Francis Bacon News

 

 

                                                                                                                                                              

 

                                                              1909 1985

 

 

 

BIRTHS, MARRIAGES, AND DEATHS.

 

 

 

 

BIRTHS    |    WEEKLY IRISH TIMES    |    SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 13, 1909

 

Births, Marriages, and Deaths (which in all cases must be authenticated) not exceeding 3 lines, 2s. 6d. each insertion; 4 or more lines 8d. per line. Half-price only charged if the notice has appeared in the Irish Times (daily). Post Office Orders payable to Irish Times Limited.

 

BIRTHS.

 

 BACONOctober 28, 1909, at 63 Lower Baggot street, Dublin, the wife of Captain A. E. Bacon, Canney Court, Brannockstown, Co. Kildare, of a son.

 

 

 

 

 

PICTURES FOR INTERIOR DECORATION.

 

 

 

 

BY  P. G. KONODY  |  ART AND ARTISTS  |  THE OBSERVER  |  SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 1930

 

At his studio for modern interior decoration in Queensberry Mews West, Queensberry-place, S.W.7, Mr. Francis Bacon is holding an exhibition of paintings by himself and by the Australian artist Mr. Roi de Mestre, as well as pastels and drawings by Miss Jean Shepeard. Transported into different and less congenial surroundings, these paintings might lose some of their interest, their main raison d’être being the decorative purpose which they serve in a general scheme of interior decoration. Not that Mr. Bacon and Mr. de Mestre are not gifted painters, but their individuality seems to express itself chiefly in their titness of their pictorial efforts to the ambient style of the room in which they hang. The pictures continue on the dead-white walls the shapes and designs of the metal furniture and of the rugs. Mr. de Mestre often makes use of these objects in his paintings, a fact which in the present surroundings makes them appear like mirrors reflecting the room in different angles.

Miss Shepeard’s drawings of heads show great sensibility and beauty of line, and are in their bold, unhesitating treatment full of vigour and character. Very fine are the simple cubistic rugs designed by Mr. Bacon, especially those kept to sober, tastefully harmonised patterns and colours.

 

 

 

 

   Art and Artists.

 

 

             THE MAYOR GALLERY.

 

 

 

BY  P. G. KONODY  |  THE OBSERVER  |  SUNDAY 23 APRIL 1933

 

The first exhibition at the new Mayor Gallery, in Cork-street, W.1, is devoted to abstract art, and displays a very representative cosmopolitan collection of works showing the more recent derivations from, and developments of, Cubism.

Cubism as a disciplinary measure, evolved in the early years of the century to combat the gradual structural disintegration into which impressionist, as well as academic, art was rapidly failing, has practically ceased to exist. The square and the cube, which constituted the fundamental components of a cubistically treated pictorial organism, and which are still resorted to by Marcoussis in “Figure Seated at a Table” (No. 5), by Ben Nicholson in “Composition” (No. 26), and by Pail Klee in “Gay Mountain Landscape” (No. 34), have been nearly, if not entirely abandoned by all the artists of that school.

More pliable  ellipsoid, paraboloid, podoid, onduloid, and such-like curvilinear shapes constitute the basis of the formal vocabulary referred to by the artists in their search for adequate symbol expressive of  their nonor semi—figurative conceptions.

If its cubist beginnings are thus hardly detectable in the exteriorisations of present day abstract art, its spiritual bearings continue to involve the same issues, which are the discovery and fixation of the latent qualities that give to a work of art irrespective of what it represents, a vital aesthetic meaning, and an independent existence as a self-contained object. Their aim is not the rendering of reality, but the figuration, as it were, of the invisible, the expression of emotions experienced that in no way depend from impressions gleaned among the different elements which compose the outer world.

These works are intended to react on the spectators’ aesthetic sensibilities, not through objective associations, but through the contents of linear, formal, and chromatic ingredients.

In this respect the most striking and most convincing exhibits are E. Wadsworth’s “Composition” (No. 24), Herbin’s “Abstraction” (No. 10), Valmier’s “Still Life” (No. 11) and “Lying Figure” (No. 12), Paul Nash’s “Opening” (No. 46), and the amazing “Metamorphosis” (No. 3) by Pablo Picasso, which makes one imagine to be present at the birth of form out of matter in the lyrical blueness of a primeval dawn.

Alongside with these paintings conceived in a spirit of immaculate beauty, other pictures display an unwholesome tendency to let outside elements creep into, and often completely destroy, the purity and homogeneity of their pictorial significance. The works shown by Max Ernst, Francis Bacon, and Paul Klee in what seems to be an intentional desire to outrage aesthetic conventions, can but be taken as practical jokes, abortive from the artistic point of view, owing to the substitution of conceptive or craftsmanly freakishness, or both, for sincerity and dignity—the two qualities which constitute the corner-stone of abstract art. Besides the artists already referred to, the following contribute interesting paintings to the show: Braque, Miro, Armstrong, Bigge, Baunmeister, Metzinger, Lurcat, and Tristrain Hillier, whose charming interior, “Composition” (No. 30), is far less abstract than the title purports to suggest. There are also two picto-sculptural contrivances by Hans Arp and some fine pieces of sculpture by Zadkine and Henry Moore.

Taken as a decorative ensemble, the exhibition produces a happy and stimulating effect. The simple architecture of the gallery and the concealed lighting system, ingenuously devised by Mr. Brian O’Rorke, are admirably suited for the display of modern art.

 

 

 

                   ART EXHIBITIONS

 

 

 MR. FRANCIS BACON

 

 

 

ART EXHIBITIONS  |  THE TIMES  |  FRIDAY FEBRUARY 16 1934

 

The difficulty with Mr. Francis Bacon is to know how far his paintings and drawings—at the New Transition Gallery, in the basement of Sunderland House, Curzon Street—maybe regarded as artistic expression and how far as the mere unloading on canvas and paper what used to be called the subconscious mind.

As the latter they are not of much consequence—except by way of release to the artist. It is true that Mr. Bacon is an interesting colourist, but, then, colour is a natural gift, and is not in itself evidence of artistic talent.

All art springs from the unconscious, but it is only to be judged upon the results of conscious formulation; it is not enough for a musical composer to make interesting noises; and Mr. Bacon does not seem to get beyond the creation of the uncouth shapes which are the common form of dreams.

In Studio Interior he does show some capacity for organizing a picture space in all its dimensions on a basis of hints from actual objects, but his other paintings owe too much to the suggestion of their titles, as Wound for a Crucifixion.  

Does it, as a matter of cold fact, require a high degree of artistic talent to give the impression of a wound in pigment? Certainly most of the seven paintings are much too large for anything they have to say.

Confidence in Mr. Bacon is not increased by the information that it is proposed to hold a series of exhibitions of his work at this gallery.

 

 

 

 

Nonsense Art Invades London

 

 

 

By PIERRE JEANNERAT  |  THE DAILY MAIL  |  THURSDAY, JANUARY 14, 1937

 

IS it a pity that the nonsense art or pseudo-art of to-day conquers and invades more and more of the leading dealers’ galleries of London?

Messrs. Agnew, of 43, Old Bond Street, with a long-established reputation as sponsors of much that is great in painting (their old master shows are well known) have lent their galleries for an exhibition of contemporary pictures, which include the representation of a set of false teeth on a tripod.

No, it is not a pity. The more we see of such absurdities the more we shall realise their emptiness and ugliness.

"A Symposium," by Julian Trevelyan, at Agnew’s, is no better than the scribbles made on his blotting paper by a tired business man as he answers the ’phone. "Abstractions from the Human Form," by Francis Bacon, describe the human form as a distorted toy balloon.

A few sound designs in form and colour, like Robert Medley’s "Begging Family" and Roy de Maistre’s "Interior at Night," are lost in this wilderness.

The Lefevre Gallery, Ia, King street, St. James’s, have not been guiltless in the matter of staging bad surrealist and abstract jokes, but their good name is due to tasteful shows like their present one of interesting works by two celebrated impressionists, Pissarro and Sisley.

 

 

 

 

 

 ENGLISH PAINTERS

 

 

EXHIBITION OF MODERN WORK

 

 

 

ENTERTAINMENTS  |  THE TIMES  THURSDAY, JANUARY 14 1937  

 

Organised, we are told, in connexion with a scheme to provide a permanent gallery for the constant display of works by contemporary painters, there is as Messrs. Agnew’s an exhibition of 31 paintings by 10 more or less well-known English artists. The scheme, which is supported by, among others, Miss Thelma Cazalet, M.P., and the Director of the National Gallery, deserves every blessing, because it is highly important that people should be able to see at any time what contemporary artists are doing — whether they like it or not.

The present exhibition is wide enough in its range to include "natural" painters, like Mr. Ivon Hitchens and Mr. Robert Medley, and the severely abstract, like Mr. John Piper, whose Painting 1935 is a good and solid example of  that kind of thing. It cannot be denied that the exhibition as a whole has rather an old-world flavour, not because the ideas in it are not contemporary but because the forms of their presentation have now been generally discarded as inadequate for the purpose. It is on the grounds of adequacy, given the medium of painting, and not because it is more naturalistic than most, that we should point to Terrace Walk, by Mr. Ivon Hitchens, as one of the best things in the exhibition. Arrested phrase from Colour Overture to a Film Ballet, by Mr. Roy de Maistre, has the interest of proclaiming loudly that what is needed to justify that kind of design is precisely movement, and several of the other paintings would be happier if they worked.

The designs by Mr. Julian Trevelyan. Description of City, in particular, are lively and entertaining, and there is food for reflection in the happy relationship between Tree No. 2, by Graham Sutherland, and the dark perforations in the skirting of the gallery. 

 

 

 

                           The Galleries

 

           A NEW IDIOM?

 

            ABSTRACTION AT

                    AGNEW’S

 

 

PAINTING AND HUMAN INTEREST

 

                           By FRANK RUTTER

 

 

 

FRANK RUTTER  |  THE SUNDAY TIMES  |   JANUARY 17, 1937

 

Time was when the House of Agnew was regarded as the citadel of conservatism in British art. None was admitted but the old and trusted, and its exhibitions were limited to works by the Early English School and the Old School. Then, just about a generation ago, a first step was taken along the road that is paved with good intentions. To the great scandal and shocked surprise of elderly Academicians and their friends, Messrs. Agnew held an exhibition of revolutionary pictures by the young lions of the New English Art Club. John, Orpen, Rothenstein and Steer were included, and even that fantastic painter Walter Sickert was represented; but his picture was hung on the staircase, because even the bravest must draw the line somewhere. There followed a period of quiescence, but later it appeared that Messrs. Agnew had only withdrawn to Turner in order to leap better and further to the left. At their galleries we re seen the works of Roger Fry and his British post-impressionists, and quite recently was held an exhibition of works by the Arch-Anarch, Cezanne himself.

Far more revolutionary, however, than any previous exhibition at Agnew’s is the collection now on view at 43. Old Bond Street, and, despite the tendency of history to repeat itself, it is difficult to believe that in another thirty-three years the abstract paintings of Francis Bacon, John Piper, Julian Trevelyan, etc., will appear as normal and easy to understand as do now the paintings of John, Steer and Sickert. In fairness to Messrs. Agnew. however, it must be pointed out that this special exhibition h as not been organised by the firm: the galleries have been generously lent to a group of unorthodox painters, whose exhibition has been organised for a purpose b y Mr. Eric Hall.

This purpose, we are told, is in order that the public “can become accustomed to a new idiom” and Mr. Hall is hopeful that it is only “a preliminary to the formation of a permanent gallery” where the work of these artists can be seen. Further, we are informed that the selected exhibitors are representative of “some of the painters in this country whose works have qualities more penetrating than the merely fashionable or decorative—qualities which are sometimes overlooked. ”

 

WHAT ARE- THESE QUALITIES?

Is it not a great pity, when so much information is given on the back of the invitation card, that we are not told what these mysterious qualities are? Till they are defined, nobody can say whether they are present or not.

And is it certain that all the exhibitors make use of a “new” idiom? Mr. Francis Bacon’s “Abstraction” (20)—with a complete set of false teeth—and his more powerful and better coloured “Abstraction from the Human Form” (26)—are not these entirely in the later idiom of M. Picasso? And is not the flat-cubist abstraction of Mr. James Cant’s “Still Life with Pheasant” (6) very much in the idiom which M. Fernand Leger worked out a dozen years ago ? And if these are not “fashionableV idioms in modern painting, what are?

Mr. Julian Trevelyan at least is himself in his austere “Composition” (3), consisting of a few geometrical figures in colour on a nice clean plank. I see colour and pattern in it, but if it has not got decorative quality, will somebody please tell me what quality it has that I have overlooked? Again, surely the decorative effect is the great merit of Mr. John Piper’s “Varied Movement, grey ground; 1936” (27). Not only are the pattern and colour harmony pleasing to the eye, but as a whole the composition, though treated as an abstraction, can be interpreted concretely as a severely simplified impression of a liner seen across the waves over the rail of another vessel.

So far as these exhibits are non-representative and abstract, they tend to confirm the opinion that such designs must be decorative, or fail altogether.

But this exhibition is far from being exclusively non-representative. Mr. Ivon Hitchens, after passing through various stages of experimental work, has evolved I his own type of landscape, rather vague a n di atmospheric in form, always distinguished.! and even beautiful, in its pale colour—notably his “Leaning Tree” (10)—and occasionally seeming to have a reference to the idiom of Steer. Mr. Victor Passmore, who j also gives us some charming colour in his; " Woman with a Sewing Machine” (29), reveals in his low-toned “Cafe” (8) some acquaintance with the idiom of Mr. Sickert. Surely the wider appeal made by these exhibits is due, not merely to their being couched in a vaguely familiar idiom, but far more to their possession of a human interest which the maker of merely geometrical designs neglects at his peril.

“When creative genius neglects to all itself,” says Dr. George Santayana. “to some public interest, it hardly gives birth to works of wide or perennial influence, j Imagination needs a soil in history, tradi-i tion, or human institutions, else its random I growths are not significant enough, and, like trivial melodies, go immediately out of fashion.”

Add nature to history, tradition and human institutions, and this dictum applies just as well to painting as to poetry.

 

 

                                            

                      Art and Artists.

 

               JAMES TISSOT.

 

                 VULGAR SOCIETY.

 

 

                               BY JAN GORDON.

 

 

JAN GORDON  |  THE OBSERVER |   SUNDAY, JANUARY 17, 1937

 

 James Tissot, a Frenchman, dubbed by Ruskin a painter of vulgar London Society, was, I would calculate, at about the height of his fame when Du Maurier invented the famous Punch joke about the curate’s egg And the question of what real standing can a thing have, whether egg or work of art, when parts only are excellent, is as important in aesthetics as it is in gastronomy. If the question relates merely to a thing so slight in importance as a mere breakfast egg, unless it concerns a bishop’s egg and a pale young curate, we thrust it aside unhesitatingly. But conditions might alter cases. There is an excellent story by H. G. Wells of a man who was cast away on a desert island with only a collection of aepyornis’s eggs as nutriment, and he describes quite clearly how after a period he did not disdain to hunt within those monstrous shells for the bits which still remained in palatable condition.

Unlike Winterhalter, who had to wait some seventy years for a revival of interest, Tissot staged his come back in thirty. Dying in 1902 his first collected posthumous exhibition was in 1933 at the Leicester Gallery, now followed by second at present open at the same gallery. And, like the aepyornis egg of Mr. Wells’s castaway, these pictures have a value because of their unique qualities, although that value, as untinctured enjoyment, is considerably lowered by the fact that parts of them are by no means excellent, while others parts just as definitely are.

 

A MODERNIST GALLERY.

At Agnew’s Gallery an exhibition of paintings has just been opened in connection with a scheme to provide a permanent gallery for the constant display of works by contemporary painters and sculptors. Only, of course, when it says contemporary you mustn’t believe that it really means contemporary; it really means those whom Dan Leno, in the Doctor, might have diagnosed a suffering from a rush of Art to the intellect. And yet the scheme is undoubtedly a good one. Experimental Art, as experimental anything, should have its centre where the effects and results can be properly tested. Nothing could be worse for an actual estimate of what experimental Art may be brining as general value than the atmosphere of intellectual snobbery and exclusiveness which at present envelopes it.

Classes in abstraction, and perhaps in surrealist introspection, should be part of every art school curriculum. They would then be seen in their proper perspective. Of the progressives here collected, most are gifted, though one or two seem to be just experimenting in how little work they must do for the money. But Roy de Maistre has made an undoubted advance, and his Cricketers is an exciting composition; Francis Bacon also suggests that the somewhere he is going to may eventually repay the detour, while Ivon Hitchens seems already to be so stabilising his brilliance as soon to risk the danger of being thought merely contemporaneous.

IAN FAIRWEATHER.

At the Redfern Gallery, Mr. Ian Fairweather gives us a second series of his Chinese fantasia. The charm of his work consists in a blend of sensitive delicacy and unusual colour harmonies which rely on suggestion more than on statement. Of these Market in Peking andPhilipine Woman are good examples.

 

 

 

 

“A NEW IDIOM” IN PAINTING

 

 

 

ERIC HALL  |  THE SUNDAY TIMES  |  JANUARY 24, 1937

 

To the Editor of THE SUNDAY TIMES

 

Sir,—In your art critic’s long review of the exhibition of contemporary English paintings held at Messrs. Agnews, there are two points in particular which I, as honorary organiser, feel should be answered.

It is surely quibbling on his part to interpret the statement “to become accustomed to a new idiom” as meaning that the methods employed by these painters had never been used before. But it must be clear to Mr. Rutter that they are new in the sense that they are methods of approach to painting which are, for the most part, in the early stages of development, and with which the public are not yet familiar.

Your critic continues by saying that as he has been told so much on the back of the invitation card it was “a great pity” that he was not told what were the qualities of the painters exhibiting.

As I cannot go through the whole list of painters, I will take two paintings by Mr. Francis Bacon. First, No. 26, “Abstraction from the Human Form,” where the very developed formal qualities and the beauty of the colour should, I feel, have offered no difficulties to Mr. Rutter. Secondly, No. 13, “Figures in a Garden,” to which the same qualities are applicable.

But where your critic seems to go completely astray is in his belief that the only justification of abstract painting lies in its decorative qualities. I would point out that in these two paintings there arc two different methods of dealing with what Mr. Rutter calls “human interests.”

In fact it is just these interests which are the basis of these two and many of the other paintings, and it is by a concentration upon the statement of these interests in terms of painting, i.e., conveying emotion through form and colour, that these methods are developed.

 

 The Bath Club, W.1.  ERIC HALL.

 

 


ALLEGED GAMING HOUSE

 

                 Twenty-Seven In Court   

 

 

 

THE WEST LONDON PRESS CHELSEA NEWS  |  NUMBER 4,227  |  FRIDAY, OCTOBER 10, 1941   

 

Before Sir Gervais Rentoul at West London Police Court on Friday, Albert Hyde (32), builder, 200 Westbourne Park-road; Walter Travis Scott (51), retired, Chesterfield Court, Curzon-street; Vivian Robertson (44), clerk, 44 Nicholas-road, Mile End; Frederick John Hyde (60), chauffeur, 200 Westbourne Park-road; and Edward Bishop, builder, 200 Westbourne Park-road, were charged with keeping a common gaming house at 5 Prince of Wales-terrace, Kensington, on Thursday night.

Twenty-two were charged with being found on the premises alleged to be used as a common gaming house.

They included Eric Walter Hall (50), independent, Conservative Club, St. James’s Street, S.W.1; Mrs. Grace Marjorie Parson Smith (58), 47 Crompton Court, South Kensington; Marjorie Elsie Cooper (46), widow, 17 Park Mansions, Knightsbridge; and Francis Bacon (31), artist, 1 Glebe-place, Chelsea. They were bound over not to frequent gaming houses for 12 months.

No evidence was offered at this stage. Albert Hyde, Scott, Robertson, Fredrick Hyde, and Bishop were remanded on bail until October 31.

 

 


ALLEGED ROULETTE PARTY

 

                          Police Visit to Flat   

 

 

THE WEST LONDON PRESS CHELSEA NEWS  |  FRIDAY, MAY 8, 1942

 

Before Mr. Bennett at West London Police Court on Tuesday, Mabel Graham (62), married, 189 Latymer Court, Hammersmith-road; Ena Eunice Marcus (39), married, 16D Elvaston-place, South Kensington; and Sarah Ann Johns (590, daily maid, 46 Norland Gardens, Noting Hill, were charged with being concerned in the organisation of an unlawful gaming party.

Ethel Hannah Lindsay (75), independent, 12A North End-crescent, West Kensington; Eric Hall (51), independent, Conservative Club, St. James’s; Muriel Howell Marguerite Moxon (50), independent, Rupert Place, Henley-on-Thames; Winifred Constance Beryl Bowen (52), independent, Copers Cope-road, Beckenham; Francis Bacon (32), artist, 1 Glebe-place, Chelsea; Frances Mary O’Kell (70), independent, Vanderbilt Hotel, South Kensington; Ethel Almaz Stout (70), independent, Manor House, Exmouth; Elizabeth Ellen Calcutt (69), independent, 53 Gloucester-road, South Kensington; and Ida Marion Cunninghame (58), independent, 1 Barkston-gardens, Earls Court; were charged with being present at an unlawful gaming party.

 

‘‘Not Playing for Money’’

 

Chief-inspector Bye said that at 4.50 p.m. on Monday he went with other police officers to 189 Latymer Court. They were admitted by Mrs. Johns, the maid. In a large room on the left of the hall the 11 other defendants were seated round an oblong table, which was covered with a green baize cloth. A roulette wheel was in the centre of the table, on which there were a large number of counters. Mrs. Graham and Mrs. Marcus were acting as groupiers. Mrs. Graham said, “It is quite alright, we are not playing for money. There is a prize on the sideboard,” referring to a bottle of wine.

Defendants were remanded on bail until May 19.

 

 


‘‘THREEPENNY ROULETTE’’

 

 

                   ‘‘Very Humble Game In a Flat’’

 

 

 

THE FULHAM CHRONICLE  |  FRIDAY, MAY 22, 1942

 

Before Mr. Bennett at West London Police Court on Tuesday, Mabel Graham (62), married, 189 Latymer Court, Hammersmith-road, Ena Eunice Marcus (39), married, 16 D Elvaston-place, South Kensington; and Sarah Ann Johns (59), daily maid, 46 Norland-gardens, Notting Hill, were charged on remand with being concerned in the organization of an unlawful gaming party.

Ethel Hannah Lindsay (75), independent, 12A North End-crescent, West Kensington; Eric Hall (51), independent, Conservative Club, St. James’s; Muriel Howell Marguerite Moxon (50), independent, Rupert Place, Henley-on-Thames; Winifred Constance Beryl Bowen (52), independent, Copers Cope-road, Beckenham; Francis Bacon (38), artist, 1 Glebe Place, Chelsea; Frances Mary O’Kell (70), independent, Vanderbilt Hotel, South Kensington; Ethel Almaz Stout (70), independent, Manor House, Exmouth; Elizabeth Ellen Calcutt (69), independent, 53 Gloucester-road, South Kensington; and Ida Marion Cunninghame (58), independent, 1 Barkston-gardens, Earls Court; were charged on remand with being present at an unlawful gaming party.

 

‘‘Bottle of Wine Prize on Sideboard’’

 

Mr. A. Sanders, who prosecuted, said that when Chief-inspector Bye and other officers entered Mrs. Graham’s flat on the afternoon of May 4 they found persons seated round a table covered with a green baize cloth in the centre of which was a roulette wheel. On the table were a large number of counters and Mrs. Graham and Mrs. Marcus were acting as croupiers. Mrs. Graham said, “We are not playing for money. There is the prize on the sideboard,” indicating a bottle of French wine. “It is difficult to believe that these people, all of mature age, sat round a table all the afternoon watching a wheel going round when the prize was only a bottle of wine,”  said Mr. Sanders. He added that there was no evidence that Johns had anything to do with the actual game. He was there merely in the capacity of a domestic servant.

The magistrate said that in these circumstances Johns would be discharged.

