Francis Bacon News

 

                                                                                                                                                         

                                                                                                                                                 2018–2019

 

 

 

 

Brooklyn Museum Is Trying to Sell a Francis Bacon Painting the Artist Wanted Destroyed

 

 

 

During his lifetime, Bacon wrote the museum that “It was a throw-out and it depresses me […] that it has years later found its way onto the art market and I would prefer if it were not exhibited.”

 

 

 

 | HYPERALLERGIC | OCTOBER 17, 2019 

 

There’s something very curious about the Francis Bacon painting that is slated to go up for auction at Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening sale on November 14. First of all, it’s terrible. And yet auctioneers predict that the work, which is currently in the Brooklyn Museum’s collection, will sell for $6–8 million. If you think I’m being harsh, well, it turns out that the artist thought so too.

According to an older version of the museum website, in 1982 the artist wrote the Brooklyn Museum directly about the work, which was donated to the institution in 1981. Today I tried to visit the museum’s library to see if I could see the letter. Sadly, the library didn’t have a copy and the archivist wasn’t in, and I got an email that said requests would be dealt with in 6–8 weeks (yes, they appear to be underfunded, like most archives).

The painting’s info page, no longer listed on the museum website, told a fuller story of this painting. The listing on the Sotheby’s website only hints at Bacon’s distaste for the artwork, and the “official” auction house story has been parroted by many in the art trade media (which loves to republish press relates). It suggests this about the painting’s curious origin (emphasis mine):

In 1959, Bacon gifted five of his six Tangier Paintings, completed in this storied period, to his friend Nicolas Brusilowski; Bacon hoped his friend would somehow be able to reuse the canvases. Instead, Brusilowski preserved the paintings, which later found their way to private collections around the world. The present Pope was sold to Swiss dealer Jan Krugier; and in 1967, American collector Olga H. Knoepke subsequently acquired the work from Krugier’s gallery. A renowned businesswoman, Knoepke amassed a significant collection of contemporary and American art in her lifetime, which she gifted to the Brooklyn Museum in 1981. Now, for the first time in over fifty years, Pope will once again change hands; all proceeds from the sale will be used to support the museum’s collection.

But that’s not the whole story. In 1982, the museum received a letter from the artist himself, which is listed on an older version of the museum website and featured at the top of this article (thanks, Wayback Machine!). But the contents of the letter aren’t fully clear, and it seems curious that the museum doesn’t have it easily accessible considering the high profile sale. Then again, we can probably agree that the auction house probably sees no benefit in revealing this, since the type of capitalism Sotheby’s and other blue-chip auction houses play is a form of smoke and mirrors (just think about the ‘Salvator Mundi’ that is reputedly by Leonardo da Vinci … yeah, sure). After a quick search in the museum’s Francis Bacon folder, which contains the relevant catalogue raisonné entry, it appears the work was catalogued with the title “Pope” even though the museum had it listed as “Personnage” on their website. But it also has a revealing quote from this infamous 1981 letter:

“It was a throw-out and it depresses me he [Nicholas Brusilowksi] did not destroy the image as he undertook and that it has years later found its way onto the art market and I would prefer if it were not exhibited.”

While the museum has exhibited the painting at various times since they received that letter, it was never extensively shown. Most people I’ve asked, even regular Brooklyn Museum-goers, had no idea a Bacon existed in the collection.

So, the art market is trying to gin up a bad painting (which looks terrible, admit it) and find someone to fork over millions for something the artist didn’t want in circulation. Respecting an artists wishes seems like it should be central to exhibiting this type of work.

I asked the museum if they had any comment on the situation, particularly the artist’s intention, and they provided the following response:

“While the work is exceptional, post-war European art is not a focus of our collection. As part of ongoing collection review, we’ve chosen to sell this particular work and use the proceeds to more sharply focus on institutional collection priorities.”

It doesn’t seem like they want us to know the whole story. Also, I find it strange that an encyclopedic museum like the Brooklyn Museum doesn’t think post-war European art is a focus of their collection, considering so much contemporary art references it, but that’s their call. Let’s see if they find a chump collector to buy this terrible painting.

 

 

      

 

 

 

 

 

In person: Pilar Ordovas on playing hard to get and striking out on her own

 

 

 

The Spanish-born independent dealer discusses working with Larry Gagosian and why she won't do art fairs

 

 

 

 | ART DEALERS | THE ART NEWSPAPER | 16 OCTOBER 2019 

 

“If there’s a boy that everyone wants to go out with, but he won’t take any girls out, it’s very exciting. Everyone wants to go out with them. But if it’s a boy that has asked every girl on the street to go out, then, well… it’s not so exciting. It’s the same with a painting.”

In an age of over-exposure, Pilar Ordovas likes her art to play hard to get. That is why she refuses to do fairs, art’s equivalent of speed dating, of sell-and-tell. Ordovas prefers the intimacy of the private viewing room

“I go to Art Basel and see identical booths that I’ve seen in five locations. I prefer to keep out of it – instead of exposing my works in that way, and burning them if they don’t sell. I prefer to do a few exhibitions a year in London and New York,” says Spanish-born Ordovas, her IWC Schaffhausen watch offset by a broken finger – she fell while running to meet her husband, the film producer Simon Astaire, for breakfast in Los Angeles. But, she reassures me, her phone was ok. Ordovas is polished, stylish, but with the grit of a doer

Ordovas has stuck to a discreet path ever since she opened her sleek Savile Row gallery in London’s Mayfair neighbourhood with a show called Irrational Marks: Bacon and Rembrandt in 2011. For that, she persuaded the Musée Granet in Aix-en-Provence to lend Rembrandt’s Self-Portrait with Beret (around 1659). It was a loan show, nothing was for sale, setting the tone for the scholarly exhibitions that have followed, including Painting from Life: Carracci Freud, staged in collaboration with the Dulwich Picture Gallery, bringing together head studies by Lucian Freud and Annibale Carracci.

A newly independent dealer launching their first commercial gallery with a show in which nothing is for sale seems contrary and begs the question: how it is viable? “The way that my exhibitions work is that there is not necessarily something for sale on the walls,” she says. “I do need to sell things and, of course, on the back of the exhibition, I’ll be selling something. I might have a Bacon and Rembrandt show that is only loans, but I’ve sold a large Bacon triptych that you will never know about.” Sometimes she will have already sold a work, and then does a related show. “It doesn’t necessarily go hand in hand, but there’s always some sort of relationship,” she says, but adds, “you, as a member of the press, will never know if something is for sale.” She smiles openly but her dealings are a closed book.

Such secrecy is at odds with increasing calls for transparency and yet, as auction price data becomes ever more accessible online, there are those – such as Ordovas – who continue to value privacy. Keeping the price of a work confidential, and restricting access, safeguards it, she says. But, how? In Ordovas’s view, knowing the price of a work might encourage chancers to “start shopping that piece around to other people, sending images, approaching auction houses. It is a responsibility that one has when one is handling something really important, to keep it protected and fresh”

Ordovas cut her teeth in an auction house. After graduating from Edinburgh University, she joined Christie’s as an intern in the Modern British art department and left 13 years later as international director and deputy chairman of post-war and contemporary art in Europe. Christie’s was a “roll up your sleeves and learn” experience. When she joined the contemporary department, “there were four or five people in Europe”; by the time she left the company, there were 100. “The wonderful thing about starting when the market was much smaller was that I got involved in so much more.”

Recognising she needed a niche, Ordovas decided early on to concentrate on two artists, Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud. “I got to know where all the works were, who collected them. That’s one of the things that really changed my career.” She met Freud after consigning to Christie’s a landscape that he had painted in the 1970s and had not seen since. “He invited me to his studio, that’s how our friendship started. I started bringing works for him to see. His knowledge on Bacon was phenomenal. He was the only person that really went on a regular basis to his studio. I would take Lucian’s own works to him, but I would also take works by Bacon and others that I knew he was interested in. He loved horses and he was always interested in seeing drawings of horses by Degas.”

Freud would, Ordovas says, make her “look at things in a completely different way, that way of showing you things in a very practical way, like ‘stand here, look at it without this. What do you see?’”.

That concentration paid off – while at Christie’s, she consigned Lucian Freud’s Benefits Supervisor Sleeping (1995) which set a record when it sold for $33.6m (with fees) in 2008 and Francis Bacon’s Triptych (1974-77), which sold the same year for £26.3m (with fees)

Little surprise, then, that Larry Gagosian started calling, asking her to work with him and “develop the secondary market side” at his London gallery. In 2009, as supply of major works dwindled post-Lehman Brothers crash, she did. “The auction world really slowed down” Ordovas says. “Christie’s wanted me to do more private sales but, well, when you spend all your professional life trying to persuade people to sell at auction and then you have to tell them ‘no, sell privately’… it didn’t feel right.”

Freed from the auction treadmill, Ordovas spent six months planning her first show for the gallery, about Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud and Alberto Giacometti. Gagosian’s managing style was “very hands off – as long as you are making him money, he doesn’t really get involved. He is very hands on in terms of putting pressure on all his team to produce. But if you produce results, you have pretty much all the freedom you want”. That said, Ordovas started wondering what was stopping her from doing it alone. So, in 2011, she opened on Savile Row, followed by a New York space in 2015.

Some long-term clients had been wary when she joined the Gagosian stable. “He divides opinion, he’s very American and ruthless. I almost had to justify that I was still personally looking after them and not to worry,” she says. “So, it was sort of easier when I was on my own.”

The secondary market is Ordovas’s bread and butter – she does not represent living artists, though equally she does not rule out the possibility. She did represent one estate, that of the Spanish sculptor Eduardo Chillida, but lost it to Hauser & Wirth in July last year. That hurt. “It was hard, but I understood. They’re a family of eight, it was going to become a huge family issue. In some ways, looking back on it on with a bit of distance, they took a huge problem off my hands, but it was also a great sadness.” Hauser & Wirth’s gallery is immediately opposite Ordovas’s – on leaving I remark on its proximity. She smiles ruefully

Though from Madrid, Ordovas went to school and university in the UK, where she has spent her whole professional life. Inevitably, I ask her about Brexit. She sighs heavily: “I have built my life and my career in this country, I employ lots of UK citizens. And I don’t even get to have an opinion because I am a Spanish citizen. I am a child of the EU, so I am very upset about what is happening in the country that I love.”

She adds: “I hope I won’t have to move, but I do think...let’s see what happens. I mean, we don’t even know what’s going to happen with regard to the free circulation of works of art. There are still a lot of question marks.”

We live, she reflects, in strange times: “I spent a lot of time in America and this sense of disbelief, of uncertainty, I feel it now on both sides of the ocean for different reasons. Economically things are very stable over there, but you hear the news and you want to cry.”

Ordovas’s next show, opening on 24 September, commemorates Peggy Guggenheim’s short-lived London gallery, Guggenheim Jeune, opened just around the corner at 30 Cork Street in 1938. The gallery was only open for 18 months, its life cut short by the Second World War, and the building was later bombed. “Peggy came to London with no business experience not knowing whether she wanted to open a bookstore or a gallery,” Ordovas says. “London was a really crucial experience, because she realised that she wanted to open a museum. One year really shaped who she became afterwards.”

The show will tell the story of the gallery through paintings and sculptures by Jean Arp and Yves Tanguy – two artists championed by Guggenheim – including some loans from the National Gallery in Scotland and the Hepworth Wakefield, alongside vitrines of archival material. Perhaps some will be for sale but, if they are, Ordovas is not telling me.

 

 

 

 

The Brooklyn Museum Is Selling This Rare Francis Bacon Pope Painting at Sotheby’s to Raise Money for Other Acquisitions

 

 

 

The painting, estimated to fetch as much as $8 million, is one of only six surviving canvases from the artist's turbulent time in Tangier.

 

 

 

 | ARTNET NEWS | OCTOBER 16, 2019 

 

 

The Brooklyn Museum is selling off a rare and major painting by Francis Bacon next month to raise money for its collections fund.

The eerie work being deaccessioned, Bacon’s Pope (1958), is one of just six surviving canvases made by the artist while he was living in Tangier. It will hit the auction block at Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening auction in New York on November 14.

Sotheby’s estimates that the painting will rake in $6 million to $8 million, though there’s a good chance it will fetch a higher sum. The last time a work from this series came to auction was 11 years ago when another Pope painting sold for $7.3 million at Sotheby’s Paris, more than doubling its $3.2 million low estimate. This spring, an earlier “screaming pope” painting by the artist brought in $50.4 million at Sotheby’s during New York auction week.

The museum declined to comment on what, specifically, it will do with the proceeds from the sale, saying only that it will use the money to “more sharply focus on institutional collection priorities.”

“While the work is exceptional, post-war European art is not a focus of our collection,” a representative from the museum said.

In the mid 1950s, Bacon made several trips to Tangier, where his lover, Peter Lacy, had recently moved. Though the artist is thought to have produced a great deal of work during this time, he destroyed much of it after his notoriously tumultuous relationship with Lacy dissolved. Of the six paintings that survived from the period (Bacon gave the entire suite to his friend, Nicolas Brusilowski), four are now in private collection.

“Pope offers an exceedingly rare glimpse into Francis Bacon’s psychological state during a prolific but ultimately tortured time in his life and career,” Grégoire Billault, the head of Sotheby’s Contemporary art department in New York, said in a statement. “Tangier represented the artist’s first travels outside of Europe, and the promise of an open life with Peter Lacy. But their relationship proved volatile and violent, which found expression in Bacon’s anguished Popes of the period.”

The painting was acquired from Brusilowski in 1967 by New York businesswoman Olga H. Knoepke, who in turn gifted the work to the Brooklyn Museum in 1981.

Pope will go on view to the public at Sotheby’s New York starting on November 1.

 

 

       

                                                           English painter Francis Bacon in January 1984. Photo: Ulf Andersen

 

 

 

 

 

The Brooklyn Museum will sell a Francis Bacon painting at Sotheby’s

 

 

 

 | EDITORIAL | ARTSY | 15 OCTOBER 2019 

 

 

The Brooklyn Museum is hoping to bring in the bacon—by selling some of its own. The museum is deaccessioning a Francis Bacon painting from its collection, and it will be offered at Sotheby’s contemporary art evening sale on November 14th in New York. The work is expected to bring in between $6 million and $8 million.

The painting, titled Pope (ca. 1958), is one of only six surviving canvases from the British painter’s “Tangier Paintings” body of work; Bacon painted the series during visits to see his romantic partner Peter Lacy in Morocco in the 1950s, and he destroyed most of them after their relationship ended. This is the first time since 2008 that one of the “Tangier Paintings” has come to auction. In May, another of his paintings of a papal figure, Study for a Head (1952), surpassed its high estimate of $30 million to sell $50.4 million at Sotheby’s in New York.

Proceeds from the sale will go toward supporting the Brooklyn Museum’s collection. According to the institution’s online collection database, it owns one other work by Bacon, a lithograph from 1984.

In a statement, Grégoire Billault of Sotheby’s contemporary art department in New York (and a former researcher for the Bacon estate) said:

 “Pope offers an exceedingly rare glimpse into Francis Bacon’s psychological state during a prolific but ultimately tortured time in his life and career. Tangier represented the artist’s first travels outside of Europe, and the promise of an open life with Peter Lacy. But their relationship proved volatile and violent, which found expression in Bacon’s anguished Popes of the period—of which precious few survive.”

 

 

 

      

                                                                                               Francis Bacon, Pope, ca. 1958. Est. $6 million–8 million.

 

 

 

 

 

Brooklyn Museum to Sell Francis Bacon Pope at Auction with $6 M. to $8 M. Estimate

 

 

 

 | ART NEWS | 15 OCTOBER 2019 

 

The Brooklyn Museum is deaccessioning, a Francis Bacon painting from its collection, Pope (ca. 1958), and offering it for sale at Sotheby’s in New York next month in order to raise money to support its collection. It is estimated to make between $6 million to $8 million on the block.

A museum parting with a high-profile work is something of a rarity, though industry guidelines allow sell-offs in cases where the resulting funds are used to buy more work or care for the collection. The Brooklyn Museum has not detailed its exact plans for the proceeds. It said that “while the work is exceptional, postwar European art is not a focus of our collection. As part of ongoing collection review, we’ve chosen to sell this particular work and use the proceeds to more sharply focus on institutional collection priorities.”

Over the past couple years, the Baltimore Museum of Art and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art have made headlines by parting with prominent works in order to raise funds to diversify their collections.

The Brooklyn Bacon heading to Sotheby’s for its November 14 sale of contemporary art is one of six “Tangier Paintings” that the artist painted in that Morocco city. The American collector Olga H. Knoepke acquired this work in 1967, and gave it to the Brooklyn Museum in 1981.

The Brooklyn Museum still holds one Bacon in its collection, according to online collection database: a 1984 lithograph titled Oedipus and the Sphinx that is based on his 1983 painting of the same name, which is held by the Museu Coleção Berardo in Lisbon.

 

 

 

     

                                                                                Francis Bacon, Pope, ca. 1958.

 

 

 

 

Bacon en Toutes Lettres at Centre Pompidou Paris

 

 

 

 | MUSEUMS & GALLERIES | FRANCE TODAY MAGAZINE | OCTOBER 14, 2019 


As an undisputed trailblazer of the 20th century, Bacon’s raw, uncompromising large format depictions of contorted flesh and limb are as overwhelming as they are haunting. The Centre Pompidou approaches this new visit to his work, 23 years after his last exhibition here, through the words that inspired and influenced the latter part of his career in about sixty masterpieces, including 12 triptychs, notably the three heart-rending tributes to George Dyer, never displayed side by side before.

Francis Bacon was an avid “reader of everything” from Greek drama to modern poetry. He said that literature represented a powerful stimulus for his imagination, but that rather than giving shape to a story, reading inspired a “general atmosphere”. He was deeply interested in the works of Aeschylus, which he claimed to know by heart, adding that he only ever really read texts that evoked “immediate images” for him.

The exhibition ‘Bacon en Toutes Lettres’ explores the influence of literature on his paintings, focusing on his output during the last two decades of his creation starting in 1971 – a turning point for Bacon. Just as he had achieved international acclaim, a mere two days before the opening of his retrospective at the Pompidou – a recognition that had only been granted to one other living artist, Pablo Picasso – Bacon’s world was ripped apart by the tragic loss of his partner George Dyer. The selection of works follows his evolution from this crucible of the heart through to his death in 1992.

Split into six areas, the Pompidou exhibition includes famous voices reading excerpts of texts from Bacon’s famed library, including works by Aeschylus, Nietzsche, Bataille, Leiris, Conrad and Eliot, all of whom had a direct influence on Bacon’s choice of subjects and form of expression. To enrich the experience there are accompanying podcasts available via web and mobile.

Good to know: Due to the extremely high interest in this event and in order to improve access, the Pompidou implemented a system of mandatory reservations, with a choice of time slots.

Bacon en Toutes Lettres  Until January. Open every day from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Late opening until 11 pm on Thursday. Closed on Tuesday.

 

 

 

       

                                               Francis Bacon’s Portrait of George Dyer in a Mirror (1968)

 

 

 

 

Francis Bacon, un artiste très chair

 

 

«Nous sommes de la viande», assurait le peintre, dont l'œuvre partage avec le cinéma gore une fascination pour la chair et des viscères

 

 

 | SLATE | FRANCE | 6 OCTOBER, 2019

 

Une série d'électrochocs. Voilà à quoi s'apparente une visite de l'exposition en cours au Cebtre Pompidou explorant les liens entre les influences littéraires du peintre Francis Bacon et son œuvre picturale. Géniale. L'exposition est géniale. C'est vrai, on en apprend finalement très peu sur les correspondances entre peinture et littérature, mais tant pis: le parcours est virtuose et les œuvres, très bien choisies, se répondent merveilleusement.

Sur le chemin du retour, cependant, quelque chose m'empêche de pleinement l'adouber. J'ai le sentiment d'avoir traversé une exposition de l'ancien monde, célébrant encore et toujours ces auteurs mille fois consacrés: Bataille, Leiris, Conrad, Eliot, etc.

Loin de contester la légitimité de leur présence, je ne peux m'empêcher de me demander à quoi aurait ressemblé cet accrochage, si l'œuvre de Francis Bacon avait été abordée à l'aune du monde que j'habite. Si, au lieu de s'intéresser une fois encore à une généalogie tirée d'un panthéon érudit et ultra-bourgeois, le Centre Pompidou avait pris des risques et fait le choix d'une autre forme de complexité: le populaire?

J'en suis arrivée à la conclusion que cette exposition aurait pu explorer les liens pluriels unissant l'œuvre de cet artiste et le cinéma gore. Imaginez, juste un instant, contempler la Seconde version du triptyque de 1944 de Bacon, dépeignant le cri d'une créature dinosaurienne dentée. Imaginez la comparer avec cette scène du film Alien de Ridley Scott, dans laquelle le Chestbuster sort du ventre de l'astronaute Kane. Imaginez les autoportraits de l'artiste à côté de zombies. Ou encore les correspondances et décalages entre la texture de la chair chez Bacon et les viscères pixellisées sur des images de série B ou de pellicules mal conservées.

Les films gore ne sont pas tous des chefs-d'œuvre, certes. Ils n'en restent pas moins des créations culturelles faisant l'objet d'études très sérieuses.

Le critique de cinéma Philippe Rouyer l'explicite très bien dans son ouvrage, Une esthétique du sang, ainsi qu'au micro de France Culture cette année. Lorsqu'il décrit certains enjeux de ce genre de cinéma, on pourrait presque croire l'entendre parler de l'artiste britannique.

Il émet l'idée que ce genre cinématographique, né en 1963 avec Blood Feast, est finalement animé d'une volonté d'explorer l'inconscient des sociétés, à l'image du film MA.S.H. quand il révélait les horreurs de la guerre du Vietnam.

Né en 1909, Francis Bacon s'est lui aussi attaché à représenter des images qui croisent son inconscient avec celui de l'histoire européenne. Marqué par la Seconde Guerre mondiale, une enfance difficile (son père le maltraitait) et le suicide de son amant George Dyer, il n'hésitera pas à faire allusion au procès de Eichmann, à peindre des scènes sanglantes de boucheries, de torture mais aussi une croix gammèe sur le panneau gauche de sa Crucifixion de 1965.

Le rapprochement entre peinture et cinéma gore s'opère surtout dans une certaine vision du monde où s'impose la nécessité de ne pas fermer les yeux, mais de sonder le refoulé, à savoir les atrocités du monde et les vérités que l'être humain n'ose regarder en face. La civilisation occidentale a occulté la mort animale, la reléguant dans des abattoirs aseptisés. Elle s'est aussi évertuée à décrire l'humain comme un être d'esprit, en niant sa corporalité et en inspirant un dégoût vis-à-vis de sa chair, de ses os et de son sang.

Bacon, lui, sans tabou, peint la viande écorchée, humaine et non-humaine. «Nous sommes de la viande, disait-il. Nous sommes des carcasses en puissance. Si je vais chez le boucher, je trouverais toujours surprenant de ne pas être là [sur l'étalage].»

 

L'art comme table opératoir

 

Pénétrer et révéler sans fard l'intérieur des corps, c'est révéler leur devenir-animal. Dan Logique de la sensation, le philosophe Gilles Deleuze le souligne à propos des toiles de Bacon, qui constituent, selon ses mots, «une zone d'indiscernabilité entre l'homme et l'animal», dont on retrouve la présence dans le gore. La surface de la toile et de l'écran de cinéma sont des tables opératoires où s'explorent les limites du corps.

Face aux peintures de l'artiste, on ne peut qu'être frappé par les structures et les cages dans lesquelles sont emprisonnés des êtres mutants aux contours flous (d'autant plus flous lorsqu'ils sont morcelés ou se confondent lors d'ébats sexuels).

C'est comme si le peintre essayait de réduire tout élément de contexte à une armature, à un lit ou à un lavabo. Comme si, sur une paillasse de laboratoire, l'être humain n'était rien, finalement. Plus on l'isole, plus on tente de l'épier, plus il s'échappe, fuit comme un robinet et se dilue en une flaque couleur chair.

Cette incertitude propre à l'intérieur du corps apparaît dans le chaos des giclées de sang et des océans de chair, à la limite de l'abstraction, du cinéma gore. Le corps n'est plus une entité unitaire: il se démantèle.

Il se transforme en permanence, tourmenté par des forces intérieures, psychiques ou biologiques. N'est-ce pas ce qui sous-tend en partie les films de virus et de contagion?

L'être humain est un mutant. Chez le peintre britannique, le trauma, la solitude, le sexe et l'amour transforment le corps. Chez le cinéaste David Cronenberg, il se métamorphose en ingérant des drogues (Le Festin nu) ou au contact de la technologie (Vidéodrome, La Mouche, eXistenZ). Son cinéma est peuplé de nombreux monstres rappelant certaines créatures peintes par Bacon.

 

Métamorphoses du corps

 

Ces deux artistes entrent particulièrement en résonance. Ils font de la chair et de ses métamorphoses un principe de vérité. «C'est vers le corps qu'il faut aller pour connaître la vérité. […] Tout est dans le post mortem, la dissection, l'autopsie», raconte David Cronenberg dans ses conversations avec Serge Grunberg. Pourquoi Bacon a-t-il peint tant de portraits déformés par le mouvement, si ce n'est dans un but semblable?

C'est précisément ici que réside l'enjeu plastique de l'œuvre de l'artiste et du cinéma gore (souvent plus pertinent dans sa capacité à représenter le corps en décomposition qu'à raconter des histoires complexes, il faut l'admettre). Le sujet y est appréhendé comme une sculpture fluctuante, sur la toile ou sur les images de cinéma (voir la scène de décomopsition dans Evil Dead.

Pas étonnant que Bacon ait été fasciné par l'œuvre de Muybridge, un pionnier du cinéma qui décomposa les mouvements en utilisant des appareils photos à déclenchements successifs. C'est également flagrant chez David Cronenberg quand il décrit sa méthode de travail: «Faire un film est un processus organique, sculptural. On place chaque morceau d'argile, on le lisse, on le palpe, petit à petit. D'où mon rejet du storyboard.»

 

«Des concours de beauté pour l'intérieur des corps»

 

La chair ne suscite plus –ou pas seulement– du dégoût ou de l'effroi, mais donne naissance à une esthétique qui rend justice au toucher, aux formes et aux couleurs des organes, du sang et de la chair.

«J'ai souvent pensé qu'il devrait y avoir des concours de beauté pour l'intérieur des corps», confie le gynécologue Elliot Mantle à sa patiente dans le film Faux-semblants, de Cronenberg. Une réplique qui résonne avec les propos de Francis Bacon dans The Art Newspaper: «La chair et la viande sont la vie! […] Personne ne l'a jamais vraiment compris. Jambon, cochons, langues, morceaux de bœuf vus à travers la fenêtre du boucher, toute cette mort, je la trouve très belle.»

Dans le cinéma gore old school, chez Cronenberg et chez Bacon, cette beauté émerge d'une forme de crudité sans complaisance. Elle se rebelle contre une esthétique lisse, cosmétique et publicitaire. Le corps est bordélique, la peau est méconnaissable, tuméfiée, écorchée. Le critique Donald Kuspit écrit dans Artforum«La manipulation fluide de la chair du visage par Bacon la désocialise, c'est-à-dire qu'elle ne peut plus être docile, réduite à un masque social.»

 

La poésie du steak

 

À cet effet, La Mouche de Cronenberg est un film saisissant. Un scientifique conçoit des machines pour se téléporter, mais il n'y parvient qu'avec des objets, et non avec des éléments vivants. Il y arrivera après avoir eu un rapport sexuel avec sa compagne, qui lui annonce qu'elle va le dévorer tout cru. Il comprend alors qu'il doit apprendre «la poésie du steak» à sa machine. Cronenberg et Bacon cherchent, tous deux, cette poésie, ce point de contact entre désir de sexe, de chair et érotisme. Ce thème traverse particulièrement le cinéma gore, d'auteur ou non.

Dans le génial film Trouble Every Day, de Claire Denis, l'actrice Béatrice Dalle mange ses partenaires après avoir fait l'amour avec eux. Récemment, dans Grave, l'apprentissage sexuel d'une jeune femme va de pair avec la prise de conscience de ses pulsions cannibales. Plus elle s'éveille sexuellement, plus elle a envie de chair humaine. Il n'est pas anodin que le gore et le porno se rejoignent souvent.

Francis Bacon avait des tendances sadomasochistes, c'est bien connu. Son amant, Peter Lacy, le battait sous ses ordres et le laissait agoniser dans la rue. Lorsqu'il peint des ébats sexuels, ses œuvres évoquent aussi bien des cadavres que des batailles dans lesquelles se dissout la chair.

Le sexe est une affaire morbide. Contaminée par un parasite, une secrétaire médicale dans Frissons de Cronenberg, ne déclamera-t-elle pas: «Même la chair vielle est érotique. La maladie est l'amour entre deux créatures étrangères l'une pour l'autre. Même la mort est un acte d'érotisme»?

 

 

      

                     Triptyque, août 1972, de Francis Bacon au Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts de Moscou (Russie), le 4 mars 2019.

 

 

 

 

 

Un destin de Francis Bacon

 

 

 

ACTUALITÉS | ÉMISSIONS | FRANCE CULTURE | 30 SEPTEMBER 2019

 

Yves Peyré est écrivain, poète et essayiste ; il était aussi un ami de Francis Bacon et lui consacre l’ouvrage Francis Bacon ou la mesure de l’excès, paru chez Gallimard en 2019. Avec lui, nous revenons sur la vie du peintre britannique et sur les nombreuses figures tutélaires qui ont influencé son parcour.

Francis Bacon naît le 28 octobre 1909 à Dublin de parents britanniques, avec qui il entretiendra des relations conflictuelles toute sa vie. A seize ans à peine, il est chassé du foyer familial, quand son père le surprend en train d’essayer les sous-vêtements de sa mère. Le jeune Bacon subsiste alors grâce à divers petits boulots qu’il exerce à Londres, puis pendant quelques mois à Berlin. Son expérience berlinoise est une véritable révélation pour lui : il découvre le Bauhaus, fréquente les musées et les cinéma.

Bacon part ensuite à Paris, où il rencontre Yvonne Bocquentin, pianiste et amatrice d’art, qui va le prendre sous son aile. Il vit avec la famille d’Yvonne Bocquentin à Chantilly : c’est là qu’il découvre le célèbre tableau de Nicolas Poussin, « Le Massacre des Innocents », qui provoque un véritable déclic chez lui. Comme Berlin, Paris est une étape importante dans la formation du jeune homme : il fréquente de nombreux artistes dans le quartier de Montparnasse, voit les films de Bunuel, lit Georges Bataille...

Bacon finit par rentrer à Londres et ouvrir un atelier d’architecture intérieure et de décoration. C’est à ce moment-là qu’il rencontre l’artiste-peintre Roy de Maistre, qui l’initie à la peintur.

 

 “és par ce côté-là. L’aspect le plus impressionnant de Francis Bacon est peut-être que, n’ayant jamais reçu d’éducation artistique, il soit un artiste si brillant et si remarquable dans l’exécution.Roy de Maistre apporte à Bacon une très grande capacité à maîtriser les techniques. Il est extrêmement impressionné par la facilité dérisoire avec laquelle Bacon apprend ces techniques et va-même beaucoup plus loin. Tous ceux qui vont essayer de l’aider seront impressionn – Yves Peyré

 

Mais les débuts de carrière sont difficiles : la première exposition de Bacon, en février 1934, est plutôt un échec ; il sera même exclu de l’Exposition internationale du surréalisme, présentée aux New Burlington Galleries de Londres à l’été 1936.

Ce n’est qu’à la fin des années 1950 que Francis Bacon connaît la consécration en Angleterre. A partir de cette période, il exposera dans de nombreux pays et représentera même la Grande-Bretagne avec Ben Nicholson et Lucian Freud lors de la XXVIIe Biennale de Venise en 1954. La première rétrospective Bacon à Paris a lieu en 1971 au Grand Palais. Elle s’ouvre seulement quelques jours après le décès de George Dyer, compagnon de l’artiste, à qui il dédiera une suite de triptyques. Francis Bacon mourra une vingtaine d’années plus tard, à Madrid, en 1992, après être devenu l’un des artistes les mieux côtés de son temps.

 

Par son œuvre, Bacon est assez unique : dans une époque où l’abstraction prédominait, il revient à figuration délibérée ; mais il donne un sens extrêmement ambitieux à cette figuration. Il veut qu’elle ne soit ni illustration, ni narration… Au fond, Bacon veut qu’elle soit le rendu de la réalité de manière elliptique. – Yves Peyré

Bacon considère que la vie est elle-même d’une violence inouïe et que ses tableaux sont très faiblement violents en comparaison de la vie même. Il est certain que les guerres, les régimes totalitaires, le sacrifice, lui font penser à des outrances, mais à des outrances qui ont déjà existé chez Shakespeare, chez Eschyle, chez Sophocle, ou dans la crucifixion du Christ… Il y a chez Bacon une hantise et une volupté du sacrifice et du martyr qui sont très importantes. Les guerres ne peuvent que raviver cela. Elles explicitent les craintes ou les désirs de Bacon. – Yves Peyré

 

 

 

       

                                                                               Francis Bacon à Paris en 1987

 

 

 

 

 

Francis Bacon au Centre Pompidou: la fureur de lire

 

 

 

CRITIQUE Le Centre Pompidou réunit de façon magistrale l’œuvre peinte après 1971 - date du suicide de son compagnon George Dyer - par l’artiste des couples en lutte. Et l’éclaire subtilement à travers six des auteurs de sa vaste bibliothèque d’autodidacte.

Il ressort de cette relecture savante une marche vers l’épure éclatant.

 

 

 

 | LE FIGARO | 29 SEPTEMBER 2019

 

Ce «Bacon en toutes lettres» n’est pas seulement un Bacon entre les lignes et en très grands formats. C’est aussi, selon la volonté affirmée de son commissaire Didier Ottinger, le Francis Bacon (Dublin 1909-Madrid 1992) au sommet de sa maestria. Le peintre d’après 1971, qui a été auparavant plus qu’expérimental et qui est désormais capable de reprendre ses tableaux devenus iconiques pour les réinterpréter totalement. Study of Red Pope, 1962, Second version, 1971, sorti d’une collection particulière, et Second Version of «Painting 1946», Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1971, provenant du Musée Ludwig de Cologne, ouvrent donc ce chemin d’excellence. Il fait de Bacon le terrible, jouisseur fasciné par les étals de boucherie et l’élan bestial de la chair, ce peintre presque subliminal qui pose des fantômes de corps sur des fonds rose tendre, bleu céleste, mauve anglais, orange de plein été.

Ce rendez-vous au sommet avec Bacon commence par un Autoportrait de 1976, donné au Musée Cantini de Marseille, flanqué de ses deux préfaciers français, Michel Leiris dès la première exposition parisienne en 1966 à la galerie Maeght et Jacques Dupin qui prend le relais à la mort de Leiris, pour la Galerie Lelong. La série des Papes, la plus célèbre et la plus célébrée de Bacon, n’est donc ici que de manière allusive, comme une introduction au génie, ce marginal.

 

Code lecture

Les trois premiers triptyques, qualifiés par un critique anglais de «triptyques noirs», quoique roses et mauves, par leur inspiration - le suicide sordide de son compagnon George Dyer, mélancolique au passé de boxeur, deux jours avant la rétrospective du Grand Palais en 1971 —, ouvrent large l’éventail des thèmes et des formes, ce code de lecture que le visiteur acquiert ainsi d’un bloc.

Une palette qui explose d’intensité après le drame, «un moment de libération technique et psychologique», souligne Didier Ottinger. Il y a un récit dans ces tableaux qui ont quelque chose de sacré par leur taille, leur trio, le bois doré de leurs cadres. Un conte effrayant de la condition humaine. «Bacon en toutes lettres»? Ce récit en images, si pictural, est confronté six fois à des auteurs et des livres qui ont appartenu à la vaste bibliothèque de Bacon l’autodidacte. De petites salles vides, en retrait comme des confessionnaux, où des textes — brefs mais éloquents — sont lus par des comédiens, sont l’écho de sa mémoire. Certains face-à-face sont évidents et explicites, comme le Triptyque inspiré par L’Orestie d’Eschyle, 1981, venu de l’Astrup Fearnley Museet d’Oslo. Parfois, c’est plus allusif, comme l’intérêt pour la tauromachie venu de Michel Leiris (Étude pour Corrida II, 1969, prêté par le Musée des beaux-arts de Lyon ou Étude d’un taureau, 1991, collection particulière).

La marche de Bacon, des corps de lutteurs photographiés par Eadweard Muybridge au XIXe, qui lui servent de modèles, vers le tableau accompli, le «tableau immaculé», est le fil d’Ariane de cette superbe rétrospective (la métaphore sexuelle assez claire de Water from a Running Tap, 1982, collection particulière). L’extraordinaire netteté et précision du tableau l’emporte dans cette vision très muséale d’un homme à l’atelier légendaire par son chaos et sa crasse, à la vie plus que tumultueuse dont les excès dépassent l’imaginaire du commun des mortels.

Bacon en toutes lettres, Centre Pompidou, Rue Beaubourg, côté rue Saint-Merri (IVe). Tél.: 01 44 78 12 33. Horaire: tlj de 11 h à 21 h, sauf le mar. jusqu’au 20 jan. 2020. Catalogue: «Bacon en toutes lettres» (Éd. du C. P., 42 €).

 

 

 

     

                           Francis Bacon Study from the Human Body 1986

 

 

 

 

Birth. Sex. Death: Francis Bacon’s tragic vision of mankind

 

 

 

A MAJOR EXHIBITION IN PARIS, SPANNING THE FINAL TWO DECADES OF THE ARTIST’S WORK, MAKES CLEAR THE VISCERAL AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL NATURE OF HIS PAINTINGS

 

 

LARA MARLOWE | CULTURE | ART & DESIGN | THE IRISH TIMES | SEPTEMBER 28, 2019

 

Francis Bacon met George Dyer, the man he most painted and most desired, when Dyer, a petty criminal from east London, dropped through the skylight of Bacon’s mews house one night in 1963, intending to commit robbery.

“You’re very clumsy for a burglar,” Bacon allegedly told Dyer, who was 25 years his junior. “Take your clothes off. Come into my bed, and afterwards you can take whatever you want to.”

Bacon’s tender and brutal relationship with Dyer lasted eight years, until Dyer died from an overdose of alcohol and barbituates in their Paris hotel room, two days before Bacon’s retrospective was to open at the Grand Palais, in October 1971.

Bacon was by then world famous, attracting prices that rivalled Picasso’s. Distraught though Bacon was, he hushed up Dyer’s death to prevent it distracting from his crowning achievement.

Francis Bacon: Books and Paintings, a major exhibition spanning the last two decades of Bacon’s oeuvre, at the Pompidou Centre in Paris until January 20th, 2020, does not dwell on Bacon’s love life, although his sadomasochistic homosexuality is omnipresent in the paintings. Nor does it mention the astronomical prices commanded by his works. (The record was set by Three Studies of Lucian Freud, which sold for €106 million in New York in 2013.)

Instead the Pompidou show, curated by Didier Ottinger, focuses on Bacon’s literary inspirations and his late goal of recounting his own life, intertwined with the history of the 20th century. The later paintings are characterised by intense colours, including pinks, mauves, yellows and oranges, and a more precise and spare style.

“After the Paris exhibition I am determined to get started on the painting of my autobiography,” Bacon said, referring to In Memory of George Dyer, his 1971 triptych. “I hope by means of this series to crystallise time, in the same way as Proust did in his novels.”

Bacon was consumed by guilt about Dyer’s death. “Not an hour goes by, of course, when I don’t think about George,” Bacon told his biographer Michael Peppiatt. “I feel profoundly guilty about his death. If I hadn’t gone out, if I’d simply stayed in and made sure he was all right, he might have been alive now.

