsible for the sale of Lucian Freud’s Benefits Supervisor Sleeping for £21m in 2008. She has also managed Gagosian in London, and handled the estate of Valerie Beeston, who worked with Francis Bacon at the Marlborough Gallery. This exhibition shows intent: to put on contemplative considered exhibitions, as well as to be an art boutique with commercial clout. 

The exhibition is tiny and tightly focused. On the ground floor there are just six works by Bacon, including two triptychs, along with the Rembrandt painting he liked so much and Penn's photograph. Downstairs in the basement are three working documents from Bacon's studio—all reproductions of Rembrandt self-portraits—and a short excerpt from 
Sunday Night Francis Bacon, a film from 1966 in which the painter speaks to David Sylvester, an art critic. 

Bacon revered Self-portrait with Beret. It is an exercise in shadow and texture. The rough ruddiness of Rembrandt's ageing cheek is no more than a patch of vertical lines scratched into the paint; his coarsened and wrinkled forehead crafted from layers of thick impasto in pale yellow and mottled red. Sections are left unpainted, allowing the ground colour to contrast with the brown pigments in a play of light and dark. But it was the eyes that fascinated Bacon. In the interview with Sylvester he says "If you analyse it, you will see that there are hardly any sockets to the eyes, that it is almost completely anti-illustrational." 
    
Rembrandt made more than 90 pictures of himself during his life, from the early etchings of the 1630s, which show him gurning with laughter, anger and surprise, to the last self-portrait of 1669, the year he died. It is telling that Bacon fixated on an unfinished picture so spare in detail but so rich in character. What Bacon loved about Rembrandt's self-portraits was what he called the "tightrope walk" between the abstract and figurative. The paint remains paint. It doesn't disappear into what it depicts. Nevertheless, there is Rembrandt staring out implacably, sceptically. The feeling one has standing in front of the painting is that it is full of self-appraisal. This is a dialogue of a great painter with himself. If it could speak it would never use a long word, but each short one would go to the heart. 
    
Bacon was a slicer and a dicer. The portraits and self-portraits on show here are eruptions of violence and damage. In 
Study for Self-Portrait from 1964, the face is a mangle of red, white and black with dabs of green and yellow, thick swirls of impasto and striations made by pressing corduroy into the wet surface. On one side, the face has been carved away entirely. By the time he painted the triptych Three Studies for Self-Portrait in 1975, Bacon was depicting himself with great incisions in his cheeks and jaw, and with circular holes bored into his throat. These darkly beautiful paintings are dramas of flayed flesh and the frayed psyche, but he walks the same high-wire as Rembrandt, pushing appearance as far as it will go in pursuit of the inner life, but never beyond recognisability. 

The paintings by Bacon are all from private collections. The Rembrandt hangs in the Musée Granet in Aix-en-Provence in France—it was last seen in Britain 12 years ago at the National Gallery. This exhibition is a rare chance to see these paintings, all shockingly compulsive and rich in psychological flare. In fact, they are so good you're left wanting more. It is a frustratingly narrow show, representing a 13-year slice of Bacon's work as a portraitist. In Study for Self-Portrait from 1973, a watch face in the bottom left-hand corner reads 7.20. Both Bacon and Rembrandt were fascinated by ageing and mortality. This exhibition would have been bolstered by earlier and later work showing the span of Bacon's changing conception of himself. 
    
But despite its limitations, this show is wonderfully suggestive of Bacon's cannibalism as a painter. As Ms Ordovás says in her catalogue introduction, Bacon was a "magpie", pillaging from an astonishing array of sources. The most playful piece in the show is a document from Bacon's studio, where he has pinned together a fragment of Rembrandt's 
Self-Portrait at the Easel from 1660 which he'd torn from a book, with part of a photograph of "Papa" Jimmy Yancey, a jazz pianist. In the short film Bacon shows off a number of paint-spattered images-of Marilyn Monroe, of Hitler, of the gestures of chimpanzees and, lastly, of Self-portrait with Beret. Every object in his studio was there to be used, and every image there to be digested. Rembrandt may have been Bacon's companion, but he had to elbow for room among many others. 

Irrational Marks: Bacon and Rembrandt is on show at Ordovas in London until December 16th

 

 

 

 

New show examines artist Bacon's debt to Rembrandt

 

An exhibition at a new London gallery examines what its owner believes is a long overlooked subject - 20th century painter Francis Bacon's debt to 17th century Dutch artist Rembrandt.

 

 Mike Collett-White, Reuters, Friday October 7th, 2011

 

It was Rembrandt's Spanish contemporary Diego Velazquez who is most closely associated with Bacon in the minds of most art lovers, due to the Irish-born painter's famous series of interpretations of the 1650 portrait of Pope Innocent X.

While the relationship between Bacon and Rembrandt is less obvious, gallery owner Pilar Ordovas believes it was nonetheless crucial to the way the modern artist worked.

"There have not been any exhibitions, any publications, nothing dedicated to the importance of Rembrandt in Bacon's work," she told Reuters at her new Ordovas gallery in central London.

"I really felt that it had been overlooked," added the former Christie's executive who helped negotiate some of the biggest art sales in recent years before leaving for a two-year stint at the Gagosian gallery in London.

"He (Bacon) really looked at Rembrandt, and what he loved about late Rembrandt was the use and the application of paint, how incredibly loose it is and how almost abstracted, but at the same time full of meaning."

The exhibition, Irrational Marks: Bacon, Rembrandt opens on Friday at the new space in an exclusive area of the city.

It takes up two of the gallery's white-walled rooms and features several Bacon self-portraits, photographs, a video of Bacon in which he discusses Rembrandt, and, perhaps most impressively, the Dutch master's Self-Portrait with Beret from 1659.

The painting, on loan from the Musee Granet in Aix-en-Provence, France, was the same work Bacon returned to several times to admire, and also appears in the background of a photograph of Bacon taken by Irving Penn.

That photograph, given by the artist to his influential friend, manager and confidante Valerie Beston, was what gave Ordovas the idea for the exhibition in the first place.

"If you wanted to do anything Bacon-related - write a book, do an exhibition or buy a painting - you needed to speak to Ms. Beston," Ordovas explained.

"She was a really, really crucial part of his life and he left her one of perhaps his most important self-portraits."

Ordovas handled Beston's estate in 2006, and at the subsequent auction at Christie's a Bacon self-portrait went for 5.2 million pounds.

"Bacon ... made several trips to go and see this (Rembrandt) painting. He never admitted to having seen the Velazquez portrait ... he always said that he didn't want to be disappointed by it."

Although Bacon often worked from photographs, Ordovas added that she, like others, suspected he may have seen the original Pope Innocent work despite denying it.

"The influence of Rembrandt on Bacon's painting is not a literal reference," she explained.

"It's not like with Velazquez ... to which he dedicates the series. The main influence from Rembrandt's work is the way that he uses the paint, the looseness of the paint."

Ordovas said that despite her success in the auction world, she was ready to launch her own gallery and stage "museum-quality" exhibitions.

The Bacon show is non-commercial and runs until December 16. The gallery will also allow her to offer a private space for selling 20th century and contemporary art in the secondary market.

 

 


Self-portraits shine spotlight on Bacon's debt to Rembrandt


A new exhibition explores the connection and influences of Rembrandt’s late self-portraits on Francis Bacon’s work

 

Ben Hoyle Arts Correspondent | THE TIMES | Saturday October 1 2011

 

 


                         

        Francis Bacon's self-portrait from 1972 is to be show alongside Rembrandt's  late Self-Portrait with a Beret

 

 

Born 300 years apart and sharing a self-destructive streak, Rembrandt van Rijn and Francis Bacon took self-portraiture to the brink, painting their own raddled, ageing faces with unflinching fascination and technical daring.

But, perhaps because Bacon never quoted obviously from Rembrandt’s work as he did from both Velázquez and Van Gogh, the debt that he owed to the Dutch master has never been properly appreciated — until now.

A new private art gallery opens in London next week with a free show that aims to redress that curiosity.

Irrational Marks: Bacon and Rembrandt, which is at Ordovas, in Savile Row, from Friday, is the first exhibition devoted to exploring the connection and influences of Rembrandt's late self-portraits on Bacon's work.

it is a small show but will have cost a fortune o insure:  the star attractions are six Bacon paintings and the late Rembrandt self-portrait that he apparently loved above all others: Self-Portrait with Beret from Aix-en-Provence. It will also include all the material relating to Rembrandt from Bacon's studio in South Kensington including a paint-splattered photograph of the Rembrandt self-portrait.

Bacon consciously measured himself against the greats of the past and once said that his pictures "were to deserve either the National gallery or the dustbin, with nothing in between".

While other artists fascinated him for specific periods, Rembrandt exerted a powerful grip on bacon's approach to painting throughout his career. Pilar Ordovas, the gallery's founder, said "He was as absolutely important to him as Velázquez and Van Gogh, there's no doubt of that," she added.

Bacon considered Rembrandt's looser late self-portraits to be the artist's greatest works. In London he often crossed Soho to view the late Rembrandts at the National Gallery and also made regular pilgrimages to Kenwood House, on Hampstead Heath, to see the self-portrait that Rembrandt made during his final years.

But it was with the Musée Granet self-portrait that he developed a particular "obsession", according to Ms Ordovas. he spoke about it to the critic David Sylvester, telling him that he loved the painting because of the way Rembrandt had composed "a very great image" from a "coagulation of  non-rational marks", creating a representational painting from apparently abstract blobs of paint.

"Abstract Expressionism has all been done in Rembrandt's marks," he said. "But in Rembrandt it has been done with the added thing that is was an attempt to record a fact and to me therefore must be much more exciting and much more profound."

Ms Ordovas said that one of the Bacon paintings in the show, a self-portrait from 1972, shows this influence very clearly. Just as in the Rembrandt there are, in Bacon's words, "hardly any sockets to the eyes, it is almost completely anti-illustrational".

Ms Ordovas had the idea for the exhibition in 2006 when she was head of the Contemporary Art for Christie's in London and helped to sell the estate of Valerie Beston, Bacon's gallerist.

 

 

Bacon pictured in his studio, said that his painting bore technical similarities to the Rembrandt

 

 

Council scotches rumours that £5m painting could be sold off to raise cash

 

Batley & Birstall News, Monday 22 August 2011

 

 

     
 

                        Figure Study II 1945 - 46  Francis Bacon   

 

Batley’s most influential piece of artwork, Figure Study II, has gone on display.

Previously left in storage, the contemporary painting by Francis Bacon, thought to be worth £5m, is up at Huddersfield Art Gallery until the end of the month.

The painting is affectionately known as Batley’s Bacon, as the Contemporary Art Society gave it to Batley Council in 1952. It was the first piece of Bacon’s work to be hung outside of London.

Because of this, current owners Kirklees Council are prevented from selling it, despite it being one of their most valuable assets.

A spokeswoman said: “The Contemporary Art Society purchased the painting and it was accepted by Ronald Gelsthorpe, the curator of the Bagshaw Art Gallery, on behalf of Batley Council in 1952. Because of this, there are restrictions that prevent the council from selling it on.”

Due to its high value, Huddersfield Gallery is the only building in the borough with the right conditions and security to display the painting.

A campaign to have it displayed in Batley Art Gallery failed due to the high security costs, but last February a replica was unveiled to adorn the gallery’s walls.

Figure Study II is an important piece in Bacon’s history as the artist destroyed much of his work from 1935 to 1944.

 

 

 

Wayne McGregor on Francis Bacon: Anatomy of a Failed Idea

 

 

By Patricia Boccadoro, Culture Kiosque, 2nd August, 2011

 

 

PARIS, 1 AUGUST 2011 — Wayne Mcgregor is currently the golden boy of British dance who made a name for himself with his physically exhausting movements and his collaborations across dance with film, computer technology and the sciences. Made a Research Fellow in the Department of Experimental psychology at Cambridge University in 2004, his 2006 creation, Chroma, opened doors for him and paved the way to his position of Resident choreographer of the Royal Ballet later the same year. He was the first contemporary choreographer to obtain this post. Since then he has been showered with awards, including the prestigious title of Commander of the British Empire for his contribution to dance, and he is much in demand from most of the major international companies throughout the world.

However, with L’Anatomie de la Sensation, his second work for the Paris Opera Ballet, he branched away from all his radical technological aids, concentrating on pure movement. The work is directly inspired, he says, by the paintings of the Irish artist, Francis Bacon (1909 -1992), but Bacon’s fascinating canvases in the Tate Gallery in London have a powerful, violent almost repulsive beauty. They disturb; bodies decompose and whole civilisations are stifled and suffocated. Moreover, there is the magnificence and brilliance of his palette, the vivid oranges he loved so well, the pungent blues and mauves, the shrieking pinks and yellows, the acidity of his greens. The work that McGregor created for the Paris Opera Ballet reflected none of this.   

The programme claims the British choreographer attempted to "shed light on the forces of life and death alike that run through Bacon’s paintings". And while this might be a laudable goal in itself, it failed. If one had not read about the piece beforehand, the work itself gives little indication of what it is about and neither is the audience helped along by the scenery. John Pawson’s minimalist and disappointing decor, giant- sized black and white panels dominating the Opera Bastille’s stage, bore no correlation to Bacon’s vision.

L’Anatomie de la Sensation, which is composed of eight movements, began with a duo between Mathias Heymann and Jerémie Belingard  set to a score by  Mark Anthony Turnage entitled, Blood on the Floor, after Bacon’s painting of the same name. This is the closest we get to Bacon, as the two brilliant interpreters, divesting themselves of their clothes, their young, muscled bodies clad in shorts, began a complex series of movements, rotating, gyrating, spinning and rolling around each other. From time to time, Heymann, the more ‘classical’ of the two, was allowed a spectacular jump in the air. This promised well, but then went nowhere. What was Mcgregor saying? Where was he going?  The dancers’ arms shot out at jerky angles and their feet and legs slashed in the air, as bemused spectators admired the personal beauty of the dancers, but little else.

The solo which followed, interpreted by Marie-Agnès Gillot, one of the most impressive contemporary dancers today, took no account of either her dramatic capabilities or her technique. What was she supposed to be, slithering around on the floor, curling up and around herself, reminiscent of a small insect rather than illustrating an emotion from a painting? The uncomfortable positions imposed upon her, the back movements in a letter S were painful indeed to watch, and her duo with Audric Bézard, undistinguished.

The best part of the evening was the pas de deux interpreted by Alice Renavand and Josua Hoffalt, and it was no surprise that most of it was danced in silence; the hallmark of this creation being it’s unmusicality, whether intended or not. Renavand and Hoffalt possess expressive, supple bodies, and they and they alone, seemed to enjoy what they were dancing. They also benefitted from mauve and acid green lighting on the panels which contributed to the atmosphere.

There was also a certain atmosphere in the fifth movement, with three go-go dancers in a disco, but it was, to quote from French, "hair in the soup". Did Bacon like jazz clubs? Were spectators aware of this? Even the last movement with the whole cast, quasi-naked, on stage seemed bitty, confused, and disconnected from the rest. Possibly one of the criticisms of Mcgregor’s work is that, not having studied classical dance himself, he does not understand a dancer’s body or what to do with it. His famous sharp, speedy, disarticulated gesticulating is better suited to his own lean and lanky frame. His broken angles, jutting out chins and fractured movements totally lacking in grace need the rubber joints and boneless physiques of circus acrobats.

It is also the speed, not of his dance, but of the number of his creations that is becoming alarming. It is maybe the reason for the repetitive nature of this particular work, for, though many sequences began differently, in the end, they all seemed the same. The work, a mere one hour fifteen minutes, dragged even with the luminous presence of Aurélie Dupont, and the only sensation one felt was relief that it was all over.

 

 

 

 

Dance Review

Echoing the Tones of Francis Bacon

 

By Roslyn Sulcasn, The New York Times, July 11, 2011

 

PARIS — The stakes are high for Wayne McGregor in his new Anatomie de la Sensation, at the Paris Opera Ballet. It is this British choreographer’s first full-length work for a ballet company; the music is by Mark-Anthony Turnage of recent Anna Nicole  fame; the sets by John Pawson, an architect well known for his minimalist rigor. Most pertinently, there is a discernible subject: the piece is subtitled Pour Francis Bacon and has more than a suggestion of narrative content from a choreographer best known for intellectually complex, sensually abstract dances.

L’Anatomie is the second piece, after the 2007 Genus, that Mr. McGregor has choreographed for the Paris troupe, which seems particularly well suited to his brand of knotty physicality and conceptual thinking. (The French like concepts on stage; Anglo-Saxons generally despise them there. Roughly speaking.)

It’s an odd work, choreographically repetitive and long-winded, but also intermittently compelling and strange, capturing something of the twisted bodies in Bacon’s paintings, and the imminent dissolution that always seems to possess them.

 

     

         L'Anatomie de la Sensation Jérémie Bélingard, left, and Mathias Heymann. 

 

That dissolution is linked to a sustained interest in the metamorphosis of body and shape in Mr. McGregor’s work. His ballet pieces only infrequently show the harmonious lines and static poses that inform much of classical dance; whole passages can go by during which you’d be hard pressed to name a ballet step. Almost every movement mutates as you watch: bodies curve and swoop, hips angle, legs buckle, chests and heads push out with ungainly emphasis.

There’s a kinetic fascination to all of this, but too often in Anatomie, Mr. McGregor seems hard-pressed to match Mr. Turnage’s score, Blood on the Floor, a nine-part 1994 composition inspired by Bacon’s artworks. (The title is a loose adaption of his painting Blood on Pavement . Originally composed for the Ensemble Modern, and played in Paris by the Ensemble Intercontemporain , it’s an often frenzied, powerful piece in which the influences of Gershwin, Bernstein, Miles Davis and Stravinsky are clear. But its relentlessly percussive energy and jazz riffs have little discernible dance impetus, and Mr. McGregor frequently seems to throw as much physical complexity at us as he can in the hope of meeting the music halfway.

 

     

                                           Blood on Pavement c. 1988

 

The piece opens with a long duet for two men (Jérémie Bélingard and Mathias Heymann on Saturday), who strip down to their briefs (the minimal, attractive costumes are by Moritz Junge) before engaging in grappling, erotic combat and the kind of formal partnering maneuvers more usually found in heterosexual pas de deux. The huge expanse of the Bastille stage is emphasized by Mr. Pawson’s simple set: two gray fins or wings that protrude from a flat backdrop and move throughout the piece to create different configurations, often evoking the triptych forms of Bacon’s paintings. The beautiful lighting, by Lucy Carter, similarly evokes the paintings in its intermittent washes of chartreuse, pink, orange and black, and its occasional smoky allusiveness.

Both Mr. Bélingard and Mr. Heymann — who presumably represent Bacon and a lover (perhaps Bacon’s companion George Dyer, whose suicide is suggested at the end) — are mesmerizing performers, but their encounter began to feel repetitive in tone and physicality midway through.

That feeling of repetitive time filling is a problem that pervades L’Anatomie, which invokes various paintings and biographical moments in Bacon’s life without undue emphasis over its nine movements. There is a plaintive, winding solo for Marie-Agnès Gillot; a nightclub scene) with three leading women (Mathilde Froustey stood out here) that is a bit of a mess; an inventive leg-slicing, undulating duet for Mr. Bélingard and Aurélie Dupont (also very well danced on Friday by Alexandre Gasse and Myriam Ould-Braham); and a marvelously quirky, humorous pas de deux, brilliantly danced by both Sabrina Mallem and Julien Meyzindi on Friday, and Alice Renavand and Josua Hoffalt on Saturday.

The elements of “L’Anatomie” never quite add up. The episodic pacing, dictated by the music, feels sluggish, there is no dramatic or emotional arc, an extensive ensemble (39 in total ) is underused, and many of the design elements (the steel bars, the mesh screen) feel extraneous. But there is also much to admire in the ambition of Mr. McGregor’s conception, its physical daring and aesthetic beauty. It makes you think about things: art, color, light, bodies, movement, stories, lives. That’s no small achievement in a ballet.

L’Anatomie de la Sensation continues through Friday at the Opera Bastille

 

 

 

 

 Bacon outsells Warhol soup in £108m auction

 

 

    London Evening Standard, 30 June 2011

 

 

 

 

       

 

                                                                                    Crouching Nude (1961) Francis Bacon

 

 

Sotheby’s secured its highest total for a contemporary art sale in London when it took £108.8 million.

German and British paintings were the chief targets as the auction house last night doubled the total sales for the same auction last summer.

Twenty-nine lots sold for more than £1 million each as prices climbed back above the record levels of 2008.

Francis Bacon confirmed his status as the most sought-after contemporary artist when Crouching Nude (1961) - one of a series of visceral portraits of his muse Henrietta Moraes - sold for £8.3 million.

Bidding climbed rapidly but stopped just above the work's low estimate. Sotheby's called the price "strong".

At a  Christie’s auction in London on Tuesday, another Bacon painting, Study for a Portrait (1953), sold for £18 million - £7 million more than its estimate.

Last night's sale was a mainly German affair. Thirty-four lots came from the collection of Christian Graf Duerckheim-Ketelhodt, who died last year. He was a friend and champion of Georg Baselitz and an avid collector of Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter.

 

 

   Bringing home the Bacon

 

      By Neil Pendock, Times LIVE, 30 June, 2011

 

 

     

                                       Donald sells a Bacon

 

 

The news that the owner of Glen Carlou, Donald Hess, sold a Francis Bacon portrait for £18 million at Christie’s last night confirms that fine wine and fine art play in different leagues. Donald only collects artists with whom he has a personal relationship and in the case of Francis, Donald remembers him as ‘an extraordinary man. He was an unhappy homosexual and through that, started to drink. If you knew his background, you’d think him dumb and brutal. But he was the opposite – very well read, very accurate and very interesting when he wasn’t smashed. He was very opinionated and could also be very rude. He loved my first wife, Joanna, and we’d often meet at the Connaught Bar in the art heart of London and he’d say, “Joanna, come and sit right next to me”.’

The painting dates back to 1953 and was painted after the death of his nanny Jessie Lightfoot. The subject is unknown, but The Guardian quotes Colin Gleadell as saying “whoever it is, it is a figure of power, seated on a semi-gilded throne and staring menacingly down at the viewer from the dark, caged solitude in which he is trapped.”

What a pity that customs deposits and insurance premiums prevent other gems from Donald’s collection visiting the elegant art gallery on Glen Carlou.

 

 

 

 

Francis Bacon portrait sells for £18 million

 

The sale of a Francis Bacon portrait from one of his darkest periods has exceeded estimates by £7 million.

 

By Florence Waters, The Daily Telegraph, 29 Jun 2011

 

 

     

                                Study for Portrait by Francis Bacon from 1953


 

 


Study for a Portrait
, 1953, became the second most valuable piece to be sold at a post-War and contemporary art sale at Christie's last night when it was sold to an anonymous telephone bidder.

The highest selling work in this category is Bacon's Triptych which went for £26.3 million in February 2008. The artwork had been expected to fetch somewhere in the region of £11 million but instead reached £17,961,250.

The work was painted in 1953 when, following the death of his former nanny and companion, Jessie Lightfoot, he spent a lot of time in his studio and painted a series of large moody dark works. It is thought to be one of his most inventive and prolific periods.

 

Nobody knows who the subject of the portrait, which measures two metres by 1.4m, is. In a recent feature about the resurgent demand for on the market, art market correspondent Colin Gleadell wrote

"The painting bears resemblances at once to Velazquez’s Portrait of Philip IV of Spain, to a photograph of Joseph Stalin at the Yalta Conference, to the art critic David Sylvester and to Bacon’s lover at the time, Peter Lacy.

"Whoever it is, it is a figure of power, seated on a semi-gilded throne and staring menacingly down at the viewer from the dark, caged solitude in which he is trapped."

 

The masterpiece was sold by Swiss entrepreneur and wine producer Donald M Hess. But, historically, the work has been owned by two of Francis Bacon's contemporaries - Rodrigo Moynihan, a pioneer of abstract painting in the 1930's, and Louis Le Brocquy, one of Ireland's most important painters of the 20th century.

 

 

 

 

   Bacon painting sells for £18m as art buyers chase gritty Britons

 

      Godfrey Barker and Louise Jury, London Evening Standard, 29 June 2011

 

 

     

Dark master: Study for a Portrait (1953) attracted fierce bidding at Christie's

 

A masterpiece by Francis Bacon has sold for £18 million after being given an estimate of £11million at an auction at Christie’s in London. 

Americans and Russians lined up to bid for Study for a Portrait (1953), which was being offered at auction for the first time.

Brett Gorvy, Christie's contemporary art expert, said a passion for British artists such as Bacon and Freud had become a permanent feature of the market.

"Buyers round the world chase them now because they want truth and realism and are tired of slick conceptualism," he said.

 

 

 

 

 

  Christie’s Contemporary Art Sale signals Continued Strength in Market
 
  

    By Carol Vogel, The New York Times, June 28, 2011

 

 

      

                      Study for a Portrait by Francis Bacon


 

 


 LONDON–Even after the May auctions in New York and last month’s Art Basel, the giant contemporary art fair in Switzerland, collectors were still spending big on post-war and contemporary art at Christie’s here on Tuesday night, where examples of blue chip artists topped expectations.

In a jam-packed salesroom, the audience watched attentively as the evening’s star painting–Francis Bacon’s Study for a Portrait, from 1953–sold to an eager telephone bidder for $25.5 million, or $28.6 million with Christie’s fees. Belonging to the Hess family from Napa, Calif., it depicted a man dressed in a dark suit, regally seated on a gilded armchair reminiscent of a papal throne. (It was painted the same year Bacon created his series of Popes.) Four bidders went for the painting, which had been expected to bring around $17.5 million. The price seemed huge, but not compared to 2008, when a 1976 triptych by the artist fetched $86.3 million at Sotheby’s in New York.

 

 

 


   John Hedgecoe: Artists off their guard

 

 

     By Charlotte Cripps, The Independent, Wednesday, 22 June 2011

 

 

        

                                                                Francis Bacon 1969 by John Hedgecoe

 

 

 

Hundreds of portraits of famous artists including Francis Bacon and Henry Moore, recently rediscovered in a barn, are on display in The Face of the Artist: Photographs by John Hedgecoe at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich.

Hedgecoe died in 2010, but the pictures, all signed and dated, were found in boxes belonging to a friend of the family in Essex. Hedgecoe had boxed up much of the collection while living at Oxnead Hall in Norfolk. After he ferreted them away – some he sold and others he gave away – nobody knew what was left.

"There were some real discoveries when we unpacked the boxes," says the show's curator Calvin Winner. "A group of photos of Moore show a humorous and frivolous side to the sculptor that you don't usually see with a highly regarded artist. In one image Moore in Forte del Marmi, Italy, is wearing his daughter Mary's wig and in another he is reclining in a deck chair, in a holiday mood reminiscent of a Martin Parr photograph. It's rare to see artists let their hair down but there was real trust between him and the photographer."

The photographs reveal the artists in their studios or catch them just at the moment they realise they are being photographed; often Hedgecoe focused heavily on their hands, and he kept notes about his sessions in his diaries.

Bacon, pictured in 1969, is shown just after he had just accidentally burnt down his own studio and was working from a studio at the Royal College of Art, where these photos were taken. Moore has his hands outstretched, displaying how enlarged they had become through toil with chisels and hammers.

The John Hedgecoe estate contacted the Sainsbury Centre last year saying that the family wanted to keep the collection together and, because of Hedgecoe's connection with Norfolk, find a home for the works nearby. A central focus of this show will be photographs of Bacon and Moore, alongside their works from the Centre's permanent collections.

John Hedgecoe, who was born in 1931, was one of the leading British portrait photographers of the 20th century, and focused much of his work on artists and writers. He joined Queen magazine as staff photographer after he left the Guildford school of Art in 1957. By the mid-1960s he was taking portraits of eminent people for freelance commissions published in newspapers and magazines. He was also responsible for the 1966 photograph of the Queen which is still used on postage stamps.

In 1965, he established the photography department at the Royal College of Art, where he became Professor of Photography from 1975. He said: "A good portrait photograph should try to tell us something about the subject's character, for the portrait is a visual biography in a sense." Hedgecoe also wrote photography manuals and a novel, Breakfast with Dolly (1996). He was working on a second novel just before he died.

According to Dr Paul Greenhalgh, director of the Sainsbury Centre: "The physical appearance of the artist, his or her features, mannerisms, eccentricities, and posture has long fascinated us. John Hedgecoe, one of the great society photographers and educators of the last half century, brilliantly photographed many of the greatest painters, sculptors, poets, and cultural thinkers of his age. This exhibition presents these artistic faces, in celebration of a great photographer, and a great artistic age."

Francis Bacon, painter, 1969

"Francis Bacon was moody, and to really get on with him you had to enjoy his lifestyle, spending afternoons drinking and exchanging abuse with Muriel Belcher, owner of the Colony Room club in Soho. He loved drinking champagne and was incredibly generous. I often used to see him waiting in the queue for the bus to South Kensington, where he lived, and he was a frequent visitor to the Senior Common Room at the Royal College of Art. When I photographed him he'd just accidentally burnt down his studio, so Robin Darwin, rector of the RCA, let him have a studio in the college."