 

‘‘Of Good Reputation and Social Standing’’

 

Mr. J. M. Lickfold, defending, said this was a small tea party by Mrs. Graham for her friends. “They were playing a very humble game of threepenny roulette,” he said. “All the defendants are of good reputation and social standing. It is a little startling to now that the police can walk into a private party under this new order and take people off to the police station. Defendants did not know they were committing an offence.”

The magistrate said he accepted the story that a game for small stakes only was being played, but it was forbidden. He find Mrs. Graham £25 and £10.10s. costs and Mrs. Marcus was find £20 and £10.10s. costs. All the other defendants were find £5 each.

 

 

 

     ART EXHIBITIONS

 

 

 

CLASSIFIEDS  THE TIMES  TUESDAY, APRIL 3, 1945   

 

THE LEFEVRE GALLERY, 131-134, New Bond Street, W.1. New works by FRANCIS BACON, FRANCES HODGKINS, HENRY MOORE, MATTHEW SMITH, GRAHAM SUTHERLAND. Daily, 10-5.30. Sats., 10-1.

 

 

 

 

            ART EXHIBITIONS

 

 

 

CLASSIFIEDS  THE TIMES  WEDNESDAY, APRIL 4, 1945   

 

THE LEFEVRE GALLERY, 131-134, New Bond Street, W.1. New works by FRANCIS BACON, FRANCES HODGKINS, HENRY MOORE, MATTHEW SMITH, GRAHAM SUTHERLAND. Daily, 10-5.30. Sats., 10-1. Opening April 5th.

 

 

 

 

EXHIBITION RICH IN ITS VARIETY

 

 

 

By ERIC NEWTON  |  THE SUNDAY TIMES  APRIL 8, 1945 

 

The present exhibition at Reid and Lefevre’s is almost too rich in its variety. It sheds further light on the recent activities of Henry Moore and Matthew Smith. It includes five paintings and three gouaches by Frances Hodgkins, and a set of 11 new paintings by Graham Sutherland; and it introduces a new painter, Francis Bacon—or rather, it fails to introduce him. He shows four pictures, three of which are labelled “Studies for figures at the base of a Crucifixion,” while the fourth, “Figure in a Landscape” contradicts everything that the others stand for. It would be as easy to judge a man’s garden on the evidence of three daffodils and a compost heap.

Graham Sutherland, on the other hand, submits complete evidence.  His garden retains its familiar character. It is full of a strange, spiny undergrowth, sprouting fitfully among rocks. Savage but oddly beautiful plants tear unexpectedly at one’s aesthetic sensibilities. It contains nothing suave, but it is becoming a little more orderly and a great deal richer in content.

 

PRIMEVAL LANDSCAPE

 

A metaphor, too closely pursued, usually tempts the critic into places that he had no intention of exploring, but Graham Sutherland’s particular territory can only be reached by way of metaphor. He produces, as it were,  a wild, primeval landscape that strains the resources of one’s ordinary vocabulary. All that can be said of these later pictures is that the landscape is becoming more humane. In two of them it is invaded by figures, one of which, “Smiling Woman,” takes her place in the picture as confidently as a Byzantine Saint in a stylised setting.

I had intended this week to compare in detail the two models by Henry Moore for the Impington “Family,” but lack of space forbids detail. They are chiefly noteworthy because in one the three figures, father, mother and child, face outward, as though their concern were to present a united front to the world. In the other they turn towards each other in the manner of a conversation piece, thereby setting up all kind of movement and lively rhythms.

I can understand the artist hesitating between the two conceptions and exploring the possibilities of both in his drawings. The second solution is, to me, the more exciting of the two, though, being less monumental, it is less typical of Moore. But surely here is an opportunity that he thought to seize of being more dramatic and more human than usual. There is a risk that it doing so the final group may turn out to be uncomfortably restless. But the risk is worth taking.

 

 

 

 

                                  ART EXHIBITION

 

MR. MATTHEW SMITH AND OTHERS

 

 

 

ART EXHIBITION  |  THE TIMES  TUESDAY, APRIL 10, 1945 

 

Among current picture exhibitions is that at the Lefevre Gallery, 131-134 New Bond Street, which consists of examples of five contemporary artists, Miss Frances Hodgkins, Mr. Matthew Smith, Mr. Henry Moore, Mr. Graham Sutherland, and Mr. Francis Bacon.

A few days ago, in these columns, a protest was made against the mere ugly violence of a certain picture by Mr. Smith. The present exhibition includes a painting shows him at his best. To say this is not to accept all that Mr. Smith’s work stands for, or to think, necessarily, that he is working on the most hopeful lines for the development of painting. But the nude (No. 30) at the Lefevre Gallery certainly has power, depth of feeling, and rich intensity of colour to an impressive degree. Here at least one appreciates what the painter is after.

The selection of Mr. Moores drawings, too, includes a first-rate example of his style, the Drawing for Sculpture Group, The Family, which has rhythm, fine solidity, and an interesting play of shadow and light.

Of the remaining exhibitors, space only permits mention of Mr. Sutherland, whose works on this occasion are chiefly in oils. They are on the whole somewhat disconcerting in their harsh and flat colour, and have nothing of the mystery and glow after which he seemed to be striving in his familiar gouaches of the type represented in this exhibition by the little Green Tree Forms.

 

 

 

 

ART

 

 

 

MICHAEL ARYTON  |  THE SPECTATOR  |  APRIL 13, 1945  

 

THERE is not much left to be said about either Mathew Smith or Henry Moore, both of whom are substantially represented at the Berkeley Galleries and also contribute two of the five groups of work at the Lefevre. Smith, within his limits, is a fully matured artist, vital and painterly. At the Berkeley his Red Roses and Peaches show him at his best in still life; at the Lefevre, his Nude and Girl with Daffodil are first-rate examples of his voluptuous figure painting. Henry Moore is a gifted sculptor, for the moment highly overrated. He produces an endless series of sculptor’s drawings, window-dressed with washes of colour, which seem to supply an inexhaustible market. He draws only three figures. The first stands up, the second holds the baby and the third is the first, lying down. It is a simple, elegant formula, utterly without real humanity. His sculpture is more interesting, and the small bronze studies for his Northampton Madonna will make pleasant ornaments.

The gathering at the Lefevre is a distinguished one. Regrettably, with the exception of the cool note struck by Frances Hodgkins’ pictures, the very warm range of colour used by all the other artists represented, prevents single works from achieving their full effect. Frances Hodgkins shows herself to have reached a very complete and final maturity in these recent paintings. All the subtle integration and delicacy of handling which bring to her work its exquisite and personal quality are present in Dairy Farm and Cut Melons. In contrast to this perfection, minor though it may be, the new works of Graham Sutherland are not completely realised. This very fact places Sutherland as a vital figure in his generation; for several others, equally widely known, have established themselves cosily within the formula which has made their work popular. It would have been all too easy for Sutherland to have continued indefinitely producing those subjective and exciting landscapes which have made his name. Several examples of this type of Sutherland are on view at the Lefevre, but realising that he lacked mastery in painting the human figure, he has embarked on a search for the human equivalent of his landscapes. This hideous problem is not entirely solved, though Smiling Woman is a remarkable, personal and highly important picture.

One of the most devastating effects of Picasso’s influence on some of the best English painters ’now in their forties has been to force them to avoid the human figure, or else to reduce it to a completely stylised, and secondary, form. Since landscape is the one field almost unexplored by the Spanish Goliath, the major individual contributions to “post Picasso” painting in England have been in the field of landscape, since all entrances have not been blocked by the debris of Picasso’s destruction of traditions. It therefore follows that Sutherland’s attempt to find the-human equivalent of his landscape is likely to show a superficial similarity to certain of the all-embracing variations on the human figure theme by Picasso. It is unavoidable. The only other similarity to be remarked is the visual shorthand which is Picasso’s single vital contribution to painting, and which Sutherland uses brilliantly. The fifth exhibitor at the Lefevre Galleries is a newcomer, though by no means one of the youngest painting generation, Francis Bacon, who shows a large, confused picture called Figure in a Landscape. He has power, and a personal quality which is almost entirely disguised in his other three exhibits. These are large studies for a Crucifixion which, unless he is the victim of a remarkable coincidence, are completely under the influence of one of Picasso’s epochs ; the so-called “Bone” period of 1932, when with spectacular cynicism Picasso reduced the gigantic achievement of Grunewald’s Isenheim Crucifixion to a series of french loaves, putty and damp cloth.

MICHAEL ARYTON

 

 

 

 

         AT THE LEFEVRE

 

 

 

By RAYMOND MORTIMER  |  NEW STATESMAN AND NATION  |  APRIL 14, 1945 

                               

AN imposing exhibition, English painting at its most imaginative. Frances Hodgkins must be thought the most successfully original of our living artists. The experience of a long life, eliminating all exterior influences, is behind these apparently careless works, each of which contains several inventions in colour as happy as they are unexpected. The earlier pictures, Cut Melons and Island Ferry (three figures that seem to have gone to sea in a sofa), are beautiful; the most recent works, painted at Purback, are even more beautiful. We are told that a painter called Francis Rose is going to exhibit his paintings in Paris, but I cannot help thinking that Miss Hodgkins should have priority in transport. She has other claims than his.  Matthew Smith—the usual dash and opulence ; also some watercolours of which one would like to see many more ; for the handling that in his oils grates upon the fastidious eye here becomes agreeable. Graham Sutherland—six oils and four gouaches. The Lamp and The Intruding Bull show Picasso prevailing entirely over Palmer among his ancestors. While scarcely less violent, the feeling is different ; but there is the same fabulous vitality and assurance in the putting on of paint. (Look at the flower, for instance, in The Intruding Bull.)

The two figure-pieces I consider the most impressive things Sutherland has exhibited. I wrote about his six years ago in terms that may have seemed extravagant, but which now seem commonplace. If he continues to fulfil himself he will be one of the great painters of our time. Francis Bacon—a newcomer, aged, we are told, thirty-four. Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion seem derived from Picassos Crucifixion, but further distorted, with ostrich necks and button heads protruding from bags—the whole effect gloomily phallic. (Bosch without the humour.) These objects are perched on stools, and depicted as if they were sculpture, as in the Picassos of 1930. The Figure in a landscape is no more engaging in form, but here the colour is more varied and the paint a beautiful mosaic. I have no doubt of Mr. Bacons uncommon gifts, but these pictures expressing his sense of the atrocious world into which we have survived seem to me symbols of outrage rather than works of art. If Peace redresses him, he may delight as he now dismays.

RAYMOND MORTIMER

 

 

 

 

Current Shows and Comments: On the Significance of a Word

 

 

 

HERBERT FURST | APOLLO | THE INTERNATIONAL ART MAGAZINE | VOLUME 41 | NUMBER 231 | MAY 1945

 

I, I must confess, was so shocked and disturbed by the Surrealism of Francis Bacon that I was glad to escape from this exhibition.

Perhaps it was the red background that made me think of entrails, of an anatomy or a vivisection and feel squeamish.

 

 

 

 

          LEFEVRE GALLERY

 

 

                   NEW ENGLISH PAINTINGS

 

 

THE ARTS  |  THE TIMES  |  TUESDAY FEBRUARY 19 1946

 

At the Lefevre Gallery, 131-134, New Bond Street, several English painters are exhibiting their recent works.

Mr. Julian Trevelyan, in his paintings of the Thames, which are both sensitive and highly original in colour, is the most obviously concerned with the art of painting; with most of the others the emphasis is on the invention of recondite symbols.

Mr. Graham Sutherland shows a large picture of thorny vegetation which depends for its interest on the vitality; analogous to that of an animal rather than a plant, which, the painter has read into the forms; its size brings out the absence of anything but a very simple pictorial scheme, and in a smaller work one could better appreciate the individual character of the forms.

In Mr. Lucian Freuds little pictures, for example, there is nothing to prevent one from appreciating his invention, his faculty for investing quite simple objects with a certain strangeness.

Mr. Robert Colquhoun uses an idiom based on Picassos later works, but as an illustrator he has something of his own to say; his schematic figures have a definite character of their own and suggest witches living in shabby, modern rooms, with their familiars, cat or canary.

In two large pictures Mr. Francis Bacon, a yet more deliberately sinister illustrator, does suggest, if one likes that kind of thing, that one has got into a room where a murderer has hastily tried to conceal a corpse. Mr. Ben Nicholson shows a number of his virtuous abstractions.

 

 

 

 

            MIXED FARE AT

              THE SUMMER

               EXHIBITIONS

 

 

 

BY ERIC NEWTON  |  THE SUNDAY TIMES  |  JULY 14, 1946

 

The summer season is getting into its stride, in which the galleries deck themselves out in heterogeneous attire and leave it to the visitor to pick his own favourites.

Such exhibitions, attractive though they may be to a public in search of representative cross-sections, are a plague to the critic since, having no common denominator, they cannot be described.

Two such exhibitions are the summer show at the Redfern Gallery and Currents of Post-Impressionism in France and England at Roland, Browse and Delbanco’s. This last presents a foreshortened view of what has happened In French and English painting since Cézanne’s revolt against the Impressionist creed.

It contains an exquisite Bonnard, painted at the age of 30, and a seascape by the same artist gainted nearly 40 years later, between those two dates occurred the revolution that forms the exhibition’s theme, but Bonnard was hardly touched by it. He merely became more and more adventurous and masterful in his handling of colour. In the same exhibition is the most expressive pencil drawing by Modigliani I remember to have seen.

 

BEWILDERMENT

The Redfern Gallery is over-crowded and diversified to the point of bewilderment, but the first room contains a picture by Francis Bacon that cannot easily be forgotten. Apart from its mood, which is terrifying by virtue of its structure and uncompromising colour, it owes much of its power to sheer size. And size involves a good deal more than square-footage.

It is easy enough to enlarge a picture if all the artist wants to produce is a certain area of painted canvas. But every work of art has an optimum size, and the remarkable thing about Mr. Bacon’s picture is that it could not conceivably have been smaller. This inherent bigness is one of the rarest qualities in contemporary British painting. Hardly ever does one come across a big picture that does not reveal its weakness by areas of meaningless paint, weak spots in the composition and a general air of having been diluted. Aesop’s frog eventually burst, but long before he burst be must have looked grotesquely inappropriate. But this picture is a giant in its own right.

Despite its proportions it is still compact. What its meaning may be, in literary terms, I cannot tell. But there is no doubt of its power to bite deeply and rather painfully into the visual memory.

 

 

 

 

THE REDFERN GALLERY

 

 

 

THE ARTS  |  THE TIMES  |  MONDAY JULY 29 1946

 

At the Redfern Gallery, 20, Cork Street, there is a large summer exhibition of several hundred French and English paintings, watercolours, drawings, and prints. One room is almost entirely given up to illustrations with a surrealist tendeiicy and abstract paintings. Among these Mr. Francis Bacon’s very large picture is easily the most alarming, and in a film this extraordinary vision might well make one jump out of one’s seat; as such, or con- ceived as an illustration in a book, it would be more easily justified than as a large canvas which one would hardly know what to do with if it was left on one’s hands.

Mr. Andrd Masson’s “Champ de Blé” is interesting because it is organized as an abstract picture, but the various apparently disconnected motives give the whole a sharp flavour of some real and attractive scene. Among other interesting works in this most varied exhibition are paintings by Bonnard, Vuillard, Derain, Matisse, and Picasso — none of these are works of the first importance — an unusual still-life by Utrillo, an opulent composition of nudes by Mr. Matthew Smith, “The Window” by Mr. Julian Trevelyan, which has both charm and originality of vision, “Woman in Blue Dress” by Spencer Gore, and “Tangerines and Pomegranates” by Mark Gertler.

 

 

 

 

THE ANGLO-FRENCH ART CENTRE

 

 

 

THE ARTS  |  THE TIMES  |  SATURDAY DECEMBER 14 1946

 

At the Anglo-French Art Centre, 29, Elm Tree Road, St. John’s Wood, there is an exhibition, which is afterwards to be shown in Paris, of the work of six English painters, Mr. Jankel Adler, Mr. Francis Bacon, Mr. Robert Colquhoun, Mr. Edgar Hubert, Mr. Robert MacBryde, and Mr. Julian Trevelyan.

The catalogue suggests that other such exhibitions, to be held both in London and Paris, may follow, and that the object is to show what is most representative of painting in England; obviously the present works, if taken by themselves, are quite inadequate to represent the main trends of English painting at the present time, since there is no artist here who accepts a realistic approach. Mr. Adler, Mr. Colquhoun, Mr. Hubert., and Mr. MacBryde use the language of abstract painting very seriously, but with individual accents of their own.

Mr. Francis Bacon shows three really alarming but undoubtedly well-designed studies of what appear to be fragments from a dissecting-room, and Mr. Trevelyan a number of his characteristic genre paintings, which seem refreshingly light-hearted in this company and are painted with great tact and dexterity.

 

 


Round the London Art Galleries

 

 

 

                                          By WYNDHAM LEWIS

 

 

 

WYNDHAM LEWIS  |  ART  |  THE LISTENER  |  THURSDAY MAY 12 1949   

 

THE Hanover Gallery is soon to hold an exhibition of the work of Francis Bacon, among the most original of the young. One piece is already at the Gallery. But let me say at once that no man from the racecourse or from the Cup Tie crowd—the public of Sir Alfred Munnings’ choice—would greet this work with anything but derision. It is of a man with no top to his head. Not of course that this will be the only evidence in my article of how conspicuously I differ from Alfred the Great.

Bacon’s picture, as usual, is in lamp-black monochrome, the zinc white of the monster’s eyes glittering in the cold crumbling grey of the face. Bacon is a Grand Guignol artist: the mouths in his heads are unpleasant places, evil passions make a glittering white mess of the lips. There are, after all, more things in heaven and earth than shiny horses or juicy satins. There are the fleurs du mal for instance.

Of the new shows at the Hanover, Sigmund Politzer’s button-studded cypriot chairs, though good, are less substantial than Charles Howard’s abstractions. Of his hard, polished, and immaculate arrangements, I prefer “Matement”, “Ultimate Recesses”, and still more “The Improved Dilemma”.

 

 

 

 

Double Bass and Piccolo

 

 

                                By ERIC NEWTON

 

 

ERIC NEWTON  |  ART GALLERIES  |  THE SUNDAY TIMES  |  SUNDAY, 13 NOVEMBER, 1949   

 

SOMETIMES the film industry (which has nothing to learn about advertising) says, in effect. Don’t go too see this one if you don’t want to be disturbed by nightmares.

The warning has, of course, no deterring effect on audiences. We rather like the delicious frisson; we even complain if we don’t get it. So, I imagine, I shall do Francis Bacon no serious harm if I apply the same words to his paintings at the Hanover Gallery.

I do find them horrifying, and nightmare is the precise word for the kind of horror they induce in me. It is a vague horror, engendered by no definite subject-matter nor even by a deliberate attempt to invent blood-chilling symbols, but by that sense of something sinister and unseen just round the corner that is typical of certain dreams. It is like the unexplained scream in the night or the touch of a slimy hand or an atmosphere that is too damp and stagnant to breathe. It is an implied horror, inherent in the way of painting rather than in the thing painted.

That involves, surely, great artistry if not a great artist. Bacon is a visionary with an unusually complete vision. His colour schemes (leaden greys of great subtlety relieved by an unearthly pink) are an integral part of the vision. Even from a monochrome reproduction of one of his paintings one would know the colour of the original. That can only happen when an artist is in full control of his medium and leaves nothing to chance. Nothing would induce me to buy one of his paintings, but a representative collection that did not contain one would lack one of the most definite and articulate statements made by contemporary art.

Robin Ironside at the same gallery plays piccolo to Mr. Bacon’s double bass. He has a charming talent for sentimental, small-scale rococo. He manufactures fairy-tales steeped in sophisticated innocence Versailles and twilight. With Gallic fairies masquerading as Italian nymphs or minor Greek gods.

An event of considerable importance has just occurred. The New Burlington Galleries have been acquired by the Arts Council and are now open again after an interval of 10 years.

That may not sound very significant until one remembers that London is the worst equipped of all great European cities to show large travelling exhibitions, that travelling exhibitions are among the most heartening of post-war attempts to civilise the world and that their frequent arrivals and departures have seriously interfered with the routine of our own national museums and galleries. A man needs pockets to contain major odds and ends, otherwise his hands will never be free for everyday work. This gallery is a much needed pocket.

The present excellent exhibition shows a selection from the works of art in the possession of the British Council and the Arts Council.

 

     

 


Round the London Art Galleries

 

 

 

By WYNDHAM LEWIS  |  ART  |  THE LISTENER  |  NOVEMBER 17, 1949   

 

There are half-a-dozen very interesting exhibitions this month, from the Belgian Baron, the Rousseau of Big Business, served up by the London Gallery, Brook Street, all the way back to Ethel Walker at the Lefevre Gallery, who has been called the G.O.W. of English Impressionism. She was a pillar of the New English in its palmy days and when Sickert and Speer both both died in 1942, Now I am the only painter left in England! she exclaimed, aghast at her solitary eminence. Or that is the story. It is easy to understand what an outstanding Impressionist must have felt confronted with that double demise. Miss Walker might have felt a little less like the last of her tribe, or of a great race, had she known that in Euston Road a group of painters had sworn that Impressionism should not die. French Impressionists (of the last phase) are to be seen at the same Gallery BonnardDans le Jardin is an oasis of peaceful power and beautyor so it seems as I look back, for immediately afterwards I went to Francis Bacons exhibition at the Hanover Gallery whose world is as far as it is possible to get from the robust serenity of French painting of the Impressionist school.

 This Hanover Gallery show, however, is of exceptional importance. Of the younger painters none actually paints so beautifully as Francis Bacon. I have seen painting of his that reminded me of Velasquez and like that master he is fond of blacks. Liquid whitish accents are delicately dropped upon the sable ground, like blobs of mucus—or else there is the cold white glitter of an eyeball, or of an eye distended with despairing insult behind a shouting mouth, distended also to hurl insults. Otherwise it is a baleful regard from the mask of a decaying clubman or business executive—so decayed that usually part of the head is rotting away into space. But black is his pictorial element.

 

 

       

            Study for Nude (1949), by Francis Bacon, from the exhibition at the Hanover Gallery

 

 

 

 

         At the Galleries

 

 Nightmare

 

 

        By NEVILE WALLIS 

   

 

 

NEVILE WALLIS  |  THE OBSERVER  |  SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 1949   

 

IT is not surprising that the paintings of Francis Bacon at the Hanover Gallery should have aroused much interest in a literary circle where art is held to be significant only if it is symptomatic of its time. For Bacon’s work is the most profoundly disquieting manifestation I have yet seen of that malaise which, since the last war, has inspired the philosophy of Sartre and the drama of frustration of Tennessee Williams.

Nevertheless, if all twelve works had been conceived in the manner of three studies of reptilian creatures, painted in 1945, I should have ignored the exhibition on the ground that these were pathological documents — authentic as such revelations are, but too sickening to dwell on and (in my view) outside the scope of rational art criticism.

The recent paintings, however, horrifying though they are, clearly cannot be ignored. Technically they are superb, and the masterly handling of large areas of pearly grey, flushed with a sudden pink or green, only makes me regret the more that the artist’s gift should have been brought to subjects so esoteric.

Brooding over these pictures a second time, I became aware of their affinity with Marcel Duchamp’s sensational paintings on glass produced at the beginning of the first war. In Bacon’s canvases, the indication of a glass screen enclosing his silently shrieking figures seems to symbolise the frustration of the individual who can see, but cannot reach or affect, the awful prospect before him. It is not difficult to find a literary parallel in Kafka’s nightmares of frustration, which largely owed their inspiration to Kierkegaard’s philosophy of despair.

I do not question the artist’s right to discover a visual equivalent for the images provoked by the conflict of his mind. But I reaffirm that in certain cases it is impossible to apply the normal canons of art criticism.

*

It is a relief to turn to the delicate fantasies of  Robert Ironside on the first floor of this gallery. Surrealist without the frisson, these watercolours offer us glimpses of enchantment: here a tranced company on a moonlit terrace, there the nightingale triumphant over all the other musical instruments. Even the titles are evocative, though “Gardens in the rain with a flock of deer” fails to conjure up the vision of pleasure-domes and statuary and ornamental water which exist only in the dominion of Kubla Khan.