Bacon was born on Baggot Street in Dublin and spent most of the first 16 years of his life in Ireland. Barbara Dawson, director of Dublin City Gallery the Hugh Lane, acquired the contents of Bacon’s London studio, including more than 1,000 books from Bacon’s library, for Dublin in 1998. The studio was reconstructed down to the tiniest details inside the Hugh Lane. A maquette is included in the exhibition at the Pompidou Centre.

Ottinger took the unprecedented approach of comparing Bacon’s oeuvre to prose by six writers who inspired him. The curator borrowed books by Aeschylus, Nietzsche, Joseph Conrad, TS Eliot and the French writers Georges Bataille and Michel Leiris from the Hugh Lane. Each book is presented in a glass case inside a darkened room. An actor’s voice reads excerpts, in English.

“It may be that Francis Bacon’s literary passion came from his Irish learning,” says Ottinger. “Ireland is the country of poets. Yeats was fundamental for him.”

Ottinger perceives “a profound affinity” among the six writers in their tragic sense of history and Nietzschean philosophy, “by which I mean Dionysus and Apollo, form and meaning, light and shadow, life and death, Eros and Thanatos, civilisation and barbarianism.”

In The Oresteia, Aeschylus’s trilogy of tragic dramas, Orestes kills his mother, Clytemnestra, who killed her husband, Agamemnon, who sacrificed his daughter, Iphigenia. Bacon was fascinated by the tale, and by Eliot’s modern version in The Family Reunion.

Bacon used the Furies from Aeschylus to symbolise the guilt that gnawed at him about Dyer’s death. In 1988 he painted the Furies as surreal creatures resembling disembodied organs. The first seems to crouch over itself in pain and grief. Two others are threatening and screaming human mouths mounted on neck-like stems.

Bacon’s nightmarish orifices remind one of the mouth that appears on Samuel Beckett’s pitch-black stage in Not I. The painter traced their inspiration to a scene in Sergei Eisenstein’s film Battleship Potemkin. “I hoped to make the best painting of a human scream,” he told the British art critic David Sylvester. “I wasn’t able. Eisenstein’s is much better.”

Meat carcasses are another recurring theme. “A friend from Bacon’s youth later recounted how Bacon would stop at a butcher’s shop in Kildare on the cycle ride back from Naas tennis club,” Barbara Dawson recalls.

“If I go into a butcher’s shop I always think it’s surprising that I wasn’t there instead of the animal,” Bacon later told Sylvester. Like Aeschylus, Bacon favoured the triptych as a form of expression.

In Memory of George Dyer, from 1971, shows Dyer as a boxer who has suffered a knockout blow, writhing on the floor. In the middle panel, a dark figure stands before the staircase to their room in the Hôtel des Saints-Pères. Torn newspapers, another recurring theme, are Bacon’s nod to cubism. A disembodied arm is wrapped around the dark figure’s back, and turns a key in a lock.

Bacon borrowed the image of the arm from Picasso’s Bathers of Dinard, which he had seen in a 1927 exhibition at Paul Rosenberg’s gallery in Paris. Bacon worked as a decorator at the time. Picasso’s surrealist canvases made him want to be a painter. In 1936 he tried to join a surrealist exhibition in London, but he was rejected on the grounds he was not surrealist enough.

In the right-hand panel of In Memory of George Dyer, Bacon’s dead lover is framed in profile. Dyer appears cleaved in two at the chest. His mutilated trunk falls forward from the portrait and lands like a reflection on a blue tabletop. White paint is smattered across Dyer’s chest. Bacon marked paintings that held an erotic charge for him with sperm-like stains.

Triptych May-June 1973 recounts the circumstances of Dyer’s death. On the left, a male figure is crouched on the toilet, the position in which Dyer was found. In the centre, black shadows seep from Dyer’s anguished figure, beneath a naked light bulb. On the right, Dyer vomits into a sink. Again, Bacon marked the triptych with smears of white paint.

Bacon identified with the tragic sense of history he found in Aeschylus and Conrad. In the 1970s he determined to paint the history of the 20th century, as well as his own life story.

Triptych 1986-1987 portrays historic figures, including Woodrow Wilson descending the steps of the French foreign ministry after agreeing to the treaty that would lead to the second World War. The site of the assassination of Leon Trotsky in Mexico appears in the same triptych, also inspired by a newspaper photograph. John Edwards, Bacon’s friend, surrogate son and heir, appears seated, naked and oozing pink liquid, in the central panel.

Bacon’s art is too brutal, some might say ghastly, to be immediately accessible or pleasing. The excretions, suppurating wounds, raw meat and carrion are unsettling. But Bacon claimed there was nothing morbid or hard about his painting, “only the violence that surrounds men at every second of their lives”.

“Birth, sex and death. He gets it by the throat,” says Dawson. “It’s visceral. And yet he manages to make it quite beautiful. He creates the most beautiful colours, the most interesting compositions. They can be tender, in the way that a bruised face can be tender.”

There was “a lot of anguish, a lot of torment” in Bacon, Dawson continues. “He said he shared with the Irish a certain exhilarated despair, or a desperate optimism.”

Ottinger, the curator of the Pompidou exhibition, also bridles when I suggest that death and barbarity are the dominant features of Bacon’s oeuvre. “Look at the mastery of the execution,” he says. “Look at his deployment of geometric forms. Bacon was fascinated by perfect forms of geometry. He painted polyhedrons everywhere.”

Polyhedrons are solid figures with many plane faces, usually more than six. They often frame or encase Bacon’s figures.

Bacon developed his concept of immaculate painting in his last decades. The term means, literally, spotless, but it took on an almost metaphysical meaning for him. He told Sylvester that his Water from a Running Tap, from 1982, was the most immaculate of his paintings.

Art historians long considered Bacon’s final 20 years to be his weakest. Ottinger believes they were his best years, “because they appear so to me, and because Bacon said it”. What was so special about them? Ottinger replies with one word: “Immaculate”.

 

Francis Bacon: Books and Paintings is at the Pompidou Centre, in Paris, until January 20th, 2020

 

 

     

            FRANCIS BACON IN PARIS IN 1987.  PHOTO: RAPHAEL GAILLARDE

 

 

 

 

FRANCIS BACON IN PARIS

 

 

Besessen von Leben und Tod

 

 

 

Francis Bacon war ein leidenschaftlicher Leser der tragischen Dichter und Denker.

 

Das Centre Pompidou in Paris zeigt das Spätwerk im Echo seiner Lieblingslektüren

 

 

 

 | KUNST | FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE | 25 SEPTEMBER 2019

 


Bei einem großen Meister wie Bacon verhält es sich wie mit den Dichtern der Weltliteratur: Jede neuerliche Ausstellung, jede weitere Interpretation oder Inszenierung beleuchtet einen wesentlichen Aspekt, lotet nicht geahnte Untiefen aus. Die jeweilige Perspektive erhellt bereichernd den Blick auf das Werk. Dem letzten Geheimnis lässt sich allerdings nicht erschöpfend auf den Grund gehen, und dieser ultimative Widerstand ist es, der einen wesentlichen Unterschied ausmacht zwischen Dichtung und Diskurs, zwischen Kunstwerk und Interpretation. Das Centre Pompidou zeigt mit der Ausstellung „Bacon en toutes lettres“ einen Dialog, in dem die Gemälde Bacons mit sechs Auszügen seiner wichtigsten Lektüren in Beziehung gesetzt werden; Texte der Dichtung, Literatur und Philosophie, die seine Malerei intellektuell und vor allem emotional begleitet haben, die aber auch am Ursprung seiner visuellen Inspiration gestanden haben. Der durch die Redewendung „en toutes lettres“ zwischen zwei Sinnebenen schillernde Titel meint so viel wie eine „literarische Durchdringung“ Bacons. Tatsächlich geht es um Resonanzen zwischen dem poetischen Wort und der Bildkraft des Malers.

Francis Bacon war ein großer Leser. Seine heute im Dubliner Trinity College aufbewahrte Bibliothek umfasst mehr als tausend Bände. In Interviews kam er immer wieder auf seine Beziehung zu Dichtung und Literatur zurück. Die großen Dichter, erklärt er, seien Auslöser von Bildern. „Ihre Worte sind mir unentbehrlich, sie stimulieren mich, öffnen Tore zur Vorstellungskraft. Sie können mich bis zur Ekstase bringen.“ Bacons Gemälde sind durch ihre gewaltvollen, obszönen und exzessiven Darstellungen ein erschreckendes und zugleich fesselndes Faszinosum. Immer wieder kreisen sie um den deformierten, malträtierten Körper, um eine dem Sein, der Lust und dem Tod ausgelieferte Fleischlichkeit des Menschen. Ob Körper oder Porträt, seine Figuren oszillieren in einer ganz eigenen Dialektik zwischen Formbestreben und einer Macht der Zersetzung oder des Zerfließens. Dass seine Malerei im bewunderten Surrealismus ihre Wurzeln hat, zeigt sich bis in die paradoxe, auflösende Restrukturierung seiner zahlreichen Porträts und Selbstporträts. Zu Bacons Werk kann es keine eindeutigen Antworten geben. Entsprechungen allerdings, etwa zu seinem Leben.

Francis Bacon wurde 1909 als Sohn britischer Eltern in Dublin geboren und durchquerte bis zu seinem Tod 1992 fast das gesamte, alle akademischen Regeln der Kunst, aber auch die letzten Fundamente der Humanität sprengende zwanzigste Jahrhundert. Während der Wirren des Ersten Weltkrieges wuchs er zum Teil sich selbst überlassen auf. Sein Vater, ein Militär und Pferde-Zureiter, soll gewalttätig und übergriffig gewesen sein. Später flüchtete er aus dem Internat, wurde dann als Sechzehnjähriger aus dem Elternhaus geworfen, wo seine Homosexualität nicht geduldet wurde. Bacon ist ein Autodidakt, der zwischen krassen Exzessen im Nachtleben von London, Berlin oder Paris und einem immer wieder triumphierenden Bedürfnis nach Gestaltung den Weg in die Malerei gefunden hat.

Die Schau im Centre Pompidou konzentriert sich auf die späte Schaffenszeit. Am 26. Oktober 1971, Bacon war fast 62 Jahre alt, wurde seine bis dato größte Retrospektive im Pariser Grand Palais eröffnet. Auch in einer anderen Hinsicht ist 1971 ein einschneidendes Schicksalsjahr. Zwei Tage vor der Eröffnung nimmt sich Bacons Lebenspartner George Dyer in ihrem Pariser Hotel das Leben. Eine Serie dreier qualvoller Triptychen befasst sich explizit mit dem Drama. Sie gehören zum Auftakt der von Didier Ottinger, Vizedirektor des Centre, kuratierten Ausstellung. In einem faszinierenden Parcours mit zum Teil nie oder selten zu sehenden Leihgaben lässt sie daraufhin in sechs Kapiteln Bacons Werk im Einfluss seiner „spirituellen Familie“ entdecken. Den auf Englisch und Französisch gesprochenen Textauszügen kann in kleinen bilderlosen Räumen konzentriert zugehört werden. Sie funktionieren wie poetische Schlüssel zum Werk Bacon.

 

 

      

               Teil eines Triptychons: „Triptych“ von 1970

 

 

 

 

Death on a toilet: the shocking Paris show that almost sank Francis Bacon

 

 

 

It was meant to put the artist on a par with Picasso. But it was thrown into chaos by the suicide of his lover and muse. As Bacon returns to haunt the French capital, we recall a tragic, game-changing show

 

 

 

JONATHAN JONES | CULTURE | THE GUARDIAN | TUESDAY 17 SEPTEMBER 2019

 

Last Tango in Paris, Bernardo Bertolucci’s controversial piece of 70s art cinema, begins with an oil painting of a man on a red bed wearing just a T-shirt, flashing fleshy legs as his face explodes in inky smears. He’s in a room with a green carpet and yellow walls. For a few moments, Bertolucci shows just this portrait – of Lucian Freud by Francis Bacon – then a sensual jazz score slowly starts, and the film’s opening credits roll alongside this unmoving canvas. It is succeeded by a brutally dissected female figure sitting on a wooden chair – another Bacon portrait, this time of Henrietta Moraes. Eventually, the two paintings are seen side by side. Then we cut to Marlon Brando in a camel overcoat on a Paris bridge, yelling: “Fucking God!”

Behind Bertolucci’s eerie use of these oil paintings is the shocking story of an art exhibition that gripped Paris, established Bacon as the great European artist he had always dreamt of being – and left a man dead in a hotel toilet. Bertolucci was so astounded by Bacon’s solo show at the Grand Palais – which opened in October 1971, just as he was preparing to make his film in the French capital – that he took Brando to see it. He urged the actor, he later recalled, to “compare himself with Bacon’s human figures because I felt that, like them, Marlon’s face and body were characterised by a strange and infernal plasticity”.

This unsettling quality did not limit itself to those two works. The seedily magnificent Three Figures in a Room, a triptych of two-metre-tall canvases painted in 1964, has enough infernal plasticity to fill anyone’s nightmares. On the left, a man sits naked on the toilet with his back to us. He seems to have no bones except for a line of vertebrae that poke out through his pink, orange and blue skin, which struggles to contain a spilling spread of relaxed muscle. The man’s buttocks fit like a plug into the white porcelain.

The first visitors to the hit retrospective had no idea how uncannily relevant this seven-year-old image was to Bacon’s private anguish. Three Figures in a Room was one of many paintings of the artist’s lover, George Dyer, that stole the show. But on 24 October, two days before the exhibition opened, staff at the Hôtel des Saints Pères found Dyer’s corpse slumped on the toilet. He died from a deliberate overdose.

The peculiar impact Bacon’s art made in Paris, and the violent death that shadowed his success, made this exhibition the defining moment of his art and life. Its spectre is now returning to haunt Paris. This autumn, the Pompidou Centre is mounting a new Bacon blockbuster. It starts by revisiting the Grand Palais show and explores how, from that point until Bacon’s death in 1992, he meditated on Greek tragedy and modern poetry as he repeatedly painted triptychs in memory of Dyer.

It was Georges Pompidou, the cultured former president of France whose memorial is the much-loved arts centre, who officially opened the Grand Palais exhibition and was given a tour by Bacon. It’s hard to imagine former British PMs Harold Wilson or Ted Heath taking a similar interest in these outrageous paintings of the tragic human creature. Margaret Thatcher allegedly called Bacon “that man who paints those dreadful pictures”. But this was France. And Bacon and Paris were made for each other.

In this city, with its rich and sleazy avant-garde traditions going back to poets Charles Baudelaire and Arthur Rimbaud in the 19th century, Bacon was seen in a completely different context from the grey and conservative Britain, where he’d made his name in the 1950s. Like his beloved friend Lucian Freud, he was adept at appealing to British taste with portraits that, however radical, were recognisable and so more acceptable to the sceptical postwar British audience than, say, the abstract American paintings he himself sneered at as “old lace”. But in Paris, the true modernity and extremity of his art needed no humanist veneer. In the city of sex and death, Bacon was completely at home.

A photograph of Bacon at the Grand Palais opening offers a glimpse of the French tradition of dirty modernism he so easily slid into. It shows him chatting to two white-haired surrealist painters, Andre André Masson and Joan Miró. Such titans of the prewar Parisian scene were still alive in 1971 – but Masson connects us with a much earlier outrage. When the wealthy psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan bought Gustave Courbet’s The Oigin of the World, he decided this almost anatomical painting of a woman’s sex organs should have a “cover”, just like erotic paintings in earlier ages.

So Masson painted a ghostly outline of Courbet’s nude on a wooden panel that slid over the then secret masterpiece. It’s an episode that typifies the way sex, preferably of a highly disreputable variety, was cherished as a subversive force by French artists, writers and intellectuals from Courbet to the surrealist movement to its epitaph in Last Tango in Paris. Bacon was intensely aware of this culture, which connected left-bank bookshops with fleapit hotels. His friend and model, the artist Isabel Rawsthorne, even had an affair with the decadent surrealist writer Georges Bataille, whose 1928 novel Story of the Eye climaxes with the eyeball of a murdered priest being used as a sex toy.

In short, Paris was ready for Bacon, and he gave it what it wanted. He included his own equivalent of The Origin of the World among the 100-plus paintings at the Grand Palais: Two Figures, which has the feel of a revelation. A door has opened on a dark bedroom where, on roughly painted white sheets, two naked men have been caught having sex. The man on top leers out of the painting as he and his companion enjoy themselves with animal abandon. It’s one of his greatest paintings, and it could be appreciated in Paris in a way that was still difficult for Britain in 1971.

However, it was Bacon’s more recent paintings that defined the show. The star of many of these was a small-time criminal from London’s East End who became Bacon’s lover in 1963. George Dyer came from such a habitually law-breaking family that he remembered his mother trying to rob his pocket money. But he was too “nice”, lamented Bacon, to be a successful criminal.

The artist could easily afford to keep Dyer out of trouble. Born in Dublin in 1909, Bacon didn’t see artistic success until he painted his wartime nightmare of twisted gargoyles, Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion. This was around 1944. By the 60s, with a string of screaming popes behind him, he was rich. Working in a tiny bedsit studio in Kensington, London, he spent his earnings on champagne, fine wines and seafood feasts for his Soho friends. Dyer became part of this slightly desperate bohemia. He went from being a good-looking, well-dressed, would-be gangster to a depressed and clingy alcoholic. As Picasso’s women had found, being a muse sucks.

And there was Dyer’s physique smeared all over the Grand Palais in blue, black and livid red. In the triptych Three Studies of the Male Back, Dyer sits naked in a swivel chair in front of a small, hand-held shaving mirror and a larger rectangular one. Two of the paintings in the triptych show his reflected face as he shaves: it is sharp and hooked, with slicked hair and eyes narrowed and turned away from us. Bacon famously based his popes on Velázquez’s Portrait of Innocent X – and this enigmatic face in a mirror echoes another Velázquez painting that was kept just a short stroll from Soho: Rokeby Venus in the National Gallery.

Dyer’s back in this triptych is a loose, curvaceous landscape of bone and flesh. It looks as if his skeleton is not joined together but floats independently: a shoulder blade, a spinal column, bulging out of skin that’s soft white and rose, or bruised grey. His neck is massive, his legs roly-poly, his muscles both soft and hard. It is an unabashedly erotic study of male beauty that takes direct inspiration from some of Bacon’s favourite works of art: the drawings of Michelangelo, in which the male back is similarly idolised.

Casually erudite references to Velázquez and Michelangelo go naturally with views of people on the toilet in Bacon’s art. He said his was a “gilded gutter life”, veering between luxury and squalor. That is also true of his paintings as they mix base details with subtle textures and colours, all in sumptuous canvases that echo the old masters. At the Grand Palais, he was striving for greatness, determined to secure a place in the pantheon of high art. He may have chatted to various famous artists at the opening, but there was only one living painter he really wanted to be compared with: Picasso.

Bacon’s critical champion in Paris, who wrote the key essay in the exhibition catalogue, was the surrealist writer Michel Leiris, who was also a close friend of Picasso. According to Leiris, there was a clear connection between the two artists. A 1936 Picasso canvas called Sleeping Nude Woman, which belonged to Leiris and is now in the Pompidou collection, reveals how the men shared a visceral, even obscene surrealism. Picasso distorts female anatomy at will to get a view of his model that’s sheer sensual graffiti. Bacon does the same in his views of Dyer. But he took on Picasso more directly in the years before his Paris show.

Realising that he couldn’t bid for the Spaniard’s crown unless he painted the female body, Bacon got in training. To help him prepare for his 1966 nude Henrietta Moraes, a work that would stun visitors to the Grand Palais, the hard-drinking photographer John Deakin took a series of “candid” pictures of her – including ones he sold around Soho, much to her amusement. The resulting painting is one of the greatest nudes of the 20th century – and a bizarrely empowering one. Moraes lies with her feet towards us on a bed, her hips majestic, her right arm slung back, her animal-mask face unmistakably echoing Picasso’s Demoiselles d’Avigon.

Bacon was bidding to be recognised for what he was: the most visionary painter of human beings since Picasso. He was not going to let a private tragedy spoil that. His relationship with Dyer was all but over. He had been giving his broken muse money to make up for the end of their affair. But it seems Dyer was eager to see so many paintings of himself on show in Paris, and they patched things up – briefly. When Dyer was discovered dead, Bacon’s friends worked with the French authorities to keep the suicide secret. The conspiracy was so effective that until 2016 Bacon’s biographers were repeating the fiction that he heard of the horror only on the day of the opening. He actually kept his cool for a full 36 hours before the launch, to save the show – and his career.

Was Dyer’s death intended as an act of sabotage, motivated by revenge? Or was the reason for his suicide pure grief? Bacon did go on to give Dyer his due, and more, in tragic paintings that return obsessively to that death in a Paris hotel, but there’s no need to sentimentalise him or his art to see his greatness. The truth is that when the news broke, this sad death seemed only to confirm the desolate, harrowing vision so powerfully laid bare at the Grand Palais.

Bacon, an avowed atheist, shows human life as pure animality. We’re bodies without souls. His modernism is pitiless. And at that momentous show in Paris in 1971, it thrust him into the pantheon of European art.

Bacon en toutes lettres is at the Pompidou Centre, Paris, until 20 January.

 

 

 

       

                       Francis Bacon chatting to two surrealist painters, Joan Miró and André Masson

 

 

 

 

‘I was the naked cricket model who posed for Francis Bacon’

 

 

 

The artist’s friend Barry Joule says it was his physique that helped inspire a 1980s series of cricket nude.

 

 

DALYA ALBERGE | ART & DESIGN | THE OBSERVER | SATURDAY 14 SEPTEMBER 2019

 

They were some of the most arresting images Francis Bacon created: a series of paintings mainly featuring a male torso and legs, naked except for sports shoes and cricket pads.

The model for the “cricket” paintings, which first went on display in the 1980s, has never been identified. Now, one of the artist’s friends claims he was the man on whom the images they were based.

Barry Joule says he has decided to come forward because one of the works from the series was in a major new Bacon exhibition in Paris and attitudes had changed since the 1980s, when the explicit images were deemed shocking by many.

Joule recalls: “I didn’t want everyone – my Canadian protestant family included – staring at and talking about my private parts. It might seem fairly ridiculous now, but not back then.”

When he saw the original composition, he says he was upset that he was recognisable: “Francis, annoyed at me complaining of a fairly good likeness of myself naked in the cricket portrait, at the last minute chopped off – ie, painted out – my head … casually yet sarcastically informing a stunned me the next day: ‘There, now I think you look much better this way – just the essentials here … and absolutely no head to worry about. I hope you are happy now.’ So, somewhat dejected, I found myself headless.”

Bacon created a series of seven paintings, one of which is on display in a Bacon exhibition at the Pompidou Centre in Paris.

For Joule, the show has brought back memories of the day in 1982 when Bacon, he says, raised the idea of a cricket series, suggesting: “Perhaps you might be interested in being the model.”

Joule says he dismissed the idea, arguing that he had only ever watched one cricket game and “didn’t like it much, finding it very slow and as boring as watching paint dry”. Bacon, he says, replied: “Not my paint.”

The artist then revealed that inspiration for the composition had come to him the previous year when, on a warm summer’s day, he had watched from his window as Joule and two “muscular sporty Canadian chums stripped down to their shorts” were playing with a bat and ball in the cul-de-sac outside.

Joule says he was unaware that they had a spectator at the time. He recalls: “Francis said ‘the memory of your game … quite possibly gave birth to an idea [of a] cricket series’.”

Joule says that Bacon liked the cricket paintings so much that he stuck photographs of them on his kitchen wall. Bacon then photographed him in 1987: “I had wanted Francis to ‘proudly pose’ with these reproductions, but the modest painter said no, ‘much better you photograph me making a cup of tea’. So I did.”

Joule jokes that David Gower, the former England Test captain, had been suggested as the model, although he had never met Bacon.

Joule was described in Andrew Sinclair’s 1990s Bacon biography as one of “two very good-looking people” who had served as the model for the paintings, though he denied his involvement at the time. “I was prudishly not ready to come out of my ‘total nudity closet’. However, as these are a very important group of pictures, maybe now is the time to reveal all,” says Joule.

He recalls sitting for Bacon in his Reece Mews studio in London’s South Kensington: “I must admit to being slightly apprehensive that very hot July day in 1982 when Francis asked me to strip right down, then to put on gleaming white sports shoes and heavy cricket pads and finally climb up on a rather rickety wooden table.”

He says that the late John Edwards, then Bacon’s lover and companion, flew into a jealous rage when he realised that Joule had modelled for the artist. Joule claims Francis believed Edwards did not have the suitably athletic body for the series of cricket pictures. “Edwards discovered the nude photos of myself posing in the cricket gear,” says Joule. “Furious, he subsequently destroyed them.”

In 2004, Joule gave the Tate some 1,200 sketches from Bacon’s studio, then valued at £20m, one of the galleries’ most generous gifts. A small selection are on display at Tate Britain until the end of September.

The Pompidou show, Bacon: Books and Painting, runs until 20 January

 

 

 

      

                          Francis Bacon suggested Joule take a picture of him making a cup of tea rather than posing. 

 

 

 

 

 

Of pain and poetry: how Francis Bacon drew inspiration from Greek drama and TS Eliot

 

 

The Centre Pompidou in Paris explores the painter’s literary influences, celebrating his epic scale and expressiveness

 

 

JACKIE WULLSCHLÄGER | VISUAL ARTS | THE FINANCIAL TIMES | 11 SEPTEMBER 2019



“Assume I’ve read everything,” Francis Bacon would warn interviewers. It was a lead, but no one quite penetrated the extent to which literature infused the work of this defiantly non-narrative artist. The Centre Pompidou’s stupendous exhibition Francis Bacon: Books and Paintings, launched this week and marvellously inaugurating Paris’s autumn season, is therefore a revelation, and also a ruse.

In this first Paris show for nearly 25 years, exploring Bacon’s love of Greek drama and modern poetry is to celebrate his own epic scale, compositional grandeur and voluptuous expressiveness, for a generation unaccustomed to those qualities in painting.

“Triptych inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus” hangs at the centre of the show: a tragic vision radiating across the Pompidou’s expansive top floor galleries. Greeting you on the left is a large dangling biomorph with an impasto knot of coagulated blood in its ear; malevolent, absurd — the visual source was a photograph of a diving pelican — this Fury flutters over a doorway where blood seeps forth, heralding slaughter. In the middle panel, murdered Agamemnon is a collapsed figure of transposed body parts, topped by buttocks, carrying his head in a cauldron, set against an unfurling crimson carpet, regal but menacing.

Embodiments of guilt, “the Furies were a personal reality for Bacon”, says his biographer Michael Peppiatt. “Three Studies for Figures at the Base of the Crucifixion”, an imagining of the howling, prowling Furies as surreal bird-beasts, launched the artist’s oeuvre in 1944. The composition is here in its immaculately smooth 1988 reworking, the background altered to bloody red, with more space around the figures, throwing them into a deep void. Colour, structure, apocalyptic aura are redolent of altarpieces; this was Bacon’s bid for gravity and sensation in a secular, dis­illusioned age.

Thrillingly, the Pompidou has gathered a dozen such monumental triptychs, beginning in 1967 with the closest to literal illustration, “Triptych”, inspired by TS Eliot’s verse drama Sweeney Agonistes. The outer panels of writhing couples with gaping mouths evoke precisely the brothel of Eliot’s poem “Sweeney Erect” — “this oval O cropped out with teeth:/The sickle motion of the thighs” — where manipulative tarts out­manoeuvre Mr Pereira. He calls, pays the rent, remains offstage: Bacon depicts him on the telephone, a pathetic voyeur reflected in a curving mirror.

The central panel, by contrast, is a sumptuous depiction of a Wagons-Lit compartment — Bacon loved the Paris-Côte d’Azur train — after a crime: forced door, heap of blood-drenched clothes, ransacked overnight bag, the sharp teeth of its zip comically echoing the toothy figures on the beds. “Any man has to, needs to, wants to/Once in a lifetime, do a girl in,” chants Sweeney

The visual connection is tenuous, which is the point: Bacon experienced poetry as a “compost” which “bred” images, atmosphere, associations. Many came from Eliot, the great fragmentary modernist. Bacon also paralleled his working process, mingling sources high and low, accumulating in his mind, as Eliot did, “numberless feelings, phrases, images, which remain there until all the particles . . . unite to form a new compound”

A famous instance is Bacon’s “Popes”, drawing equally on Velazquez’s lavish portraits of power and Sergei Eisenstein’s yelling nurse in Battleship Potemkin. In “Study of Red Pope” here, Bacon adds the thuggish face of George Dyer, his lover. This work opens the show, and leads on to three Dyer triptychs in high key violet hues, all declaring Parisian connections

Dyer modelled the fleshy, sculptural nudes in “Three Studies of the Male Back”, which was also inspired by Matisse’s bronze “Backs”. The painting is given detail by revisiting Sweeney, “addressed full-length to shave/Broad-bottomed, pink from nape to base”. The right-hand panel shows Sweeney/Dyer drawing a blade along his calf, as he “tests the razor on his leg/Waiting until the shriek subsides”. It was selected by Bacon as the cover image for the catalogue of his 1971 retrospective at the Grand Palais. On the opening evening, Dyer committed suicide in the couple’s Paris hotel

Months later, the melodramatic triptych “In Memory of George Dyer” presents Dyer as a tragic hero trapped on the staircase of this hotel, fumbling with a lock — he was a burglar — in a gesture which, Bacon explained, recalled Eliot’s Thunder God in “The Wasteland”: “I have heard the key/Turn in the door . . . We think of the key, each in his prison”.

Now the Furies were uncontainable. Among several triptychs of guilty mourning, “Triptych May-June 1973” features Dyer framed by tomb-like black slabs, his shadow leeching away in the shape of a vast flapping bat.

“The reek of human blood smiles out at me”, uttered by the Furies as they surround Orestes, was Bacon’s favourite quotation from Aeschylus. The line suggests his own painterly attempt to appeal to all the senses and a relish for horror that threads through this show like clues in a detective story: a trail of blood on a deserted pavement, a vehicle speeding away in “Street Scene (with Car in Distance)”; a “Sand Dune” cropped to resemble a close-up slab of bruised flesh. Monochrome backgrounds are scarlet, cadmium orange — warm, sonorous, “smiling” colours contrasting with their grim subjects.

Seeking an art that “returns you to the vulnerability of the human situation”, Bacon chose his community of writers accordingly. Aeschylus — his plays “open the valve of sensation for me” — was pivotal, but Bacon fused his imagery with diverse modern references. The trio of Furies in “Triptych 1976”, for example, are watched from the outer panels by two long, sombre faces — politician Austen Chamberlain and photographer/adventurer Peter Beard, just released from jail in Kenya. These equivalents of altarpiece patrons urge a political, colonialist reading, and Bacon said this triptych was inspired by Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

Among living writers, Bacon’s closest friend was the surrealist Michel Leiris, whose portraits he painted from several angles — distorted but wonderfully lively, focused on a single eye. Leiris’s belief that “masochism, sadism, all the vices, in fact, are only ways of feeling more human” paralleled Bacon’s conviction that figurative painting must become more extreme, visceral, physical to remain persuasive. Leiris’s “Miroir de la Tauromachie” was the stimulus for Bacon’s 1969 “Bullfight” pictures: violent virtuosities of flamboyant impasto and ejaculatory spurting pigment, where the artist, like a toreador, courts excitement, danger

Leiris died in 1990; Bacon’s final finished painting, the monochrome, vaporous “Study of a Bull” (1991), paid tribute. On a raw canvas sprinkled with dust, the grey beast, cornered, recedes through a white mirror and black void. The doomed bull is now a symbol of the artist, intransigent and confrontational to the end of this superb exhibition.

 

To January 20, Centre Pompidou

 

 

 

      

                                             ‘Oedipus and the Sphinx after Ingres’ (1983) 

 

 

 

 

 

Francis Bacon Read Just as He Painted: Deep, Dark and Bleak

 

 

 

A new exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris looks at how literary figures like Eliot, Conrad and Aeschylus shaped the painter’s work

 

 

 

BY CODY DELISTRATY | ART & DESIGN | THE NEW YORK TIMES | SEPTEMBER 11 2019

 

PARIS — If good artists borrow while the great ones steal, then Francis Bacon was a particularly savvy thief. His list of artistic influences is a mile long, from Diego Velázquez’s dark Catholic imagery to Picasso’s fragmented perspectives.

But perhaps more than any painterly influence, literature shaped Bacon’s art. He thrived off the tragedies, the ideas and the fictions of others

“I call it my imagination material,” he told the French photographer Francis Giacobetti in 1991, during his last interview, referring to his immense collection of books and photographs. “I need to visualize things that lead me to other forms, that lead me to visualize forms that lead me to other forms or subjects, details, images that influence my nervous system and transform the basic idea.”

Bacon: Book and Paintings, a new exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris through Jan. 20, brings together about 60 of the artist’s paintings to investigate how literature influenced his work.

“I had the sense that some of these books, put together, could give a real sense of Bacon’s project,” said Didier Ottinger, the show’s curator. “I thought, ‘Wow, this man is not using books as decoration.’”

Bacon had an enormous library in his London studio, where books were scattered among shelves and on the floor. Since his death in 1992, about 1,300 of them now belong to Trinity College in Dublin.

Bacon read, marked up and often memorized the works of Aeschylus, Shakespeare, Jean Racine, Balzac, Nietzsche, Georges Bataille, Freud, T.S. Eliot, Joseph Conrad, Proust and others. In a 1966 interview with the British art critic David Sylvester, the painter said he knew some of them “by heart.”

Michael Peppiatt, a friend and biographer of Bacon, said in a telephone interview that, “Like his taste for the very great artists, like Michelangelo and Velásquez, his literary icons also tended to be monuments.”

Mr. Peppiatt, who befriended Bacon in 1963, added that some of the painter’s favorites — Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time,” Eliot’s “Four Quartets” and Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” — were “isolated peaks of literature, and Bacon was his own kind of isolated peak.”

A thread that connects the writers he loved is that they stood against the values of their time, opposing dogmas, whether religious or political. Like Bacon, they wouldn’t be dictated to.

For the artist, this was perhaps because his early life was stifled by conformity. Bacon was born into a posh family in Dublin in 1909: His father, Anthony Edward, was a military captain, and his mother, Christina, an heiress to a coal and steal fortune.

Family relations were tense, especially with his father, who discovered the teenage Bacon dressing in women’s clothes several times. Bacon left home on poor terms with his family, in 1926, and settled in London two years later.

His homosexuality and, later, his atheism would keep him at odds with his conservative family throughout his life. He was in near-constant search of a father figure, using prostitutes and lovers in this quest and frequently entering into abusive relationships.

Books became a way for the painter to create a new version of himself and to find guidance where he had little.

“He quite liked stark, tragic stories because he thought of his life as quite a stark, tragic story,” Mr. Peppiatt said. “He looked for other people who’d also looked down into the darkness.”

Bataille’s writings helped open Bacon to his sexuality; Nietzsche gave him a path to existential meaning without religious conviction; and Aeschylus gave Bacon a grand way to conceive of his own personal tragedies, which included the death of his partner of about eight years, George Dyer, of a drug and alcohol overdose.

Aeschylus, in particular, had a special place in Bacon’s life. No writer, he believed, captured tragedy quite as he did. In 1985, he told an interviewer on British television that a phrase from the Greek playwright, “The reek of human blood smiles out at me,” evoked in him “the most exciting images.”

Bacon’s “Second Version of Triptych 1944,” from 1988 — a triptych of disembodied mouths and sets of ghoulish teeth that’s on show at the Pompidou — combined Bacon’s love for Aeschylus’ violent phrase with the sexual frankness of Bataille’s writings. Mr. Ottinger said this painting was, like so many of the works in the exhibition, an indirect investigation of Bacon’s personal demons: in this case, his sexuality and Dyer’s death

Bacon was sometimes explicit about his literary inspirations, as with “Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus,” 1981, which depicts the three-part tragedy with mutilated bodies, flayed backs and a dead body that appears to hold a doe’s head on a plate. At other times Bacon’s influences show more subtly.

Mr. Ottinger said that in “Study from the Human Body and Portrait,” from 1988, Bacon took inspiration from Eliot’s multiplicity of poetic fragments in “The Waste Land” to make a multilayered painting with aerosol paint and a dry transfer lettering. This mirrored the epic poem’s “fragmented construction and its collage of languages and multiple tales,” he said.

Catherine Howe, an art historian who specializes in Bacon, said in a telephone interview that the painter was “interested in this kind of Modernist rule-breaking, how one formally goes about altering painting to convey a sensation.”

“He used to quote from Valéry and say, ‘I’m conveying the related sensation without the boredom of its conveyance,’ which is a very modern notion of bypassing narrative,” she added.

This means that sometimes the artist’s literary references are basically inscrutable, as in “Triptych Inspired by T.S. Eliot’s ‘Sweeney Agonistes’,” from 1967. In two panels of the three-part painting, lovers cavort on a green carpet, while in the central section an animal carcass rests against a window. It is erotic and disturbing, but what this has to do with Eliot’s unfinished verse drama is hard to say

“He didn’t like a singular interpretation of his work,” Ms. Howe said. “So I don’t think Bacon would have wanted a direct text-image comparison. It was more about the impression it had on him. But that impression was entirely personal.”

Mr. Peppiatt recalled that in the mid-1970s, he helped Bacon secure an apartment in Paris, where Mr. Peppiatt was working as an arts writer and editor. They had long, languorous lunches together, and Mr. Peppiatt remembered the artist spending hours at home, flitting between stacks of photographs, magazines, books, “any old stuff,” he said.

Around that time, he said, Bacon described himself as being “like a grinding machine: Everything goes in and gets ground up very fine.”

Bacon had a bleak outlook on life, Mr. Peppiatt said, and his favorite books and poems confirmed this.

The lesson of the literature Bacon loved, Mr. Peppiatt added, was “that we don’t really know why we’re here, that we invent our purposes, that we invent our drives and aims. And then, suddenly, we’re gone.”

 

 

 

         

                                                                                     Bacon in Paris in 1984. Credit  Ulf Andersen

 

 

 

 

 

CENTRE POMPIDOU PARIS

 

 

 

Visueller Flash: Wie Literatur Francis Bacon  Mzumalen inspirierte

 

 

 

VON KATHRIN HONDL | KULTUR NEU ENTDECKEN | KUNST & AUSSTELLUNG | SWR 2 | SEPTEMBER 11 2019

 

Der britische Künstler Francis Bacon war ein belesener Mann. Seine Bibliothek umfasste mehr als 1.000 Bücher, die für seine Malerei eine wichtige Rolle spielten. Wie groß der Einfluss der Literatur auf die Bilder Francis Bacons war, zeigt jetzt eine spektakuläre Ausstellung im Centre Pompidou Paris: „Bacon en toutes lettres“.

Texte, die Francis Bacon inspirierten, sind – englisch und französisch – in separaten, dunklen, bilderlosen Räumen zu hören. Eine kluge Entscheidung, denn der Maler Francis Bacon war alles andere als ein Illustrator.

„Die Autoren inspirieren ihn nicht zu narrativen Bildern, es sind eher visuelle Flashs“, sagt Ausstellungskurator Didier Ottinger. „Aus der Vielzahl von Bildern, die zum Beispiel T.S. Eliots Gedichte in ihm stimulieren, hält er dann zwei oder drei fest und komponiert damit ein Triptychon. Das ist sehr subtil.“

Eliots Gedicht „Das wüste Land“ faszinierte Bacon wohl auf eine ähnliche Art wie die griechischen Tragödien. Geschrieben nach dem Ersten Weltkrieg, ist „Das wüste Land“ geprägt von Horror und Gewalt, Schuld und Blut, Kultur und Barbarei.

„Man sieht nur, was man weiß“ – das Goethe-Zitat beweist in dieser literarischen Ausstellung mal wieder seine Richtigkeit. Außer den Bildern gibt es übrigens nichts zu lesen. Auf die üblichen Erklärtexte an den Wänden wurde verzichtet. Das kann man bedauern – denn es gäbe zu den Bildern des belesenen Bacon viel zu erklären.