The Face of the Artist: Photographs by John Hedgecoe, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich (01603 593 199)to 4 December

 

 

 

  Sotheby's

   Contemporary Art Evening Auction

    London|29 Jun 2011, 06:00 pm PM|L11022

 


 

     

                                    Crouching Nude 1961 Francis Bacon

 

 

LOT 49

oil on canvas 198 by 145cm. 78 by 57in.

Executed in 1961.

ESTIMATE 7,000,000-9,000,000 GBP

SOLD 8,329,250 GBP

PROVENANCE

Marlborough Fine Art Ltd, London

Private Collection

Gagosian Gallery, London

Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2006

 

EXHIBITED

Pittsburgh, Carnegie institute, The 1961 Pittsburgh International Exhibition, 1961-62, no. 17

London Tate Gallery; Mannheim, Kunsthalle; Turin Gallerie Civica d'Arte Moderna; Zurich, Kunsthaus; Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Francis Bacon, 1961 - 63, no. 85, pp: 87-88, illustrated

The Hague, Germeentemuseum, Nieuwe Realisten, 1964

Stockholm, Moderna Museet, Francis Bacon: Mainingar 1945 - 64, 1965, no. 41, illustrated

London, Gagosian Gallery, Francis Bacon Triptychs, 2006, p. 16, illustrated in colour

London Faggionato Fine Arts, Francis Bacon's Women, 2008

 

LITERATURE

Ronald Alley, Francis Bacon, 1964, no. 187, illustrated

 

CATALOGUE NOTE

Crouching Nude, 1961 by Martin Harrison

In 1959 the appearance of the first female nudes painted by Francis Bacon must have struck the contemporary art audience as a startling iconographical switch. Between 1959 and 1962 he made twelve further paintings on this theme, among which Crouching Nude, 1961, is one of the most remarkable. Formally, it is the most resolved of this group in terms of the figure/ground relationship, as well as the most sculptural in the plasticity of the figure. The illusion of depth is accentuated by the simplified geometry of the perspectival setting, a confined space with a sloping dais base painted in several shades of the iridescent green that Bacon had essayed as a dominant colour for the grounds of his paintings in St Ives at the end of 1959.1

Yet it is the woman's ambiguous pose and the enigmatic expression – simultaneously salacious, predatory, snarling and anguished – that most forcefully engage our attention. While several of the related nudes considered in this essay are seated or lying, Crouching Nude, 1961, is in many ways the most reposeful of them: indeed its title is only marginally applicable in this instance. In this respect it is more redolent of an Ingres odalisque, albeit a radically reformulated one, and although Ingres may not have been uppermost in Bacon's thinking, his admiration for his paintings is amply documented. Almost certainly in Bacon's mind was the nude woman (or youth?) leaning against a wine keg in Michelangelo's dramatic fresco of The Deluge in the Sistine Chapel, 1509. Did Bacon transpose this detail into Henrietta Moraes leaning against the bar of the Colony Room in Crouching Nude, 1961, secularizing the wine keg? Irrespective of the modern (photographic) imagery that Bacon absorbed, Michelangelo was almost invariably a potent stimulus for his paintings of nudes. Furthermore, Michelangelo's protagonists in the Sistine Chapel scene, cowering on the rocks from the flood, lend credence to the 'crouching' of Bacon's title, and the heads of the figures in both artists' paintings are slightly over-scaled.

Prior to 1959 most of Bacon's figures had been relatively static in their poses, if not in the movement of the paint – for example the enthroned Popes and seated businessmen. The explosion of mobile, twisted anatomies in attitudes of crouching, stretching, lying, bending, crawling and falling, represented a quantum shift in his visual index of the human figure. A trigger for this change may have been the violent depictions of the painter on the road to Tarascon in his Van Gogh paintings of 1957, but it was the animation of Rodin's sculptures that seems to have provided the main motivation for the transition. In December 1958 Bacon wrote on the flyleaf of one of the two copies he owned of V.J. Stank's Introducing Monkeys (c. 1957): 'Figure as Rodin figure on sofa in centre of room with arms raised', and 'use figure volante of Rodin on sofa arms raised'.2  Bacon's familiarity with Rodin's sculpture can be demonstrated in many contexts, but it should be remembered that Sir Cecil Harcourt-Smith, who as director of the Victoria & Albert Museum in 1914 oversaw (albeit with reservations) the acceptance of Rodin's gift of fourteen sculptures to the Museum, was Bacon's uncle. Rodinesque forms are conspicuous in many of the 'works on paper' that Bacon made in this period, particularly in the two collections of preparatory sketches (now in the collection of Tate Britain) that the artist presented to his friends Paul Danquah, Peter Pollock and Stephen Spender around the time of his removal from Battersea in1961.

Crouching Nude, 1961, and Seated Figure, 1960, were the first of Bacon's paintings in which strangely etiolated limbs become attenuated and exaggerated to even greater extremes. In their serpentine bending and twisting their substance seems to be liquid or rubbery – deliquescent rather than flesh and bone. The figure's right arm in Crouching Nude, 1961, is an anatomically improbable appendage, while the swollen, dangling or schematized breasts in Bacon's female nudes was a phenomenon described by Didier Anzieu as signifying an infant's 'clinging or attachment drive' rather than its libido.3

Bacon's admiration for Soutine in the 1950s has often been referred to, and although he denied it later he conveyed his enthusiasm to James Thrall Soby in 1959.4  The thick, bold impasto, vertiginous perspectives and staccato rhythms of Soutine's Ceret landscapes, in particular, clearly informed Bacon's landscapes immediately prior to, and including, the 'Van Gogh' paintings of 1956–57. Soutine's portraits evidently fascinated Bacon, too, both for the energy and immediacy of their technique and the deformation of his subjects' anatomies and facial features.

Among the visual material found in Bacon's studio after his death, only one item relating to Soutine survived, Monroe Wheeler's catalogue of the Soutine exhibition held at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1950–51: the paucity of Soutine documents was no doubt a legacy of Bacon's peripatetic lifestyle between 1951 and 1961. But it is readily apparent from the extensive markings from splashed paint found in this single extant volume that several of the illustrations in it were consulted by Bacon, in his studio. Specifically, in relation to Crouching Nude, 1961, the black and white plates in Wheeler's catalogue of Soutine's Woman in Pink, c. 1924 and Woman in Red, c.1923–24, are directly comparable with the sinuously distorted limbs in Bacon's painting. Moreover, the spillage of pigment on these pages is consistent with several of the colours in the palette of Crouching Nude, 1961.

 

                                

                         Henrietta Moraes by John Deakin, 1962                                              Michelangelo  1508 - 1509  Sistine Chapel

 

 

 

The other ostensible pictorial source for the crouching nude is a series of photographs taken for Bacon by John Deakin. In fact the relevance of Deakin's photographs to Crouching Nude, 1961 raises a question that is not, as yet, resolved. Hitherto it has been generally accepted that Bacon first commissioned Deakin to take photographs of the friends he wished to paint in 1962 or 1963, but in the case of two separate sessions in which Deakin photographed a naked Henrietta Moraes this dating is open to question. There would appear to be three possible explanations. One, that Deakin took these photographs as early as 1959, which would mean that the images of Moraes upside-down are directly related to the lying figures that Bacon painted in that year, and that the photographs of Moraes on her bed informed Crouching Nude, 1961. This is not implausible, since Deakin kept no account books and Moraes's recollections of the sittings for Deakin were not entirely reliable – few of the events such as this which she recalled in her autobiography were dated. Secondly, the female nudes that Bacon painted between 1959 and 1962 may have been made quite independently of Deakin's photographs. If this is so, the existence of the Tate works on paper may be significant – they could have performed the function of rough compositional draughts, and thus obviated the necessity to employ photographs. By 1963, when Bacon embarked on the small portraits of his friends and also identified specific individuals in his large 'subject' paintings, the photographs by Deakin enabled him to extract key aspects of their physiognomies that would act as ciphers in his distorted depictions of them, leaving their specific identities in no doubt. It is possible, therefore, that Crouching Nude, 1961, represents to some extent Henrietta Moraes, but that Bacon had not yet established his repertory of distinguishing features for her, and that this had to await the photographs taken by Deakin after 1962. A third possibility is perhaps the most compelling. Among the 'Tate sketches' are images that parallel most of Bacon's paintings of male and female nudes from the period under review: for example there are sketches that closely correspond to  Lying Figure, 1959, Sleeping Figure, 1959, and Seated Woman, 1961. Yet there is nothing that resembles Crouching Nude, 1961. This may be because there were sketches that have not survived, but equally it is feasible that Bacon engaged John Deakin to photograph Henrietta Moraes (in poses that approximated Michelangelo's Deluge figure), rendering a sketch superfluous. While Bacon's intention may not have been to include a portrait of Moraes as such, and the evidence in the present painting is not conclusive, it does have affinities with the photographs that Deakin made of her.

Bacon, as was his usual practice, reserved his most intense application of paint for the head, the heavily-loaded brush moving in arcing strokes that echo the curvature of the body. The woman wears spectacles, indicated most clearly by the gold rim under her left eye, which appear to be vestiges of the pince-nez worn by the Nanny in Eisenstein's film Battleship Potemkin, an image that Bacon famously grafted onto his 'Popes'. They may signify that the subject wore glasses: Bacon himself had been astigmatic since the 1940s, and presumably wore glasses in the studio, though he would never let himself be seen wearing them in public.

Crouching Nude, 1961, was one of the last paintings Bacon completed in the room that doubled as his studio at Overstrand Mansions, Battersea, in the flat he had shared with Paul Danquah for six years. The recently-completed painting was photographed in June 1961 and in August of that year Bacon moved to 7 Reece Mews, South Kensington, which he retained for the rest of his life. Formally, Crouching Nude, 1961, can be placed within the general category of major subject paintings (as distinct from portraits and heads) that he painted in his largest format – approximately 78 x 56ins.; 198 x 142cm. He returned to a similar composition in Portrait of Henrietta Moraes, 1963, but the painting that most nearly resembles Crouching Nude, 1961, isPortrait of Henrietta Moraes on a White Ground, 1964. He continued to paint female nudes – exclusively from photographs of Moraes – throughout the 1960s, after which only one female nude features in his oeuvre, Studies from the Human Body, 1975. Thus, not only is Crouching Nude, 1961, a most impressive conceptually economical yet affecting performance, it served as a crucial reference point for Bacon long after it was painted.

Notes

1. Notably in Miss Muriel Belcher (1959); Bacon referred to this colour thereafter as 'Belcher's Green'.

2. See Hugh M. Davies, Francis Bacon – The Papal Portraits of 1953, 2002

3.  Didier Anzieu, The Skin Ego, 1989, p. 99.

4.  See Martin Harrison, 'Bacon's Paintings', exh. cat., Francis Bacon, 2008

LITERATURE

Ronald Alley, Francis Bacon, London 1964, no. 187, illustrated

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 Bacon's portrait of mystery man likely to fetch €12m at auction‎

 

 

 

  By James J Gibbons, Irish Independent, Sunday June 12 2011

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

                      Study for a Portrait 1953 Francis Bacon

 

 

 

A painting by Irish artist Francis Bacon, which was once owned by artist Louis Le Brocquy, is expected to sell for £11m (€12.4m) at a London art auction next month.

The large picture, painted in 1953 and simply entitled Study for a Portrait, resembles Velazquez's Portrait of Philip IV of Spain, but the identity of the subject is unknown.

Neither Louis le Brocquy (94) nor his son Pierre would comment on the picture this weekend, which means that even if they do know the sitter's identity, it is still safe.

It has been said that if paintings had voices, then Francis Bacon’s would shriek. Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once called him "that man who paints those dreadful pictures".

In 1951, grief-stricken at the death of his former nanny and companion, Jessie Lightfoot, Bacon left his flat in South Kensington in London, which they shared. He borrowed the studio of the professor of painting at the Royal College of Art, Rodrigo Moynihan, to work in and gave him this picture in return. The picture was acquired from Moynihan by Louis Le Brocquy, who in turn eventually sold it to Marlborough Fine Art. In 1984 it was bought from the gallery by the Swiss entrepreneur and wine producer Donald M Hess, the current vendor.

Bacon, who said his painting career was delayed because he had "spent too long looking for a subject that would sustain his interest", was born at 63 Lower Baggot Street, Dublin, in 1909. His father, a former captain in the British Army, moved to Ireland to breed and train racehorses. The family was based in Co Kildare and rented Canny Court House, near Kilcullen.

Following a disagreement with his father, Bacon left home at the age of 16 and after a stint in Berlin settled in London, where he began his most dynamic work during the latter stages of World War Two. Despite what many see as an existentialist philosophy expressed through his paintings, Bacon always appeared to favour the lifestyle of the bon vivant, spending much of his days eating, drinking and gambling in London's Soho with other noted bohemians such as Lucian Freud and Jeffrey Bernard.

His work is one of the most sought after in the world, with his Tryptich 1976 making $86.3m (€60.1) when it was bought by Roman Abramovich  - the Chelsea FC owner - in 2008 at Sotheby's in New York

The auction takes place on June 28 at Christie's, London.

- James J Gibbons

 

 

 

 

 

CHRISTIE'S

 

  Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction


   Sale 7977 / Lot 15, 28 June 2011, King Street, London 

 

   Francis Bacon (1909 - 1992)  Study for a Portrait

 

 

 

    

                     Study for a Portrait 1953 Francis Bacon

 

 

Sold £17,961,250

Lot Description

Francis Bacon (1909-1992) 
Study for a Portrait 
oil on canvas 
78 x 54in. (198 x 137.5cm.) 
Painted in 1953
 

Special Notice

VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 20% on the buyer's premium.

Provenance

Rodrigo Moynihan, London.
Louis Le Brocquy, Carros (Alpes Maritimes).
Marlborough Fine Art Ltd., London.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1984.
 

Pre-Lot Text

PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTION

 


Literature

W. Lewis, The Demon of Progress in the Arts, London 1954, no. 4 (illustrated, titled Man in a Chair).
J. Rothenstein and R. Alley, Francis Bacon Catalogue Raisonné, London 1964, no. 78 (illustrated, unpaged).
D. Ades and A. Forge, Francis Bacon, London 1985, no. 23 (illustrated in colour, unpaged). 

 

Exhibited

London, Institute of Contemporary Arts, Francis Bacon, 1955, no. 10.
Paris, Galerie Maeght, Francis Bacon, 1966. This exhibition later travelled to Rome, Marlborough Galleria d'Arte; London, Marlborough Fine Art Ltd. and Siegen, Oberes Schloss.
Tokyo, National Museum of Modern Art, Francis Bacon: Paintings 1945-1982, 1983. This exhibition later travelled to Kyoto, National Museum of Modern Art and Nagoya, Aichi Prefectural Art Gallery.
Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Francis Bacon, Retrospektive, 1987, no. 6 (illustrated in colour, unpaged).
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum,
 Francis Bacon and the Tradition of Art, 2003-04, no. 89 (illustrated in colour, p. 237). This exhibition later travelled to Basel, Fondation Beyeler.
London, Tate Britain, Francis Bacon, 2008-09 (illustrated in colour, p. 131). This exhibition later travelled to Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado and New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

 

Lot Notes

'He managed in the course of 1953 to produce over twenty pictures in an annus mirabilis as inventive as it was prolific' 
(M. Peppiatt, Francis Bacon in the 1950s, exh. cat., Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich 2006, p. 33)

Situated between the seminal first series of Popes in 1953 and the landmark suite of Man in Blue paintings in 1954, Study for a Portrait represents a highly significant moment in Francis Bacon's oeuvre. Its vast scale makes it larger than most of the aforementioned, with Bacon making full use of the painting's extraordinary atmosphere to comment on the state of man in existentialist post-war Europe. Study for a Portrait is the last painting that Bacon created in his studio at the Royal College of Art, which Rodrigo Moynihan lent to him between 1951-53. It is imbued with all the pioneering works he created there including the Papal portraits and his first ever triptych portrait realised in 1953, Three Studies of the Human Head. All of these works were cast against the exquisite backdrop of his unique, ethereal liquid blue paint so expertly applied in Study for a Portrait. The painting has a distinguished and exclusive heritage of artistic ownership. Rodrigo Moynihan was the first owner and it later belonged to Louis Le Brocquy, the renowned Irish painter, who was the last to keep it before its acquisition by the present owner in 1984.
 

Enshrouded by a sea of midnight blue, Bacon artfully depicts a besuited man, seated on a gilded armchair evocative of a Papal throne. With his disdainful gaze cast through lightly rimmed, pince-nez glasses, the man imports an aura of authority, isolated and enclosed within the cage of Bacon's architectural spaceframe. His atmosphere is dark, rendered through washes of blue-black oil and turpentine saturated on canvas. The twilight of the painting is broken up by striations of pale parallel lines, evocative of the folds of rich drapery depicted in the artist's studies of Velazquez's portrait of Pope Innocent X. Highlights adorn the man's armchair with flashes of ochre tracing its contours like some golden throne for a ruling leader or the corporate seat of the trenchant capitalist. As David Sylvester has described, 'in these claustrophobic curtained settings, there loom up before us beings whose shadowy, ambiguous, unexpected presence takes command of any setting they survey, making real beings seem like shadows. They are as appalling as they are compelling, for these are creatures faced with their tragic destiny' (D. Sylvester, 'Francis Bacon', The British Pavilion: Exhibition of Works by Nicholson, Bacon, Freud, Venice XXVII Biennale, Venice 1954). In Study for a Portrait, Bacon imports a sense of the era's European post-war existentialism, cutting through the veneers of civilised society to distil the raw and visceral qualities of the human character onto canvas. As Michael Peppiatt has suggested, 'Bacon's genius was to have found a single image through which he could express the whole range of his most extreme emotions: fear, disdain, hate, lust, and even a fierce kind of love' (M. Peppiatt, Francis Bacon in the 1950s, exh. cat., Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich 2006, p. 26).

The early 1950s was a time of great interaction between the artist and his friends and peers Rodrigo Moynihan, Lucian Freud and David Sylvester. Indeed as David Sylvester recalls, 'in those early days Lucian clearly had a crush on Francis, as I did. (We both copied his uniform of a plain, dark grey, worsted double-breasted Saville Row suit, plain shirt, plain dark tie, brown suede shoes)' (D. Sylvester, 'All the Pulsations of a Person', The Independent, 24 October 1993). The shadows of all of these men, including the artist's caustic lover Peter Lacy can be found in the face of this extraordinary portrait. KA

Francis Bacon's Study for a Portrait, 1953
By Martin Harrison

'Study for a Portrait (1953) relates to the 'Pope' paintings that preceded it, and it is clear that it anticipates the Man in Blue series commenced in 1954, yet in some decisive respects it conforms with neither of these categories, nor with his other contemporary portraits of seated men, and stands as a unique work'
(M. Harrison, May 2011).

In evaluating Francis Bacon's entire oeuvre it is evident that between 1948 and 1963 he had a strong tendency to paint in series. These series - several of popes, heads, studies from the life-mask of William Blake, the seven Man in Blue paintings, the seven men in glasses - were sometimes identified as such and each painting numbered, while others constituted, in effect, a series, such as the three dog paintings dating from 1952. In some of these Bacon appears to have been exploring the cumulative impact of a group of paintings in which he made incremental shifts around the formal matrix, adjusting the mood, gestures and emotion of the 'sitter'. As Bacon explained to Ronald Alley, he saw the images 'in a shifting way, and almost in shifting sequences. The pictures are painted one after the other, the last one suggests the next.' 1 This explanation was appended to Alley's entry for Study for Portrait 1 (1953), the first painting in what became a notable series of eight papal portraits, which Bacon completed shortly before commencing the present painting.2

Conversely, other important paintings that Bacon made in this period appear to have been conceived as discrete statements: he may have regarded subjects such as Elephant Fording a River (1952), for example, as too specific to be susceptible to further development. Study for a Portrait (1953) relates to the 'Pope' paintings that preceded it, and it is clear that it anticipates the Man in Blue series commenced in 1954, yet in some decisive respects it conforms with neither of these categories, nor with his other contemporary portraits of seated men, and stands as a unique work.

Firstly, Study for a Portrait (1953) is the most rigorously grisaille among Bacon's paintings of the period. The ground is painted in a dark, stygian register, the deeply-saturated, inky, Prussian blue-black contrasting with the greys of the inner image. The monumental figure, bespectacled and wearing a dark suit and neatly starched (and somewhat constricting) white collar and purple tie, is pictured from a quite low viewpoint. Strictly speaking the 'spectacles' are pince-nez, and thus refer to the film still of the screaming nurse from the Odessa Steps sequence in Eisenstein's The Battleship Potemkin that Bacon had grafted onto his Pope figures since 1949; this is further indicated by the extra 'falling' lens that Bacon painted under the man's right eye. Frontal, imperious, head raised, he is among the most magisterially aloof of all Bacon's 'authority' figures, be they popes or 'businessmen'. The atmosphere of hieratic indomitability is emphasised by the formal armature - the inner 'spaceframe' that interrupts the ground of vertical 'shuttering' (and secondary traces of curtaining) is virtually symmetrical and eschews the playfully 'incorrect' diagonals of which Bacon was so fond. The confined space that the figure occupies is delineated in pale blue paint, and its darker, receding planes mark this as one of Bacon's most coolly dramatic arenas, the spatial recession and the unlined dark 'roof' intensifying the isolation of the resolutely impassive man.

'Frontal, imperious, head raised, he is among the most magisterially aloof of all Bacons authority figures, be they popes or businessmen' (M. Harrison on Study for Portrait, 1953).

'Study for a Portrait (1953) shares some fundamental characteristics with the paintings of Mark Rothko, conspicuously its soaring abstract planes and subtle chromatic juxtapositions'
(M. Harrison, May 2011).

'In these claustrophobic curtained settings, there loom up before us beings whose shadowy, ambiguous, unexpected presence takes command of any setting they survey, making real beings seem like shadows. They are as appalling as they are compelling, for these are creatures faced with their tragic destiny' (D. Sylvester, 'Francis Bacon', The British Pavilion: Exhibition of Works by Nicholson, Bacon, Freud, Venice XXVII Biennale, Venice 1954). 


Comparisons have often been made between Giacometti and Bacon, both figurative modernists committed to finding new ways to capture appearance and to represent the human body in space; for example, the the open cage construction of Giacometti's early sculpture The Palace at 4 a.m.(1933; Museum of Modern Art, New York) has been posited as a source for Bacon's spaceframes. The strong influence exercised on Britain's 'Geometry of Fear' sculptors by the gaunt, attenuated figures Giacometti evolved about 1946 was manifested in London in several of the entries to the competition for a 'Monument to the Unknown Political Prisoner' in 1953 - contemporaneously, that is, with Study for a Portrait (1953). Bacon professed indifference to Giacometti's sculpture but greatly admired his paintings and drawings and called him the 'greatest draughtsman of our time'.3 In their unflinching frontality, monochrome palette and the device of the rectangular inner frame, Giacometti's Portrait of Peter Watson (1953; Museum of Modern Art, New York) and Bacon's Study for a Portrait (1953) have marked affinities; Bacon was closely acquainted with the art patron and collector Peter Watson, and probably knew this painting. But Bacon must have been familiar with the portrait busts in spaceframes that Giacometti had been painting since 1947, and it is likely that his own portraits were informed by them.
 

The chair in Study for a Portrait (1953) establishes continuity with the eight Popes that Bacon had painted a few months earlier in that despite being stripped down to a simplified, geometrical shape (it is shorn of the finials, for example) its edges are picked out in running lines and dabs of gold paint that refer back to the papal throne. In fact this was the first painting in which the legs and arms of the chair were painted in this more elaborate manner, and the immediate pictorial inspiration for this treatment was probably the studded armband worn by the king in Velázquez's Philip IV of Spain (c. 1656; National Gallery, London). Similarly, the man's purple tie was doubtless, like the vestigial tassel at the top of the painting, an atavistic reference to a leading motif of his pope paintings: Bacon initially believed, erroneously - he had only seen Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X in black and white reproduction - that the Pope's surplice was purple. The man's mouth is neither open in anguish nor baring teeth, but firmly closed, self-contained. Georges Bataille's observations in 'La Bouche' seem especially relevant here: Bataille claimed that 'human life is concentrated bestially in the mouth',4 and he evoked 'the magisterial aspect of the face with its mouth closed, beautiful as a strong-box'.5

The fleshy pink lips of Bacon's protagonist are unusual, and if they do point to an individual characterization it is possible they refer to David Sylvester, to whom Bacon was very close at the time the painting was made. The artist and critic briefly shared accommodation in 9 Apollo Place at the end of 1953 and lived in the same house at 19 Cromwell Road at the beginning of 1954; Sylvester was lecturing at the Royal College of Art while Bacon was painting there, and also dealing privately in Bacon's paintings during this period. Furthermore, Study for Portrait I (1953) had begun as a portrait of Sylvester 'who sat about four times for it until it turned into a pope'.6 Peter Lacy was possibly in the mix, too, but given Bacon's habit of merging and transposing the representations of individuals the identity of the 'sitter' will probably have to remain conjectural. A more definite comparison with the prominent lips is provided by Velázquez's portraits of Philip IV of Spain; besides the reproductions that Bacon owned of Velázquez's various versions of this subject, the National Gallery, London, held originals of not only the c. 1656 head-and-shoulders portrait, referred to above, but also Philip IV in Brown and Silver, c. 1631-32.

Study for a Portrait (1953), together with the painting that immediately preceded it, Portrait of a Man (1953), in which this detail is more cursorily delineated, represents the first occasion on which Bacon painted a man with his legs crossing. This pose, which recurred frequently in his paintings subsequently, was habitually adopted by Bacon himself when seated. In Study for a Portrait (1953) the suited body is painted quite thinly, with a broad brush, and evidently very rapidly, its energy providing an agitated, abbreviated counterpoint to the calmness and composure of the figure's general demeanour. The high reflectance of the oil-rich pigments in this passage is in marked contrast to the dominant low key of the painting. There is also implied movement in the positioning of the body, which twists round in the diagonally-positioned chair to confront the viewer directly.

Study for a Portrait (1953) was, then, a quintessential Bacon painting of the kind in which the leading art writers of the day found such compelling evocations of the existential zeitgeist. Their critical reception, and the resonance of Bacon's powerful (and powerless) figures, is clearly demonstrated in contemporary descriptions of them. Robert Melville thought Bacon's paintings fulfilled Nietzsche's gloomy prophecy to epitomise 'an age in which the breakdown in values has been completed', and he described Bacon's isolated figures as 'incarcerated' in glass boxes.7 The American critic Sam Hunter commented that Bacon's art was 'thoroughly contemporary in its vitality' and that 'No one has interpreted the acute postwar moods more vividly.'8 David Sylvester might have been addressing Study for a Portrait (1953) specifically in his remarks on Bacon's 'Settings which are luxurious and simple: lush velvet curtains and a gilded armchair. Like prison cells for highborn traitors.' 9

 

As a consequence of his peremptory departure from his flat at 7 Cromwell Place, South Kensington, in about April 1951, following the death of his former nanny and companion Jessie Lightfoot, Bacon had no access to a regular studio until the Autumn of that year, when Rodrigo Moynihan lent him his painting studio at the Royal College of Art. Moynihan had been appointed Professor of Painting at the college in 1948, and he was central to the drastic overhaul of its aims and syllabus initiated by Robin Darwin; it was in this studio that Moynihan painted the striking Portrait Group (1950; Tate Britain), which featured nine members of the Royal College's teaching staff. Bacon had already spent some time at the college deputising for John Minton in Autumn 1950. Although Bacon refused to teach any classes on either occasion, Albert Herbert was one of several artists who recalled the students' intoxication with Bacon's 'emotional realism' as well as his unconstrained attitude towards making art. These events serve as a reminder that at this stage in his career Bacon's interactions with London's cultural scene and its artists (Isabel Lambert, Frank Auerbach, Lucian Freud, Victor Willing and Michael Andrews) were of reciprocal significance.

Paradoxically, considering he was working in a borrowed space, Bacon had embarked on a creatively extremely fertile period. He began a passionate if turbulent love affair with Peter Lacy in 1952, and although their relationship eventually became problematical at first it undoubtedly acted as a stimulus for new paintings. Bacon was able to use the studio at the Royal College for two years, and Study for a Portrait (1953) was in fact the last painting that he finished there, in about October 1953. He apparently made a gift of it to Moynihan, a gesture of thanks he would repeat in 1969 when he presented the college with Study for a Bullfight No. I (1969), having been loaned a studio there for seven months while repairs were carried out on his house at 7 Reece Mews.10 Study for a Portrait (1953) was subsequently acquired by Louis le Brocquy, and was thus also unique in having been owned by two of Bacon's distinguished artist peers and friends.