At the Arts Council’s premises at 4. St James’s-square an important exhibition of modern German graphic art, arranged by the Institute of Contemporary Arts, includes examples of the work of leading expressionists and offers evidence of the influence of Henry Moore on some of the younger German artists.

 

 

 

Survivors 

 

 

 TIME  |  NOVEMBER 21, 1949  

 

One of England’s most original painters is a baby-faced 39-year-old named Francis Bacon, and one of the most original things about him is that he has destroyed some 700 canvases to date. "The trouble with Francis," a London friend of Bacon’s explained last week, "is that if you fail to go into raptures over one of his finished works, he decides it’s no good and tears it up. If you become enthusiastic he begins to worry, decides he doesn’t trust your judgment anyway, and that your enthusiasm proves it’s a bad picture. Into the dustbin it goes, too."

Bacon’s first exhibition, which opened in a London gallery last week, represented a minor triumph for his tight, bright little circle of admirers. By dint of carefully mingled rapture and doubt, they had persuaded him to save twelve canvases for the show. Whether his twelve survivors represented a triumph for Bacon was another question. The paintings did not look like the work of a perfectionist. Done in an elaborately sketchy technique, they were remarkable chiefly for horror. Among them were studies of lumpish, long-necked figures squatting on tabletops, a sinister) male nude disappearing through a curtain, and half a man firing half a machine gun.

Horrible or not, said Bacon, his pictures were not supposed to mean a thing. "They are just an attempt to make a certain type of feeling visual . . . Painting is the pattern of one’s own nervous system being projected on canvas."

Like most modern artists, Bacon is more concerned with technique than subject matter; textures trouble him particularly. "One of the problems," he mused last week, "is to paint like Velasquez but with the texture of a hippopotamus skin." That problem alone, as even a fool could plainly see, might require the destruction of another 700 canvases.

 

 

 


MR. FRANCIS BACON

 

 

 

ART EXHIBITIONS  |  THE TIMES  |  TUESDAY NOVEMBER 22 1949 

 

Mr. Francis Bacon, whose paintings are shown at the Hanover Gallery, 32A, St. George Street, is a very capable artist; there is some breadth in his drawing and his paint is laid on in a workmanlike way. But the subjects of his pictures are so extraordinary, and, indeed, so extremely repellent, that it is scarcely possible to consider anything else. His themes are as vivid and as meaningless as a nightmare and they leave in the mind precisely the same long-continued feeling of disquiet as a thoroughly bad dream.

Perhaps the nastiest of his ideas is what seems to be some sort of visceral specimen, a pale and flabby bag of flesh terminating in a tube in the cross-section of which there is a mouth with highly realistic teeth in it.

But much more frightening are his realistic figures behind half-transparent curtains—there are several showing a huge and brutal man with his mouth wide open as if shouting at the top of his voice—for these leave the most vivid impression that there is some act of frightful violence and cruelty being committed half out of sight.

All this could, no doubt, be dismissed as the nonsense that it sounds like if Mr. Bacon had not used considerable power of imagination and pictorial skill, thereby producing something which it is impossible not to think worse than nonsense, as the “Head: II,” which appears to be a mutilated corpse, most certainly is.

At the same gallery Mr. Robin Ironside shows a number of decorations in the rococo style, with sophisticated modern additions, very precisely and neatly executed and with a great profusion of detail.

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

                                   ART IN LONDON

 

    Paintings, Pleasant and Unpleasant

 

               FRANCIS BACON STUDIES

 

 

 

                      From Our London Art Critic

 

 

EXHIBITIONS  |  THE SCOTSMAN  |  SATURDAY NOVEMBER 26 1949  

 

If you can imagine a tardily evolved creature which had slithered out from below a large stone that had been in a noisome cellar for a century or two, you will be able to get a faint idea of the sort of thing that Francis Bacon shwos in the exhibition of his works at the Hanover Gallery.

As the various works are identified “Study I: 1945,” “Study II: 1945,” and so on, only the most meticulous note-taking could make a description possible; and as the bilk of the heads and figures are like nothing ever imagined on sea or land, a description would hardly be of much use in any case.

A snake with a head which had melted in the making, a huge figure, half-man, half-gorilla making its exist through curtains, or just an ordinary portrait with the top part of the head disappearing in a mist — these are simply shots. This curious disintegration is said to be an interpretation of the age: a sort of prophetic picture of something connected with the atom. The artist, however, is not the one who makes these strange claims. He lets his works speak for themselves.

 

HORRIBLE SINCERITY”              

 

Make no mistake about it, however, Francis Bacon is an artist. His amazing imagination has a vague coherence: his loathsome figures seem possible. He handles paint most convincingly. Though the paintings are horrible, they have a bigness about them that suggests sincerity.

When he paints part of the cardinal’s robe with the head dissolving into a gloom that might be a theatre box, there is something ghastly about it: this might happen. There is nothing cubist or abstract about these dreadful creations: it might be a real relief if there were were. It just looks as if someone carrying the whole of evolution on a tray had tripped up and smashed up the show.

Robin Ironide’s coloured drawings upstairs is on ground that is not wholly unfamiliar. His temples, broken statues, large moon and long stairways are in the tradition., though he has a lyrical, fanciful touch. “Gardens in the rain, with a flock of deer” for instance are just that. All the taps of heaven seem to be turned on and two dozen slight deer are enjoying the well-controlled deluge. “The Gondolas of Delos” features a flight of black pigeons across a staircase with gondolas skimming about in a maze of poetry.

 

DREAMSCAPES

 

Broken pieces of statuary, harps, and iron railings make up “The Traumatic Barricade.” The elongated figures and mysterious lighting are all part of the dreamscapes. The artist has grace and elegance and there is an aristocratic air about everything he touches. On the whole it is a pleasant antidote to the work dowstairs.

Needless to say The Society of Marine Artists do not indulge in any hanky-panky. While the bludgeoning work of Mr Bacon does make these painters look a little ordinary, they are something of a shelter from his bewildering other-worldliness.

“The Rigging and Sky” of Claude Muncaster is a splendid design with architectural dignity; “In Tow on the Flowing Tide” by Arthur J. W. Burgess is a fine study of wild water, and The Stranger” (an unknown vessel coming into port) by George F. Bradshaw has the serene loneliness of the sea, where any kind of intruder is immediately noticed.

It is always interesting to see a painter trying experiments. Sailing Days” by Leslie Kent is more fresh and vigorous than anything I have seen by this painter for a long time. Very amusing are the thickly populated works of E. G. Oakley-Beuttler. His “Frogmen Clearing Fouled Anchors” and the “Admiral’s Dilemma” with their jabbing swordfish and panic stricken victims are well planned compositions as well as amusing works. Other water colours worthy of note are Dover Harbour seen from high on the hill by Sydney Causer, and the limpid “Before the Race, Blakeney” by Martin Hardie.

 

 

 

 

 

FRANCIS BACON

 

 

 

ROBERT MELVILLE  |  HORIZON  DECEMBER 1949   

 

WHEN I was still in standard IV at an elementary school I read a single instalment of a serial story in another boy’s magazine, and although I recall only the last two or three sentences they have affected my whole life. A frightened man was crawling on his hands and knees along a dark tunnel; suddenly, in front of him, something gave off a soft, greenish glow. He stretched out his hand either to touch it or to ward it off, and the episode ended in these words: ‘Now it glowed on the tips of his fingers. It was luminous paint !’ I had never heard of such a dung: it introduced me to an inexplicable order of tangibility, and it gave me the first of my ‘giddy turns’, for the dark tunnel, the man’s fear and the exclamation mark combined with my ignorance to transform luminous paint into a kind of live but phantasmal tissue.

Several years ago, when I saw the name of a magazine, La Révolution Surréaliste, light up in a dark room and appear to print itself on the air, I was pleased but not shaken; it was the merest graph of what I understood by luminous paint. My ‘real thing’ gave off energies not to be found in the commercial product that goes by the same name.

At widely separated intervals, I have been confronted by two pictures whose matière had exactly the same vertiginous effect upon me as the uncanny aeruginous substance that I found in the tunnel. One of them was Cézanne’s   ‘Boy in a Red Waistcoat’, in a Swiss collection; the other was a picture of cypresses, brought over from Holland for the big Van Gogh show, before which I found myself preparing to slip between the grooves of its wonderful black-green paint, in the way that one teeters before entering a revolving door. The images meant nothing to me; the cypresses were commonplace, and even the boy in the red waistcoat seemed an inert object on which the paint had settled. But throughout the present year I have seen seven or eight new paintings by Francis Bacon in which the image has a call upon the entire oblong of paint, and the paint is the sacred substance of the tunnel.

I may yet have to admit that the factors in my make-up which predispose me to an uncritical acceptance of Bacon’s pictures of men and curtains are too strong to allow validity to any attempt on my part to make an objective assessment of their place in contemporary painting. In front of these pictures, which are the colour of wet, black snakes lightly powdered with dust, which use small white arrows and safety pins as exclamation marks, and which manifest so eerie a collusion between man and curtain that the paint seems the issue of their interpenetration, I have a desire to feel the rich grey matière on my hands, but. above all I feel at home in their atmosphere, I feel that ‘nothing is missing’. All the same, the purpose of this note is to show that Bacon’s pictures not only exist in the same sphere of feeling as Picasso’s analytical cubism and Duchamp’s futurism, but rectify an anomaly in their language.

The direction and accentuation of his temperament, which leads him to propound an hallucinatory condition as a primary attribute of man, recalls Dostoevsky and Kafka; but in terms of visual association the parallels that propose themselves come from the silent cinema. The obsolete technique of acting in silent films — its system of explanatory gestures and facial movements-now seems like the badly concealed agitation of the actors themselves, breaking through the parts they play: in retrospect, the wooden gestures and grimaces of Edna Purviance, and the blood, the crumpled pince-nez and the soundless scream of the woman shot through the eye in Eisenstein’s ‘Odessa Steps’ sequence seem involuntary disclosures of the soul’s maladies. In the period when American films were making their first noises, the silent technique was consciously exploited and perfected in the Buñuel-Dali film, Un Chien Andulou, to afford, in the words of Palinurus, who attended its premi6re in 1929, a ‘glimpse of the fires of despair and frenzy which were smouldering beneath the complacent post-war world’. I believe that Un Chien Andulolr has greater visual force and lucidity than anydung achieved in the art of painting between the two wars, and that only the recent paintings of Francis Bacon have discovered a comparable means of disclosing the human condition, or are capable of producing-to quote Pahurus again -the same ‘tremendous feeing of excitement and liberation’.

Every activity in these paintings of men going in and out of curtains, or imprisoned in transparent boxes, has an air of extreme hazard, and this powerful overtone obscures the modernity of Bacon’s formal resources. He is probably the only important painter of our time who is exclusively preoccupied with man, and his innate tendency to comment upon and expose the state of the human soul-which relates him to Goya, Daumier and ToulouseLautrec-is the incalculable factor in his readjustment of cubist seeing.

He is as much concerned with the ambiguity of the boundaries of figures in space as Picasso in his analytical cubist pictures, and as much concerned with the further ambiguity of the boundaries of figures when in motion as Duchamp in ‘Nu descendant un escalier’ and ‘Le Roi et la Reine travers6s par de Nus vites’. He shares their sense of fluctuating depth and undelimited form, but not their mode of presentation.

Picasso and Duchamp expressed this conception of reality in elaborate linear structures; Bacon expresses it, with more congruity, in painterly terms, for it is essentially an augmentation of baroque notions about appearance. Picasso and Duchamp imposed upon themselves the task of exploring the indefinite and the immediate with a hear system that could only resort to fragmentation. This is not a criticism. Their pictures made between 1910 and 1912 are far and away the most beautiful and moving achievements of twentieth-century painting, but their facets and multiple planes form a complex, difficult, and, for most people, excessively mandarin language. They must have been aware of some anomaly in their approach, for both artists abandoned their systems; yet, strictly speaking, there have been no new developments in painting since that time; the concept has been weakened and misunderstood, it has not been superseded.

At one moment, Tchelitchew seemed on the point of realizing that a painterly system was the logical next step. His ‘Nude in Space’, painted in 1926, brilliantly fuses two views of a figure with uneven thicknesses of paint, and it is probable that Bacon has taken a hint from this quarter. Then again, in 1939, Matta clearly felt that the frustrations of modernism were located in the linear method. But he achieved only a painterly fragmentation and somehow failed to perceive that Picasso and Duchamp were making statements about exterior reality. Mabille would have us believe that Matta is a realist, but a painter can only become a realist through a study of forms in space, and Matta’s romantic evocations of a scientifically discovered world invisible to the naked eye are in fact phantasies.

Bacon never makes a drawing. He starts a picture with a loaded one-inch brush of the kind that ironmongers stock, and almost the entire work is painted with such brushes. In these broad brushstrokes, modernism has found its skin: the ‘works’ no longer show.’

It isn’t, of course, a simple matter of doing cubism over again, with thick brushes instead of thin ones. In releasing modern painting from the machinery of hear construction, Bacon makes a typically baroque statement: he gives reality to an illusion, and his pictures do not invite the spectator to investigate the means.

The hole of a screaming mouth is sometimes the point of deepest recession in these pictures; or a little white arrow floats in front of the canvas and the rest of the picture starts at a depth which the eye judges to be behind the canvas; the canvas is thus rendered non-existent. But nothing can enter Bacon’s pictures and remain abstract, and a small thing-an arrow or a safety pins anything but unassuming in a world of large, undetailed forms. It is like a fly in a prison cell. It assumes the proportions of a Visitor, or a Familiar, or even a Warder. The fact that nothing wd be discovered about it increases its reality.

A man turns his head and stares out of a picture through pince-nez; I am more conscious of the stare than of the eyes; the play of intervals between the eyes, the rims of the glasses and the shadows of the rims is further information about the stare-the man is ‘holding something back’; I do not dunk about spatial concepts when examining the relationship between head and curtain-I am too subdued by the fact that the curtain is sucking away the substance of the head; the subtle pinkish beige paint that dabbles and creates the face is an exquisite foil to the greys, but how did this man come to get a skin of such a disquieting texture? I cannot divorce the facture from what it forms. I am prevented from going through my usual routine of art appreciation. Modern painting has suddenly been humanized.

Bacon is not making it any easier to paint pictures. His known works are few in number because he is compelled to destroy many canvases. When he works on a canvas, intellect, feeling, automatism and chance, in proportions which he will never be able to calculate in advance, sometimes come to an agreement. During the last twelve months these agreements have been more frequent; therein lies a hope for painting.

 

 

 

 

      FRENCH AND ENGLISH ART

 

                  NEW TRENDS IN PAINTING

                           AND SCULPTURE

 

 

EXHIBITIONS   |  ART  |  THE TIMES  |  TUESDAY  MARCH 14 1950        

 

The Institute of Contemporary Arts has arranged an imposing exhibition in the New Burlington Galleries of the work of 16 French and English painters and sculptors with the idea of showing new trends in painting and sculpture.”

The task of the selection committee, however meritorious, can hardly have been enviable; by what inner light, it may be wondered, was it possible to decide what really amounts, among all the wildly divergent eccentricities which they seem to have spent their whole time in inspecting, either to anything that can be called a trend or even, when one of the younger painters from Paris is laboriously imitating Paul Klee, to anything that can possibly be described as new?

Nevertheless, an authoritative voice from Paris explains that there is a school which seeks to take up again the impressionist experiment just where it bad been left by the Impressionists, and there seems to be some connexion between this aspiration and the paintings of M. Jean Bazaine; he does at any rate compose competent abstract paintings out of patches of bright colour which resemble, though they are much larger, those of Signac. and he provides titles such as Winter, which suggest, though the paintings themselves do not, that he has looked at a particular scene. M. Henri-Georges Adam is a sculptor and engraver; his Horned Beast, is an abstraction from animal forms, but his engravings are more geometrical; he is said to have developed from these a new technique in tapestry which turns out, on inspection, to be the idea of weaving a tapestry in black and white.

Among the English paintings are characteristic works by Mr. Francis Bacon and Mr. John Craxton; Miss Isabel Lambert, who two years ago was painting skeletons of birds and fishes very precisely in monochrome, has this year done figures whose sound drawing could be more easily appreciated if she had not done something to the outlines which resembles the effect of getting the eyes out of focus. Mr. Lucian Freud is perhaps, after all, the most serious of the painters here; he gets in, no doubt, because he has something like Beardsley’s faculty of making every form he draws look perverse, but in fact his disquieting portraits are very well painted and have a genuine unity of tone. The abstract sculpture of Mr. Robert Adams and Mr. R. Butler is thoroughly professional in workmanship.

 

 

 

 

Round the London Galleries

 

 

 

By WYNDHAM LEWIS   |   ART   |   THE LISTENER   |   MARCH 23 1950        

 

The New Burlington Galleries are in Old Burlington Street. And the Institute of Contemporary Art presents new trends in contemporary paintings and sculpture which in fact are old trends in painting and sculpture: so the New Gallery in the Old Street is symbolic. In the slip prepared for the press the claim to be showing something new is reiterated. The ballyhoo of newness again, is as old as the hills: and there is nothing novel here except that every individual is a little different from any other individual.

These remarks, provoked by the tone of the promoters of this very average modern picture show, does not mean that Bacons pictures are any less fine than when they were seen a few months ago at the Hanover; or that Craxtons big picture, or still better his Bathers near the Hotel is not very excellent, and the sculpture highly expressive. (Actually, if we are to put a premium on newness, the collateral descendant of Francis Bacon is the only relatively young artist so far qualifying.)

The French artists have been picked on account of (1) their relative youth, and (2) their abstractness. They are much less interesting than the English—if only because (in the end) a section of a brown check dressing-gown is less interesting than a man in a brown check dressing-gown: and ten brown or blue and green check dressing-gown sections mixed up into a solid brown check mass is not more interesting than one section. Yet a lot of painters and pundits seem to think it is.

 

 

 


NEW ACQUISITIONS AT

               THE TATE

 

 

                        OLD AND RECENT WORKS

 

 

THE ARTS  |  THE TIMES  |  FRIDAY JUNE 2 1950 

 

The Tate Gallery’s new acquisitions, which are on exhibition in Room 19 for a fortnight from yesterday, include a number of paintings and sculptures which are obviously intended to fill gaps in the collections of British and foreign art of the past or recent past.

Besides these, there are a few works which have been bought because it is also the gallery’s business to acquire examples, of contemporary art. Among these are a large piece of abstract sculpture in wrought iron by Mr. Reg Butler, which is certainly a good piece of craftsmanship, and one of the most unpleasant of all the products of Mr. Francis Bacon’s disquieting imagination, a large painting in which only those with the most iron nerves and settled stomachs will be able to perceive that there are passages of agreeable colour. A bronze by Giacometti, “Man Pointing” is an expressive work of some elegance, but it is impossible not to feel that it is also rather frivolous.

Two life-size bronzes by Renoir are no doubt the most impressive of the new acquisitions, but there are also an agreeable, though in no way exceptional, Gainsborough portrait, a Cornelius Johnson portrait, which no doubt fills a gap in the collection, a pleasing though preposterous painting by John Ward of a spaniel frightening ducks, an interesting early portrait of Lytton Strachey by Mr. Duncan Grant, a rather dark self-portrait by Owen John, a very fine cubist still-life by Juan Gris, and a moonlit landscape by Wright of Derby. The Duveen trustees have presented an admirable “Portrait of Dorelia” by Owen John.

A late work by Calvert, “Arcadian Shepherds moving flocks at dawn,” and a late Samuel Palmer, “A Dream in the Apennines,” are elaborate and ambitious compositions, both of them executed long after the inspiration of Blake and the romantic excitement of the artists’ youth had passed; they were bequeathed to the gallery by Mrs. H. P. Medlicott.

 

 

 

 

  60 ARTISTS TO EXHIBIT

        AT  1951 FESTIVAL

 

 

           ARTS COUNCIL INVITATION

 

 

HOME NEWS  |  THE TIMES  |  THURSDAY JULY 20 1950 

 

    To mark the 1951 Festival the Arts Council of Great Britain has invited 60 artists each to paint a large work, not less than 45in. by 60in., on a subject of their own choice. Five of these paintings will be bought by the Arts Council for £500 each, and the entire 60 will be exhibited in London and elsewhere to provide the opportunity for other purchases to be made. The following painters have accepted the Arts Council’s invitation, while certain others found themselves unable to participate in the scheme: —

    Leonard Appelbee, John Armstrong, Michael Ayrton, Francis Bacon, Keith Baynes, Vanessa Bell, Elinor Bellingham Smith, Martin Blochs, Robert Buhler, Edward Burra, Prunella Clough, Robert Colquhoun, Raymond Coxon, John Craxton, Roger de Grey, Roy dc Maistre, R. O. Dunlop, H. E. du Plessis, Merlyn Evans, Hans Feibusch, Lucian Freud, William Gear, William Gillies, Lawrcncc Gowing, Duncan Grant, Josef Hcrman, Patrick Heron, Tristram Hillier, lvon Hitchens, Mary Kessell.

    Henry Lamb, Lynton Lamb, Peter Lanyon, Louis Le Brocquy, L. S. Lowry, Robert MacBryde, Frances Macdonald, Cyril Mahoney, John Maxwell, Robert Medley, John Minton, Rodrigo Moynihan, John Nash, Ben Nicholson, Winifrcd Nicholson, Victor Pasmore, John Piper, Ceri Richards, William Roberts, Claude Rogers, William Scott, Matthew Smith, Ruskin Spear, Gilbert Spencer, Geoffrey Tibble, Julian Trevelyan, John Tunnard, Keith Vaughan, Carel Weight, and Bryan Wynter.

 

 

 

 

 

What is New at the Tate Gallery?

 

 

 

                                       By JOHN RICHARDSON

 

 

 

JOHN RICHARDSON | THE LISTENER | VOLUME 44 | NUMBER 1127 | THURSDAY AUGUST 31 1950    

 

HOW odd, I thought, to find an allusion to Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe in a White Paper! But the I began to realises that the Massey Report is really a very odd document. And to compare the Tate Gallery to Topsy who just ‘grow’d’ is typical of its whimsicality. Actually the Tate is not more like Topsy than any other museum. But it is a tiresome baby among museums, and one committee after another has tried to cope with its troubles. Not one of them, however, has been able to get anything effective done.

The important point is that the Tate has a duel function: to be at the same time the National Gallery of Modern Art, both British and Foreign. But the British School is always increasing in an uneven, top-heavy way, while the Foreign Schools get thinner and thinner as the National Gallery removes the finest works to Trafalgar Square. The discrepancy is now becoming enormous. And I want now to consider the purchasing policy of the present Trustees in relation to the two collections for which they are responsible.

First, the English School. For years it was an unwritten policy at the Tate to ignore pre-Hogarthian painters, so that even now its collection is weak in the seventeenth century and contains almost nothing earlier. The present Trustees, in line with the Massey Report, are making an effort to  rectify this. But so far they have only bought one seventeenth-century picture, and this by a Dutchman, Cornelius Johnson. Johnson worked for a time in England and therefore deserves his place in the gallery, but why represent him with a portrait painted after he had gone back to Holland? Another curious choice is the new Gainsborough. The Tate is not rich in good Gainsboroughs. But the polished-up remains of a mediocre portrait are hardly a worthy addition to a national museum. On the other hand, Wright of Derby’s ‘Lighthouse’ is an eminently sensible purchase, for hitherto he has been represented by only one picturehis large Caravaggiesque canvas, ‘The Experiment with an Air-Pump’. In the last few years, the neo-romantic paintersWright and his likehave become inordinately fashionable. And it must be admitted that they are often pleasing in an over-theatrical way. But we should not be misled into taking them too seriously. James Warda latter-day Stubbs who aimed at being a second Paul Potteris another of the painters I have in mind. With two recent additions, one bequeathed and one purchased, the Tate now owns at least twelve examples of this minor master; and that seems a great many. ‘The Spaniel Fighting Ducks’, a sort of imitation Oudry, is a charming and perhaps unusual work, but couldn’t the Trustees have spent their money on something more urgently needed  another Wootton or a Devis, for example?