 

So lässt sich Francis Bacons Malerei wunderbar lesen

 

Doch gerade der Verzicht auf didaktisches Beiwerk, das Vertrauen auf die Kraft der Literatur, macht diese Ausstellung zu einer sehr intimen und lehrreichen Begegnung mit dem Wesentlichen: Mit den Texten der Dichter und Denker im Ohr, lässt sich Francis Bacons Malerei tatsächlich wunderbar lesen.

 

„Bacon en toutes lettres“, Ausstellung im Pariser Centre Pompidou vom 11. September 2019 bis zum 20. Januar 2020.

 

 

 

       

               Mitteltafel Triptychon 1986 — 1987, Privatsammlung London

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking at Lucian Freud: photographic portraits of the artist

 

 

 

The British painter was a compelling subject for photographers from Cecil Beaton to Henri Cartier-Bresson

 

 

 

ROBIN MUIR | WEEKEND LONG READS | THE FINANCIAL TIMES MAGAZINE | 6 SEPTEMBER 2019

 

“Painter Working, Reflection” (1993), which he completed at the age of 71, was not Lucian Freud’s last self-portrait but, at full-length and frontally naked, it was an unexpected one. Bruce Bernard, his oldest friend, wrote of him preparing as if for a final reckoning, wearing only his painting boots, “defiantly brandishing the tools of his trade as well as his own private vulnerabilities”.

Despite his best efforts, those vulnerabilities had been on display for much of his long life, captured by the camera, exposed by film, and now a new book, Lucian Freud: A Life, presents his biography in pictures. It chronicles an extraordinary life from first to last: from Freud as an eight-year-old in 1930, a snapshot from Weimar-era Berlin, to the 88-year-old in London in 2011, the year of his death, laid out on his sofa like an El Greco saint

“Our mission was to make a cumulative portrait of the man,” explains Mark Holborn, the book’s co-editor, who knew Freud well and has published several surveys of his work

“The material was always there. We simply found it. But the truth is: it’s down to Lucian in the same way as it would be down to Picasso. There are few people you encounter in life who fulfil the word ‘charismatic’. They have a presence and they have a scrutiny, they look at you in a w
ay that penetrates.”

Of five Freud paintings reproduced in the book, two are portraits of photographers: John Deakin and Harry Diamond, acquaintances from Soho in the 1950s and 1960s, when Freud, on the evidence here, was at his most mercurial and evasive, balancing high and low life with equanimity.

Glimpses of other works can be seen in the studio photographs made by Bernard in the 1990s and, from 2002, by David Dawson, Freud’s assistant and friend of 20 years, model for seven paintings and, with Holborn, co-editor of the book.

Freud’s attitude towards photography was not ambivalent. He disliked it. He could not use it in his work; photographs did not give him the right information, he said. He wanted his portraits to be of his sitters, not like them.

Where a printed image might have helped, still it fell short. The posthumous portrait “Small Head of Leigh Bowery” (1995), for example, was done from memory.

Furthermore, Freud told the critic Robert Hughes, being sized up for the camera made him feel that “something disagreeable” was about to be done to him. In his later years, he was gripped by the need for privacy for himself and his sitters, arranging things so that he would never be bothered by photographers. There was an early precedent. His first word, according to his mother, was alleine — “Leave me alone”.

So it is surprising to discover that somebody who managed latterly to present such an enigmatic and unapproachable public face should have been portrayed so often and so well in the years before. But it was, after all, a very long life and a very famous surname.

Lucian Freud was born into middle-class comfort in Berlin in 1922, the second of three sons of Ernst, an architect, and the grandson of Sigmund (that Freud’s paintings might contain psychoanalytical intuition was a perennial misreading of them). Early photographs of Lucian and his brothers, Stephen and Clement, hand in hand, show a fraternal affection that did not endure.

Ernst’s family, Austrian Jews, fled Germany for England in September 1933; that February, the Reichstag had been set ablaze and young Lucian saw its smouldering ruins as he negotiated a way around it to school. He saw Hitler, too, but only once, a tiny figure with, he recalled, “huge people on either side of him”.

In 1935, Lucian made a brief return to middle Europe to visit his grandfather in Austria. Sigmund himself would finally leave for London in 1938. Lucian was photographed with him in Hampstead later that year, probably the only existing photograph of the two together. His grandfather died the following September.

Freud had arrived in England as an outsider, barely able to speak the language. His formal education at progressive Dartington Hall School, in Devon, was at best sporadic. Bryanston, in Dorset, where he was briefly sent in 1938, provided little further stimulus.

He was proficient enough at drawing to be accepted, at 15, to London’s Central School of Art and Design but lasted barely a term before leaving for Essex and Cedric Morris’s recently opened and unorthodox East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing.

He began to cultivate influential friends and future patrons: Cyril Connolly, who published a Freud self-portrait in the third issue of Horizon in 1940, and Stephen Spender, who would publish Freud’s manifesto “Some Thoughts on Painting” in Encounter in 1954. “My object in painting pictures is to try and move the senses by giving an intensification of reality …” it began.

Freud’s unconventional charm, coupled with that famous surname, opened doors. Another Rimbaud, young and gifted, he appeared exotic and otherworldly too, unheeding of social convention. All sorts of people found him attractive.

 His second wife, Caroline Blackwood, recalled him around this time as “fantastic, very brilliant, incredibly beautiful, though not in a movie star way. I remember he was very mannered; he wore these long side-whiskers, which nobody else had then. And he wore funny trousers deliberately. He wanted to stand out in a crowd, and he did.” Another former girlfriend said simply, “When I was with him I felt there was life around.”

When he failed to elude them, photographers found Freud a compelling subject, inherently photogenic. The list is an impressive one.

Francis Goodman, like Freud a German in London, photographed him informally in 1945, capturing something of the stubborn sullenness that would soon mark him out. Goodman’s pictures are now in the National Portrait Gallery, London

Vogue sought him out early on, in 1947, dispatching Clifford Coffin to his Paddington studio. He obliged the man from Vogue by standing awkwardly with his pet sparrowhawk and wearing a thick merchant seaman’s sweater, a souvenir of his brief war service.

He had also worn it, along with a pair of tartan trousers, to a first meeting with Picasso in 1946, an outfit that prompted Picasso, perhaps thinking of Allied battalions, to start singing “Tipperary”. Freud admired Picasso’s ways of palming off unwelcome visitors, leaving him to live his life exactly as he pleased.

Brassaï, Pic
asso’s most trenchant observer, photographed Freud in 1952 in Paris, again for Vogue, but the French edition. Freud was working on “Hotel Bedroom”, completed in 1954, a claustrophobic double portrait of the artist — tense and impatient — and of Blackwood, his second wife-to-be, in bed, anxious-looking and ill. Brassaï had them mimic the work in progress.

“Isn’t it odd,” Freud recalled later, “that the most convincing photographs are staged?” The photographer gave Freud a print. He would later cut it in two, severing himself from Blackwood. There is a complete version in the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Freud’s first wife was Kitty Garman, who married him in 1948, a few months after they met, when she was 22. The illegitimate daughter of sculptor Jacob Epstein, she was the wide-eyed and captivating model for several of Freud’s most significant early portraits, including “Girl with White Dog” (1950-51). The two lived the bohemian life that Cecil Beaton found so attractive when he first met Freud around this time

When her husband was taken up by the haut monde, Garman, who was unworldly but unimpressionable, saw her marriage fall apart. It was at a party given by Ann Rothermere that Freud met Blackwood, daughter of a marquess and heiress to the Guinness fortune.

Beaton photographed Freud on four occasions between 1948 and 1956. The first was en plein air near Beaton’s Wiltshire home. The young artist had come to sketch him. “The boy is charming and unexpected,” Beaton wrote, “and it was nice to have him about the place.”

Beaton would go on to describe Freud as “a true artist and a true Bohemian in the way he lives … his black curly hair, intensely restless eyes, bright woollen scarf or checked trousers of a decidedly zazou cut have become a landmark in the artistic life of London.”

 Though Beaton admired him and promoted him widely, he caught glimpses of the young man’s cruelty. “I considered all his bad faults,” he wrote in his diary, “and came to the conclusion there is every reason for those who do saying he is a wicked character.”

The last session took place in 1956 at Coombe Priory, the Dorset house Freud shared with Blackwood. The pair had eloped to Paris in 1952 and wed in 1953, but the marriage was now on the rocks. In the background, Blackwood looks on apprehensively at her husband’s standing figure; on the wall is Francis Bacon’s “Head” (1951).

Freud had known Bacon since 1944. It was an intense friendship and they saw each other daily. In time, Bacon’s bold, expansive gestures helped Freud loosen his precise and detailed line. He talked of the older painter “packing a lot of things into one single brushstroke”, which provoked Freud to action as much as Bacon’s fearlessness in life. 

Bacon made at least six single paintings and five triptychs of Freud, finding his friend an absorbing figure. The first portrait, a full-length, dates from 1951. Though initially Freud sat for him in the studio, the process broke down and Bacon, who had no qualms about appropriating photographs, finished the painting using a torn-out image of a young Kafka. Subsequently, he based most of his Freud portraits on photographs he commissioned from John Deakin.

Freud painted his large “standing portrait” of Harry Diamond that same year. “Interior in Paddington” (1951) finds his subject tense and clench-fisted as if in conflict with the giant potted plant in front of him or the virulent red carpet at his feet. Freud was now justifiably, as Herbert Read would declare, “the Ingres of existentialism”.

“He took up photography,” Freud said of Diamond, “like someone finds Jesus.” Diamond’s snapshots of the painter are still little known despite exposure at the time, as is much of his work (he also took memorable portraits of Bacon and Frank Auerbach and vignettes of the London jazz scene). His archive is now held by the National Portrait Gallery.

Though Diamond would drift in and out of Freud’s life, Freud thought highly of him and throughout the 1970s he was the favoured photographer, intermittently making pictures of the painter and his family. They share the same informality that David Dawson would bring to his document of studio life some 20 years later. “It’s odd how the character of the photographer enters into things,” Freud said of Diamond.

Another Soho photographer, John Deakin, photographed Freud many times, not least for the raw material upon which Bacon based his contemporaneous portraits. In 1963, Freud began a portrait, “John Deakin” (1963-64), a study in miniature of rancour and vanquished hope (Deakin’s own career as a painter had never taken off).

Nevertheless, Deakin subsequently termed himself “The Mona Lisa of Paddington” and, in an unpublished manuscript, made his own observations of Freud: “When I said only the bad ones grumbled at my portraits I should have excepted Lucian Freud, whose work I admire so much. But perhaps his grumbles were just part of his act: he’s such a strange, fox-like person …”

 “There’s an air of mystery about him and he’s had to pay for that,” said another friend and sitter, Francis Wyndham. The perceptive would sometimes see through it to act quickly and decisively. When Henri Cartier-Bresson came to photograph Freud in 1997, they met at the studio, talked briefly and went out to lunch. “Well, when do you want to make the photograph?” Freud reportedly asked the Frenchman. “I already have,” came the reply.

In 1992, Bruce Bernard, who had known Freud since his schooldays, and then from the Soho scene, agreed to sit for his portrait. He had previously demurred but knew from first-hand observation that the painter had now quickened his pace and it might not, after all, mean months in the studio. “There’s certainly something grand about him,” announced Freud on completing the portrait, the first of two.

Bernard had been The Sunday Times Magazine’s respected picture editor, a writer on art and, in the days when the term was hardly common currency, a photographic historian. To this he added the practice of photography. Freud was not his first artist, but his series of photographs of Freud in the studio coincided with the artist embarking on a significant body of new work.

Freud had met the performance artist Leigh Bowery and was impressed enough to ask him to sit, which he did with regularity from 1990 for the next four years. When he arrived at the studio, Freud realised Bowery would be the subject of more than one picture. “I found him perfectly beautiful,” he told Bernard.

Bowery’s impressive bulk demanded a monumental response and Bernard was permitted to memorialise it by photographing Freud at work. The photographs, unhurried, formal and dignified, reflected the large-scale works in progress.

While Freud found he did not mind being photographed by Dawson, whose point-and-shoot aesthetic was blessedly swift, with Bernard, as he told Sebastian Smee, “I certainly did … [He] made everything pretty painful. We were good friends … Although he loved photography, he didn’t like photographing — he just thought he was no good.” Bernard’s record of these sittings is now in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

At the end only Dawson, with his extraordinary and privileged access, was recording him, pinning down for history Freud’s uncompromising artistic practice

“Everything is autobiographical and everything is a portrait,” Freud once observed. As Holborn puts it, “It is all about looking: us looking at him who in turn is looking out at the world with that penetrating stare. He was oblivious to anything else. Which is why it’s a heroic life.”

“Lucian Freud: A Life”, compiled by Mark Holborn in collaboration with David Dawson, is published by Phaidon. “Lucian Freud: The Self-portraits” is at the Royal Academy, London, October 27-January 26 2020

 

 

 

       

        Freud (right) with (from left) Alberto Giacometti and Francis Bacon, in London, 1965

 

 

 

          

         Freud and his second wife Caroline Blackwood, photographed by Cecil Beaton (1956)

 

 

 

 

 

From blasphemy to bookworm:

 

Paris show reframes Francis Bacon’s later works

 

 

 

Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou focuses on the artist’s post-pope period, which has received less critical examination

 

 

 

FARAH NAYERI | PREVIEW | EXHIBITIONS | THE ART NEWSPAPER | 6 SEPTEMBER 2019

 

To present-day museum goers, the name Francis Bacon evokes images of screaming popes. Bacon’s pope series, inspired by Diego Velázquez’s Portrait of Innocent X (around 1650), has featured extensively in exhibitions and auctions in recent years, and is considered a high point of the Irish-born British artist’s career.

A new exhibition opening at Paris’s Centre Pompidou takes a different view. Bacon: Books and Painting examines the last couple of decades of Bacon’s career, between 1971 and 1992, when he had stopped painting popes. And the show’s curator Didier Ottinger is presenting those paintings as “the best works that Bacon ever produced”.

“The aim is to change the image of Bacon completely,” says Ottinger, who masterminded the Pompidou’s recent David Hockney and René Magritte blockbusters. “If we’re putting on a show at the Centre Pompidou, we need to make an original proposition. Otherwise, anybody could do it.”

Among the exhibition’s 60 works will be 12 triptychs. Visitors will get a rare chance to see the three so-called Black Triptychs—which were painted after Bacon’s lover George Dyer died in 1971—gathered in one place. They include Triptych August 1972 (1972), on loan from the Tate, and Triptych May-June 1973 (1973) from the rarely shown Esther Grether Family Collection in Basel

“There is a qualitative chasm between the end and the beginning” of Bacon’s career, Ottinger insists. “We’re practically not talking about the same artist.” Bacon himself once said on camera (in an interview that will be shown at the Pompidou) that, prior to 1970, he failed at everything he undertook.

The turning point in Bacon’s career appears to have been his retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris, which opened in October 1971. Bacon became only the second living artist to be given a show in that hallowed hall. He received instant international recognition, and an invaluable opportunity to look back at his own career. Yet two days before the opening, his partner George Dyer died by suicide in a Paris hotel. The context was, for the artist, life-changing.

And yet late Bacon has so far not been examined closely, no doubt, explains Ottinger, because David Sylvester—the late critic and curator who was considered an authority on Bacon—did not rate works from this period as highly as the paintings that came before.

Ottinger got the idea for the exhibition in 2016 after visiting the Francis Bacon, Monaco and French Culture show at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco, where he found the late Bacons to be the standout works. While researching the exhibition, he discovered that whole strands of Bacon’s work were inspired by books that he was reading. As a result, the show will have a literary flavour. It will contain six enclosures, each dedicated to a different author: Aeschylus, Friedrich Nietzsche, Georges Bataille, Michel Leiris, Joseph Conrad and T.S. Eliot.

Works such as Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus (1981), Triptych Inspired by T.S. Eliot’s Poem “Sweeney Agonistes” (1967) and a 1976 triptych inspired by Conrad’s Heart of Darkness will be on show next to the enclosures where excerpts from those texts will be played. The exhibition will end with Bacon’s final painting, Study of a Bull (1991), which, according to Ottinger, was inspired by the reading of Leiris’s texts on bullfighting

For Ottinger, Bacon is, after Picasso, “the most important artist of the second half of the 20th century”. Nobody comes close, he says, and the last two decades of his career were his apotheosis

The show is supported by the auditing multinational PwC and the real estate company Nexity

 

Bacon: Books and Painting, Centre Pompidou, Paris, 11 September—20 January 2020

 

 

 

      

        Study of a Bull (1991) was inspired by Michel Leiris’s writing about bullfighting

 

 

 

 

 

Memory: The Origin of the Alien – inside the secret psyche of a monster

 

 

 

Francis Bacon, Greek myth and unsung script hero Dan O’Bannon are given their due in this richly obsessive film about the making of a sci-fi classic

 

 

 

PHIL HOAD | DOCUMENTARY FILMS | REVIEW | THE GUARDIAN | FRIDAY, 30 AUGUST 2019

 

What this solemn and enlivening documentary plunge into the history of Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic reiterates is the idea of film as a collective art form – not just the wider circle of writers, performers and technicians beyond the director, but in the case of the truly great films, serendipitous access to a deeper collective unconscious to which we all have the keys – even if few know how to use them.

In addition to the visually hyper-literate Scott and concept designer HR Giger, whose “mystic” intuition gave us the phallus-mawed xenomorph, the unsung hero of Alien is its screenwriter Dan O’Bannon. He was the weirdy-beardy Missourian iconoclast who channelled a childhood diet of pulp comics into a promisingly chilling first act of a script, originally titled Memory. Though he hit a wall on page 29 trying to devise the method by which the extraterrestrial hitches a ride on board the space vessel, until the film’s executive producer Ronald Shusett woke up from an afternoon nap with a brainwave: “I have the answer – the alien fucks him!”

With the same obsessive attention he brought to bear on Psycho’s shower scene in his 2017 documentary 78/52 (if not quite an equal level of interviewee firepower), director Alexandre O Philippe relates the film’s mythic genotype to the phenotype of what finally emerged. His light catches the outline of several wondrous realisations: the morbid influence of ancient Egyptian iconography on Giger; how both he and O’Bannon worked on Alejandro Jodorowsky’s abortive Dune before distilling their vision into something more singular and lethal; how Scott steered Giger to Francis Bacon’s Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion as obscene inspiration for one of the most famous entrances in 20th-century cinema.

The later production history is interesting, but has been extensively detailed elsewhere. It’s Philippe’s deeper psychological excavation that really bears fruit, even if his bibliography gets a bit too indiscriminate (the influence of HP Lovecraft seems more relevant to Alien’s icky soulmate The Thing). He joins the dots from Bacon to the Greek Furies, who often hounded children who committed crimes against their creators, their parents; the implication being that the xenomorph is a scourge for over-reaching humanity. Scott, of course, has picked up such Promethean themes in his recent sequels, but it was only the primal power he helped uncork in the first instance that has powered him through these mangled new incarnation.

 

 

 

       

                                                                               Alien iconoclast … screenwriter Dan O’Bannon in Memory: The Origins of Alien.

 

 

 

 

 

Francis Bacon’s role in that scene from the Alien

 

 

 

 

BY KEVIN MAHER | WORLD | THE AUSTRALIAN | MONDAY, AUGUST 26, 2019

 

You know the scene. We’re almost an hour into Ridley Scott’s original, slow and seemingly sombre space movie Alien when John Hurt, as the ship’s officer Kane, tucks into some very stringy coleslaw and remarks: “The first thing I’m going to do when I get back is to get some decent food.” To his right his fellow diner, Parker (Yaphet Kotto), makes a crude pun about oral sex (“I know what I’d rather be eating!”), while the rest of the seven-person crew munch away obviously.

Kane suddenly starts to cough. He flips over on to the table, jerking left, then right. Parker, suspecting a fit, tries to ram the handle of a spoon into Kane’s mouth. Kane wriggles, Parker struggles, then Kane screams, a high-pitched howl. He arches his back and his chest explodes. The blood-spattered crew leap away in terror as a slimy phallic creature, drenched with intestinal gore, emerges from the chest cavity, before looking around, unleashing a piercing squeal, then darting across the table and out of the room. A horror classic is born.

The scene is brutally effective and the stuff of nightmares. It has become, alongside the “Rosebud” reveal in Citizen Kane and the hilltop spin in The Sound of Music, one of the most iconic moments in cinema. Why, even after four decades, does it retain such primal power? It’s because of Francis Bacon, obviously.

A new documentary called Memory: The Origins of Alientraces, with watertight credibility, an influential line from the 1944 Francis Bacon triptych Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion to the film’s famous “chest-burster” scene, revealing how Scott introduced the painting to Alien’s art designer HR Giger and suggested that Bacon’s imagery (snapping mouths on sticks) could serve as the visual reference for Kane’s undoing. The documentary, however, which is written and directed by the 46-year-old Swiss filmmaker Alexandre O. Philippe, goes deeper still and delves into Bacon’s creative world view and his obsession with depicting mouths (“I’ve always been very moved by the movement of the mouth and the shape of the mouth and the teeth,” Bacon says in an archive interview).

It notes that the figures in Bacon’s crucifixion study, currently on view at Tate Britain in London, are the Furies from Greek tragedy, and that the Furies are avengers designed to restore order, and that, circling back to Alien, the phallic chest-burster that leaps out of Kane is a modern space Fury who quotes, in piercing squeals rather than words, the famous line of Aeschylus, cherished by Bacon: “The reek of human blood smiles out at me.”

Fanciful? Not at all, says Philippe, who previously analysed the Psycho shower scene in equally minute detail in his brilliant 2017 documentary 78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene. The profound power of Alien is intrinsically connected to Bacon, he insists.

“When I was researching the movie there was one story only that I kept thinking about,” he says. “And it was Ridley Scott showing the Bacon triptych to HR Giger, and basically saying, ‘This is what I’d like the chest-burster to look like.’ And when I realised that the Furies had essentially hijacked Bacon’s crucifixion painting I knew that what I needed to do was to make a mythological film about Alien. And I want to make clear that I’m not suggesting that the chest-burster is lifted directly from Greek mythology. But that myth is still very much alive in our minds, our imaginations and our collective unconscious.”

Philippe’s documentary, a must-watch for sci-fi fans and armchair film buffs alike, begins by stitching together the narrative influences on the Alien screenplay, co-written by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett. It points to a comic-book adventure called Seeds of Jupiter that features a navy sailor tricked into swallowing a seed that matures into an octopus that needs to be cut from his chest. It nods to a 1966 B-movie called Queen of Blood about an alien distress signal that lures human astronauts to their doom.

Philippe’s film also reveals how O’Bannon’s screenplay was stuck for years on page 29, unable to overcome the seemingly trifling problem of how the alien, when first encountered, sneaks on board the human spaceship. The solution came to Shusett in a dream. “I woke up and I said, ‘I have it. I have the answer!’” says Shusett in the documentary.

“‘The alien fucks him! Jumps on his face, sticks a tube down his throat and implants a seed that’s going to grow inside him and burst out of his chest in the middle of the movie!’”

This leads to the sections of Philippe’s film that discuss the psychosexual implications of the movie and the idea that Alien disturbs us not because it is, you know, scary, but because it’s tapping into deep and dirty subconscious fears and desires. One contributor, with reference to the alien’s forced penetration of Kane, simply describes the elevator pitch for the film as “a male rape movie in space”. Philippe, it transpires, is on the same page. “The symbolism of male penetration, male rape, male pregnancy and birth? Those are the main reasons why Alien shook people to their core when it came out,” he says. “Even though it was on a subconscious level.”

It helps that most of the talking heads in Philippe’s film back up these assertions, with even Scott claiming that he was attracted to the art designs of Giger because they were “beautiful, not just threatening, and had lots of sexual connotations”.

There are other parts of the film, however, where you can feel the connective threads of argument beginning to fray and, in some cases, snap. Alien, for instance, as a critique of US imperialism (the spaceship, the Nostromo, is an allusion to Joseph Conrad’s critique of imperialism in his novel of the same name)? Alien as an expression of angst over the end of the American family (the Nostromo crew are, er, a surrogate family)? Alien as serial-killer fear? And Alien as patriarchal guilt (see male rape) and an expression of the need for feminism? All these readings are in Philippe’s film, and he stands by them.

“Look, Alien was not supposed to be a hit in 1979. Back then we already had Close Encounters, and we were ready for E.T. and the cute and cuddly alien. The fact that this film resonated so deeply means that something happened and it’s important for us to ask, ‘Why?’ It’s not just a haunted-house movie in space. It’s more significant than that.”

In the end, Philippe, who is working on a mythological examination of The Exorcist called Leap of Faith, says the only way to truly appreciate Alien is to keep watching it.

“The reason you have to rewatch it is because it is an extraordinary, complex and layered movie,” he says.

“The more you watch it, the more you can unpack. And yet, somehow, you can never get to the bottom of Alien. I’m absolutely convinced of that.”

Memory: The Origins of Alien is screening at the following locations from September 12: Cinema Nova, Melbourne; Sydney Underground Film Festival (from September 14); Nat Film & Sound Archive, Canberra on September 20; Mercury Cinema, Adelaide; and Brisbane International Film Festival from October 3.

 

 

               

                           The alien has a growth spurt.

 

 

 

 

Francis Bacon gave $5m painting to Tate for free to spite his dealer, friend reveals

 

 

 

BY DALYA ALBERGE | NEWS | THE DAILY TELEGRAPH | 18 AUGUST 2019

 

 

Francis Bacon was so furious that his dealer had sold one of his triptychs to a US museum without consulting him that he cancelled the multi-million-dollar sale by donating the work to the Tate, the artist’s friend Barry Joule has revealed.

Bacon was further irritated by his dealer’s insistence that its title should bear the word ‘crucifixion’ when it was nothing of the sort.

He fell out with the late Valerie Beston, of the Marlborough gallery in London, over his Second Version of Triptych 1944, a nightmarish depiction of three howling creatures, part-man, part-beast, tormented and twisting against a deep maroon background. It was a 1988 reworking of his 1940s masterpiece, Three Studies for Figures at the base of a Crucifixion, also in the Tate.

Although the earlier work’s title has the word “crucifixion”, the aetheist painter told Mr Joule: “I have only ever used a crucifix as a device to hang or surround my figures on… But I have never painted a crucifixion per se… never pinned anyone outstretched on a cross… and certainly never a Christian one… Right now, I am having a tiff with Valerie Beston over the… title of this new triptych as she insists on using the word crucifixion.”

Bacon added that titles should be “simple” with “no element of story-telling”. After much heated discussion, Bacon got his way on the 1988 triptych.

While his paintings sell today for tens of millions of pounds, they had already reached seven figures when Beston was planning her 1988 sale. The Tate was able to acquire the masterpiece at no cost, after the artist’s fiery arguments with Beston.

Mr Joule, who lived next to Bacon’s studio and home in South Kensington, is now revealing the triptych’s three-year “torturous route” to the Tate, based on previously-unheard conversations that he recorded with the artist and his own first-hand recollections.

He told the Telegraph: “When the 'finished' triptych first arrived at Marlborough in mid-1988, Beston promptly named it with ‘crucifixion' in the title and informed Francis they had a major museum that wanted to buy it. The picture likely would have sold for around $5 million, with Marlborough taking their hefty share...

“That's when the long-standing fairly even relationship between Beston and Bacon broke down. She had mostly governed Francis like a Nazi storm-trooper, so she was not happy when, in the autumn of 1988, 'her artist' wanted the painting returned for more reworking,… and insisting on dropping 'crucifixion' from the title...

“He also let the bombshell casually drop that he possibly would donate the picture to the Tate - this now touching on a raw nerve.”

Mr Joule was at the artist’s studio at 7 Reece Mews when Beston turned up in a chauffeured car, banging loudly on the door. As Bacon did not want to be disturbed from reworking the triptych, Mr Joule opened the mews’s first-floor 'hay-door' and looked down on a “furious” Beston: “She yelled up at me… 'Get Francis here immediately’...

“The grumbling painter eventually appeared. Very agitated, Francis wasn't about to budge an inch about allowing her inside. His round face reddening up, he was furious that Beston had sold the picture without checking with him first. She further yelled… He pretended not to hear.”

Beston gave his door a “thump” before retreating, leaving Bacon stunned and shaking. “In a final twist of the knife”, Mr Joule said, she “furiously screamed the words ‘Remember Zurich’”. That was taken as a threat, a reference to Bacon’s tax affairs.

Bacon made regular 'business trips' to the Swiss city, enjoying the food and seeing friends. “It was also possibly a place where the proceeds of a painting recently sold could be stashed away in a secret Swiss bank account”, Mr Joule said.

Swiss friends included Gilbert de Botton, the artist’s private banker and a noted Bacon collector, who died in 2000. He was also a Tate trustee, who encouraged Bacon’s donation, realising that the new triptych would be displayed perfectly with the earlier version.

Mr Joule said: “Doubtless it would take a courageous man to stare down the board of Marlborough and inform them that possibly millions of dollars wouldn't enter their financial books that year. Francis was a brave man, and was supported by De Botton and the gallery’s then director, Sir Nicholas Serota.”

In 2006, Sir Nicholas wrote to Mr Joule: “I worked closely with Gilbert on persuading Francis that the Tate was the right location for the second triptych. Marlborough, not surprisingly, dragged feet at every turn saying that it could come ‘as a bequest’ (very little chance, I thought).”

Bacon recalled that, in informing Beston of his final decision, “her tight face dropped like a wet sponge.”

She was not invited to De Botton’s celebratory supper for four at the Bibendum restaurant in Kensington. When the banker called for the bill, he was informed that Bacon had settled it - a vast bill exceeding £800.

In 1978, Mr Joule was repairing a neighbour’s television aerial and Bacon invited him in for champagne, sparking a friendship that lasted until the artist’s death in 1992. In 2004, Mr Joule gave the Tate some 1,200 sketches from Bacon’s studio, then valued at an estimated £20m, one of the Tate’s most generous gifts. A small selection of them are on show at Tate Britain until the end of September. Exhibits include that Bibendum bill.

 

 

 

             

                                                                                        Francis Bacon at the Tate gallery, pictured in 1985: Credit: Ray Roberts

 

 

 

 

 

 

Centre Pompidou to hold new exhibition dedicated to Francis Bacon

 

 

 

HOME | LIFE | MALAY MAIL | 13 AUGUST 2019

 

PARIS, Aug 13 — The Parisian museum held its last major exhibition dedicated to the Irish painter in 1996.

More than 20 years later, “Bacon: Books and Painting” will focus on works produced by Francis Bacon in the last two decades of his career.

It will feature 60 paintings spanning from 1971 to 1992, including 12 triptychs, a series of portraits, and self-portrait

The last two decades of Bacon’s career were particularly significant, as they were marked by a simplification and intensification of his painting style. His colours acquired new depth, drawn from a unique chromatic register of yellow, pink, and saturated orange, as seen in his 1983 canvas “Sand Dune”

The death of his long-time partner George Dyer, who committed suicide in 1971, left haunting echoes in Bacon’s ensuing paintings. His “Black Triptychs” series, which was painted in memory of his deceased lover, notably depicts two seated figures and their coupling in a life-and-death struggle

The exhibition “Bacon: Books and Painting” will also examine the influence of literature in Francis Bacon’s oeuvre. Curator Didier Ottinger included several recorded readings of excerpts of texts taken from the painter’s library. Among them are works by T.S. Eliot, Mathieu Amalric, Nietzsche, Bataille, Valérie Dreville, and more. These authors had a considerable impact on the Bacon’s work, inspiring recurring images and motifs such as the Furies of Greek mythology. The influence of the ancient Greek tragedian Aeschylus is particularly visible in the 1944 painting “Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion,” as well as in 1981’s “Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus.

“Bacon: Books and Painting” will be on view from September 11 through January 20, 2020 at Paris’ Centre Pompidou. 

 

 

 

     

        ‘Triptych August 1972’ by Francis Bacon at ‘Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud & The School of London’ at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow, March 4, 2019

 

 

 

 


Francis Bacon's Chilling Portraits to Go on View at Centre Pompidou

 

 

 

Alongside books from Bacon’s vast library that greatly influenced his paintings

 

 

BY KEITH ESTILER | ART EDITOR | ARTS | HYPEBEAST | AUGUST 9 2019

 

The historic Centre Pompidou in Paris will host a major survey dedicated to famed Irish-born painter, Francis Bacon. Simply titled “Francis Bacon: Books and Painting,” the landmark presentation will spotlight a selection of his emotion-charged portraiture spanning the years between 1971 and 1992. A total of sixty paintings (portraits and self-portraits) including 12 triptychs will go on view.

Accompanying the original works is a collection of books culled from Bacon’s personal library that has made an impact on the artist’s practice. From Nietzsche’s ‘Backwards’ to Bataille’s ‘Low Materialism,’ key excerpts will be read during the exhibition to show how “these authors directly inspired Bacon with works and motifs,” said Pompidou in a statement.

“Francis bacon: Books and Painting” will run through September 11 until January 20, 2020. Visit Centre Pompidou’s website for further details.

 

The Centre Pompidou, Place Georges-Pompidou, Paris, France 75004

 

 

        

 

 

 

 

Review: Bacon  

 

 

The Space on the Mile. V39

 

 

August 2 – 10 15.05

 

 

TONY CHALLIS | THEATRE | SG FRINGE | AUGUST 5 2019

 


Here is an intense fifty minutes of drama that provides insights into the minds and lives of the famous 20th century painter Francis Bacon and his lover George Dyer.

We begin with Bacon (Jude Martin) at his easel, but uninspired. Dyer arrives, at first just seeking money, but Bacon is fascinated by him, and Dyer is lured into greater closeness. Dyer (William Leckie) is at first repelled, and engages in some homophobic abuse, but his life is hollow and purposeless, and he despises the people he spends his time with, and becomes more and more attached to Bacon.

The background of both characters is fed in during their interactions, and we never feel we are being given information for its own sake. We learn of the horrors in Bacon’s life that feed into the horrors on his canvases. Bacon’s agent, Mary (Elly Murray Brown), tries to cope with this new force, the hostile Dyer, whilst continuing to promote Bacon.

With Dyer as inspiration, Bacon achieves an international exhibition, but Dyer has declined into drunken dependence. The relationship moves to a tragic conclusion.

Jude Martin well conveys Bacon’s rapid enthusiasm for Dyer, and his unusually keen reaction to an intruder. William Leckie ably shows us Dyer’s confusion, his distaste for the violence Bacon insists that he use on his body, and his increasing childlike dependence on Bacon.

For anyone who has seen photos of Bacon’s studio and the state of it, it will be possible to imagine the effect on Bacon and Dyer’s clothes when they roll on the floor, fighting and making love in that environment. A backdrop photo of that room would have been enlightening.

See this play for a short, intense view of a deep but troubled and ultimately impossible relationship.

 

 

 

     

 

 

 

 

 

Portugal seizes art from businessman who owes almost £1bn

 

 

 

 

José Berardo relinquishes trove including works by Miró, Mondrian and Bacon

 

 

Agence France-Presse in Lisbon

 

 

NEWS | PORTUGAL | THE GUARDIAN | TUESDAY 30 JULY 2019

 


Portugal has seized a trove of contemporary artwork, including paintings by Joan Miró and Piet Mondrian, from its debt-riddled owner, the government has confirmed.

For months, three Portuguese banks had tried but failed to seize the art collection from Portuguese businessman José Berardo. The 75-year-old had offered the works as collateral for his debt which totalled nearly €1bn. (£920m).

The modern art collection of more than 900 works which includes, besides Miró and Mondrian, other famous artists such as Gerhard Richter and Francis Bacon, was valued in 2006 at €316m euros.

But the collection could have doubled in value since then given the growth in the art market. Bacon’s Self-Portrait,  for example, sold for over €17m when it was auctioned at Sotheby’s last month.

Much of the Berardo collection has been on display to the public in Lisbon’s museums since 2006, under an agreement between the businessman and the galleries, which put them out of the banks’ reach.

It is unclear if the lenders will obtain possession of the collection, which for now remains in the state’s custody, according to Portuguese media reports.

It is not the first time Berardo’s assets have been seized. According to the media, Portugal had already taken a property of his on the island of Madeira which he had left in 1963 to make his fortune in South Africa.

Berardo had borrowed a total of €962m from the state bank Caixa Geral de Depósitos the Banco Comercial Português (BCP) and the former bank Espírito Santo, now Novo Banco. He acquired shares of BCP to become its third largest shareholder.

 

 

 

 

 

Visceral and unsparing: Why Francis Bacons portraits of screaming popes and lovers live on

 

 

 

 

NICK GLASS | ARTS | CNN STYLE | 29 JULY 2019

 

Francis Bacon's work has always been instantly recognizable. "Nightmarish horror" was how art critic David Sylvester described it in 1954, citing the general critical response to his paintings. Raw, dark and visceral, Bacon's images were disquieting from the outset. 

Just look at 1944's "Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion," his first masterpiece. Here was an early example of what became his favored form: a triptych of disturbing imagery featuring distorted limbs, eyeless heads and open snarling mouths the teeth bared and ready to savage all painted on a glowing orange backdrop.

Bacon was already in his mid-30s by then "a late starter," as he put it. Yet this single painting dramatically announced his arrival as a major artist. At the time, London was being bombarded with V-1 and V-2 rockets from Nazi Germany but Bacon drew his inspiration from elsewhere. The image transcended traditional religious iconography.

Stylistically, Bacon was freed up to experiment, his artistic identity shaped by the radical work of his early hero, Picasso (whose 1927 show in Paris left a profound impression on the Irish-born.

Just as importantly, he was inspired by Greek tragedy; he was obsessed with the playwright Aeschylus and the Furies of his "Oresteia" trilogy. Tellingly, when he talked about the Furies, goddesses of vengeance in classical mythology, Bacon would habitually quote a passage from the plays: "The reek of human blood smiles out at me."

In his famous 1944 work, Bacon consciously it seems painted the Furies and gave us an indelible image of menace, anguish, terror and revenge. The triptych somehow sears into the brain. Seen in the flesh, it's an image that is hard to get out of your head. The painting was first exhibited in April 1945, in the final months of World War II. The allies were just liberating the Nazi concentration camps, and haunting images were emerging -- grotesque piles of bodies and pitifully emaciated prisoners. Bacon's masterpiece jangled a nerve. It still does.

 

 

Early influences 

 

Bacon painted largely from memory and photos, in a small, chaotic studio in London's South Kensington (the studio has since been reconstructed, complete with its original contents, at the City Gallery in Dublin). We know the artists he especially admired: Michelangelo, Velázquez, Degas, Van Gogh and Ingres. But critics have also identified some of his direct sources. A life mask of the poet William Blake, for instance, served as the basis for a series of small portraits in 1955.

Eadweard Muybridge's pioneering 19th century photos of human and animal movement, notably of men wrestling, had a more enduring impact. The resulting paintings are sometimes intensely sexual or, to be more precise, homoerotic. Bacon knew that he was gay from an early age. His authoritarian father threw him out of the family home in Dublin for wearing his mother's clothes, and he took himself to London aged 17.

Today in the British capital, the Gagosian gallery is exhibiting what it describes as "two of the most uninhibited images that Bacon ever painted." They were executed long before homosexual acts between men was decriminalized in England in 1967. "Two Figures" (1953) depicts two naked men, blurred and grappling like wrestlers on crumpled sheets. Is one pinning the other down? Is this agony, ecstasy or a bit of both? Their faces are distorted we can't tell for sure.

"Two Figures in the Grass" (1954) is a passionate coupling with lots of pinky-white flesh. Buttocks, a leg, an ear and hair, all half-hidden in the blades of grass. The patch of grass is fenced in. Bacon often liked to frame the space thin vertical and horizontal lines within his paintings to somehow intensify the image, to box it in.

Another key inspiration came from one of silent cinema's best-known sequences: a still image of a screaming woman, her glasses smashed and her face bloodied, stood on Odessa's famous steps in Sergei Eisenstein's 1925 film "Battleship Potemkin."