That such a major painting as Study for a Portrait (1953) has not featured more extensively in the Bacon bibliography can probably be accounted for by its having been in private hands throughout the fifty-eight years of its existence. Since it had been acquired by Rodrigo Moynihan shortly after it was completed it was never exhibited at the Hanover Gallery and its sole public appearance in the 1950s was in Bacon's first museum retrospective, held at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, in January and February 1955. Thereafter, prior to its spectacular reappearance in the Tate centenary retrospective in 2008-09, it was exhibited only twice during the next thirty years, at Fondation Maeght in 1966 and in Japan in 1983; it was even absent from Lorenza Trucchi's comprehensive monograph of 1975. Interestingly, however, it had been published in 1954 by Wyndham Lewis in The Demon of Progress in the Arts, in which it was illustrated under the title 'Man in a Chair'. Lewis, who was responsible for some of the most perceptive writing on Bacon at this time, considered him 'the most astonishingly sinister artist in England, and one of the most original'.11

 

 

 

     

 

       From left to right: George Dyer, Denis Wirth-Miller, Danny Moynihan, Francis Bacon and Rodrigo Moynihan in Provence, 1966.

 

 

 

Although, in The Demon of Progress in the Arts, Lewis compares him with Goya and Bosch, an analogy Bacon would have firmly repudiated, he observed that 'the ethical and literary impulses throughout the work of Bacon constitute him an artist at the opposite pole to the pretentious blanks and voids of Réalités Nouvelles.'12 Lewis's remark raises the question of Bacon's dialogue with abstract expressionism, about which he was also notoriously dismissive. In spite of his public statements, however, Study for a Portrait (1953) shares some fundamental characteristics with the paintings of Mark Rothko, conspicuously its soaring 'abstract' planes and subtle chromatic juxtapositions.13

Bacon's individual idiom generally precluded all but the most superficial imitations, but Graham Sutherland's controversial Portrait of Sir Winston Churchill (1954), which Churchill abhorred and his wife eventually destroyed, resembled Study for a Portrait (1953) in too many respects for a connection between them to be mere coincidence: in this instance the younger artist appears to have influenced Sutherland. The blurred, ethereal rendition of the man's head in Study for a Portrait (1953) is redolent of a plaster cast, and curiously prefigures the five variations he began in 1955 based on a life-mask of William Blake. The rapt expression and raised head suggest the self-possessed figure may have been involved in activity such as listening to music, or was otherwise deep in thought. Its spectral quality is also reminiscent of an early daguerreotype, as though the man were a sitter in a photographic studio a century earlier. As usual, the greatest attention is reserved for the head, its poignant, urgent brushwork recalling Robert Melville's contemporary remark that Bacon was 'unquestionably, the greatest painter of flesh since Renoir'.14

Study for a Portrait (1953) takes its place, then, in a pantheon of arresting images of male angst and seclusion, extending a lineage that embraces such disparate images as Durer's engraving Melancholia (1514), Rubens's Daniel in the Lion's Den (c. 1615; National Gallery of Art, Washington) and Blake's Elisha in the Chamber on the Wall (c. 1819-20; Tate Britain), to which Bacon added a modern image of unsettling power and distinction.

Martin Harrison, May 2011
Martin Harrison is editor of the Francis Bacon Catalogue Raisonné being published in 2013.


Notes


1. Sir John Rothenstein and Ronald Alley, Francis Bacon, 1964, p. 72.

2. See: Hugh M. Davies, Francis Bacon: The Papal Portraits of 1953, 2002.

3. David Sylvester, Looking back at Francis Bacon, 2000, p. 200.

4. G. Bataille, 'La Bouche', Documents 2, 1930, pp. 299-300.

5. ibid.
 


6. Rothenstein and Alley, op cit, loc cit.

7. R. Melville, 'The Iconoclasm of Francis Bacon', World Review, January 1951, pp. 63-64.

8. S. Hunter, 'Francis Bacon: The Anatomy of Horror', Magazine of Art, January 1952, pp. 11-15.

9. D. Sylvester, 'In Camera'Encounter, April 1957, pp. 22-24.

10. In 1975 Bacon exchanged this painting, at the college's request, for Study from the Human Body: Man Turning on the Light (1973-74). See: 'Study from the Human Body: Man Turning on the Light', An essay by Martin Harrison, Christie's, London, Post-war and Contemporary Art, Evening Sale, 14 October 2007, pp. 20-25.

11. W. Lewis, 'Round the London Art Galleries', The Listener, 21 September 1950, p. 368.

12. Wyndham Lewis, The Demon of Progress in the Arts, 1954; in 'Explanatory Notes', (unnum.)

13. The broad, coloured planes in several of Rothko's paintings dating from 1948/49 are comparable with the ground of Bacon's Painting (1950; City of Leeds Art Gallery). Rothko stayed in London twice during a tour of Europe in 1950, although it is not know if he and Bacon met then; but Bacon would certainly have encountered Rothko's paintings by 1953.

14. Melville, op cit, p. 64.

 

 

 


 

     The art world’s record breaker

 

 

         Bel Trew, London Evening Standard, 2 June, 2011

 

 

             

                                                                Pilar Ordovas with Francis Bacon's Three Studies for a Self Portrait 1975


 

 


Pilar Ordovas is something of a legend within the secret circle of the high-end art world. She was behind the world record-breaking sale of Lucian Freud’s Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, which went for an eye-watering £21 million in 2008.

She also brought to auction Francis Bacon’s Triptych 1974-1977, which sold for £26 million, making it the most expensive work of art ever sold at Christie’s in London. where, as one of its most successful dealers, Ordovas was responsible for nine out of 10 of the top sales.

From the auction house she went on to manage Larry Gaggosian’s   gallery in London. But after two years, much to the bemusement of the international art magnate, Ordovas, 38, quit.

Fast-forward to last month and the experienced researcher and curator announced that she was going solo, raising huge expectations, with her own gallery, Ordovas. "I know where the art is," she says meaningfully.

This is no mean feat for a woman working in a man's world. The majority of art galleries are still owned or run by men and the auction houses come across as stuffy old boys' clubs. "Yes, I've felt it, I've entered boardrooms where I have been the only woman present," Ordovas says. "Maybe some traditional female traits help, like being a good listener, but you don't want to be known because of your gender." Far from trying to match their masculinity, Ordovas is warm, feminine and driven.

Ordovas also managed Valerie Beston's estate after her death in 2005. "Miss B", the immensely private director of the Marlborough Gallery and beloved of Francis Bacon, left an extraordinary collection.

"Her flat was full of paintings nobody knew about." One of the discoveries Ordovas made was an unknown self-portrait Francis Bacon had given to Beston in 1969. It sold for £5.2 million.

"Miss Beston had touched many artists. I wrote to Frank Auerbach informing him which of his paintings she had. One of them, Frank said, was the only painting he sold in that particular show and his son had just been born. He was penniless. It was really important that she had supported him." Auerbach also told Ordovas how Miss Beston had sent him paints, because "when she asked him why he always painted in dark colours, he explained he couldn't afford brighter paints".

This personal contact is what tempted Ordovas away from the furious schedule of the auction house.

"You'd have a month to put together an auction catalogue and an exhibition; it becomes mechanical. When I put together the Crossing the Channel exhibition for the Gagosian I dedicated three months to the research. It was great to get my teeth into that."

Ordovas talks most warmly about her biggest passion: the artwork of Lucian Freud. "I've got to know Lucian personally over many years. I made it my mission to learn as much as I could about his work. If anyone was going to sell his paintings, it would be me."

The Ordovas gallery is her baby, although she is hoping her English husband, Nicholas, who works in the City, will help her with the financial side. She chose Savile Row over the industry's traditional home of Cork Street. "There has been a drive to move out of the West End. [But] you need to make things more accessible and more convenient," says Ordovas, who lives in Battersea. 

"Savile Row with Sadie Coles's HQ, New Burlington and Hauser & Wirth, is becoming the centre of the arts."

She aims to set Ordovas apart by focusing on historical exhibitions and making new connections between existing artists, as well as providing one-on-one client services. "At an auction house at any one time you'd have 200 works and 500 collectors. With the gallery I want collectors to feel like they're developing an eye for what they really love. I want to give personal access."

Ordovas, which opens in October for the peak autumn season, is opposite Hauser & Wirth. I wonder, with her expertise and contacts, if the Swiss art house is nervous? "Competition is good," she says. Perhaps she has secured a killer opening exhibition? "That's a secret," she says, smiling.

"You'll just have to wait and see.”


 

Soutine/Bacon

 

Helly Nahmad Gallery 
975 Madison Ave. 

Through June 18

 

NY Culture The Wall Street Journal May 28, 2011

 

The Russian-born French painter Chaim Soutine (1893-1943) and the Dublin-born British painter Francis Bacon (1909-92), both expressionists, are often aligned by critics and art historians. Pairing 18 paintings by Soutine with 14 by Bacon, Soutine/Bacon, surprisingly, is the first of its kind. On the surface it makes tremendous sense. Soutine's paintings of skinned rabbits, plucked fowl, fish and beef carcasses—metaphors for suffering and martyrdom, especially the Crucifixion—were inspired by paintings of similar subjects by Titian, El Greco, Rembrandt and Chardin. When Bacon saw Soutine's pictures of hanging, slaughtered beef in Paris in 1927, they sparked his morbid imagination; not yet an artist, Bacon had long been fascinated by butcher shops.

After Van Gogh, Soutine is perhaps the most convincing of expressionists. In his best paintings, his figures, forms and their environments intertwine, seemingly struggling against one another like embattled elements of a single organism. Nearly every one of Soutine's paintings signals the end of the world; and he flays and eviscerates his subjects—as if unleashing the writhing bowels of hell.

In this show, Soutine's gnarled human arms suggest twisted roots. Trees, resembling prison bars, claw at the picture's surface. A set of forks, flanking a plate of fish, vacillate between threatening weapons and frail hands. And a flayed beef carcass is a yawning inferno. Yet Soutine's existential outcries and fiery whirlwinds build to a state of natural beauty and calm—as if they could not have happened any other way.

Seen among Soutine's masterpieces, Bacon, though clearly a kindred spirit, has never looked worse. At his best here, he produces unpersuasive pastiches. Bacon's monstrosities of flesh, fueled more by Surrealism than Soutine, feel forced and cartoonish. His distortions and amputations come across as strident, theatrical, artificial. Pairing Bacon with Soutine, this show reveals the enormous gap between the bombastic and the sublime.

— Mr. Esplund writes about art for the Journal

 

 

 

  Bacons streaming back on the market

 

    A portrait of a mystery man from 1953 by Francis Bacon could go for £11 million

 

     By Colin Gleadell, The Daily Telegraph, 23 May, 2011

 

 

         

                            Study for Portrait by Francis Bacon from 1953 (detail)

 

 

A painting by Francis Bacon that he gave to another artist in return for the use of his studio could fetch as much as £11 million at Christie’s next month. In 1951, grief-stricken at the death of his former nanny and companion, Jessie Lightfoot, Bacon left his flat in Cromwell Place, South Kensington, which they shared, and embarked on a nomadic existence, borrowing the studio of the Professor of Painting at the Royal College of Art, Rodrigo Moynihan, to work in. He used the studio for another two years, producing some of the most haunting images of his career, and exercising a powerful influence on the students at the college.

 

Study for Portrait was one of the last works he produced there. For Bacon, according to his biographer Michael Peppiatt, 1953 was an “annus mirabilis as inventive as it was prolific”. In spite of “flitting from debt to debt, and digs to digs”, he managed to produce more than 20 “majestic and terrifying” paintings including eight paintings of popes.

 

With the artist finding stimulation in adversity, Peppiatt concludes, “this was the period when Bacon acquired the means he needed to bring forth his vision.”

 

The subject of Study for Portrait is not known. The painting bears resemblances at once to Velazquez’s Portrait of Philip IV of Spain, to a photograph of Joseph Stalin at the Yalta Conference, to the art critic David Sylvester and to Bacon’s lover at the time, Peter Lacy. Whoever it is, it is a figure of power, seated on a semi-gilded throne and staring menacingly down at the viewer from the dark, caged solitude in which he is trapped. Look closely at the darkness, and it is a vivid Prussian blue-black that recedes in tone to the depths of the unknown where the subject sits regally, his starched white collar and brilliant flesh tones glowing like a ghostly apparition.

 

At some point, the painting was acquired from Moynihan by the successful Irish artist, Louis Le Brocquy, known for his spectral paintings of Bacon, who in turn sold it to Marlborough Fine Art, which had become Bacon’s principal dealers.

  

In 1984 it was bought from Marlborough by the Swiss entrepreneur and wine producer Donald M Hess, who, though not identified as such by Christie’s, is the seller next month.

 

Hess, 75, who announced his retirement from the family business last week, is one of the world’s top art collectors with more than 1,000 contemporary art works, including 30 by the American light artist James Turrell, which he displays in three museums dotted around the world in locations where his winery business operates: in Napa Valley, California; Paarl, South Africa; and Salta, Argentina. A fourth museum is being planned in the Barossa Valley, Australia. Of his art buying, Hess has said: “When I have seen an art piece which keeps me awake over several nights, I know that this art piece has touched me deeply and this is one of my most important criteria to buy an art work.” But he is not known to have previously sold any art from his collection. His website states: “Sales of artwork are for Hess taboo.”

So why is he now breaking that taboo? Hess has also said that he favours buying the work of living artists. He bought this Bacon when the artist was still alive, and is now thought to be buying more works by living artists.

 

His timing might be good because the market for paintings by Bacon is back on the boil again. During 2007, buyers such as the investor Joseph Lewis and Sheikha Mayassa of Qatar paid record prices of between £25 million and £30 million for Bacon masterpieces, and in May 2008, Roman Abramovich lifted that record to £44 million for a large triptych. In the downturn that followed, several works went unsold, and then little appeared on the market.

 

This year, however, another Russian buyer, thought to be banker Pyotr Aven, paid £23 million for a small triptych of paintings of Lucian Freud. As a result, Bacons are streaming back on to the market, and two were sold this month in New York. Both had been on the market relatively recently, as has a reclining female nude which is to be sold by Sotheby’s next month with a £7 million to £9 million estimate.

 

The Hess portrait may be dark – and other dark paintings from this period, while relished by academics and critics, have not always proved commercially successful. But it is fresh to the market, which counts as a bonus. And, like the £44 million Bacon, which was sold by the Mouieux family, producers of Château Petrus wines, it comes from a collector with proven taste.

 

 


 

  Two Meaty Visions of Flesh and blood

 

    By Karen Rosenberg, The New York Times, May 12, 2011

 

 

 

       
 

                                                                   Bacon's Three Studies of Henrietta Moraes (1966)

 

 

Bacon thought about Soutine a lot, or so we’re told by Soutine/Bacon at Helly Nahmad Gallery, an intense pairing of Soutine’s still lifes, landscapes and portraits with Bacon’s caged, half-flayed figures. It comes accompanied by a catalogue of glossy reproductions, light on commentary but with detailed chronologies of both artists.

The exhibition is more of a one-sided conversation, with Soutine as the dominant voice. This may come as a shock to the general public, which is well acquainted with Bacon’s record-breaking auction prices and lauded international retrospectives. But it should not surprise painters, who have consistently mined Soutine’s roiling fleshscapes for abstract and figurative inspiration.

And in any case the organizers, Maurice Tuchman and Esti Dunow, are co-authors of the Chaim Soutine catalogue raisonné. They also coordinated The New Landscape/The New Still Life: Soutine and Modern Art, a similarly ambitious and memorable undertaking  at Cheim & Read gallery in Chelsea in 2006. For this show, they’ve wrangled some incredible Soutines from the Tate and private collections in Europe.

Both artists exemplified the bohemian ideal, although in different ways. Soutine (1893-1943) emerged from the shtetls of Lithuania and found his way to the garrets of Montparnasse, nearly starving before the American collector Albert Barnes swept in and bought his paintings in bulk. During the World War II he lived in hiding in rural France, suffering from a stomach ulcer that eventually killed him.

Bacon (1909-92), born into and cast out of a well-to-do family, lived dangerously as a matter of preference. His proclivities for drinking, gambling and sado-masochistic relationships made him an enfant terrible of the postwar London set.

The two shared an appetite for viscera. An often-repeated, possibly apocryphal anecdote holds that the police and the department of health visited Soutine’s studio after neighbours complained about the stench of rotting meat and the blood dripping through the floors. Bacon was known to admire a line from Aeschylus’ Oresteia: “The reek of human blood smiles at me.”

Religion had something to do with it. “I’ve always been very moved by pictures about slaughterhouses and meat, and to me they belong very much to the whole thing of the Crucifixion,” Bacon said. One might go through this show with an eye to Soutine’s Judaism and Bacon’s Catholicism: kosher steak and blood pudding, as it were. Or one could focus on other signals of outsider status, with Bacon’s homosexuality as the counterpart to Soutine’s ethnicity.

It’s all there, for those who want to look. But this show isn’t really about identity or narrative or even subject matter. It’s about painting as “a direct assault on the nervous system,” as Bacon once wrote.

On the gallery’s cramped ground floor you will find Soutine’s “Flayed Beef,” from the Musée de Grenoble, one of the six nearly life-size renderings of bovine carcasses he made in 1924 and ’25. He had been looking at Rembrandt’s Slaughtered Ox at the Louvre, but his brushstrokes have a writhing urgency that evokes Titian’s more disturbing Flaying of Marsyas.

He could serve up surf as well as turf, a glistening Still Life With Ray Fish made in homage to Chardin's Skate. Poultry is on the menu in Dead Fowl and Brace of Pheasants, which flank a Bacon painting of a plucked chicken suspended over a platform or butcher's block.

Bacon also liked to reinterpret masters, though he gravitated to different ones: Velazquez,  in his pope portraits, and van Gogh, in his landscapes. So the second-floor gallery’s pairing of Bacon and Soutine vistas feels forced, even if it includes some incredible Soutines like the Tate’s Landscape at Céret (the Storm) from around 1920-21, a crackling mass of thunderheads that anticipates Pollock and De Kooning.

The portrait section, also upstairs, is better matched. In works like Old Actress and Portrait of the Sculptor, Oscar Miestchaninoff, Soutine gives entire figures an astonishing plasticity, with Gumby-like limbs and twitchy features. In his triptych studies of friends and lovers Bacon goes right for the head, inducing Cubism with X-rays and deft, surgical strokes.

Soutine might not have held as much sway over Bacon as he did over School of London painters like Lucian Freud, Leon Kossoff and Frank Auerbach. But Bacon, out of all of these postwar figures, has had the biggest influence on contemporary art. You can’t have Damien Hirst without Bacon.

Can you have Bacon without Soutine? This show won’t resolve that question to everyone’s satisfaction, though it makes clear that Soutine was a vital part of the ecosystem that nourished Bacon. “In the 1950s Soutine was the artist who mattered, as Cézanne mattered in the decade before 1914, or Warhol in the 1980s,” as Martin Hammer asserts in the catalogue.

And as any painter will tell you, he matters still.

Soutine/Bacon continues through June 18 at Helly Nahmad Gallery, 975 Madison Avenue, at 76th Street, (212) 879-2075
 

 

Bring home the Bacon: This marble-lined Suffolk mansion

– built with the legacy of Francis Bacon is for sale at £3.5 million

 

 

    By Alexis Parr, The Daily Mail, 9th May, 2011

 

 

 

 

   

Picture of elegance: The impressive Westgate Park in Suffolk was built by John Tanner and David Edwards
 

 

 

Most country houses priced at £3.5 million can be expected to have the odd nice painting on the wall. But this one is covered with the works of one of the world’s greatest artists – Francis Bacon.

 

The tortured, upper-class Anglo-Irish painter had a penchant for drinking and gambling in Soho’s demimondaine clubs, mingling with a markedly eclectic set of friends.

 

But none was more charismatic than the Edwards family, from the East End, who migrated to the Constable countryside of East Anglia where Bacon joined them on many of their lively weekends at the picturesque village of Long Melford.

 

When Bacon died in 1992, he left his entire estate to his devoted companion, former barman John Edwards. Although both were homosexuals, they were not lovers. John became almost a son to Bacon, who was 40 years older.

 

John died of lung cancer in 2003 and left a goodly chunk of the Bacon estate to David Edwards, his beloved older brother.

 

It is he who lives at the palatial Westgate Park with his companion of more than 40 years, dressage rider and interior designer John Tanner.

 

‘And now, after all these years in Long Melford, we are selling up because John wants to develop his equestrian facilities,’ explains David, drinking champagne on one of the terraces overlooking the property’s 14.5 acres.

 

The plan is for the couple to build a bigger house on land near Marks Tey, also in Suffolk but closer to London and with a direct rail link. The place will be fitted out with the latest equestrian gadgetry.

 

The two are obviously inveterate self-builders, having already completed Westgate Park four years ago, incorporating the outbuildings of the Georgian property next door, which was their home for 20 years. Bacon was a regular visitor, singing along to cockney anthems around the piano. ‘His favourite was Maybe It’s Because I’m A Londoner,’ says David.

 

They sold the Georgian house to move into Westgate Park, a modern, low-rise property with an authentic period atmosphere packed with antique fireplaces and yet with all the convenience of contemporary living, including a high-tech integrated music system, sophisticated security – with CCTV cameras and video entrance – and underfloor heating.

 

Tanner has also filled the house with expensive Italian marble and fixtures and fittings of high quality built to last. Even the Aga has solid gold attachments.

 

The house stands in a carefully landscaped parkland setting with surely one of the finest, uninterrupted country views in England – that of the belltower of Long Melford’s Holy Trinity church nestling in the hillside.

 

The church is recognised as one of the finest in the country.

 

David Edwards was one of six children brought up in the East End and had a tough life growing up in postwar London but, like his siblings, he was blessed with being handsome, hardworking and intelligent.

 

After a career owning pubs in the East End, he went on to create a successful career as an antiques dealer.

 

‘Eventually I left London altogether and it was Francis’s influence that brought us to Suffolk,’ says David. ‘Francis had an accountant who lived locally and his cousin Pam Firth lived nearby in the beautiful Regency house Cavendish Hall. So we would come out to visit him.’

 

David first met Francis at the Colony Room club in Soho in 1974 and introduced him to his brother John. ‘They became very close friends until his dying day,’ says David. ‘Francis recognised John as a loyal friend and treasured his brutal honesty as someone who would always tell him the truth. In the powerful world of art, with all its complex sensibilities, Francis valued that greatly.’

 

Superficially it seemed a strange friendship, given the social and intellectual gulf between them, but Bacon had had a loveless upbringing in Dublin.

 

He revelled in the straightforward warmth of the traditional Edwards family with their working-class values and their matriarch mother Beattie, who would cook Francis steak and kidney pies before pinning up a Bacon drawing on the wall of her East End council flat.

 

Bacon forged a strong friendship with John Edwards, and the artist’s portraits of him can now be found in art galleries around the world.

 

‘When Francis died his entire estate was left to John and was worth about £11 million, but in today’s terms it would be worth about £300 million – prices of Bacons have rocketed,’ says David. Caroline Edwards, of Carter Jonas, says that despite the recession, substantially larger houses are still selling well in Suffolk. While becoming increasingly fashionable, the county represents good value compared with countryside homes in the South East.

 

‘It is only larger houses with lower specifications which are a little harder to move but this is an aspirational, lifestyle home perhaps suitable for an international person,’ she explains.

‘You are getting a mini country estate and grand country home in the centre of one of the most popular and pretty villages in Suffolk – that is hard to find.

 

‘You don’t usually get both – grandeur and high quality with newbuild houses of that size.

 

‘It is also only about 25 miles to Newmarket, so somebody with equestrian interests might find it ideal,’ she adds.

 

 

 

 

 

  Bacon Nude May Fetch $15 Million as Owners Test Market demand

 

   By Scott Reyburn  Bloomberg, May 6, 2011

 

 

 

    

              Crouching Nude 1961 at the Gagosian Gallery, London, 2006

 

 

A 1961 female nude by Francis Bacon may raise $15 million at auction next month as owners regain confidence in the market for the U.K.’s most expensive artist.

Crouching Nude is valued at 7 million pounds to 9 million pounds and included in Sotheby’s (BID) London evening sale of contemporary works on June 29. The canvas of a grinning woman in an interior will be on show at Sotheby’s New York from today through May 9, the auction house said in an e-mailed statement.

 

The Bacon market was boosted when his 1964 triptych, Three Studies for a Portrait of Lucian Freud, fetched 23 million pounds at Sotheby’s in London on Feb. 10. The work was bought, at more than three times estimates, by the Cologne-based dealer Alex Lachmann, who acts for Russian clients.

 

“The market needed good works to gauge the new levels,” said James Holland-Hibbert, a London-based dealer. “Prices went up so quickly, then the crash came and no one was quite sure what Bacon was worth. The estimates had got too high.”

Crouching Nude - a composite of the artist’s friends Isabel Rawsthorne, Henrietta Moraes and Muriel Belcher - was one of 90 works included in a Tate Gallery travelling retrospective in 1962. It was also in a 2006 exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery, London, where it was bought by an unidentified private collector, who is re-offering the work now, Oliver Barker, Sotheby’s European deputy chairman, said.

 

The seller hasn’t been offered a guaranteed price, he said. The estimate was based on a valuation of 7.5 million euros ($10.9 million) to 10 million euros placed on a similar 1961 Bacon female nude that fetched 13.7 million euros at Sotheby’s in Paris in 2007.

“Conservative estimates are the way to get the best auction prices,” Barker said. “The market’s still selective.”

Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich paid a record $86.3 million for Bacon’s 1976 Triptych at Sotheby’s New York in May 2008, dealers said. Works by the Irish-born artist were in short supply at auctions during 2009 and 2010.

 

Bacon’s 1974 Three Studies for Self Portrait will be offered at Christie’s International, New York, on May 11 with a low estimate of $20 million.

 

 

 

 

   Sotheby's to Sell Major Masterwork by Leading British Post War Artist Francis Bacon

 

      Art Daily, Friday, May 06, 2011

 

 

 

       

          Crouching Nude is estimated at £7-9/$10-15 million

 

LONDON, FRIDAY 6TH MAY, 2011 Sotheby’s is delighted to announce that its forthcoming summer Contemporary Art Evening Auction will be led byCrouching Nude, an important masterwork by the renowned British artist Francis Bacon (est. £7-9 million / $10-15 million)* which has never before been offered at auction. The 1961 oil on canvas, which is one of Bacon’s large-scale paintings, measuring 198cm by 145cm, will be offered for sale on Wednesday, June 29, 2011. The appearance of this work on the market follows Sotheby’s unmatched track record** with the sale of works by the artist and the recently achieved triple-estimate sum of £23 million for Three Studies for a Portrait of Lucian Freud by Francis Bacon at Sotheby’s in February.

Commenting on the sale of this extraordinary work, Oliver Barker, Sotheby’s Deputy Chairman Europe and Senior International Specialist in the Contemporary Art Department, said: “Alongside Picasso, Bacon is the outstanding post- war artist and his 
Crouching Nude of 1961 is a magnificent painting which epitomises the artist’s work at this important moment in his career. This work holds within its remarkable paint surfaces all the elusive mystery inherent to the artist’s working method. We anticipate this painting will be highly sought after by discerning collectors across the globe.”

Crouching Nude 
was featured in the ninety-work major travelling retrospective that opened at the Tate Gallery in May 1962 as one of the artist’s most recent and striking paintings. The figure crouches ominously and through her uniquely distorted, highly complex form, references the singularity of psychological experience. Through Bacon’s unique existential vision, this animalistic nude is ultimately otherworldly. The 1962 retrospective established Bacon’s pre-eminence among contemporary British painters, and without doubt Crouching Nude sits in the highest tier of professional achievement of the artist’s formidable output.

Throughout his mature career, Bacon voraciously looked to friends and acquaintances around him as subjects for his existential masterpieces, including - in the 1960s – Peter Lacy, George Dyer, Lucian Freud, Isabelle Rawsthorne, Henrietta Moraes, and Muriel Belcher. Despite his obsession with the faces and bodies of those closest to him, he worked almost entirely from photographs, clippings and memories, and never from life itself. The figure of Crouching Nude evokes photographs Bacon owned of his friends Belcher, Rawsthorne, and Moraes, and is a sensational conflation of aspects of all three figures. While Belcher owned the Colony Room drinking club in Dean Street, Soho, which she had opened in 1948 and at which Bacon was given generous credit in return for bringing new customers; Moraes and Rawsthorne were close friends and together this was the most important female company of his 1960s existence. Crouching Nude was also painted at the height of Francis Bacon’s impassioned and tempestuous relationship with Peter Lacy, a Second World War fighter pilot, whom the artist had met around 1952 and conducted an intense and fraught relationship with until Lacy’s death from drink in 1962, which Bacon learned of via telegram on the eve of his 1962 retrospective. This painting therefore belongs to a salient moment of the artist’s biography and career, which heralded the sequence of masterpieces of the 1960s.

Notes:


*Estimates do not include buyer’s premium.
**Sotheby’s holds 4 of the top 5 auction prices for Bacon, including the record for any Contemporary work of art at auction with the artist’s Triptych ($86.2 million at SNY in May 2008).

 ‘Crouching Nude’ will be on view at Sotheby’s in New York from Friday, May 6 until May 9, 2011 and in London from June 18 to 22 and June 25 until June 29, 2011.

 

 

 

 

First Comparative Exhibition of Chaim Soutine and Francis Bacon at Helly Nahmad Gallery

 

Art Daily, Wednesday May 4, 2011

 

 

          Francis Bacon (1909-1992), Seated Figure,1960.  