As for the British School of the twentieth century, the Trustees have been buying good background stuff rather than outstanding worksbut then so little British painting of the last fifty years has been outstanding. A couple more Gwen Johns, one of them an excellent self-portrait, a Matthew Smith landscape, Robert Bevan’s ‘Cab Horse’, pictures by Wyndham Lewis and Jack Yates are all sensible and worthy additions to the English galleries. Only Augustus John’s portrait of Lord d’Abernon in his garter robes is an undeserving work. Here we have John at his most flashy, mismanaging the grand manner he once used to such good effect in the portrait of Madame Suggia. This, one of his best works, is no relegated to the backstairs. Modesty sits more happily on English shoulders and we have only to turn to Duncan Grant’s double-sided portrait for a really good example.

Perhaps the greatest problem facing the Trustees is to know which of our younger painters to represent. The Chantrey Bequest should have provided them with a valuable contemporary collection. But only now is this fund beginning to emerge as a real supporter. Recently, for instance, it bought Augustus John’s portrait of Matthew Smith, works by Edward Le Bas and Robert Buhler. The Cotemporary Art Society might also have made useful contributions. But its choice has been on the whole rather erratic and in any case it aims at providing contemporary paintings for so many other galleries besides. The largest contribution of recent years has been made by the War Artists Advisory Committee. The bulk of these works may not be more than pictorial journalism but at least they fill any number of in the representation of contemporary artists. Purchases out of the Tate’s own pocket are an odd assortment, but then perhaps there has been little enough for the Trustees to choose from. As far as painting goes, they have been content with only one large workanother Francis Bacon, ‘Figure in a Landscape’. I do not count this macabre piece among Bacon’s most successful efforts. It lacks spontaneity and the paint has died, rather as if the work did not come right the first time, nor even the second. Still I think that Bacon is more interesting than most of his generation. He has a conception and, what is rarer in an English artist, a personality. But the bulk of the Tate’s recent purchases consist of sculpture. The most important is the big new ‘Family Group’ by Henry Moore. This acquisition needs no justification, though one would have thought that the Tate possessed quire enough of Moore’s later work. But then it is to the Tate Gallery that anyone goes who wants to see  what Moore is doing, and we have to realise that he enjoys an international reputation. In English circles his influence appears most clearly in Barbra Hepworth’s ‘Biocentric Form’ which the Tate has just bought. Reginald Butler, on the other hand, has turned to Picasso for inspiration. But unfortunately he has not realised that  much of Picasso’s sculpture is light-hearted and experimentalintentionally so.  And so his construction of metal rods and pieces of scrap-iron is not only pointless but without the merits of a jeu d’esprit.

 

 

 


An Unhappy Genius

 

 

 

By ERIC NEWTON  |  THE SUNDAY TIMES  |  SEPTEMBER 17, 1950 

 

FRANCIS BACON’S present exhibition at the Hanover Gallery, like his last, makes me uneasy. It contains only three pictures that have not been seen in London before, but once seen they are neither easy to forget nor comforting to remember.

The usual pale and suggestively slimy pink forms emerge like unhappy ghosts from a surface of impenetrable, primeval grey. As these protoplasmic images take shape in the colourless void they find themselves entangled in a web constructed apparently of the shining edges of an invisible glass tank. Chaos is giving birth inelegantly to something vaguely powerful and monumental, but also to something quite unusually unpleasant. In fact, Mr. Bacon contrives to be both unforgettable and repellent at the same time.

Let no man say this is an easy thing to have done. It requires genius—an unhappy, desperate kind of genius—and a real understanding of the Grand Manner. I am not surprised to hear that Titian and Velasquez are the artists Mr. Bacon admires most, but I suspect that both of them would be a little surprised at the results of their disciple’s admiration.

Ii is a relief to turn in the upper half of the Gallery to a collection of small exhibition posters from Paris. Braque, Picasso, Miro, Matisse and others have an unfailing instinct foe the stylish, the inventive, the tasteful, the bold, and French printers and typographers have done wonders with the presentation of these charming trifles. Almost equally charming and trifling are a set of spirited little fantasies on Sicilian puppets seen against romantic Sicilian backgrounds. They are by a woman artist whose unfamiliar name is Hilly.

 

 

 

 

                  HANOVER GALLERY

 

 

MR. FRANCIS BACON’S PAINTINGS

 

 

 

HANOVER GALLERY  |  THE TIMES  |  FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 22 1950    

 

A group of large paintings by Mr. Francis Bacon, some of which have been shown before, is exhibited at the Hanover Gallery. For the most part they represent atrocities and torments, but with a certain vagueness and lack of definition which makes it just possible, though only just, to contemplate them without the extreme physical revulsion that a more exact delineation of such scenes would provoke.

Thus in one painting a naked figure, huge and misshapen, is placed near a machine-gun aimed directly at it, but the head has somehow been left out, not obviously, but as if this was a natural result of the artist’s loose technique of painting and his use of blurred contours, in much the same way, in fact, as details are omitted in a broadly painted landscape.

In one sense such ambiguity adds a new touch of horror, but it is at least in part a horror of the imagination rather than such as might be roused by a literal transcription of fact; by such means Mr. Bacon has, it must be admitted, achieved something that might almost be called a tragic interpretation, rather than a merely sensational record, of the new world of the concentration camp that faces the twentieth century.

But the pictures are so large and disquieting that in spite of the impressive powers that have evidently gone to their planning and execution one is forced to ask what purpose they can have; they would be impossible in any living room; there is no building of to-day in which they could fulfil the function of a painting of Hell in a medieval church; museums can and sometimes do take them, but there is something unsatisfactory, and much as if teapots were being made for the British Museum, about a picture that can find no other abode.

 

 

 

 

         At the Galleries

 

 

 Francis Bacon

 

 

        By NEVILE WALLIS 

   

 

 

NEVILE WALLIS  |  THE OBSERVER  |  SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 1950     

 

THE art of Francis Bacon, who shows some new paintings at the Hanover Gallery, is easier to discuss than to criticise. Baconian theorists abound, for his subjective painting with its sensational overtones obviously invites speculation. Indeed, this young painter has become accepted as a symbol of the unquiet mood of our time; and I myself, pondering over his shrieking figures imprisoned behind glass screens, have suggested various parallels such as Kafka’s nightmares of frustration.

But reflections of this kind are not true criticism, though they may pass as such with with the dilettantes who so engagingly kick up their heels in The Listener. The artist himself has told me that his motives are purely aesthetic. That his obsession is with formal qualities, with forms at once concrete and dissolving, with the substance and surface texture of pigment, with the belief that every stroke of paint laid down ought to be a self-sufficient expression of the artist’s idea. His reading, especially of Greek tragedy, had influenced his attitude and inevitably shaped his patterns; but he would have us judge his paintings simply as works of art without seeking to read into them a symbolism never consciously premeditated.

*

Those, I do not doubt,  are his motives so far as words can express them. But the spectator’s principal concern is with appearances. Consider now his large sketch in oils for a Crucifixion. Below the wounded body suspended in space crouches a hideous winged monster which one might believe represented the embodiment of pain. Beyond and indifferent to the eternal mystery, motorists flash along a parade. Who can ignore the allusive content of this painting? Who, first seeing them, can fail to be disquieted by Bacon’s  more disturbing works and seek to solve their enigmas? To my mind it is when it is least enigmatic that his art is most impressive. Then, without needless distraction, one may observe the indication of the human form, adumbrated yet substantial, built up of delicate highlights, some harmony of grey flecked with white as telling  as the glittering sword-hilt against the cloak of Velasquez’s  Philip IV, or the sudden dramatic irruption of clotted pigment (in which wisps of wool are partially absorbed) on a thinly stained canvas.

*

I had hope to see his three studies from Velasquez’s paining of Innocent X, long worked on and I was told his finest achievement. Dissatisfied he had destroyed them all. Who can doubt the integrity of this restless independent mind? And who can say that, but for an urge to give expression to the pictorially inexpressible, Francis Bacon might not be numbered among the few outstanding painters of this century?

 

 

 

 

MODERN BRITISH PAINTING

 

 

            UNITED STATES EXHIBITION

 

 

THE ARTS  |  THE TIMES  |  TUESDAY OCTOBER 3 1950 

 

A touring exhibition of contemporary British painting, organized by the English-Speaking Union of the United States, is to open in New York on October 17. The exhibition is entitled Fifty Years of British Art and has been designed as a brief but carefully chosen anthology from the early Sickert down to the present time. It represents the work of 29 painters and is limited to 50 pictures.

The organization of the exhibition has been wade possible by the generosity of public galleries, of institutions, and, above all, of private collectors who, in spite of the heavy toll upon their resources levied for the public good by such bodies as the British Council and the Arts Council, have almost unfailingly cooperated in the unions undertaking. Among the earlier pictures in the exhibition are Mr. Augustus Johns Portrait of Bernard Shaw, lent by the Queen; Sickerts Interior of St Marks, lent by the trustees of the Tate Gallery; and Sir William Rothensteins Portrait of Augustus John as a Young Man, lent by the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool. The earlier section of the exhibition also includes works by Gore, Gilman, and Innes. Among the pictures representing the most recent developments in English art are Mr. Francis Bacon’s Head and Monkey and Mr. Lucian Freuds Nude”.  Also included in the exhibition are examples of the art of Mr. Duncan Grant, Mr. Ben Nicholson, and Mr. David Jones.

As a whole, the selection, which has been made by Mr. Robin Ironside with the help of Sir Kenneth Clark and Mr. Raymond Mortimer, is said to emphasize on the one hand the persistent vigour of Sickertian impressionism as it has been developed by such painters as Mr. William Coldstream and Mr. Victor Pasmore, and, on the other, the romantic reaction led by Mr. Graham Sutherland, Mr. Henry Moore, and Mr. John Piper.

The pictures will be on view in New York for a fortnight and will afterwards be shown in 10 other cities, including Washington, Chicago, and Boston

 

 

 

 

LONDON ART EXHIBITIONS

 

 

By Our London Art Critic

 

THE SCOTSMAN  |  TUESDAY, OCTOBER 10, 1950   

 

Notes on two other London Art exhibitions may be added to those published in Saturday’s issue.

At the Hanover Gallery, Francis Bacons recent paintings of the Magdalen are less horrifying and more empty than usual; but, if anything, the mans great gifts as a painter are re-emphasised. Hilly, in the upstairs gallery, is having a fine game with his "Fighting Fools" in their golden armour. The glass seems to have been squeezed hard against the wet paint to give a new texture to these ghosts of Don Quixote.

At the Lefevre Gallery, Ben Nicholson still makes me wonder whether he is a mathematician timidly enamoured of paint, or a painter fascinated by the elementary shapes of geometry. It is all slight, charming, and amusing, or, if you are bent on analysing the great compositions of the masters and resolving them into their simplicities, you may even say it is all very profound.

 

 

    

 

 

 


British Art Covering 5 Decades

     To Have Preview Here Tonight

 

 

 

By ALINE B. LOUCHHEIM  |  THE NEW YORK TIMES  TUESDAY, OCTOBER 17, 1950 

 


An official preview of an exhibition representing the last fifty years of British art will be held tonight at the Knoedler Galleries, 14 East Fifty-seventh Street, for the benefit of the English-Speaking Union, which is sponsoring the show.

The paintings and water-colors are on loan from important British collections, including that of Queen Elizabeth. They are selected by Robin Ironside, painter and critic, with the cooperation of Sir Kenneth Clark, former director of London’s National Gallery, who has written the catalogue forward.

The exhibitions shows the work of those men close to the turn of the century who were influenced by French Impressionism and by the native styles of Constable and Turner and the Anglicized Whistler.

The romantic approach is apparent throughout the exhibition. It is felt in the tender, yet purposeful, water-colors by Paul Nash and in the wild Wuthering Heights mystery of John Piper’s work. In a more violent form, the sense of nature’s fierceness comes through in Graham Sutherland’s paintings of hills and thorn trees. Some of Henry Moore’s shelter-drawings are also included.

Among those whose styles show connections with continental surrealism is Lucien Freud and son-in-law of the sculptor Jacob Epstein. A more personal kind of emotional expressionism is found in two haunting, awesome paintings by Francis Bacon, descendant of the Elizabethan philosopher. These weird, brooding figure-pieces give twentieth-century overtones to visions as eerie as those in a Gothick novel.

Two portraits are of special interest. Coldstream has painted the poet Auden in a quiet, contemplative mood, while Augustus John has captured some of the dry wit of Bernard Shaw in the picture which was lent by Queen Elizabeth. It is too bad that Sutherland’s portrait of Somerset Maugham also could not have been included, for it would have made an interesting contrast.

Among lenders to the exhibition are Sir Kenneth Clark, Mr. Tree, Lady Keynes, Sir Edward Marsh, Mr. Eric Newton, Sir Colin Anderson, Mr. Peter Lanyon, Mrs. Cazalet-Keir, Mr. L. McCormick-Goodhart, Hon. Edward Sackville-West, Mr. Whitney Straight, the Contemporary Art Society and the Tate Gallery.

The exhibition will run until Oct. 28. Then it will travel to several museums throughout the country.

 

 


‘Shall we buy this painting?’

 

 

— LEEDS ART FUND QUESTION

 

 

THE YORKSHIRE POST  |  LEEDS  |  THURSDAY, DECEMBER 14, 1950 

 

Subscribers to the Leeds Art Collections Fund are to be asked to say whether they support the purchase of one of the remarkable paintings by Francis Bacon at present on show in the exhibition of contemporary British art at the Leeds Art Gallery.

In a letter to them, Mr. Ernest L Musgrave, Director of the Gallery and hon. secretary of the Fund, explains that the exhibition was originally suggested by the Committee of the Fund. Feeling that some of the accumulated fund might be used to buy the work of the more advanced contemporary British painters not yet represented in the Leeds collection, he says, the Committee proposed the holding of the exhibition in order that they might consider purchases.

Your Committee has now met. he adds, and after careful thought has selected eight works, the prices of which total £400.

 

Outstanding

 

There remains the question whether to buy one of the Francis Bacon paintings. Mr. Musgrave continues: One artist whom the Committee considers to be of unusual interest was Francis Bacon. There was a strong feeling that the large Painting, 1950, No.7 in the catalogue, was outstanding, characteristic and worthy of consideration. The price, however, is considerably more that the Fund usually spends on one picture, and it was agreed that subscribers might be invited to give their opinion on its purchase.

The letter ends by saying that the Committee would appreciate an expression of subscribers’ views on the matter and ask them to send a letter or postcard to the hon. secretary at Temple Newsam House.

Francis Bacon’s Painting, 1950 is priced at £285 in the catalogue. The artist is a collateral descendant of Sir Francis Bacon, the great Elizabethan. His canvases which show great mastery of the medium of oil paint, are often enigmatic and disturbing in their subject matter. Examples of his works have been bought by the Tate Gallery, the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Contemporary Art Society.

 

Problem picture of 1950 

 

Lively discussion should be created among subscribers to the Leeds Art Collections Fund by the decision of the Committee to ask their views about the purchase of one of Francis Bacon’s paintings. He is among the more advanced artists whose work is now on show at Leeds Art Gallery.

In "Painting, 1950," the work upon which subscribers are being asked to express an opinion, a naked figure of a man seen standing in a sombre interior. His pinkish flesh gleams in the grey atmosphere which surrounds him, and behind him is a shadow, conveying a feeling of menace. Towards the bottom of the picture is a broad patch of red.

When I spoke about the picture to the Director of Leeds Art Gallery, Mr. E. L. Musgrave, last night, he said: The painting seems to me to express the tension and disquiet we feel at the moment. All the distrust and secretiveness which we sense about us in this threatening world of 1950 is summed up in this picture. That is how I interpret it.

Do the subscribers to the fund wish to spend their money on a painting which sums up our contemporary situation in this way? Do they feel that Francis Bacon’s paintings will have valuable significance for later generations of Leeds citizens, trying to understand what it felt like to live in this age? I cannot pretend to answer these questions: but I applaud the democratic way in which the Committee of the Art Collections Fund have decided to consult those whose money they have in trust.

 

 


        Puzzle picture

              of 1950:

 

      ‘ugly’ . . ‘vivid’

 

 

 

THE YORKSHIRE POST  |  LEEDS  |  SATURDAY, DECEMBER 30, 1950

 

A picture by Francis Bacon, priced at £285, now on show at Leeds Art Gallery, has aroused friendly controversy among members of the Leeds Art Collections Fund.

Mr. Ernest L Musgrave, Director of the Gallery and honorary secretary of the Fund wrote to members asking them whether they thought the picture should be bought for the city’s permanent collection. A large canvas in oils, it is titles simply Painting (1950) and shows the naked figure of a man against vivid stripes. The central panel  is surrounded by rectangles, black on each side, blue at the top and red at the bottom.

A decision will be made by a committee of the Fund, to meet next Friday.

 

‘Mankind in darkness’

 

Remarks from replies to Mr. Musgrave’s letter include:—

I do not know what the picture represents. Apparently the artist does not know either. He has been unable to give it a name to distinguish it from any other picture.

... To me it represented most vividly mankind, today, walking in darkness.

It is the outstanding work in the exhibition. . . . There is something elemental in its expression of aggressive brute strength and courage.

I think he (Francis Bacon) is a painter of considerable power whose works will outlast some at least of the others. . . . .

I am entirely in favour  of buying one of the Bacons, though I think they are all perfectly revolting.

"The painting gives me no pleasure at all; therefore, it should not be bought.

It is incredibly ugly. The colour is almost childish and an eyesore.

I like the colour, but I think the symbolism and meaning of the picture are a bit obscure.

 

‘Not intended to be pleasant’

 

Mr. Musgrave told The Yorkshire Post yesterday that there is a majority against buying the picture but the minority in favour of buying it is strong.

It is a good thing for people to be persuaded to think seriously about one particular work of art, he said.

Some people have made the mistake of trying to find pleasure in the picture, which is not supposed to give pleasure but to arouse emotions which are not necessarily pleasant.

In Painting, 1950, the work upon which subscribers are being asked to express an opinion, a naked figure of a man seen standing in a sombre interior. His pinkish flesh gleams in the grey atmosphere which surrounds him, and behind him is a shadow, conveying a feeling of menace. Towards the bottom of the picture is a broad patch of red.

When I spoke about the picture to the Director of Leeds Art Gallery, Mr. E. L. Musgrave, last night, he said: The painting seems to me to express the tension and disquiet we feel at the moment. All the distrust and secretiveness which we sense about us in this threatening world of 1950 is summed up in this picture. That is how I interpret it.

Do the subscribers to the fund wish to spend their money on a painting which sums up our contemporary situation in this way? Do they feel that Francis Bacon’s paintings will have valuable significance for later generations of Leeds citizens, trying to understand what it felt like to live in this age? I cannot pretend to answer these questions: but I applaud the democratic way in which the Committee of the Art Collections Fund have decided to consult those whose money they have in trust.

 

 

    

                        Francis Bacon, Panting, 1950, Leeds City Art Gallery

 

 

 

 

   Leeds Fund to

     buy Bacons

‘Painting (1950)’

 

 

 

THE YORKSHIRE POST  |  LEEDS  |  TUESDAY, JANUARY 9, 1951

 

Leeds Art Collections Fund Committee decided yesterday to include among their purchases from the exhibition of 15 contemporary British painters, held during the last month in the City Art Gallery, Francis Bacon’s ‘‘Painting (1950),’’ an enigmatic work that has been the subject of much discussion.

The price of the painting, originally quoted in the catalogue as 285 guineas, is 220 guineas.

 Before reaching their decision, the committee considered replies to a circular letter sent to the Fund’s subscribers by Mr. E. I. Musgrave (hon. secretary and  of the Fund and Director of the Art Gallery). In this letter, subscribers were asked if they thought the painting should be bought for the city’s permanent collection. A total of 48 replies was received, and they showed a slight majority in favour of the purchase.

The work is a large expressionist painting in oils, showing a powerfully-built naked figure of a man against a vividly-striped background.

 

A sinister note

 

At the top of the picture there is a deep band of blue, like a night sky; two broad bands of deeper blue run down each side; and across the base there is a broad band of red which gives a sensational effect. A human shadow, slightly bent and clearly not that of the man, strikes a sinister note.

In the absence of any lead from the artist, who is a collateral descendent of Sir Francis Bacon, the great Elizabethan, various interpretations have been given to the painting. Mr. Musgrave considers it suggests the menace of the present times.

The Committee were agreed that the painting was the most important in the exhibition but they decided to circularise subscribers because the price was considerably more than the Fund usually spent on one picture.

The Committee decided to buy five other works shown at the exhibition. They are: ‘‘The Ghost,’’ by Louis Le Brocquy, for 75 guineas; ‘‘Anemones and Lemons,’’ by the Leeds-born artist, Patrick Heron, for 40 guineas; ‘‘Fish in a glass Tank,’’  by John Minton, a young artist attacked by Sir Alfred Munnings in his famous speech at the Academy dinner (35 guineas); ‘‘Figure Undressing,’’ by Keith Vaughan (35 guineas); and  ‘The Dragon Pot,’’ a drawing by Ceri Richards (16 guineas).

The purchase f two other paintings – Robert Colquhoun’s  ‘‘Lovers,’’ and Robert MacBryde’s  ‘‘Woman in front of a Leaded Window’’ – is under consideration.

 

20 pictures sold

 

The exhibition, which ended yesterday, attracted the attention of private collectors. Including the purchases for Leeds, about 20 pictures were sold.

Our Art Critic writes: The Committee’s purchases have been made after prolonged study of the exhibition. A first choice was made, and this was carefully revised after consultation among members of the Committee.

The choice of Francis Bacon’s large ‘‘Painting (1950)’’ will startle some people, but it has received encouraging support from many subscribers to the Art Collections Fund. It is a bold purchase, and I believe it will prove to have been a good one. Like Edvard Munch and the German Expressionists who followed his lead, Francis Bacon has a way of expressing feelings below the level of normal consciousness. In so doing he is attempting to accomplish in paint what some of our leading modern novelists  and poets have done in prose or verse.

This particular picture, ‘‘Painting (1950),’’ may be interpreted in different ways; but the title possibly gives us a clue to its inner meaning. The year 1950 will be vividly remembered by most of us as a year of tension and haunting disquiet: that tension and that disquiet are in this picture, as the eerie menace of the war days was in some of Paul Nash’s remarkable paintings of bombers, and as the spiritual desolation of the Twenties was expressed in Mr. Eliot’s ‘‘The Waste Land.’’

 

 

 

 

       At the Galleries

 

Francis Bacon

 

 

             By NEVILE WALLIS

     

 

 

NEVILE WALLIS  |  THE OBSERVER  |  SUNDAY, DECEMBER 23, 1951

 

THE failure to communicate profoundest fears and longings to an unresponsive mind is not only a cause of domestic tragedy, but to-day a cosmic problem. Can this idea, so easily expressed in words, be also expressed pictorially with clarity and force?

Michael Ayrton has a recent painting of a man seeking to establish a bond of sympathy with a woman who is identified with the spectator and therefore invisible — save for her reflection which gazes, silent and uncomprehending, from the mirror above the mantelpiece. For much longer this agony of frustration has been the recurring theme of Francis Bacon, his victims being usually divided from us by a transparent cube which imprisons them.

But his imagery at times has been rendered so complex by the apparent conflict within him that one has questioned his belief that every sensitive stroke of paint laid down could express an idea with the precision of the written word. If I then considered his new canvases at the Hanover Gallery his most impressive achievement it is because, while his imagination still works at fever pitch, there is now little trace of hysteria and consequently a considerable gain in coherence.