Bacon's series of screaming popes, meanwhile, were inspired by Velázquez's "Portrait of Pope Innocent X." The paintings helped establish his reputation in the early 1950s. In Velázquez's original (circa 1650), the papal mouth was clamped firmly shut. But in most of Bacon's versions, of which there were around 50, he is screaming and caged. In interviews, Bacon said that he was "always very obsessed by the actual appearance of the mouth and teeth," and that he had "always hoped to paint the mouth like Monet painted a sunset."

 

 

'Saying something that matters'

 

The fact is, Bacon fundamentally altered figurative painting in the 20th century. His aim wasn't so much to create a likeness, but a sense of presence.

Sometimes, he just did this viscerally. Viewing his work, we feel like we've stumbled into a human abattoir. At other times, his figures appear like apparitions, wraiths. Most of his subjects were his friends and lovers, his small circle of intimates or his companions from the Colony Room Club, the private members' club he frequented in London's Soho (where he was known to consume a lot of champagne).

Although Bacon was never filmed painting, we know more about his practice than perhaps any other important 20th-century artist. And this is for one simple reason: his friendship with the aforementioned critic and curator, David Sylvester.

Sylvester wrote about Bacon with rare acuity and accessibility over a period of some 40 years. His interviews with Bacon, first published in 1975 and later expanded, remain a primary source for understanding the artist's work. Sylvester's conclusion was, he wrote, that "everyone feels (whether they like the work or not)" that Bacon "is saying something that matters about the times in which we live."

Sylvester felt that Bacon achieved his greatest work in 1974. A sudden and shocking bereavement reinforced his artistic identity. George Dyer, a handsome small-time crook who'd become Bacon's lover, was the subject of many portraits after the pair met in 1963. Dyer's suicide in a Paris Hotel in 1971, just days before a Bacon retrospective at the Grand Palais, triggered a series of searing triptychs. In them, Bacon aimed to convey what he described as "all the pulsations of a person." In Sylvester's view, they are perhaps "the most moving things he ever did."

Here was a conscious act of exorcism by Bacon paintings created in memory of Dyer. One of them, "Triptych May-June 1973," is absolutely unsparing, a painting of pity and terror.

Each of the three images is framed by a door. In the left panel, Dyer is doubled up on a toilet, just as his body was found. On the right panel, he is depicted throwing up into a sink. In the center panel, Dyer's figure crouches in the darkness beneath a hanging, naked light bulb. He casts a shadow -- a bird of prey perhaps, or a Fury. Sylvester thought that this was probably Bacon's greatest painting.

 

 

An artists legacy

 

Bacon's market value has risen by leaps and bounds since his death in 1992. Damien Hirst collects, telling the Guardian in 2006 that he owned five of his paintings. In 2013, "Three Studies of Lucian Freud" (1969) sold at Christie's in New York for $142.4 million, then a world auction record for a work of art. From September 2019, the Pompidou Centre in Paris is putting on a new show of Bacon's work.

Bacon told Sylvester that "no artist knows in his own lifetime whether what he does will be the slightest good, because I think it takes at least seventy-five to a hundred years to sort itself out." But he was nonetheless aware that he had made an impact. Three retrospectives were held during his lifetime: in 1962 and 1985 at Tate Britain, and the 1971 show at the Grand Palais.

I was filming the 1985 Tate exhibition when Bacon and his then companion (and later heir) John Edwards suddenly wandered into the space. Bacon quickly spotted the camera and they swiftly turned around. We missed the shot. Francis Bacon was essentially a private man who wasn't remotely interested in celebrity. But he definitely wanted his work to be seen.

 

Francis Bacon: Couplings is on at the Gasogian in London until August 3, 2019. Bacon: Books and Painting opens at the Pompidou Centre on September 11, 2019.

 

 

 

           

                                           Francis Bacon, Untitled ('Pope') 1954

 

 

 

 

 

Could this be Norfolks sexiest pub?

 

 

 

 

LIZ NICE | FEATURES | EASTERN DAILY PRESS | 20 JULY 2019

 

"A restaurant should be somewhere you take someone you want to sleep with!" Ivor Bakar, owner of the Gunton Arms, is explaining his theory of where dining out has gone wrong.

"There used to be a romantic side to eating out. Restaurants were originally designed so you could have a tète a tète, with private booths where you could draw the curtain across, with candlelight which would make even the ugliest partner, male or female, seem sexually desirable at the end of the evening," he says. "Now they're designed by people who are only thinking of their own design, who show you everything in the room immediately.

"Our restaurants are either a pale pastiche of a French brasserie or they have a white-tiled, slightly lavatorial Italian look. That's nice but it doesn't make you want to sleep with the person you're with! It's all too open and brightly-lit! You don't go there to get laid! The magic, the charm, the mystique of taking someone special somewhere romantic is fucked!"

He stops for a moment and looks around him. "I hope this place isn't like that," he says. "I hope it's sexy. Sexy and mysterious.

When Braka, who lives in a nearby gatehouse, bought the place he says, "it took two years to strip it back to its bones. I wanted to recreate an illusion that you could be walking into another world, another century.

"We rubbed dirt into the paintwork - some people complain and say, 'why is that wall dirty?' It's actually fake grime! Now, if we have a genuine leak, we leave the mark. A certain sort of person likes everything squeaky-clean. We didn't want to cater to that kind of person, we wanted it to feel comfortable and not intimidating, very inclusive.

His next move was hiring Simone and Stuart, who had been working for Braka's close friend, the chef restaurateur Mark Hix at his celebrated Oyster And Chop House in Smithfield Market. "Mark is my guru, a pioneer in championing British seasonal food," says Stuart. "When I grew up in Rochdale, which was not a culinary Mecca, British food was the laughing stock of the world, something to be sidestepped. Overcooked roast beef and fish and chips. When I was learning my trade, Mark was the first to dig into the archives and start redelivering classic British dishes. Many have followed him.

"Mark was a big part of the Modern British Artist movement; he was very good friends with Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst, Sarah Lucas a wealth of talent as well as with Ivor. He would put on these high-spend dinners at Ivor's house, and Simone and I noticed Ivor would often spend more time in the kitchen talking to us than he would with his guests. We shared a vision: bringing back the great English traditional pub, offering the punters reasonably-priced food and good ale in an environment which doesn't take itself too seriously."

While Simone and Stuart planned food and the vibe of the reworked pub, Braka brought his own talents and finance to the project. Inspired by family friend Andras Kalman, he's been an art world fixture for the past four decades, becoming noted as an early adopter of Francis Bacon before prices for the British artist went stratospheric.

"When I started my first Francis Bacon cost me £26,000," he says. "I sold the same picture for $1.5million maybe 15 years ago. Today that picture is worth about $15million. The most expensive picture I've sold is a Bacon, one of his Popes, for $50million."

"But the biggest sense of exhilaration panic and fear, really was buying a Bacon at auction for half a million dollars and I hadn't got the money to pay for it. And my friend John Erle-Drax, who runs the Marlborough Gallery, rang and said 'have you heard, some fool has just paid half a million for a Bacon', and I said 'John, it was me'. And I thought, 'oh my God'. That was 1984 and I sold the painting about 15 years ago for $5million. Today that picture is south of about $40million."

Braka says he doesn't mind the huge profits his buyers often make from reselling paintings he once owned. "Some people can't bear other people making money from them; I'm delighted by it. You shouldn't try to bleed your buyers. A friend of mine says, and it's a good philosophy to have, 'always leave something for the cat.

"In the early days I used to dislike making a profit at all, I felt weird and wrong buying something for one price and selling it for another. It took me years to get over that feeling. Even now I am far more enjoy buying than selling, I love what I deal in too much.

Part of Braka's collection is now installed at the Gunton Arms, though walk through the front door and you're in what looks like the fairly conventional hallway of a fairly conventional country pub. "I wanted it to dawn on you gradually that the artwork is maybe not what you expect," says Braka. "So when you walk in the first pictures you see are 18th century prints of livestock and family paintings of the Suffield family, who owned the estate. I'm lulling you a false sense of security. Then you notice there's an old portrait of an 18th woman, but it's been doctored to make it look like it she has a black eye. And then we get into the bar, where there's a print of Landseer's Monarch Of The Glen, a piss-take because here you are probably going to eat our venison. And gradually you see the little bondage whip in the window.

There's more challenging stuff including provocative photographs of the American supermodel Kristen McMenamy, who Braka married in 2016 throughout the Gunton Arms and he accepts that not all of it will be to everyone's taste. "You can't please them all," Braka says. "I didn't want the art here to be anodyne, I didn't want too many still lifes; bits of fruit on a plate or pretty girls romping through the Cromer sands, or views of Cley windmill. That's boring as hell. I didn't want cheesy pictures, I wanted pictures which would make people think.

"The big themes are life, death, sex," says Simone. "At first we were a bit frightened about negative reaction to some of the art but now we realise so many people accept it and like and the minority of people who do protest, we just let it wash over us.

Despite all of it the huge photorealist imagining of dinosaurs copulating, the 10,000-year-old elk skull, the fake 'moving painting' of Venice by Monet which turns out to be a TV screen on a loop the Gunton Arms is playful than pretentious. "We don't take ourselves too seriously," Stuart says. "From the start we all shared the belief that a pub should be for everybody to enjoy, not just the landed gentry but the guy who's just finished his shift down the road. That we could have a vibrant locals bar next to a successful restaurant delivering top-notch seasonal food from our doorstep in an environment with incredible art. No fancy fine dining. When we opened the doors we had no idea how successful it would be. We did it just wanting to create the kind of pub we would all like to go to."

In some ways, Simone thinks, the Gunton's art operates on a similarly subversive level to the pool table in its bar, or the fact that none of its 16 rooms comes with a television. "We deliberately do things to quash expectations. Sometimes people want this to be a country house hotel. I've been called up to somebody's bedroom at 11pm and they can't believe there is no television and they're threatening to leave. And I say, 'it's too late to go anywhere else, how about you sleep on it, have breakfast, go to the coast in the morning and then come back and tell me how you feel:

"The vast majority of the time people come back and say, 'we've had a great night's sleep and we get it, we're staying'. We had one man who said the next morning, 'do you know that last night, my wife and I did a jigsaw together for the first time in 30 years'. And I thought, 'oh, is that what you call it?' "

Ivor Braka listens to this and with the satisfaction of a job well done, the advocate of sexy food laughs and laughs.

 

 

 

 


Francis Bacon: "Moi-même, j'ai tout regardé et j'ai tout absorbé. Je suis une sorte de butineuse."

 

 

 

 

PEINTURE | 1976 | FRANCIS BACON | FRANCE CULTURE | 19 JULY 2019

 

1976 | Francis Bacon se raconte en français dans cet entretien diffusé dans "Les après-midi de France Culture" à l'occasion de l'exposition qui lui était consacrée au Musée Cantini de Marseille. Il aborde sa relation aux autres arts, l'importance de l'instinct dans sa création et de l'ordre irrationnel.

Invité de l'émission "Les après-midi de France Culture" durant l'été 1976, Francis Bacon commence la visite de son exposition au musée Cantini de Marseille, en lançant une mise en garde, "on ne peut pas expliquer la peinture. Il y a des images qu'on peut interpréter, chaque personne peut les interpréter comme il veut. Moi, je ne les interprète jamais. Mes tableaux je ne les interprète pas mais je n'interprète pas les tableaux des autres, même je ne sais pas interpréter Rembrandt. Parce que l'art plastique c'est un côté du système nerveux qui parle tout de suite sans interprétation."

Francis Bacon revient sur son parcours artistique et parle des expositions qu'il a vues à Paris, en particulier l'exposition de Picasso en 1927, qui l'a décidé de se lancer dans la peinture qu'il n'avait pourtant jamais étudiée. "Avec cette exposition, je commençais vraiment à regarder les tableaux de Picasso. [...] Je crois que Picasso était un homme qui absorbait tout autour de lui."

Francis Bacon dit aussi son admiration pour Rembrandt, Velázquez, Cézanne. Au sujet de la période cubiste de Picasso, il révèle que ce n'est pas ce qu'il préfère chez Picasso même si c'est compliqué car "c'est un génie qui est toujours tellement intéressant". Pourtant, il lui semble que "le cubisme est une décoration sur Cézanne". Il évoque également la technique si particulière de Vincent Van Gogh, de la "violence" dans sa peinture.

Peintre portraitiste, il explique pourquoi il aime tellement peindre des portraits, "c'est la chose la plus difficile à faire maintenant dans la peinture, de faire des traits qui ne soient pas de l'illustration complètement, c'est horriblement difficile." Il développe cette idée : "Avec la photographie maintenant, c'est tellement facile à enregistrer un portrait de quelqu'un, on peut en faire une illustration. Mais pour refaire le portrait par des taches irrationnelles,  ça rend si ça marche et je ne sais pas pourquoi ça rend le portrait beaucoup plus vrai et beaucoup plus ressemblant. Ce n'est pas quelque chose qui passe par l'intelligence, mais ça vous choque tout de suite sur l’instinct. Un portrait, c'est plus mystérieux si on peut le faire sans l'illustrer."

Puis, le peintre de l'irrationnel explique une de ses idées fixes actuelles: "Je voudrais faire la bouche comme Monet a fait les couchers de soleil. Je n'y suis pas arrivé, malheureusement." Il poursuit sa réflexion sur l'ensemble de sa peinture, "je voudrais tout renouveler, travailler d'une autre façon. Je le sais dans mon instinct, mais je ne peux pas l'expliquer." Il s'exprime sur la violence qu'il sait que l'on ressent devant ses tableaux, il lui semble ainsi évident qu' "il ne faut jamais oublier qu'un tableau ne peut pas être aussi violent que la vie elle-même, et la vie est tellement violente..."

Le peintre à succès dit qu'il peint avant tout pour lui-même et il s'étonne d'ailleurs que ses toiles puissent intéresser d'autres personnes, "c'est une sorte d'accident quand qu'on a commencé à vendre des tableaux, je les ai faits pour moi-même parce que la peinture me passionne." Mais cette célébrité ne l'a pas rendu "moins solitaire" pour autant. A la fin de l'entretien, Francis Bacon livre son avis assez pessimiste sur la peinture, "peut-être la peinture va mourir" car l'art conceptuel prend le dessus sur l'art plastique.

 

 

 

       

                            Francis Bacon en Septembre 1987.  • Crédits:  Raphaël Gaillarde/Gamma-Rapho 

 

 

 

 

CHRISTIE’S

 

 

Bacon / Giacometti: A Dialogue

 

 

 

An exclusive read-through of Michael Peppiats new play

 

 

 

IMPRESSIONIST & MODERN ART | STORIES | CHRISTIE’S | 5 JULY 2019

 

 

While working on Bacon – Giacometti, a major exhibition at the Fondation Beyeler in Basel in 2018, the curator, writer and art historian Michael Peppiatt carried out extensive research on the relationship between the two artists. ‘At one point I felt I could almost hear the two of them talking,’ he revealS.

For Peppiatt, the ‘dialogue’ between Francis Bacon and Alberto Giacometti has been ‘turning slowly’ in his mind ever since Bacon told him in detail about his encounters with the Swiss artist, while the latter was in London in 1965 to supervise the preparations for his major exhibition at the Tate.

Peppiatt has now written a play about an imagined encounter between the two men, and below we present an exclusive video read-through, performed recently at Christie’s.

 

Peppiatt explains that the two artists had grown closer because they had several friends in common — the writer Michel Leiris, the critic David Sylvester and, above all, Isabel Rawsthorne, a striking beauty with whom Giacometti had an anguished (and possibly unconsummated) affair, and whom both artists had portrayed. Rawsthorne had organised a couple of dinners in London for Giacometti and Bacon to get to know each other better.

 

Bacon was eight years younger than Giacometti and considerably less well-known, but had long been an admirer of his work. Giacometti was riding a wave of international acclaim in 1965 but was in poor health. He would pass away the following year.

 

On the evening imagined by Peppiatt, Bacon and Giacometti enjoy a lavish dinner at Wheeler’s fish restaurant, then go on to the Colony Room, Bacon’s favourite club in Soho, to pursue their freely flowing conversation about life, art and their mutual friends. After a while the club begins to empty out, but the two artists, sensing that they may never have another occasion to talk, order more champagne.

‘I didn’t hear Giacometti’s version of their long, animated discussions [one of them lasting through the night],’ says Peppiatt, ‘but, having read all the interviews he gave over the years, I felt I could hear and reproduce Giacometti's voice almost as clearly as Bacon’s. So while this “Dialogue” necessarily remains a fiction, it is a fiction deeply rooted in fact.’

 

The Existential Englishman by Michael Peppiatt is published by Bloomsbury at £25

 

 

 

         

 

 

 

 

 

Francis Bacon’s Two Figures, 1953: sex, death and animal instinct

 

 

 

The bleak chronicler of the human condition explores the relationship between pleasure and pain

 

 

 

SKYE SHERWIN | ANATOMY OF AN ARTWORK | FRANCIS BACON | THE GUARDIAN | FRIDAY 5 JULY 2019

 

 

House of pain ...

This is one of Bacon’s most acclaimed but little-seen paintings. It was created at the cottage of his violent ex-fighter pilot boyfriend, Peter Lacy, where, according to biographer John Richardson, the artist spent a lot of time in bondage.

 

Brute force

Bacon’s classic mix of sex, death and animal instincts explodes directly through the buzzing vertical lines, the corpse-blue flesh and rictus of pleasure and pain.

 

Fight club ...

The sadomasochistic pose was apparently inspired by wrestling magazines. But that interpretation might have been a Trojan horse for a work made when gay sex was illegal and in the news.

 

Sex crime ...

The quaint antique bed and black, curtained box of a room offer a defiant message to its audience, too. This is less a private boudoir than a triumphantly sordid theatre. The couple stare down their onlookers, grimacing at them. Manet’s Olympia – a reclining but far from traditionally demure nude prostitute – is the ghost in the room.

 

Part of Francis Bacon: Couplings, Gagosian Gallery, Grosvenor Hill, to 3 August

 

 

 

       

                                                                   Francis Bacon’s Two Figures, 1953. 

 

 

 

 

 

High Stakes

 

 

 

Francis Bacon’s representation of male desire was audacious, J.J. Charlesworth took a look

 

 

 

BY J. J. CHARLESWORTH | REVIEWS | ART REVIEW | JULY 2019

 

‘I just like men. I like their brains, I like the quality of their flesh,’ declares a cheerful Francis Bacon, getting steadily more drunk with an equally pissed Melvyn Bragg, in Bragg’s revealing 1985 South Bank Show documentary on the artist. Bacon, a selection of whose paintings are currently on show at Gagosian London, tended not to make his sexuality a particularly public matter, but nor did he go out of his way to hide it. Coinciding with Pride month, the Gagosian show mostly homes in on those of Bacon’s paintings which depict two (male) bodies together, from the 1950s to the 70s, pivoting around 1967 – the year of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales. It’s an intriguing curatorial proposition, not least because it allows one to consider Bacon’s strange and striking approach to figuration in the frame of what could and could not be shown, of bodies, sex and desire, when admitting it was something criminal.

Veiled suggestion is the what drives the earliest paintings here – the famous Two Figures (1953), transposing male wrestlers to the scene of an unmade bed, and Two Figures in the Grass (1954), both retain the intense charge of innuendo, of provoking the viewer’s recognition of something going on that’s not quite visible, but somehow happening in plain sight. Perhaps that’s why Bacon’s gallery didn’t exhibit it publicly when it was made. It’s hard to imagine a time when showing Two Figures could be taking a genuine risk, or that two visitors to Bacon’s 1955 show at the ICA could have reported Two Figures in the Grass to the police.

Thinking of Bacon’s paintings as constantly touching on and circling around what can and cannot be shown, what can and can’t be revealed, opens a different perspective on the artist’s shifting, fugitive representation of the human body. Rather than be explicit in works only shown in private, Bacon was hinting and suggesting in public – a different kind of risk at a time when gay men faced social stigma and criminal punishment. The year that Bacon was painting Two Figures in the Grass, pioneering computer scientist Alan Turing committed suicide, after having suffered a course of ‘chemical castration’, the penalty (instead of prison) for having been prosecuted, two years earlier, for his homosexuality.

Turing’s ‘crimes’ were ones committed in private, behind closed doors. Bacon’s paintings, for their part, continuously transgress the demarcation of public and the private realm, the inside and the outside. The Two Figures may be lying in the grass, but the grass is inside a black, interior space. In the astonishing triptych Three Studies of Figures on Beds (1972), the beds and the figures having sex on them are set up outdoors, or are perhaps indoors behind windows, looking out to what might be buildings on a street, or a beach, against a dull bluish sky. Here, five years after decriminalisation, the sex is as explicit as Bacon gets, erect penises painted unambiguously between the convulsing, intermingling figures on these exposed, hard beds, electric lights above them burning inexplicably in daylight. And just so we get the point, Bacon flecks a squirt of white paint across the middle canvas, a crude, ironic approximation of ejaculation (and a little joke at Jackson Pollock’s expense).

Decades later, Bacon’s paintings remain disconcerting and beguiling, playing subtle games with what we see and what we want to see, with painting’s voyeuristic impulse, the nature of publicness and intimacy, of hiding and exposing, and the ambiguities of human desire. They’re also a reminder, as they hint, suggest and wink at us through their shifting gauzes of paint, of how bad things once were, and how far society has come since.

Francis Bacon: Couplings at Gagosian Grosvenor Hill, London, through 3 August 2019

 

 

 

        

                                                                          Two Figures in the Grass, 1954, oil on canvas, 152 x 117cm. 

 

 

 

 

 

Flipping the Bacon: Sotheby’s £69m Post-war and contemporary sale lacks the usual fizz

 

 

 

A £16m Francis Bacon self-portrait and a record for a little-known German artist enliven an otherwise dry sale as totals fall 40% on last year

 

 

 

ANNY SHAW | NEWS | AUCTIONS | THE ART NEWSPAPER | ART NEWS | 27 JUNE 2019

 

There was a lack of fizz at Sotheby’s post-war and contemporary sale in London last night— literally and figuratively.

Gone were the usual glasses of champagne being handed out at the entrance to the sale room, forcing thirsty clients to forage for refreshments elsewhere. A spokeswoman assures us this is because of renovations to the front of the building and not part of any cost-cutting exercise.

The sale itself was solid, if unremarkable. It brought in £58.4m (£69.6m with fees), sneaking just above the low pre-sale estimate of £58m, but a steep drop of almost 40% on last year. The sell-through rate was a healthy 90

Profit margins will be squeezed by some of the 16 lots guaranteed by third parties, with seven works selling on a single bid, most likely to the financial backer. They included sculptures by Louise Bourgeois and Donald Judd, as well the most expensive lot of the night, if not week: Francis Bacon’s small but penetrating 1975 self-portrait, which fetched £14.35m (£16.5m with fees)—more on that price late

However, Sotheby’s will cash in nicely from the only lot guaranteed in house: an unusual painting by the enigmatic German artist Otto Wols who died aged 38 of food poisoning. Vert Strié Noir Rouge (Green Stripe BlackRed) (1946-7) sparked what the sale's auctioneer Ollie Barker called the “bidding competition of the night”, vaulting 7.5 times over its high estimate to sell on the phone for a record £3.8m (£4.5m with fees) to Sotheby’s head of Impressionist and Modern art, Helena Newman. Underbidding came from a dogged Japanese client.

Unlike Christie’s sale on Tuesday evening, which tended towards fresh material by young artists, Sotheby’s stuck to a more tried and tested auction format. “Our sale was a bit more classical, it was really the great artists we know and love,” said the head of sale Emma Baker.

But even blue-chip artists are not immune from being flipped. The Bacon self-portrait last sold at Sotheby’s in London in July 2015 for £15.3m with premium, just before the market faltered. By art market standards, £1.2m over four years for such an artist is a poor return.

Profits were slim where Robert Ryman and Rudolph Stingel were concerned, as Bloomberg’s Katya Kazakina pointed out on Twitter. The seller of Ryman’s 1963 oil on a scrap canvas, Untitled #32, paid $1.1m at Christie’s Paris in 2017, but sold it for $1.08m last night, after trying to offload it at Lévy Gorvy last summer for $1.8m. Meanwhile, even Stingel’s exhibition at the Fondation Beyeler in Basel could not lift his prices. His untitled oil and enamel on linen from 2012 went below estimate for $1.3m ($1.6m with fees) on a single bid to Gagosian, having fetched $2.9m at Christie’s Hong Kong in 2017.

Gagosian has been heavily promoting another of its artists, Albert Oehlen, and that strategy paid off last night, with a record for his disconcerting and rare self-portrait with flaming orange background. Selbstportrait mit Leereden (Sen Hanlf-Portrait with Empty Hands) (1998) has not been on the market for 20 years, prompting three bidders to battle it out over six minutes. In the end, the canvas went to the London dealer Per Skarstedt for £5.35m (£6.2m with fees).

Sotheby’s announced after the sale that it is sponsoring a major show of Oehlen’s work at the Serpentine Gallery in London this October.

Women accounted for nearly 20% of Sotheby’s March contemporary sale in London, but in last night’s auction, less than 12% of lots were by female artists. Emma Baker described it as “the nature of the secondary market to be predominantly male”.

Most prominent and accomplished among the works by women was Jenny Saville’s Shadow Head, executed over a period of six years between 2007 and 2013. The painting sold to the London dealer Tim Taylor in the room for £3.5m (£4.2m with fees; est £3m-£5m). Acquired from Gagosian in 2014, the canvas is the absolute fleshy antithesis of the heroin chic look worn by Kate Moss in the 1990s, during which time Saville and the rest of the YBAs were taking the art world by storm.

The other woman on the block to garner attention was Toyin Ojih Odutola, whose Compound Leaf, a pensive work on paper from 2017, more than doubled its high estimate to sell for £380,000 over the phone, a record for the artist. Works by young black women are proving popular among collectors in search of the “next big thing”, as was seen with Tschabalala Self at Christie’s on Tuesday evening. The question is always one of market speculation.

Phillips picks up the baton this evening with a rose-hued collage on canvas by Self, carrying a similar estimate to the Christie’s work. With collectors hungry for fresh talent, we could see more records tumble.

 

 

 

       

          Francis Bacon’s 1975 portrait sold for £16m (with fees), only a £1.2 return since it was last sold four years ago

 

 

 

 

Bacon and Freud exhibition in Rome

 

 

 

Chiostro del Bramante hosts La Scuola di Londra: Opere della Tate.

 

 

EXHIBITIONS | WANTED IN ROME | WEDNESDAY 26 JUNE 2019

 

 

26 Sept-23 Feb. Rome's Chiostro del Bramante will host a major exhibition dedicated to the School of London, featuring paintings by Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon, organised in collaboration with the Tate in London.

The show, which runs from 26 September until 23 February 2020, unites the works of Bacon and Freud for the first time in Italy, highlighting one of the most significant chapters of international contemporary art in the 20th century.

The exhibition will comprise 45 paintings, drawings and engravings by six artists: Michael Andrews, Frank Auerbach, Leon Kossoff and Paula Rego, in addition to Freud and Bacon.

The figurative works span more than seven decades, from 1945 until 2004, and are described by Chiostro del Bramante as "direct, shocking, and no-filter."

The works share raw and emotionally-charged subject matter, with themes including the fragility of the human condition, war, immigration, excesses and the search for truth. In the case of Bacon and Freud, the works. examine the artists' friendship as well as their relationships with their models.

Highlights of the show will reportedly include Bacon's Study for a Portrait (1952) and Portrait of Isabel Rawsthorne (1966), and Freud's Girl with a White Dog (1950) and Standing by the Rags (1988).

The term 'School of London' was coined by artist R.B. Kitaj to describe a group of London-based artists pursuing forms of figurative painting in the face of avant-garde approaches in the 1970s.

Curated by Elena Crippa, the exhibition sees the Chiostro del Bramante continue its important collaboration with The Tate, following its hugely successful Turner show in 2018.

 

 

 

     

                                       Francis Bacon at Chiostro del Bramante

 

 

 

 

Sotheby’s Contemporary Sale Draws $88.4 M. in London, Led by $21 M. Francis Bacon Self-Portrait

 

 

 

ANNIE ARMSTRONG| MARKET NEWS | ART NEWS | 26 JUNE 2019

 

This evening in London, Sotheby’s hosted its June contemporary art evening auction, which brought in £69.6 million ($88.4 million) across 43 lots, a result that was within the sale’s estimate of £58 million to £82.8 million ($73.5 million–$105 million) with the addition of buyer’s premium.

Sotheby’s had secured itself a measure of success before the sale’s start, with 17 lots holding guarantees, whether from a third party or the house, meaning that their purchase was assured. The sale saw only four pieces fail on the block—works by Glenn Brown, Anselm Kiefer, Christopher Wool, and Jean-Michel Basquiat—for a solid sell-through rate of 91 perce

The top lot was a 1975 self-portrait by Francis Bacon—the artist’s face caught in a swirling blur atop a purple background—that went for £16.5 million ($21 million), just above its low estimate of £15 million ($19 million), a figure that is calculated sans premium.

A few other portraits performed well: Jenny Saville’s Shadow Head (2007–13) brought in £4.18 million ($5.3 million), squarely within its estimate of £3 million to £5 million ($3.8 million–£6.35 million), and Albert Oehlen’s fiery 1998 Selbstportrait mit Leeren Händen (Self Portrait With Empty Hands), 1998, broke the artist’s auction record, selling for £6.23 million ($7.87 million), just above its £6 million high estimate ($7.58 million).

Speaking of records, a new one was also set for the mid-century German painter and photographer Wols, whose frenetic abstraction Vert Strié Noir Rouge (Green Stripe Black Red),1946–47, blasted through its £400,000-£600,000 estimate ($505,000-$757,000), selling for an astonishing £4.53 million, or $5.72 million.

Two other artist records were set tonight, for works by Toyin Ojih Odutola and Pascale Marthine Tayou. Odutola’s pastel, charcoal, and pencil on paper piece Compound Leaf (2017) tripled its low estimate, bringing in £471,000 ($594,000), and Tayou’s set of mixed-media sculptures Poupées Pascale, Les Sauveteurs (2007) netted £312,000 ($396,000) on an estimate of £250,000 to £350,000 ($317,000-$444,000

Takashi Murakami—or at least the consigner of a Takashi Murakami sculpture—also had a good night, with a work depicting a panda bear standing atop a Louis Vuitton trunk selling for £1.21 million ($1.54 million), double its high estimate of £600,000 ($760,000

The evening action in London concludes tomorrow night at Phillips.

 

 

     

                                    Francis Bacon, Self-Portrait, 1975, led the sale at $21

 

 

 

 

Sex and Death: how Francis Bacon reinvented art history around his essential themes

 

 

Unseen in London for 50 years, the artists paintings of double figures come to Gagosian

 

 

JACKIE WULLSCHLÄGER | COLLECTING | THE FINANCIAL TIMES | FRIDAY JUNE 21 2019

 

“Why ever change the subject?” Francis Bacon asked. “You could go for the whole of your life painting the same subject.” So, dominating postwar figurative pa
intaining with enthralling virtuosity and infinite variety, he did: almost all his compositions feature a figure, recognisable but blurred, distorted, convulsed, within an airless, confined space. Rigorously, there is no narrative. 

Two figures, though, caused Bacon trouble, because “you immediately come on the storytelling aspect of the relationships . . . I always hope to be able to make a great number of figures without a narrative”. These magnificent, complex double figure paintings, some unseen in London for 50 years or ever, star in Francis Bacon: Couplings, the outstanding current exhibition at Gagosian’s Grosvenor Hill venue.

Highlights include the sensationalist “feelthy pictures”, as Bacon’s early gallerist Erica Brausen called the explicit works she kept hidden behind a curtain at her Hanover Gallery in London, and sold at reduced price

The writhing copulating men, adapted from Eadweard Muybridge’s photographs of wrestlers, in “Two Figures in the Grass”, provoked public complaints to the police when shown in 1955; the lyrical/savage composition declares man’s untamed, instinctual nature, and was inspired by a visit to Africa where Bacon said he “felt mesmerised by the excitement of seeing animals move through the long grass”.

“Two Figures” (1953), one of Bacon’s most voluptuous yet brusque paintings, made at the height of his violent affair with pilot Peter Lacy, sets bruised flesh against crisp, crumpled white sheets, derived from those in Manet’s “Olympia”. Striations from a background curtain continue through the two heads, at once diffusing and enlivening the embrace/assault. What Bacon called the “bed of crime” is aggrandised into a fraught, classical interior. Lucian Freud owned — and surely learnt from — this painting, and refused to lend it for Tate’s 1985 retrospective; it has not been exhibited since Bacon’s 1971 show at the Grand Palais in Paris.

Sourced from private and public collections, the “couplings” here span Bacon’s most significant two decades, building up to and immediately following that landmark Paris exhibition, and trace with concentrated flair how he unpacked and reinvented art history around his essential themes of sex and death.

Mexico’s Museo Tamayo has sent — how does Gagosian manage this? — the rarity “Two Figures with a Monkey”: the animal leaps out from beneath the couple thrashing on a tabletop to snarl mockingly at us, voyeuristic observers, while a free-floating pillow, painted with exquisite delicacy, offsets the brutish figures. The uncharacteristic “Lying Figure” is double in that it is androgynous; unusually too it is placed against abstract horizontal planes in changing sea colours — it was painted in St Ives, when Bacon lived next to Patrick Heron, whose abstractions he loathed. 

Exhibited only once, at a New York commercial gallery in 1968, is the intimate contorted “Two Figures on a Couch”, from 1967, the year homosexuality was decriminalised for those over 21 in England. The deeply private, claustrophobic rendering probably reflects Bacon’s reservations about this: the frisson of the forbidden thrills through his oeuvre.  

The earliest work, “Painting” (1950), features a twisting muscular nude, based on Michelangelo’s “Dying Slave”, and its shadow of death; the heavy, slow pair pass before a bright striped screen hung from a brass rail, suggesting the scene is a bath house. “Figures in a Landscape” (c1956) merges crouching nudes with a photographic image, a cameraman mauled by a lion in Africa, within a geometric, transparent golden throne as in Bacon’s screaming pope paintings. “Three Studies of Figures on Beds” (1972) commemorates Bacon’s lover George Dyer, who committed suicide hours before the opening of the Grand Palais exhibition.

Bacon outlined thick circles, drawn around dustbin lids, to direct the eye to sexualised encounters — a penis and a bondage black leather belt are clearly delineated — on bare mattresses in two panels; the last contains only Dyer’s encircled profile: Eros and Thanatos inseparable again.


The palette brightens in the 1970s but the mood of isolation and meaninglessness darkens. Bacon’s working title for “Two Studies from the Human Body” was “The Last Man on Earth”: the central figure stumbling on a blank green surface is mirrored/shadowed by a hunched ape-like form with a cormorant’s head. “Two Men Working in a Field” is a one-off: twinned naked workers plough a furrowed ochre terrain of scumbled impasto coursing with watery lilac rivulets. The muddy corrugations parallel Bacon’s familiar shuttered screens, and are held within an ellipsis surrounded by expanses of unnatural deep blue. Seen from above, the field is shaped like a vast eye running with tears; it is also a gaping abyss, pointlessly, repeatedly, raked over by the men, just as Bacon poured paint into the voids of his canvases: creation wrought from the bleakest vision of futility.

To August 3

 

 

      


                                                      
Francis Bacon’s Two Figures with a Monkey (1973)

 

 

 

 

 

Francis Bacon: Couplings, Gagosian Gallery

 

review – sex and power in double figures

 

 

 

A small selection focuses on the painter's radical figure paintings

 

 

FLORENCE HALLETT | REVIEW | THE ARTS DESK | FRIDAY 15 JUNE 2019

 

Forthright and often disturbing, Francis Bacon’s “male couplings” are also ambiguous, and it is this disjunction that gives them their power. Erotic, violent and yet so often tender, these 14 works from the 1950s to the 1970s restate Bacon's pre-eminence: surely no other artist has locked together sex and violence with such conviction.

Bacon explores the relationship between two bodies, and specifically two male bodies – though gender is often left in doubt – with a frankness that feels like a physical blow. Vulnerability and intimacy are brought up short by brute strength: primal, animal, but very recognisably human.

Among the photographs, torn-out pages and press cuttings used by Bacon as visual sources, the motion studies of wrestlers by 19thcentury photographer Edweard Muybridge are key. Bacon’s Two Figures, 1953 (Main picture), are wrestling alright: in fact in 1953, 14 years before the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK, some viewers were content to see it as a painting of wrestlers and no more. It’s ironic then that though the wrestling figures once gave the painting a semblance of respectability, their adversarial embrace is what makes the painting so unsettling. Their faces, contorted in a blur of ecstasy or agony, look out to us in a plea of need and desperation. Romantic ideas about sex are tossed aside: for Bacon, sex is power and there must always be a victor. In these scenes of battling, copulating figures the remorseless trajectory of a relationship bound for destruction is described in bodily fluids and a tangle of sh

Sometimes, only one figure is discernible, as in Figures in a Landscape, c.1956. Here two bodies resemble only one, painfully contorted, or perhaps a collection of dismembered body parts, with the second figure overwhelmed by the first and reduced to a pair of legs. It’s as if sex  – the “bed of crime” as Bacon called this theme – requires the annihilation of one or other party, the wrestling match that precedes it not so much a rough game, as a battle for survival (Pictured above right: Two Figures on a Couch, 1967).

Bacon’s “male couplings” are inevitably inflected with autobiography, and his two most significant love affairs, with Peter Lacy in the 1950s and then George Dyer in the 1960s were both violent, his dominance of Dyer so complete that according to Bacon scholar Martin Harrison, Dyer’s personality was “cancelled out”. However such characteristics resonate through Bacon’s work, it would be a mistake to think of him simply diarising his relationships, or documenting his pathologies. Instead, fundamental preoccupations, such as the destructive alchemy of human relationships find new voice in paintings like the walking man.  Here we find ourselves confronted by a ghostly, besuited man who walks directly at us. Insubstantial and frankly two-dimensional as he is, it is an intimidating encounter with a malign and voracious presence: a black hole in human form.

If one person can obliterate another, so an individual can be broken into fragments, with multiple figures representing aspects of a personality. Animal figures serve to disrupt and reveal: in Two Studies of a Human Body, 1975, we might be looking at a man and his (approximate) mirror image. The seated figure with his back to us though is distinctly ape like, a somewhat more advanced version of the heavily muscled body in the foreground. In Two Figures with a Monkey, 1973 (Pictured left), a screaming monkey makes a terrifying inquisitor, apparently demanding a reaction from us as it crouches between us and two lovers on a clinical green table.

In this painting, a strange, disembodied shadow lurks under the table, a presence that seems substantial and unsettling enough to be counted as a further figure in this already overcrowded scene.

One of Bacon’s most intriguing works, Painting, 1950, also uses a shadow to create uncertainty and the sense of a lurking, other presence. Here the shadow is clearly that of a man, and yet it does not belong to the indeterminate, though probably female figure before us, whom we see, illicitly, through partially closed curtains. Named after his own occupation, the work casts the painter – and viewer – as voyeur, complicit in the exertion of power over the painted subject. Confused spatial arrangements and an ambiguous narrative begin to set out some of the possibilities and limitations of the art of painting and in doing so serve as a reminder that however horrifying and apparently pertinent Bacon’s personal life was, it is ultimately through his paintings that we must consider him.

Francis Bacon: Couplings at Gagosian Gallery, Grosvenor Hill until 3 August

 

 

 

      

                                                                                Francis Bacon, Two Figures on a Couch, 1967

 

 

 

 

 

There is a jewel of a painting at Gagosian's Francis Bacon show

 

 

 

You will search in vain for paintings of this calibre at Tate Modern's Natalia Goncharova exhibition

 

 

MARTIN GAYFORD | EXHIBITIONS | THE SPECTATOR | 15 JUNE 2019

 

‘It is no easier to make a good painting,’ wrote Vincent van Gogh to his brother Theo, than it is ‘to find a diamond or a pearl.’ He was quite correct. Truly marvellous pictures are extremely rare. To make one, Vincent went on, you have to ‘stake your life’ (as he, indeed, was doing).