 

 

New York, NY. Helly Nahmad Gallery New York presents SOUTINE/BACON, the first comparative exhibition of Chaim Soutine and Francis Bacon, on view May 2 through June 18, 2011. 

Chaim Soutine's paintings have not only had a crucial impact on the development of modern art in the twentieth century, but also a sustained critical influence on contemporary practice. The artists most often associated and identified with his influence are the post-war Abstract Expressionists in the United States, best exemplified by Willem de Kooning, who referred to Soutine as his "favourite artist." 

Francis Bacon, who went to live in Paris in 1927 as a young man, with a future not yet determined, became aware of Soutine's already legendary paintings of beef carcasses. The images and the legends about their making resonated with him, as he had always since his boyhood in Ireland been fascinated to the point of obsession with slaughtered beef carcasses in local abattoirs. 

The present exhibition demonstrates that Soutine's paintings of carcasses were a trigger for Bacon's essential vision, possibly even the reason he was to become a painter. He intuited from Soutine's carcasses the basis for his art and art making. "If I go to the National Gallery and I look at one of the great paintings that excite me there," Bacon explained, "it's not so much the painting that excites me as that the painting unlocks all kinds of valves of sensation within me." It is no great leap to believe that Soutine's were among the works that had a decisive effect on him—that unlocked his valves of sensation. 

There are distinct links between the two painters: direct painting and general studio practice, the equation of oil pigment with flesh, and a certain aggressive re-invention of Old Master paintings. 

This groundbreaking SOUTINE/BACON exhibition is the very first to explicitly pair, compare, and historically situate these two magnificent painters. Museums and institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum and Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Tate Modern and Bacon Foundation in London, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Albertina in Vienna, the Beyeler Foundation in Basel, the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark, the Kunsthaus Zurich, and the Pearlman Foundation with the Art Museum of Princeton University have generously agreed to lend works. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Christie's

  Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale


    11 May 2011  New York, Rockefeller Plaza

     Sale Information  Sale 2440/ Lot 13

 

 

     

 

                                 Crouching Nude on Rail Francis Bacon (1909-1992) 

 

 

 

Estimate $10,000,000 - $15,000,000

Price Realized $9,602,500

Price includes buyer's premium

 

Lot Description

 

Francis Bacon (1909-1992) 
Untitled (Crouching Nude on Rail) 
oil on canvas 
77½ x 54 in. (196.9 x 137 cm.) 
Painted in 1952. 

Special Notice

 

On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in lots consigned for sale which may include guaranteeing a minimum price or making an advance to the consignor that is secured solely by consigned property. This is such a lot. This indicates both in cases where Christie's holds the financial interest on its own, and in cases where Christie's has financed all or a part of such interest through a third party. Such third parties generally benefit financially if a guaranteed lot is sold successfully and may incur a loss if the sale is not successful.
On occasion, Christie’s has a direct financial interest in lots consigned for sale, which may include guaranteeing a minimum price or making an advance to the consignor that is secured solely by consigned property. Christie’s may choose to assume this financial risk on its own or may contract with a third party for such third party to assume all or part of this financial risk. When a third party agrees to finance all or part of Christie’s interest in a lot, it takes on all or part of the risk of the lot not being sold, and will be remunerated in exchange for accepting this risk. The third party may also bid for the lot. Where it does so, and is the successful bidder, the remuneration may be netted against the final purchase price. If the lot is not sold, the third party may incur a loss. Christie’s guarantee of a minimum price for this lot has been fully financed through third parties.

Provenance

 

The Estate of Francis Bacon, London
Acquired from the above by the present owner 

 

Pre-Lot Text

PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE NEW YORK COLLECTOR

 

Literature

 

D. Sylvester, Looking Back at Francis Bacon, London, 2000, pp. 63 and 268 (illustrated in colour).
L. Ficacci, Francis Bacon 1909-1972, Cologne, 2003, pp. 41-42 (illustrated in colour).
A. Zeite, 
Francis Bacon: The Violence of the Real, London, 2006, p. 128, no. 22 (illustrated in colour). 

 

Exhibited

 

New York, Tony Shafrazi Gallery, Francis Bacon: Important Paintings from the Estate, October 1998-January 1999, pp. 40-43 (illustrated in colour).
Dublin, Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, Francis Bacon in Dublin, June-August 2000, pp. 59 and 63, no. 16 (illustrated in colour).
Porto, Fundação de Serralves, Francis Bacon: Caged.Uncaged, January-April 2003, no. 108 (illustrated in colour).
New York, Tony Shafrazi Gallery, Picasso, Bacon, Basquiat, May-July 2004, pp. 3, 24, 28 and 29 (illustrated in colour).
Düsseldorf, K20 Kunstsammlung, Francis Bacon: Die Gewalt des Faktischen, September 2006-January 2007, p. 128 (illustrated in colour).

 

Lot Notes

 

"Bacon is unquestionably the greatest painter of the human flesh since Renoir, but the intense beauty of the colour and texture of his flesh painting is at the same time horrifying, for it discovers a kind of equation between the bloom and elasticity of sensitive tissue and the fever and of iridescence of carrion. He is the painter of flesh considered as a communal substance, as the guinea-pig of senses, the trap of the spirit, the stuff of which murderers cannot get rid, the legitimate prey of pain and disease, of ecstasies and torments; obscenely immortal in renewal" (R. Melville, "World Review" 1951, quoted in M. Peppiatt, Francis Bacon Anatomy of an Enigma, London, 2008, p. 176).

The startling vision of live, human flesh, twitching and throbbing, while seemingly trapped in a cage or impaled on a cold steel armature - a vision of man as meat on a hook, or as an ape in a cage - was one that fascinated Bacon throughout much of his life. A powerful existential image of the imprisonment of the flesh, Untitled (Crouching Nude on Rail) of 1952, is one of the first of these great works. It is an extraordinarily painterly and expressive painting belonging to an important series of pictures of a lone and huddled human figure crouching naked and isolated in an apparently hostile environment that Bacon made in the early 1950s and which, periodically the artist was to revisit time and again.

Closely related in both its theme and subject matter to the painting Study for Crouching Nude in the Detroit Institute of Arts, Untitled (Crouchg inNude on Rail) is one of several early masterpieces that were discovered in a London arts storage space where Bacon had left them in the mid-1950s including one of his greatest Popes, Study after Velázquez, 1950. Leading Bacon authorities determined the discovery as one of the great finds of the 20th century. As David Sylvester wrote of this painting, soon after its rediscovery, the energy and vigour that Bacon has brought to this picture, make it "a more poignant" work than the "more controlled and more conventional" version in the Detroit Institute of Arts. With its shimmering "background cerulean blue ... (covering) ... a much wider area", Sylvester asserted, "its unabashed lyricism creates a violent contrast with the ungainly figure" (D. Sylvester, Looking Back at Francis Bacon, London, 2000, p. 60). This colour, "mixed with a chalky white thinned paint, and the shimmering pinkish flesh tints, so elegantly applied to the surface," gives the work "a Matissean sensuousness that evokes the flesh, in a mood," that Sylvester described as "combining eroticism and melancholy." Here, he continued, "the vertical 'curtain' lines commingle at the base of the railed structure with slanting, more vigorous, elongated brushstrokes that merge the interior space with the striated curtains of a more exterior one ...the essential lump of flesh asserts itself, in an apparently headless state, dramatically imprisoned but still performing despite its vital, missing parts.

The image is derived from one of Muybridge's motion studies, an image which seems almost purposely to deny the figure its defining crown and glory, the head. Muybridge's animalistic transformations of the human image are related to his fascination with malformed or paralytic children, which he also photographed in motion ... Bacon's powerful version of this imagery suggests his own overriding curiosity about the abnormal and the impaired physical shell of man, underscoring a darker view of humanity only partially evolved from an ignoble animal condition. The psychiatrist Bruno Bettleheim has suggested that the malformed and or half-animal, half-human creatures of folk myth may be fantasy projections of parental rage or discord, a condition that is usually corrected in the benevolent, stereotypical fairy tale resolution with the restoration of positive feeling for the child on the part of the parents. "In fairy tales and dreams," he writes, "physical malformation often stands for psychological misdevelopment" (D. Sylvester, "The Supreme Pontiff," Francis Bacon Important Paintings from the Estate, exh. cat, New York, 1998, p. 47).
 

Bacon painted Untitled (Crouching Nude on Rail) in 1952 during a period when he had been making repeated visits to Africa to see his mother and sister. In South Africa and also in Kenya he became captivated with much of the imagery he saw there, beginning a lifelong fascination with wildlife photography, with the observation of large mammals moving through the long grass of the savannah. Of particular impact for him, for example was the image of a solitary baboon, (which he later painted) housed alone in a large wire cage in one of the wildlife parks. "I ... look at animal photographs all the time" Bacon later told David Sylvester, "because the animal movement and human movement are continually linked in my imagery of human movement" (F. Bacon quoted in D. Sylvester, Looking Back at Francis Bacon, London, 2000, p.66).

On his return to London, Bacon's art from this period centred on three closely connected themes: 1) the human scream - which at this time was primarily rendered in the form of his Pope pictures, 2) animal paintings - usually of dogs or monkeys though he also attempted paintings of an elephant and a rhinoceros in the savannah - and, 3) the male nude. Each of these three themes came to be rendered in a very similar manner in which the central figure, be it lone pontiff, animal or nude, was contrasted, pinned and isolated in direct conjunction with its environment, usually, a severe, cold and impersonal, geometric structure. In his human portraits particularly, this geometry often took the form of a cage-like grid (borrowed from Muybridge as in the Detroit Institute painting) or a strange metal armature of the kind used in gymnastics or found in animal cages at the zoo. Often reminiscent of both the modernist furniture that Bacon made in the early 1930s and of the contrast between nude and rail found in Matisse's 1911 painting Bathers by the River that Bacon so admired, these armatures had made their first appearance in Bacon's "butcher's shop" Painting of 1946 (Museum of Modern Art, New York) in which the association between man and meat was also first made plain. Subsequently these devices remain at their most sinister, severe and evocative in Bacon's depictions of the lonely, naked and seemingly fragile, isolated and defenceless human figure.

In Untitled (Crouching Nude on Rail), in which the armature forms something close to a pair of parallel bars between which the hunched mass of heavy-pasted human flesh appears to be suspended, these metal bars are once again employed to provide a clear material contrast to the animate, living flesh of the figure. It is with the figure as a crouched seemingly headless, near-abstract but living carcass that Bacon seems fascinated in this and other works from this period such as the Detroit picture or Study for Nude of 1951, Man Kneeling in Grass of 1952, Study for figure in a Landscape of 1952 and the later Study of a Figure in a Room of 1953. In all these works Bacon's concentration is on the animate sense of life pulsating through the huddled and isolated ball of meat that is the human being. In Untitled (Crouching Nude on Rail) in particular, Bacon has attempted to render this animate physicality through an intensely material surface, mixing sand and earth into his paint and creating an almost informel Fautrier-esque paste of flesh color that lends a distinctly animalistic quality to its surface. Recalling his heavy impasto of this period Bacon asserted that it was around this time that he discovered how, for him "one image can be deeply suggestive in relation to another. I had an idea in those days that textures should be very much thicker, and therefore the texture of, for instance, a rhinoceros skin would help me to think about the texture of the human skin" (F. Bacon quoted in D. Sylvester, Looking Back at Francis Bacon, London, 2000, pp. 66-7). 

In the same way, Bacon found that in his thinking about the human nude - as evidenced in this series of works - his deep knowledge of the imagery of Muybridge and Michelangelo seemed also to have become irrevocably fused in his memory and imagination. "Michelangelo and Muybridge are mixed up in my mind together," he once admitted, "and so I perhaps could learn about positions from Muybridge and learn about the ampleness, the grandeur of form from Michelangelo, and it would be very difficult for me to disentangle the influence of Muybridge and the influence of Michelangelo" (F. Bacon quoted in D. Sylvester, Looking Back at Francis Bacon, London, 2000, p. 60).

 

Indeed, the source of the pose Bacon has used in Untitled (Crouching Nude on Rail) as for many of the crouching nudes from this period, seems to derive from both Muybrdge and Michelangelo. Specifically, it derives from an image of Muybridge's called Man Performing Standing Broad Jump and Michelangelo's sculpture of a Crouching Boy circa 1530-34 now in the Hermitage, St Petersburg. Fused together in the artist's imagination these two images form the basis of several of the crouching figures that perpetually reoccur throughout Bacon's oeuvre. Heavily worked with layers of paint smeared and pasted onto the surface of the raw canvas and even mixed in places with sand to give a further sense of material texture, the huddled nude in Untitled (Crouching Nude on Rail) is a compact and seemingly indistinct figure. As in the Detroit painting and the 1953 Study of Figure in a Room the bowed head of this nude is almost invisible, lending the rippled blob of flesh that comprises the rest of the torso a near-abstract appearance that brings the shock of its animate nature more into focus. It is this shock of reality, what Bacon once referred to as the "brutality of fact" that the artist has attempted to concentrate in this work through the juxtaposition of flesh and its seemingly hostile, alien and near-mechanical environment. "I hate a homely atmosphere," Bacon explained, and, following what he learned from the films of Luis Bunuel and also with particular relevance to this work, the beach-scene nudes that Picasso painted in 1929-30, he preferred what he described as "the intimacy of the image" to be set "against a very stark background. I want to isolate the image" (F. Bacon quoted in D. Sylvester Looking Back at Francis Bacon, London, 2000, p. 120).

In addition to this clear isolating of the image against a stark and alien background, Bacon has attempted to integrate his scene through the technique he called "shuttering." This was a striated use of brushwork that veils both image and background in a sequence of blind-like stripes that here extend down the picture from the top and also radiate out from the central figure across the plane of the floor at the bottom. This dramatic, painterly and highly expressive technique is one that Bacon used to greatest effect in what are probably his two finest Pope paintings, the 1950 Study After Velasquez (rediscovered along with Untitled (Crouching Nude on Rail), and the 1953 Study after Velasquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X now in the Des Moines Art Center, Iowa. Aimed at conveying a sense of the electric nature of living matter and what Bacon once called "all the pulsations of a person," this "shuttering," along with the pastel-like effect of the dry paint that Bacon has used in Untitled (Crouching Nude on Rail), derives from Bacon's love of Degas' pastels and specifically, several works which he knew well in London's National Gallery.

Degas' similar use of striated form and colour in his pastels, lent a dynamic quality to the surface of the flesh of his figures in a way that Bacon greatly admired. It also meant that the "sensation" produced by the image, "doesn't come straight out at you but slides slowly and gently through the gaps," Bacon told Sylvester" (F. Bacon quoted in D. Sylvester, Looking Back at Francis Bacon, London, 2000, pp. 49 -50).

 

Untitled (Crouching Nude on Rail) displays a dramatic extension of this technique into all areas of the canvas. Here, the shock and stimulus of Bacon's profound but also strange imagery now seems to shimmer and radiate throughout the picture in a way that holds and fascinates the viewer's attention for longer than perhaps otherwise they might wish to be the case. For, presenting the fleshy mass of a spectral human presence seemingly radiating a terrifying electric energy, Bacon has here, through the predominant use of radiant strips of cerulean and cobalt blue, created a powerfully persuasive image of agony or human suffering. It is an image that could well have served, for example, as a pictorial equivalent for the "Monument for the Unknown Political Prisoner" - a famous sculptural competition launched around the same time as this work in 1951 and eventually won by Reg Butler a sculptor whose work was in some degree inspired by Bacon's pictures. Indeed, Bacon himself may even have thought at some stage of this work in sculptural terms. It was, after all, exactly this subject - of a distinctly fleshy human presence somehow suspended on polished steel bars - that Bacon wanted in later years to turn into sculpture, and, for this ultimately never realized project that he kept copies of the Detroit painting close by him. As he told David Sylvester, "I've thought about sculptures on a kind of armature, a very large armature made so that the sculpture could slide along it and people could even alter the position of the sculpture as they wanted. The armature would not be as important as the image, but it would be there to set it off, as I have often used an armature to set off the image in paintings. I've felt that in sculpture I would perhaps be able to do it more poignantly" (D. Sylvester, The Brutality of Fact, Interviews with Francis Bacon, London 1990, p. 108).

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 Christie's

 

 

 

  Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale


   11 May 2011  New York, Rockefeller Plaza

 

    Sale Information  Sale 2440/ Lot 36  Estimate on request

 

 

      

                                                                             Three Studies for Self-Portrait Francis Bacon (1901 - 1992)

 

 

Price Realized $25,282,500

Price includes buyer's premium

Lot Description

 

Francis Bacon (1909-1992) 
Three Studies for Self-Portrait 
titled 'Study for Self-Portrait' (on the reverse of each panel) 
triptych-oil on canvas 
each: 14 x 12 in. (35.6 x 30.5 cm.) 
Painted in 1974. 

 

Special Notice

 

On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in lots consigned for sale which may include guaranteeing a minimum price or making an advance to the consignor that is secured solely by consigned property. This is such a lot. This indicates both in cases where Christie's holds the financial interest on its own, and in cases where Christie's has financed all or a part of such interest through a third party. Such third parties generally benefit financially if a guaranteed lot is sold successfully and may incur a loss if the sale is not successful.

Provenance

 

Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner

 

Pre-Lot Text

 

PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT COLLECTION

 

Literature

 

M. Leiris, Francis Bacon: Full Face and In Profile, New York, 1983, no. 96 (illustrated in colour).
W. Seipel, B. Steffen and C. Vitali, eds., Francis Bacon and the Tradition of Art, exh. cat., Milan, p. 219 (illustrated in colour).
F. Borel and M. Kundera, Francis Bacon Portraits and Self-Portraits, trans. R. Taylor and L. Asher, New York, 2006, pp. 90 and 91 (illustrated in colour).
D. Sylvester, Interviews with Francis Bacon, New York, 2007, p. 133 (illustrated). 

 

Exhibited

 

New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Francis Bacon: Recent Paintings 1968-1974, March-June 1975, no. 36 (illustrated in colour).
Basel, Fondation Beyeler, Face to Face to Cyberspace: Human Images from Cézanne to Cyberspace, May-September 1999, p. 70, no. 13 (illustrated in colour).

 

Lot Notes

 

"One of the nicest things that Cocteau said was: 'Each day in the mirror I watch death at work.' This is what one does oneself." (Francis Bacon in a 1975 Interview with David Sylvester. reproduced in David Sylvester, The Brutality of Fact, Interviews with Francis Bacon, London 1990, p.130-133)

For Francis Bacon, whose uniquely disturbing and somewhat timeless art seems, in many ways, to have stronger connections to the traditions of the Old Masters than to 20th century Modernism, self-portraiture was intrinsically connected to the artist's very strong awareness of the passing of time and the presence of death within everything in life.

Like Rembrandt before him, for Bacon, the self-portrait provided a window onto this process - a mirror of mortality that reflected an undeniable truth about the existential nature of the human condition. Excepting his earliest self-portraits, which were Expressionist portrayals of himself as an artist in the guise of Vincent Van Gogh - one of the very few artists with which Bacon openly identified - all of Bacon's other self-portraits are highly objective and dispassionate portrayals of himself as a seemingly ordinary and unremarkable man.

With a few exceptions, Bacon only really began to paint self-portraits with any frequency in the late 1960s. After suffering a spate of deaths among those close to him, Bacon began, in the mid-1970s, a prolonged series of self-portrait heads, painting his own face almost obsessively. "I loathe my own face but I go on painting it only because I haven't got any other people to do," he told David Sylvester in 1975, suggesting that he was only painting these self-portraits because people had been "dying around me like flies" and he had "nobody else left to paint." This was not strictly true. There were enough close friends around to provide him with alternate subject matter if he had so wanted, but the proximity of death all around him allied to his own encroaching mortality seems to have made Bacon, always very conscious of the temporality of man's existence, even more reflective on this subject. It also seems to have proved a highly cathartic exercise for Bacon during what was, in the wake of his former lover George Dyer's suicide, clearly a difficult time for the artist filled by periods of grief, guilt and self-reflection.

Depicting the artist with eyes distinctly shut, seemingly in sleep, bruised pain or inner contemplation, across a sequence of three panels, Three Studies for a Self-Portrait is a rare and richly-coloured example from the outstanding series of self-portraits that Bacon produced at this time. Executed in 1974, it depicts the distorted almost beaten-up, but still distinctly recognizable features of Bacon's owl-like face in three varying degrees of twisted expression and mutilation. The sequential effect of these three contrasting depictions of artist's face endows the complete work with a powerful sense of motion, fragility and life that is seldom achieved in Bacon's single panel portraits. Drawn perhaps from Eadweard Muybridge's sequences of analytical photographs on the motion of animals and human beings, the cinematic, slide-like progression of images in a triptych format appealed to Bacon because, as he once explained, "I see every image all the time in a shifting way and almost in shifting sequences. So that one can take it from more or less what is called ordinary figuration to a very, very far point" (Ibid, p.21).

The triptych format also recalled the sequence of police mug-shots of a subject with which Bacon was also very fascinated. Mixing the clear, analytic facticity of the image inherent to both these and Muybridge's photographs, with the essentially more abstract and mercurial medium of paint was one of the consistent aims of Bacon's art. In Three Studies for a Self-Portrait Bacon depicts himself as a substantial and very material presence, flash-lit, almost like an apparition, and set against a dark monochrome purple background suggestive of an apparently infinite empty space. Using strong sweeping brushstrokes that appear to both mould and invade the artist's features, Bacon creates a series of images that in the restlessness of their distortions seem to suggest a series of alternating moods and expressions and an atmosphere of uncomfortable and shifting psychological unease. These are punctuated by the apparent progression of a lens-like ellipse - a kind of anatomical highlighting device derived from Bacon's book on positioning in radiography - that appears to move and cast a deep blue shadow across Bacon's face. This device, used frequently in many of Bacon's paintings in a way that seems to suggest the cold analytical view of an unseen perhaps even medical authority, here conveys a sense that the artist himself is under the microscope.

Throughout his life, Bacon worked mainly from photographs. His self-portraits were also often drawn from photo-booth portraits that he made of himself, but Bacon would also spend hours studying his own features in the mirror. According to John Richardson, he would even deliberately let his stubble grow for three or four days and then using Max Factor pancake make-up rehearse the brush strokes and distortions he intended to make in the painting on his face in front of the mirror. Presenting three seemingly sequential images of Bacon's face isolated against a rich purple background, this cosmetic aspect seems especially prominent in this work. For here, Bacon has heightened the paintings' already rich variety of colour by applying a sequence of striations in orange, turquoise and magenta in places by printing paint marks made by soaking either his sweater or a piece of corduroy with orange paint and impressing it onto the surface of these otherwise completed portraits. In this way, the final act of creation in Three Studies for a Self-Portrait echoes in some respects the prolonged and intensive process of putting on make-up and of self-examination and self-exploration that went into Bacon's preparation for making such an image. In addition to this however, when it came to his own face, Bacon was also able to bring all his emotional experience and familiarity with his own features to bear on what he once described as the attempt to "capture" and "trap" a true and revealing image of his subject. It was, after all, this elusive feature reflecting the visual effect of a person's unique inner energy - what he once called "all the pulsations" of a person - that Bacon sought. It was the element that he also referred to, for want of better word and in completely non-mystical terms, as a person's "emanation."

Strangely, perhaps, it is in this respect that Bacon's self-portraiture most closely resembled Rembrandt's genius for conveying the psychological intensity and life of his subjects using only the magical and essentially abstract materiality of paint. While Rembrandt never set out to "deform people into appearance," as Bacon once described his own aims, he did, as Bacon was well aware, use chance, accident and the fluid abstract and material qualities of paint to render more vividly the vital living nature of his subjects. Bacon, who often referenced Rembrandt's self-portraits as a source of inspiration, keeping a book of them in which they were sequentially illustrated, rather like his own self-portrait triptychs, close at hand in his studio, explained this quality of the Dutch master's self-portraiture by pointing to a Rembrandt Self-Portrait he knew well, in Aix-en Provence. In this painting, he said, "if you analyze it, you will see that there are hardly any sockets to the eyes, that it is almost completely (an) 'anti-illustrational' work. I think that the mystery of fact is conveyed by an image being made out of non-rational marks. And you can't will this non-rationality of a mark. That is the reason that accident always has to enter into this activity, because the moment you know what to do, you're making just another form of illustration. But what can happen sometimes, as it happened in this Rembrandt self-portrait, is that there is a coagulation of non-representational marks which have led to making up this very great image. Well, of course, only part of this is accidental. Behind all that is Rembrandt's profound sensibility, which was able to hold onto one irrational mark rather than onto another" (Ibid p.59.).

Chance, accident, and distortion often brought more life, realism and energy to an image than any painstaking scrutiny or representational copying of appearances could do, and it was this quality, what Bacon described as the "anti-illustrational" nature of painting, that he had observed in and most admired about many of Rembrandt's self-portraits. "Great art" he said, "is deeply ordered. Even if within the order there may be enormous instinctive and accidental things, nevertheless I think that they come out of a desire for ordering and for returning fact onto the nervous system in a more violent way" (Ibid p.59.).

Echoing the humility as well as the psychology and existentialism of Rembrandt's late self-portraits, Three Studies for a Self-Portrait reveals Bacon's almost visionary eye conveying the extraordinary vitality and uniqueness of its subject in the manner of a kind of psychic X-Ray. Still recognizable, despite the sometimes brutal distortion Bacon has brought to bear on his own face, this self-portrait exudes a naked existential quality that speaks in simple and universal terms not just of mortality and of the fleetingness of human life, but also somehow of the unique miracle of the fact of its existence at all.

"I think of life as meaningless," Bacon said, "but we give it meaning during our own existence. We create certain attitudes which give it a meaning while we exist, though they in themselves are meaningless, really" (Ibid. p. 133). In Three Studies for a Self-Portrait the material and the non-material meet in what appears to be three fleeting flash-bulb moments that hauntingly capture in paint the very essence and vitality of Bacon's psychological and physical presence. Although each portrait clearly differs from the others, the radiating lines, smudges and blurred distortions of all three seem to communicate with one another between the paintings so that something of Bacon's living presence, his "emanation" perhaps, seems to magically infuse the work. "Of course," Bacon once commented, "what in a curious way one's always hoping to do is to paint the one picture which will annihilate all the other ones, to concentrate everything into one painting. But actually in the series one picture reflects on the other continuously and sometimes they're better in series than they are separately because, unfortunately, I've never yet been able to make the one image that sums up all the others. So one image against the other seems to be able to say the thing more" (Ibid, p. 22).

 

 

 

  Francis Bacon Self-Portrait Triptych May Fetch $20 Million as Demand Grows

 

     By Scott Reyburn, Bloomberg, April 15, 2011

 

 

 

         

 

 

A triptych of self portraits by Francis Bacon may raise at least $20 million at auction next month as demand grows for the U.K.’s most expensive artist. 

 

Three Studies for Self Portrait, from 1974, are included in Christie’s International’s May 11 New York auction of contemporary art. They are part of a London show, opening tomorrow, that also includes Bacon’s 1952 painting, Untitled (Crouching Nude on Rail), estimated at $10 million to $15 million in the same sale.

Owners of high-value paintings by Bacon are more confident about selling at auction after the 1964 triptych, Three Studies for a Portrait of Lucian Freud, fetched 23 million pounds at Sotheby’s in London on Feb.10.

“That result helped bring Bacons out of the woodwork,” London-based dealer Offer Waterman  said in an interview. “Up until then the market had been in a state of flux. Prices had dropped, and people found it difficult to value his paintings.”

Works by Bacon were in short supply at auctions during 2009 and 2010. In May 2008, before the financial crisis, Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich paid a record $86.3 million for a 1976 Triptych at Sotheby’s (BID) New York, said dealers. Nine months later, the 1954 picture Man in Blue VI failed to sell at a Christie’s auction in London after being estimated at as much as 5 million pounds ($8.2 million).

Both of these latest Bacons have been offered by unidentified U.S. collectors and are being exhibited in the U.K. for the first time, Christie’s said in an e-mailed statement.

Guaranteed Price

The triptych of head-and-shoulder studies, one of 10 self portraits Bacon executed in the 1970s, has been owned for 35 years by the seller, who has been guaranteed a minimum price. The canvas of the nude, which doesn’t have a price guarantee, was one of a group of paintings by the artist discovered in a storeroom in London’s Chelsea in the 1990s, Christie’s said.

The 37-work exhibition, continuing through April 19, includes Impressionist and modern works from Christie’s May 4 sale, as well as contemporary pieces. Christie’s haven’t yet released an overall estimate for its auctions.

The works are on show from April 16 through 19, from 12 noon to 5p.m., at Christie’s, 8 King Street, St. James’s, London.

 

 

 


Francis Bacon masterpieces to fetch £22.5 at auction

 

A pair of Francis Bacon masterpieces that have never been seen in public in Britain are expected to fetch more than £22.5 million at auction, experts said.

 

By Andrew Hough, The Daily Telegraph, Friday 15 April 2011

 

 

                                                                 

  Francis Bacon's Three Studies for a Self Portrait 1974


 

 

 

The 1952 single canvas, titled Untitled (Crouching Nude on Rail), was discovered 40 years after being lost, among “one of the greatest art discoveries in modern times”.