 

His works consist of three entirely free and individual versions of Velasquez’s “Innocent X,” an equally large painting of Lucien Freud, a nude figure adumbrated yet substantial, before a grey curtain, and a smaller picture of a man appalled by the image of himself as an ape, acquired by the Fitzwilliam Museum. In the Innocent paintings all the outward symbols, the purple mitre and cape, the glitter of the throne, are contrasted ironically with the Pontiff’s spiritual withdrawal and, in one instance, with a fugitive expression seemingly caught unawares by a press photographer. This time the figure is isolated by the barrier of the curtain-rail, and no passage is more brilliantly painted than the curtain with nervous sweeps of violet and wine red. As remarkable is the Freud full-length portrait, which seems to owe more to the flickering silent screen than to flashlight photography, with long shadows (such as Munch might have contrived) cast by us, spectators still out of reach, across the foot of the bare canvas. The encrusted surface of the face, sand and wisps of wool almost imperceptibly mingled with the pigment, and the dark grey area behind which has the appearance of charred wood, reveal that concern with texture which with Bacon has never become a complete obsession. Always there are the long purposeful strokes, sometimes a harmony of grey glittering with the white of a parched brush, like the sword-hilt against the cloak in Velasquez’s “Philip IV.”

One cannot name a British painter to-day with a greater technical command, or one who conveys a like impression of tacking each great tense work as if it were his last. If — as Fry observed with less justice of Reynolds — Bacon frequently announces a masterpiece and fails to substantiate the claim, the deficiency is here not for the critic to seek, but for the student of psychology.

Next week, with more space, I shall hope to discuss those historically valuable portraits recently acquired by the National Portrait gallery, together with Lawrence’s array of portraiture in the Burlington House exhibition, which could only be briefly mentioned in my recent notice.

 

 

 

        

            One of Francis Bacon’s versions of Velasquez’s Innocent X

 

 

 

 

 

The Paintings of Francis Bacon

 

 

                                   

                   By DAVID SYLVESTER

 

 

 

DAVID SYLVESTER | ART | THE LISTENER | VOLUME 47 | NUMBER 1192 | JANUARY 3 1952 

 

THERE are any number of ways of representing the world, and all of them are equally valid. Simply because, as J. Z. Young told us, ‘the brain of each on of us does literally create his or her own world’. So the artist’s task is not to paint things ‘as they are’—the phrase indeed, is meaningless-but to make us believe that things are as he paints them. Every really creative artist presents us with a new picture of reality and convinces us that it is a true picture. And, in convincing us, he imposes his vision upon our habits of seeing the world around us. But the artist himself, before he evolves his personal vision, has habits of seeing which he has acquired from other artists. Because these habits are always deeply ingrained, he can do no more than modify the vision of those others, who are usually artists of his own time and also those masters of the past to whom he is most drawn. It is this perpetual overlapping of an existing vision by a new vision that creates a living tradition.

 

In recent times, however, our way of seeing has come to be shaped less by painting than by the photograph, and especially by photographs reproduced in newspapers and on the cinema screen. This smudge of greys on the front page is what Mr. Churchill looks like. These colourless lights and shadows wafted on a beam are the Trooping of the Colour. The camera has gained control of our emotions and desires: it is on the cover of the picture-paper, not behind the footlights, that we find our dream-girl. In these conditions, if would hardly be surprising if, instead of some established style of painting, the photograph became the point of departure of an artist’s vision: especially if that artist were obsessed by the transient and the fugitive. This, at any rate, is what has happened in the case of Francis Bacon. We can best understand his relation to photography by remembering the very different way in which Degas and Sickert used it. For them is provided a new slant on reality: it showed them the world off-balance. And in their paintings they imitated this fresh and exciting way of trapping the life around them. But they were not interested in the photographs themselves; they looked through them, not at them. For Bacon, on the other hand, the whole point of the photograph is that it is not something new, that on the contrary it is utterly commonplace and is the medium through which we have got used to seeing reality. Consequently, it is the photograph itself that excites him. Since its mystery for him lies in its very banality, he is fascinated above all when it takes its most banal form–the picture in the newspaper. And the result is that he tries to make the appearance of his paintings resemble that of these printed pictures.

 

It seems rather odd that a painter should aim at stimulating the photograph when the phrase ‘photographic realism’ has long been a term of contempt in art criticism. But this is because the phrase has been misused. It is generally applied to painting which portrays things as no more than the sum of their details, unified neither structurally nor imaginatively. This is exactly the opposite of what the photograph does. A photograph sees things as a whole, it envelops forms with atmosphere, it renders masses and spaces in a consistent overall texture. Indeed, the camera, in its innocent way, has tackled many of the problems that have troubled some of the greatest painters.

 

How, then, does Bacon set about imitating the effect of a photograph? In the first place, he paints human figures in casual, transitory positions as if they had been caught unawares in a candid camera shot. Then, he gives the surface of his paint that curious matt haziness which is characteristic of pictures in the newspapers. And, of course, his colour is predominantly grey and black. When he does introduce violets and pinks into this scheme, we merely feel that the photograph has been tinted. Next, he dissolves the contours of his forms into the surrounding atmosphere, so reproducing the smudged effect of a picture on cheap newsprint. Lastly, he avoids placing planes parallel to the picture-plane–partly because by doing so he would give the composition a formality that would destroy its casual air, and partly because such planes assert the picture-plane itself and prevent the painting from giving the impression which a photograph gives of an image existing entirely behind the surface it is printed on. It is probably for the same purpose of dissolving away the picture-plane that Bacon always exhibits his paintings behind glass.

 

While all these devices produce an effect akin to that of a photograph, it is not from photography that Bacon has learned them. It is the late paintings of Rembrandt that have shown him how to use an extremely restricted range of colour, how to dissolve forms into space, and how to destroy the picture-plane. For Bacon’s problem is, finally, very much a painter’s problem. It is to make paint on canvas function in a way analogous to that in which ink functions on news print. From his attempt to do this derives one of the most remarkable and mysterious qualities of his work. Very often, when we look suddenly at a picture in the papers, our first impression is simply one of nebulous, blotchy greys whose meaning is altogether vague. Likewise, looking at some of Bacon’s paintings, we are conscious at first only of the paint, seeing it as some amorphous, ectoplasmic substance floating aimlessly on the canvas. It takes a little time before this stuff that is paint crystallises into an image. But as soon as it does crystallise, the once vague and shifting shapes become volumes modelled with a wonderful sensitivity and situated with extreme precision in space.

 

 

 

Immediate Sense of Pain

 

The certainty with which Bacon creates volumes, volumes that are tangible, is largely due to his uncanny sense of the exact degree of tension along each form. One of his pictures shows the lower half of a human face with the mouth open in a scream which is provoked by the fact that one ear is attached to a cord drawn out taut from the ceiling of the room. What makes this image so overwhelmingly moving–at the level of tragedy, not Grand Guignol–is how vividly we are made to realise the tightness of the cord. The intense grasp of the physical reality of the situation makes us feel it is ourselves who are being tortured. This immediate sense of pain is engendered again by the way in which Bacon, in a painting of the Crucifixion, causes us to sense the tension of the stretched-out armpits and biceps. Likewise, in painting flesh, Bacon conveys the exact variations of its softness and resilience at different places. And when he clothes his figures, the paint explains precisely where and how the fabric clings to the body.

 

Should it be asked why Bacon bothers to paint at all if he is going to simulate the photograph, it can be answered that no photograph can suggest tactile sensations of the kind I have described. But this is not the only respect in which the painter, while imitating the camera’s effects, can give his image far more reality than a camera can. The mechanical eye of the camera cannot produce a deliberate and controlled distortion, and such distortion of what the eye sees is imperative if an illusion on a flat surface of a solid world is to be perfectly convincing. Again, much of the emotional effect of an image derives from the precision with which the shapes are related, and the painter has complete freedom, which the photographer has not, to determine the exact form and size of every shape in his image. Consider what happens when the painter and photographer are snatching at an instantaneous reality. In both cases we sense that an instant from now the forms would have changed position. In the photograph, where the present situation of the forms is inevitably haphazard, this promise of movement means nothing. In a painting, where their situation seems no less accidental but is in fact scrupulously planned, the promise of movement threatens to break an exquisite balance and therefore charges the image with tension. Altogether, then, the kind of quasi-photograph that Francis Bacon paints can be far more real and far more dramatic than any true photograph.

 

More dramatic and more real–but still presented in the casual, everyday guise of pictures in the newspaper. And it is just this that makes Bacon’s work so disturbing, because his subject matter is not that of the newspapers: it is a mythology of terror. It consists largely of variations upon three themes. One is the Crucifixion. The second is a figure of a man whose world is bounded and dominated by a curtain hanging behind him. In one picture he crouches in front of it, in another is about to escape through a gap in it. In others, he is dissolving into it; for his image is actually imprinted on the curtain’s folds. These are images of man’s isolation, threatening death. A seated man with his mouth opened in a scream is the third theme. One of the most haunting examples shows the man seated before a microphone. The upper half of his face has melted away, for the whole meaning of his existence is a gaping mouth which seems to give vent simultaneously to the ravings of a dictator and the shriek of his victims. The present exhibition includes two screaming figures whose pose and clothes are based on Velasquez’s portrait of Pope Innocent X. In these, the atmosphere is so oppressive that the open mouths seem silent, as if the scream were too awful to be uttered.

 

When these horrifying phantasms are presented to us, as they are, in the same form as the film star getting into her aeroplane, and the goalkeeper failing to make a save, they become all the more disquieting, because all the more to be taken for granted. And it is this, I believe, that gives Bacon’s work its value: that he has distilled the essence of human agony and presented it in a perfectly matter-of-fact way. Like Kafka, indeed. And as with Kafka, it only seems to be a matter-of-fact way. For this, after all, is really a disguise that overlays the lyrical qualities of these works–I mean the exquisite subtlety of their modelling, the hushed beauty of their colour, the expansiveness of their space, the rather discrete grandeur of their form.

 

In spite their lyric qualities, which are eternal, it may be that the magic which Bacon’s pictures have for us owes too much to their relevance to certain peculiarities of our age. If this is so, his work will date and future generations will see him as a far smaller figure than we do. But I know that for me he is today the most important living painter–by which I do not mean the greatest–because no other has expressed as he has our particular attitude to human suffering. To paint what is anguished in the modern world has been, on the whole, the prerogative of the Expressionists–painters who frenziedly inflict their personal torment upon the objects represented, so that these become mangled and deformed, and therefore not completely convincing. Their approach still corresponds to the attitude towards suffering of the period at which Expressionism originated–the tortured bitterness and indignation which we find in the plays of Strindberg, and which we would expect to find in an age that had only just lost faith both in religion and liberalism. Our attitude to suffering–and again I mean suffering which is pointless and not a means to salvation–our attitude is more detached, more sophisticated: we are ready to try to accept and understand it.

 

Some might suggest that this attitude informs the art of the Surrealists: certainly, they presented their visions of pain and cruelty with a clarity, an absence of deformation, an impersonality, that seem to spell detachment and acceptance. But there is no real detachment in the frigid and minute enumeration and examination of one’s nightmares. What there is is a desperate attempt to exorcise one’s fears by looking at them with the cold unblinking state of the dead. Bacon is as free of this morbidity as he is free of the hysteria and self-dramatisation of the Expressionists. He puts horror on canvas with sobriety and dignity and that warmth with which all true artists see whatever is. His paintings embody the attitude which is essentially that of our generation, a generation which has had to learn to go beyond despair: the attitude expressed in the closing words of Huis Clos, when Garcin, having recognised that there is no way out and that frustration is endless, says, ‘Eh bien, continuons’. The attitude that life is hell and we had better get used to the idea.–Third Programme

 

 

  

   One of the paintings by Francis Bacon based on Velazquez’s portrait of Pope

 Innocent X: from the exhibition of new paintings by Bacon at the Hanover Gallery

 


 

     The Arts and Entertainment

 

 

FRANCIS BACON

 

 

                                   

         JOHN BERGER

 

 

 

JOHN BERGER | THE NEW STATESMAN & NATION | JANUARY 5, 1952 

 

It has always been Francis Bacon’s very considerable reputationnot his workwhich has puzzled me. Now, having thought a good deal about his six new paintings at the Hanover Gallery, I think that I begin to see the matter a little more clearly.

Three of these paintings are of a Pope (Innocent X from the Velazquez portrait) sitting n his throne in a class case in a black box-like room. (In two of them the features of the Pope’s face “dissolve” into a scream.) The fourth painting is of Mr. Lucian Freudalso in a glass case and box; the fifth is of a palaeolithic man doubled up in front of a grey curtain, and the sixthsmaller than the large ones is of a human doing something to an ape in a zoo.

The really impressive thing about these pictures is that they exist. Nor is that such a stupid statement as it sounds. Many contemporary paintings are fragmentary and inconclusive, so that, like over-heard conversations, their power depends on their context. They barely exist in their own right. These paintings by Bacon do exist in their own right, and indeed have a uniquely convincing presence which their startling, unlikely subject matter somehow makes even more convincing. One watches them, hypnotised as an agnostic might be hypnotised by some ectoplasmic manifestation at a séanceand, in fact, the way that the greyish figures materialise out of the dark, detailed in some places and almost lost in others, is reminiscent of such an affair.

Yet the reason for the power of their presence are, when combined, the very reasons why in my opinion Bacon is a very remarkable but not finally important painterwhy he is really outside the main tradition. These paintings are haunting because Bacon is a brilliant stage manager, rather than an original visual artist; and because their emotion is concentratedly and desperately private.

I say that Bacon is a brilliant stage manager rather than an original artist because there is no evidence in his work of any visual discovery, but only of imaginative and skilful arrangement. The objects in his pictures are chosen for the meaning they already have and this meaning is then given a twist by their odd juxtaposition. No new meaning is added in the actual process of painting them. Looking at the painting of the Pope one is not made aware, in some newly vivid way, of the construction of the human head or of the possible vibration of the two colours; instead, one is fascinated by a particular dramatic; one’s eye travels across open areas of black paint on unprimed canvas and is then held by an intensely staring head, painted with grey paint mixed with sand so that it has the acrid quality of cigarette ash. One notices the folds in the curtains and robe, not because they really qualify the form underneath, but because their shadows are startlingly and sometimes fearfully suggestive. All this, however, is necessary if the paintings are to exercise their immediate hypnotic power. If, for example, the edges of the glass case emphasised too originally the space they contained one would forget the usual associations of glass cases and the spell would be broken.

Everything then depends upon the content of the pictures and, since most of them are horrific, on the meaning of horror, disgust and loneliness. Here it is impossible to be dogmatic, but for myself I believe that Bacon’s interpretation of such suffering and disintegration is too egocentric, that he describes horror with connivance that his descriptions lack not only the huge perspective of compassion but even the smaller perspective of indignation. I feel myself that the Pope screams not because of the state of his conscience or the state of the world but, puppet-like, simply because he has been put into Bacon’s glass case. And again, if this is true, it explains the hypnotic power of the paintings. The spectator watches as at the Grand Guignol, fascinated because, in a sense, made cosythe horror is stimulating because it is remote, because it belongs to a life removed from the normal world.

If Bacon’s paintings began to deal with any of the real tragedy of our time, they would shriek less, they would be less jealous of their horror, and they would never hypnotise us, because we, with all conscience stirred, would be too much involved to afford that luxury.

 

 

 

 

    HANOVER GALLERY

    

MR. BACONS PAINTINGS

 

 

 

ENTERTAINMENTS  |  THE TIMES  |  MONDAY JANUARY 7 1952 

 

Mr. Francis Bacon’s private mythology, which has always been sufficiently mysterious, has become a distorted and scarcely interpretable dream in the small number of very large pictures which make up his exhibition at the Hanover Gallery, 32A, St. George Street.

But there is no telling what the Pope, who appears in more than one picture, signifies, why he should seem to be screaming, in what way, if any, he is connected with Velasquez’s celebrated portrait, and why there should be some suggestion that he is sitting in a glass case.

But it is, of course, just such absolutely baffling dreams that in real life make the most vivid impression and one which persists uncomfortably throughout the waking hours; Mr. Bacon’s pictures have the same effect and are certainly not tedious as the narration of other people’s dreams always is, but, on the contrary, seem as momentous, and in the same exasperating way, as any dream of one’s own.

The effect is perhaps enhanced by a new simplification of form and design which can be seen in these works; the paintings concentrate rigidly on the presentation of a single image and the-variety of incident’s that sometimes appeared in earlier pictures has completely gone.

But at the same time this austerity reveals more clearly than before Mr. Bacon’s lack of any intense interest in shapes, colours, or quality of paint except in so far as they are necessary for the representation of his visions; he has a remarkable sense of scale and a power of composing on a large canvas without displaying weakness of construction, but there are few other signs of any considerable development of the more instinctive feelings of a painter.

 

 

 

 

   ‘BEHAVED LIKE A MAD MAN’

 

 

 

                      Chelsea artist punched P.C.

 

 

WEST LONDON PRESS  |  CHELSEA NEWS & GENERAL ADVERTISER  |  FRIDAY, MARCH 28, 1952   

 

“This was outrageous. You behaved like a madman. The police are not allowed to use force themselves, otherwise it would do chaps like you a bit of good,” said the magistrate at Marlborough Street, imposing a fine of £10 on Francis Bacon (42), artist, of Beaufort Gardens, Chelsea, for assaulting a policeman, and £2 for using insulting words and behaviour in Old Compton Street, Soho.

Bacon, who denied the assault, said he was extremely drunk at the time and and could not remember what had happened.

 

 

 

 

     The Art of Art Criticism

 

 

                                   

                The first of two talks by HERBERT READ 

 

 

 

HERBERT READ  |  THE LISTENER   VOLUME 47  |  NUMBER 1209  |  THURSDAY, MAY 1, 1952   

 

I ACCEPT, as a point of departure, the frequently expressed opinion that something is wrong with art criticism in England. By art criticism in the accepted sense we mean the current criticism of  painting, sculpture, architecture and other visual arts. But what is criticism? There is ambiguity in this very word, for the nature of criticism must be determined by the nature of the audience to which it is addressed. A teacher, moving from easel to easel in the life class, will be critical in one manner; pointing to faulty composition in one case, to an insensitive line in another, to inadequacies of all kinds; at the same time praising successes where they exist, and always urging on his pupils by communicating to them his sympathy and enthusiasm. That I would call professional criticism, and with its technicalities and jargon it should be confined to its proper sphere, the studio or the school of art.

 

The Historical and Aesthetical Attitudes

There is another kind of criticism which is not now in question. Though it can be applied to contemporary art, it is properly speaking historical criticism, by which I mean the delineation of movements and groups, the description of styles, the analysis of techniques and materialsin general, the post-mortem attitude to art. Finally, there is what I would call the aesthetic or philosophical criticism of art. In so far as aesthetics is a science, and philosophy a discipline, this is also a form of criticism which calls for a specialised terminology and a concentrated manner of thought. The best art critics have, of course, a philosophical background: their criticism is an applied philosophy, but is not in itself a philosophical activity.

What, then, are we left with that might be called simply art criticism? It must be an activity addressed, not to a professional minority of any kind, but to the general body of educated opinion, and it must give its public  something it wantssomething that it is not capable of finding for itselfin one word, enlightenment. Such a criticism will either be informative or interpretive. It will not assume that everyone has seen the work of art the critic is talking about; on the contrary, it will try to give everyone a vivid image of the object in question. Having done this, the critic will proceed to interpret the artists intention, and in the end he may express his own view of the artists achievement.

 

Demands on the ‘Poor Blind Reader’

Again, when the critic tells us that the familiar rococo pattern is impregnated with space and light and density and that the eye no longer slides off the patterned surface but explores his shapes and is drawn inwards between them, I know what these rather mixed metaphors mean. A knowledge of the history of art has given me a general idea of rococo pattern, but I wonder, for example, how many laymen have a clear image of the difference between rococo and a barque pattern? As for the difficult feat of impregnating such a pattern, not only with space and light, but at the same time with density; and the still more mysterious business of an eye that slides off surfaces, explores shapes and ends up by getting brawn in between them, all that will require, on the part of the poor blind reader or listener—I call him blind because he has never seen the painting in question—a prodigious power of visualisation.

Now let me take another example: this time from a broadcast talk which I personally found very illuminating, but which I understand baffled some listeners:

In looking at some of Bacon’s paintings, we are conscious at first only of the paint, seeing it as some amorphous, ectoplasmic substance floating aimlessly on the canvas. It takes a little time before this stuff that is paint crystallises into an image. But as soon as it does crystallise, the once vague and shifting shapes become volumes modelled with a wonderful sensitivity and situated with extreme precision in space. The certainty with which Bacon creates volumes, volumes that are tangible, is largely due to his uncanny sense of the exact degree of tension along each form.

Admittedly there is some jargon here: ‘volumes’ are not ‘modelled’ in any precisely visual sense: they maybe suggested by certain pictorial means: and only in some metaphorical sense could such volumes become tangible. We do not ‘touch’ volumes; we fill them, really or imaginatively. But apart from such expressions, the language is such as might be used by a lecturer in a physics laboratory. If you protest that art is not physics, I think the critic would be justified in retorting that that is just what it is the manipulation of physical substances to create the illusion of physical experience that the painter wants to convey—Francis Bacon, for example, wants to recreate in the spectator the actual feeling of the stretched-out armpits and biceps conveyed in his painting of the Crucifixion. In describing the painter’s intention in terminology taken from the science of physics, this particular critic was, I would say, using precise analytical language. It would seem, therefore, that what we really distrust’ and by ‘we’ I mean the general public is the analytical method itself: we remember Wordsworth’s phrase, ‘we murder to dissect’, and we would rather be left with a living unity, however baffling it might be. Should not criticism confine itself to giving us the sense of wholeness, the sense of richness, the sense of interest—which was the impression Hazlitt gave us of Poussin’s ‘Orion’?

The critic might reply: ‘Give me a Poussin and I will rival Hazlitt; but I cant do a Hazlitt over the amorphous ectoplasm of a modern painting’. The material the modern art critic has to criticise is not the same: you could hardly describe Francis Bacons paintings, for example, as ‘a stream of pleasant thoughts passing through the mind!’  And an abstraction by Ben Nicholson does not offer quite the same opportunities for poetic disquisition as ‘blind Orion hungry for the morn.’  In deserting nature, in the sense in which Hazlitt understood that term, the abstract painter has left the critic speechless, or at any rate in need of a new language. This, of course, is not true of all types of modern art; the surrealist painters gave their critics plenty of poetic grist; and the return of some of our younger painters to the old English habit of anecdotage in paint might eventually inspire a corresponding loquacity in criticism—given the space for it.

 I warned you that an interpretative criticism of a modern artist would not be so easy to take in as Hazlitts descriptive criticism of Poussin. More imaginative effort is required because the mind is being asked to reconstruct, not a familiar myth or a second nature, but a new reality. ‘A new reality’—how easy it is to utter a phrase like that: how difficult it is for the public to know what it means, or if it means anything. We follow Alice into a Wonderland willingly enough, in spite of the Dodo and the Ugly Duchess and the terrors of a contracting and expanding universe; we are glad to meet Renoir and Matisse; but are we so anxious to meet the grimmer creations of Picasso or Bacon?

The task of the modern critic of art is difficult, but that must not be used as an excuse for that obscurity which is a retreat into jargon, nor for that snobbism which is an attempt to reserve certain pleasures for a minority. The difficulty of modern art must be accepted by the critic as a challenge—a challenge to his powers of interpretation, his capacity for communication. We live in an epoch in which people must understand: deep no longer calleth unto deep—symbols must be translated into concepts. That is the critic’s job: to take the symbols of die painter or sculptor and translate diem, if not into intellectual concepts, at any rate into poetic metaphors. Art criticism can be conducted on the level of explanation; but also on the level of translation. The best art criticism reaches both levels, and to the clarity of a rational discourse adds the colour of a sensuous style. Inspired by the love of truth, it can rise to the greatest heights of thought and eloquence, and in the hands of a Ruskin or a Pater become in itself another art.

 

 

 

 

    THE ROYAL ACADEMY SUMMER

       EXHIBITION OF 1,579 WORKS

 

 

                                                By Our Art Critic

 

 

BY OUR ART CRITIC  |  HOME NEWS  |  THE TIMES  |  SATURDAY MAY 3 1952

 

There are 1,579 exhibits in the summer exhibition of the Royal Academy which opens to-day, 326 more than there were last year. Pictures are hung closer together and nearer the ceiling than is thought proper in modern museums, and some of the galleries get near to looking as they did a hundred years ago. This is meant kindly and will certainly be welcome to artists in general, but it is not a completely unmixed advantage to have competition transferred from outside to within the walls of Burlington House.