Well, there is just such a jewel of a painting — only one by my count — in Francis Bacon: Couplings, an exhibition at Gagosian, 20 Grosvenor Hill. In some cases, the title of the show is literal. Several pictures depict two naked men in a ferocious sexual tangle. As a subject, this is perhaps still slightly daring today; it would have been astonishingly outré in 1953 when Bacon produced this dark masterpiece, ‘Two Figures’.

Its imagery was borrowed from a photograph of wrestlers in action by Eadweard Muybridge. But there is no suggestion in the painting that these naked men are taking part in a sporting contest. Bacon transferred the action to a bed. The lower figure’s mouth is pulled back in a spasm, whether of agony or ecstasy, it is hard to say.

Unsurprisingly, it was unsold when Bacon’s exhibition came to the end of its run, so the young Lucian Freud was able to buy it for £80. In comparison with Bacon’s current auction record — $142.4 million — that certainly seems like a bargain (though Freud liked to point out that 80 guineas was quite a sum in 1953).

There are several good Bacons elsewhere in the exhibition — ‘Two Figures in the Grass’ (1954), and ‘Painting’ (1950) — in particular. But none of them has the punch of the wonderful but fearsome ‘Two Figures’. Quite rightly the Gagosian gives it a room to itself

What is the quality that makes it ring out? Bacon himself didn’t quite know how he achieved his results. He would work and rework a particular idea in the hope that eventually the magic would happen, and he’d paint a picture that satisfied him. Occasionally it did, partly — he insisted — by sheer chance

Bacon once told an interviewer: ‘I can’t explain my art, or even my working methods. It’s like the person who asked Pavlova, “What does the dying Swan signify?” and she answered: “If I knew I wouldn’t dance it!”’

There is an eye-witness account of Bacon painting numerous pictures of naked men in the grass — much, presumably, like the one in the show. Then one day he slashed 20 or so of these canvases to ribbons. Presumably, the works at Gagosian survived a similar winnowing process.

 

 

 

        

                            Dark masterpiece: ‘Two Figures’, 1953, by Francis Bacon

 

 

 

 

Francis Bacon – The Power Of The Illicit

 

 

 

EDWARD LUCIE-SMITH | REVIEW | ART LYST | MONDAY 10 JUNE 2019

 

The new Francis Bacon show at Gagosian Grosvenor Hill is something of a landmark event. It contains a sumptuous array of top-quality works. Only a very few of these come from museum collections, so see them while you can.

Entitled Couplings, the show is brutally frank about Bacon’s homosexuality, and about the role that his sexual orientation and interests played in his art. While the overwhelming majority of the paintings currently on view have been seen in public before, their sexual content has never, I think, been so firmly emphasised. The exhibition organisers take pride in the fact that two of the works, produced in the mid-1950s, at a time when homosexual activity was still a criminal offence in Britain, are the most openly recognisable images of sexual activity between men that Bacon produced. At the time when they were made, they were proclamations of the artist’s outlaw status.

Now you can look at them quietly, no entrance fee required, at one of the grandest commercial galleries in London. The mind reels if you try to tot up the collective financial value of the paintings on view. It comes to hundreds of millions of pounds. If that’s the way your mind works, go to Gagosian just to look at the money. And then think about what the figure you come up with has to tell you about the way in which society has changed, in the space of just a bit more than half a century. Bacon died in 1992, having gone to Madrid in pursuit of a male lover who had discarded him. He was vehemently atheist, and his body was left to science. If his corpse still existed, it would probably be rolling rapidly in its grave.

Bacon’s strategy, so he always claimed, was not to paint from life. The models for these figures were, he said, images of wrestlers made by Eadweard Muybridge, an eminent Victorian photographer who analysed the motions of men and animals by making sequential images of them as they walked, ran, or engaged in athletic activities. They were thus conveniently distanced from the awkward realm of real life. This distancing was partly true, and partly a convenient fiction. It provided a convenient, legally protective, pretext for his coupling male figures. If you chose to see them as representations of lovers engaged in what was, at the time when Bacon first started to make these compositions, a shameful activity, condemned by the law, also by all members of so-called ‘decent’ society, then that was up to you, the viewer. It was your choice to look at them, and also your choice as to how to interpret them.

Now all that is conveniently settled. The shift in interpretation is automatic because society has changed. We go to Gagosian to look at the show, and we know exactly what we are looking at – painted representations of muscular men fucking. The thrill of the illicit has not, however, entirely gone. That is the power of figurative art of a certain type: to make us see more than we are capable of seeing for ourselves, unaided. Bacon ramps up the power of the illicit, even now, when the barriers that once existed have fallen. The pictures – dare one say it? – Are charged with his sense of guilt, embedded in the psyche of a homosexual man of his generation. This is the unsettling gift that he offers to us. Great art has always tended to do this kind of thing, and artists don’t have to be nice human beings to do it. Look at Bacon’s copulating male lovers. Look at Caravaggio’s alluringly, ambiguous street urchins. Would the world, in each case, be better off without these unsettling images? No, I don’t think it would. They both have something quite profound to tell us about human nature.

 

 

 

 

   Sotheby's

 

 

    CONTEMPORARY ART EVENING AUCTION


 

      PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE COLLECTION, EUROPE

 

 

      LOT 9  |  26 JUNE 2009  7:00 PM BST  |  LONDON

 

 

  Francis Bacon

   1909-1992 

 

    SELF-PORTRAIT  

 

    ESTIMATE 15,000,000 — 20,000,000 GBP

 

     LOT SOLD. 16,542,650 GBP 

 

 

       

                                                    Self-Portrait 1975 Francis Bacon

 

 

DETAILS & CATALOGUING

 

Francis Bacon SELF-PORTRAIT

signed, titled and dated 1975 on the reverse
oil and Letraset on canvas
35.5 by 30.5 cm. 14 by 12 in.

 

 

PROVENANCE

Marlborough Fine Art Ltd., London
Private Collection, Belgium (acquired from the above in 1976)
Private Collection (by descent from the above)
Sotheby’s, London, 1 July 2015, Lot 9 (consigned by the above)
Acquired from the above sale by the present owner

 

 

EXHIBITED

Zurich, Marlborough Gallery, Francis Bacon, May - July 1975 
Madrid, Galería Theo, Diez años de Galería Theo, December 1976 - January 1977, n.p., no. 2, illustrated in colour

 

 

LITERATURE

John Russell, Francis Bacon, London 1979 and 2001, p. 171, no. 97, illustrated (1979); p. 165, no. 89, illustrated (2001)
Michel Leiris, Francis Bacon: Full Face and in Profile, New York 1983, n.p., no. 97, illustrated in colour
Michel Leiris, Francis Bacon, New York 1987, n.p., no. 97, illustrated in colour
Exh. Cat., London, Marlborough Fine Art Ltd., Francis Bacon 1909 - 1992: Small Portrait Studies, October - December 1993, n.p., illustrated
Milan Kundera and France Borel, Bacon: Portraits and Self-Portraits, London 1996, p. 61, illustrated in colour
Martin Harrison, Ed., Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné, Volume IV. 1971-92, London 2016, p. 1071, no. 75-02, illustrated in colour

 

 

CATALOGUE NOTE

Self-Portrait, 1975, was the sole painting in this small format on which Bacon applied dry transfer lettering – the scrambled letters fixed to his neck and collar… The ‘words’ spill out from his mouth yet communicate nothing. Bacon appears to acknowledge Plato’s character Phaedrus, who observed that if one asks anything of painting, ‘they remain most solemnly silent.’”

Martin Harrison, Ed., Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné, Volume IV. 1971-92, London 2016, p. 1071, no. 75-02, illustrated in colour

 

Self-Portrait, 1975, is undoubtedly one of the best iterations within Francis Bacon’s acclaimed pantheon of self-images; a body of work that is today considered one of the artist’s greatest achievements, sitting him squarely among the ranks of art history’s celebrated masters of the discipline: Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Picasso. Startling in colour, bold in gesture, and unmistakably Baconian in effect, this painting is a masterwork of self-interrogation. Framed by a thickly applied deep blue-purple ground, Bacon’s three-quarter-turn is articulated in an auroral palette of green blending into purple and pink; pastel tones that are offset by a single corduroy swipe of orange across the mouth and illuminated by accents of white. In evidence is the artist’s distinctive forelock of hair, those inimitable diagonal marks which Michel Leiris, Surrealist writer and friend to Bacon, once described as “a reckless comma staunchly inscribed across his brow” (Michel Leiris, Francis Bacon Full Face and in Profile, New York 1983, p. 12). The artist’s mackintosh – a wardrobe staple evident in self-portraits of 1969, 1970, and 1976 – is here overlaid with fragments of dry transfer lettering, or Letraset: a pictorial “sampling” that Martin Harrison traces back to Bacon‘s Studies of the Human Body of 1970 (Martin Harrison, In Camera – Francis Bacon: Photography, Film and the Practice of Painting, London 2005, p. 190). Importantly, Self-Portrait, 1975, is the only example from Bacon’s extensive corpus of small portrait studies that features Letraset. Typically reserved for his large-scale paintings to give expression to tumbling sheets of newspaper within the artist’s stark environments, in the present painting these jumbled letters instead tumble from the artist’s mouth and, in doing so, imbue the painting with complex metaphorical meaning that sets it out as a truly unique and remarkable work.

Considered the most introspective and inwardly scrutinising phase of his career, Bacon’s 1970s production is characterised by the searing self-images that emerged following the sudden death in 1971 of Bacon’s former lover, George Dyer. Bacon never truly relinquished the guilt and responsibility he felt in fuelling Dyer’s tragic juggernaut of a life, and the suite of large-scale ‘black triptychs’ painted between 1971 and 1974 offer exorcising lamentation over his death. Produced in tandem with these works, Bacon’s self-portraits proliferated and became increasingly complex. Across these mournful paintings, both large-scale and in the intimate 14 by 12 inch dimensions, the artist appears as a modern-day allegory for melancholia leaning on a washbasin, with facial features violently mutilated, or with his wristwatch prominently emphasising life’s transience. Whether heroically scaled or intimately proportioned, the self-portraits form a link to Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray: where Bacon’s grief was stoically concealed from life, the canvases became the face of his suffering and pain. Although the major work of Bacon’s mourning came to an end with the black triptychs in ‘74, the spirit of George Dyer and practice of self-portraiture endured, fed by an ever-increasing number of bereavements as Bacon grew older. Not long after George Dyer in 1971, the artist’s Soho companion and Vogue photographer John Deakin passed away, followed by the Colony Room’s famous matriarch, Muriel Belcher in 1979, and in 1980 Bacon’s decisive link to the French intelligentsia, Sonia Orwell, died after a long battle with cancer. These losses famously led Bacon to proclaim: “I’ve done a lot of self-portraits, really because people have been dying around me like flies and I’ve had nobody else to paint but myself” (Francis Bacon in conversation with David Sylvester, 1975 in: David Sylvester, Looking Back at Francis Bacon, London 2000, p. 129). However, by the time of the present work’s execution during the decade’s midpoint, the opening of a retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and his growing success in Paris ushered in a tonal change that signalled the beginnings of a great late style.

Although a sense of captured movement is apparent in the 1975 Self-Portrait, Bacon’s features remain remarkably intact. This painting does not possess the carved tangle of physiognomic forms or time weariness evident in self-portraits from the immediate years post-Dyer; instead, it emanates an alert youthfulness. Smooth-skinned and vibrant, Bacon’s painted face belies the age of its author. Michael Peppiatt explains: “Bacon continued to take great care of his appearance as he grew older, dyeing his hair subtle shades of reddish brown and applying liberal amounts of ‘pancake’ makeup to his face, even though it had not become deeply lined” (Michael Peppiatt, Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma, London 2008, p. 364). In contrast to those produced immediately following Dyer’s death, the composition is far less abject; the tone is contemplative and, as conveyed by the jumble of letters and ersatz words, metaphorically rich.

In the Francis Bacon Catalogue Raisonné, Martin Harrison has explained the present work as a “denial of ekphrasis” in which “[t]he ‘words’ spill out from his mouth yet communicate nothing” (Martin Harrison, Ed., Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné, Volume IV. 1971-92, London 2016, p. 1070). “Bacon appears to acknowledge Plato’s character Phaedrus”, Harrison continues, “who observed that if one asks anything of painting, ‘they remain most solemnly silent’” (Ibid.). Characteristically taciturn when asked to explain his work, Bacon endlessly insisted his paintings were not expressing anything at all. Contra to this however is the tremendous body of scholarship through which art historians have unpacked an arena of multifaceted allusion and inference; lines of inquiry sparked by the immense repertoire of source material that Bacon used. From documentary photographs of news reportage, medical text books, photographs of friends and lovers through to art history books and tomes on poetry and Shakespeare, Bacon fused and melded a wide remit of visual and literary stimulus. Indeed, it is the importance of words that immediately comes to the fore in this painting. As can be gleaned from the famous interviews with David Sylvester, Bacon put huge store by the written word – he was immensely influenced by the images conjured by literary greats. For Bacon, words were as powerful as images, if not more so. He read extensively and frequently cited passages from Aeschylus, James Joyce, Yeats, Proust and T.S. Eliot, phrases he felt unlocked ‘the valves of sensation’ most powerfully. Where these influences fed most directly into his large triptychs, Self-Portrait, 1975, emphasises the significance of literature and poetry for breeding images in his imagination. In particular, owing to its unique composition, this painting notably echoes the fragmentation and compression that Bacon prized in T.S. Eliot’s work whilst also conjuring the ‘cut-up’ technique developed by Brion Gynsin and William Burroughs. Hovering over the lower part of the portrait, these fragmentary letters also operate on a formal level to fix, or pin down, the effervescence of Bacon’s brushwork. Clearly echoing the collages of Synthetic Cubism, these forms evoke Dada and Surrealism as exemplified by Marcel Duchamp, Tristan Tzara, and Max Ernst whose non-linear typographical montages Martin Harrison likens to Bacon's images (Martin Harrison, In Camera – Francis Bacon: Photography, Film and the Practice of Painting, op. cit., p. 190).

Aptly, this painting narrates a moment in the artist’s life in which he strengthened his ties to the Parisian avant-garde. Where on the one hand Bacon relished the unvarnished company of his Soho social circle, on the other there was a great need for stimulation from high-minded intellectual peers. Sonia Orwell – the widow of George Orwell – played a significant role in this regard, and during the many soirées held at her house on Gloucester Road during the 1960s, Bacon befriended a number of leading lights from the Parisian avant-garde. These connections meant a great deal to an artist for whom Paris represented the artistic epicentre: home to the birth of Modernism, it was Paris that, at the end of the 1920s, first nurtured Bacon’s ambitions to become a painter. Herein, amongst le tout Paris it was a friendship with the French writer Michel Leiris that proved to be most influential and cherished for Bacon. Leiris’s tremendous enthusiasm for Bacon’s work was crucially piqued during the late 1960s by the artist’s small portrait studies. Thereafter, not only did Leiris bring about top-level recognition for Bacon in France, it was he who penned the introduction to Bacon’s fêted retrospective at the Grand Palais in 1971, an event which heralded the artist's full assimilation into the cultural pantheon of Paris. Indeed, many aspects of Self-Portrait – it’s chromatic subtlety and luminous brilliance (a quality shared with the magnificent Portrait of Michel Leiris from 1976), the prominence of Letraset and its literary connotations – anchor it to the increasingly extended periods Bacon spent living and working in Paris during the mid-1970s.

At first driven by a masochistic impulse to inhabit his guilt more intensely, Bacon was drawn back to the site of Dyer’s suicide, to the very hotel in which he had died only 48 hours prior to the opening of Bacon's Grand Palais retrospective. Paris, the very centre of Bacon’s artistic aspirations, was thus forever cast under the tragic and fantastical shadow of Dyer’s demise, and yet it became an incredibly successful location from which to work. With the length of his stay increasing each time, Bacon’s need to paint demanded a proper place in which to work, and in June of 1975 – shortly after the execution of the present painting – he took up a studio apartment in the Marais district at 14 rue de Birague. Bacon’s growing legendary status in Paris, set in stone by his wildly successful show at Galerie Claude Bernard in 1977, truly characterise the period: many of the mid-to-late 1970s works exude a curious mix of the intellectually stimulating and exhilarating ambience of Paris and a melancholic introspection.

The present work represents a moment of clarity and growing resolution for an artist emerging from the pain of mourning that had deeply afflicted his work of the past four years. Bacon’s  features are here rendered with an exuberant chromatic palette and appear fully resolved; this painting exhibits the ebullient self-regard and virtuoso confidence of an artist operating at the very height of his creative faculties.

 

 

 

      

                     Fig. 1  Francis Bacon 1967    The Lewinski Archive at Chatsworth

 

 

 

 

Francis Bacon: Couplings – a taboo-busting opus of sizzling flesh

 

 

 

Sublime paintings of sex in all its guises unlock entire worlds of beauty and terror – and reveal Bacon as the true heir to Picasso

 

 

 

JONATHAN JONES | REVIEW | ART & DESIGN | THE GUARDIAN | FRIDAY 7 JUNE 2019

 

The authority of Francis Bacon’s art is papal. I am not referring to the paintings inspired by Velázquez’s portrait of Pope Innocent X that made him famous. It’s just that walking into Gagosian’s immaculate selection of his paintings feels like exploring the art treasures of St Peter’s and the Vatican, so sublime is this display. If these pictures really were in the Vatican, though, they’d have to be veiled, perhaps even in a secret room where only cardinals could peek. For this is a sustained exploration of how Bacon saw sex.

An imaginary curtain swooshes back as you enter a chapel-like space to see Two Figures, painted in 1953 and last exhibited in Bacon’s retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris in 1971. It has the sense of some supreme revelation. Two men make love on a bed that’s an expanse of crumpled white sheets. As they do it they look out of the canvas at us – but their faces are distorted, blurred. One might be grinning into a camera. It’s as if they are gleefully showing us their crime, their identities disguised for their protection. When Bacon painted this in the 1950s, he really was portraying a crime. That thrills him. The white bed is enclosed in a transparent box whose outline in perspective draws you towards the central act. It resembles the glass booths that enclose those renowned paintings of popes. Yet it has the opposite meaning.

Bacon’s popes are trapped in a hellish prison. Two Figures, painted in the same style, in the same era, is their antithesis. This transparent box does not confine. It opens on to a stormy space filled with rushing vertical lines. It’s as if the bedroom contains the cosmos. These lovers have an entire universe of beauty and terror at their command, their bed is a stage where anything can happen.

Bacon once said he wanted his art to “unlock the valves of feeling”. It’s an odd metaphor, as if the human self was a Victorian steam engine that needed its pistons greased. But this incredible painting, a baroque masterpiece painted in the 20th century, unlocks them all right. But it would be sentimental to say it’s a proudly gay artwork or claim Bacon as any kind of a role model. His art glories in chaos and torture. In one later work here, lovers copulate on a kind of operating table raised on one of the horrible art deco tubular frames he frequently painted – and that he’d designed as a young man in the 1930s – while a monkey looks out from under the table with hilarious nihilism.

Sometimes Bacon sees much more than the beast in us. His 1959 painting Sleeping Figure explores the contours and soft secrets of his lover Peter Lacy’s unconscious flesh. It is a mighty depiction of the nude, a curvaceous pink landscape of desire resting on a blue sofa that resembles a plinth. As Lacy sleeps, Bacon can contemplate him gently. It’s natural to compare Bacon’s paintings of the male form with the western tradition of the male nude: his cluttered paint-spattered studio had books on Michelangelo among the “physique” magazines. But looking at this enrapturing nude, I don’t see the toughness of Michelangelo so much as the melting colours of Titian. Just like the pinks that delicately waft a Titian Venus into being, Bacon’s reds and whites create a swirling mist of flesh.

In his 1959 painting Lying Figure, that painterly ambiguity becomes openly hermaphroditic as a nude spreads her/his legs in the air. Bacon indulges a summer afternoon daydream in which anything and anyone is possible. He painted this idle fleshy reverie by the seaside in Cornwall but the blue sea could as easily be Picasso’s Med. This exhibition makes a great case for Bacon as the Spanish genius’s true heir: the only artist who could add to Picasso’s metamorphic lexicon of the human figure. Three Studies of Figures on Beds, the most disturbing work here, was painted in 1972, a year before Picasso died. Its monstrous mashup of buttocks, limbs and heads is a turbocharged reply to the impossible orifices in Picasso’s late nudes.

Speaking of buttocks, this exhibition has some of the best I’ve ever seen. The lover on his front in Two Figures in the Grass, from 1954, displays two big hemispheres of rose and purple with a giant shadowed cleft. Other anatomical details emerge with similar precision from these storms of colour. Bacon painted penises much more exactly than he ever portrayed faces. In his 1967 painting Two Figures on a Couch, two men are locked in a fleshy grapple. Your eye flinches at their violent contortions. Ah yes, you think, almost with a weary sigh, another coupling. Then your attention rests on the clenched fist of one of them. It is a tight ball of pure feeling.

Bacon was an artist capable of flamboyant allegory. From 1940s paintings of demonic gargoyles to late canvases decorated with meat and swastikas, he threw symbols about with generous abandon. This exhibition deftly strips away the excess to reveal his true greatness as an artist of our vulnerable human pulp.

At Gagosian Grosvenor Hill, London, until 3 August.

 

 

          


                                                                   
    Two Figures with a Monkey, 1973 

 

 

 

 

Francis Bacon: Couplings review

 

 

 

EDDY FRANKEL | ART | TIME OUT | 6 JUNE 2019

 

You can’t imagine that having sex with Francis Bacon was very pleasant. And if this jaw-dropping little collection of paintings of male bodies pre-, during and post-intimacy is anything to go by, it definitely wasn’t gentle.

The figures Bacon depicted in these works – some of which haven’t been seen since the 1970s – are writhing fleshy masses, their teeth bared, muscles taught. The men here are paralysed in wrestling holds, caught between violent pain and physical ecstasy. Their ‘coupling’, Bacon’s word, doesn’t happen anywhere romantic, but on hospital and prison beds, single light bulbs hovering overhead, white stains streaked across the ground.

The works with single figures show them balled up on a couch, walking facelessly in a suit, left in a puddle of sweat on the floor.

These are violent, aggressive works; they view love as a boxing match, sex as war. It’s not pleasant, but it is utterly, totally brilliant. Bacon could convey so much tension, so much physicality. He’s such an obscenely visceral painter. You can almost feel the bruises, smell the sweat, sense the heady mixture of fear and desire.

This is Bacon at his most illicit, and with the exception of two slightly duller works, this is him at his best.

 

Gagosian Gallery, Mayfair until August 3 2019

 

 

 

 

 

Conman faces jail for pretending to have solved one of art's great mysteries by putting fake Lucian Freud masterpiece up for sale on eBay for £3,000

 

 

 

The original, Portrait of Francis Bacon, was stolen from an art museum in 1988

 

 

ISABELLA  NIKOLIC | NEWS | THE DAILY MAIL  | 3 JUNE 2019

 

 

A conman who put a fake Lucien Freud portrait for sale on eBay for £3,000 is now facing jail after being convicted of fraud by false representation.

Vincent Dyer, 66, from Greenford, claimed the painting had been given to his father and was kept in ‘secure storage’ for years.

The original painting, Portrait of Francis Bacon, was stolen from Berlin’s National Gallery in 1988 and the Kray twins have since been linked to its disappearance.

The artwork, worth millions of pounds, is still missing. Freud, whose most expensive painting sold for £22.5million, even offered a £100,000 reward for the recovery of the stolen portrait.

Dyer advertised the counterfeit artwork on eBay three times, twice in 2017 and once in 2018, claiming it was genuine. But he was later discovered to have bought it in 2012, knowing it was fake.

He denied three charges of fraud by false representation but was convicted by a jury last month and is due to be sentenced tomorrow at Isleworth Crown Court.

According to the Evening Standard, CPS prosecutor Marie Olo said: ‘Dyer dishonestly tried to sell a replica of a well-known Lucian Freud painting to make a gain for himself.’

'He claimed the false advert had only ever been a ‘sales pitch’ to attract interest but the prosecution was able to prove that he had deliberately aimed to mislead the public into believing he was selling a famed original.

‘Art fraud is illegal and the CPS will prosecute those who seek to deceive the public.’

In May last year the Mail on Sunday revealed that Bacon received a ransom demand for the painting in 1989 and was apparently poised to recover the work – only for the operation to be wrecked by a police blunder.

Barry Joule, Bacon’s close friend and neighbour in London's South Kensington, has now revealed that the artist received a phone call in his studio from ‘a tough-sounding East End man, probably an associate of the Krays’.

Bacon believed that the recovery operation failed because the gangsters saw police officers at the scene.

For weeks afterwards, Bacon 'remained paranoid that the Krays and associates would be ‘out to get me for grassing to the police’,’ said Joule, who added: ‘If it wasn’t for policemen sitting in their car right outside the building, Francis might have got the stolen painting back.’

In a recorded interview with Joule three months after the ransom blunder, Bacon spoke of  ‘how much the police have gone down in my estimation’.

Freud later plastered Berlin with 'Wanted' posters of the image, offering a £100,000 reward for its recovery so he could include it in a retrospective of his work.

Although the Tate has never claimed the insurance money, because it has hoped to be reunited with the painting, Bacon, who died in 1992, was more pessimistic. ‘Most likely it was burnt,’ he says on the recording.

In 2004, Joule gave the Tate 1,200 Bacon sketches. They were then valued at about £20million.

 

 

     

            The original painting, Portrait of Francis Bacon, was stolen from Berlin’s National Gallery in 1988

 

 

 

 

One of Francis Bacon’s ‘screaming popes’ sells at auction for £39m

 

 

 

A Francis Bacon painting considered one of his most important left in private hands has sold at auction 

 

 

 

ENTERTAINMENT | MAGAZINE | THE IRISH NEWS | 17 MAY, 2019

 

A Francis Bacon painting considered one of his most important left in private hands has sold at auction for more than 50 million US dollars (£39 million), Sotheby’s said.

Study For A Head (1952), from Bacon’s “screaming popes” series, had been estimated to fetch between 20 to 30 million US dollars when it went under the hammer in New York on Thursday.

Instead it was sold for 50.4 million US dollars.

The painting had remained in the collection of Richard E Lang and Jane Lang Davis since 1975 and had only been exhibited in public once before now in its 57-year history, Sotheby’s said.

The identity of the buyer was not immediately available.

Born in Dublin, Ireland, to British parents, Bacon took up painting in his 20s and went on to become a world-leading artist and one of the most prominent of the 20th century.

According to Sotheby’s, Study For A Head is Bacon confronting his disciplinarian father, who expelled him from the family home after catching him wearing his mother’s underwear.

The painting shows a screaming man. It is one of six from the collection, which was inspired by Diego Velazquez’s portrait of Pope Innocent X.

Gregoire Billault, head of Sotheby’s contemporary art department in New York, said: “Study For A Head is the very best of six portrait heads completed by Francis Bacon in 1952 and one of only two of the artist’s iconic ‘screaming popes’ executed in this head-and-shoulders format.

“The painting contains all the elements of the artist’s best-known works from this period – broken pince-nez glasses, a purple mozzetta and of course the reverberating scream – and draws inspiration from the works of Velazquez, Munch and Poussin, as well as Bacon’s lifelong exploration of the human condition.”

Other works from this series now reside at Tate Britain, London and the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven.

Bacon died from a heart attack in 1992.

 

 

       

                      Study For A Head (1952) is considered one of Bacon's most important left in private hands.

 

 

 

 

 

Francis Bacon’s Study For A Head sells at auction for £39 million

 

 

 

 

BEN MORGAN | LIZZIE THOMSON | ARTS | THE EVENING STANDARD  | 17 MAY 2019

 

A Francis Bacon painting considered one of his most important left in private hands has sold at auction for more than $50 million (£39 million), Sotheby’s said.

Study For A Head, from Bacon’s “screaming popes” series, was estimated to fetch between 20 to 30 million US dollars when it went under the hammer in New York on Thursday.

The painting had remained in the collection of Richard E Lang and Jane Lang Davis since 1975 and had only been exhibited in public once before now in its 57-year history, Sotheby’s said.

The work, which depicts a screaming man, is one of six from the collection which was inspired by Diego Velázquez’s portrait of Pope Innocent X. These six pieces helped to establish Bacon’s reputation in the 1950

The other five artworks can be found at Tate Britain and the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven.

According to Sotheby's, Study For A Head is Bacon confronting his father, who banished him from the family home after catching him wearing his mother's underwear.

Bacon’s works attract some of the biggest prices for any early 20th century artist — a work of his friend and fellow artist Lucian Freud was sold for $142m (£89m) in 2013, a record at the time.

Born in Ireland, Bacon took up painting in his 20s, and went on to become one of the most influential painters of his time. He's best known for his experimental, emotionally charged works.

 

 

      

             Making money: Study For A Head sold for more than double its estimate 

 

 

 

 

Francis Bacon’s ‘Screaming Pope’ Sells for $50.4M on Record-Setting Night

 

 

 

By FANG BLOCK | ARTICLES | BARRON’S | 17 MAY 2019

 

Francis Bacon’s Study for a Head, one of his iconic paintings of the Screaming Pope series, fetched $50.4 million including fees ($44 million at the hammer), following a four-minute fierce battle between five bidders at Sotheby’s sale of contemporary art in New York Thursday night.

 One of a series of six small paintings in the head-and-shoulders portrait format completed by Bacon in 1952, the painting had a high presale estimate of $30 million.

Bacon’s Study for a Head is “without question one of the best works I have ever handled in my 20 years at Sotheby’s,” says Grégoire Billaut, head of Sotheby’s contemporary art department in New York. “Its result tonight is a tremendous recognition of the painting’s quality, as well as the eye of Richard Lang and Jane Lang Davis, who presciently acquired Study for a Head nearly 45 years ago.”

Mark Rothko’s 1960 Untitled, offered on behalf of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), achieved $50.1 million including fees ($43.75 million at the hammer). The sale is to benefit the institution’s Acquisitions Fund, allowing it to diversify its artworks.

On the strength of the aforementioned paintings, Sotheby’s realized a total of $341.9 million from its evening sale of contemporary art. Out of the 63 lots on offer, more than three-quarters made their auction debut Thursday night. The sell-through rate was close to 89%.

“Of the seven record works, six were brought to auction for the first time, and the enthusiasm for such a diverse range of artists is a very encouraging sign of the strength of our current market,” says David Galperin, head of Sotheby’s evening auctions of contemporary art in New York.

 

 

      

                                                                                                                  Sotheby's evening sale of contemporary art

 

 

 

 

A new exhibition of Francis Bacon’s double-figure painting

 

 

 

MARK WESTALL | FAD MAGAZINE | 9 MAY 2019

 

Gagosian is to present Couplings, an exhibition of Francis Bacon’s double-figure paintings. Bacon’s disturbing images—his portrayals of friends and fellow artists, and the deformations and stylistic distortions of classical subjects—radically altered the genre of figurative painting in the twentieth century. In Bacon’s paintings, the human presence is evoked sometimes viscerally, at other times more fleetingly, in the form of a shadow or a blurred, watchful figure. In certain instances, the portrayal takes the form of a composite in which male and female bodily traits are transposed or fused. This selective exhibition explores a theme that preoccupied Bacon throughout his career: the relationship between two people, both physical and psychological.

At the heart of the exhibition are two of the most uninhibited images that Bacon ever painted: Two Figures (1953) and Two Figures in the Grass (1954). These interrelated works have not been seen publicly together since the major retrospective of Bacon’s work at the Grand Palais, Paris, in 1971. After completing Two Figures in the Grass, Bacon did not return to the subject until 1967, the year that homosexual acts in private were decriminalized in England and Wales. That same year he painted Two Figures on a Couch (1967), which was last exhibited in London in 1968 and is also included in Couplings.

Finding that the physical presence of his subjects could prove inhibiting, Bacon painted his figures and portraits both from memory and from photographs—his own, as well as Eadweard Muybridge’s dynamic studies of people in motion, including male wrestlers. Although Bacon was sometimes reluctant to specifically identify the subjects of his paintings, a number of the works in Couplings (a term the artist himself used) were inspired by his fraught, often violent and passionate relationships. His affair with Peter Lacy, a former fighter pilot whom he met in 1952, cooled off after Lacy moved to Tangier, Morocco, in 1956, where Bacon visited him every summer until 1961. But even after Lacy died in 1962, Bacon continued to paint portraits of him, recalling intensely intimate moments in their relationship. In 1963 Bacon met George Dyer, a petty criminal from London’s East End. Dyer succeeded Lacy as Bacon’s lover and model and was the inspiration for many of Bacon’s grandest and most emotive paintings of the male nude. Three works in Couplings suggest a startlingly erotic and sometimes violent relationship between two men, such as the one Bacon and Dyer had: Two Figures on a Couch, the triptych Three Studies of Figures on Beds (1972), and Two Figures with a Monkey (1973)—the last two painted after Dyer’s suicide in 1971

FRANCIS BACON Couplings Opening reception: Thursday, June 6, 6–8pm June 6–August 3, 2019 Gagosian 20 Grosvenor Hill, London



 

      

                                              Francis Bacon, Two Figures with a Monkey, 1973

 

 

 

 

 

Bacon recording reveals the perils of a rushed paint job

 

 

 

Pictures at 1957 exhibition in London were still wet and stained attendees’ clothes after they leaned against them

 

 

DALYA ALBERGE | NATIONAL | THE GUARDIAN | MONDAY 29 APRIL 2019

 

There is nothing more dull than watching paint dry, but great art cannot be rushed. Francis Bacon was irritated that his dealer put him under huge pressure to finish paintings inspired by Vincent van Gogh for his London exhibition of 1957, according to a previously unheard recording that has come to light.

But Bacon got his revenge because his pictures were still wet when guests leaned against them at a crowded preview event, ruining their clothes. His dealer had to pay for dry cleaning and replacing a dinner jacket covered in streaks and smudges of red, blue and yellow oil paint.

The recording, which dates from 1985, was shared with the Guardian by Bacon’s friend Barry Joule. In their taped conversation, the artist can be heard telling Joule about his unhappiness over the tremendous pressure from his dealer, Erica Brausen, to finish paintings for an exhibition at the Hanover Gallery in London.

With mischievous chuckles, Bacon says: “Two of the Van Gogh pictures were still freshly wet when delivered … and later several people came away from the opening bitterly complaining they had paint smeared all over the back of their jackets … They sent Erica the dry cleaning bill. It serves her right for putting so much pressure on me to finish up.”

Joule, speaking to the Guardian,  recalled that Brausen’s partner, Toto Koopman, later joked about the episode with Bacon: “Koopman told us how displeased Erica was with the painter for having to fork out for the cleaning bill. Amusingly … Francis’s hands shot up, declaring his innocence: ‘Nothing to do with me – it’s all Erica’s fault for bombarding me with hurry-up non-stop messages.’”

Brausen also had to buy a new dinner jacket for one of the guests, Lord Broughshane, who had been pressed up against a still-wet picture.

Glistening oil paint created “long streaks and smudges” over his jacket, Joule said. “An immaculate dresser, he was oblivious to what had happened, except for the giggling party and stares coming his way – then turned furious when Koopman pointed it out to him. He stormed up to Francis and told him off.

“Bacon just sat there red-faced and took the abuse until rescued by Erica Brausen. Broughshane tried having the oil paint clean off with turps ... It didn’t work ... Brausen latter paid for a new dinner jacket.”

“Francis went into the closed Hanover the very next day with his paintbox and perfectly touched up to ‘re-figure’ – Francis’s own wording – the two messed-up Van Gogh paintings and Koopman duly put a fencing-off cord around the area of the two still wet pictures as the Hanover had to reopen the next day.”

Bacon’s 1969 triptych Three Studies of Lucian Freud sold in 2013 for a record £89m. Joule recalled Koopman pointing out, even all those years ago, that perhaps Broughshane would have been much wiser to keep half a Bacon abstract painting on his dinner jacket than trying to scrub it away.”

Joule lived near Bacon’s studio in South Kensington. They struck up a friendship from 1978 until the artist’s death in 1992. Bacon agreed to a series of recorded conversations, insisting only that Joule wait 12 years after his death before making them public. The artist also gave him artworks, including 1,200 sketches from his studio, whose value was estimated at £20m in 2004 when Joule donated them to the Tate, one of its most generous gifts.

Some of the material is in Tate Britain’s new Francis Bacon Archival exhibition. It includes a handwritten note that Bacon gave to Joule in 1978 to explain how he felt about Van Gogh because, he said, “it will be much better if I write it down”.

Bacon’s pictures form part of the Van Gogh and Britain exhibition at Tate Britain, as part of a section celebrating the influence of the Dutch artist on 20th-century British painters.

 

 

 

         

                                                                                              Study for Portrait of Van Gogh IV

 

 

 

 

 

Francis Bacon rugs and triptych saved … for now

 

 

UK government places temporary export bars on £2.5m screen and three rugs by artist

 

 

LANRE BAKARE | ARTS & CULTURE REPORTER | THE GUARDIAN | FRIDAY 26 APRIL 2019

 

The government has placed temporary export bars on four works by Francis Bacon – including one of his earliest existing paintings – to ensure they are not sold to foreign buyers.

A painted screen by Bacon valued at £2.5m and three rugs, described by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport as among the “finest modernist carpets in existence”, will not be allowed to leave the UK for the time being to give public institutions the chance to raise funds to buy them.

The art minister Michael Ellis said: “Francis Bacon is one of our most respected and renowned artists, whose works had a huge influence on modern art. It is right that we try to keep these outstanding works in this country, where they could inspire our next generation of world-class artists.”

Export bars can be placed on work which the government deems should be “saved for the nation”. In 2012 Edouard Manet’s Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus was sold to a foreign buyer for £28m at auction before being put under a temporary export bar and eventually sold to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford for £7.8m. In January 2018, Ellis put an export bar on the JMW Turner painting Ehrenbreitstein to allow UK buyers more time to meet the £18,533,750 asking price

The Bacon screen print was created around 1930 and was his first triptych, presented as an altarpiece and carved on three panels. The rugs were hand-knotted at the Royal Wilton carpet factory in 1929 and designed to be hung

Richard Calvocoressi, who was part of the committee that recommended the export bars, said the pieces needed to be protected because Bacon had destroyed so much of his early work

“It is crucial that we try to retain these rare early examples in this country,” he said. “Bacon’s first short career as an interior designer informed so much of his later painting.”

 

 

 

        

                                                     Francis Bacon photographed in his studio by Jane Bown in 1980. Photograph: The Observer

 

 

 

 

 

Ministers fight to keep four rare Francis Bacon paintings worth £3m in UK

 

 

 

NEWS | THE DAILY TELEGRAPH | FRIDAY 26 APRIL 2019

 

Ministers have stepped in to keep four rare early works by Francis Bacon - worth a combined total of £3 million - in the UK.

A painted screen valued at £2.5 million, believed to be the figurative painter's earliest-surviving large-scale work and his earliest-surviving figure painting, is one of the items being blocked from export.

The screen was completed at the start of Bacon's career in around 1930 and was his first work in triptych, in which a picture or relief is carved on three panels, attached together and usually presented as an altarpiece.

The other items placed under an export bar are three rugs that were sold separately at auction, each considered among the finest modernist carpets in existence and described as "rare survivals of a very limited production of a group of rug designs" by Bacon.

The rugs are valued at between £146,000 and £186,000

Arts minister Michael Ellis said: "Francis Bacon is one of our most respected and renowned artists, whose works had a huge influence on modern art.

"It is right that we try to keep these outstanding works in this country, where they could inspire our next generation of world-class artists.

Experts on the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA) recommended that the works be kept in the UK because of their "outstanding aesthetic importance" as well as their value to the study of Bacon.

Born in Dublin, Ireland, to British parents, Bacon took up painting in his 20s and went on to become a world-leading artist and one of the most prominent of the 20th century.

RCEWA member Richard Calvocoressi said: "Given how much of his work Bacon destroyed, it is crucial that we try to retain these rare early examples in this country.

"Bacon's first short career as an interior designer, principally of modernist furniture and rugs, informed so much of his later painting - not least his feeling for space and structure."