 

Britain’s most expensive artist is said to have stored the work at his art supplier’s store on the Kings Road, Chelsea, west London, shortly after he painted them.

 

But the unnamed owner, a close friend, is said to have forgotten about them after placing the paintings in the store backroom.

It was only discovered in the 1990s, together with a cache of other rare masterpieces, after the store closed down due to the owner’s death.

 

Experts said that the 10 paintings, which were in pristine condition, represented “one of the greatest art discoveries in modern times”.

They were passed to the artist's estate because they were found after his death in 1992.

 

Also among the cache, was his 1950 Pope painting, Study after Velazquez, thought to be one his best works and now owned by the American hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen.

 

The canvas of the nude painting was sold privately to a United States-based individual, who has now placed it up for auction.

It is to go under the hammer at Christie's in New York next month together with a rare 1974 triptych of self portraits titled Three Studies for Self Portrait.

 

The triptych of head-and-shoulder studies, one of 10 self portraits Bacon executed in the 1970s, has been owned for 35 years by the seller, who is also based in America.

 

Christie's expects the paintings, part of a wider free public view in London on Saturday of other arists including Monet and Andy Warhol, to fetch $US20m (£12.5) and $US15m (£10m) respectively.

Brett Gorvy, Christie's deputy chairman and head of post-war and contemporary art, said the paintings came from Bacon’s “prime periods of creativity”.

 

“The (nude) work was part of one of the greatest art discoveries in modern times,” he told The Daily Telegraph.

“Most of his works from that time were in museums, so this was an extraordinary grouping.”

 

Experts say that works by Bacon, who was known for “destroying” canvases, have been in short supply at auctions during the past two years.

 

In February a 1964 triptych of Lucian Freud by Bacon, his great friend, sold for more than £23 million.

 

In 1975, the artist was quoted said: “I loathe my own face, but I go on painting it only because I haven’t got any other people to do… [there is] nobody else left to paint.”

 

 

 

 


Colour research sheds new light in celebrated artist

 

The Journal Live, March 1st 2011

 


ART critics often return to the work of a deceased artist with the aim of repositioning him or her within the pantheon of artistic endeavour.

Often this is a highly subjective process sparked by a new exhibition or publication.

Someone will suggest that so-and-so has been unfairly under-rated and hope that others will pick up the idea and run with it.

In this way forgotten or once derided artists are rehabilitated and their paintings or sculptures attain a new lease on life.

But the work of the late and celebrated artist Francis Bacon is undergoing scrutiny of a much less subjective nature at Northumbria University.

A team led by conservation scientist Dr Brian Singer is analysing the materials and techniques used by the controversial painter, who died in 1992.

 

Dr Singer says: The aim of this research is to examine the materials and techniques used by the artist Francis Bacon through the examination and sampling of paintings, and of materials left in Bacons studio.

Analysis is being carried out to identify the pigments and binders present in the paint in order to build up a timeline of materials used throughout his career.

The research has so far turned up some modern organic pigments showing that in later decades the artist used household paint in some areas of his work.

More than 30 paintings from museums, galleries, private collections and the Francis Bacon Estate, which is part-funding the project, have been analysed.

Techniques used include visual examination with different light sources and special detectors, observation through microscopes and chemical analysis.

By establishing the materials used, this information will be a valuable resource for those working in the conservation of Bacons works, says Dr Singer.

Also working on the paintings is PhD student Elke Cwiertnia.

Bacon is best known for his disturbing portraits of popes. Margaret Thatcher apparently referred to him as “that man who paints those dreadful pictures” but they now change hands for millions of pounds.

 

 


The west just can't dictate democracy to the Arab world

 

Henry Porter, The Observer, Sunday 13 March 2011

 

 

Oddly enough, I am reminded of an exchange my wife once witnessed between Francis Bacon and the columnist Jeffrey Bernard in a Soho restaurant. Bacon asked Bernard whom in the world he would most like to bed. Bernard said Cyd Charisse and Monica Vitti, then asked the great painter about his ultimate fantasy.

"I'd like to get into bed with Colonel Gaddafi," replied Bacon after some thought. It turns out that all these governments and the previously revered LSE have a lot in common with Francis Bacon.

 

 

 

Unimpeachable sauces: 'The Gilded Gutter Life of Francis Bacon'

 

Lynn Barber, The Independent on Sunday, Sunday, 18 April 1993

 

 

How reliable any of this might be remains to be seen, and there is obviously an awful lot of work for a serious biographer to do. Yet perhaps no one can convey better than Farson the fun of Bacon's company and the louche adventures of the Soho underworld. There are some truly joyous yarns in this book - Bacon appearing in full maquillage at Farson's village pub in Devon, a drunken visit to Barbara Hutton's house in Tangier, Princess Margaret insisting on singing at a party and Bacon booing, Bacon clearing a restaurant by saying loudly that he wanted to be fucked by Colonel Gaddafi - and wonderful quotes like Bacon's response when being sent endless deliveries of flowers for his eightieth birthday: 'I'm not the sort of person who has vases.' All in all, a book that is a joy in itself and a goldmine for biographers to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bacon’s Freudian portrait triples estimate in sold our Sotheby’s sale
 
The single-owner auction from the estate of Geneva collection George Kostalitz made $150m and broke records for surrealist art

 

By Georgina Adam | The Art Newspaper | 12 Feb 11 

 

 

    

 Francis Bacon's triptych portrait of his friend and fellow artist Lucian Freud sold for $37m

 

LONDON. Sotheby’s single-owner sale of 20th- century art, “Looking Closely, A Private Collection”, featuring works from the estate of the Geneva-based George Kostalitz, was a runaway success on Thursday night. All 60 lots sold, and the final tally of £93.5m ($150.5m, including commissions) pulverised the pre-sale target of £39m-£55m (which does not include commission). The average price per lot sold was a punchy £1.6m.

 

Leading the sale was Bacon’s 1964 Three Studies for Portrait of Lucian Freud, expressive images of his fellow artist painted in predominantly deep scarlet. Estimated at £7m-£9m, it attracted fierce bidding from nine potential buyers, five of them on the telephone. The painting made just over £23m, falling to the Cologne-based dealer Alex Lachmann, who has many Russian clients, seated in the front row with a mobile telephone clamped to his ear. According to dealers, the work had been offered a couple of years before the owner’s death at $25m. “The estimate was very reasonable, and the work has great wall power,” said London dealer Gérard Faggionato, who represents the Bacon estate in Europe.

 

 

 

 


Francis Bacon triptych sells for £23 – three times its estimate

 

 

Three Studies for a Portrait of Lucian Freud by his friend Francis Bacon saw more than 10 bidders compete for the work

 

Mark Brown, The Guardian, Friday 11 February 2011

 

 

   The Francis Bacon had a pre-sale estimate of £7-9m.

 

 

A triptych of Lucian Freud portraits by his friend Francis Bacon have been sold for £23m at Sotheby's in London, three times the pre-sale estimate.

Three Studies for a Portrait of Lucian Freud (above) had created a buzz before the sale. The question was not if it would make its pre-sale estimate of £7m-£9m, but how much higher it would go.

More than 10 bidders competed for the work. After seven minutes of bidding, it reached £20.5m and a hopeful telephone bidder asked if £20.6m could be offered. The auctioneer, Tobias Meyer, insisted on £21m. "I don't want to sound arrogant, but we've come so far," he said. There was applause as he finally banged his hammer.

Cheyenne Westphal, the auction house's chairman of contemporary art in Europe, said: "This striking painting has everything a collector in the current market is looking for. It is an artwork that radiates 'wall-power' with its brilliant colour and dramatic brushstrokes."

The triptych has been in the same private collection for nearly 50 years and is a testament to the close friendship of two of the titans of 20th century British art. This triptych, Sotheby's said, contained an "intensity and intimacy that is rarely seen elsewhere".

Bacon, who died in 1992, and Freud were kindred spirits: close friends who often saw each other every day. They gambled together, drank in the same Soho dens and painted each other.

The paintings were part of a truly wondrous private collection. The sale of 60 works from it also included paintings by Modigliani, Giacometti, Chagall and Miró.

 

 

 

    

 

                                                          Francis Bacon triptych sells for £23 – three times its estimate


 

 

 

 

Lucien Freud: rare artist painting by friend Francis Bacon fetches £23m

 

A three-panel painting of Lucian Freud by his great friend Francis Bacon sold last night for more than £23 million.

 

 

The triptych involving two of the most influential figures of 20th century British art fetched almost three times its reserve value during the sale at Sotheby’s.

The rare painting shows Freud with a variety of facial expressions.

It is understood that Bacon’s Three Studies for a Portrait of Lucian Freud was bought by Alex Lachman, a Cologne-based dealer.

It came after seven minutes of frenetic bidding involving ten potential buyers from four continents. It had been expected to fetch between £7m and £9m.

The 14-inch high triptych of expressively painted heads has rarely been seen in public. It has previously been offered for private sale at about $25 million (£15.5 million).

Experts say that works by Bacon, Britain’s most expensive artist, have been in short supply at auctions during the last two years.

"This striking painting has everything a collector in the current market is looking for," said Cheyenne Westphal, chairwoman of Contemporary Art Europe at Sotheby's.

 

"It is an artwork that radiates 'wall-power' with its brilliant colour and dramatic brushstrokes.

 

"It narrates one of the most impressive artistic relationships of the 20th century between two titans of British art and is desirably fresh to the market having remained in the same collection for almost half a century."

A Sotheby's spokeswoman said more than 10 people, from four different continents, put in bids for the painting until it sold to the buyer in the room for £23,001,250. She declined to confirm the buyer's identity.

 

The sale prices include buyer's premium. Mr Lachman was unavailable for comment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

€8 Bacon on Sotheby’s menu

 

Michael Parsons, The Irish TimesSaturday, February 5, 2011

 

 

 

     

 

                              Right panel from Three Studies for a Portrait of Lucian Freud

 


 

That man who paints those dreadful pictures” is set to steal the limelight – yet again

MARGARET Thatcher once famously referred to Francis Bacon as “that man who paints those dreadful pictures”. The former British prime minister sure had her finger on the pulse.

Abstract paintings of screaming popes, crucifixion scenes and grotesquely contorted naked men are not, quite, Middle England’s cup of tea. But, despite the Iron Lady’s disdain, he is one of the most admired – and collected – of all 20th century artists.

And his paintings – which can make even hardened adults flinch – sell for more than the work of any other Irish-born artist by a very wide margin.

Born in Dublin in 1909, Bacon grew up in Co Kildare where his father, a former British army officer turned racehorse trainer, reputedly had his son flogged by stable-hands to make a man of him. Not surprisingly, he bolted abroad at the earliest opportunity and, after stints in Berlin and Paris, settled in London where he spent the rest of his life.

Papa’s “cure” backfired and Bacon was notorious for consorting with toughie Eastenders with whom he indulged his taste for sado-masochism. Although his favourite haunts were the seedier bars and nightclubs of Soho, fame opened gilded doors. He once scandalised London’s beau monde when he booed and hissed Princess Margaret as she sang a Noel Coward song at a private party – causing her to rush, mortified, from the salon. Polite society (and the Daily Mail) was aghast.

Writing in The Observer, in 2008, Oxford University professor and critic Peter Conrad described Bacon as “the most celebrated painter of his time, all the more famous for the diabolical whiff of sulphur exuded by his alcoholic binges, his homosexual promiscuity and his voluptuous taste for pain”.

In 1946, a London art dealer bought one of his paintings for £200. Anyone who bought his early works has reason to be cheerful and may well be reading this article on a yacht moored off Cannes. By 1989, Bacon had become the worlds most expensive living artist. He died, while holidaying in Madrid, in 1992. Bacon’s South Kensington studio – lock, stock and dirty paintbrushes included – was donated by his heir, John Edwards, to the Hugh Lane Gallery and was transported to Dublin in 1998 to be reassembled for permanent display.

Since his death, his reputation – and prices – have soared. In 2008, Sotheby’s New York sold his Triptych, 1976 for $86.3 million, the highest price paid for any painting created since the second World War. The triptych was sold by France’s Moueix family, producers of Château Pétrus wines, and bought by Russian billionaire and owner of Chelsea Football Club, Roman Abramovich.

Next Thursday, February 10th, Sotheby’s in London is selling another of his triptychs, Three Studies for a Portrait of Lucian Freud – a fellow painter widely regarded as Britain’s greatest living artist. Sotheby’s described it as “a testament to the friendship between these two giants of 20th century art” and has estimated it at £7m-£9m.

It’s the highlight in the sale of a private collection of modern and contemporary European paintings and sculptures.

 

 

 

 

Obituaries

 

Denis Wirth-Miller:

Bohemian artist who enjoyed a close association with Francis Bacon

 

 

By David Buckman | The Independent | Wednesday 22 January 2011

 

 

 

     

 

                                     Denis Wirth-Miller and Francis Bacon

 

 

 

Denis Wirth-Miller was one of a group of artists who for many years injected the spirit of bohemia into the life of Wivenhoe, a small shipbuilding and repairing town on the Essex coast. The jollifications of Wirth-Miller, his partner, the James Bond illustrator Richard "Dickie" Chopping, and the painter Francis Bacon remain the stuff of local legend.

 

Such stories, true or untrue – among the latter is one that after Bacon's death his former Wivenhoe house was kept as a shrine by Denis and Dickie – have tended to overshadow Wirth-Miller's achievements as a painter. One recognition of this will be a forthcoming small retrospective at the Minories Art Gallery, Colchester.

 

Also undermining Wirth-Miller's reputation was the fact that from the early 1970s sight problems hindered him and that latterly he suffered from dementia. All this must have been hard for a man who had shown in London's leading galleries and had work in the collections of the Queen, the Arts Council and Contemporary Art Society.

 Wirth-Miller was born in Folkestone, Kent, in 1915, where his Bavarian father Johann Wirthmiller (Denis later Anglicised his name) ran a busy hotel. Wirth-Miller's mother moved him to Bamburgh in her home county of Northumberland, where he was raised by his grandmother.

After school, he joined Tootal Broadhurst Lee, the textile manufacturers in Manchester, where innate talent prompted his appointment as a designer. After arriving in London early in 1937 he met Dickie Chopping, who moved into one of the painter Walter Sickert's former studios in north London, where Denis was living. Thus began a lifelong relationship; in December 2005 they became the first in Colchester to make a civil partnership.

It was not without disagreements, even how about they first met – according to Chopping at a Regent's Park charity garden party, according to Wirth-Miller at the Café Royal, a celebrated meeting point for gay men. A friend was concerned about the vulnerability of the Sickert flat to bomb damage and advised them to leave London, lending them the dilapidated Felix Hall in Kelvedon, Essex. There, they scraped a living gardening and other jobs.

Then, importantly, they met the painters Cedric Morris and Arthur Lett-Haines, who had established the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing, first at Dedham and, when that was destroyed by fire, at Benton End. The artist Mollie Russell-Smith recalled how, as a student lacking an easel, with trepidation she knocked on the door at Benton End and it was "flung open by three young men" – Chopping, Wirth-Miller and Lucian Freud. "They bundled me in, assuming that I had come to be a student, and Dickie showed me all over the house with great enthusiasm and charm. I was enchanted."

Benton End was an artistic Eden. Wirth-Miller must have absorbed much from Morris, artistically and as a plantsman. Later, in Wivenhoe, Wirth-Miller tended a walled garden producing magnificent vegetables. Their house on Wivenhoe Quay, then used as a sail storehouse, was bought in 1944, but wartime restrictions prevented their moving in until 1945, when they began converting it back to its original role as a merchant's house.

By the late 1940s Bacon was visiting Wirth-Miller and Chopping. The friendship between Bacon and Wirth-Miller had been instigated earlier in the decade by the two Scots painters Robert Colquhoun and Robert MacBryde, whom Wirth-Miller had known in his Soho days. For years, Bacon had a home and studio in Wivenhoe which eventually Wirth-Miller bought from him.

Wirth-Miller, Chopping and Bacon were close, holidaying abroad. "Denis had a deep intellectual friendshipwith Francis," says Daniel Chapman, a close friend for many years. "Their interests in literature, philosophy, art, gambling and life in general were coincidental and were live and vibrant up to each of their dying days." For most of the last 20 years Wirth-Miller and Bacon would hold extensive telephone conversations daily.

Wivenhoe’s artistic social life was boosted in when the journalist and local resident George Gale invited the politician Edward Heath to open a Wivenhoe Arts Club, which attracted painters and writers and had its own gallery. It was not so significant in the lives of Wirth-Miller and Chopping, insists Chapman, as Denis’s assisting others such as the primitive painter Ernie Turner to develop his talent.

Known as “Wivenhoe’s Alfred|Wallis” – after the St Ives Cornish primitive – Turner began painting in 1964 when he retired as a shipwright. Wirth-Miller helped him with technical advice, encouraged him to experiment and fostered his sales in London and to overseas clients. Turner became so popular that clients had to order paintings.

Cultivating his friendships at home and abroad and partying hard were strong Wirth-Miller traits. A former near-neighbour of Bacon's cottage and studio in Wivenhoe remembers the "outrageous" reputation he, Wirth-Miller and Chopping had. "They frequented local pubs and restaurants, sometimes to the owners' dismay. At one time I lived above and worked in the restaurant the trio frequented.

"On those occasions the proprietor used to hide the bottles of champagne so there would not be all-night sessions. I heard tales of Wirth-Miller and Bacon having drunken painting sessions, painting on each others' canvases."

In contrast, Chapman recalls Wirth-Miller as a serious worker. When materials were in short supply during the war, like others he would resort to house paint and enamels.

After the war years his work was in oil on a large scale. "Early works were portraits, figures and still life," Chapman said, "later a series of very large dog paintings – hounds on the move, mastiffs, great danes in motion in the act of turning or hunting or disappearing into the mist. Later works were East Anglian or Dartmoor landscapes. He was always drawing in secret, often hands and feet."

Denis Wirth-Miller, artist: born Folkestone, Kent 27 November 1915; died Colchester, Essex 27 October 2010

 

 

Bacons streaming back on the market

a

A portrait of a mystery man from 1953 by Francis Bacon could go for £11 million.

 

By Colin Gleadell | The Daily Telegraph | 23 May 2011

 

     

                                         Study for Portrait by Francis Bacon from 1953 

 

A painting by Francis Bacon that he gave to another artist in return for the use of his studio could fetch as much as £11 million at Christie’s next month. In 1951, grief-stricken at the death of his former nanny and companion, Jessie Lightfoot, Bacon left his flat in Cromwell Place, South Kensington, which they shared, and embarked on a nomadic existence, borrowing the studio of the Professor of Painting at the Royal College of Art, Rodrigo Moynihan, to work in. He used the studio for another two years, producing some of the most haunting images of his career, and exercising a powerful influence on the students at the college.

Study for Portrait was one of the last works he produced there. For Bacon, according to his biographer Michael Peppiatt, 1953 was an “annus mirabilis as inventive as it was prolific”. In spite of “flitting from debt to debt, and digs to digs”, he managed to produce more than 20 “majestic and terrifying” paintings including eight paintings of popes.

With the artist finding stimulation in adversity, Peppiatt concludes, “this was the period when Bacon acquired the means he needed to bring forth his vision.”

The subject of Study for Portrait is not known. The painting bears resemblances at once to Velazquez’s Portrait of Philip IV of Spain, to a photograph of Joseph Stalin at the Yalta Conference, to the art critic David Sylvester and to Bacon’s lover at the time, Peter Lacy. Whoever it is, it is a figure of power, seated on a semi-gilded throne and staring menacingly down at the viewer from the dark, caged solitude in which he is trapped. Look closely at the darkness, and it is a vivid Prussian blue-black that recedes in tone to the depths of the unknown where the subject sits regally, his starched white collar and brilliant flesh tones glowing like a ghostly apparition.

At some point, the painting was acquired from Moynihan by the successful Irish artist, Louis Le Brocquy, known for his spectral paintings of Bacon, who in turn sold it to Marlborough Fine Art, which had become Bacon’s principal dealers.

In 1984 it was bought from Marlborough by the Swiss entrepreneur and wine producer Donald M Hess, who, though not identified as such by Christie’s, is the seller next month.

Hess, 75, who announced his retirement from the family business last week, is one of the world’s top art collectors with more than 1,000 contemporary art works, including 30 by the American light artist James Turrell, which he displays in three museums dotted around the world in locations where his winery business operates: in Napa Valley, California; Paarl, South Africa; and Salta, Argentina. A fourth museum is being planned in the Barossa Valley, Australia. Of his art buying, Hess has said: “When I have seen an art piece which keeps me awake over several nights, I know that this art piece has touched me deeply and this is one of my most important criteria to buy an art work.” But he is not known to have previously sold any art from his collection. His website states: “Sales of artwork are for Hess taboo.”

So why is he now breaking that taboo? Hess has also said that he favours buying the work of living artists. He bought this Bacon when the artist was still alive, and is now thought to be buying more works by living artists.

His timing might be good because the market for paintings by Bacon is back on the boil again. During 2007, buyers such as the investor Joseph Lewis and Sheikha Mayassa of Qatar paid record prices of between £25 million and £30 million for Bacon masterpieces, and in May 2008, Roman Abramovich lifted that record to £44 million for a large triptych. In the downturn that followed, several works went unsold, and then little appeared on the market.

This year, however, another Russian buyer, thought to be banker Pyotr Aven, paid £23 million for a small triptych of paintings of Lucian Freud. As a result, Bacons are streaming back on to the market, and two were sold this month in New York. Both had been on the market relatively recently, as has a reclining female nude which is to be sold by Sotheby’s next month with a £7 million to £9 million estimate.

The Hess portrait may be dark – and other dark paintings from this period, while relished by academics and critics, have not always proved commercially successful. But it is fresh to the market, which counts as a bonus. And, like the £44 million Bacon, which was sold by the Mouieux family, producers of Château Petrus wines, it comes from a collector with proven taste.

 

 

Two Meaty Visions of Flesh and Blood

 

By KAREN ROSENBERG | ART REVIEW | THE NEW YORK TIMES | Wednesday | MAY 12, 2011

 

 

    

             Francis Bacon Three Studies for Henrietta Moraes Oil on canvas in three parts. Each 35.6 x 30.5 cm. Executed 1966

 

 

In 1952, Francis Bacon posed for photographs with two sides of beef attached, like wings, to his naked torso. The gesture was provocative, as Lady Gaga’s meat dress would be a half-century later, but it was also deferential, a nod to Chaim Soutine, whose paintings of carcasses dangling in butchers’ stalls had been haunting the art world since a 1950 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art.

Bacon thought about Soutine a lot, or so we’re told by “Soutine/Bacon” at Helly Nahmad Gallery, an intense pairing of Soutine’s still lifes, landscapes and portraits with Bacon’s caged, half-flayed figures. It comes accompanied by a catalog of glossy reproductions, light on commentary but with detailed chronologies of both artists.

The exhibition is more of a one-sided conversation, with Soutine as the dominant voice. This may come as a shock to the general public, which is well acquainted with Bacon’s record-breaking auction prices and lauded international retrospectives.  But it should not surprise painters, who have consistently mined Soutine’s roiling fleshscapes for abstract and figurative inspiration.

And in any case the organizers, Maurice Tuchman and Esti Dunow, are co-authors of the Chaim Soutine catalogue raisonné. They also coordinated “The New Landscape/The New Still Life: Soutine and Modern Art,” a similarly ambitious and memorable undertaking at Cheim & Read gallery in Chelsea in 2006. For this show, they’ve wrangled some incredible Soutines from the Tate and private collections in Europe.

Both artists exemplified the bohemian ideal, although in different ways. Soutine (1893-1943) emerged from the shtetls of Lithuania and found his way to the garrets of Montparnasse, nearly starving before the American collector Albert Barnes swept in and bought his paintings in bulk. During the World War II he lived in hiding in rural France, suffering from a stomach ulcer that eventually killed him.

Bacon (1909-92), born into and cast out of a well-to-do family, lived dangerously as a matter of preference. His proclivities for drinking, gambling and sado-masochistic relationships made him an enfant terrible of the postwar London set.

The two shared an appetite for viscera. An often-repeated, possibly apocryphal anecdote holds that the police and the department of health visited Soutine’s studio after neighbors complained about the stench of rotting meat and the blood dripping through the floors. Bacon was known to admire a line from Aeschylus’ “Oresteia”: “The reek of human blood smiles at me.”

Religion had something to do with it. “I’ve always been very moved by pictures about slaughterhouses and meat, and to me they belong very much to the whole thing of the Crucifixion,” Bacon said. One might go through this show with an eye to Soutine’s Judaism and Bacon’s Catholicism: kosher steak and blood pudding, as it were. Or one could focus on other signals of outsider status, with Bacon’s homosexuality as the counterpart to Soutine’s ethnicity.

It’s all there, for those who want to look. But this show isn’t really about identity or narrative or even subject matter. It’s about painting as “a direct assault on the nervous system,” as Bacon once wrote.

On the gallery’s cramped ground floor you will find Soutine’s “Flayed Beef,” from the Musée de Grenoble, one of the six nearly life-size renderings of bovine carcasses he made in 1924 and ’25. He had been looking at Rembrandt’s “Slaughtered Ox” at the Louvre, but his brushstrokes have a writhing urgency that evokes Titian’s more disturbing “Flaying of Marsyas”.   

e could serve up surf as well as turf, a glistening “Still Life With Ray Fish” made in homage to Chardin’s “Skate.” Poultry is on the menu in “Dead Fowl” and “Brace of Pheasants,” which flank a Bacon painting of a plucked chicken suspended over a platform or butcher’s block.

Bacon also liked to reinterpret masters, though he gravitated to different ones: Velázquez, in his pope portraits, and van Gogh, in his landscapes. So the second-floor gallery’s pairing of Bacon and Soutine vistas feels forced, even if it includes some incredible Soutines like the Tate’s “Landscape at Céret (the Storm)” from around 1920-21, a crackling mass of thunderheads that anticipates Pollock and De Kooning.

The portrait section, also upstairs, is better matched. In works like “Old Actress” and “Portrait of the Sculptor, Oscar Miestchaninoff,” Soutine gives entire figures an astonishing plasticity, with Gumby-like limbs and twitchy features. In his triptych studies of friends and lovers Bacon goes right for the head, inducing Cubism with X-rays and deft, surgical strokes.

Soutine might not have held as much sway over Bacon as he did over School of London painters like Lucian Freud, Leon Kossoff and Frank Auerbach. But Bacon, out of all of these postwar figures, has had the biggest influence on contemporary art. You can’t have Damien Hirst without Bacon.

Can you have Bacon without Soutine? This show won’t resolve that question to everyone’s satisfaction, though it makes clear that Soutine was a vital part of the ecosystem that nourished Bacon. “In the 1950s Soutine was the artist who mattered, as Cézanne mattered in the decade before 1914, or Warhol in the 1980s,” as Martin Hammer asserts in the catalog.

And as any painter will tell you, he matters still.

“Soutine/Bacon” continues through June 18 at Helly Nahmad Gallery, 975 Madison Avenue, at 76th Street

 

     

                                    Chaim Soutine's “Still Life With Ray Fish” (1924). Credit Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

 

 Sotheby's

 Looking Closely: A Private Collection

  London 10 February, 2011 at 7.00 pm

   34 - 35 New Bond Street, W1A  2AA

 

 

   

 

LOT NO. 30

FRANCIS BACON

1902 - 1992

THREE STUDIES FOR A PORTRAIT OF LUCIAN FREUD

titled and dated 1964 on reverse

oil on canvas in three parts

each: 35.5 by 30.2 cm

14 by 11 7/8 in.

 

ESTIMATE

7,000,000 - 9,000,000 GBP

 

LOT SOLD

Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium:

23,001,250 GBP

 

PROVENANCE

Marlborough Fine Art, Ltd., London

Acquired directly from the above in 1964

 

EXHIBITED

Hamburg, Kustverein; Stockholm, Moderna Museet; Dublin, Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, Francis Bacon,1965, no. 57

 

CATALOGUE NOTE


Acquired prior to the breakthrough travelling exhibition in 1965 and executed at the very height of Francis Bacon's phenomenal career, Three Studies for Portrait of Lucian Freud serves as testament to one of the most impressive artistic relationships of the Twentieth Century. In the 1950s and 1960s Bacon and Freud, then widely recognised as Britain's pre-eminent painters, met incessantly and were considered inseparable. From 1961 Bacon employed this fourteen by twelve inches canvas size exclusively for an epic portraiture cycle that depicted a coterie of close friends in a project that occupied him until the end of his life. While his friend Frank Auerbach has likened these fantastic portrayals to "risen spirits" John Russell has commented that "Just as a gunshot sometimes leaves an after-echo or parallel report, so these small concentrated heads carry their ghosts within them" (John Russell, Francis Bacon, London 1993, p. 99 and p. 152). Among these phenomenal character investigations, the brilliant colour, dramatic brushstrokes and analysis of facial landscape across the three canvases of the present work are truly exceptional. Highlights converge and dissemble to describe passages of light across the three versions of Freud's visage: just as our eye is attracted to the seeming organisation of one area it immediately shoots to the apparent dissolution of another.