    It is serious for a smal1 picture to be skied, and to be on the line now confers more than the curious privilege of being permitted to glaze the picture, but more important still is the advantage that crowding gives to the work that is specially adapted for showing in a large and mixed exhibition.

    So long as there are such shows—and it does not in the least matter whether they are collections of abstract pictures or fashionable portraits—there will always be the risk that pictures are consciously or unconsciously designed for them; colour will be heightened, accents made sharper, and strength rather than subtlety be the aim. In a struggle that is so much the fiercer this year only the fauve can hope to survive; in fact, the excellent early Derain, which is one of the most welcome and unexpected of all the purchases under the terms of the Chantrey Bequest, looks almost sedate and retiring in the company in which it now appears.

 

 

PORTRAITS OF ARTISTS

 

    As if to ensure holding their own among the larger carnivores, Mr. Robert Buhler and Mr. Rodrigo Moynihan have taken the extreme step of painting even portraits as much as twice life-size. Between them they have done a whole series of likenesses of artists and art critics which are hung in central and prominent positions in several of the galleries; by the test of scale these are almost as successful as Sir Frank Brangwyn’s picture, and there has been a real effort to suit the design to these heroic proportions, though it may well be that Mr. Moynihan’s most successful portrait is that of the Bishop-elect of Winchester, a work of normal size and a most perceptive study of character.

    But the artists and art critics certainly dominate the scene, immediately recognizable, aloof, unshaven, uncompromisingly severe. It is, it must be admitted, very disconcerting to encounter one or other of these obvious supermen at every turn, and if the casual visitor is disquieted how much the more alarming they must be to the unhappy painter who has had the misfortune to have a painting hung on the opposite wall and under the disapproving stare of Mr. Francis Bacon or Mr. David Sylvester; what these think of English impressionism or board-room portraiture is indeed all too obvious in the expression on their faces.

    But much has been done to mitigate such disapproval. A good deal depends on whether the critical visitor turns to the right or to the left at the top of the stairs: if he goes to the left he will certainly find much popular painting of the kind that is not well represented at the Tate Gallery, but if he goes to the right he will be more at home. It has not, of course, been possible to arrange anything like an adequate survey of contemporary English painting, but, at any rate, the rooms on this side of the staircase do show that it is not for want of trying.

    Out of the 60 artists who accepted the Arts Council’s invitation to paint large pictures for 1951—a list of names of which all, or nearly all, would have to appear in any satisfactory chronicle of British painting at the present time—16, or just over one in four, show works in the present exhibition; from the character of many of the pictures that are shown it seems very unlikely that if the rest of the 60 had sent to the exhibition any considerable number of them would have been rejected. And in the face of this artificial scarcity the Academy has certainly made as brave a showing as could be expected.

    There is a distinguished portrait of Lord Halifax by Professor Lawrence Gowing, an artist who does not appear to have exhibited before at Burlington House. Mr. John Minton has a large and curious painting of the death of Nelson, based on the picture by Daniel Maclise, but considerably distorted. Mr. Ruskin Spear, in his “Homage to Henry Moore,”  has, at any rate, got half of this artist’s recumbent figure, executed for the South Bank, into the Academy and has made a witty composition out of it. Mr. Frank Dobson makes it difficult to notice anything else in the gallery given up to sculpture by showing there his large and imposing work of architectural decoration, which has been previously noticed in The Times, for a building in Africa; he also shows a most sensitive portrait head of Mrs. Rodrigo Moynihan. In a room which has been prettily arranged with terra-cottas and watercolours Mr. John Skeaping shows a very skilful figure in painted terra-cotta, though it is perhaps a little too large for the medium. Mr. John F. Matthews shows two large nude figures cast in plaster which is painted to look like bronze; they are much in the style of Renoir and show marked ability as well as courage.

 

 

 

 

A painting that may baffle Batley

 

 

                         By a Yorkshire Post reporter

 

 

 

NEWS  |  THE YORKSHIRE POST  |  LEEDS  |  SATURDAY, MAY 24, 1952

 

Batley is not expected to receive without demur the painting ‘Magdalene’ by Francis Bacon, which has been presented to the Batley Art Gallery by the Contemporary Art Society. It is to be hung in the Gallery on Monday and will be part of the permanent collection.

The painting, a symbolist work, dominantly orange, blue and green, depicts a woman, her heavy body draped from the waist downward. She leans away from the artist, her body at right angles, and her long neck has above it an umbrella and veiling. Most of the head is shrouded but it peers towards the artist agonisingly, the mouth wailing open in horror and despair. Below the head are green spiked plants.

 

‘Useful to students’

 

Mr. R. W. Gelsthorpe, the curator of the gallery, confessed yesterday that he was “a little fogged” as to what the picture was. But this, in my view, does not detract from its value,” he said. The colouring, form and design are extremely good and it will be useful to students in showing them how to apply colour.

If students knew what it was meant to represent they would probably appreciate it more, he added.

The picture is regarded as a valued addition to the permanent collection. There will be controversy, but controversy stimulates interest, and Mr. Gelsthorpe believes that Francis Bacon is an essential part of any exhibition of contemporary art. Batley is a town that appreciates art and if people do not take Bacon to their heart of hearts they will, at least, argue about him.

The work had a distinct attraction, although a few people may prefer the word repulsion.” It has warmth and colour and if symbols are sought there are symbols in plenty. The suggestion is that the subject is Mary, called Magdalene, who is first mentioned in the Bible by St. Luke. She was among women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities and from her went seven devils.

 

Grief-stricken

 

She went with Jesus on the last journey to Jerusalem, witnessed the Crucifixion and followed to the Burial. She found the tomb empty and talked with the risen Christ. In the painting the woman is grief-stricken, horrified, a semi-human figure.

The Contemporary Art Society have also presented the gallery with The First Communion, by Sylvia Gosse.

 

 

 

  

                                                     The painting “Magdalene.

 

 

 

 

 

CONTEMPORARY ART

 

 

 

N. M. R.  |  THE MANCHESTER GUARDIAN  |  WEDNESDAY, JUNE 18, 1952

 

Selections from the collection of contemporary British painting now being formed by the Arts Council have been seen in and around Manchester during the past couple of years. The present showing of Parts I and II of the collection complete and admirably hung at the Salford Art Gallery, gives a better opportunity of judging what basis there may be for some of the shriller comment it has evoked. It seems slight — the selection shows a bias if any, towards “juice and joy,” but it is essentially catholic. The better academics — Edward Le Bas, Ginner, Duncan Grant, William Nicholson, Carel Weight and the rest — are mostly here; the advance guard is represented along the whole front from Michael Ayrton’s Gothic tangles to Wilhelmina Barns-Graham’s geometric explorations of the Grindelwald glacier. The ages of these wild young men range from 26 to 83. The strongest individual impressions remaining are that Francis Bacon is the most terrifying painter of our day and that, though cruel, it was salutary to hang Victor Pasmore in his recent abstract mode beside Ben Nicholson.

N. M. R.

 

 

 

 

  REALISM IN PAINTING

 

 

              EXHIBITION OF RECENT WORKS

 

 

ENTERTAINMENTS  |  THE TIMES  |  MONDAY JULY 7 1952

 

The Institute of Contemporary Arts has arranged an interesting exhibition of “recent trends in realist painting” at 17-18, Dover Street. This is a miscellaneous collection of pictures by English artists and artists of the school of Paris, prompted by the belief that there is at present a revival of realism and that “this tendency, for all the strange variousness of its ramifications, almost certainly contains more vigour and promise than any other in contemporary painting.” But most of the realism shown here can ’be considered such only by contrast with abstract or surrealist art; only if a wholly conceptual mode of painting is considered the norm could M. Masson or M. Buffet be classed with Professor Coldstream or Mr. Lucian Freud because of their various departures from it.

The obvious difference between the situation of these realists and that of the practitioners of abstract or in other ways unrealistic art is that they are not dominated by one commanding influence; they have no one like Picasso to guide or overwhelm their talents. It is a situation which has its obvious disadvantages, for again and again in the history of art the living presence of one great artist, and still more of two-or three, has had an extraordinary effect in raising the general standard of production. But since it is quite possible that Picasso has for the moment brought the painting of those who follow him to a full stop, perhaps in much the same way as Michelangelo did with Florentine art, it may well be that it is the lesser of two evils to work, in isolation and in a way that is really much more experimental than the now orthodox pursuit of high abstraction.

The exhibition certainly demonstrates the variety of individual expression that can be got by even such a sidelong glance at nature as Mr. Francis Bacon or M. Giacometti appear to have given, and most of the artists here are of this kind, selecting just so much of the visual world as suits the needs of their imagination. But there are also some more genuine realists whose art involves a patient inspection of the subject. A nude by the French artist Francis Gruber is painted with real, even though harsh and uncompromising, feeling. By M. Paul Rebeyrolle there is a large reclining nude which is a most impressive performance and the most ambitious picture here; it is Possible that as yet the artist is too inexperienced to be able to sustain so weighty and massive a conception of the forms and that certain passages are in consequence rather empty. Two pictures by M. Masson could hardly be considered realist if they were by anyone else; they are slight, evocative, painted with the most graceful economy of means. Other artists represented are Mr. Graham Sutherland, M. Balthus, Miss Elinor Bellingham-Smith, Mr. John Minton, and M. André Minaux.

 

 

 

 

  REALISM IN PAINTING

 

 

                  ANTICIPATING THE FUTURE

 

 

ENTERTAINMENTS  |  THE TIMES  |  WEDNESDAY AUGUST 6 1952

 

A good many people now seem to think that a revival of realism is on the way, and the Institute of Contemporary Arts, a body whose aim, in the words of its chairman, Mr. Herbert Read, is to bring into existence the art of the future, anticipated this a month or so ago by getting up an exhibition of recent trends in realist painting.

This was very definitely an anticipation and scarcely even an early notification of the existence of such a trend; it was a completely miscellaneous collection which included works that could have been and in some instances were produced 20 or more years ago, as well as works that were only realistic in the sense that they were not completely abstract or surrealist. Only in the most tenuous or remote way, for example, could the paintings of Andre Masson be said to spring from anything that could have actually been seen by the painter, while to call Mr. Francis Bacon’s disquieting fantasies realist is to stretch the term far beyond the point at which it ceases to be useful.

What the exhibition did no doubt record was a general impression among the people who have admired abstract painting for a long while that it is time there was a change. This is interesting, but so far it is confined to critics and amateurs of no great importance; it would be much more significant if such a feeling became widespread among painters and if they began to act on it. But a large exhibition of the work of some 50 of the younger painters of the school of Paris. arranged by the Arts Council at the New Burlington Galleries, suggests that if this is happening at all, it is on a very small scale. There is M. Rebeyrolle, a painter still in his early twenties who had a considerable success in London when a few of his pictures were recently shown at the Arcade Gallery, and there are one or two others, but for the most part these younger artists, nearly all under 40, are still practising a high degree of abstraction or at any rate painting out of their heads rather than from nature.

With very few exceptions these are artists of great ability, with all the assurance and command of technique that is still to be learned in Paris much more readily than anywhere else; there is certainly nowhere else in the world where so many large compositions as are shown here could be produced with so little fumbling or failure of nerve.

But at the same time this school has certainly brought abstraction, or near abstraction. to the Point where it is apt to become, except in the hands of an artist of exceptional vitality, a rather sterile exercise. The exhibition does, in fact, help to explain why people who like new kinds of art now feel that contemporary French painting is really not quite new enough. But it is evidently not as easy as might be thought for the modem painter to go back to nature. This is by no means the first time that advanced French artists have felt that it was time for a change and have sought it in realism.

In 1930 there was neo-humanism, with Christian Berard as the leader of what turned out to be a very small movement. In 1935 there was the group which called itself “Forces Nouvelles” and practised a dry and ascetic realism which had little or no effect on the main currents of painting in Paris. And since the war there have been other returns to reality, like the paintings of Balthus, which aroused some interest at the time but have very little influence on the run of painters. The difficulty, one suspects, is that while it may be easy to return to realism it is extraordinarily difficult to make this look like a new kind of realism; only an artist with a highly original vision, and then only after years spent in the development of an individual style, can be expected to find, as Monet and Cézanne did, something new in nature.

A genuine return to realism would in fact mean abandoning, at any rate for some years, any attempt to bring into existence the art of the future, and this, though highly desirable, would be like having a tooth drawn to a good many people.

 

 

 

     At the Galleries

 

Vertebrate

 

     By NEVILE WALLIS

 

 

NEVILE WALLIS  |  THE OBSERVER  |  SUNDAY, DECEMBER 14, 1952    

 

DURING the past dozen years a fashionable, one might almost say “official” style of British painting, has become widely known through the activities of the Arts and British Councils. In austerest terms a universe is presented in which man is as anonymous and rudimentary as primeval nature.

It is much less easy to define the stylisation employed, as “The Times” art critic has attempted to do in acutely comparing this vogue with the art nouveau prevalent half a century ago. No other artist, for example, has a line quite like Graham Sutherland’s hard probing conté crayon line, similar to that traced by a blindfold player in avoiding an “island” in the paper game. The simile indeed is apt, for every one of Mr. Sutherland’s imaginative paintings is exploratory, and at the Redfern Gallery one may observe how many motives have been discarded in successive studies in arriving at “The Origins of the Land,” his picture of the clawing shapes and chrysalid forms of emergent nature.

Nevertheless the future historian, considering this mid-century vertebrate style, may decide that Mr. Sutherland’s art is hardly less eclectic than Keith Vaughan’s, seen downstairs here. Consciously or unconsciously our romantic painters are responsive not only to the ideas of Picasso and Moore, but as much to Palmer’s cramped design and stipple, the lonely objects of Paul Nash, or the cockle-shell boats of Christopher Wood. Such echoes abound in Mr. Vaughan’s paintings, and a little landscape painted only this year is as close as possible to an early Palmeresque Sutherland.

To Francis Bacon, it is true to say, Mr. Sutherland owes much more than is generally recognised. The horizontal and vertical construction lines, the adumbrated features, and long cast shadows these devices have been adapted in not a few studios; so that every exhibition of Mr. Bacon’s disquieting, cautiously momentous paintings causes something of a stir. Now he returns to the Hanover Gallery, after visiting South Africa, with eight tall canvases in which an elephant, or one or two crouching figures, is depicted in an illimitable desert or reedy grass. Apart perhaps from his paintings of a wild dog, his pictures are much less enigmatic than they were; and one can give undivided attention to the spatial use he makes of areas of barely stained canvas, and his long nervous brush-strokes.

Note that his elephant does really seem to inhabit the sub-continent, and not his sub-conscious. More and more serious painters, indeed, are observing life around them and interpreting it in their own terms; and by the end of the decade, in this country at least (granted peaceful conditions), a closer relationship should have been established between art and society. It is significant that practically all those young painters of the Royal College of Art (exhibiting at the R.W.S. Galleries, Conduit-street) find their themes in contemporary, usually urban life, without a glance across the Channel. Their mood is sober, their colour often sombre; but whether it is a pirouetting child, a suburban garden, or travellers on the tube, one is aware of a heightened response to the everyday incident, and a distinctive manner of expressing it. In fine, this is an encouraging exhibition; and if the sculpture is not particularly remarkable, the prints, posters, and other designs reward a visit upstairs.

 

 

 

 

 

Reality Plus

 

 

 

JOHN RUSSELL | ART GALLERIES | THE SUNDAY TIMES | SUNDAY, 14 DECEMBER, 1952 

 

It emerges from Mr. Francis Bacon’s new exhibition at the Hanover Gallery that he is the most interesting painter now practicing in this country. That he should be so is the reflection, not merely of his own considerable powers, but of the relatively torpid, or at best stationary, outlook of his seniors. Mr. Bacon paints as if his reason depended upon it; the enormous unnamed canvases represent a concentrated ordeal of the imagination such as has rarely been hazarded by an English painter.

Mr. Bacon has turned to new subjects for this wonderfully unseasonable display. The most unexpected of these is an imagined Africa; as mythical as Shakespeare’s, this somehow contrives to supplant reality. When the crippled rhino founders in the desert, or the elephant comes down to drink in the shadow of the blue forest, what Mr. Bacon gives us is Africa-and-something-else that something else being, of course, the haunting power of private emotion.

In other pictures, the enigmatical action tales place in that horrific vacuum which is one of Mr. Bacon’s most sinister contributions to the mythology of his time; but there is also one painting (of a man seated in a clearing) where the treatment of the sky and sunlight and overgrown grasses shows a gift, more usually kept in reserve, for the direct evocation of Nature.

The I.C.A. Gallery in Dover Street has also a fine and un-Christmasy contribution to offer at what is usually the tame end of the year: a retrospective exhibition of Max Ernst, in which the sexagenarian master is seen in a great variety of disquieting moods from the hallucinated laughter which marked the outbreak of surrealism to the grave allegories from which it is easy, with no great expense of imaginative sympathy, to deduce as exact and terrible image of Europe in decay.

 

 

 

 

 

MR. BACON’S NEW PAINTINGS

 

 

 

                                     AFRICAN ANIMALS

 

 

ENTERTAINMENTS  |  THE TIMES  |  TUESDAY DECEMBER 16 1952    

 

Mr. Francis Bacon has recently made two journeys to Africa, and in view of what his appalling imagination has previously made of the European scene there is reason to be thankful that what he has discovered in the dark continent is no worse than it is. His travels have, in fact, directed his attention, in five out of the seven very large canvases he is now showing at the Hanover Gallery, towards animals.

His view of a rhinoceros forlorn and blundering in the midst of a desolate waste, of sand and scrub does, of course, suggest a certain amount of misery, his elephant wading in a lake below an enormous cliff may frighten by its suggestion of the immensity of the land, and his dogs undoubtedly suggest the jackal thieving in the city. But such things can be borne with equanimity after the clinical atrocities half-veiled by transparent curtains, the mutilations, the series of ponderous giants, screaming, and all the other images of the modern world of perverted science that Mr. Bacon has devised.

Since for once it is possible to look at Mr. Bacons work without being in a state of shock this might be thought an opportunity to examine his purely artistic gifts more critically than could have been done before. But even now his methods of painting seem so bizarre and his conceptions of design so idiosyncratic that it is difficult to apply any normal standard even to these milder works. Here he paints in a rather summary fashion in very dry and crumbling oils, with a texture rather like that of chalk, on unprimed canvas of which large areas are left untouched, in much the same way as a great deal of paper is usually left uncovered in a pencil drawing.

Thus the first impression that Mr. Bacon has an unusual power of composing on a large scale is contradicted by e reflection that he may, after all, be producing a greatly enlarged sketch rather than a fully worked out design. There is a curious suggestion of photographic illusionism in these paintings: in their dramatic effects, in the emphatically instantaneous poses of his figures and animals, and above all in the treatment of light one is forcibly reminded of a still” from a film. And perhaps Mr. Bacons imagination is really that of a film producer rather than of a painter; his more monstrous fantasies seem to require the cinemas extension in time, as well as the extension in space which makes his huge canvases resemble the screen in the theatre, in order to be assured of their full effect.

 

 

 

 

Round the London Art Galleries

 

 

 

By QUENTIN BELL   |   ART   |   THE LISTENER   |   THURSDAY JANUARY 22 1953

 

THE exhibition of Dutch prints and drawings now being held at the British Museum, concurrently with the winter exhibition at Burlington House is an aesthetic treat not to be missed. There are several superb Rembrandt’s, some Jan van Scorels—far finer than the finished pictures—a wonderful drawing by Lucas van Leyden, and a view of a town by Hendrik Avercamp which deserves prolonged examination. The drawing by lesser-known masters of the eighteenth century, like so much of that period,  show how completely the comfort and amenity of life can be expressed through the medium of a slight talent. But it is to the Rembrandts that one returns; they are, in their way, even more impressive than the paintings in Burlington House. Never, surely, has any artist said so much with such heroic economy of means. The most exciting exhibit, which in itself makes makes a visit imperative, is the ‘Calumny of Apelles’ which may here be compared with Mantegna’s original. A copy of the work of one great artist by another is always interesting, but when one is able to compare differences of treatment in a medium as personal and direct as pen and ink, the lesson in style is particularly impressive and revealing.

It is manifestly unfair, but not uninstructive, to bear Rembrandt’s drawings in mind while examining the paintings at the Leicester Galleries New Year Exhibition; for in this pleasantly heterogeneous show, which contains a brilliant drawing by Matisse, a brave near-miss by Moynihan and a very charming impression of a head-lamp illuminated road by Mary Potter, there are two distressing but gifted sketches by Francis Bacon. Francis Bacon, like Rembrandt, is saying something very personal and very much charged with emotional force; the prettily coloured abstraction by Graham Sutherland which hangs between his sketches resembles an inefficient chairman failing to keep hecklers in order. But whereas Rembrandt had no difficultly in making himself understood, being able to infuse stock subjects with overwhelming dramatic and perceptive sensibility, those of our contemporaries who feel that their pictures should tell us what may, very loosely be termed ‘stories’ find it necessary to invent a private mythology. A message of this nature must either be obscure, in which case it would seem to be a failure as a work of art, or it must be delivered with such fearful vigour as to be crude, but comprehensible. Francis Bacon appears to have fallen between these two stools. His screaming face and his smudgy glass-encased Pope are as mysterious as Rembrandt’s sketch called ‘The Clemency of Scipio’ (and which may be Alexander with the family of Darius); but whereas the content of both these works is uncertain one feels before the modern picture that one is confronted by an impotent nightmare effort to express the inexpressible, whereas, in the Rembrandt, the subject is but the starting point for a series of acute and brilliant observations.

 

 

 

 

   INTERNATIONAL STUDIO

 

 

     Master of the Monstrous

 

 

 

By VERNIS   |   INTERNATIONAL STUDIO   |   CONNOISSEUR   |   MARCH 1953

 

 

TO those who follow the pattern of contemporary British painting, the rise of Francis Bacon has been something of a portent. His works were gaining a reputation for him in the thirties: one of them was reproduced in Herbert Read’s Art Now. But during the past six or seven years he has come to be talked of as the most significant of the younger generation of British artists. He has influenced member of the older generation — Sutherland is the outstanding example — and a visitor to the exhibition of works by students of the Royal College of Arts at the Royal Water Colour Society’s Galleries will have noted that his hand lies heavy upon the future.

Those who saw his exhibition at the Hanover Galleries, London, last December will no doubt have been impressed by his work even if they did not like it. Such plastic nightmares as he bodies forth might well be the work of the ageing Goya; for the horror is not a conventional one. It seeps, as it were, through the form. These his later works do not express the same monstrous mythology with which he assailed our sensitivities in earlier exhibitions. They are a record of a visit to Africa, but so compelling are his gifts that one realizes only belatedly that the rhinoceros and the elephant are essentially Baconian conceptions, their monstrous shapes the bodying forth of the evil things which lurk beneath the surface of our civilization. Technically he commands a virtuosity which compels the respect even of those who fail to see the point of his message, but are impressed by its sincerity.

 

 

 

 

“ELEKTRA” AT COVENT GARDEN

 

 

                                                   SPLENDID MUSIC

 

 

 

RICHARD CAPELL  |  DAILY TELEGRAPH & MORNING POST  |  THURSDAY, MAY 14, 1953

 

Strauss’s “Elektra,” which once set the Thames on fire was revived last night at Covent Garden, where it had not been heard tor a good many years. If not quite all the old excitement was revived, the large audience was much impressed by one of the most powerful scores of its age.

Erich Kleiber conducted with mastery. The enormous orchestra overflowed into the stage boxes — harps on the one side, percussion on the other. With the exception of Edith Coates (Clytemnestra), the principals were German — Erna Schlüter, Annelies Kupper and Hans Braun.

Elektras have been known who appeared more demon-possessed than this one and who dominated than this one. But Mme. Schlüter earned respect and she was discreet in her representation of the final dance, which has sometimes been known lo invite ridicule. Edith Coates was mistress of her part, rising superbly to the demands of Clyleinneslia’s scene.