A decision on the export ban will be made in July and may be extended if a serious intention to raise funds to purchase the items is made at the recommended price for each item.

 

 

    

                                         Ministers have stepped in to keep four rare early works by Francis Bacon (pictured) in the UK

 

 

 

 

  Sotheby's

 

    CONTEMPORARY ART EVENING AUCTION


 

      WORKS FROM THE COLLECTION OF RICHARD E. LANG AND JANE LANG DAVIS

 

 

      LOT 9  |  16 MAY 2009  7:00 PM EDT  |  NEW YORK   

 

 

 

  Francis Bacon

   1909-1992 

 

    STUDY FOR A HEAD  

 

    Estimate  20,000,000 — 30,000,000 USD  

 

    LOT SOLD. 50,380,000 USD 

 

 

    

 

 

 

PROVENANCE

Beaux Arts Gallery, London
Bernard H. Friedman, New York
Sanford Friedman, New York (gift from the above)
Acquavella Galleries, Inc., New York (acquired from the above)
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 197

 

EXHIBITED

Seattle, Seattle Art Museum, The Richard and Jane Lang Collection, February - April 1984, pp. 12-13, no. 1, illustrated
Norwich, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, University of East Anglia; Milwaukee, Milwaukee Art Museum; and Buffalo, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Francis Bacon: Paintings in the 1950s, September 2006 - July 2007, p. 102, no. 28, illustrated in color

 

LITERATURE

Ronald Alley, Francis Bacon, London, 1964, n.p., no. 43, illustrated and p. 61 (text)
Chiyo Ishikawa, ed., A Community of Collectors: 75th Anniversary Gifts to the Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, 2008, p. 40, illustrated in color
Martin Harrison, ed., Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné, Volume II, 1929-57, London, 2016, pp. 266-267, no. 52-07, illustrated in color

 

CATALOGUE NOTE

“Trapped as if manacled to an electric chair, the ludicrously drag-attired subject is jolted into involuntary motion by external forces or internal psychoses. The eternal quiet of Veláquez’s Innocent is replaced by the involuntary cry of Bacon’s anonymous, unwitting, tortured occupant in the hot seat. One could hardly conceive of a more devastating depiction of postwar existential angst or a more convincing denial of faith in the rea that exemplified Nietzsche’s declaration that God is dead.” (Hugh M. Davies, “Bacon’s Popes: Ex Cathedra to In Camera, in Exh. Cat., San Diego, Museum of Contemporary Art, Francis Bacon: The Papal Portraits of 1953, New York, 1999, p. 12)

Study of a Head from 1952 broadcasts Francis Bacon’s most celebrated and recognizable iconography, which today remains one of the most pertinent, universal, and affecting visions in the history of art, the full force of which is trapped forever on the surface of this sensational painting. Here, we witness the zenith of Bacon’s first subject – a subject that spanned over twenty years until 1971 with Study for a Red Pope, Second Version – and the indomitable articulation of both Bacon’s love affair with Diego Velázquez and his will to expose the fallacy of such images for a world living in the dim light of Nietzsche’s declaration of God’s death. The present work sits alongside significant masterpieces that announced the arrival of the artist’s genius and primary subject: the human-animal as unadorned, despairing and alone. Having remained in the Seattle-based collection of Jane Lang Davis for over forty years, Study for a Head is of seminal importance to Bacon’s history with the American audience, as it was originally purchased from Beaux Arts Gallery by American author, art critic and Jackson Pollock biographer B. H. Friedman, making the present work one of the first Bacon paintings to enter a private American collection.


Erica Brausen was instrumental in establishing Bacon as one of the foremost contemporary British painters in the United Kingdom and abroad after she signed the artist for her newly created Hanover Gallery in 1947, which was established with the financial support of Arthur Jeffress, the American-born son of Albert Jeffress, Deputy Chairman of British American Tobacco. American interest for Bacon’s work undoubtedly began in the most spectacular of fashions, with his Painting 1946 – a work Brausen had purchased upon her first studio visit with the artist in the year of its execution – being acquired by Alfred H. Barr, Jr. for the Museum of Modern Art in New York. This acquisition in 1948 was not only the first occasion of a Bacon painting to enter an American institution, but also the first Bacon painting to enter any museum globally. The early 1950s proved to be a key period for Bacon’s international standing, and the establishing of his presence in New York with critics and collectors alike. His inclusion in both Knoedler Gallery’s The Last Fifty Years in British Art, 1900-1950 in October 1950 and The Pittsburgh International at the Carnegie Institute in 1950 precipitated his first solo exhibition at the prominent Durlacher Brothers Gallery in 1953, sending eight Studies for Portrait (after Velázquez’s Portrait of Innocent X, circa 1650) to his American debut in October of that year. To American audiences, the dramaturgy of his portraits that brazenly refashioned the iconography of Velázquez through the artist’s interest in the compositional dynamism of cinematography was in stark figurative polarity to the Abstract Expressionism of the New York School. The present work is hugely significant in demonstrating the confluence of enthusiasm for American and British painters of the period. As art historian and Bacon biographer Michael Peppiatt has commented: “…this impressive venting of emotion was taken by the critics to signify the oppressed as much as the oppressors; and from there it was only a short step, in the angst-ridden years of the Cold War, to seeing Bacon’s figures unequivocally as dramatic expressions of the guilt, unease, and solitude of modern man.” (Michael Peppiatt, Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma, London, 2008, p. 171) The timeliness of Bacon’s portraits would not be lost on American audiences for whom the specter of war and dictatorial evocations of the artist’s depictions of the papal subject undeniably elicit. Such was his notability in New York, his work garnered interest from major institutions in the country throughout the 1950s, with MoMA notably acquiring Dog (1952) and Study for Portrait VII (1953) in 1953 and 1956, respectively, and the Art Institute of Chicago adding Figure with Meat (1954) to its collection in 1956.

In 1952, Bacon embarked on what would be an increasingly significant category in his output, the head-and-shoulders portrait. That summer, he painted – in the studio of Rodrigo Moynihan at the Royal College of Arts – six small paintings of heads that demonstrate the advancement of his suited businessmen and the 1949 seminal painting Head VI. Although the title of the present work is unspecific, this forceful painting presents the iconic and tortured scream of Bacon’s best known Popes. The six small portrait heads represent either Popes or businessmen, and each displays the full panoply of Bacon’s techniques: “The variety of the color schemes and brushwork that [Bacon] employed betokens a determined effort to explore new ways of painting the head and to expand the range of techniques at his disposal by which these representations might be achieved.” (Martin Harrison, ed., Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné, Volume II 1929-1957, London, 2016, p. 264) The subject in this ‘series’ morphs between a Pope, his variations of the subject, and a non-specific secular figure, as in Study for a Portrait (Tate Britain, London)

In the present work, Bacon retains the iconic motif of the shattered pince-nez, the distinctly papal purple mozzetta, and is thus most aligned to Study for a Head (Yale Center for British Art, New Haven). Painted with supreme bravura and energy, the visceral physiognomic intensity of the contorted features and flashing teeth of the gaping mouth in the canvas, so deftly fashioned by the artist’s daubs of writhing paint and the incorporation of sand on the left cheek, achieves a heightened psychological import – shooting the desperate papal cry straight into the realm of the viewer. Bacon’s painting here is unleashed and urgent, unencumbered by any stodgy deliberation or revision, and his unbridled protagonist delivers a primal clarion call that summons Georges Bataille’s potent proclamation: “Terror and atrocious suffering make the mouth an organ of searing screams.” (Georges Bataille, “Dictionnaire – Bouche,” Documents, No. 5, 1930, pp. 298-99) Into the present work, Bacon poured his fixation with corporeal mutilation and glistening mouths, his obsession with Sergei Eisenstein, his indistinguishable preoccupation with terrible patriarchy and the history of twentieth-century conflict. Mediated by the vicissitudes of biography, Study for a Head is an incredibly pioneering and unique work that marks the very formation of Bacon’s painterly genius. Signaling the terrible and silent metamorphosis from inchoate bestiality towards the realization of nightmarish patriarchy, with these works, Bacon shifted from mythological creatures and theatrical ornament to portraits probing the depths of humanity

Very much aligned with the experiential enthusiasm no doubt inspired by his stays in South Africa in 1950 and 1952, Bacon here displays his evolution from his earlier series of monkey paintings; snarling, writhing, and contorted, these encaged beasts bear a more immediate affinity with the artist’s treatment of human subject. Dramatically fixed around the open mouthed bestial scream, the quintessential leitmotif Study for a Head represents a unique and pioneering articulation of the dialectical “zone of indiscernibility” between man and animal vitally intrinsic to Bacon’s astounding legacy. (Gilles Deleuze, Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation, London, 2003, p. 16) Bacon outlined his interest in monkeys as stemming “from the fact that like humans they are fascinated with their own image, and that their interest in themselves is displayed with an abandon and relish rarely equaled by men.” (The artist cited in Martin Harrison, In Camera Francis Bacon: Photography, Film, and the Practice of Painting, London, 2005, p. 200) This ‘abandon’ is expertly deployed in the present work as Bacon depicts a moment of volatile release; frightening, spontaneous, and primal, the scream is the epicenter of drama and the point at which animal and man converge

Perhaps more than any other theme associated with his canon, the threat of mortality inhabits every facet of Bacon’s art. Danger, violence, and death constantly linger in the recesses of his canvases, acting like a continual incantation of his deft maxim: “Consciousness of mortality sharpens one’s sense of existing.” (The artist in conversation with Hugh M. Davies in 1973, in Martin Harrison, ed., Francis Bacon: New Studies, Göttingen, 2009, p. 96) Many of Bacon’s later works became directly associated with the sudden and brutal deaths of his respective lovers Peter Lacy and George Dyer, but in fact, the risk of impending fatality imbued his existence and artistic practice from its most formative stage. Michael Peppiatt has suggested that the trauma of Bacon’s early life and his exile from home had a part to play in the sadomasochistic reiteration of violent persecution redolent in his various crucifixion themed works, as well as informing his undoing of dominant masculinity through the image of the Pope. Similarly, in painting the ultimate figure of patriarchy, the Pope, Bacon can be seen to confront the tyrannical father as epitomized by his own disciplinarian father. A retired army captain and racehorse trainer with a militant puritanical streak, Bacon’s father tyrannized the entire household, and in particular a son with whom he was at odds. Allergic to his father’s horses, asthmatic, and unashamedly effeminate, Bacon was expelled from the family home after being caught admiring himself in the mirror wearing his mother’s underwear. That the Pope, the Holy Father, was to be Bacon’s ‘first subject’ when he reached artistic maturity, is perhaps in part owing to his coming to terms with his own trauma. (The artist in conversation with David Sylvester, 1971-73, in David Sylvester, The Brutality of Fact: Interviews with Francis Bacon, New York, 1981, p. 71) Significantly, it was 1952 – the year of the present work’s execution – that Bacon first met Peter Lacy, the violent, tortured lover whom Bacon purportedly loved most because he made him suffer the most. Intriguingly, Lacy’s bold features can be distinguished in the obsessively painted pantheon of 1950s Popes.

The archetype Bacon appropriated as a starting point for his Pope series was Diego Velázquez’s extraordinary Portrait of Pope Innocent X from 1650, held in the Galleria Doria Pamphilj, Rome, a painting about which Bacon felt “Haunted and obsessed by the image…its perfection.” (The artist in conversation with Hugh Davies, June 1973, in Hugh Davies and Sally Yard, Francis Bacon, New York, 1986, p. 23) It has previously been noted that Bacon had not at this stage in his career seen the Velázquez painting in Rome firsthand, and for this initial series of papal portraits he worked from a black and white illustration of the work; this in turn has been suggested as the cause for the purple color of the garments in these paintings differing from the original cardinal red. While Bacon’s extensive enlistment of and reference to photographic sources is beyond question, however, it also seems more than likely that the artist was familiar with another version of Velázquez’s painting, one that has resided in Apsley House, the seat of the Duke of Wellington in London, since the beginning of the nineteenth century. This smaller Velázquez was gifted to the Duke of Wellington by the King of Spain in 1816, together with over 150 other paintings from the Spanish Royal Collection in recognition of his defeat of Napoleonic forces and liberation of Spain in the Peninsular War. The British commander had recovered these works from the fleeing carriage of Joseph Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon, after the Battle of Vitoria in 1813. Under the Duke of Wellington’s great-grandson, Apsley House and its art collection opened to the public in 1952, the centenary of the first Duke’s death and shortly before Bacon initiated a grand cycle of papal portraits, including the present work. That Apsley House sits at Hyde Park Corner, roughly fifteen minutes’ walk from the Royal College of Art where Bacon had his studio between 1951 and 1953, readily invites the hypothesis that he was able to study this highly accomplished work in person

The Velázquez painting, however, is merely a template that becomes a delivery system for Bacon’s radical and unrelenting reinvention. Bacon replaces the subjective idiosyncrasies of the grand state portrait with an intimate visage of pain and suffering that stands as proxy for the torment of the human race. His source for this all-encompassing cipher was provided by a film still of a screaming female character in Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 movie The Battleship Potemkin. Bacon had first seen the movie in 1935 and viewed it frequently thereafter; it was this specific still that was reproduced in Roger Manvell’s 1944 paperback Film, though Bacon also kept additional reproductions of the startling image. The frame shows an elderly woman wearing a pince-nez, commonly referred to as a nurse, shot through the eye and caught at the instant of death. The image belongs to the movie’s massacre sequence on the Odessa Steps which, though it veers wildly from historical accuracy, remains one of the most iconic pieces of propagandist film ever made. Within its remorseless tragedy, it is this character, part blinded and dying while simultaneously witnessing a baby in a pram being brutalized by the sword of a Czarist soldier, which embodies the conception of absolute, crippling horror and the abandonment of all hope. By supplanting Velázquez’s portrait of Innocent X with this twentieth-century essence of ultimate despair and its tortured last gasping breath, Bacon unites two extremes of enduringly vehement imagery that together embody the trauma and anguish of the post-war years

The drama of this corporeal expression is greatly intensified by the artist’s complex framing of the composition and the many facets that define an uneasy sense of flux and unknowable dimensions within the canvas. Bacon’s overlapping linear schema here act as cage-like space frames that enclose this papal figure inside its solitary nightmare. Indeed, the present work proves to act as prototype for Bacon’s consequent declaration: “I like the anonymous compartment, like a room concentrated in a small space. I would like to paint landscapes in a box…If you could enclose their infinity in a box they would have greater concentration.” (The artist in conversation with Hugh Davies in 1973, in Martin Harrison, ed., Francis Bacon: New Studies, Göttingen, 2009, p. 111)

Into this pantheon of papal imagery, Bacon poured his fixation with corporeal mutilation, militant atheism, his deep knowledge of artistic tradition, and above all, his reverence for Diego Velázquez. Colored by his sadomasochistic delight in terrible patriarchy and grounded in the disasters of twentieth-century conflict, the papal portraits rank among the most inventive and searing images in the history of art. The aggressive animalism of Study for a Head formatively underscores an obsessive preoccupation with the mouth as bestial center and agent of the primal scream. Belonging to the very earliest paintings centered on the locus of the existential scream, this extraordinary painting marks the inauguration of Bacon’s major subject matter. Immediately presaging his magnum opus Pope paintings produced the following year, this work occupies a critical position at a moment that would come to define Bacon as a major artist. As Michael Peppiatt notes: “Bacon’s Popes are not only the centerpiece of all his paintings in the 1950s, but a centerpiece of the whole of twentieth-century art.” (Michael Peppiatt in Exh. Cat., Norwich, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts (and travelling), Francis Bacon in the 1950s, 2006, p. 28

 

 

 

 

  Sotheby's

 

    CONTEMPORARY ART EVENING AUCTION


 

      THE GERALD L. LENNARD FOUNDATION COLLECTION

 

 

      LOT 26 | 16 MAY 2009 7:00 PM EDT | NEW YORK   

 

      Estimate  12,000,000 — 18,000,000 USD  

 

      LOT SOLD. 14,501,500 USD 

 

 

   Francis Bacon

 

     STUDY FOR PORTRAIT

 

 

          

 

 

 

PROVENANCE

Marlborough Gallery Inc., New York

Acquired by the present owner from the above in February 1983

 

 

EXHIBITED

New York, Marlborough Gallery Inc., Important Paintings by Avigdor Arikha, Frank Auerbach, Francis Bacon, Balthus, Fernando Botero, Claudio Bravo, Lucien [sic] Freud, Alberto Giacometti, David Hockney, R.B. Kitaj, Antonio Lopez-Garcia, Pablo Picasso, November 1982, p. 9, no. 6, illustrated in color
Tokyo, The National Museum of Modern Art; Kyoto, The National Museum of Modern Art; and Nagoya, Aichi Prefectural Art Gallery, Francis Bacon: Paintings 1945-1982, June - November 1983, p. 76, no. 43, illustrated in color and p. 89, no. 43, illustrated
New York, Hirschl & Adler Galleries, The British Imagination: Twentieth-Century Paintings, Sculpture and Drawings, November 1990 - January 1991, p. 99, no. 48, illustrated in color

 

 

LITERATURE

Michel Leiris, Francis Bacon: Full Face and in Profile, New York, 1983, p. 228, no. 135, illustrated in color
Michel Leiris, Francis Bacon: Full Face and in Profile, Barcelona, 1987, p. 228, no. 135, illustrated in color
Michel Leiris, Francis Bacon, New York, 1988, p. 110, no. 134, illustrated in color
Martin Harrison, ed., Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné, Volume IV, 1971-92, London, 2016, pp. 1232-1233, no. 81-07, illustrated in color

 

CATALOGUE NOTE

Within the astounding theater of Francis Bacon’s formidable career, George Dyer inhabits a position of tremendous importance. Appearing in over forty paintings, with as many created following his death as executed during his lifetime, Dyer possesses a commanding presence unlike any other. Monumental in its scale, and both seductive as well as somber, Study for Portrait wields the full force of Bacon’s painterly bravura and pictorial authority with arresting intensity and the artist’s signature psychological depth. His portrayal of his lover and muse George Dyer encompasses the full range of the thrilling human drama: at once vulnerable, brooding, romantic, heroic, and tortured, Bacon’s stunning portrayals of Dyer reveal a multifaceted, tempestuous, and passionate love affair, as well as an artistic genius grappling with a highly charged and expressive artistic vocabulary. Study for Portrait is particularly significant, as it is the very last painting of Dyer that Bacon ever executed, investing the present work with a gravitas unparalleled by other portraits. Held in the esteemed private collection of Gerald L. Lennard for over thirty years, Study for Portrait represents a formal and emotional apex of one of the twentieth century’s greatest artistic geniuses.

The story of Bacon’s first meeting with Dyer has gained a legendary status: Dyer, aged twenty-nine, attempted to break into and burgle Bacon’s studio at 7 Reece Mews. Through the studio’s famous skylight, Dyer tumbled into Bacon’s life, truly falling from above and forever altering the course of the artist’s work. Their relationship was marked by a polarity of extremes: ardent infatuation, enchanted desire, the artist’s intellectualism, Dyer’s rough innocence, passion and love. This full range of emotional and psychological heat seethes beneath the juxtaposition of richly textured paint and spare geometry of the present work. A tenderly executed male nude dominates the composition, his arms and legs crossed in abstractions of pale pink, complemented by rich tones of lustrous black, deep crimson, and lilac. Elegant impressions of corduroy and torn cloth imprint patterns onto the surface of the face, lending texture to this indelible work and acting as an almost tender caress against Dyer’s face and calves. The swipes, smears, and smudges against Dyer’s visage are not marks of brutality, but rather reflect an artist exploring the variation of his color palette. With sumptuous inflections of pigment, both delicately applied and heavily worked up, Bacon’s distortion yet insistence on the physical materiality of Dyer’s body interrogates the limits of the self, presenting an ethereal and unearthly form of his muse that, while undoubtedly grounded in a very real person, is manifestly surreal. John Russell described: “Bacon wrenched, reversed, abbreviated, jellified and generally reinvented the human image. The paint-structure was by turns brusque and sumptuous, lyrical and offhand, pulpy and marmoreal. Swerving, pouncing, colliding with itself, taking for granted the most bizarre conjunctions of impulse, it produced a multiple imagery which was quite new in painting.” (John Russell, Francis Bacon, New York, 1971, p. 168) And yet, the solitary nature of this figure, isolated in an empty geometrically organized space creates a psychological distance the viewer can barely begin to traverse, as if this image of Dyer exists solely as a memory in Bacon’s mind.

The present work is among the most drastically reworked paintings that Bacon ultimately kept, rather than destroyed. A relentless self-editor, Bacon not only destroyed many of his paintings, but he also reworked and continually altered what had originally been dubbed ‘completed.’ The most striking formal change that was made to the present work was Bacon’s addition of a light blue rectangle slanted toward the lower right corner of the composition, as if refracted light; similarly, a pale blue disc hovers at the right hand edge of the painting, eclipsing a mirrored outline of the black halo behind the head of the spectral male figure. According to Harrison: “The pale blue ‘folded rhomboid’ is another of Bacon’s atavistic self-quotations, for its first manifestation dated back to Man Kneeling in Grass, 1952; here, however, it is employed not so much as an element of Bacon’s presentational dynamics but to create a chasm (in time as well as space) across which Dyer’s image is cast.” (Ibid., p. 246) The pinned-up newspaper against which Dyer’s flesh-colored profile is silhouetted was also not present in the first version of the painting; rather there was a larger organic form less relatable to the main figure. In the present work, Dyer’s reflection obscures this printed material, affixed to the wall with a small pin – a subtle nod to the Cubist tradition of not only incorporating newsprint into collage, but also using the trope of a nail to assert the work’s flatness.

The velvety black passages, deep maroon chair, and violet and charcoal tones sweeping across Dyer’s figure create a mournful aura, struck through with a luminous pale blue and bright spots of turquoise corduroy – an emotional ode in color to the tempestuous nature of Bacon’s relationship with his muse. Moreover, Harrison argues, the reconfiguration of this canvas could have been in reaction to the tenth anniversary death of Bacon’s lover. Towards the end of the 1960s, the already unsteady and tumultuous relationship between these two men became destructively marred by Dyer’s waning sense of purpose in Bacon’s overwhelming shadow. Indeed, Bacon reached the culmination of his career at the beginning of the 1970s, honored with a one man show at the prestigious Grand Palais in Paris. Bacon had inadvertently fueled Dyer’s paranoia of inadequacy by providing his ‘kept’ existence, and on the eve of the artist’s opening in Paris, Dyer died from an overdose. The degree to which Bacon was consumed by grief, loss, and guilt would find equal measure only in the posthumous paintings of Dyer, whose presence is at once the most pervasive, libidinal, and inventive of Bacon’s entire oeuvre.

The creative fecundity and emotional and psychological depth searing across the canvas of the present work exemplifies the very best of Bacon’s career. For centuries, portraiture was a means by which to reach an absolute representation of an individual: direct, unambiguous statements of a person’s character and statehood, categorized by identifiers of dress, ownership, and other iconographic markers. At the turn of Modernism, however, artists displayed their doubt in the truthfulness of this structured view of human personality, turning away from a monolithic view of human nature defined by power, and instead to a variable, contingent expression of individuals characterized by flaws and ambiguity. As Dyer’s visage refracts like a prism across the present work, the flickering copy of his face reveals entirely uncharted emotional depths and psychosomatic complexities obscured by an empty expression. Study for Portrait emerges as a touchstone work, the final painting of Bacon's lover George Dyer and a dramatic farewell to what was an all-consuming obsession and what has remained a beautifully tragic romance.

 

 

      

                        George Dyer and Francis Bacon in Soho in the 1950s Photo: John Deakin

 

 

 

 

 

Francis Bacon | Ellen Gallagher

 

 

Hatton Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne

 

 

MICHAELA HALL | REVIEW | CORRIDOR 8 | 29 MARCH 2019

 


Francis Bacon’s work is most notable for its pure emotion and raw confrontation. It is fitting, then, that the Hatton Gallery has chosen his celebrated ‘Study for Portrait VI’ (1956-57) as the stimulus for their Francis Bacon | Ellen Gallagher exhibition. It constitutes the visceral, palpitating heart in a new strand of programming that aims to provoke synergism in the Hatton collection. To open proceedings, Bacon’s dark, intense oil paintings are juxtaposed with the strikingly fragile paper works of Gallagher.

From start to finish, the exhibition evokes an uncomfortable feeling. The white washed walls, lack of windows and bright white light shine on to Bacon’s claustrophobic creations and Gallagher’s nervously delicate paper pieces. ‘Study for Portrait VI’ is the first work to anxiously greet the viewer, and the entrapment of the figure in the painting, between narrow walls and a low ceiling, mirrors the large black metal structures that frame Gallagher’s ‘Morphia’ (2008-12) series. These large structures are considerably higher than the eye level at which they are met, fortifying an overarching sense of claustrophobia as one moves amongst the consternation of Bacon’s paintings and the metal structures that buttress Gallagher’s ephemeral collection. This sentiment is reinforced by ‘Figure Turning’ (1959-62), a figurative examination of contorting bodies that follows the viewer’s circular and twisting route through the exhibition.e

The uneasy and somewhat jarring presence of the works stimulates the human psyche, opening hearts and minds to the emotional and psychological energy imbued within Bacon and Gallagher’s work. The clarity of the gaping mouth in ‘Head VI’ (Bacon, 1949) is unnerving as it bawls against isolation, imprisonment and erasure. Gallagher’s beautiful, gossamer creations are comparable to the ink blot shapes used in the Rorschach test, and elicit similarly incongruous thoughts. The intriguing detail of her minutely precise cut outs, textures and even the invisible thread holding the works to the structures generate a conversation with the indefinite lines, surfaces and figures in Bacon’s work, creating a tension in the space that adds to the apprehensive atmosphere.

Both artists address the profound feelings of those that endure political, social or/and cultural upheaval. Whether that is the start of World War II for Bacon or the plight of African Americans for Gallagher, both artists manage to capture a societal angst and articulate it with the intimate vulnerability of the personal. Despite the discomfort of the viewing experience, these complicated bodies of work translate together into an environment and time that is, arguably, more socially and politically aware. The unification of this work creates a reconciliatory space to confront perennial demons, destructive legacies and the personal battles that none should fight alone. Francis Bacon | Ellen Gallagher is a challenging and unsettling exhibition, one that – whether you like it or not – you will find yourself consciously, and subconsciously, returning to time and again.
 

   Francis Bacon / Ellen Gallagher, Hatton Gallery, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, 26 January – 18 May 2019.

 

 

 

      

                                                                                  Francis Bacon, ‘Study for Figure VI’ (1956-57)

 

 

 

 

One of Francis Bacon's 'screaming popes' to be auctioned in New York

 

 

 

Sotheby’s sells Study for a Head 1952, important work seen in public only once

 

 

 

MARK BROWN | ARTS CORRESPONDENT | ART & DESIGN | THE GUARDIAN | FRIDAY 29 MARCH 2019

 

A painting considered one of his most important left in private hands, part of his terrifying “screaming pope” series, is to appear at auction.

Sotheby’s said on Friday it was selling Study for a Head 1952, part of a collection inspired by Diego Velázquez's portrait of Pope Innocent X, which helped to establish Bacon’s reputation in the 1950s.

It will be up for sale in the US on 16 May, with an estimate of $20m-30m. Grégoire Billault, head of the auction house’s contemporary art department in New York, said it was one of the greatest paintings Sotheby’s in decades.

The work was bought the year it was painted by the novelist and critic BH Friedman, Jackson Pollock’s biographer. That makes it one of the earliest Bacons to enter a private American collection.

It was acquired in the 1970s by the Seattle couple Richard Lang and Jane Lang Davis, who assembled one of the world’s most important private collections of 20th-century art. Lang Davis died in 2017 and works from the collection, with the Bacon as a star, are being sold to benefit the charitable foundation that looks after them.

The screaming pope has been exhibited in public only once, as part of a show that travelled o the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich, Norfolk, in 2006.

Bacon’s screaming pope series has been described by his friend and biographer Michael Peppiatt as “not only the centrepiece of all his paintings in the 1950s but a centrepiece of the whole of 20th-century art”

They are seen as a vehicle for Bacon expressing the pain and suffering of post-war humanity. He was directly influenced by Velazquez’s Innocent X, saying he was “haunted and obsessed by the image … its perfection”; as well as a still of a screaming nurse shot though the eye from Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin.

Bacon’s works attract some of the biggest prices for any 20th-century artist. A triptych of his friend and fellow artist Lucian Freud was sold for $142m (£89m) in 2013, at the time a record.

 

 

 

     

                  Francis Bacon, Study for a Head, 1952, estimated between $20 million to $30 million

 

 

 

 

 

Artist, polemicist, dreamer:

 

John Berger’s life in literature

 

 

 

John Berger’s sensibility was shaped by the aesthetic ideas and political struggles of his time. That’s the thesis of a recent literary biography by Joshua Sperling, writes Vineet Gill.

 

 

VINEET GILL | CULTURE | THE SUNDAY GUARDIAN | NEW DELHI | 16 MARCH 2019

 

There was a time when John Berger was considered the most influential art critic in Britain. What he had to say, what he chose to publish could make or break careers. At a very young age he became, to all intents and purposes, the high priest of the art crowd and his popularity didn’t sit well with many of his contemporaries

The critic David Sylvester, Berger’s no-love-lost rival, never forgave him for his narrow-minded championing of social realism. Sylvester believed that Berger was often reflexively dismissive of all abstract idioms of art, even when they carried the imprimatur of genius, as in Giacometti or Francis Bacon. “Here was a great painter and Berger was too damn stupid to see that,” Sylvester said in a 1999 interview, referring to the “damage” Berger had done to Bacon’s reputation by his negative appraisal.

It’s true that Berger found no merit in Bacon’s work. He was also impatient with the rootless form abstract painting was taking in the ’50s (“…artists in Oslo, Buenos Aires, Tokyo and Toronto all paint as though they lived in Paris”). But he made amends as far as Giacometti was concerned (too late, complained Sylvester). Just as in the late ’60s, he began a lifelong engagement with cubist painting.

This was one of Berger’s great strengths as a critic: he was ready to change his mind. If it is the artistic imagination that’s amenable to such change, then in his best moments Berger emerged as an artist-critic, doing his thinking on the page, like the master practitioners of the essay form. He once wrote, “Rather than ask of a cubist picture: Is it true? or: Is it sincere? one should ask: Does it continue?” That’s the smartest thing anyone has ever said about cubism. But what’s more interesting here is that the series of questions is directed as much to the reader as it is to the writing self. Berger’s literary voice captivates us because so often it’s the voice of a man talking to himself

Sometimes we can sense anger in that voice. There is a polemical edge to all his writings—even the most seemingly anodyne of pieces he wrote were imbued with a sense of political purpose. “Far from politics dragging me into art,” Berger once said, “art has dragged me into politics.” Joshua Sperling’s literary biography of Berger, A Writer of Our Time, switches expertly from the political to the personal and back, mapping the highs and lows of an eventful—and sometimes turbulent—life

Having come of age in the contentious climate of 1950s Culture Wars in Britain, Berger made enough enemies in his 20s to last him a lifetime. His Marxism—never officially embraced, yet never abjured (not even after the Hungarian Uprising of 1956)—was another thorn in the side of the mainstream English press. He was often at the centre of bitter disputes and slanging matches carried out in print. The struggles were taxing and it was Berger who capitulated. In 1962, he decided to leave England, “to get outside the straitjacket of English journalism”, in Sperling’s words

But in Berger’s life, escape was often a prelude to new discoveries. When he was 16, he ran away from school and joined an art course in London. Similarly, his decision to leave England was inspired as much by an urge for reinvention as by discontent. He left England because he wanted, by his own admission, to become a European writer. Thereafter, he spent most of his time on the Continent: settling first in Geneva and then, until his death in 2017, in a small village named Quincy in France. Intellectually, though, he let his roots spread far and wide. He read Victor Serge (“The essence of the man and his books is to be found in his attitude to the truth”); Walter Benjamin (“…whose originality precluded his reaching whatever was defined by his contemporaries as achievement”); the poems of Mayakovsky (“Russian poetry when read out loud, and particularly Mayakovsky’s, is nearer to rock than to Milton”)

Europe also made Berger think more seriously about form. The trajectory of his writing career follows a winding course from art criticism to fiction to essays to poetry to something more uncategorisable and free-form that made room for all the previous categories. In addition to this, Berger was also painting, drawing, collaborating with photographers (three books with Jean Mohr) and working on screenplays (three films with Alain Tanner)

Much of his European education was brought to bear on his 1972 TV series Ways of Seeing, which he later adapted into a book. The documentary was a frontal attack on establishment figures (Sir Kenneth Clark) and establishment values (beauty, tradition). It got Berger something more than plaudits—it got him rockstar levels of fame. Then, that same year, he won the Booker Prize for his novel, G. Berger’s acceptance speech for the award is a work of art in itself. Another confirmation, if one were needed, that he was ready, as ever, to throw it all away, and that he didn’t mind making powerful

Berger begins his Booker speech on a clarifying note: “…the whole emphasis on winners and losers is false and out of place in the context of literature.” This is followed by a rather straightforward apologia: he is here because he needs some money for his next project, a book on migrant workers. And then, to borrow Sperling’s metaphor, he lobs the grenade: he says he is giving away half his prize money to a militant political organisation, the Black Panther movement. It was a gesture of solitary with the exploited migrant workforce in the West Indies, and a gesture of defiance against the Booker McConnell firm, sponsors of the prize and holders of “extensive trading interests in the Caribbean for over 130 years”. “The half I give away,” Berger said, “will change the half I keep”

“The speech generated immediate hostility,” Sperling writes. “Many guests began to clink their glasses. Others shouted over him.” There’s of course an obvious political angle to this controversy. Yet it’s best not to forget that Berger was also violating certain sacred cultural codes here. (He never saw culture and politics as separate domains.) Rebecca West was in the audience that day and was among the glass-clinkers. The previous year’s Booker winner, V.S. Naipaul was fuming in the morning papers. Two of the post-war generation’s finest critics, Cyril Connolly and George Steiner, were on the jury that year, and they wouldn’t have been pleased with Berger’s behaviour. He was calling out the literary elite for their shallow games and distancing himself from them. “The issue,” as Berger said in his speech that day, “is between me and the culture which has formed me.”

The man and the culture that formed him are the two focal points of Sperling’s excellent book. It contextualises Berger’s growth as a thinker and artist by placing his life against the backdrop of a sort of slideshow intellectual history of the 20th century, with its pitched battles between Marxism and capitalism, realism and abstraction, the global and the provincial. Still, A Writer of Our Time has its blind spots. “Even admirers tend to know him in only one or two of his many incarnations,” Geoff Dyer wrote about Berger. Understandably, then, there are many incarnations missing from Sperling’s book. We don’t find in these pages any traces of Berger the poet, the playwright, the committed draughtsman or the leather-clad motorcycling enthusiast. How does one do justice to a subject this complex? Perhaps a life so multifaceted merits biographical attention that spans multiple volumes. In that case, Sperling’s book is a great start

 

 

             

 

 

                          John Berger (5 November 1926 - 2 January 2017).

 

 

 

 

Obituary

 

 

 

Sir John Richardson, art historian and friend of Picasso who wrote a multi-volume biography of the artist that has been hailed as ‘an unrivalled masterpiece’ 

 

 

 

OBITUARIES | THE DAILY TELEGRAPH | WEDNESDAY 13 MARCH 2019

 

Sir John Richardson, who has died aged 95, wrote a monumental multi-volume biography of Pablo Picasso.

It was a task that Richardson was well qualified to undertake. He had a lifetime’s knowledge of Picasso’s work, first-hand experience of collecting, many years of friendship with the artist and the support of Picasso’s family and friends, as well as a collaborator in Marilyn McCully. The result was an expert blend of the artist’s work and life, an account that was lucid and comprehensive, and at the same time discriminating and detached.

The first of four planned volumes was published in 1991; it took Picasso’s life to 1906, when he was 25 (he lived to be 91). By then it was already some years since Picasso had mastered conventional painting and drawing, and he was about to begin work on Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, his revolutionary painting of five women, supposedly in a brothel, which some regard as marking the start of modern art. Hailed as art history at its best, the book won the Whitbread Book of the Year award in 1992

Volume II (1996) covers the crucial cubist years, 1907 to 1917. Until photography came along, painters and sculptors had monopolised representation. By incorporating multiple viewpoints into a single image, cubism – the new pictorial language invented by Picasso and Georges Braque – firmly reasserted the artist’s distinctive role, enabling him to represent things in ways which the photographer could not. A face, for instance, could be shown simultaneously full frontal and in profile.

Volume III, The Triumphant Years (2007), at nearly 600 pages, reached the year 1932, with Picasso aged 51, and was received ecstatically by critics. Writing in the Financial Times, Jackie Wullschlager hailed it as “an unrivalled masterpiece among artists’ biographies … wearing its learning lightly, and an enormous, gossipy pleasure to read”.

The books contained a wealth of new material, not least about Picasso’s wives, prospective wives and mistresses. For instance, Richardson pieced together Irène Lagut’s story for the first time, and he revealed the role played in Picasso’s life by Eugenia Errázuriz, the rich Chilean beauty who took over from Gertrude Stein as the artist’s mentor.

“What makes Richardson unique among Picasso biographers,” wrote Hilary Spurling, “is that the central narrative drive comes from behind the closed doors of the studio.”

Philip Hensher, reviewing the third volume in the Telegraph, alluded tactfully to the question of whether the author would live to complete his great work: “I just hope Richardson is eating his royal jelly every morning.” Volume IV was expected to cover the war years, but in 2016 Richardson would only say that he was “up to 1939” and that “nobody knows all the details”. It is reportedly due to be published later this year.

John Patrick Richardson was born on February 6 1924, the elder son of Sir Wodehouse Richardson, a former Army officer who had fought in the Ashanti Wars and at Omdurman, and who during the Boer War had been Director of Supplies. In his last year at Woolwich, Wodehouse Richardson had teamed up with 11 fellow cadets and founded the Army & Navy Stores as a co-operative society. On leaving the Army, he turned the Army & Navy into a substantial department store

Sir Wodehouse married late. At nearly 70, he fell in love with one of the store’s employees, Clara Pattie Crocker, half his age, whose job was to retouch photographic portraits; they married in 1923 and were blissfully happy

After John, they had a daughter and another son. But then Sir Wodehouse died in 1929, leaving meagre provision for his family. John – who adored his father and would continue to miss him for the rest of his life – was sent to boarding preparatory school, where he was bullied and intensely unhappy, and then on to Stowe, where the art school there quickly became the focus of his life

Robin and Dodo Watt, a progressive Canadian couple who ran the art school, introduced the young man to such avant garde art magazines as XXe Siècle, Verve (“I knew Verve by heart,” he recalled) and Minotaur. These triggered, as Richardson later said, “an obsession with Picasso”, and encouraged him to try his hand at modern art – producing what he called “dumb daubs”.

One school holiday, in Zwemmer’s bookshop on Charing Cross Road, he reserved a copy of Picasso’s latest – and greatest – print, Minotauromachie. But his mother refused to advance him the £50 purchase price, tearing a strip off Mr Zwemmer and threatening to report him to the police for trying to swindle small boys of their pocket money. Copies of the print have since fetched as much as $1·5 million at auction

When war broke out in 1939, the Richardsons were on holiday at Dinard in Brittany. They went to Jersey and then, as things looked bad, returned to England. John, nearly 17, enrolled at the Slade, which had already been evacuated to Oxford; his fellow students included Geoffrey Bennison and James Bailey, both of whom became firm friends

Aged 18, he was called up and joined the Irish Guards, but after a week was struck down with rheumatic fever and invalided out of the Army. He spent the rest of the war in London, working as an industrial designer by day and on call as an air-raid warden and fireman at night

Not long after the end of the war he was invited to a party in London co-hosted by his friend, Viva King, and someone whom she described as “a sinister bugger” – the critic and art collector Douglas Cooper – who had promised to pay for “the booze” if she would “round up the boys” and do the sandwiches

“Towards the end of the evening,” Richardson recounted, “I spotted Douglas Cooper bearing down on me in a meaningful way.” Hot-footing it to the safety of his mother’s house, he “passed a youngish man with a luminous face, who was often to be seen prancing about the neighbourhood”, carrying canvases through the door of the house opposite. It turned out to be Francis Bacon.