Lucian Freud had first learned about Francis Bacon from Graham Sutherland towards the end of the Second World War, and the pair thereafter became close friends, even seeing each other on a daily basis for a time. Freud painted his extraordinary portrait Francis Bacon in oil on copper in 1952, conjuring an intangible air of distracted distance in the face of his friend which so perfectly narrates the dimensions of their unconventional friendship. Two years later in 1954 the pair represented Britain, together with Ben Nicholson, at the Venice Biennale, firmly cementing their reputations at the vanguard of contemporary painting. Having started with the large Portrait of Lucian Freud in 1951, Bacon created paintings that included Freud in their titles for over twenty years, and the shadow of his unnamed presence long after that. However, the present work contains an intensity and intimacy that is rarely seen elsewhere, together with the paint handling that defines Bacon's inimitable masterworks. It is archetypal of Bacon's seminal cycle of triptych portrait heads, capturing an intense presence in mid-movement. This is Bacon's detached yet doting depiction of one of his closest friends and a true artistic companion, and it confirms David Sylvester's description that "Bacon had something of Picasso's genius for transforming his autobiography into images with a mythic allure and weight" (David Sylvester, Looking Back at Francis Bacon, London 2000, p. 186).

Overlapping matrices of paint hatching, partly imprinted with Bacon's idiosyncratic use of corduroy material, describe the modulations of texture across the subject's faces, while Freud's stylishly dishevelled hair is variously presented with dragged streaks of dry pigment. Bacon's extraordinary aptitude to shift through different modes of execution, from exactitude to expressivity, from the diagrammatic to the painterly, is here exhibited at its instinctive best. Bacon's portraiture is critically-defined and world-renowned for achieving uncanny likeness via a seemingly chaotic assault of violent brushstrokes. Between the rich paint strata here he has buried a deep affection for Freud, which slowly reveals itself together with the gradual appearance of the sitter's character on the surface of the canvas.

The portrait is loaded with physicality, both literally with the weight of oil paint and as the material record of the artist's own brutal assault. Out of a flurry of swipes and blows Freud's unmistakable presence emerges: with each loaded stroke on the three canvases this most focused of portraits unravels the sitter's psychological and emotional kernel across the surfaces. It is almost as if Bacon has attempted to hide this face and to camouflage it in paint, yet suffers the burden of knowing it too well to conceal its true identity. It is often noted that Bacon's portraits reveal their sitter's inner essence because he painted people he knew closely, and at this time Lucian Freud was perhaps the closest that Francis Bacon ever had to a likeminded artistic equal.

The variegated textures of the surfaces recount the story of this work's creation: the artist has brushed, smeared, flicked, lifted and thrown paint in his drive to define likeness; scraping, reworking, and layering to impregnate the painting with both painterly and psychological depth. While the powerful scarlet reds introduce a radical charge of colour, the sinuous sweeps of highly viscous strokes define the topography of Freud's physiognomy in a rhythmic pattern of textural variety. All this is set against a backdrop of depthless black, coarsely woven canvas that results in the sculptural character of bitumen. Bacon's rich hues have been soaked into the absorbent unprimed canvas, which contrasts brilliantly with the explosive plasticity of the impasto.

While the renowned critic and Bacon's great friend Michel Leiris describes the artist's portraits in strictly corporeal terms; "his work carries the signs of his actions rather as a person's flesh bears the scars of an accident or an attack" (Michel Leiris in: Exhibition Catalogue, London, Marlborough Fine Art, Francis Bacon: Recent Paintings, p. 17), William Feaver appraises them as figures of speech: "Here we have the slap round the chops. Then a good seeing-to, followed by a succession of abrupt images; gobsmacked, browbeaten, dumped on, cold-shouldered" (William Feaver in: Exhibition Catalogue, London, Marlborough Fine Art, Francis Bacon 1909-1992: Small Portrait Studies, 1993, n.p.). Because we see several aspects and angles of Freud's head all at once we are confronted by his character as a whole, rather than one specific snapshot. The representation is like an over-exposed photograph, or even some constantly adjusting oil-based hologram acting as a psychosomatic X-ray. Left on the canvas is the residue of the artist's impulsive action, simultaneously trapping different facets of facial expression and a sense of movement. However, rather than merely the few moments of a time-delayed photo, Bacon has caught Freud's character as he observed him over years, and thus the painting holds within it time, experience and the shadows of memory itself.

The celebrated Czech writer Milan Kundera has commented that "Bacon's portraits are the interrogation on the limits of the self. Up to what degree of distortion does an individual still remain himself? To what degree of distortion does a beloved being still remain a beloved being?" (Milan Kundera, Bacon: Portraits and Self-Portraits, London 1996, p. 12). Three Studies for Portrait of Lucian Freud is an outstanding example of Bacon reaching that critical threshold between recognition and dissolution. He has navigated the precise point at which this head reveals both the character of Lucian Freud and the raw and seemingly arbitrary convergence of paint and brushstrokes. Indeed, within its extraordinary layers of execution lies the key to Bacon's portraiture project, as he defined to Hugh Davies in 1973: "In trying to paint a portrait I would like it to be all likeness – I would like it to be a universal image as well as a specific fact" (the artist interviewed by Hugh Davies, 7th August 1973, cited in: Hugh Davies and Sally Yard, Francis Bacon, New York 1986, p. 45).

 

    

Studies for a Portrait of Lucian Freud seen in New York January 10, 2011

 

 

Francis Bacon’s painting of Lucian Freud revealed

 

   Francis Bacon’s triptych of his great friend Lucian Freud emerges after 45 years.

 

    The Daily Telegraph, 31 December, 2010

 

 

    

                                  Powerfully rendered: Francis Bacon's Three Studies for a Portrait of Lucian Freud (est £7m-£9m)   


 

A painting of Lucian Freud by Francis Bacon, which has been kept in private and not exhibited anywhere since 1965, the year after it was painted, has surfaced for sale at Sotheby’s in London next month.

Three Studies for a Portrait of Lucian Freud is a powerfully rendered triptych of small, 14in x 12in portraits, and is a testament to one of the most significant artistic relationships of the 20th century.

Bacon and Freud met in 1945 through the artist Graham Sutherland and became close if competitive friends, painting each other on several occasions. At one point, they met on an almost daily basis, frequently at their favourite watering hole, the Colony Room in Soho. But their friendship cooled in the late Seventies after an argument.

Only four portraits of Freud by Bacon have been at auction in the past 20 years. The last was in 2003 when a very similar small triptych sold to Pierre Chen, chairman of the Taiwanese Yageo Foundation, for $3.8 million (£2.2 million), which was record for a Bacon painting of these dimensions.

Since then, the price of Bacon has risen dramatically, climaxing in May 2008 with the $86 million (£44 million) paid by Roman Abramovich for a large-scale triptych.

However, top-drawer paintings by Bacon have been scarce at auction during the credit crunch. Since the summer of 2008, four works of varying quality have been unsold, creating a state of uncertainty in the Bacon market, and potential sellers have been waiting for someone else to make the first move to ascertain its strength. Hopefully for Sotheby’s, that deadlock was broken last November when a late painting of a cricket player belonging to Bacon’s doctor, Paul Brass, sold for $14 million (£8.7 million), comfortably above its estimate.

Considering that two small-format self-portrait triptychs by Bacon made £14 million and more in 2008, the £7 million-£9 million estimate for this triptych of Freud does not seem unreasonable. The only thing against it is that it has recently been offered privately and not sold, but that was for a much higher sum.

Sotheby’s is not saying who is selling the portrait, which was bought directly from Bacon’s dealers, Marlborough Fine Art, in 1965, apart from indicating that it is part of a family inheritance. Trade sources, however, confirm that the painting belonged to the Geneva based collector, George Kostalitz, who died last year. A private man about whom little is on public record, Kostalitz is said to have had a close working relationship with Tobias Meyer, Sotheby’s head of contemporary art.

The Bacon triptych is part of a collection of more than 60 modern and contemporary works that could fetch more than £45 million. That, and other highlights, point to a fondness for small but special works that are the product of important artistic relationships, which is perhaps why Sotheby’s has entitled the sale Looking Closely: A Private Collection.

At the same sale, he bought a small Giacometti portrait of his wife and frequent model, Annette, for $2 million, which was, briefly, a record for a painting by Giacometti. Since then, much larger paintings by Giacometti have made more than $10 million, so the £2 million-£3 million estimate on this painting does not look excessive.

Other small but by no means unimportant paintings include a 5in x 3in self-portrait of 1952 by Lucian Freud (£600,000-£800,000), which Sotheby’s suggests is a counterpart to Freud’s intense portrait of Bacon from the Tate’s collection, which was stolen in 1988 and has yet to be found, and a refined portrait of the Belgian poet, Frans Hellens, by Modigliani (£2 million-£3 million).

 

 

 


The End of Art

 

By Gregory A. Dibella

 

 

The Harvard Crimson, Friday, November 19, 2010

 

 

Art has reached its final destination and is now meaningless. Modernism’s reaction to prior aesthetic standards liberated artists to push the boundaries of art. But these boundaries have been expanded to the point of obliteration. As Leon Battista Alberti  would tell us in On Painting, art used to be an attempt to reflect the harmony within the natural world. Alberti writes that “painting contributes to the most honourable delights of the soul and to the dignified beauty of things.” In the modern era, as Francis Bacon put it, “painting has now become, or all art has now become completely a game, by which man distracts himself.” It’s certainly a strange distraction that Bacon paints, as the blurred face of a man peers out from a lacerated bloody carcass. This progression from Peter Paul Rubens’ Garden of Love to Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ is not only an aesthetic one but also a conceptual one.

Ever since Marcel Duchamp famously submitted a men’s urinal to an art exhibition in 1917, the idea of what constitutes a work of art has been lost. If we believe the postmodern conventionalist critique  of art, almost everything can be considered an artistic expression. As Harold Rosenberg elucidated, if household objects can count as art by virtue of their location in a museum, then geographical place is the driving determinant of art. At this point, when Joseph Beuys’ suit gains the status of art because the hanger is hung on a different hook in a fancier building, art is in trouble. More specifically, art loses all of its meaning, since the realm of artistic expression no longer has standards that define its own limits.

 

Bacon was half right. In an era that gives us a crucifix  placed in urine, a bright-eyed masturbating cowboy, a naked woman  hugging a dead pig, and an exhibition of possible animal torture,  art is a shell game. Shock value has replaced technical skill, pornography has been substituted for anatomical accuracy, and offense has replaced a desire for that which resonates with the human soul. Art used to be prized for its ability to raise the human spirit, but now all it does is raise controversy. Art is an enterprise marked by frenzied disturbance. If you are looking for meaning, all you’ll find is smoke and mirrors. Whichever shell you pick in the modernist game, there’s no reward to be discovered.

But, the inclusion of this hysterical display of repugnance into the legitimate boundaries of artistic expression comes at a high cost. A work of art can be produced by anyone without technical skill, appreciation of art, or desire for coherence. The discipline of art has died with its definition. As a type of artistic relativism ascended, the basis upon which viewers could value Michelangelo’s Pietà above Chris Ofili’s similar subject accompanied by elephant dung was lost to the orthodoxy that all is art.

There are myriad ways to be offensive and perhaps an equal number of ways to be useless. I too can hang my polos and khakis in the Sackler, but that doesn’t make me an artist, a visionary, or even mildly talented. For those who seek to manufacture offense, the ease with which this goal is now achieved in the modern world speaks less to the world’s overly sensitive viewpoint and more to the lack of audacity in the artistic world. It’s no longer brave to disturb others who still hold to the sacred. In a realm of ideas in which all offenses are permitted, the last frontier is the type and magnitude of the violation. The real creative spirit has been lost, and a desire to validate all transgressions by placing them in the realm of artistic expression is all that’s left. Bravery comes from having an ideal to defend, not an indiscriminate wish to desecrate.

Some still hold to the controversial position that some attempts at artistic expression are not of value, even if displayed at The Museum of Modern Art. The possible accusation of being resistant to change is ultimately worth the risk. In taking this judgmental step, the limits of art can be preserved, and a sense of beauty can be reclaimed.

Gregory A. DiBella ’12, a Crimson editorial writer, is a government and philosophy concentrator in Mather House.

 


 

   John Deakin's Gods and Monsters invade Pallant House in Chichester

 

      By Kirstie Brewer  | Culture24  |  10 November 2010

 

 

          

                                          Francis Bacon 1952 John Deakin


Pallant House’s latest exhibition resurrects a man who, until recently, has been missing from photographic history. The man in question is Vogue photographer John Deakin: perhaps the ultimate bohemian bad boy of the 1950s Soho art scene. 

The exhibition pairs iconic portraits of British artists by Deakin with major paintings by each artist, providing a unique window into the post-war British art scene and the intimate circle of artists he was part of.

“Any exhibition of John Deakin’s photography is going to be a modest one,” explains curator Robin Muir. 

“Deakin didn’t want to be a photographer – he longed to be a painter like his friends – but fortunately for us and rather unfortunately for him, he didn’t make a very good one.” 

With friends like Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud, perhaps it is little wonder Deakin felt slightly perturbed. Despite recognition for his photographs, he fiercely resisted his talent, treating success with mistrust and greeting failure with indifference. 

A notorious drunk, Deakin never took his work seriously and never expected to make any money from it. In fact, he might well have found more relish in being the only staff photographer in the magazine’s history to be hired and fired twice by the same admiring but exasperated editor.       

The exhibition is drawn largely from a portfolio commissioned by Vogue in 1951 and 1952 of 12 contemporary artists, along with other portraits of painters and sculptors Deakin made for the magazine at various points throughout his brief career.  

Artists and subjects featured in the show include heavyweights like Barbara Hepworth, Michael Andrews, Eduardo Paolozzi and John Piper, as well as Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon. 
  
In their ragged state, the photographs are a refreshing change to the pristine prints so often seen in exhibitions. Like so much of Deakin’s practice, they are lucky to have survived him. 

They make no concessions to vanity and were described by friend Daniel Farson as “prison mugshots taken by a real artist”. What is most striking is their rawness and lack of ‘style’- rather ironic 
for a Vogue photographer.  


Loved or loathed, god or monster, Deakin’s influence on British art and the mythology of Soho in the 1950s can’t be overlooked. The photographs he made for his closest friend, Francis Bacon, are credited as being vital to the artist’s interpretation of the human form. 

“Of all these ‘sacred monsters’, Deakin may have behaved the worst – the Woolworth’s heiress, Barbara Hutton, called him the ‘second nastiest little man I ever met,’”says Muir

“But to his peers he was a true original, his professionalism behind the lens, for the most part, unimpeachable.”

I wonder what the man himself would have made of this bittersweet exhibition.

 

Brighton Photo Biennial 2010: Gods and Monsters: John Deakin's Portraits of British Artists, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, until  January 10 2011

 

 

 

 

 

Michael Wojas: Proprietor, barman, counsellor...

 

The man who ran the notorious Colony Room Club has died, aged 53. Jerome Taylor looks back at the Soho establishment that for decades attracted London's literary and artistic elite

 

The Independent | Wednesday | 9 June 2010

 

Michael Wojas was characteristically sanguine when he was asked five years ago to describe what it had been like running one of London's most notorious private clubs. "I'm the proprietor, the bar manager, lavatory attendant, psychiatric counsellor, odd-job man and accountant," he beamed in a self-penned article for The Independent. "There certainly isn't anything I haven't done."

Wojas, who died on Sunday from cancer at the age of 53, was musing over the 21 years he had spent as a barman, and later proprietor, of the Colony Room Club, a debauched drinking establishment frequented by artists, dandies, thinkers, wits, pimps and whores which came to symbolise both the heart – and the eventual demise – of London's Soho.

Until its closure in 2008, when Wojas suddenly announced to the surprise of his patrons that he had sold the club's lease, the one-room members only bar had served some of the capital's thirstiest, rowdiest and most outspoken wits.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s it became Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud's favourite drinking hole, a place where the two artistic titans could row, lunge, battle and then embrace in the comfort of an establishment that adored eccentricity and eschewed the mundane.

A literate fly on the club's nicotine-stained walls could have published the sort of no-holds-barred memoir of London's literary elite that would have had scandal-lovers and publishers alike foaming at the mouth in anticipation.

One only had to glance upon those frighteningly green walls to get an understanding of the type of clientele that came to call 41 Dean Street their home. Behind the bar stood an enormous mural painted by Michael Andrews depicting a typical night in the rooms. At the centre was the bar's founder Muriel Belcher, surrounded by scions of Soho such as great wit Jeffrey Bernard, Henrietta Moraes – a Bacon muse – and flamboyant aristocrat Lady Rose McClaren.

A Birmingham-born Jew and proud lesbian, Belcher discovered that the best way to keep her clientele interesting was to hire Bacon, through the medium of a healthy tab, to invite his friends. He acted as a sort of Pied Piper of unusual drinking companions attracting, as Wojas later remarked, "a mixture of people from Lord and Lady Muck to the barrow boys from the market where Muriel bought her vegetables".

Belcher opened her club in 1948 and was rarely seen without a cigarette and glass in hand. She was famed for referring to all her clients in the female form. At a time when pubs were forced to close in the afternoon, the Colony Room offered its parched guests a place to drink until the sun went down, and then some more.

Journalist and writer Geoffrey Wheatcroft spent many afternoons at the club in the Seventies. "Its heyday was probably just before I arrived but even in the 1970s it was an extraordinary place," he said. On one particularly debauched evening Bacon ripped his shirt open. "That wasn't anger or lust," he recalled. "Simply ... he couldn't quite stand upright and was trying to break his fall."

At first glance, Polish-born Wojas might have seemed an unlikely character to take over such a gregarious venue. Quiet, slim and almost luminescently pale, he studied chemistry at Nottingham University arriving in London two years after Belcher's death in 1979. Ownership of the club had passed to Ian Board, an even louder – and brasher – version of Belcher who was renowned for getting drunk, hiding the night's takings and then forgetting where he had put them the following day. Wojas would spend the first few hours of the morning looking for buried treasure. "I thought I'd work for a couple of months before I figured out exactly what I want to do – that was 24 years ago," he once recalled in 2005. "I didn't realise at first that I'd found my home."

The club nearly disappeared into the annals of Soho history during the 1980s, as yuppie culture stamped its mark on the capital. But the following decade a new breed of artistic clientele – forever dubbed the Young British Artists – led the Colony Rooms through a prolonged and heady renaissance.

"It was a mad and eccentric place," recalled Tracey Emin, who spent much of the 1990s quaffing the club's notoriously poor wine alongside fellow Young British Artists Damien Hirst and Sarah Lucas. "There were so many extraordinary funny occasions and nights there, but they all blend into one big night at the Colony Room."

Sebastian Horsley, one of London's most delightfully dysfunctional and outspoken wits, was known to spend weeks at a time propping up the bar at the Colony Room. "I first visited it when I was 20 because I'd read that that was where Francis Bacon used to hang out," he said. "I ran up the narrow stairs and was promptly told to 'fuck off' by Ian Board. I knew all about rudeness masquerading as honesty." A decade later he returned and was allowed in by Wojas. "The Club reminded me of an alcoholic tardis," he recalled. "It was minute on the outside but huge on the inside and you went there for love, which they served by the glassful."

But love was in short supply during the gruesome decline of the Colony Room, which, in many ways, came to symbolise the purification of Soho, once London's seedy, beating heart. By the mid-2000s the club and Wojas were in deep financial trouble.

Artists of all different hues pitched in to save their favourite drinking den by donating their work. But the mood soon turned sour with accusations that the club's proprietor had begun treating the paintings as gifts, sold off for his own personal gain, rather than for the greater good of the favourite venue.

Wojas sold the lease for the Colony back to the building's landlord and took a backstage role in the Soho scene. The camaraderie that once bound the club together was shattered as Wojas's detractors and defenders went to war, even in the courts. Horsley, who was initially a firm friend of Wojas but later fell out publicly with him over a campaign to save the club, said the Colony's closure represented the wider demise of Soho tradition.

"Soho has gone down hill immeasurably," he said. "Ten years ago, on a good night here, you could get your throat cut. The air used to be clean and the sex used to be dirty. Now it is the other way round. Now it's full of boutiques, 'weave-your-own-yoghurt' establishments, wall-to-wall coffee shops and gay hairdressers. There is even a health club. A health club in Soho, for Satan's sake! Can you imagine? That's like having a brothel in a church."

But others say Wojas did the best he could to sail against prevailing winds and remember the club before rancour took over. "He was a very special man who, following the death of Ian Board, turned the club on its head and revolutionised a little piece of Soho as we knew it then," recalls singer Lisa Stansfield, who knew Wojas for more than 20 years. "When no one else would listen, he embraced the young British and brought live music to the Club."

Above all, Stansfield remembers the way the Colony's last owner would call out last orders at the end of the night with the words "rush-up, dash-up, spend-up and fuck off."

"He was a punk at heart," she said. "He will probably be appalled if he finds that heaven actually exists."

 

 

Obituary: Michael Wojas

 

Michael Wojas, who has died aged 53, was the third and last proprietor of the Colony Room Club in Soho, the drinking club known for its bohemian ways and members such as Francis Bacon and Jeffrey Bernard.

 

The Daily Telegraph  | 07 June 2010

 

 

    

           Mike McKenzie, Thea Porter, Jeffrey Bernard, Michael Wojas, Francis Bacon, Ian Board, John Edwards,

           Tom Baker, Bruce Bernard, Liz McKenzie, Michael Clark, Allan Hall, John McEwan, and David Edwards

 

 

 

The Colony, fundamentally an afternoon drinking club, in the days of restricted pub hours, formed, from 1948, a notable part of the real-life, comic-tragic soap opera of Soho. Wojas, an English Pole with a nasal London accent and a long chiv-mark down one pale cheek, arrived as a barman in 1981 and took over on the death of Ian Board in 1994.

Board, who called himself Ida after his supposititious initials, was a monster: hoarse-voiced, swollen-nosed and foul-mouthed, he fell into uncontrollable rages. He was also very funny. While the club's founder, Muriel Belcher, had taken to using as an affectionate diminutive a four-letter word with the letter -y tacked on, Board's speciality was a torrent of obscenities artfully studded with demoralising terms such as "dreary".

For 13 years under Board, Wojas served quietly behind the bar in the upstairs room with its dark-green walls covered with photographs and its carpet like asphalt. He dried up glasses, all the while clocking the peculiarities of the customers: Bacon, alternately hilarious and stiletto-tongued; Daniel Farson, who would suddenly turn from affability into strangulated tirades of abuse; Graham Mason, a former television journalist known for his stupendous intake of alcohol, once going for nine days without eating. Wojas knew too the habits of the solicitor who often fell backwards off his barstool, or of the old woman known as Mumsy whose son had died. At his best, Wojas was a therapist.

In his first two years at the club, each day would begin with a hunt to find the previous day's takings, which a suspicious Ian Board had hidden behind a mirror or inside the piano before passing out and forgetting the spot.

Some members grew tired of being insulted, and Wojas attempted after Board's death to prevent the club from turning into a museum by encouraging its use by a generation of young British artists such as Damien Hirst, Sarah Lucas and Tracey Emin.

Wojas would sit on the high stool at the end of the bar near the door, taking note of who should be repelled. He also decided who could become a member. On top of the fridge by the window a bust of Ian Board, in which his ashes had been inserted, sullenly eyed proceedings. Opposite, a smoke-darkened mural by Michael Andrews covered the wall behind the piano that was seldom played.

But Wojas initiated music nights in the one small room, attracting names such as The Magic Numbers, Alabama 3, Billy Bragg and Paul Weller. Suggs, from Madness, whose mother had long visited the club, presented a music series for ITV from there.

Wojas also came up with the wheeze of holding a series of art exhibitions by members. Behind the bar, above a caption "Not worth a fucking penny", hung a spot-painting by Damien Hirst, who bucked the general trend by giving up drink and moving to the country.

Like most stories associated with the Colony, Wojas's ended in tragedy, with the closure of the club at the end of 2008, and a tangled series of lawsuits over his right to artworks he had offered for sale.

Michael Wojas was born in London on August 9 1956. After Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School, he studied Chemistry at Nottingham University. The rest of his life he gave to Soho.

Habitués of the Colony were used to the florid symptoms of decay of fellow-drinkers; observing them was said to be Ian Board's pastime. In the last decade of his life Wojas, who died of cancer, could sleep only by leaving on the radio and rocking backwards and forwards. The rocking and shaking increasingly invaded his daytime life.

He did not marry, but had a succession of more or less long-term girlfriends.

 

 

Obituary: Michael Wojas

 

Final proprietor of the bohemian Soho drinking club where generations of London’s artistic set met to drink and exchange scandal

 

 

The Times | 8 June, 2010

 

 

 

 


If the walls of the Colony Room Club in Soho could speak, polite society would blush. It had been the archetypal louche drinking den for artistic bohemians for the past 60 years or so, with only three proprietors, the last of whom was Michael Wojas.

 

He did not cut a prepossessing figure. Pale, diminutive and hunched, he tended to slink through the streets of Soho in dark glasses, hugging the walls, as if trying to look inconspicuous. He had a serious vodka habit and the characteristic etiolated look of one for whom daylight was anathema. One acquaintance described him as looking like a blade of grass growing under a bucket. In his latter years he said little but would sit on a chair quietly rocking. He never seemed to eat. Or, at least, that’s what some saw. To others, he was quite the opposite: talkative, amusing, sensitive and with a great capacity to listen and dispense sympathetic advice — “our twisted shepherd”, as one friend described him. He was also an enthusiastic cook.

 

Some 18 months ago he incurred the wrath of some of the club’s stalwarts by giving up the unequal struggle to make ends meet and handing the premises back to the landlord, thus bringing down the shutters not only on their favourite watering hole and meeting place but also on a little piece of Soho history.

 

Over the years the tiny first-floor club in Dean Street, with its bilious green walls and battered carpet with countless cigarette burns, had beceome celebrated for its unbridled conversation and excess. It had gained notoriety in the 1950s as the place where the painters Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud let rip in heroic drinking bouts under the baleful eye of its then chatelaine Muriel Belcher, a Portuguese-Jewish lesbian with an acid tongue who referred to everyone as “she”. Bacon mixed generosity with tartness. “Champagne for my real friends and real pain for my sham friends,” he would say.

 

The Labour MP and journalist Tom Driberg (later Lord Bradwell) was a regular, sometimes with a young man on his arm. The jazz singer George Melly was a habitue; the artists Patrick Caulfield and Frank Auerbach were members, as was Colin MacInnes whose novel about London life in the 1950s, Absolute Beginners, has more than a whiff of the Colony Room Club about it.

 

Tennessee Williams, Noël Coward, E. M. Forster, David Bowie, Dennis Hopper, even, it was said, Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon — all had made the pilgrimage to the bohemian shrine and crossed the tattered threshold to savour its disreputable atmosphere. In recent yearsy, the club had been colonised by the Britart pack of Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Marc Quinn, Gavin Turk and Sarah Lucas.

 

Michael Wojas was born in Edgware, North London, in 1956 and was educated at Haberdashers’ Aske’s School and then Nottingham University where he read chemistry. On graduating he came to London where he got a job as a barman at the Colony Room in 1981. His girlfriend’s mother was a friend of Muriel Belcher who had set up the club in 1948. Belcher had died a year before he arrived and her place had been taken by the even more foul-mouthed Ian Board.

 

“I thought I would work there for a couple of months before I figured out exactly what I wanted to do,” Wojas said. “I didn’t realise at first that I had found my home. I spend more time here than I do in my flat.

 

“I had led quite a sheltered upbringing, coming from a scientific background,” Wojas said, “and I was fascinated by the range of crazy extroverts here; Ian perhaps being the maddest. The first couple of years Ian would hide the takings from the till every night, when he was drunk. The next day we would spend an hour trying to find them. He thought I was going to nick the money. It took him two years before he realised I was going to stay, and he started to trust me. He drove a lot of people away.”

 

Board died in 1995 and left the business to Wojas. “I’m the proprietor, the bar manager, lavatory attendant, psychiatric counsellor, odd job man and accountant. There certainly isn’t anything I haven’t done,” he said.

 

Latterly, Wojas had suffered from depression and the vodka had taken its toll on his liver. He is survived by his long-term partner, the actress Amanda Harris.

 

Michael Wojas, proprietor of the Colony Room Club, was born on August 9, 1956. He died of cancer on June 6, 2010, aged 53

 

 

 

 

Michael Wojas obituary

 

Genial barman and owner of the Colony Room, a boozy den of Soho bohemia

 

Paul Willetts | The Guardian | Friday 11 June 2010

 

 

Michael Wojas, who has died aged 53, was the former barman and owner of the Colony Room, a Soho drinking club famous for being the haunt of Francis Bacon and other sharp-tongued, bibulous denizens of the metropolitan art scene. But Wojas's duties extended far beyond those of genial host. "I am the proprietor, bar manager, lavatory attendant, psychiatric counsellor, odd job man and accountant," he said.

 

Like many a romance, his love affair with the Colony Room started by accident. Born in London, Wojas attended Haberdashers' Aske's school, Hertfordshire, and went on to study chemistry at Nottingham University. On completing his degree in 1981, he looked around for temporary employment while he pondered what to do with the rest of his life. Via his girlfriend's mother, he landed a job as barman of the Colony, a cramped and dingy one-room drinking den on the first floor of a Georgian building in Dean Street.