R. C.

 

 

 

Strauss’s “Elektra”

 

 

                            By ERIC BLOM

 

 

ERIC BLOM   |   MUSIC  |   THE OBSERVER   |   SUNDAY, MAY 17, 1953

 

THE repertory of the Royal Opera House has been enriched by a new production of Strauss’s Elektra, and few things, if any, are done better at Covent Garden. It will perhaps be said that the reason for this is that we are really back in the grand international seasons, and it it is true that this work is not only given in German with German principals, but conducted by Erich Kleiber and produced by Rudolf Hartmann. Still, when all the small parts are excellently done by resident artists, and one major and very difficult one, that of Clytaemnestra, is very remarkably performed by our own Edith Coates, there is after all a difference.

All the same, the real hero of this new conquest is Dr. Kleiber, under whom the orchestra played last Wednesday with such precision, such controlled tire, such saturated and sustained beauty of tone that one wish more than once the singers would be silent for long stretches on end.

Not that they were to blame for that in the main. It was more especially Strauss’s fault for devising  so fascinating a web of instrumental sound and then, more often than not, merely plastering  the voice-parts over it because this was an opera and the characters has to be given words to sing. The treatment of these words, as declamation, is admirable, but the voices rarely add anything that is vital to the musical fabric as a whole. That was one thing realised more keenly than ever before. Another was very curious and almost a little shocking: whereas in earlier years one had accepted the “ugly” music in “Elektra” as justified by the harrowing hideousness of events on stage, but longed for the relief of the great outbursts of diatonic normality which were really what Strauss hankered after all his life, these beauties are now found rather overblown, and one takes more pleasure in the nastier places of the score, even if it is only the pleasure of a pathologist’s interest in a fine ulcerous specimen. But anyway, guilty or not of some streak of perverse enjoyment of the composer’s infected imagination or, for that matter, of the libretto, which Hofmannsthal bred by Freud out of Sophocles, this new production does give great satisfaction of a kind almost all round.

Elektra was sung by Erna Schlüter with a fearful wobble to begin with and, though the artist steadied herself later, never with a very captivating tone. On the other hand, she gave a most impressive performance, all told, and it is not her fault that she is not a dancer and had therefore to make some sort of compromise—and a cleaver one, considering the difficulties—of the closing scene. The Chrysothemis of Annelies Kupper was all but loneless at first, then became vocally adequate, but remained commonplace dramatically: the girl’s feelings were simulated effectively enough in a stagy sort of way, but the girl was never in the least like a princess.

Neither was Miss Coates like a queen, and Clytaemnestra, for all her haunted conscience, her bloated face and her diseased liver, must remain queenly and thus the more horrifying and terrifying. But within its own terms of reference Miss Coates’s performance was a masterpiece., and she always does give a whole, fully-sized performance, even if one thinks her conception wrong. She also sang well and made more words audible than anyone else, including her German colleagues, with the exception of Orestes. This part was magnificently sung by Hans Braun, an artist with a splendid voice, obvious intelligence and a fine presence. Edgar Evans’s Aegisthus was not Hoffmannstahl’s depraved murderer and usurper; he arrived rather like an M.P. after a trying day in the House who is determined to give trouble at home! But he sang with the excellent qualities we have come to expect from him.

The set and costumes by Isabel Lambert are simple but impressive, with little, but good, detail, such as the huge bronze doors with enormous ring knockers in the centre and the women’s hairdressing, which seems to be taken straight from Greek vases. This artist, who is Constant Lambert’s widow, has added another notable achievement to those for which Covent Garden, nowadays, without making any great song about it, has perhaps its one real claim to special distinction among the world’s opera houses.

 

 

 

                                        The World of Music

 

                     “Elektra”

 

                                                By ERNEST NEWMAN

 

 

 

ERNEST NEWMAN  |  THE WORLD OF MUSIC  |  THE SUNDAY TIMES  |  SUNDAY, MAY 17, 1953

 

IN an essay or 1845 De Quincey opined that “the first elementary idea of a Greek tragedy is to be sought in a serious Italian opera. The Greek dialogue is represented by the recitative, and the tumultuous lyrical parts assigned chiefly, though not exclusively, to the Chorus on the Greek stage, are represented by the impassioned airs, duos, trios, choruses, etc. on the Italian.” He was fairly right as far as he went, but he did not go nearly far enough.

About the same time a certain young Richard Wagner in Germany was beginning to work out formally a thesis that had been long gestating in his subconsciousness—that the true heir of the Greek drama is. or might be. the modern musical drama. The remarkable correspondencies in technique between the ancient Greek drama and the mature Wagnerian music drama seem to have escaped the attention of our classical scholars. One or two of them have indeed dragged Wagner by the hair of his head into some discussion or other of Aeschylus. Sophocles or Euripides, but in doing so have only managed to expose their almost complete ignorance alike of Wagner, of opera and of music.

THE subject of the inner organic affiliation of the classical drama and the Wagnerian and post-Wagnerian music drama deserves a closer study than has yet been given to it even by musicians. The parallels faintly perceived by De Quincev between the occasional quick-fire dialogue of the Greek tragedians and the recitative of opera, and between the comments of the Greek Chorus and the lyrical expansions of opera—arias, duels, choruses and so on—are obvious enough. What he had no means of knowing was the fact, brought out by Wagner, that since Beethoven the essential role of the Greek Chorus could be taken over by the opera orchestra and vastly enlarged. For the orchestra can be at the same time in the drama and outside it, the spectator of it, the actor in it, and the commentator on it, and, by means of the leitmotif be constantly glancing back and seeing forward in a way impossible to the characters themselves.

IT is in the Wagnerian-leitmotif  that the famous “tragic Irony” of the Greek dramatists, which is seen at its most superb in Sophocles, really comes into Its own. This tragic irony resided mainly in the fact that, as the Greek audience was fully acquainted with the myth or legend that was the subject of the drama. It could and did see a character not only in the light of what he was doing and saying at a given moment but in the light of what was to happen to him in due time. (The crowning achievement of the Greek drama in this regard is the “Oedipus Rex.”) Wagner saw that this double function of reminiscence and foreboding could be performed far more thoroughly and subtly by the orchestra than it can ever be by speech; and one or two of his successors have profited by his example.

In Strauss’s “Elektra,” for instance, which has been given at Covent Garden during the past week, the whole opera is held psychologically in the tight armature of a character who is at the core of the action but does not appear in it—the dead Agamemnon. The orchestra presents him to us in the first bar of the opera, and, in the final bars of all, bids us exult in his triumph beyond the grave. Nor is it only in this ability of music to look, and enable the spectator to see, before and after that music drama as a matter of course surpasses classical drama. The orchestra, with its Infinite capacity for harmonic and colourlstic variety, can increase enormously the expressive potential of words. It can outdo in horror, as it does again and again in Strauss’s “Elektra,” the wildest flight of the poetic imagination.

Take, as examples of all this, first of all Elektra’s lament, in Sophocles, over the shipwreck of her hopes by the reported death of Orestes. It cuts deep into us. but it gives us nothing, like the same sad sense of a spirit utterly broken by misfortune as the corresponding episode in Strauss does. Then again the vital Recognition scene, the emotional core of every Elektra drama. I invite anyone who knows equally well both the Sophocles play and the Strauss opera to say whether the great poet’s handling of this episode can compare with that of the musician in depth and complexity of feeling. To music alone among the arts is it given to plumb such emotional deeps in us, to convey heartbreak and heart’s-ease in one magical, unanalysable complex as Strauss has done here.

WAGNER was right. In the perfected music drama of the future—his own achievement, great as it was. is hardly more than a foreshadowing of what may some day be—the world will have something that will surpass at almost every turn the best that the speech-dramatists have ever managed to accomplish alone. But the next great move lies with the librettists, who, like Hofmannsthal, will need to have not only the poetic but the musical root of the matter in them.

The outstanding feature of lost Wednesday’s production was Erich Klelber’s superb handling of the orchestral score; everything was not only musically impressive but dramatically alive. Erna Schlüter’s Elektra was rather undervolced some of the time, but the part was conceived on grand lines, and the moving. Recognition solo was beautifully sung. Edith Coates’s Clytemnestra and Annales Kupper’s Chrysothemis were In the main adequate, but one’s memory could not help going back wistfully to some of the great performances we have seen of these two parts. Hans Braun was an impressive Orestes: the supreme psychological moment of the role—Orestes’s silent effort at self-mastery after the Old Guardian has urged him to enter the palace and do his awful appointed deed of retribution—was finely realised.

There was little in the staging and the lighting about which I could work up any enthusiasm: in particular the spot-lighting of Orestes during his opening colloquy with Elektra was a distressing piece of theatrical bad taste.

 

 

 

 

             MUSIC

 

 

 

                                        By Noël Goodwin

 

 

 

 

 

NOËL GOODWIN   |   MUSIC  |   TRUTH   |   FRIDAY, MAY 22, 1953

 

Richard Strauss’s amazing music-drama Elektra, the most horrifying story in all music, returned to Covent Garden last week since 1938 in a production that does this powerful score the fullest justice. Its effect on a visibly impressed audience confounds the musical avant-garde, with whom it has been fashionable for year to disparage Elektra in terms which only serve to make their ignorance the more incredible.

Elektra is a fine example of a great classical tragedy, already a masterpiece in its own right, rendered infinitely more effective  by the most imaginative music of which Strauss was capable — music which underlines and intensifies every aspect of the drama. Hofmannsthal, the librettist, may have complained of ‘der gehlerte deutsche Musikgeist’ — a certain orchestral heavy-handedness — but it is no more than is necessary in Elektra to create to the full the atmosphere of violent vengeance and divine retribution.

One wonders how Sophocles and Eurypides, on whose dramas Hofmannsthal’s version is based, would have reached to the transformation which this music imparts  to the ancient tragedy. Music alone imbues Elektra’s magnificent invocation to the shade of the dead Agamemnon with a foretaste of the tragic triumph that is to come. Music alone suggests the presence of Agamemnon in spirit: as his name is uttered the chords mount through the orchestra like a clenched fist above the palace that once was his.

The outstanding feature of this score is the consistently high level of musical tension, quickly achieved by the composer within a few minutes of the rise of the curtain and miraculously maintained throughout almost its entire length. Even the great Recognition scene, Strauss does not allow Elektra’s outpouring of joy and relief at the return of her brother, Orestes, to snap the suspense. Instead, he alerts the character of the music so that the nature of the tension is changed without allowing the sense of impending tragedy to be diminished.

If such overwhelming music can be said to have any weakness at all, they are in the passages intended to delineate the gentler qualities of Elektra’s younger sister, Chrysothemis, who shrinks from violence and longs to escape, which seem to lack the dramatic veracity found in the music, of other characters, and in the composer’s recourse to a musical idiom in the triumphal dance not far removed from his Viennese namesake.

Elektra is a production of which Covent Garden may at last be proud. In no small measure is this due to the inspired playing of the 111-strong orchestra (overflowing into the stage boxes) under the masterly guidance of Erich Kleiber, who realizes the full splendour of the music.

Erna Schlüter is a vivid and experienced Elektra, Edith Coates a tortured and malevolent Clytemnestra, Maria Kinaisiewiez a touching Chrysothemis, and Hans Braun a sonorous and impressive Orestes. Isabel Lambert’s scenery, if visually resembling the back door to a pill-box rather than the courtyard of a Greek palace, invokes the requisite stern atmosphere.

It is to be regretted that there remain only two more performances this season of an opera which is at once a great musical, dramatic and emotional experience.

 

 

 

 

              At the Galleries

 

        Trio

 

            By NEVILE WALLIS

 

 

NEVILE WALLIS  |  THE OBSERVER  |  SUNDAY, JUNE 13, 1953

     

THE splendid collection of Goya drawings and prints from Madrid must wait attention next week. This exhibition, which opened yesterday at 4, St. James’s-square, will attract students as surely as the Lefèvre Gallery’s assemblage of French paintings whose chief prize is Renoir’s almost unknown painting of a mother and child.

Meanwhile Mr. Francis Bacon at the Hanover, Mr. Alan Reynolds at the Redfern, and Mr. Jack Smith occupying the entire Beaux Arts Gallery, invite us to judge whether they are still up in the forefront of our younger painters. Bacon who, far more than Sutherland, now excites the attention of student painters and the curiosity of a cultivated élite, is about to be represented at the Venice Biennale, but his eight large canvases in St, George-street are new works nevertheless. Six represent an anonymous individual not screaming, but lounging almost complacently, though mysteriously, like a prisoner in a darkened dock assured of acquittal; another a dog, and the last, significantly, a brooding sphinx. There are no unexpected shocks here, nor any new device to divert attention from the hallucinatory image on which the eye fastens in every picture. His means remain as spare as they are remorseless; he chills us in designs painted thinly, almost suavely, with all the unimaginable evil of the apparition in The Turn of the Screw concentrated in a blurred face.

Newcomers should not judge Mr. Alan Reynolds’ imaginative gifts entirely on his latest showing. His botanical forms, flattened into decorative arabesques, seem to have become formulas; and in his larger paintings, particularly, one misses the illusion of airy space. The magic has fled. Yet it is not tragic. He needs a period of meditation and renewed contact with nature; needs above all, one senses, release from considerations that press so insistently on any valuable young artist from whom too much is constantly expected.

Having said that, one is almost afraid to praise Mr. Jack Smith whose second exhibition at the Beaux Arts confirms one’s great belief in him. His main theme is the struggle for existence. Thus the effort of an infant tottering over treacherous floor-boards amid towering furniture becomes analogous with the battle for survival of the wretches huddled, amid mongrels and newspapers, against a Parisian quay. Indeed these Parisian scenes and  his Approaching Storm impress me most. But all his big designs are carefully planned, uncompromising, almost monochromatic save for a sparing use of colour here and there; paintings where the artist has so distinctly wrought.

That you might almost say his picture thought.

 

 

 

 

             TATE GALLERY

 

 

                                 EXHIBITION OF RECENT

                                          ACQUISITIONS

 

 

THE ARTS   |   THE LISTENER   |   WEDNESDAY JULY 29 1953

 

Two galleries at the Tate Gallery are at present hung with the acquisitions made in the last three or four years to its three collections, that of British painting, that of modern foreign painting, and that, of modern sculpture. both British and foreign. This exhibition serves two purposes: it includes several new purchases and gifts that have not been shown in the gallery before and it also gives an idea of how active the gallery has lately been and in what way.

The newest acquisitions are particularly interesting; they include the most important work, a recumbent figure, in Signor Manzu’s recent London exhibition, a still life from M. Minaux’s London exhibition, not perhaps as exciting as his paintings of the carcasses of animals but still a most serious and even impressive work, and a beautiful landscape by Monet.

The fauve Derain bought under the terms of the Chantrey Bequest, a pair of Elizabethan portraits by George Gower which were purchased this year, the largest known portrait group by Constable, two paintings by Signor Giacometti, three of the most horrifying pictures that Mr. Francis Bacon has ever painted, perhaps the best of Mr. Lucian Freud’s portraits, Professor Coldstream’s portrait of Mrs. Spender, and an excellent collage by Juan Gris attest the variety of the trustees’ inclinations.

 

 

 

 

 

          TATE GALLERY

 

 

EXHIBITION OF RECENT

          ACQUISITIONS

 

 

 

TATE GALLERY   |   THE TIMES  |   WEDNESDAY JULY 29 1953

 

Two galleries at the Tate Gallery are at present hung with the acquisitions made in the last three or four years to its three-collections, that of British painting, that of modern foreign painting, and that. of modern sculpture. both British and foreign.

This exhibition serves two purposes: it includes several new purchases and gifts that have not been shown in the gallery before and it also gives an idea of how active the gallery has lately been and in what way. The newest acquisitions are particularly interesting; they include the most important work, a recumbent figure, in Signor Manzu’s recent London exhibition, a still life from M. Minaux’s London exhibition, not perhaps as exciting as his paintings of the carcasses of animals but still a most serious and even impressive work, and a beautiful landscape by Monet.

The fauve Derain bought under the terms of the Chantrey Bequest, a pair of Elizabethan portraits by George Gower which were purchased this year, the largest known portrait group by Constable, two paintings by Signor Giacometti, three of the most horrifying pictures that Mr. Francis Bacon has ever painted, perhaps the best of Mr. Lucian Freud’s portraits, Professor Coldstream’s portrait of Mrs. Spender, and an excellent collage by Juan Gris attest the variety of the trustees’ inclinations.

 

 


Snapshots from Hell

 

 

 

 ART   |   TIME   |   MONDAY, OCTOBER 19, 1953 

 

itself into a chamber of horrors. The occasion: the first U.S. show of British Painter Francis Bacon,* who is responsible for perhaps the most original and certainly the ghastliest canvases to appear in the past decade. Bacon has brought the finicky satanism of Aubrey Beardsley, Britain’s famed Victorian horror dabbler, up to date, but he tops Beardsley as surely as, in literature, Franz Kafka topped Poe.

Stars of Bacon’s Manhattan show: five purplish ultramarine cardinals, including those opposite. Painter Bacon says he has nothing against cardinals: “Really I just wanted an excuse to use those colors, and you can’t give ordinary clothes that purple colour without getting into a sort of false fauve manner.” The fact that cardinals do not wear robes—or faces—that kind of purple troubles him not a whit.

Bland, boyish and 42, Bacon lives in London, vacations in Riviera gambling halls. Among his pet subjects in the past were visceral creatures squatting on table tops, elephants in the veldt, misty male nudes and bloody-fanged dogs, all glazed with horror. Critical reaction to Bacon’s art has been a rather alarmed “Splendid!” Wrote London Critic Eric Newton: “Mr. Bacon contrives to be both unforgettable and repellent . . . [This] requires genius — an unhappy, desperate kind of genius.”

Bacon approaches his subjects in the grand manner; he isolates each one, gives it lots of room in a big canvas and paints it with virtuoso brilliance and economy. Perhaps his chief distinction is that he captures in painting the quality of disembodied urgency, of pain writhing in a void, that is peculiar to many news pictures of violent death (for source material, Bacon collects old newspaper photographs, preferably of crimes and accidents). Bacon has a trick of veiling faces with a wispy scumble of paint that creates an illusion of motion, like a photograph in which the subject moved his head. This forces the spectator to peer closely at the picture; he becomes involved, drawn into the darkness.

* Who “neither knows nor cares” whether he is descended from the great British philosopher of the same name.

 

 

 

 

 

LEGER SINCE 1905

 

 

 

Museum Opens Major Show of His Work

   — Late Kuniy0shis Francis Bacon  

 

 

By HOWARD DEVREE | ART | THE NEW YORK TIMES | SUNDAY, OCTOBER 25 1953

 

Bizarre

A bakers dozen paintings by the much-discussed British artist, Francis Bacon, have gone on view at the Durlacher Gallery. Five of eight studies for a portrait of a Cardinal take up one roomrobed half figures against a logelike gold framework, one Grecoish, one smiling, one as if giving an edict, one thinking and one in dramatic pose. Seven of the other eight big canvases are also disarmingly styled “studies,”large as they arethree of them for a portrait of a sketchily presented and ostensibly bored young man.

The “Study of a Figure in a Room” might be an ape exercising on a subway turnstile and is more simian than the study of a caged baboon in a tree. Even a figure in a landscape more than suggests a nature man. In “Study of the Sphynx” the sphynx is, like Cleopatras in the Shaw play, a little one and rather meditative. Bacon obviously is a highly knowledgeable painter who concentrates on sinister effects obtained partly through not pushing realization far. Whether this primarily academic work is more novel and startling than intrinsically impressive is the question.

 

 

 

 

 

Mr. Francis Bacons New Paintings

 

 

 

 

                        EXTRAORDINARY USE OF PHOTOGRAPHS

 

 

 

THE ARTS  |  THE TIMES  |  FRIDAY NOVEMBER 13 1953    

 

Mr. Francis Bacon always paints on the wrong, the unprimed, side of the canvas and perhaps this may be considered typical of his whole approach to his art and of the way in which he always makes difficulties for himself. Difficulties for himself, but not, of course, for those of his admirers, who remain fascinated by the wilfulness of his imagination, the cryptic unpleasantness of his iconography, and his seemingly inexhaustible capacity for discovering yet more perverse and unpromising  themes for large and monumental compositions. For these it would be a bitter disappointment if he turned the canvas round and painted some everyday theme in an ordinary way that would permit one to judge, as it is almost impossible to do from most of his work, the real extent and character of his talent for painting.

In the pictures now exhibited at the Beaux Arts Gallery, Bruton Place, he makes yet more obvious than before his dependence on photography, and no painter, it is safe to say, has ever used photographs in a more extraordinary way. Instead of merely taking them as a guide to construction and drawing, he actually seeks, as is particularly obvious in a triptych of three heads which seem to be taken from American Press photographs showing some politician in the most agitated moments of  a speech, to give the picture the horrible look, and even the disagreeable colour and texture, of a photographic enlargement. When at the same time the third of the series of heads has undergone that mysterious disintegration which is one of Mr. Bacon’s favourite methods of making one’s flesh creep, the effect becomes almost unbearably unpleasant.

The exhibition also includes one of Mr. Bacon’s compositions based upon Velasquez’s pope, but with the face contorted by a scream, and a very large painting of the Sphinx against a background which is taken, it is said, from a photograph of the stadium prepared for the Nuremberg rally. The effect of these, as so often with Mr. Bacon’s recent work, is to suggest that one is in the cinema but that the film has suddenly stopped being wound; the dramatic tension is at its height, and then suddenly frozen and fixed. this does not leave the mind in a fit state for aesthetic contemplation or judgement, but a small picture of a man chewing a chicken bone, though also taken from a photograph, is sufficiently undramatic and unalarming to make it possible for the spectator to see — but also, perhaps, for the artist to produce — some much more genuinely pictorial qualities. Here there is a real continuity throughout the picture and genuine feeling for both the substance and texture of flesh and cloth; perhaps there might be yet more of these qualities if the artist had worked from a living model.

 

 

 

 Art Galleries

 

Bogy-Man

 

 

 By JOHN RUSSELL

 

 

JOHN RUSSELL  |  ART  GALLERIES |  THE SUNDAY TIMES  |  SUNDAY NOVEMBER 15 1953

 

THE Beaux-Arts Gallery in Bruton Street is in two parts. Upstairs is a studio straight out of a Du Maurier novel. Instead, however, of Trilby on her throne, we have the first exhibition of Mr. Derrick Greaves. Mr. Greaves is twenty-six, and most of his pictures were painted in Italy. Most English artists lose all feeling for their own gifts when confronted with the experience of Italy; but Mr. Greaves’s Venetian townscapes represent a feat of direct observation — and in fact his whole show, with its ease and natural breadth of manner, foretells a distinguished career.

Downstairs at the Beaux-Arts, Tribly gives place to one of Kafka’s heroes. The tall square room, suggestive alike of the operating theatre and the condemned cell, is the ideal setting for Mr. Francis Bacon’s pictures. Mr. Bacon is to be one of England’s three champions at next year’s Biennale in Venice. A topical interest now attaches itself, therefore, to those bouts of effort by which, in three or four weeks, he produces enough canvases to cover a tennis court.

Will there be new bogies? That is our first question: for Mr. Bacon’s painting is not absolute painting, of the kind that remains tranquilly within itself. It claws at us. At the Beaux-Arts, as in his previous exhibitions, Mr. Bacon allays our fears with large areas of featureless paint; then springs some horrid surprise. There is one new bogy, this time; but I shall not describe it. Like a recruiting poster, it speaks to YOU — en tête-à-tête — and I shall not intrude.

I hope to deal later with the début of Mr. William Hartwell at Messrs. Green and Abbott in Great George Street. The “Recent Acquisitions” at Messrs. Tooth’s include at least five pictures of National Gallery standard; M. Magritte at the Lefevre is essential to historians of surrealism; at the Leicester Galleries the new “Pictures from Paris” should mot be missed.

 

 

 

 

           WORKS BY DERRICK GREAVES

 

 

                           Beaux Arts Gallery

 

                                                        By Stephen Bone

                                                                               London, Sunday.