Richardson got to know Bacon well, and found that the mention of Douglas Cooper would set him off. Eschewing, as was his habit, the masculine pronoun, Bacon admitted to having “known that treacherous woman”, and warned: “She’s even more loathsome than she looks.” (Cooper, who had promoted Bacon and his work in earlier days, had subsequently dropped him.)

Richardson asked Bacon’s opinion of Cooper’s collection. “Too Museum of Modern Arty for my taste, but there are some wonderful things,” said Bacon. “Take a look at your own risk. She’ll try to lure you into bed, and then she’ll turn on you. She always does.” Richardson would later reflect: “Francis’s predictions had a way of coming true.”

By the time Richardson met Cooper again two years later, he had given up any idea of being a painter and was reviewing books for Cuthbert Worsley at the New Statesman. One evening, in 1949, Worsley took him to a party for Paul Bowles's new book, The Sheltering Sky, and there Richardson realised he was being “stalked by a stout pink man in a loud checked suit”.

“You may not remember me,” he said. “We met at the house of that Poufmutter, Mrs King. My name is Douglas Cooper.” Richardson said he would like to see Cooper’s pictures. “Right now, my dear, if you can tear yourself away from these hideous mediocrities,” Cooper replied, and the two men made off for the house Cooper shared with Lord (Basil) Amulree.

Cooper showed Richardson his pictures by Picasso, Braque, Léger and Juan Gris. “That very evening,” Richardson recorded, “he found a promising neophyte in me, and I a potential mentor in him.” Cooper made a pass at him and, “out of courtesy and curiosity”, Richardson, drunk on framboise, “lurched upstairs after him”. He stayed the night and soon moved in.

For the next 12 years, Cooper took over Richardson’s life, including him in everything he did. He introduced Richardson (13 years his junior) to his smart, art-world friends; showed him museums, galleries and private collections on the Continent; and took him to hob-nob with the great painters of the day and to live in Provence, at Château de Castille, near Uzès.

Picasso lived within striking distance, and from 1952 Cooper and Richardson would get together with him every two to three months. Richardson had already by then begun cataloguing Picasso’s portraits – initially of the artist’s wives and mistresses – and Picasso seems to have recognised the sleuth in Richardson, readily helping him to explore the mysterious creative process.

“I took notes with Picasso,” Richardson explained. “I already saw myself writing about him. I asked a lot of questions. I identified a lot of subjects. As so often with Picasso, there’s more than one person in a portrait.” Picasso, then in his early seventies, became a kind of father figure to Richardson, offering approval, encouragement and friendship.

As well as Picasso, in the late 1950s Richardson was studying Georges Braque; this led to a book and several articles about Braque’s work, including a lengthy piece on his great Atelier series (1949-56). It helped that Richardson’s study at Castille – soon being dubbed “Le Château des Cubistes” – was lined with some of Braque’s best paintings, and that he came to know the hermit-like Braque and his wife Marcelle extremely well

Work aside, there was a lively social life at Castille. The roll-call of visitors included Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears, Lord and Lady Harewood, Cyril Connolly, George Weidenfeld, Angus Wilson, Anthony Blunt, Nancy Mitford, the Richard Wollheims, and Isaiah and Aline Berlin, to name but a few. When the Queen Mother paid a visit, she was able to stay only for a short time. “We queens,” she confided to Cooper, “are at the mercy of a very tight schedule.”

In late 1958, Richardson paid a visit to New York, which left him feeling exhilarated and with a desire for greater independence. He began to drift away from the ever-difficult Cooper – “an ugly man with an ugly temperament”, he said – and returned to New York.

Then in December 1960, after an unpleasant Christmas at Castille, he resolved to settle in America for good. Not long afterwards, Cooper lit a bonfire in the park at Castille, burning all Richardson’s remaining clothes, papers, photographs and other personal effects – including a pair of ivory hairbrushes that were the only memento Richardson still had of his father.

But Richardson quickly settled down in America, and became friends with the likes of Andy Warhol, at whose memorial service he delivered the eulogy. W magazine described Richardson, a gifted raconteur, as ‘the man all New York wants to sit beside at dinner”.

In 1962 he put together the spectacular exhibition in New York, Picasso: an American Tribute, and 1964 saw the publication of his Pablo Picasso: Watercolours and Gouaches, a volume of plates with a perceptive commentary by on each picture. And then in 1965 he became Christie’s representative in New York. “Christie’s picked me out of the blue,” he said with pleasure. “I’ve never had a nine-to-five job before.”

Thereafter, he went from strength to strength, remaining with Christie’s until 1972, when he was appointed director of Contemporary Art at Knoedler’s, the long-established New York commercial art gallery which was owned by Dr Armand Hammer, the Occidental Petroleum magnate

Later the managing director of Artemis, an art investment fund, he built his own large collection of objets, some bought at Christie’s, others discovered in junk shops and flea markets around the world.

In 1995 Richardson was appointed Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford. In 1999 he published a volume of memoirs, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: Picasso, Provence and Douglas Cooper, brimming with detail of the artistic, social and homosexual worlds in which he had moved. In 2001 he brought out a collection of essays, Sacred Monsters, Sacred Masters: Beaton, Capote, Dali, Picasso, Freud, Warhol and more.

In 2011 John Richardson was admitted to France’s Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, and the following year he was appointed KBE.

 

Sir John Richardson, February 6 1924, died March 12 2019

 

 

 

 

 

A Francis Bacon portrait of George Dyer and a trove of Philip Gustons are among 37 newly consigned works for Sotheby’s May sales

 

 

 

BENJAMIN SUTTON | NEWS | ARTSY | MARCH 6, 2019

 

Last month, in Sotheby's 2018 earnings call, CEO Tad Smith teased a “very strong pipeline of potential consignments,” adding that there was “still much being competed for right now, especially for New York in May.” Today, the auction house revealed one of the consignments in the pipeline for its May sales in New York: 37 works from the collection of the Gerald L. Lennard Foundation, the charitable organization established by the eponymous copper magnate, who died in March 2018.

The marquee lot in the group of works is Francis Bacon's final portrait of his lover George Dyer, Study for Portrait (1981), which is expected to fetch between $12 million and $18 million—another of Bacon’s Dyer portraits, from 1977 sold for $49.8 million at rival house Christie’s in May 2018 on an estimate of $30 million.

In a statement, Sotheby’s Europe chairman Oliver Barker said:

Gerald Lennard was a devoted collector who actively sought works of extraordinary emotional and psychological weight, which ultimately demonstrates their essential humanity. His personal integrity and honesty are matched by these grand explorations of the human condition—upon entering his New York apartment, visitors were immediately greeted by a fantastic trilogy of works by Guston that fully embodied this ethos

Works from the consignment are on view at Sotheby’s London salesroom through Friday, and will go on view in the auction house’s revamped New York Galeries ahead of the sales in May.

 

 

 

       

        Francis Bacon, Study for Portrait, 1981, oil and dry transfer lettering on canvas. Est. $12 million–$18 million. 

 

 

 

 

 

Yannick Haenel : "Le Caravage et Francis Bacon peignent la violence sans l'aimer.

 

Ce sont mes deux peintres préférés"

 

 

 

LE RÉVEIL CULTUREL par Tewfik Hakem

 

 

 

TEWFIK HAKEM | ART ET CRÉATION | FRANCE CULTURE | 4 MARCH 2019

 

 

Rencontre avec l'écrivain Yannick Haenel autour de deux peintres, Francis Bacon et Le Caravage, à l'occasion de la parution de "Conversations" de Francis Bacon - dont il signe la préface - et "La solitude Caravage", un récit personnel et initiatique autour de la figure du peintre de génie.

Tewfik Hakem s'entretient avec l'écrivain Yannick Haenel autour de deux  ouvrages ; Conversations de Francis Bacon (1909-1992), parues aux Editions L'Atelier contemporain et dont il signe la préface -  et La solitude Caravage, essai publié aux éditions Fayard, autour de la figure du Caravage (1571-1610) ; une plongée dans ses tableaux, leur violence, leur beauté, leur sublime érotisme.

 

Bacon n'aime pas la violence, il veut s'emparer de la violence pour lui donner une forme qui la dénude. Il veut dénuder ce qu'il en est de la violence, de la criminalité de l'espèce humaine, lui-même n'est pas un criminel. Je trouve très beaux ces entretiens, ils sont très tendus ; Bacon ne se laisse pas faire, il est tendu comme un fauve. J'ai toujours aimé l'écriture des peintres quand ils écrivent : leurs paroles, leurs engagements, leurs positionnements, on est face à une solitude faramineuse, très rare.

Depuis le point où il peint, il répond comme en cage, et paradoxalement, libre, il répond à ces questions comme depuis toujours, au fond. Quand on feuillette ce merveilleux livre avec les photos de Marc Trivier de l'atelier de Bacon, on a affaire à une parole en liberté.”

 

Ce sont mes deux peintres préférés : il y a un engagement total de l'être, et chez Bacon et chez Caravage. Je crois que tous les deux détestent l'idéalisme. Ils ont compris depuis longtemps que la Renaissance, c'est fini, que l'harmonie du monde, l'harmonie des corps, c'est un mensonge. Ce sont deux peintres qui combattent le mensonge en actes : les corps sont crus, le sexe est là - on ne va pas le recouvrir d'un quelconque voile - la violence est le lien social lui-même, et ils peignent cela sans l'aimer, évidemment, en témoins convulsifs de ce qui a lieu.

 

Dans les années 80, j'étais au pensionnat militaire de La Flèche. En allant à la bibliothèque le soir après l'étude, il y avait un livre de peinture italienne que je chérissais, et un détail d'une peinture m'avait frappé, celui d'une jeune femme très belle dont les sourcils étaient froncés, qui rimaient avec son corsage lacé. Ses bras étaient élancés vers quelque chose qui m'échappait, qui était coupé.

Je suis tombé fou amoureux de cette figure peinte, à quinze ans. J'ai rencontré - comme dirait Lacan - l'objet de mon désir. C'est ma rencontre avec la peinture, une rencontre de nature aphrodisiaque. Je ne savais pas que c'était Le Caravage, ni que cette femme, dont je ne savais pas ce qu'elle faisait de ses deux bras, était en train de couper la tête d'un homme. Judith décapitant Holopherne ...

 

Francis Bacon, Conversations, extrait• Crédits : Francis Bacon @ Editions L'Atelier contemporain, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elephant consommé with a side of Francis Bacon - life among the artists in Sixties Paris

 

 

Art critic’s Michael Peppiatt's rackety memoir The Existential Englishman brings Paris to life so vividly you can almost smell it, says Lucy Davies

 

 

By LUCY DAVIES | BOOKS | CULTURE | THE DAILY TELEGRAPH | 27 FEBRUARY 2019

 

Paris is catnip to walkers, especially writers, for whom a plunge into the city’s streets, where cobblestones glint, shuttered facades loom and the sour odour of the Metro billows up from the grates, is a chance to shrug off the usual mundane business of life, unmoor the mind and set it afloat.

For Michael Peppiatt, whose new book, The Existential Englishman, recounts the decades in which he lived in Paris between 1966 and 1994, the practice was crucial; a near-physical craving to be repeatedly indulged, in the manner of a love affair. “I like to do it at night, furtively,” he writes. “Then the city opens out in front of me… when a wind is blowing hard I come as close as I ever come to exultation.” Throughout the narrative he traipses and drifts. He is, he says, “like a beast pacing”. He thinks often “of all the poets who have walked there: Hugo… A green but unpleasant land awaits Baudelaire”.

He is right, of course, and we could add many others to that list, like the novelist Balzac, or the photographer Brassai. But it was Henry Miller, the American author whose own nocturnal wanderings in Thirties Paris were vividly chronicled in Tropic of Cancer and Quiet Days in Clichy, whom Peppiatt reminded me of most often. Both men are expats, living “among the artists”, longing to be published novelists. Both live frugally, drink heartily and fornicate dedicatedly.

You’ll know Peppiatt as the confidant and respected biographer of Francis Bacon, the artist whose “basilisk stare” and epicurean appetites (partridge, Crozes-Hermitage, fizz) hover here, at the book’s edges. At its middle is a sort of bildungsroman that follows Peppiatt from his first inclinations toward Francophilia at the tender age of nine to being booted over to France aged 24 by his father, who, exasperated by his Cambridge-graduate son’s layabout, polo-neck-wearing ways, found him gainful employment at the French monthly Réalités.

That Peppiatt arrives “with a battered suitcase full of Becketts and Joyces, Kafkas and portable Nietzsches”, and mooches through the early chapters in a vintage Navy reefer jacket, gives you clue enough to how the story will go: from journalist to editor to magazine owner; from unprepossessing small hotels and blowsy landladies to apartments in the Marais with Versailles parquet and cashmere throws; from being too timid to knock on Giacometti’s studio door to hanging out with Hockney and the bods at Hermès.

It sounds insufferably smug, doesn’t it? Strangely, it mostly isn’t. Yes, Peppiatt can come across as feeling “frightfully clever to live in Paris!”, as one shop assistant he meets back in London has it, and, particularly in the final chapter, mostly his weighing up of things, the descriptions slip mauve-ward. But do skim over all that, because I think overall Peppiatt leans much more toward his misses than his hits, and he can be très drôle with it. I relished his sketches of ratcatchers and thugs and the deafeningly flatulent neighbour he comes close to punching. He confesses to the times he was put in his place by Parisian hauteur; the fist-fights that erupted in his office; regrettable drunken nights out, ensuing grimy hangovers.

And there’s his love life. The girlfriend he had to hide from in doorways, the one who demanded a Cartier watch. But there’s also the one he became obsessed with, who made him miserable, and later committed suicide. Great chunks of the book deal with his “gnawing frustrations” as a writer, which make him “sick at times from the tension and self-loathing they induce”.

He is haunted by the idea that he is only the hanger-on, that “obscure young man”, as Sonia Orwell once witheringly called him, or just a “playboy critique d’Art”, as one Paris girlfriend has it. The spectre of “the man of letters… that pallid, incomplete figure I have always dreaded who has published the odd minor novel and book of essays… eking out his career with reviews and prefaces" is always with him. He toys with ideas, has moments of flow, loses them, worries again.

I suspect the book was a bit of final accounting for Peppiatt, who, at 77, is one of the last men standing from his Paris art-world crew, “a survivor in the wilderness piecing together echoes of their voices, fragments of what they left behind.” And they are mostly fragments, the best being, unsurprisingly, about Bacon (who slept, we learn, between purple and orange sheets). When Peppiatt meets, for example, Joan Miró and Alexander Calder, he remains an observer. Sitting next to Marlene Dietrich, he learns only that her husband wouldn’t let her eat hot dogs. Of his encounter with Nancy Mitford, Peppiatt’s one remark is that she spoke in cut-glass vowels – hardly revelatory

When he exits this “solipsistic bubble” (his words) of art and books, he can be enthralling. His description of the 1968 uprisings, when the whole country was out of joint, is terrific: “I thrill to the exhortations to violence. I am out of character and liberated… We are all mad now, high on revolution, with the tear gas lingering in our mouths. We are like waves, moving up and toppling forward in the acrid air in a foam of flags and posters.”

I loved his digressions on bits of Parisian history, tales of elephant consommé and Templar Knights, of an antique dealer who kept her wig on with an elastic band and another who smashed her entire stock of china on learning her lover had betrayed her. Peppiatt is to the Marais as Peter Mayle was to Provence, sketching its oddball inhabitants, its decaying grandeur. The scent of woodsmoke fairly rolls off the page.

In the end, it is his “lifelong attachment to this bewitching, temperamental, exasperating city” that irradiates the book, as it does the story of his own life. “You reflect and become the city just as the city reflects and becomes you,” he says. “The bones of the city brighten in the sunlight… it warms its flanks freely under the benign blue sky, slowly revealing all.”

The Existential Englishman is published by Bloomsbury at £25

 

  

                  Francis Bacon and Michael Peppiatt in David Hockney’s studio in Paris, 1975

 

 

 

 

Bob Colacello Remembers the Icon Lee Radziwell

 

 

"I always thought Lee was the original and Jackie the copy..."

 

 

By BOB COLACELLO | RIGHT NOW | GARAGE MAGAZINE | FEBRUARY 16 2019

 

I always thought Lee was the original and Jackie the copy, but who really knows about such things? Probably not even the sisters themselves. For me, Lee was the more beautiful, more refined, more ethereal, indeed one of the greatest beauties of her generation.

I met Lee when I met everyone, shortly after I started working with Andy Warhol in 1971, as editor of Interview. I remember going with Andy and Fred Hughes to interview Lee at her all-red apartment on Fifth Avenue, which Diana Vreeland pronounced the most fabulous apartment in all New York—"Such style! Such drama! Such luxe!" The first thing one saw upon entering the front hall was a very large and rather violent Francis Bacon triptych of what appeared to be one man devouring another, three times over. Bacon, Lee explained, had become a "great pal" in London, where she had been living with her second husband, Prince Stash Radziwill. Their marriage, however, was about to end, because Lee had fallen in love with Peter Beard.

Lee loved men, and men loved Lee. Women, not so much (unless they were younger, and played the protégé).

She was a true connoisseur of all of the arts—literature, film, theater, dance, painting, photography, architecture, fashion and design—and a real friend to those who created them. She was also loyal: she was one of the few society friends to stick by Truman Capote after the scandal set off by the publication of a chapter of his unfinished novel, Answered Prayers, in Esquire. Nureyev, Onassis, Warhol, Armani, Mark Shand, Reinaldo Herrera, William Ivy Long, Hamilton South—they all adored her. Yes, she could be affected, but her affectation was her armor; her chic, her attraction. But most alluring of all was her intelligence. She will be missed.

 

 

        

                                      Lee Radziwell, 1933-2019

 

 

 

 

Remembering Lee Radziwell

 

 

A former princess, design doyenne and sometime actress, she inspired a generation of designers.

 

 

By ALICE NEWELL-HANSEN | THE NEW YORK TIMES STYLE MAGAZINE | FEBRUARY 16 2019

 

“I’m perfectly content at this time of my life. I’ve done so many fascinating things,” Lee Radziwill, who dies on Saturday at age 85, told Nicky Haslam in a cover profile that he wrote for T in 2013. Born Caroline Lee Bouvier in 1933, Radziwill was the sister — younger by four years — of the former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. She was also, at various points, an author, an interior designer, a public relations executive for Giorgio Armani and an actress (her friend Truman Capote wrote the 1968 television film “Laura,” in which she appeared, to encourage her career). But, in her own telling, her greatest achievement was the close, creative relationships she cultivated. She told T in 2013: “Really, the most fulfilling roles have been my friendships — Berenson, Nureyev, Peter [Beard], even Andy Warhol because he was so wildly different — then, and now Bernard-Henri Lévy and his wife, Arielle Dombasle, and Giambattista Valli, and Diego Della Valle, who are all angelic to me.”

Radziwill spent a summer in Montauk with Warhol, had a love affair with the artist Peter Beard (with whom she worked on a documentary, alongside the avant-garde filmmaker Jonas Mekas, about her aunt, Edie Beale of Grey Gardens), and joined the Rolling Stones on their “Exile on Main St.” tour with Beard and Capote. She remained an ambassador for Giorgio Armani and, later in life, she became friends with, and inspired the work of, the fashion designers Giambattista Valli (with whom she vacationed in Florence), Tory Burch and Marc Jacobs, whose Paris apartment she helped furnish. “Lee knew all the best places to go, and they got beautiful tablecloths at D. Porthault and silver at Puiforcat,” recalled the director Sofia Coppola in a story for T in 2013. 

Coppola herself, who met Radziwill through Jacobs, was beguiled by what she described as “the precise world Lee seems to live in”: her immaculate sense of style and her formal apartments in New York and Paris, decorated with “beautiful flowers and books and grown-up furniture.” “Talk about Lee’s flair for brilliant surroundings,” Beard told T in the same article, remembering how she owned “one of the seriously great Francis Bacon paintings, collected early in the 1950s, before Bacon was really known.” The interior designer Renzo Mongiardino, who worked with Radziwill to decorate her properties in England in the ’60s, recalled to T in 2016 how her homes “danced and sang.” “She is one of those figures,” Valli told T, “you hold up in your universe that are part of your vocabulary, your imagination.”

 

Peter Beard, Artist

I met Lee when I was visiting Jackie and Ari Onassis on Skorpios. Lee was the artistic one — the humorous adventurous outsider on the inside. I was lucky to be there wherever we were: in Greece, France, Kenya, Montauk, Mustique, Barbados. Then, of course, there was Lily Pond Lane, where her crazy and fabulous aunt Edie, and her cousin Little Edie, lived in hiding. Lee and I had the idea to do the documentary “Grey Gardens.” We began filming it all with Jonas Mekas, the pet raccoons and the 52 very strange cats. Then we brought in the Maysles, who, at a regrettable turning point, took over the project; but my original footage by far the most fabulous — remains to be seen.

Lee was always the one with high taste, humor and brains. We went on the Stones’ “Exile on Main St.” tour with our friend Truman Capote — and on some super side trips afterward. Back at Lee’s Fifth Avenue peied-à-terre, we had visits from Andy Warhol, Richard Lindner, Larry Rivers and Rudolf Nureyev. There were so many life-enhancing and extraordinary individuals. Lee was the key element. And talk about Lee’s flair for brilliant surroundings: the door opened onto one of the seriously great Francis Bacon paintings, collected early in the 1950s, before Bacon was really known, and well before I actually introduced him to Lee. (Bacon, by the way, thought she was great, too.)

Bernard Berenson was a mentor during Lee’s early life, and she liked to quote the advice that he gave her — to go for “whatever is life enhancing.” And actually that sums up Lee Bouvier Radziwill — everything was life enhancing. A couple of years ago I spent a few weeks visiting her in a house she had taken in Monte Argentario, in Tuscany. I was delighted to see that Lee was still going for it.

 

 

    

                  Lee Radziwill photographed for the cover of T in 2013. She died on Friday at 85

 

 

 

 

The Existential Englishman:

champagne with Francis Bacon,

and schmoozing with Sophia Loren

 

 

Tim Smith-Laing reviews The Existential Englishman: Paris Among the Artists by Michael Peppiatt

 

 

TIM SMITH-LAING | REVIEW | BOOKS | THE DAILY TELEGRAPH | SUNDAY 27 JANUARY 2019

 

Though The Existential Englishman records the struggles with “creative writing” common to many a jobbing critic, it is hard to imagine Michael Peppiatt being lost for words. On the page, he remains probably one of the most eminent art writers of our time; off it, to judge by the swirl of parties, interviews, and chance encounters that fill this memoir, he is a gifted and indefatigable conversationalist. Even when he finds himself seated next to that doyen of silence, John Cage, at an embassy lunch, nervous and alarmed at his own ignorance of the composer’s work, he is able to charm him “out of his trance” with an anecdote of an entirely silent café in Barcelona, populated solely by deaf-mutes.

It is a typical anecdote in a memoir that revels in such encounters, and reminded me of that old joke credited to the harmonica player, Larry Adler. Adler too wrote his memoirs, but with a wry knowledge that most readers were only there for his anecdotes about the truly famous. After getting down all the stories about Sammy Davis jnr, Fred Astaire, Vivien Leigh and all the rest, he turned to his ghostwriter and said, “Why don’t we call it Name-Drops Keep Falling on My Head?”

In Peppiatt’s memoir of 28 years as an art critic based in Paris, the name-drops do not just fall on your head, they mount around you in tumbling heaps like snow drifts. As those familiar with his career will expect, the major name dropped is Francis Bacon, whom he first met through an interview for a student magazine in 1963. The relationship that ensued – from the “Champagne in grand hotels followed by extravagant dinners in Soho, skilfully orchestrated […] to introduce me to upper- and lower-class bohemia”, to the years of intimate confidences afterwards – has kept Peppiatt in meat and drink ever since. The results include, at a rough count, some five books dedicated solely to Bacon, including both the biography Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma (1997), and the more personal Francis Bacon in Your Blood: A Memoir (2015), along with sundry essays, exhibitions and articles.

Though Peppiatt meme is the central subject of The Existential Englishman, “Francis” pervades the book as the living incarnation of Peppiatt’s quite unbelievable good luck. After stumbling into Bacon’s world, Peppiatt seems to have led an astonishingly charmed life. Setting the pattern that follows, the opening pages of this book see him turn down an offer to become a salaried art critic at The Observer only to stumble into a position with Réalités in Paris – despite, he makes clear, his best efforts to bomb the interview by telling the editor “how little I cared for his beloved Paris”. The editor, whom Peppiatt assumes he must have met one evening or another with Francis, only asks him to start “as soon as is practicable”.

Torn from the arms of his new girlfriend – “a beauty all the more seductive for having a touch of the East in her blood” – the young Peppiatt sets sail for his new life, doomed to succeed. Soon he moves from Réalités to the English edition of Le Monde, who provide him with an interest-free loan to buy his flat in the Marais. Meanwhile, he accidentally becomes a “senior editor” of Art International, before inheriting the late owner-editor’s collection of first editions, and taking the magazine over for a single Swiss Franc. When Art International proves a devil to fund, an artist he meets at a party introduces him to a retired Italian actress who immediately stumps up enough for the magazine itself and a launch party at the George Cinq. At one point, Peppiatt’s “special interest in the ‘primitive’ arts” expressed in a single review for the Financial Times leads, naturally, to him being offered the post of “director of the National Gallery of Art of Rhodesia”.

Meanwhile, there are the freelance jobs “so alluring that there is no question of turning them down”, and all the names that go with them. “Could I interview Sophia Loren in the apartment she shares with Carlo Ponti […] Visit Franco Zeffirelli […] Join Louis Malle and Candice Bergen in their turreted manor house […]?” It would be otiose to list any more, since Peppiatt does so at such length in the book, along with all the famous people that they, in their turn, have known. Sadly, in contrast to his long relationship with Bacon, the artists and actors Peppiatt meets stimulate no deeper insights in this book; they remain mere name-drops in his own life story.

It is unclear how, in all this, Peppiatt has time for romance. But, before his marriage to art historian Jill Lloyd, he most certainly does. His conquests run the gamut from George Orwell’s widow Sonia, to “the French general’s daughter who plays squash vigorously”, to mysterious pseudonymous figures such as “La Polonaise”. At one point, he is told “You too strong lovemaking, you kill me.” Perhaps it is because he was in such a rush.

I searched for irony here, but if present it is so perfect as to be imperceptible. Despite a transient sense that he is, above all, “a fly on the wall […] getting into secret spaces and unusual situations without any real credentials or involvement”, Peppiatt seems to have forgotten that the fly is not generally the centre of interest. When it comes to this very lucky fly’s memoirs, it is hard to know what reaction a reader could possibly have beyond, “Well, good for you, I suppose.”

The Existential Englishman is published by Bloomsbury at £25.

 

 

   

              Francis Bacon (left) and Michael Peppiatt in David Hockney's studio in Paris, 1975 

 

 

 

 

The Existential Englishman:

Paris Among the Artists

 

 

The art critic Michael Peppiatt's account of his bohemian life in Paris is full of colour, character and charm

 

 

ALEXANDER LARMAN | REVIEW | THE OBSERVER | SUNDAY 20 JANUARY 2019

 

Michael Peppiatt’s memoir is subtitled Paris Among the Artists, but it could be called A Portrait of the Art Critic As an Older Man. Peppiatt, who is best known for his biography and memoirs of his friend Francis Bacon, has spent the greater part of his working life in Paris, and this book is a love letter to the city, although not an uncritical one. He writes in the preface that he will explore “my lifelong attachment to this bewitching, temperamental, exasperating city and the deep love-hate relationship that binds me to it”. Yet he is ultimately a romantic, and the scent that rises from these pages is a heady aroma of Gauloises and red wine. Peppiatt, as a young man, was rather fond of the bottle; this book, at its best, has a similarly intoxicating quality, if one allows for the inevitable moments of self-absorption.

Peppiatt was brought up to be bilingual, because his father believed that he stood a better chance of getting on in the world if he spoke French. His faith was rewarded when his son obtained a job at the culture magazine Réalités in 1964, from where he headed to the English-language version of Le Monde and then to Art International, which he both published and edited. He accomplished this, as well as writing numerous books about art, with an air of cultured insouciance. Yet, as he notes, “the luxuries, the grandeurs, have no meaning without the drudgery and misères of the daily round”. It must be said that Peppiatt’s luxuries and grandeurs are rather more grand than the rest of us might expect. When he writes about drinking champagne at the Paris Ritz, or being led on grand bacchanals by famous chums, it is hard not to feel that Peppiatt has led an unusually gilded existence.

This is a memoir in which names are not so much dropped as flung at the reader; it contains sentences such as “I also started going out on the town again with Francis Bacon.” (As in his other books, Bacon is a recurrent, often disruptive presence.) There is a vaguely Pooterish quality to some of Peppiatt’s adventures with the great and good. He fails to meet Giacometti, who lives in the studio next door to his lodgings and for whom Bacon has given him a letter of introduction, because the great sculptor is selfishly dying of stomach cancer in Switzerland. He meets Marlene Dietrich at dinner, but she drunkenly moans that her husband has forbidden her to eat hot dogs. Sonia Orwell dismisses him as an “obscure young man”. James Baldwin’s face is “full of suffering”, despite or perhaps because of Peppiatt collaring him for half an hour. He fails to speak to Samuel Beckett, despite sitting next to him, and is irked that a passing American (“complete with backpack”) is able to engage in a “brief, courteous” exchange.

Peppiatt has an aesthete’s love of life, and there are vivid descriptions of food, drink and romance here that both enrapture and inspire. This enjoyable book works best as an account of a lifelong love affair with the Parisian streets, of the ability to escape the madding crowd and lose oneself in a backyard cafe. In the epilogue, when he recounts how his wife and he have returned once again to live in Paris after two decades in London, there is a movingly elegiac quality to his description of how he is no longer a flâneur and boulevardier, but is content to be an observer instead. The Existential Englishman offers elegant proof that Michael Peppiatt’s powers of observation remain undimmed and acute

The Existential Englishman by Michael Peppiatt is published by Bloomsbury (£25).

 

 

    

                                               ‘An unusually gilded existence’: Michael Peppiatt at a gallery opening in 1975

 

 

 

 

Christie’s speaks up about legal case involving Francis Bacon’s painting

 

 

 

By SHIM WOO-HYUN | LIFE & STYLE | THE KOREA HERALD | FRIDAY, 11 JANUARY, 2019

 

Christie’s has spoken up about pending litigation that Korean gallery One and J filed in the New York County Supreme Court over the former’s sale of a painting by Francis Bacon in a private deal at what the Korean gallery claimed was a “bargain price.”

The two parties had remained silent over the matter since Jan. 2, when One and J filed the petition for a preliminary injunction. 

In an email response to The Korea Herald and the Herald Business, Lavina Chan, Christie’s head of corporate communications, Asia, said, “Christie’s believes it has acted in accordance with its obligations under the UCC and its agreements with the Plaintiff.” 

According to the Seoul-based gallery’s petition, Christie’s had agreed in 2017 to arrange “a private sale of the painting that would net the gallery at least $10 million.” At the same time, Christie’s agreed to loan around $4.9 million to the gallery with Bacon’s painting as collateral.

However, in September 2018, Christie’s informed the gallery that it had defaulted on the loan and that the former was entitled to sell Bacon’s painting “under any terms, at any time, as we see fit,” according to the petition. Two weeks later, Christie’s told the gallery it had sold the painting at a “fraction of the Painting’s fair-market value.” 

According to the petition, the Korean gallery argues that Christie’s violated the Uniform Commercial Code comprising a set of laws regulating sales of personal property and other business transactions by selling Bacon’s work in a “commercially unreasonable manner.”

One and J had attempted to avoid the “fire sale” of the painting by offering $6.8 million to Christie’s. However, the latter rejected the proposal, which the gallery found “unreasonable” according to the petition. 

The Korean gallery claims in its petition that Christie’s could have rejected the gallery as it had already made arrangements with “a valued or prospective Christie’s client who planned to participate in Christie’s fall auctions, and that Christie’s agreed to sell the painting as part of a larger ‘sweetheart deal’ for that unknown buyer.”

However, in Christie’s email response to The Korea Herald, Chan said, “Christie’s attempted to resolve this matter after years of non-payment. In good faith, Christie’s offered the Plaintiff an agreement to satisfy the long-term debt owed to Christie’s.” 

“Unfortunately, the Plaintiff defaulted on multiple interest payments and was in breach of the agreed contract. Despite our best efforts to settle the matter with the Plaintiff, the collateralized painting was sold in order to collect on the amount owed.”

Seoul-based gallery One and J declined to comment on the current case, saying that the person in charge is currently on a business trip and would return to Seoul in two weeks.

 

 

 

 

The Existential Englishman by Michael Peppiatt

 

– among the artists in Paris

 

 

Boozing with Bacon, Dietrich at dinner, romance, gossip and glamour … the art critic’s memories of golden-age Paris

 

 

STEVEN POOLE | REVIEW | THE GUARDIAN | FRIDAY, 11 JANUARY, 2019

 

The world is not short of anglophone memoirs about living in Paris, but the art critic Michael Peppiatt really had a whale of time after he moved there in 1966. Before long, in this fond account, he is spotting the playwright Eugène Ionesco (with his “pale, clown-like face”), and dining next to Marlene Dietrich, who keeps complaining that her husband “had never allowed her to eat hot dogs”.

The author is soon running the arts pages of Le Monde’s English edition, which in this golden age funds a beautiful flat in the Marais district. There follows a succession of flings with women – his ardent reminiscences of them are very much, to put it as charitably as possible, of their time – and much more name-dropping. Sonia Orwell, a quondam lover, pops up now again; there is an inscrutable appearance by John Cage. Peppiatt goes wine-tasting with Graham Greene, and once finds himself sitting next to Samuel Beckett on a cafe terrace. (Nothing, fittingly, is said.)

First among these luminaries is Francis Bacon, already the author’s friend before Paris, and with whom many spectacularly boozy meals are shared. “I have to be conscious of Picasso the whole time, you see,” Bacon mutters. “There’s no way round it.” Perhaps the most vivid character, however, is the chain-smoking French doctor who, when Peppiatt comes to see him complaining that he is tired, retorts: “Tired? Tired? You don’t think I’m tired seeing sick people for ten hours every day?”

As the decades roll on in a buzz of embassy invitations, freelance art writing and luxurious apartments, the book passes by easily in the manner of quaffable gossip. Stricter editing wouldn’t have hurt – and, existential or not, an Englishman ought to know that Cambridge does not have quadrangles (they are courts). Peppiatt left Paris for London in 1994, and the book ends with him returning in 2014, only to think the place now “lacking in identity and purpose”. As a one-time cultural migrant to the city myself, I’d suggest he needn’t worry: the Marais is now so expensive that the real Paris has simply moved elsewhere.

Existential Englishman by Michael Peppiatt (Bloomsbury Publishing, £25).

 

 

    

       Francis Bacon, left, with Michael Peppiatt ... ‘They shared many spectacularly boozy meals.’

 

 

 

France gets a taste for Bacon

 

 

Michael Peppiatt reveals yet more about his friendship with Francis Bacon—

and the lavish apartments and entertainment on offer in 1970s Paris

 

 

DUNCAN FALLOWELL | BOOKS | THE SPECTATOR | JANUARY 12, 2019

 

The case of Michael Peppiatt is a curious one. He first met Francis Bacon when he was an undergraduate at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and visited Bacon for a student magazine. Something clicked and Bacon became his sugar daddy, immediately and for ever, though Peppiatt has said that no sex was involved.

One can see what Peppiatt got out of Bacon: not cash per se, but many opportunities for money, an entrée to the great art world, a raison d’être for his pen, as well as free entertainment on a lavish scale. This he acknowledges gratefully. But what Bacon got out of Peppiatt is never quite clear. It certainly helped that Peppiatt was young, bright, and could match Bacon’s drinking. He must also have been attractive in an obliging, even submissive way. Once Peppiatt was installed in Paris, Bacon used him as eyes and ears and plug-adaptor in the city which Bacon wanted to impress above all others. But it wasn’t an infatuation; there is no Bacon portrait of Peppiatt. By contrast, most of Peppiatt’s writing has been Bacon-centric.

This latest offering implies that the key to their relationship was its flexible lack of definition. It is a memoir, written entirely in the present tense, and it recounts Peppiatt’s life in Paris, to which he moved in 1966 at the age of 24. There is a hiatus near the end when, after a long series of ramshackle affairs and mental crises, he marries an art historian and returns to London to bring up his daughters, before Paris claims him again.

Peppiatt doesn’t have the calibre of John Richardson on Picasso, but he’s a lot warmer, more open-shirted, than the vain, thin-lipped James Lord who covered comparable territory. Inevitably his many Bacon books involve repetition; and since his prose is waffly, amiable, and loaded with familiar phrases, one is never quite sure how much of the material has been covered before. Bacon remains the presiding genius of The Existential Englishman: ‘When Francis leaves the high goes…’ What marks the book is an overriding sense that Peppiatt is being honest with us: ‘When I tried to cosy up to Nancy Mitford the other day I made no impression at all.’ His candour often takes on an exaggerated self-deprecation and one realises quite early on that there’s a fundamental passivity in him. Even his move to Paris was the result of his father finding him a job there in art journalism.

At one point he feels powerless to shake off a destructive relationship with a girl, ‘even though it’s harming me in all kinds of ways. I can’t understand why I don’t react strongly, decisively, since I have never detected any masochism or passivity in my make-up before’. Really? His love affairs, which he presents passionately, are all with women who appear more powerful than he. Bacon was a sexual masochist but a social sadist and is sometimes vile to Peppiatt. At one point Peppiatt decides to write a book about Bacon who gives him total clearance; but on the eve of publication Bacon pulls the rug and withdraws permission. Yet Peppiatt continues to trot faithfully along behind, instead of telling him to get lost.

My own experiences of Bacon were few, but one afternoon in Muriel’s he was pouring champagne and it spilled on to his hand. He turned and thrust it down the inside front of my trousers. When I yanked out his paw, Bacon said ‘I was only drying my hands’, with a weird, simpering expression and wobble of his head — it was like strychnine trying to smile. We were not meant for each other.

So I read Peppiatt to see if I’d missed out on anything — and I had. What I most enjoyed in the book was what I envied: Peppiatt’s short exchange visit to the Lycée Condorcet as an English schoolboy; being repeatedly waltzed around the best restaurants in Paris on the arm of a gifted homosexual with bottomless pockets; art-market banquets in palaces; and the various apartments he finds for himself and does up. The best flat, in a crumbling 17th-century hôtel particulier, is paid for by selling (with Bacon’s blessing) a picture which the artist had given him.

Almost all the characters along the way, including the painters, are expats. The French when they feature are mostly commercial: local shopkeepers and art dealers. When Peppiatt and his wife return to live in Paris, after a gap of 20 years, he finds the Parisians

come across as disenchanted, not to say depressed, in line with the ailing economy which is apparent right outside our building… Because of my intervening absence, I am acutely aware of how brutally downgraded, how lacking in identity and purpose this Paris appears.

Welcome to the Paris of globalisation and Islamist terrorism.

 

The Existential Englishman: Paris Among the Artists, Michael Peppiatt, Bloomsbury, pp.365, £25

 

 

  

   Francis Bacon in front of his triptych at the Galerie Claude Bernard in the Rue des Beaux Arts, Paris in 1977

 

 

 

 

Gallery Claims Christie’s Double-Crossed Them by Selling Its Francis Bacon at a ‘Bargain Basement’ Price

 

 

What happens when high-stakes, multimillion-dollar art deals go awry

 

 

EILEEN KINSELLA | ART & LAW | ARTNET NEWS | JANUARY 8, 2019

 

It’s not every day that behind-the-scenes details of a multimillion-dollar art transaction are laid bare for all to see. But a messy three-way legal fight over Christie’s recent sale of a Francis Bacon painting valued in the eight figures has done just that.