 

Founded in 1948, it was the longest surviving of those clubs that had flourished in the era before the liberalisation of British licensing laws in the early 1960s. In those days, the Colony and other such establishments enabled determined boozers to continue drinking when the pubs were closed. Its founder was Muriel Belcher, an imperious lesbian with a fondness for insulting banter. Under her tenure, the club acquired a raucous, artistic clientele that encompassed not only Bacon but also Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach, John Deakin and Michael Andrews. In settlement of overdue bar bills, hard-up members got into the habit of handing over works of art. Together with an assortment of photographs and other memorabilia, several of these hung on the club's dark green walls, the colour of which accentuated its claustrophobic ambience.

 

When Belcher died in 1979, her throne was inherited by her bottle-nosed, brandy-marinated barman, Ian Board, who maintained her tradition of unprovoked belligerence. While Belcher dispensed acerbic one-liners, Board specialised in expletive-strewn tirades.

 

Being a gentle, rather shy young man who had enjoyed a sheltered upbringing, Wojas appeared ill-equipped for this sort of environment – bohemian London's equivalent of a gladiatorial arena, swords and tridents replaced by barbed comments, withering sarcasm and assorted bad behaviour. Yet he flourished at the Colony, offering an incongruously sensitive and gentle counterpoint to his boss's excesses. "I was fascinated by the range of crazy extroverts there," he admitted.

 

instead of leaving after a few months and pursuing a conventional career, Wojas remained as Board's sidekick for 13 years, during which he spent more time at the Colony than at home. Board repaid this stamina-sapping loyalty by bequeathing the club to Wojas on his death in 1994.

 

Aware that the club could not survive on its reputation and ageing membership, Wojas set about recruiting fresh blood. Before long, a new generation of young artists was cavorting in his dishevelled, smoke-wreathed kingdom. Perched on a bar-stool near the entrance, his demeanour infinitely more hospitable than either of his predecessors, Wojas cast an indulgent eye over the frivolous antics of the artists Sarah Lucas, Damien Hirst and their circle.

 

"I remember evenings when the revels went on through the night," said the film-maker John Maybury. "I fondly recall Michael performing the Alastair Sim-like role of gym mistress while Sarah Lucas, Lisa Stansfield and I – all completely blotto – did forward-rolls across the carpet."

 

As part of the process of reviving the club, Wojas started holding exhibitions of artwork by its members. He also launched regular music nights, the entertainment provided by Suggs, Billy Bragg and other well-known performers. His most inventive promotional gimmick entailed him persuading members and their friends to work as guest bar staff. Each Tuesday night, anyone from Kate Moss to Sam Taylor-Wood could be found serving drinks.

 

In 1997 Maybury exploited similar communal spirit when he filmed his brilliant Francis Bacon biopic, Love Is the Devil, starring Derek Jacobi. "Michael was happy to let me shoot the Colony sequences in the club, but there wasn't enough space there for all our equipment," Maybury recalled. "I ended up building an exact replica of the club in a film studio. I employed Michael as an extra. He brought with him numerous old-time members who appeared as extras, too. When Jacobi walked on to the set, several sozzled veterans thought he was Francis. Michael had to patiently explain to them, 'It isn't Francis because Francis is dead, and this isn't the Colony Room.'"

 

A decade after Maybury's film came out, the lease on the Colony's premises expired. His health deteriorating, Wojas decided to close the club and sell its better-known pictures, notably a large Michael Andrews painting. The announcement and ensuing auction provoked a bitter legal dispute with many of the regulars.

 

Diagnosed as suffering from cancer soon after the club's closure, in the final year of his life Wojas was proud to register what was, for any Colony Room stalwart, a rare accomplishment – he gave up smoking and drinking. He is survived by his mother.

 

Michael Wojas, club owner, born 9 August 1956; died 6 June 2010

 

 

Bacon on the menu at Gorbachev gala

 

By Arifa Akbar | The Independent | Friday, 4 June 2010

 

An original, signed Francis Bacon triptych is one of the remarkable items up for auction at the Raisa Gorbachev Foundation Annual Gala, which raises money for cancer care in Russia and Marie Curie in Britain. The work was kept by the late artist in his private collection at his 7 Reece Mews studio in London and, after his death, treasured by his lover, John Edwards, who died in 2003.

The foundation's patron, Mikhail Gorbachev, whose late wife it is named after, and chair, Evgeny Lebedev, who is also chairman of Independent Print Ltd, publishers of The Independent, are hoping money raised in the fifth annual gala will exceed the £1.1m generated last year at a star-studded event in the grounds of Stud House in Hampton Court Park. Other lots under the hammer include a pair of tickets to the 2011 FA Cup final at Wembley, lunch with the actor Kevin Spacey, and a dinner cooked by the model-turned-chef Sophie Dahl, with musical accompaniment by Jamie Cullum. Those of a frothier disposition can bid for a jelly wrestle with Lara Stone, refereed by David Walliams.

 

 

Pop Goes the Art Market

 

By KELLY CROW | THE WALL STREET JOURNAL | NOVEMBER 10, 2010

 

Never underestimate the power of suggestion: On Tuesday, Sotheby's hired waiters with silver trays to offer up tiny glass bottles of soda pop to collectors arriving for its major evening sale of contemporary art. Half an hour later, eight bidders fought over the sale's priciest offering - Andy Warhol's 1962 soda bottle, Coca-Cola [4] [Large Coca-Cola]. A telephone bidder won it for $35.3 million, over its $25 million high estimate.

But the sale relied heavily on faraway collectors to pick up its priciest pieces, including examples by boom-era favourites Mark Rothko and Francis Bacon. An Asian telephone bidder paid $22.4 million for a lemony, untitled Rothko from 1955 that was being sold by architect Graham Gund. Sotheby's London-based expert Oliver Barker also fielded the $14 million winning telephone bid for Bacon's orange-and-blue Figure in Movement, which was priced to sell for up to $10 million with fees. (Sale prices include the auction house's commission, which estimate prices omit.)

 

 

Eager Collectors Snap Up Pop Art at Sotheby’s Auction

 

By CAROL VOGEL |THE NEW YORK TIMES | NOVEMBER 9, 2010

 

It was to have been Warhol’s night. Waiters in black served Coca-Cola in old-fashioned green-glass bottles to the throngs of collectors and dealers who packed Sotheby’s salesroom on Tuesday night, an homage to a 1962 Coke bottle painting by the artist that was on offer.

There has been far less work by Francis Bacon to come on the market this season than in years past, but Figure in Movement, a 1985 painting of one of the artist’s anguished figures, this one wearing knee pads and boxed in by sky-blue bars against a black background, was a present from Bacon to his doctor, Paul Brass, who had decided it was time to sell and was watching the sale from a skybox. Four people fought over the painting, which was estimated to bring $7 million to $10 million, and sold for $14 million.

 

ART UNCOVERED: THE PUBLIC'S ARTWORK DENIED AN AUDIENCE

 

IN THE current tough climate of arts cuts, Jane Clinton reports on the treasures that are costing taxpayers thousands of pounds to store but which remain hidden from view for much of the time.

 

By Jane Clinton | Sunday Express | Sunday November 7, 2010

 

 

THEY are the art treasures that are often away from view and include works by Francis Bacon and Damien Hirst. 

 

News that the Arts Council England (ACE) has two thirds  of its 7,500-strong collection in storage has drawn criticism from some quarters but it has hit back insisting theirs is the hardest-working collection in the country. 

 

“We are like a gallery without walls,” says a spokeswoman. “We have a third of our collection on show whereas some museums have less than 10 per cent of theirs on display.”

 

Among those not on loan are Francis Bacon’s Head VI, 1949, Lucian Freud’s Girl In A Green Dress, 1954 and Damien Hirst’s He Tried To Internalise Everything, 1992-1994.

 

The Arts Council England is facing budget cuts of £100million and last week announced it will have to cut funding for more than 100 organisations by 2015.

 

It has also launched a new process whereby organisations will have to reapply for their grants. Despite the cuts, however, it insists the loans collection will not be sold off and is not under threat. “Selling off the collection would mean these world-class works would be lost to the British people for ever,” says Arts CouncilEngland chief executive Alan Davey.

 

“I’ve not heard anyone suggesting that we should sell off any of our other great national collections to pay off the national debt.

 

“A modest amount is invested on behalf of the public, supporting artists at the very beginning of their careers, many of whom have gone on to become key figures in the history of art. Francis Bacon’s Head VI was bought for £60 in 1952 and is now worth an estimated £12million. This means that these important works, a world-class collection of post-war British art, belong to, and can be seen by, the British people for ever.”

 

There are, however, plans to review the amount spent on new acquisitions. The Arts Council England collection is funded through its development fund, the budget of which has been cut by 64 per cent. “We are now evaluating priority projects which are supported from our development fund and hope to be in a position to confirm some funding soon,” adds a spokeswoman.

 

However, leading art critic Brian Sewell believes the Arts Council should sell off the collection to free up funds and save on the expense of storage and conservation. “I see no purpose in the collection at all,” he says. “The Arts Council is in many ways just duplicating what is done by the Tate and other collectors and collecting bodies. There is a great mass of material being accumulated by the museums and galleries that no one ever sees and the Arts Council simply joined in. 

 

It has very little out on loan. The collection should be spread into galleries. The Tate Gallery, as the heritage body in contemporary art, should be encouraged to go through the collection and select what it doesn’t have. Then that should automatically pass to the Tate. “The rest of it could easily be sold and even if it doesn’t make a substantial amount of money you will immediately save the costs of storage, conservation, maintenance security and curatorial staff. It would be a neat solution to the budget cuts.”

 

 

Kundera, unmoved, turns the canon on itself

 

MILAN Kundera is a great essayist, and yet his best essays are reserved for his fiction.

 

Encounter: Essays By Milan Kundera Faber & Faber, 178pp, $24.95

 

Geordie Williamson | The Australian | October 30, 2010 

 

It is in the novel, that zone of total imaginative freedom, where the Czech author's genius for melding pure idea to character and narrative is most apparent.

Taking in the four volumes of essays made available in English since The Art of the Novel in 1986, we might say Kundera's nonfiction operates as a series of retrospective explanations and genealogical justifications for the louche, playful and incorrigibly metaphysical content of his imaginative work.

Nonetheless, there is much that is fresh here, not least because the writer's attention is thrown outward, towards other creative figures (hence the title). The collection opens, for example, with an essay on Francis Bacon that aims straight at the heart of that magnificent and brutal artist's program:

Bacon's portraits are an interrogation on the limits of the self. Up to what degree of distortion does an individual still remain himself? To what degree of distortion does a beloved person still remain a beloved person? . . . Where is the border beyond which a self ceases to be a self?

What impresses Kundera about Bacon is not only his quest for an originality that does not sever modernism from earlier painterly traditions, but also his willingness to search, "in a time when the 'self' has everywhere begun to take cover", for (in Bacon's words) "that treasure, that gold nugget, that hidden diamond" that is "the face of the self".

And so Bacon serves as a template for what the creative figure should possess: "a clear-sighted, sorrowing, thoughtful gaze trying to penetrate to the essential". writing unique: "

Geordie Williamson is The Australian's chief literary critic.

 

 

An encounter on familiar turf

 

Franco-Czech writer Milan Kundera revisits favourite themes in collection of unrelated essays

 

By Jose Teodoro | Edmonton Journal | October 24, 2010

 

 

In The Painter's Brutal Gesture: On Francis Bacon, the piece that opens Encounter, Milan Kundera evokes that singular horror that characterizes Bacon's painting by aligning its effect on him to a personal experience.

 

He recalls meeting with a woman in a Prague suburb in 1972. The woman had been mercilessly interrogated by police about Kundera only days before, and remained so traumatized by the incident that she had yet to recover control of her bowels and had to repeatedly adjourn to the toilet. Like "a great knife," Kundera writes, "fear had laid her open. She was gaping wide before me like the split carcass of a heifer hanging from a meat hook."

 

Kundera was suddenly seized by the desire to rape her, a desire "uncalled for and unconscionable" - and, I hasten to note, not acted upon - yet nonetheless real. This desire is summoned back into memory when Kundera surveys Bacon's triptych of portraits of Henrietta Moraes, in which "the painter's gaze comes down on the face like a brutal hand trying to seize hold of her essence."

 

By confessing to such unsavoury urges, Kundera illuminates Bacon's portraits as "an interrogation of the limits of the self."

 

Jose Teodoro is a former Edmonton playwright now based in Toronto.

 


Encounter Milan Kundera, translated from the French by Linda Asher, HarperCollins 178 pp, $26.99 

 

 

Schools Cancel Trip to Bacon Show



Janet St. James
| WEAA | 20 September 1999

 

      Fort Worth Independent School District officials cancelled field trips to a modern art exhibit after some parents expressed outrage. The district received several angry complaints after students visited a ahowing at the Fort Worth Museum of Modern Art. The exhibit features about 50 paintings by British artist Francis Bacon. Bacon's work features dark and distorted human faces, including some nudes.

      Fifth graders at Luella Merrett Elementary saw the paintings. Some parents there complained that this art is inappropriate for children. They say they should have been warned. "Usually, they send home forms, papers on what they're going to see, but this time there were just forms on going to the museum, but nothing actually specific on the type of art being displayed," said Mart Weaver. "I really wouldn't have sent my son if there was something posing nudity stuff like that. I don't appreciate that, you know." Another parent, Betty Ortiz, agreed. "Whether it's art or not, I don't think kids should be exposed to that," she said. "I think we should keep them as innocent as possible for as long as we can."

      Fort Worth ISD officials agree. They have cancelled all elementary trips to the Francis Bacon exhibit. High school students scheduled to visit the museum will have to get parental permission. Other parents say the district's decision smacks of censorship, but in the future, school district officials say they'll screen exhibits before scheduling field trips.

Sotheby’s

CONTEMPORARY ART EVENING SALE

Session 1: Tue, 9 Nov 10, 2010, 7:00 PM

 

          

                                        Figure in Movement 1985 Francis Bacon

 

LOT NO. 31

FRANCIS BACON

FIGURE IN MOVEMENT

ESTIMATE 

$7,000,00 - 10,000,000

LOT SOLD 

Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium:  14,082,500 USD

PROVENANCE

A gift from the artist to the present owner in 1985

EXHIBITED

London, Marlborough Fine Art, Ltd., Francis Bacon: Paintings, May - July 1985, cat. no. 17, p. 39, illustrated in colour

Oxford, Museum of Modern Art, Current Affairs: British Painting and Sculpture in the 1980s, March 1987, cat. no. 2, illustrated in colour

Moscow, Maison Centrale Des Artistes, Nouvelle Galerie Tretyakov, Francis Bacon, September - November 1988, cat. no. 17, p. 61, illustrated in colour (organized by the British Council)

Glasgow, McLellan Galleries, Glasgow's Great British Art Exhibition, March - May 1990, p. 37, illustrated in colour

Paris, Centre national d'art et de culture Georges Pompidou, Francis Bacon, June - October 1996, cat. no. 81, p. 217, illustrated in colour

London, Hayward Gallery, Francis Bacon: The Human Body, February - April 1998, cat. no. 22, n.p., illustrated in colour

The Hague, Gemeentemuseum, Francis Bacon, January - May 2001, p. 111, illustrated in colour

London, Tate Britain; Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado; New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Francis Bacon, September 2008 - August 2009, p. 243, illustrated in colour

London, Tate Gallery, 2000 - 2010 (extended loan)

LITERATURE

Hugh Davies and Sally Yard, Modern Masters: Francis Bacon, New York, London and Paris, 1986, no. 102, p. 107, illustrated and illustrated in colour on the back cover

Michel Leiris, Francis Bacon, Paris, 1987, no. 149, n.p., illustrated in colour

CATALOGUE NOTE

In the catalogue to the spectacular retrospective at the Tate Gallery in 1985, the museum's renowned director Alan Bowness described the art of Francis Bacon thus: "His own work sets the standard for our time, for he is surely the greatest living painter; no artist in our century has presented the human predicament with such insight and feeling....for Bacon, the virtues of truth and honesty transcend the tasteful. They give to his paintings a terrible beauty that has placed them among the most memorable images in the entire history of art" (Exh. Cat., London, Tate Gallery, Francis Bacon, 1985, p. 7). Executed in this very year,Figure in Movement represents physical testament to this acclamation. Exhibiting the most striking composition, a magnificent array of brushwork and a supremely arresting palette, this is a formidable portrayal of the human animal that epitomises the full gamut of Bacon's artistic genius. Indeed, the inimitable traits of his method, specifically the intense combination of brilliant cadmium orange with depthless black, directly compare with the masterpieces Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, 1944 (Tate Britain, London) and Three Studies for a Crucifixion, 1962 (Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York).

Gifted by the artist to his physician Dr. Paul Brass, who followed his father Dr. Stanley Brass as Bacon's personal doctor and with whom Bacon maintained a close bond until his death in 1992, Figure in Movement possesses an exceptional provenance. The terms of its ownership vividly reflect its importance to Bacon: not only was Dr. Brass a most trusted friend, but when he was first offered a choice of painting and initially suggested another work, the artist instead recommendedFigure in Movement, assuring his doctor that it was a superior painting. Eminently regarded through its distinguished exhibition history in major shows in Moscow, Paris, London and The Hague, as well as its long-term loan to the Tate; this marks the historic occasion of its first appearance to market.

Foremost among Bacon's innermost clique in 1985 was John Edwards, a handsome East-Ender and the artist's closest companion at this time. Edwards wrote, "it was a perfect relationship. I was never Francis' lover, but I loved him as the best friend a man could have. He was fond of me like a son" (Exh. Cat., New York, Tony Shafrazi Gallery, Francis Bacon, 1998, p. 7) and Dr. Brass has also stated: "I never heard Francis say a bad word about John. He said to me...'I think of John like a son. He's a son to me really'" (interviewed for Bacon's Arena, directed by Adam Low, produced by Anthony Wall, BBC Arena and The Estate of Francis Bacon, 2005). The parity between Edwards and the present physiognomy is clear: the long jaw-line, the geometries of the eye, nose and mouth and the jet-black hairline. However, Bacon never painted his friend from life and the naked torso of this body is adapted from photos of other models, notably the infamous shots of George Dyer in his underwear taken 20 years earlier. Thus, Figure in Movement conflates two of the most important figures in the artist's life. Significantly, Bacon inserts this being, an amalgamation of that which he held most dear, onto an exposed dais that is a crucible of existential isolation: the natural environment of his extraordinary artistic and philosophical innovation.

While the figure twists and writhes as if to struggle free of the canvas, it is contained within indications of rigid cricket pads. The sport was a subject of fascination for the artist's later career. A photograph of source material littering his studio floor reveals the intriguing arrangement of a copy of Physique Pictorial lying on top of England cricketer David Gower's book With Time to Spare, so that the legs of a brooding male bodybuilder join up with the cricket pads of a batsman underneath. This fusion of diametrically opposed images is archetypal of Bacon's ability to meld starkly eclectic themes to portray the chaos of human existence, and provides apt parallel with Figure in Movement. Bacon draws on his knowledge of art historical precedent, such as the incomparable figural studies of Michelangelo. He accelerates the effects of light and shadow, plunging form in and out of darkness so that several passages of light flow in simultaneous chorus. Chiaroscuro rhythms of anatomic gesture negotiate between material and void, while the figure's left leg dissolves in the black ether of the platform.

More than any other artist of the 20th Century, Bacon held a mirror to the nature of the Human Condition, and Figure in Movement provides the perfect reflection of what he saw. He was fascinated by the postwar works of the French existentialists Sartre, Camus and de Beauvoir, and their themes of alienation, imprisonment and the absurd. The most important actors of Bacon's canon, typified by this figure, crystallise this entire philosophical enquiry, as they let go of the sureties of the past and stand on the threshold of an unknowable future.

An interview between Sotheby's Michael Macaulay and Martin Harrison, editor of the Francis Bacon catalogue raisonné in preparation for publication.

MM: Could you share your opinion of Bacon's late work of the 1980s and explain how Figure in Movement from 1985 fits into this important period?

MH: Bacon's project in the 1980s can be summed up as refining to their essence the themes that preoccupied him most of his career – the human body, gesture and movement. In eliminating superfluous detail, he could be described as a figurative minimalist. Figure in Movement is a quintessential exemplar of this process. It is a compelling variation of a concept he had first essayed in 1982, in which a naked form wearing cricket pads was raised on a dais. In the 1982 paintings, the 'figure' is an abstracted semi-torso, as in the panel Study from the Human Body, 1982–84, from the diptych in the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D. C. and in Study of the Human Body, 1982 (Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris). Evidently, in Figure in Movement, 1985, Bacon set himself the challenge of representing a more complete human body.

MM: How does Bacon's symbolic content, in this case the gladiatorial inference of the inclusion of the cricket pads, relate to the isolation of his figures?

MH: The reference to cricket is deliberately ambiguous: the figure, isolated in an artificial arena, is simultaneously vulnerable and aggressive. Bacon's figures are radically decontextualised into a  kind of existential vacuum: cricket is an outdoor sport, but Bacon's visual field is neither exterior nor interior. Figure in Movement is one of a select group of works made in the last decade of his life that feature a dominant, bright cadmium orange ground, Bacon's favourite colour. In its positive and vibrant aspects it intensifies the confinement of the abject yet heroic figures.     

MM: The cricket pads invoke Bacon's appropriation of found imagery as cues for composition. How had the artist's treatment of found imagery altered by this stage in his career?

MH: Bacon collected images of cricketers in the 1980s, and four books on cricket that remained in his Reece Mews studio at the time of his death are now in the collection of Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane: Patrick Eagar and John Arlott, An Eye for Cricket, (1979); David Gower and Alan Lee, With Time to Spare (1980); Mike Brearley, Phoenix from the Ashes: The Story of the England – Australia Series 1981, (1982); Patrick Eagar and Graeme Wright, Test Decade 1972–1982 (1982). He was familiar with cricket through his relationship with Eric Hall from the 1930s to the 1950s; Hall was an aficionado of the sport and on intimate terms with many of the leading players. Bacon greatly admired David Gower, one of England's leading batsmen renowned for his good looks, and David Sylvester identified Gower as a specific spur for the paintings. [Interviews, p. 180] However, even in the last painting to reference cricket, the central panel of Triptych 1987, the head is unequivocally that of John Edwards whose representations were based on photographs: therefore, Bacon's modus operandi in terms of appropriated imagery remained the same as it had since the 1940s, when he first adapted reproductions of Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X and Eadweard Muybridge's Animal Locomotion.

MM: This work was executed seven years before Bacon's death. Do you perceive a growing sense of his own mortality, and what does Figure in Movement say about the artist's self-perception in this final period?

MH: Crucial to Bacon's anti-narrative strategy, he located the elements of Figure in Movement in a zone of ambiguity. The protagonist is non-specific, adopting neither an offensive or defensive attitude. The figure also defies spatial logic, occupying an abstract field both behind and in front of the pale blue and black backdrop. The padded left leg dissolves into a smoky shadow on the floor of the elevated dais, the dissociated 'field of play' that acts as a cipher for the confrontation between batsman and bowler on the cricket field. It is too facile to relate the dissolving of forms to his consciousness of mortality, although the black backdrops – opaque voids that resemble tombstones – tend to support such an interpretation, as would the collapsing of the head into the negative space.

This intense and deceptively simple painting transforms the role of the viewer from a passive to an active state: Bacon's fragmented forms and anatomical diversions – the tilt of the body and the violent diagonal sweep of the sketchy arms and hand – insist on a creative interaction. Our gaze is drawn through the converging perspective of the wicket/pedestal and we become both observer and participant.

 

 

£94 million of art sold at Frieze auctions

 

Last week’s auctions fetched more than double the amount achieved last year.

 

By Colin Gleadell | The Daily Telegraph | 18 Oct 2010

 

         

                                 Study for a Dog  Francis Bacon

 

No one, it seems, was bold enough to bid at Christie’s fund-raiser for the Royal College of Art for the chance to have their portrait painted by Jake and Dinos Chapman. Nor was anyone prepared to bid on a scrappy painting of a dog by Francis Bacon that the artist chucked in a skip. The painting was rescued by an electrician, Mac Robertson, who sold it at an auction in Surrey three years ago, when it fetched £30,000 from a New York gallery against a £1,000 estimate. Last week it was presented by Christie’s with a £120,000 estimate, but with no mention of its history in the catalogue.

 

 

 

Howzat? Francis Bacon’s cricketing portrait to fetch £6m

 

A Francis Bacon portrait which the artist gave as a gift to his doctor is expected to fetch over £6 million at auction.

 

 

By Anita Singh, Arts Correspondent, The Daily Telegraph, 12 October 2010

 

 

 

       

 

 

       Francis Bacon's Figure in Movement is estimated to fetch over £6 million at auction.

 

 

The 1985 painting, Figure In Movement, is being sold by Dr Paul Brass, the artist's friend and personal physician. It depicts a figure wearing cricketer's kneepads - Bacon had a lifelong passion for the sport.

 

Bacon, who died in 1992, was the perfect patient, Dr Brass said. "He was always 15 minutes early for every appointment." The portrait has been on loan to Tate Britain for the past decade and will be sold at Sotheby's in New York on November 9.

 

 

 

Francis Bacon painting of cricketer to be auctioned in New York

 

 

Figure in Movement, a gift to the artist's friend and GP, expected to fetch at least £4m in Sotheby's sale

 

 

Mark Brown |arts correspondent | The Guardian | Monday 11 October 2010

 

 

 

               

                                        Francis Bacon’s Figure In Movement

 

 

 

A Francis Bacon painting of a tortured cricketer twisting and writhing is to be sold at auction after hanging in Tate Britain for much of the last decade, Sotheby's announced today.

 

The painting is being sold by Bacon's friend and personal doctor, Paul Brass, who was given the portrait in 1985, the year it was completed.

After loaning it to the Tate, Brass has decided to sell and an estimate of $7m-$10m (£4.4m-£6.3m) has been placed on it ahead of the auction in New York on 9 November.

Figure in Movement, featuring a typically agonised figure, common in Bacon's work, this time in cricket pads and against a black and bright orange background with blue cage-like struts, also featured in the major 2008 Bacon retrospective at Tate Britain, which toured New York and Madrid.

Brass took over the role of being Bacon's personal physician from his father, Dr Stanley Brass, and was offered a choice between two paintings – the cricketer and one of a jet of water.

In an interview with the New York Times, Brass said: "I was tempted to opt for the jet of water, but when I told that to Francis, he said no, that painting happened by mistake when he spilled white paint on the canvas. He told me, 'If I were you, I would choose the cricketer'."

Bacon died in 1992 and his works attract some of the biggest prices for any 20th century artist although no one expects the painting to get anywhere near the record, set in 2008 when Bacon's Triptych 1976 was bought by Roman Abramovich for $86m, reportedly to hang on the walls of his London home.

There have been disagreements about what is going on in Figure In Movement and who it is based on. The figure seems to resemble John Edwards, the man Bacon found solace in after the suicide of his lover George Dyer in 1971, but there have also been suggestions Bacon based it on David Gower, captain of the England cricket team in the mid-1980s.

 

 

A Bacon Cricketer With a Back Story

 

By CAROL VOGEL
The New York Times, October 8, 2010

 

The Francis Bacon that Dr. Paul Brass knew was altogether different from the raucous, hard-drinking artist whose canvases depict distorted figures screaming to be freed from their frames.

Dr. Brass, an internist, knew Bacon as a friend and as a patient of his father’s. “The first time I met him I must have been 16,” Dr. Brass recalled, sipping tea in a conference room at Sotheby’s in London recently. He added later, “I would occasionally treat him when my father was on holiday.”

When the senior Dr. Brass retired, his son took over the practice. “I never liked to send fees” — that is, bills — “to friends and family,” he said. “And one day I received a letter from Francis saying that if I didn’t send him a bill for the last two years he would have to find another doctor.”

Not only did Bacon, who died in 1992, pay by “return post,” as Dr. Brass put it, but he also “was always 15 minutes early for every appointment.”

Over the years, as their friendship grew, Dr. Brass would make a point of going to Bacon’s exhibitions. At a show at the Marlborough Gallery in London, Valerie Beston, a director of the gallery at the time, told Dr. Brass that Bacon wanted to give him a painting and that he was to choose from two in the show: one of a jet of water, the other a figure of a cricketer.

“I was tempted to opt for the jet of water, but when I told that to Francis, he said no, that painting happened by mistake when he spilled white paint on the canvas,” Dr. Brass said. “He told me, ‘If I were you, I would choose the cricketer.’ ”

So he did. But Dr. Brass has decided to sell this 1985 painting, Figure in Movement, which features one of Bacon’s anguished figures, this one wearing knee pads and boxed against a black background within a sky-blue frame that is much like a cage. It will go on the block on Nov. 9 at Sotheby’s  in New York, where it is expected to bring $7 million to $10 million.

For the past decade the painting has been on loan to Tate Britain. It has also been included in many major Bacon exhibitions, most recently a retrospective at the Tate that travelled to the Prado in Madrid and then the Metropolitan Museum of Art last year.