 

 

STEPHEN BONE  |  THE MANCHESTER GUARDIAN  |  MONDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 1953

 

One of the most promising first exhibitions that has been seen in London for some time has recently opened at the Beaux Arts Gallery. The artist is Derrick Greaves, and his large, ambitious paintings show, in spite of obvious influences, a strong and individual personality. Two of them are landscapes of Sheffield — a sad, wild, lonely Sheffield, monochromatic under a drizzling sky. Two are of Venice — a Venice equally grey and damp. These are good pictures well thought out and carefully executed; a greater ease and confidence will no doubt accrue with the years. The most interesting exhibit is, however, a large picture “Men and dogs in landscape” in which sunburnt men pose beneath a harsh blue sky. It is a pity this picture was not included in the present exhibition “Figures in their setting” at present at the Tate Gallery, for Derrick Greaves, unlike most of the artists exhibiting at the Tate Gallery, has really been concerned to design human figures and their surroundings, and has had considerable success.

Also at the Beaux Arts Gallery are new paintings by Francis Bacon. He seems to lean more heavily than ever on considered ambiguity. Has the gentleman in the white coat really got two mouths? Is the man in the blue suit really sitting on a bed and why? No doubt for some ghastly reason, for Bacon’s pictures are always designed to set the observer’s mind travelling into macabre fantasies of its own. These pictures contain little that will be new to those who have seen his recent exhibitions. An archbishop howls with rage or pain or imbecility, a middle-aged middle-class person disintegrates in some abominable fashion; the only novelty is that most of this happens in the midst of thick vertical strokes of paint. Is it a shower-bath? Is that really a dog? It seems that we should be happier if we didn’t know.

 

 

 

 

CONTEMPORARY ARTS

 

 

ART

 

Old Surrealism and New Surrealism

 

 

 BY M. H. MIDDLETON | THE SPECTATOR | NOVEMBER 20, 1953

 

Old Surrealism and New Realism As the thunder of the great revolution rumbles away into history and many of its aims are seen to have been chimerical, a number of inevitable reactions are seen to be at work. One is a retreat from abstraction to some form of realism; one is the dissolving of that durable image which so many cubists, surrealists and expressionists laboured to construct, and which they hoped would remain final statements for all time. (It is of interest that the sculptors have concurrently dissolved their traditional mass into space.) Half-a-dozen of the new exhibitions show which way the wind is blowing.

Take Magritte at the Lefevre Gallery. This is his first show in London for fifteen years and the seventeen paintings mark well —with the one exception of his odd impressionistic period during the war—the progress of a loyal and single-minded surrealist. Some of these follies have power to shock us still—for example the bowler-hatted, wax-work bank-clerks of L’Assassin Menace remain as sinister as Jean Vigo’s dwarfish headmaster in Zero de Conduite—but how is one to take seriously the gentleman whose nose turns down into the bowl of the pipe he is smoking? This unequivocal trompe-l’oeil surrealism belongs now to history (and to advertising).

Compare the evasive, shifting, intangible horrors, of Francis Bacon at the Beaux Arts Gallery, where the image dissolves—quite literally—into thin air behind a glass barrier of reflections. Here in these screaming heads, like so many Orpens from some Bedlam of the mind, is an ambiguous state of flux, of becoming, a deliberate refusal on the part of the artist to commit himself to any final statement. If you can take Bacon at all (forgetting about “good painting”), these are good ones.

Also at the Beaux Arts—now becoming such a lively and worthwhile gallery—is the first show by Derrick Greaves, a youngster who has recently won a scholarship to Rome. He marks-the renewed interest in realism, and takes his place easily and with assurance among that group of his own generation which has already gained recognition. More than they, perhaps, he contrives in such. paintings as his black and shining Sunday in Sheffield and his still-life of two chairs in an empty room, to transmute the visual impression into a new autonomous reality. He may well be compared in this with Raymond Guerrier from Paris, to be seen at the Redfern, with whom he shares the fashionably low key that is to be found equally in the work of Buffet and Minaux across the Channel and the Royal College of Art realists over here. Compare his views of Venice, where the water, pitted with rain, has turned to a heaving concrete plane that points the spatial drama of that astounding city, with Guerrier’s Quai de Paris seen from a window. Guerrier is supported by centuries of French taste and intelligence, and a wholly admirable if restrained colour sense, but save in sheer experience the Englishman is not inferior.

M. H. MIDDLETON

 

 

 


Some More London Exhibitions

 

 

 

By ANDREW FORGE  |  ART  |  THE LISTENER  |  THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 26 1953

 

FRANCIS BACON, because he paints violent subjects and uses photographs, thin, sketchy paint, unprimed canvas, and is indifferent to the most respected pictorial conventions of this century, runs the continual risk of being called a sensationalist. Can a serious picture really be painted of a man bouncing and roaring on a bed? one wonders. But it is a question which can only reasonably be asked where there is, in  a painting, evident division of purpose.

Most of us are used to looking at painting whose values can in some way be separated from their subject matter; and most contemporaries are coy about being of anything; indeed, they make it clear that their imagery is not the central matter of their pictures. But if there is one single positive quality which we can point to in the pictures which Bacon is now showing at the Beaux Arts Gallery, is their wholeness. One is affected by the whole picture and on cannot say now it is this which is exciting and now it is that. Everything is in the paint: paint is image and paint is form. The levels upon which the painting works are so tightly knit that one cannot unravel them. One cannot always name the image until one calls it paint. For this reason it is beside the point to harp on the nature of Bacons subject mater, as if the pictures were no ore than particularly morbid illustrations. Their meaning is untranslatable because it resides in the paintings themselves. Its perception is simultaneous with the perception of the form. If this were not so, they would be sentimental. Some of the best pictures here are too thin. There is not enough of them. But the best, the triple head, the naked man, the man eating meat, have personalities like bulls. Their wholeness is such that words like dignity enter ones mind without any sense of paradox.

Derek Greaves, also showing at the Beaux Arts, is vigorous, ambitious, and clear eyed, and his pictures are serious. There is one of Venice, the Grand Canal in the rain, which should be looked at very carefully. It is intensely evocative. Sooner or later Greaves will probably have to reconsider the connection between painting and drawing. Painting is an extension of drawing and not just drawing filled in. Unless the paint is felt as a tense mass, taking up a position in space and formed (given form) by its contour, just as the white paper is felt in a good drawing, the picture gives the impression of being a side shoot and will always carry an air of contrivance and unreality. One feels that these large pictures need boiling down and concentrating round a more distinguished view of drawing. One also feels that Greaves has the intelligence and imagination to undertake the operation.

   

 

 

 

   Art Exhibitions

 

 Impressionist Highways and Byways

 

 

                                                       

                                                By T. W. EARP

 

 

T. W. EARP   |   DAILY TELEGRAPH & MORNING POST   |   FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 27 1953

 

DESPITE warnings that the supply of the leading French impressionists is running low, they still form the mainstay of several current exhibitions. But as at the Marlborough Gallery, Old Bond Street, they are now supplemented by later, though not necessarily lesser, members of the movement.

Degas’s Breakfast, Monet’s Etretat and Sisley’s Ste. Mammes splendidly represent their painters. Girl Reading and The Coiifure are the essence of Renoir. Yet It is possibly to the rarity of more such delight that we owe the presence of Bonnard’s glorious colourharmonies, Landscape and The Roadstead and Vuillard’s exquisite Mother and Child.

Apart from the show’s moderns are grouped several fine old masters. They include Memling’s clear and characterful Head of a Man: Tintoretto’s The Carrying of the Cross, so rhythmic in composition and in many passages proclaiming El Greco’s indebtedness to its artist: and Canaletto’s limpid The Wedding of the Adriatic.

Outstanding at the Gimpel Fils Gallery. South Molton Street, are Pissarro’s firmly modelled and unassumingly natural Woman in Blue Blouse and one of Renoir’s best still-lifes. The Pink Jug. But excellent work comes from lessknown impressionists, only lately appearing here. Typical are Vignon’s pulsing Landscape, Lebourg’s sparkling Snow and Goeunette’s vivacious Boulevard de Clichy, 1876.

 

FASHIONABLE MASTERS

Change of fashion in the old masters is bringing the mannerist and baroque painters of the 16th and 17th centuries into vogue again. Their opposing qualities are well illustrated in an exhibition at the Arcade Gallery. Old Bond Street. From the mannerists, continuing the Renaissance tradition with its clear-cut formalism and classical echoes, come Volterra’s grandiose A Sibyl and Couwenberg’s gravely-paced Bacchanal.

The baroque masters, more In keeping with a modern freedom of expression, display a robust realism and bold gesture in execution with Van Der Kuyl’s Joseph telling his Dreams and Fracanzano’s The Prodigal Son.” Emotion is sometimes overdone, but traced with superb fluency of draughtsmanship, as in Castello’s Descent from the Cross, while the profusion of Abraham Brueghel’s Still Life prefigures Delacroix.

 

INVENTIVE KLEE

The drawings by Paul Klee, shown at the I.C.A. Gallery. Dover Street, are best enjoyed by not taking the artist too portentously. He exercises a marvellous elasticity of line upon an enchanting fantasy in invention, as with Group of Elephants, Animal Friend and Magicians in Dispute might be illustrations for an unwritten fairy tale, and Plants in the Field would have charmed Edward Lear.

A more ominous surrealism suffuses the paintings by Francis Bacon at the Beaux Arts Gallery, Bruton Place. With an oddly transparent effect, his figures appear as in a glass darklv. They seem, as with Pope Innocent X, after Velasquez or 3 Studies of the Human Head, the prey of unspeakable mental or physical agony. But like the Sphinx, one of his less repulsive subjects, they keep their secret and communicate only a vague sense of horror.

 

 

 

 

Who is Britain’s Greatest Painter?

 

 

 

SUSAN TANY | READERS’ LETTERS | PICTURE POST | 30 JANUARY 1954

 

Thank you for your colour reproductions and article on Graham Sutherland (Portrait of a Great British Painter,’ Jan. 16). But is he really our most famous painter since Turnerwhat about Sickert, John, Steer?

And I think that your article gave a hint of the man who may really prove to be the greatest of the lotFrancis Bacon.

I know at the moment he is a painter’s painter’ (Sutherland’s as much as anyone), but I believe that even the public will eventually see how powerful he is. It is significant that he is to have an exhibition at the Venice Biennale this year, as Sutherland did in 1951. 

SUSAN TANY, HAMPSTEAD.

 

 

 

                                       ‘STUDY, 1951’: By Francis Bacon.

          Reproduced by permission of the Contemporary Art Society.

 

 

 

 

 

                 THE VENICE BIENNALE

 

 

 WORKS CHOSEN FOR BRITISH SECTION

 

 

 

HOME NEWS  |   THE TIMES  |  WEDNESDAY APRIL 14 1954

 

The principal part of the exhibition of British art at this year’s Venice Biennale will consist of works by Mr. Ben Nicholson, Mr. Francis Bacon and Mr. Lucian Freud. One of the rooms in the British Pavilion will he devoted to a collection of recent lithographs in colour, and in another there will be shown all the preliminary studies and drawings made by Mr. Reg Butler for the International Sculpture Competition on the theme of “The Unknown Political Prsone” as well as the winning maqueute.

The works have been chosen for the British Council, the organizers of the British section, by Sir Philip Hendy, Sir Herbert Read, Sir John Rothenstein, Mr. Philip James, and Mr. Roland Penrose.

One work by each of the three painters is to be lent to the exhibition by the New York Museum of Modem Art, which has arranged to withdraw them in September so that they may be included in an exhibition which the museum has organized to celebrate its twenty. fifth anniversary in October.

Other public collections, including the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, the Tate Gallery, the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, the Manchester City Art Gallery and the Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston, have also undertaken to lend a number of works. 

 

 

 

 

APPARITIONS OF EVIL

 

 

    MR. FRANCIS BACONS NEW PAINTINGS

 

 

 

THE ARTS  |  THE TIMES  |  MONDAY JUNE 14 1954

 

After steadying the nerves for whatever new rabbit with myxomatosis Mr. Francis Bacon may pull out of his top-hat, it is a comfort, though perhaps also a disappointment, to find that what he has to show us this time is a shade less alarming than usual.

At the Hanover Gallery he has eight large pictures, six of them variants of the same theme, an apparition of a well-dressed, powerful man in a shadowy but expensive-looking office. This phantom might be a politician, possibly American, a great technocrat, or some other representative of modem power; almost certainly he is intended to be a most evil presence. As is necessary in every séance there are dark curtains and very little light; the prevailing colour of the pictures, which are painted as usual on the wrong side of the canvas, is what tailors call midnight blue and against this the head and hands, in a chalky pink, gleam with unnatural pallor. The features have suffered that disintegration which is one of Mr. Bacon’s favourite devices; here the paint has been allowed to run down the canvas and the effect is as if the ectoplasm was just beginning to dissolve. The mystery is enhanced by the fact that all the pictures are glazed so that their dark backgrounds act as mirrors; but if one peers closely, deter- mined to submit the medium to the most stringent tests, it can be seen that the figure disappears completely at about the waistline; in one or two of the pictures it seems, in fact. to be so incorporeal that it is actually intersected at this point by the flat top of a desk.

The other two pictures represent a dog on a pavement, with the grating of a gutter in the foreground this is the most coherent and also the best painted of the new works and the Sphinx, with a section of the desert and various ruins around it, but, for some reason that one can hardly hope to fathom, a background which closely resembles the apartment in the six paintings of a man.

There may well be a fine dividing line between wilful mystification and the workings of an imagination which should not be subjected to prosaic questioning. And here the line, one may suspect, is so fine that no two reactions to these pictures will be the same; whether one decides that this is a bogy or a ghost must depend on the mood of the moment and the precise degree to which the spectator is, to use the accepted term, a psychic type.

 

 


Round the London Galleries

 

 

 

By QUENTIN BELL  |  ART  |  THE LISTENER  |  THURSDAY JUNE 17 1954

 

Mr. Francis Bacon is showing some new pictures at the Redfern Galleries. It is an impressive, or at least a disconcerting, exhibition. The visitor enters the main room to find himself surrounded and reflected in huge black canvases. There is a dog and a sphinx and six portraits of a man, who seems to be a cashier (or the ghost of a cashier), seated at what may be a desk (or might be a coffin) and encased in glass. The variations of the figures posture make the whole series resemble one of those photographic interviews in the illustrated papers in which a celebrity is shown arguing with a reporter.

As usual, the faces of the figures have been partially obliterated in order to suggest a modish decomposition of the flesh. For all his terribilità Mr. Bacon is a dainty artist. I use the adjective advisedly because it was Whistler’s; with whom, if we can for a moment disregard his sound and fury, we shall find that he has much in common. He has the same Japanese tastefulness in composition, the same summary but effective brushwork, the same taste for restricted and rather pretty colour; the same inability to come to grips with the fundamental problems of painting; not, in my opinion, the same talent. This gallery is also showing some drawings by that gifted artist Mr. William Scott.

 

 

 

 

          THE 27TH VENICE BIENNALE

 

 

                              EXHIBITS FROM MANY COUNTRIES

 

 

                                          FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT

                                                    VENICE, JUNE 20

 

 

CORRESPONDENT  |  THE ARTS  |  THE TIMES  |  MONDAY JUNE 21 1954

 

Thirty-two countries from al continents are present at the twenty-seventh biennial international art exhibition which was opened here on Saturday by the President of the Italian Republic

Never before since the biennale was first held in 1895 to celebrate the silver wedding of King Humbert and Queen Margherita have paintings and sculptures from so many countries been assembled together in Venice. Foreign attendance might have been even wider but for the problem of space.

 

METHOD OF SELECTION

Nineteen foreign nations, including two newcomers Israel and Venezuela have their own pavilions here, the British one, built in 1909, being one of the oldest. They are owned by their respective Governments, except that of the United States, which has been recently purchased by the New York Museum of Modern Art. The exhibits of the other foreign entrants are housed together with the Italian exhibits in the big central building. The works sent to the biennale are selected by a committee consisting of a commissary appointed by each Government, so that their representative character is assured. The committee appointed by the British Council is presided over also this year by Sir Philip Hendy.

The biennale, besides providing a comprehensive review of contemporary art, has the purpose of illustrating through retrospective shows those tendencies and the work of those artists who influence in one way or another contemporary trends of taste. This year the international committee of experts advised the organizers to dedicate retrospective shows to Gustave Courbet, the French peasant painter, and to the Norwegian Edward Munch. Fifty-two paintings by Courbet have been selected and ordered by M. Germain Bazin, director of the Louvre. They cover over 30 years of activity starting with Les Amants Hleureux of 1844. Five of the best pieces have been lent by the Louvre. LAtellier and L’Enterrement, however could not be brought over because of their dimensions. M. Bazin is determined that justice should be rendered to Courbet. The coarseness and poverty of drawings, so often a reproach by the critics, are to Courbet far less important than his true pictorial instinct and than the powerful way in which he expresses in his landscapes and -scenes of animal life and hunting a peasant’s unsophisticated passionate love for nature. Edward Munch is being honoured as one of the founders of expressionism. He is well represented with 53 paintings, mostly from the Oslo National Gallery, and a number of engravings and lithographs.

 

 

SENSE OF UNCERTAINTY

Abstract, expressionist, and more generally non-figurative art still appears to be holding the field almost everywhere; but a new sense of uncertainty and weariness is becoming apparent. Mannerism is the obvious danger. There are, however, strong personalities still capable of expressing themselves freely. The British pavilion provides some happy instances. The 53 works by Ben Nicholson an old acquaintance of the biennale reveal through the international language he adopts the intensely national character of his paintings as well as a unique sensibility. Francis Bacon is present with 10 paintings.

Lucian Freud worthily represents, with 21 pieces, the younger generation. A motif of special interest in the British section is provided by the final maquette of Reg Butler’s Unknown Political Prisoner, which is exhibited together with other preliminary maquettes and a number of studies. Lithographs by H. Moore, Sutherland, Braund, Clarke, Cliffe, Colquhoun, Gear, Paolozzi, Richards, and Scott form a valuable addition.

 

 

 

 

CONTEMPORARY ARTS

 

 

ART

                                                          

 BY M. H. MIDDLETON  |  ART  |  THE SPECTATOR  |  FRIDAY JUNE 25 1954

 

At the Hanover Gallery Francis Bacon shows another sequence from his horror serial. There behind the glitter of glass, in its darkened, claustrophobic, curtained cubby-hole, is our old friend The Thing which some of us  cannot help coming to regard with a certain affection, just as a dipsomaniac grows attached to his Harvey.  But this time its trappings are no longer spiritual; but temporal; it wears a still collar, sits at  (or through) the big, polished polished empty desk of the top-grade executive or head of the secret police. It takes confidently the attitudes of the present day — folds its arms, throws back its head, secure in its power, and laughs. Its features are the blurred yet potent, even hypnotic, image that confronts us in our newspapers or from our television screen, anonymous as one of those composite faces built up by the superimposition of a score of photographs to produce the typical businessman or the typical Cabinet Minister or what-have-you. This is the mysterious, unfathomable but powerful being from Kafka’s castle, the McCarthy-incubus of present-day man. Six large paintings are concerned with this apparition of evil; two others portray the Sphinx and — the better — a dog on a pavement. Bacon’s presences are, as it were, momentarily revealed by some unholy light about their business in the collective unconscious. I wonder what Venice will make of them at the 27th Biennale which opens this week

 

 

 

 

          SURREALIST ART IN VENICE

 

 

                            A WORLD PANORAMA

 

 

                          FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT

 

                                                 VENICE, JUNE 24

 

 

CORRESPONDENT  |  THE ARTS  |  THE TIMES  |  FRIDAY JUNE 25 1954

 

The twenty-seventh Venice Biennale provides a panorama of the artistic scene throughout the world. It is none the less dangerous to draw sweeping inferences concerning the present state of a given country’s. art from its showing in these international exhibitions. The organizers of national pavilions by no means invariably seek to present a cross-section of their national produce, and when they do attempt this there is no guarantee that they do not unwittingly, mislead.

It can, however, be assumed that the 30 rooms of the Palazzo Centrale devoted to Italian art provide a fairly comprehensive picture of what is going on here. (The most notable absentees, Signori Morandi, Carra, Manzui, and Marini, are so well known that we can fill in the gaps in the picture from memory.) Actually, the prospect is not bright in the field of painting. There is little to reward attention other than some characteristic, breezily elegant paintings by Signor de Pisis and the post-cubist romantic landscapes of Signor Matteo Moreni with their explosively poetic conjunctions of colour. This year’s prize for an Italian painter was awarded to Signor Santomaso, who recently exhibited in London at the Hanover Gallery. The prize for an Italian sculptor has gone to Signor Fazzini, who is but one of several youngish exhibitors — others are Signori Mirko, Cherchi, LeoncilIo, Fabbri, and Mascherini — who reveal that, in the field of sculpture, the renaissance initiated by Signori Manziu and Marini has much in reserve and much to contribute, within the limits of an approach which, by and large, is concerned with creating elegant and ingratiating objects rather than with plumbing the depths of human experience-in short, with the practice of a kind of plastic bel canto.

 

CONTINUITY OF THEME

 

The Palazzo Centrale also includes exhibitions by M. Jean Arp, Herr Max Ernst, and M. Joan Miro (by whom some lithographs are on view in the Spanish pavilion), who have received respectively the international prizes for sculpture, painting, and graphic art. Having themselves arranged these one-man shows of individual surrealists, the Biennale Committee invited the organizers of the national pavilions to take surrealism as a theme for this year’s exhibition. Consequently, the national pavilions include much work with surrealist affinities, although the only systematic presentation of a country’s surrealistic and fantastic art is to be found in the Belgian pavilion, which includes works by Bosch, Huys, Savery, and Wiertz, as well as by MM. Magritte and Delvaux and other contemporaries. At the opposite extreme, France offers a cross-section of her contemporary art which engenders a confusion only partially redeemed by the forceful and imaginative sculptures of Mme. Germaine Richier, two superb still-life works by Derain, and a group of works by Matisse (including bronzes of the first four states of the head of Jeannette together with a second cast of the fourth state catalogued as the fifth).

It is perhaps regrettable that the British have not taken the same opportunity as the Belgians to demonstrate the continuity of their tradition of fantastic art. But, if the British pavilion lacks coherence in this sense, none is more coherent or more tactful in the display of its exhibits, though it is open to question whether one wall of the room in which a number of large paintings by Mr. Francis Bacon are shown (and seen to their great advantage in the Adriatic light) should have been given over to drawings and maquettes for “The Unknown Political Prisoner” by Mr. Reg Butler, which would far better have been shown in the small room occupied by a rather feeble little anthology of lithographs. The selection of the works by Mr. Bacon has been very well done, but several of his best portraits are absent from Mr. Lucian Freud’s show, while the number of recent works in Mr. Ben Nicholson’s exhibition might be thought disproportionately large in view of its retrospective intention.

 

ACTION-PAINTINGS

 

The American contribution consists of oneman exhibitions of Mr. de Kooning and Mr. Ben Shahn together with some sculptures. Mr. Shahn’s exhibition may be a disappointment to those who know and have admired his work in coloured reproductions, for the paint itself in the originals is so inert that his images gain considerably from compression. The “action-paintings” of Mr. de Kooning have a certain vitality and charm, but none of the compelling intensity of those of M. Riopelle who, though domiciled in France, shows as a Canadian.

Like the Olympic Games and the World Cup, the Biennale affords the opportunity for an emergence of talent and ambition from behind the Iron Curtain. The Czechoslovak pavilion contains paintings in a provincial romantic impressionist style which would not appear out of place in the New English Art Club. Poland and Rumania, however, offer work in the authentic tradition of Socialist Realism, though a striking and precise resemblance between the treatment of form, space, and composition in the largest painting in the Rumanian pavilion — that of Mr. Gavril Miklossy — and in the largest of the works recently shown in Bond Street by Signor Annigoni suggests that, after all, art acknowledges no social or political distinctions.

 

 

 

Round the London Galleries

 

 

 

R. DE MÉRIC  |  OPINION  |  THE LISTENER  |  THURSDAY, JULY 1 1954

 

Sir,—Mr. Bell, in his review (THE LISTENER