Cricket fascinated Bacon, and beginning in the 1950s he would attend matches. Over the years the subject crept into several of his paintings. In Figure in Movement, however, the man’s jaw line, eyes, nose, mouth and hair are unmistakably those of John Edwards, Bacon’s closest companion from the mid-1970s until his death.

But the body was adapted from 20-year-old photographs of George Dyer in his underwear. Mr. Dyer was Bacon’s companion until Mr. Dyer committed suicide in 1971. “Dyer and Edwards were both patients,” Dr. Brass noted.

 

 

 

 

Il compito dell'artista? Svelare qualcosa di me

 

 

La mostra milanese di Maurizio Cattelan fa riaccendere il dibattito sul ruolo dell'arte: ha una missione sociale o la sua responsabilità è di altro tipo? Per capirlo, proviamo a fare i conti con «due giganti del Novecento»

 

 

di Giuseppe Frangi, Tracce, Italy, 28/09/10

 

 

 

          
           Francis Bacon
 Autoritratto.

 

 

 

Complice (anche) la mostra milanese di Maurizio Cattelan, sui giornali è riaffiorata una domanda che tendiamo a dare un po’ per scontata, quando si parla di artisti contemporanei. Esiste una responsabilità sociale dell’arte? Insomma, l’artista ha dei doveri, un compito, in qualche modo “una missione da assolvere” nei confronti della società a cui si rivolge? Rispondo provocatoriamente dicendo di no. L’arte ha un’altra responsabilità: quella di “rispondere” alle domande che riguardano la radice dell’essere. 


Faccio un esempio, per rendere più chiara l’idea. I due artisti che più passa il tempo e più si affermano come i due giganti del secondo Novecento, Francis Bacon e Alberto Giacometti, non si sono mai fatti nessun problema sulla ricaduta sociale delle loro opere. Semplicemente sono stati fedeli a loro stessi e al bisogno vertiginoso di cogliere il mistero dell’essere dentro una società che chiudeva tutti gli spazi al Mistero. Bacon e Giacometti però, così facendo, sono stati artisti di enorme rilevanza sociale, perché per primi e senza timori hanno colto il dramma di quella «Chernobyl antropologica» che avrebbe investito l’uomo di fine millennio. Le immagini che hanno prodotto hanno portato allo scoperto una condizione (Bacon) e un’attesa (Giacometti). Hanno svelato il meccanismo che aveva investito e svuotato l’uomo. Come dice don Giussani: «L’organismo strutturalmente è come prima, ma dinamicamente non è più lo stesso. Vi è come un plagio fisiologico operato dalla cultura dominante». 


Bacon e Giacometti sono stati due grandi solitari, scontrosi e spesso asociali nei loro atteggiamenti. Non hanno risposto a nessuna delle chiamate civili o culturali che la società lanciava. Eppure, andando al fondo alla verità di se stessi, alla fine hanno restituito un messaggio di vera rilevanza sociale. Hanno messo l’uomo davanti alla sua condizione. Hanno rilanciato in modo drammatico e tranchant la domanda che sta poi alla base di ogni possibile consesso sociale: quella sul destino. Il loro modo di essere “sociali” è quello di essere stati testimoni fedeli della propria inquietudine e della propria ansia di verità.


Oggi, con il nuovo Millennio, l’arte tende a scansare questa grande sfida lanciata da Bacon e Giacometti. Magari siamo davanti ad un’arte “socialmente corretta”, ma è un’arte svuotata dalla sua capacità di rischiare, di esporsi per comunicare all’uomo la tensione di una condizione o di un’attesa. 


Se poi si vuole parlare nello specifico di Cattelan, dirò - consapevole di trovare poco consenso - che questo artista, in fondo, è molto più serio di quanto la vulgata mediatica non voglia fare apparire. La sua rappresentazione del Papa colpito dal meteorite, solo, nell’immenso spazio delle Cariatidi, abbarbicato al pastorale con la Croce, è un’immagine dirompente del dramma della Chiesa in rapporto al mondo aggredito dalla Chernobyl antropologica. Come sempre il suggerimento è di non fermarsi agli stereotipi, ma giudicare dopo aver visto e toccato con mano..

 

 

 

 

Francis Bacon Painting Shown Alongside Artist's Favourite Work

 

Art Daily | Tuesday, September 28, 2010

 

 

              

                              Untitled (Crouching Figures), c.1952 Francis Bacon

 

The Estate of Francis Bacon has generously placed an important painting by the artist on loan to The Courtauld Gallery. Untitled (Crouching Figures), c.1952, went on display from yesterday and will initially be presented alongside Honoré Daumier’s Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, c.1870, in recognition of Bacon’s admiration for Daumier’s masterpiece. 

When James Thrall Soby, curator at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, was researching his book on Francis Bacon he contacted Harry Fischer, director ofMarlborough Fine Art, the artist’s dealer. Fischer was able to give him some fresh insight into Bacon’s artistic taste and favourite works, noting: “He considers Daumier’s Don Quixote and Sancho Panza and El Greco’s View of Toledo to be amongst the greatest paintings in the world...”. Bacon knew Daumier’s masterpiece from his visits to The Courtauld Gallery, where it forms part of the Gallery’s celebrated collection of 19th century French paintings. 

Untitled (Crouching Figures) is one of Bacon’s most important works from the early 1950s, a period when he was emerging as the leading British painter of his generation. It is one of a group of works in which nude figures are paired in sexually charged homoerotic compositions. In the post-war world of the 1950s, Bacon’s revelation through his paintings of the potentially destructive potential of human desire resonated particularly strongly. 

Miguel de Cervantes’s great 17th century novel tells the story of the farcical Don Quixote who sets out on a series of illusory chivalrous quests, mounted on his emaciated horse Rocinante and accompanied by the witness squire Sancho Panza. Bacon scholar Martin Harrison, who first recognised the importance of Fischer’s correspondence with Soby, has written of Daumier’s Don Quixote: “To gaze at this great painting is comparable to experiencing a slightly scaled-down Bacon of the 1950s”, pointing out how the subdued palette and loose brushwork of Daumier’s painting is echoed in Bacon’s work. Bacon may have also have felt an affinity for Daumier’s bleak representation of the tragicomic figures from Cervantes’s novel.

 

 

 

 

 

Master Painters Side by Side for the First Time in the Frans Hals Museum

 

 

Art Daily | Saturday, July 10, 2010

 

HAARLEM.- The Frans Hals Museum is presenting a work by the British artist Francis Bacon flanked by two monumental paintings by Cornelis van Haarlem. What links these artists is their admiration for Michelangelo. This Italian painter, sculptor, architect and poet was a great source of inspiration for them both. The exhibition Conversation Piece II is on view from 3 July to 10 October 2010. 

With the series ‘Conversation Piece’, the Frans Hals Museum wants to encourage visitors to take a fresh look at the 16th and 17th-century collection of paintings. By juxtaposing these works with modern and contemporary art, surprising links are laid between highly varied styles and periods in the history of art. The museum demonstrates that even though certain perceptions and opinions have a long history they are nevertheless still valid today and continue to be revisited and explored. 

Francis Bacon (1909 – 1992) was extremely indebted to tradition; as he formulated it himself: ‘in the long run art cannot cut loose from its tradition, but only renew it in a way which will be compelling to a contemporary sensibility.’ In this connection, he also repeatedly acknowledged having a strong affinity with Michelangelo. Bacon particularly admired the Italian master’s nudes: ‘the fleshy figure, coiled around his own axis as if he were about to hurl a discus.’ This description could equally apply to the two works by Cornelis van Haarlem. 

Tension and drama


In the painting From Muybridge The Human Figure in Motion: Woman Emptying a Bowl of Water / Paralytic Child Walking on All Fours (1965; on loan from the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam) the contorted, misshapen figures infuse the composition with enormous tension and drama. The way in which the paint twists and turns gives the painting a sense of plasticity and movement. The human body has a fleshy fullness and assumes an expressive pose that lend it a distinct sculptural quality. This is also seen in the work of Cornelis van Haarlem
. 

Voluptuous flesh


The influence of Michelangelo (1475 – 1564) is also evident in the paintings The Massacre of the Innocents (1591) and The Wedding of Peleus and Thetis(1592/1593) by Cornelis van Haarlem (1562 – 1638). His nudes exhibit a comparable interest in exaggerated poses and a voluptuous rendering of ‘flesh’. They are bravura pieces, action-packed and dynamic with an unprecedented drama and vivacity, and with extreme foreshortening and torsion. The poses are immensely complex and the bodies are recreated in innumerable contorted attitudes. The paintings demonstrate Van Haarlem’s artistic virtuosity, and testify to his thorough command of the human figure. 

‘Conversation Piece I’ took place in the Frans Hals Museum in 2008 and juxtaposed the German artist Thomas Eggerer (born 1963) to the 17th-century painters Pieter Saenredam (1597 – 1665) and Jacob van Ruisdael (1628 – 1682). The common thread then was the clear organisation and definition of space in combination with a precise positioning of the figures. Composition, colour and the effects of light are finely attuned to one another and crafted into a harmonious entity in the work of these three artists.

 

 

 

  Bacon forever

 

      Le Figaro 14/09/2010

 

 

     

 

         Black and white photograph of Francis Bacon, 1967. John Deakin

 

 

 

L'endroit est incroyable. Au cœur de la même Galerie municipale d'art moderne, l'atelier du peintre irlandais Francis Bacon apparaît dans une salle tel qu'il fut au 7, Reece Mews (South Kensington) à Londres. Il aura fallu le travail de 40 archéologues durant un an pour démonter et remonter à l'identique ce fabuleux trésor. Tout est en place : murs, fenêtres, sol jonché de papier journal et bouteilles de champagne vides. Des photographies du peintre, de ses proches et de son repaire londonien encerclent l'atelier, ainsi que quelques toiles. Devant le refus de La Tate Modern de recevoir cet espace, John Edwards, légataire universel de Bacon, s'était tourné vers Dublin, où naquit le peintre en 1909. Une initiative successful.

 

The Hugh Lane, Parnel Square. Jusqu'au 31 oct. 2010.

 

 


Brian Clarke: rock star of stained glass

 

Paul McCartney and David Bailey are fans and friends; Francis Bacon chose him to look after his estate; and later this month the Pope will bless his work. Meet Brian Clarke, the world's grooviest stained-glass artist.

 

By David Jenkins | The Daily Telegraph | 08 September 2010

 

                      

                                        Pyramid of Peace, Kazakhstan Photo: Brian Clarke  

 

 

 

There’s a stained-glass window in one corner of the former ballroom that occupies the first floor of Brian Clarke’s west London house, and it’s a marvel of smoky blues, glowing reds and trenchant whites.

 

It’s by Clarke and, as the 57 year-old talks about it, his rich Lancashire accent throbbing with enthusiasm, he sings a hymn to the glory of light and of stained glass as a medium: how the blue becomes transparent, the red goes on fire and the white becomes incandescent at 6pm each day, just 30 summer days a year. It’s how ‘stained glass is always kinetic’ that he adores, the ‘liquid element’ of glass that he loves, the ‘transillumination’ he reveres.

 

Beneath the glass is an ice-blue, geometric, double-sided sofa designed for him by his old friend Zaha Hadid to complement the window, a window she calls ‘fluid and stunning’; on the other walls are a huge lead on sheet lead representation of his even older friend Paul McCartney’s hands – ‘I was drawing his face for a record cover or something and he started playing air guitar, and I drew that, so it’s a sort of portrait of Paul’; a Warhol of Jackie Kennedy – ‘you felt, when you were with Andy, that you were with an artist. He was Narcissus looking into the pool and telling us our reflection was all right’; and a Francis Bacon – ‘I said to Francis once: “You know Francis, some of the things you’re doing could translate into stained glass in a tremendously interesting way, and you’d have the benefit of transmitted colour rather than reflected colour. Have you ever thought of doing any stained glass?” And Francis said [Clarke adopts a camp and bitchy voice]: “No, dear – and I’ve not done any macramé either.”’

 

Clarke honks with laughter, his broad, large-eared face creased with amusement and shakes his head. ‘He was such a b-----d.’ (Clarke is chairman of the Bacon Estate; so, he says, ‘a lot of people in the art world are, you know, very, very keen to be my friend’).

 

For all his famous friends and success as a painter, it’s for his stained glass that Clarke is best known. He has, he says, done ‘more stained glass than anyone, probably ever’, and it’s found in settings as diverse as the Pyramid of Peace in Kazakhstan, the Pfizer building in New York, the Holocaust memorial in Darmstadt and the lobby of the Apax Group in Jermyn Street – the last a shimmering mix of deep blues, greens and carnation reds that is, Hadid says, like a ‘window to the outside world, very controlled, very strong’.

 

Right now, though, Clarke is having an ecclesiastical moment, having fled the overpowering shadow of church architecture 25 years ago: last weekend, in Linköping Cathedral, Sweden, three of his windows are being unveiled in a medieval church that has never before had stained glass in it (‘They went on a tour of Europe, the bishop and his mates and advisers from Swedish Heritage, to look at contemporary stained glass. And they saw a Cistercian Convent I’d done in Switzerland and commissioned me’). And in 12 days’ time the Pope will be blessing a stained-glass window, suffused in ultramarines and ruby reds, which Clarke has done for the Papal Nunciature in Wimbledon.

 

‘I’d said it wasn’t really my bag: I’m definitely not holy. But the Papal Nuncio is a genuinely cool guy, he really is; he’s everything you want in an archbishop. It’s a small work, but I’m very, very pleased with it – it’s a winner.’

 

As he tells me this we’re sitting in the kitchen of his house, eating chicken wrapped in bacon, couscous and salad. He’s wearing a pink shirt, khaki-coloured jeans and no shoes; glinting in his right earlobe is a gold cross. The house has been home to many artists from the late Victorian era onward, though Clarke bought it from the singer Leo Sayer (‘we found one of his clown outfits in the attic’) after his then dealer – the ultra-hip and very dangerous Robert Fraser – found it and told him: ‘If you don’t buy it, I’ll regard it as a personal insult.’

 

Ever ready with an anecdote and dauntingly erudite, Clarke is very affable company. ‘He’s good fun,’ cackles David Bailey, another good friend, ‘though not as funny as me – he hasn’t got my vicious cockney tongue.’ And it’s true: there’s a Lancastrian warmth to Clarke that helps explain why he’s so liked by so many.

 

The son of working-class parents, Clarke was born in the cotton-spinning town of Oldham. At ‘11 or 12’, a school trip to York Minster was a ‘very powerful juvenile experience. It’s a very warm stone, and I remember the light coming through the stained glass and the choir was practising. In my head, I say I could smell incense, but I suspect… But that was a definite moment, and in a way I’m always trying to recapture it.’

 

At 12, he won a scholarship to the Oldham School of Arts and Crafts and moved on, via Burnley School of Art and North Devon College of Art and Design, to be awarded a Churchill Memorial Travelling Scholarship. He was already working with stained glass, as well as painting. Teachers thought him: ‘Nuts. Most people were just worried I wouldn’t earn a living.’ Still, by 23, he was already the subject of a BBC arts documentary and living in an old vicarage in Derbyshire with his then wife, Liz.

 

It was, he says, an idyllic existence, but the capital beckoned and in 1978 he moved to London. ‘There was no possibility of me realising the grandiose ambitions I had for stained glass if I’d stayed.’ And there was his frisky character to take into account.

 

Clarke was, John McEwen wrote in the Spectator, ‘the most Sixties character to have emerged in the London art scene since the Sixties’, and, Clarke says, his Finsbury Square studio became ‘a hub of activity and of what today, I suppose, is called glamour’. Bailey became a friend (‘I learnt a lot about light from Bailey’), and Bacon’s lover, John Edwards, and then the McCartneys.

 

An electrifying period, then? ‘Oh yeah. I was the kid, I was the young one. And if I’d thought about it long enough, I couldn’t possibly have dealt with Francis, for example, because I would have been in awe. But I wasn’t, because I thought I was as good as he was: I was full of the arrogance of inexperience. And I wasn’t impressed, you know – by then I’d become friends with Paul [McCartney], close friends with Paul and Linda, and after Paul and Linda it’s difficult to be impressed, really.

 

‘They took it all so easily, so matter-of-factly – they were so unimpressed themselves. They were very supportive: they bought paintings from me, commissioned me to do stained glass projects for their home, stage sets. Paul really gets art: he gets it very quick, very sharp. And I was working ferociously.’

 

As McEwen put it when a show of Clarke’s paintings reopened Fraser’s gallery in 1983: ‘A year for Clarke is an age for most of us. His energy is both undeniable and commendably against the English grain.’

 

But there’s something very English in the singer and actor Richard Strange’s memory of that opening: Clarke’s mother was the guest of honour at an event littered with stars. And, Strange says, Mrs Clarke saw a familiar face across the room and said: ‘“Ooh Brian, you’ve got to introduce me.” So Brian took her across the room, saying: “Excuse me, Andy, excuse me, Mick, I’ve got to introduce my mum to someone.” And they come up to Paul McCartney and Brian says: “Now, mum, I’d like to introduce you to…’ and she interrupts him and says, “Oh Brian, Derek Nimmo needs no introduction.’”

 

Another important friend made at this time was Norman Foster, with whom Clarke later worked extensively. ‘We shared enthusiasms,’ Clarke says. ‘One of them is light. And the early period of our friendship – by which I mean the first 15 years or so – was just ricocheting from one thrilling moment to another. We’d see each other three or four times a day – breakfast, lunch and dinner, with telephone calls in between. It was all about discovery, new things; we developed new technologies.’

 

Clarke developed techniques that involve the bonding of glazed colours to architectural ‘float’ glass, often doing this in multiple layers that create an oscillating visual effect; a method that allows colour to be applied to large areas of glass without the familiar dividing lead strap work. Colour, in Clarke’s case, that’s radiantly life affirming.

 

Many of Clarke’s best friends are architects – Hadid, Foster, Peter Cook, the late Jan Kaplicky – and it is, Hadid says, ‘very rare to have someone who’s an artist who knows about architecture’.

 

Still, Clarke says: ‘I’ve done things I consider among my best work and they’re in buildings I think should be pulled down, quite frankly. But I can’t do that any more, because it’s lipstick on a gorilla. I can only really do my best when it’s in harmonious tandem.’

 

That harmony is what he enjoys about working with architects. ‘Artists work on the principle that they have a direct line to God. Well, very often that direct line has bad reception. And what was so thrilling about Norman, and architectural culture, was the inclusiveness of it, the collaboration,’ Clarke says. The downside being, of course, that people introduce him as ‘some kind of architect, or designer. And I’m not. I’m an artist – I’m a poet, not an organiser of imagery.’

 

It was that savage poet of violence, Francis Bacon who threw a spanner in Clarke’s works. ‘Francis quite liked talking about dying and how he was leaving everything to John – he kind of boasted about it. And John would say: “I don’t know what I’m going to do, Francis; I don’t know how I’ll manage all this.” And Francis would say: “Oh, Brian’ll help you.”

 

‘It was like that. And then it became that; I’d made a solemn promise I would. And John was as close a friend as I’ve ever had – he had great intuition; he could spot a phoney across a crowded pub. And Francis had been dead about three years and John came for help; he said to me: “I don’t understand these papers.”’

 

Clarke was, he says, in the middle of ‘an incredibly productive and exciting period of my life’. Still, at Edwards’s request, the High Court made Clarke sole executor of the Bacon Estate and he took up legal cudgels against Bacon’s old gallery, the Marlborough.

 

He assumed the matter would be over in months; six years later, litigation was still going on – at one stage, Clarke had 20 lawyers working for him. ‘It was horrible. It nearly killed me. If I could rewind the clock, that would be something I would definitely not want to be involved with.’

 

While the case was going on, ‘we moved Francis’s studio [from Reece Mews, Kensington] to Dublin and that helped me, because it showed some good could come out of this s---, as well as angst and anger and money – the money got bigger and bigger’. No surprise, really: as Clarke notes: ‘Francis used to say: “What people like about my paintings are the noughts.”’

 

Edwards died before the case was over, leaving Clarke his sole executor. He is chairman of the Bacon Trust, but he’s keen to resign. Meanwhile, a catalogue raisonné is in preparation, works are loaned and gifted, grants given. And ‘there’s one big pay off: I’ve been so close to Francis’s work now, at such an intimate level, with access to great masterpieces on a daily basis’.

 

Bacon’s studio was famously squalid and chaotic. Clarke’s – on an industrial estate in north-west London – is more ordered, despite the presence of his son’s drum kit. Classical music plays; there’s a view of the ‘lumpen’ Wembley arch; seven people work there.

 

Over here are the stairs down which Dennis Hopper fell on a visit to the studio; over there an oil on canvas study for a portrait of Andy Warhol. Here are drawings Clarke is making of paint tubes and of chocolate caramel sweet wrappers – ‘I’ve eaten thousands of them.’ Here’s the Fleur de Lys glass he did for Linda McCartney. Here’s multiple evidence of the ‘great hand’ and ‘fine line’ both Hadid and Doris Saatchi Lockhart praise. Here are the skulls that preoccupy him.

 

And here’s a large-scale proposal he’s preparing for a stained-glass installation at Stratford International, ‘where you get off the train from Paris and Brussels and for the Olympics’. It’s to be 300ft long and 20ft high, his first big work in London, green and yellow and flickering, punctuated with bands of swirling blue. ‘It’s such a quintessentially English thing,’ he says, ‘light coming through oak leaves.’

 

He pauses. ‘Stained glass – I’m more excited about it than I’ve ever been. It can transform the way you feel when you enter a building in the way nothing else can.’

 

 

Encounter: Essays by Milan Kundera

 

Milan Kundera's exhumed essays cast a spell with their insights into creativity, writes Geoff Dyer

 

 

Geoff Dyer | The Observer | Sunday 2 August 2010

 

 

    

        Milan Kundera, Czech born writer who has lived in exile in France since 1975. Portrait taken in Paris in 1981

 

It is a tribute to Kundera's ability to weave his essayistic spell that my interest was undiminished by the fact that I am either wholly ignorant of many of the composers and writers discussed (Iannis Xenakis, Marek Bienczyk, Gudbergur Bergsson) correct or am familiar with them only through Kundera's earlier books. In any case, Kundera's subjects are mirrors, offering variously distorted reflections on his own work and situation. As he says with reference to a remark by Francis Bacon about Beckett: "When one artist is talking about another, he is always talking (indirectly, in a roundabout way) of himself, and that is what's valuable in his judgment."

The book kicks off with a particularly outrageous example as he reflects on and reprints a piece from the 1970s. In 1972, in an apartment in Prague, he met a demure young woman he knew well who had been interrogated for several days by the authorities. The trauma had upset her bowels so badly that every few minutes she had to rush off to the lavatory. "The noise of the water refilling the toilet tank practically never let up and I suddenly had the urge to rape her."

"Unconscionable" though this desire was, Kundera cannot disavow it; it forms the basis of his understanding of "the brutal gesture" – the "hand movement that roughs up another person's face in hopes of finding, in it and behind it, something that is hidden there" – of Francis Bacon's art. This may not be art history as understood by Kenneth Clark but it shoves us into a horrible confrontation with Bacon's art. The standard art-critical habit is to comment on the horror without conveying it so that we look and listen quite comfortably.

 

 


Milan
 Kundera's Encounter is an excellent essay collection 

 

Book review: In Encounter (Faber, £12.99) Milan Kundera reflects on the artists and aesthetic tenets he holds dear.

 

 

Metro (UK), Alan Chadwick - 17th August, 2010

 

 


Memory and forgetting, exile, identity and the power of art as a safeguard against the erosion of history and our own humanity: these are the themes that dominate this excellent collection of essays in which Milan Kundera reflects on the artists and aesthetic tenets he holds dear. 

 

Writing about the art of Francis Bacon, Kundera praises Bacon’s ‘clearsighted, sorrowful gaze trying to penetrate to the essential’. 

 

Yet that description could just as easily apply to Kundera’s own writing here, whether he is celebrating the music of Janácek or delighting in the comic marker laid down by Rabelais. 

 

At one point, Kundera bemoans the demands of contemporary fashion (cultural ‘blacklists’) in a world where the importance of art is becoming diminished. 

 

 

 

Book review: ‘Encounter’ by Milan Kundera

 

Compelling essays by someone who writes of authors, composers and artists from whom he continues to learn.

Encounter Essays  Milan Kundera, translated from the French by Linda Asher Harper: 192 pp., $23.99

 

By Michael S. Roth, Special to the Los Angeles Times, August 15, 2010



"Up to what degree of distortion does an individual still remain himself?"

Milan Kundera asks this question in writing about the painter Francis Bacon, 
one of many cultural figures he addresses in his commanding, compelling new collection of essays, "Encounter." It's a question that resonates throughout the book. To what degree can we be distorted by violence and fear — in short, by history — and still be ourselves? Kundera sees this distortion everywhere, a distortion that art engages. As the author looks at contemporary culture, his skepticism curdles into pessimism. In a world increasingly disinterested in art, when do we cross the border and forget what art has taught us about being human? Would we even realize that we crossed that border?

 

 


      “Bacons Finsternis”: Immer dem Maler nach

 

 

           von Florian Asamer, Die Presse, 31.07.2010

 

           


 

Im Kunstgeschichte-Krimi "Bacons Finsternis" sucht und findet ein verlassener Ehemann Trost und jede Menge Abenteuer in den Bildern des Leinwandapokalyptikers Francis Bacon.

Auch dieser Griechenland-Urlaub endet, wie Griechenland-Urlaube eben enden: bei Meerblick und Wein in der Taverne. Zum Nachtisch erfährt Arthur Valentin von seiner geliebten Frau Isabel allerdings, dass mit dem Urlaub auch ihre Ehe vorbei sein wird.

Zurück in Wien stürzt Arthur, der ein Antiquariat betreibt, nach dem Auszug von Isabel ins Bodenlose. Er verlässt die ehemals gemeinsame Wohnung kaum mehr, überlässt die Arbeit im Antiquariat zur Gänze seiner Partnerin Maia und hängt rosaroten Erinnerungen an seine Ehejahre nach.

Nach Monaten der Verzweiflung führt ihn eine Laune ins Kunsthistorische Museum. Dort in eine Ausstellung von Francis Bacon. Die Bilder rütteln Arthur auf, sie spiegeln seine verborgensten Ängste wider und geben ihm gleichzeitig neue Lebensenergie. Wie in Trance besucht Arthur immer wieder die Ausstellung und beschließt schließlich, den Bildern des irischen Malers quer durch Europa nachzureisen. In der Schweiz begegnet er dann erstmals auf einer Leinwand Bacons Muse Isabel Rawsthorne. Und zieht prompt Parallelen zu seiner Isabel.

Fesselnde Bacon-Interpretationen. Inzwischen ist Arthur eine Art Bacon-Spezialist geworden. Er liest sich quer durch die Arbeiten zu dem Jahrhundertmaler und versinkt in vielen biografischen Details und Zitaten des homosexuellen Künstlers (der ideale Liebhaber?, „der Nietzsche des Football-Teams“). So bringt Wilfried Steiner dem Leser auch die Geschichte der Beziehung zu George Dyer, die Rolle der Isabel Rawsthorne und vor allem Bacons Freundschaft zu Malerkollegen Lucian Freud, dem Enkel von Sigmund Freud, näher.

Dabei glänzt das Buch mit detaillierten Schilderungen – nein, fesselnden Interpretationen vieler Bacon-Gemälde, die dazu einladen, sie gleich noch einmal zu lesen, diesmal mit einem Bacon-Katalog in der Hand. Vor allem mit der seitenlangen Beschreibung des Triptychons „Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion“ gelingt es Steiner, den Leser in tiefe Beunruhigung zu versetzen.

In der Tate Modern in London bekommt die Handlung eine völlig neue Wendung. Während Arthur wieder einmal einen Tag im Museum verbringt, bemerkt er „seine“ Isabel, die mit einem älteren Mann Bilder betrachtet. Er belauscht die beiden unbemerkt, schnappt Gesprächsfetzen auf, die darauf hindeuten, dass eine Exfrau mit ihrem Begleiter einen Kunstraub planen könnte. Als er seiner Geschäftspartnerin Maia von dieser Entdeckung erzählt, und Maia den Mann als einen ihrer an Kunstkatalogen interessierten Kunden wiedererkennt, der auch bei Scotland Yard kein unbeschriebenes Blatt ist, scheint die Sache klar. Arthur und Maia versuchen, den vermeintlichen Kunstdieben in Hamburg auf die Schliche zu kommen.

Wilfried Steiner, der als künstlerischer Leiter am Linzer Posthof arbeitet, verbindet in seinem Roman drei Stränge: eine anschauliche kunstgeschichtliche Reise durch das Leben von Francis Bacon, die tragisch-ironische Schilderungen eines gebrochenen Verlassenen, der über die Trennung von seiner großen Liebe nicht hinwegkommen will, und schließlich einen Kunstdiebstahl in Rififi-Manier. „Bacons Finsternis“ verdankt seinen unbestreitbaren Reiz wohl gerade dem Kontrast zwischen der in jeder Hinsicht schweren Bacon-Kost und einer etwas leicht geratenen Krimihandlung.

Wilfried Steiner, Bacons Finsternis, Deuticke Verlag, 286 Seiten, 20,50 Euro.