A dissatisfied consignor who cried foul about the terms of the sale is now targeting both the auction house and the prospective buyers, dealers Christophe van de Weghe and David Rogath, in an attempt to halt what the consignor claims is an unfair deal. The consignor argues that somewhere along the way, Christie’s stopped representing its interests in order to curry favor with more valued clients.

It all started in late 2017, when South Korean art gallery One and J consigned a Francis Bacon painting to Christie’s for private sale. The title of the painting—which the gallery claims Christie’s had valued at $10 million—has not been disclosed in court papers and has been redacted in related exhibits so as not to diminish the work’s value, according to One and J’s petition.

As part of the deal with Christie’s, One and J used the painting as collateral for a loan, and the auction house advanced the South Korean business a total of $4.9 million. (It’s not unusual for major auction houses to loan or advance money when works are consigned for private sale or far outside of major sale weeks.)

Roughly a year passed; Christie’s had no luck selling the work. One and J also notes in the filing that during that time, it consigned an Andy Warhol painting for sale at Christie’s in Hong Kong with the understanding that the proceeds would be used to repay the loan. However, the painting was withdrawn shortly before the sale “based on a purported lack of interest,” according to the filings

A Christie’s representative said the auction house does not comment on pending litigation. Judd Grossman, the attorney for One and J, declined to comment to Artnet News

An Agreement Gone Awry?

According to One and J’s account, Christie’s informed the gallery in September that it was in default on the terms of the loan and the auction house could therefore sell the Bacon “under any terms, at any time, as we see fit.” Less than two weeks later, according to the gallery’s petition, Christie’s revealed that it had offloaded the painting to an unidentified buyer for, in the gallery’s words, “a fraction of the painting’s fair market value.” The exact sale price has not been disclosed in court documents.

The gallery says it made a concerted effort to reclaim the painting fairly. According to its claims, it made a $500,000 loan payment, which it says Christie’s accepted, and attempted to stave off what it described as a “fire sale” by offering $6.8 million to get the Bacon back

Bizarrely, however, Christie’s rejected the proposal as too low, the court papers allege. In the gallery’s telling, Christie’s took this unlikely step because it “had switched sides” and was no longer acting as the representative of the seller, but rather of the buyer. According to One and J, Christie’s agreement to sell the painting at a bargain price and then refuse the gallery’s purportedly higher offer was part of a larger “sweetheart deal” made to woo or retain an important client.

The gallery claims Christie’s breached its duties under the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), a set of laws governing the sale of goods, by selling the painting in “a commercially unreasonable manner.”

On January 2, One and J asked a New York court to halt the sale of the Bacon, arguing that Christie’s was not authorized to sell the work. The court granted the gallery’s request. There was just one problem: At the hearing, according to the gallery’s filings, Christie’s revealed that the painting had already been transferred in October to the then-unidentified buyer.

Anonymous No More

In addition to granting the gallery’s request to halt the sale of the work, the court also went one step further: It ordered Christie’s to disclose the identity of the “unknown buyer”—an extremely sensitive matter for any auction house, whose business relies on client confidentiality. Christie’s ultimately revealed that it had invoiced New York dealer Christophe van de Weghe for the sale of the painting, though it understood that Van de Weghe purchased the work jointly with David Rogath, of Chalk and Vermilion Fine Art in Greenwich, Connecticut.

On January 4, One and J filed suit against the two dealers for unjustly taking possession of the painting. Reached by Artnet News, Van de Weghe and Rogath’s attorney declined to comment

Now, a settlement may be in sight. A judge signed off on a standstill order among the three parties on Tuesday. Until at least January 23, nothing will happen to the painting, and everyone involved has confirmed a “good faith” effort to amicably resolve the matter.

 

 

 

 

Christie’s Sale of Francis Bacon Painting Draws Suits

 

 

 

JOSH RUSSELL | COURTHOUSE NEWS SERVICE | JANUARY 7, 2019

 

MANHATTAN (CN) – Accusing Christie’s of bad faith, a South Korean gallery claims in a pair of lawsuits that the storied auction house sold a Francis Bacon painting at a “bargain-basement price.” 

The Seoul-based One and J art gallery redacted the title of the Bacon painting from its filings to avoid diminishing the painting’s value, saying in the Jan. 2 petition that its private agreement with Christie’s specified that the work would not sell for less than the $10 million.

Represented by attorney Judd Grossman, the gallery claims that Christie’s was supposed to sell the Bacon painting to the highest bidder but instead negotiated a “sweetheart deal” that would give the painting to two high-profile clients who planned to participate in Christie’s fall art auctions, Christophe Van de Weghe and David Rogathat.

“Here, Christie’s discretion does not permit it to sell the gallery’s collateral at a bargain-basement price as a ‘sweetener’ for a more favoured client doing other business with Christie’s, thereby frustrating the gallery’s rights under the contract,” the petition states. “As the gallery’s exclusive agent, and therefore fiduciary, Christie’s of course was obligated to seek to realize the maximum sale price for the gallery’s benefit.”

On Jan. 4, One and J brought separate claims against Van de Weghe and David Rogathat in a summons with notice.  Both cases are filed in Manhattan Supreme Court.

The Korean gallery claims that Christies’ conservative appraisal for painting in October 2017 was $10 million. It also says that multiple Bacon works of comparable size have sold recently at auction for prices ranging from just under $20 million to just under $50 million.

At the same time that the auction house agreed to arrange the private sale of the Francis Bacon painting, Christie’s allegedly agreed to make a loan of approximately $4.9 million to One and J with the painting serving as loan collateral.

Christie’s wrote to the gallery in September 2018 to allege that it had defaulted on the loan, and that Christie’s was therefore entitled to sell the Bacon painting “under any terms, at any time, as we see fit.”

One and J reportedly offered to pay $6.8 million for the return of the Bacon painting, but Christie’s rejected the bid as too “low.”

One and J says it also tried to consign agreed an Andy Warhol painting to Christie’s with the sale proceeds to be used to repay the loan, but Christie’s withdrew it from the sale on the eve of the scheduled auction based on a purported lack of interest

“Especially given Christie’s role under the private sale agreement to act as the Gallery’s exclusive agent with regard to the painting until 2019, it was certainly reasonable for the gallery to expect that Christie’s would not actively negotiate against the gallery to help the Unknown Buyer reap a significant windfall on the painting at the gallery’s expense,” the petition states.

In a statement Monday afternoon, a representative for Christie’s said the auction house believes it has acted in accordance with our obligations under New York’s Uniform Commercial Code and its agreements with One and J.

“Christie’s sale of the collateralized painting (Bacon) at fair market value was an appropriate remedy after years of non-payment, defaults, and months-late payments on interest-bearing advance agreements,” Christie’s spokeswoman Lara Messerlian said.

Originally from Belgium, Van de Weghe was a former sales representative at the Gagosian Gallery in New York City from 1992 to 2000 who later opened the Van de Weghe Fine, specializing in top-quality, secondary-market works by post-war and contemporary artists.

Rogath is a seasoned collector and principal of the Greenwich, Connecticut-based contemporary fine art publisher Chalk & Vermilion Fine Arts.

Representatives for Van de Weghe did not immediately respond to request for comment Monday afternoon.

 

 

       

                                          A photograph of the artist Francis Bacon by John Deakin

 

 

 

 

Bacon’s Women’s

 

 

 

JESSICA HOLMES | ARTSEEN | THE BROOKLYN RAIL | DECEMBER/JANUARY 20182019

 

Francis Bacon, the indomitable twentieth-century painter whose gritty and chaotic life was expressed so eloquently in the turmoil of his canvases, was not known to make women the subject of his portraits. From his tortured relationship with his father, to his tumultuous love affairs, to his extraordinary friendships with other artists of his time and place—among them Lucian Freud, André Derain, and Frank Auerbach—Bacon’s life and work has been associated with his connections to other men. However, many women were significant influences on Bacon. Specifically, three who are the focus of Bacon’s Women, on view at Ordovas Gallery who were crucial to his life: Muriel Belcher, Henrietta Moraes, and Isabel Rawsthorne.

A series of photographic portraits of them, taken by John Deakin, a friend of Bacon’s, line the first floor gallery walls. The artist sometimes used Deakin’s images, which present Belcher, Moraes, and Rawsthorne in provocative, meditative, or mysterious poses, as source material for his paintings. Excerpts of film documentaries on Bacon, which feature these women speaking about their individual memories and relationships with the artist, accompany the photos, and provide a small sense of who these women were, beyond their individual relationships with Bacon.

Five paintings by Bacon, two of which are triptychs, are installed on the second floor. Four of the paintings portray Belcher, Moraes, or Rawsthorne, while the fifth, Triptych—Studies of the Human Body (1970) depicts a kind of “everywoman” in three different poses that each allude to an iconic work of art. Each of the three panels is painted a pink-lavender hue, like a summer sky at twilight. On each canvas, a curvaceous female figure perches on a white beam. On the left her positioning suggests Picasso’s woman in Female Nude in a Garden (1934), while the center panel has her arranged in the manner of the classical Belvedere Torso (c. 1st century AD). On the right, the most complex of the three panels, the woman contorts in an approximation of the figure from Caravaggio’s Narcissus (1597 – 1599), who gazes lovingly into his own reflection in a pool of water. Bacon’s use of space is deft and assured; the spare backgrounds lending preeminence to his bulbous, sensual, creeping figure.

The looming, archetypal woman of Triptych presides over four other paintings of the woman to whom we’ve been introduced downstairs. Isabel Rawsthorne, an artists’ model as well as a painter in her own right, is represented by one small portrait, Study for Head of Isabel Rawsthorne (1967). Amongst the bohemian coterie of 1960s London, Rawsthorne was famously stunning, so beautiful that the otherwise homosexual Bacon even claimed he once tried, unsuccessfully, to bed her. His ardor is evident in the portrait. Bacon has set large, almond-shaped eyes that gaze off into a distance beyond the frame of the painting into an animalistic head with long flowing hair. There is a leonine quality to the face and the eyes, which suggest an all-knowing wisdom just beyond the viewer’s reach. The face, though distorted as nearly all of Bacon’s portraits are, is the most classically “beautiful” of the works on display, a testament to the spell Rawsthorne’s appeal must have cast upon Bacon. But at the center of the painting, a surprise. A thick, gooey splatter of white paint spilled across Rawsthorne’s face disrupts the otherwise adoring treatment. Rawsthorne is the most scantily represented among the archival materials, and of the three mysterious women, she remains the greatest mystery. The viewer is left wondering at this splash of violence. 

Bacon’s treatment of Henrietta Moraes is even more haunted. Moraes, like Rawsthorne was a favored muse to a number of artists in 1960s London, a popular and beloved free spirit. But like Bacon, she was also an addict and occasional petty thief who even served time in prison for her unsuccessful crimes. The two, quite likely, were sympathetic to each other’s mental and personal tortures; perhaps Bacon understood her better than most. Two paintings of Moraes, Portrait of Henrietta Moraes and Three Studies of Henrietta Moraes (both 1969) capture this shared pain and drama. The former depicts her with a black hole or gash at the center of her face, which appears in three-quarter profile and like Triptych – Studies of the Human Body, accentuates the bare remainder of the canvas, painted a goldenrod hue. Downstairs, one arresting photograph of Moraes depicts her pensively gazing off into the distance, unaware of the camera. Bacon’s painting seizes upon this moment of reflection, the laceration down her face possibly an indication of her turmoil within. A version of this black hole appears again in Three Studies. Bacon had a lifelong obsession with open and screaming mouths, which came to dominate his thoughts to almost a point of obsession as a young man after both studying an illustrated, medical textbook of mouth diseases and watching for the first time Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 film Battleship Potemkin, which features an iconic scene of a bleeding, screaming nurse. But in the center portrait of Three Studies, the face rests regally, chin lifted and eyes closed in quiet serenity. Though Bacon often seemed intent on capturing Moraes’s inner demons, this treatment of her affords her dignity, reminding us that no person ever contains only one person. We all contain multitudes.

Seated Woman (1961), a portrait of Muriel Belcher, is perhaps the most psychologically complex painting of the show. Beginning in 1948 when she opened the private club The Colony Room, until her death in 1979, Belcher was a celebrity of bohemian London. She ran her establishment with imperiousness, and had a knack for creating buzz around it by only allowing select members entrée. Though famous for her rudeness and crass language, she took an instant liking to Bacon, who was impoverished at the time of their meeting, and she funded him £10 a week to bring his artist friends and patrons to her club. Eventually she became a surrogate mother to Bacon, though they were contemporary in age. In Seated Woman, the body has no real face. It is instead a grotesque, open sore akin to those diseased mouths that haunted Bacon, existing where one expects a face would be. But aside from this jarring detail, the painting is full of grace. The nude figure leans over, fluidly pulling one leg up towards the body, as she leans comfortably on a plush sofa, its curves mimicking the curves of the Belcher’s painted body. Despite her distortion, Bacon has captured in this figure a sense of overarching authority, fear, and benevolence. In all, a mother.

Who are Bacon’s Women? That we are afforded the opportunity at all to become acquainted with Belcher, Moraes, and Rawsthorne is due in no small part to the fact of Bacon—a renowned, male artist—having painted them. But his nuanced treatments of these women indicate fascinating people with complex, inner lives. One can’t help but marvel at the lives of so many other fascinating women, now lost permanently to time by virtue of never having been championed by a man. This show positions these three women to shed the possessive. Belcher, Moraes, and Rawsthorne aren’t just “Bacon’s Women.” They are women.

 

   ORDOVAS GALLERY | NOVEMBER 2, 2018 – JANUARY 11, 2019

 

 

 

    

                     Francis Bacon, Study for Head of Isabel Rawsthorne, 1967.

 

 

 

 

 

ORDOVAS

 

 

 

Bacon’s Women’s

 

 

9 East 77th Street New York, NY 10075 

 

 

ORDOVAS | NEW YORK, NY 10075 | 02 NOVEMBER 11 JANUARY 2019

 

 

Bacon’s Women, on display from November 2, 2018 – January 11, 2019 at Ordovas, New York, will be the first exhibition in the United States to focus on Francis Bacon’s female subjects. Although historically the emphasis has been on the men in Bacon’s life, the artist was equally engaged with women, many of whom he had long-lasting relationships with, and he painted more female than male nudes. Through a selection of portraits and photographs of his closest female companions, Bacon’s Women will explore the artist’s relationship with the opposite sex and dive into this under-researched area of one of the twentieth century’s greatest painters.

9 East 77th Street New York, NY 10075   Telephone: +1 212 756 8870Gallery   Hours: Tue-Sat: 10:00-18:00   02 November – 11 January 2019

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

Sex Scenes: Francis Bacon’s Bohemian Muse, Lesbian Bartender and Artist/Model

 

 

 

‘Bacon’s Women’ at Ordovas Gallery on the Upper East Side is the first US exhibition to focus on the painter’s female subject.

 

 

By RACHEL RABBIT WHITE | SEX SCENES | ART | GARAGE | NOVEMBER 2, 2018

 

 

Francis Bacon was always let down by the men in his life, and rarely let down by the women. His love affairs with men were tempestuous, traumatic, tragic, and tinged in a sadomasochism borrowed from his violent and masculine father who, rumor has it, had arranged for young Francis to be systematically whipped by stable boys.

The men in Bacon’s life came and went. Sometimes this was for truly tragic reasons, such as when a beloved boyfriend died a short time before an important show. It happened twice in Bacon’s life: In 1962, among the telegrams congratulating him for his wonderful Tate exhibition, he would receive news of Peter Lacy’s alcohol-related death. Almost a decade later, in 1971, George Dyer would commit suicide two days before Bacon’s triumphant retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris. (Bacon still had to go to the event and pretend as though nothing had happened.)

This may explain the common ideas circulating around Bacon’s oeuvre: that it is a body of work that deals with violence, fear, and dread. In numerous interviews, Bacon distanced himself from these themes, attributing the typical interpretations to his pictorial rawness. Annoyed, Bacon would even comment: “People say my paintings are violent, but a painting can never be as violent as life. Life is violent.”

As an out gay man, the significance of the men in Bacon's life is obvious—but it’s his relationship with women that provided the deep tender friendships and mutual admiration that lasted his lifetime. They were not so much modeled on his relationship with his mother, which Bacon often described as distant, but on that with his nanny, Jessie Lightfoot.

Lightfoot would move to London to live with the adult Bacon for the last 12 years of her life, while he was attempting to establish himself as a painter by supporting himself as a gentleman’s valet. According to Michael Peppiatt, Bacon’s friend and the author of the biography Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma, “Jessie’s role included vetting Francis’s casual lovers and helping him run illegal roulette parties.”

As he reached fame, three of the women who would play major roles in Bacon’s life —Henrietta Moraes, Muriel Belcher, and Isabel Rawsthorne—would also become his muses, appearing again and again in his work. It’s these women who are at the center of Bacon’s Women at Ordovas Gallery on the Upper East Side, the first exhibition in the United States to focus on Bacon’s female subjects.

Moraes moved to London to be a bohemian muse, and stalked London’s bars with the explicit desire to meet Bacon and his friend Lucian Freud. She lived a dissolute lifestyle, documented in her wild autobiography about the art and poetry scene, full of sex and drugs—specifically LSD and, later, heroin. Her sensuality, ease, and glamorous sense of comfort in her body is apparent in the reference photographs taken by John Deakin. (Bacon always used reference photographs when painting—sometimes many at a time, his studio a collage of them.)

Belcher, owner of Bacon’s favorite bar, the Colony Room, used to pay the artist £10 a week (plus free drinks) for inviting new and wealthy patrons. She was a lesbian, a notorious wit, and worked hard to maintain her bar as an oasis for queer people. She never posed nude, but nevertheless, Bacon represents her with a Schiele-like voluptuousness.

The third woman is the intriguing Rawsthorne. While Bacon often described himself as a “exclusively homosexual,” the painter was the only woman in his life he attempted to have sex with, albeit unsuccessfully. However, the two remained close friends. Rawsthorne, a daughter of a sea captain, broke into the Parisian art world through art modeling and had lived among some of the most important cultural figures in Paris, traveling with Balthus and his wife, and dating Georges Bataille, the transgressive philosopher dubbed “the metaphysician of evil.”

As Bacon’s model, Rawsthorne undergoes a Picasso-like transformation in Head of Isabel Rawsthorne. In the painting, Bacon superimposed the head of a bull onto Rawsthorne’s frame to represent, in an androgynous way, her passion, elegance, and power. Years back, Rawsthorne had struck the fancy of Picasso, who became low-key obsessed when he saw her from a distance and began sketching. Maybe Bacon was a bit jealous that Picasso had painted his friend; the painting is also a polemical way for Bacon to step up by both inviting comparison to Picasso and using Picasso’s work to stimulate the viewer.

With few notable exceptions (e.g. Mick Jagger), Bacon only portrayed close friends and lovers. Working from the aforementioned photographs, Bacon aimed at capturing a certain essential likeness in his portraits. Through incredible brushstroke and control of color, Bacon wanted to use the defining characteristics and personality of his friends to stimulate and open the viewer’s capability for feeling (the “valves of sensation,” he would call them).

In Three Studies of Henrietta, Bacon went beyond Moraes's sensuality to capture her easy and serene charm, portraying her as a masculine sleeping beauty. The viewer is made responsive to the extreme tenderness of the portrait, expressed by the carefully traced aura surrounding her silhouette and the mauve background.

Bacon’s interest in the female body is reflected in the most staggering work present at the exhibition: Triptych - Studies of the Human Body. The three large canvases reference classical works of art, rather than Bacon's friends. The bodies are androgynous: they have breasts and Venus-like maternal curves but are also reminiscent of the carnal mass of Bacon’s The Wrestlers After Muybridge.

The references are, again Picasso, but also two feminized male subjects: the Belvedere Torso and Caravaggio’s Narcissus. In Bacon’s rendition, Narcissus even has his face, making the work an effective feminization of his own body. Bacon often commented in his interviews about the peculiar attention that homosexuals have in perceiving the body. Queerness not only allows for the eroticization of one’s own body, but also to perceive the broad similarities and infinitesimal differences between genders. Through these androgynous bodies, Bacon is capable of seeing the minimal difference needed to make the female body desirable to him, and his own body desirable to straight men.

 

 

 

 

 Francis Bacon on How to Be an Artist

 

 

 

   ALEXXA GOTTHARDT | CREATIVITY | ARTSY | NOVEMBER 12, 2018

 

 

     

                                   John Deakin, Portrait of Francis Bacon, 1962

 

 

Francis Bacon had a rare knack for harnessing our deepest, darkest emotions. His torrid paintings of wailing mouths and writhing figures embody primal human urges, like desire and release, and timeless sensations, such as heartbreak and horror. “I’ve always hoped to put over things as directly and rawly as I possibly can,” he told critic David Sylvester in 1966. “And perhaps, if a thing comes across directly, people feel that that is horrific.”

Over the course of his career, from the 1930s until his death in 1992, the Irish-British artist became renowned not only for his spellbinding canvases, but also his sharp mind, stormy personality, and ravenous appetite for decadence. (He was known to booze and gamble across London into the wee hours, and paint in a chaotic studio strewn with paints, source materials, and empty champagne bottles.)

All of these characteristics are on full, candid view in a series of interviews that Bacon gave over the course of his life, with Sylvester and other critics. In them, he unearths the inspirations, rituals, and emotions that fueled his arresting paintings. Below, we highlight several of the tempestuous artist’s words of wisdom.

Bacon often credited the power of his paintings to accidents. “I want a very ordered image, but I want it to have come about by chance,” he told Sylvester in the same 1966 interview. He believed that through embracing spontaneity—and accepting “accidents” as integral aspects of the composition—he’d achieve true emotional candor. Spontaneous marks and images, for the artist, resembled the unexpected welling up of passionate, unbridled feelings

In another interview with Sylvester, Bacon described the unexpected imagery that emerged while creating one of his butcher shop paintings, a series depicting dripping cuts of meat. “I was attempting to make a bird alighting on a field,” he said of his initial idea for the composition, “but suddenly the lines that I’d drawn suggested something totally different, and out of this suggestion arose this picture.” Instead of forcing his original idea, he accepted the new form that had pushed through. He recalled that not only was it a powerful image, but it “suggested an opening-up into another area of feeling altogether.”

Bacon encouraged these productive accidents by beginning a work with a preliminary drawing, then leaving the direction it took up to chance. As Michael Kimmelman observed in a 1989 profile of the artist, he worked directly on unprimed canvases, “where a wayward brush stroke cannot easily be disguised.” Bacon favoured large brushes, which moved the paint in ways he couldn’t predict. “I don’t, in fact, know very often what the paint will do,” he once told Sylvester, “and it does many things which are very much better than I could make it do.”

Above all else, Bacon strove to capture raw feelings and sensations. “I want to create images that are a shorthand of sensation,” he said to Kimmelman. Spontaneity was one tool he used to achieve this, and the marriage of figuration and abstraction was another. In his most celebrated works, his figures of popes and naked lovers drip and contort, their forms manipulated to suggest pain and passion

Bacon described this dichotomy in his work as a “kind of tightrope walk between what is called figurative painting and abstraction.” He believed that distortion of legible figures and images revealed emotions in ways that straightforward representation could not. “One wants a thing to be as factual as possible and at the same time as deeply suggestive—or deeply unlocking of areas of sensation—other than simple illustration of the object that you set out to do,” he told Sylvester. In another interview, he said to the critic: “It’s an attempt to bring the figurative thing up onto the nervous system more violently and more poignantly.”

While Bacon thrived in social environments and routinely hosted wild parties in his tornado of a studio, he also valued alone time. During these quiet moments, he found that he could sit with his emotions, letting them percolate and strengthen before channeling them through paint. “I find that if I am on my own, I can allow the paint to dictate to me,” he told Sylvester. “That is the reason I like being alone—left with my own despair of being able to do anything at all on the canvas.”

It was during periods of solitude that he fused his favourite reference materials with the feelings that churned in his own mind. The pain of the subjects in Nicolas Poussin’s Massacre of the Innocents (ca. 1625–32), and of the screaming, bloodied woman in Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 film Battleship Potemkin, mingled with and calcified Bacon’s own agonies (including the deaths of ill-fated lovers and rejection by his own family). It was this potent mix that he expressed on canvas, especially in his harrowing paintings of screaming popes.

“I feel ever so strongly that an artist must be nourished by his passions and his despairs,” Bacon told art critic John Gruen, for the 1991 book The Artist Observed: 28 Interviews With Contemporary Artists. “The feelings of desperation and unhappiness are more useful to an artist than the feeling of contentment, because desperation and unhappiness stretch your whole sensibility.”

Bacon often equated the process of conveying profound emotion to the pursuit of truth. For him, this meant not only exploring the deep-seated pains and passions of individuals, but also those of the era in which lived. Bacon was a child as World War I came to a close, and began painting in earnest as World War II ramped up; he came of age and matured in a society forced to reconcile with the horrors of both conflicts. He channeled these experiences into his work, as well.

“Bacon has admitted…that one of his goals is to meet the challenge of a violent age by reviving in a meaningful modern form the primal human cry, and to restore to the community a sense of purgation and emotional release,” wrote critic Sam Hunter in the 1952 article “Francis Bacon: The Anatomy of Horror.”

His work was fueled by a desire to lay bare the difficult emotions and experiences that we have a tendency to bury, in favour of presenting more positive versions of ourselves and our society. As writer Robert Penn Warren put it in his book The Grotesque in Art and Literature: Theological Reflections, Bacon insisted that “the end of art is to provide us with the fact, the truth of who we are.”

In his own words, Bacon explained this intent to writer Hugh Davies, in 1986: “Great art is always a way of concentrating, reinventing what is called fact, what we know of our existence—a reconcentration…tearing away the veils that fact acquires through time,” he said. “Really good artists tear down those veils.”

 

 

     

                                   Francis Bacon, Study for Portrait of Henrietta Moraes, 1964

 

 

 

 

Hiding art behind the sofa: my father Stephen Spender's odd friendship with Francis Bacon

 

 

 

By MATTHEW SPENDER | CULTURE | ART | THE DAILY TELEGRAPH | 5 OCTOBER 2018

 

Of the many artists my father knew, Henry Moore came first. In the early Thirties, my father even attended the informal drawing classes that Moore and Barbra Hepworth gave in their adjoining studios in Hampstead. He posed for a series of portrait drawings Moore made of him – a rare aspect of Moore’s gifts that my father often said Moore should have developed further. In the Seventies, when Moore grew to become the most famous artist in England, my father said, “everyone talks about how successful Henry is. But he’s always been successful. Even when I first met him, he was a success.”

“Success” to my father did not mean financial or worldly success. It meant its possessor was living a creative life. The Roman virtue of auctoritas was what he looked for. Auctoritas has little connection with “authority”, as we now use the word. It has to do with personal self-confidence.

“It’s such a relief that Francis is a success”, my father said one day of Bacon, laughing. “Because he’d make an absolutely terrible failure.”

Bacon could have met my father in Berlin in the early Thirties, but they didn’t. Late in life, Bacon dismissed his “German period”, as art historians had tried to define it. When I tried to ask him about his debt to Max Beckmann, Bacon resisted with vigour. He was only there for a fortnight, he said, and most of the time he stayed in his bedroom in the Hotel Adlon,  recovering from hangovers. He didn’t visit even one museum or art gallery. And he absolutely loathed Beckmann, he added defiantly.

Francis Bacon, in my opinion, was determined to dissemble when it came to any analysis of his art. He presented the flamboyant, all-or-nothing image of a painter who started working with a gesture of uncalculated despair. Painting was a struggle with unknown demons in the mouth of Hell. This suited the persona he projected at parties or in his Soho club, The Colony Room. (He took me there once. I found the place terrifying.)

But the surfaces of Bacon’s canvases do not confirm this. They are soft and tender, and they use a large repertoire of specialist instruments, such as a piece of corduroy to give the impression of a brushstroke when removing a layer of paint, or the top of a toothpaste tube of a certain size to imprint a perfectly round nipple.

I remember two paintings by Francis Bacon that hung for a while in my father’s study. They were portraits of Vincent van Gogh, and we all found them hard to live with, even my father. He tried to buy one, but he fell behind in the instalments and had to return it to the Marlborough Gallery. Two years later he tried again but it was too late. “You’ve had your chance”, said Bacon, somewhat cruelly – though pleased that the Marlborough had doubled his prices.

My father owned four smaller works that contradicted everything Bacon told the world about the way he painted, for they were preparatory studies. In Bacon’s self-image of the artist as a desperate man, preparatory studies were inadmissible. Usually he destroyed them. “I can’t draw”, Bacon would say with a flourish; and nobody contradicted him. My father had obtained at least one of these four studies deviously. He’d bought it from a lover of Bacon who’d presumably picked it up from the studio floor.

These drawings became the object of an elaborate game between Francis and dad. If Bacon were coming to supper, my father hid them behind the sofa. One day he forgot. Bacon looked at them for a long time, thoughtfully but without comment. My father knew exactly what he was thinking. No other works on paper by Bacon existed, and they shouldn’t, either. Next day he took them in a taxi to Bacon’s studio on Reece Mews in order to give them back. But Bacon was out.

“I took this as a sign that I could keep them”, he told Bacon at a lunch where I happened to be present. Bacon snorted and said, “Quite right.” As for the fact that one of the studies might have been stolen: “Oh, he was always nicking things”, said Bacon, tranquilly, of that long-gone companion.

Bacon often declared that the task of the artist was to avoid the twin perils of “decoration”, meaning overemphasis of paint, and “illustration”, meaning over-reliance on mere appearance. “I can see what he means,” said my father, “but I don’t think the idea can mean anything to anyone but Francis.”

In one of our evenings together, Bacon announced that artists’ lives didn’t matter. Either the painting worked or it didn’t. The person who made it was irrelevant. He gave as an example Egyptian art, which is not only anonymous but also bound by rules that had remained unchallenged for centuries. “And yet it’s marvellous.”

This idea contradicted one of my father’s strongest convictions: that a work of art is evidence of the genius of the person who had made it, and the mind of such a person was worth trying to understand. So he said, “But even if it’s not made by what we’d think of as artists, some Egyptian sculptures are much better than others.” Bacon shrugged. My father persisted. Surely there was a difference between a work of art and the idea that lies behind it, he said, so that sometimes one can feel an idea was good even though the painting itself might be a failure? To which Bacon replied merely: “No.”

 

 

     

                                                Francis Bacon at the opening of his exhibition in Paris, 1984

 

 

 

 

 

Our critic sipping absinthe with Francis Bacon books and a crook who burgled Mrs T.

 

 

Soho In The Eighties | Christopher Howse | Bloomsbury Continuum | £20

 

 

By CRAIG BROWN | EVENT | THE MAIL ON SUNDAY | 22 SEPTEMBER 2018

 

You know you’re getting really old when a history book covers a period after your own.

My own Soho days were back in the late Seventies and early Eighties. Christopher Howse must have arrived three or four years later, in the mid-Eighties. By then, Soho had already begun its descent into trendiness – the slick Groucho Club, still a haven for fashionable media types, opened in Dean Street in 1985. Meanwhile art students dressed in black were descending on the surrounding pubs like ravens. By then, Soho was already losing its contrariness; its shabby, world-weary cynicism was under threat from bright-eyed can-do yuppies. These days, the area is awash with PR offices, fancy restaurants, film-editing suites and coffee bars offering 17 types of skinny latte.

But, broadly speaking, Howse’s experiences seem to have been much the same as mine: in fact, I was reassured while reading this book that the same people I had mixed with had still been there, drinking away, grumbling about the same sorts of things, and presumably standing in the same spots, when Christopher Howse came along.

‘I’ve never laughed as much as I did in that decade,’ he recalls. But the humour tended to be of the blackest sort, so bleak that innocent newcomers would have been unable to recognise it as humour at all, and may well have considered it closer to misery. A typical example of Soho wit concerns the photographer John Deakin, who is said to have named the painter Francis Bacon as his next-of-kin simply because he knew how much Bacon would hate seeing his dead body. When the time came, and Deakin died, Bacon was led into the mortuary to look at his corpse. ‘That’s the first time I’ve seen Deakin with his mouth shut,’ he remarked, drily.

Back then, Soho was, says Howse, a radical democracy, open to rich and poor alike. He lists the inhabitants of the French pub in Dean Street on a typical day: ‘Painters and writers, ex-boxers, failed publishers, working prostitutes, old models, old poofs, stagehands, grocers, pornographers, photographers and a retired lamplighter’. But worldly success held no cachet. No one was ever permitted to play King Pin in a world where the only permitted greeting was an insult.

Francis Bacon’s own pre-eminence as a painter did nothing to shield him from abuse. Howse remembers seeing the foul-mouthed proprietor of the Colony Room Club, turning on Bacon one afternoon: ‘“You can’t fucking paint!” yelled Ian Board in a voice like a cheese grater, as he grabbed an umbrella hanging from the back of his stool and started to belabour the artist about the shoulders as he left by the dark, precipitous twisting stairway, with a volley of ballpoint pens bouncing off his leather-clad back.

As you can see, Howse has a sharp ear for the type of conversation that was commonplace in the Soho bars. ‘If you had to eat someone here, like those people in the air crash in the Andes, who would you start with?’ asked the journalist Jeffrey Bernard, a one-and-a-half-bottles-of-vodka-a-day man whose long-running autobiographical column in The Spectator was once described as ‘a suicide note in weekly instalments’. Bernard went on to dismiss the suitability of most of the regulars: ‘Not Richard Ingrams. He’d be like a bit of burnt toast'.

Soho in the Eighties was a far cry from Camberwick Green. It was aggressively unsentimental, and fuelled by alcohol. One French pub habitué took bets on who would be the next of the regulars to die, with Jeffrey Bernard the 6-4 favourite. As it turned out, Bernard lived much longer than expected, though when it came to the end, he’d had a leg amputated and was on dialysis. The kindly Howse visited him in hospital, and, after an hour, said that he had better get going. ‘Just go then,’ said Bernard. ‘All you did was keep looking at your watch anyway.

Others have romanticised old Soho, but it is a danger that Howse does his best to avoid. He objects to the myth of the fun-loving prostitute, for instance. ‘The retired prostitutes that I came to know were not happy people. A quiet drink with one woman who generally presented a cheery face to the world always ended with helpless drunken tears and confused accounts of childhood abuse.

And any Soho novice would have to steel himself or herself against the prevailing smells, not least those emanating from my shabby old friend, the poet Paul Potts, who created a yard-wide cordon sanitaire of empty space around him, even on a crowded lunchtime. Howse says of one club, the Kismet, that ‘it was like drinking in a badly run public lavatory’, and of the upstairs room at the Coach and Horses, where for decades Private Eye held its fortnightly lunches, ‘it had an unconquerable air of desertion as though it was part of an abandoned house in a war zone'.

He is accurate, too, on how disgusting most of the food was. The sandwich shop he used to frequent served ‘large, strikingly pink slices of foreign sausage folded with slack lettuce; cold batter-coated bits of veal hammered into flaps. Like carcases on a Smithfield trolley, these pressed their sides against the walls of the glass display counter.’ At the Colony Club, Ian Board refused to serve slices of lemon in drinks – ‘Dirty, stinking, rotten fruit bobbing around. What’s the point?’ – largely because he couldn’t be bothered to go out and buy lemons from the market, just two streets away.

Delicacies were few and far between, and often more revolting than the sandwiches on offer. Joe the barman once invited me up to the out-of-bounds kitchen upstairs at the French pub with the promise of a great gourmet delight. The delicacy in question turned out to be a bright red, cold coxcomb, sliced in two, with vinegar poured over it. It tasted red and rubbery, like plasticine.

But where else in the world would you ever be offered a coxcomb? The pleasure of Soho lay in its unexpectedness. I also remember one quiet morning when the saintly proprietor of the French, Gaston Berlemont, produced a bottle of absinthe, vintage 1917, the year before it had been declared illegal, and invited me to join a little group of veteran Soho-ites for a sip. The group included Francis Bacon, an antiquarian book dealer and a man called Brian the Burglar, who had recently burgled jewellery from the then Secretary of State for Education, Margaret Thatcher. Brian expressed shock that her insurance claim was, by his reckoning, for a much larger amount than the jewellery was actually worth.

Some form of etiquette exists in even the most unconventional society, and Soho’s pubs and drinking clubs had as many unspoken rules as the court of Queen Elizabeth I. Bores were ostracised, measures were called ‘large’ never ‘double’, and conventional jokes, with a beginning, middle and end, were outlawed. Howse remembers Board insisting, ‘Don’t tell fucking jokes. It’s common. Say something witty.’ Incidentally, Board himself was not remotely witty, though his unbelievably crude insults could sometimes inspire a certain sort of nervous laughter in strangers.

Howse’s book is a wonderfully beady and evocative picture of a bohemian society – drunk and dissolute, irresponsible, individualistic, undeceived – that has now largely disappeared, erased by the advent of a healthier, blander, more corporate age. I wish, though, that he had told us more about himself. What drew him to Soho, and what made him decide to call it a day?

His book made me remember what had attracted me to Soho in my early 20s, but also why I left it. There was only so much dirty realism a man could take. Before long, I began to pine for fresh air, and I moved to the country. Others proved more resilient. ‘I wouldn’t like living in the country,’ Francis Bacon once said, ‘because of all the horrible little apple trees there.'

 

 

      

                                          Colony Room Club, 1st September, 1983

 

 

 

 

  CHRISTIE'S

 

   Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

 

    New York | 15 November 2018 | Sale 15974 | Lot 6 C

 

   Francis Bacon (1909-1992)

 

     Study of Henrietta Moraes Laughing  

 

  Estimate: USD 14,000,000 - 18,000,000

 

    Price realised: USD 21,687,500


 

 

        

 

 

Francis Bacon (1909-1992)
 

Study of Henrietta Moraes Laughing  


signed, titled and dated 'Study of Henrietta Moraes Laughing Francis Bacon 1969' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
14 x  12 in. (35.6 x 30.5 cm.)

Executed in 1969

 

Provenance

Ianthe Knott, Johannesburg, gift of the artist
Richard Gray Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2007

 

Literature

L.Trucchi, Francis Bacon, London, 1976, n.p., no. 138 (illustrated in color).
M. Leiris, Francis Bacon: Full Face and in Profile, Oxford and New York, 1983, n.p., no. 59 (illustrated in color).
H. Davies and S. Yard, Francis Bacon, New York, 1986, p. 62, no. 66 (illustrated).
D. Sylvester, The Brutality of Fact: Interviews with Francis Bacon, London, 1987, p. 144, no. 112 (illustrated).
R. Strong et al., The British Portrait: 1660-1960, Suffolk, 1991, p. 402, no. 77 (illustrated in color).
M. Kundera and F. Borel, Bacon: Portraits and Self-Portraits, London, 1996, pp. 124-125, (illustrated in color). 
W. Schmied, Francis Bacon: Commitment and Conflict, Munich and New York, 1996, pp. 101 and n.p., fig. 119, no. 33 (illustrated in color).
Francis Bacon Paintings from The Estate 1980-1991, exh. cat., London, Faggionato Fine Arts, 1999, pp. 20-21 (illustrated in color).
M. Cappock, Francis Bacon's Studio, London, 2005, p. 121, no. 211 (illustrated in color).
M. Harrison, In Camera: Francis Bacon, Photography, Film and the Practice of Painting, London, 2005, p. 189, no. 209 (illustrated in color).
M. Harrison, Francis Bacon - New Studies: Centenary Essays, Göttingen, 2009, p. 167, no. 111 (illustrated in color). 
Francis Bacon: Five Decades (54 works), exh. cat., Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 2013, p. 50.
M. Harrison, ed., Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné, London, 2016, vol. III, pp. 918 and 924-925, no. 69-15 (illustrated in color); vol. IV, pp. 1024, 1026 and 1104.

 

Exhibited

Paris, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais; Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Francis Bacon, October 1971-May 1972, p. 132, no. 93 (illustrated). 
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Francis Bacon: Recent Paintings 1968-1974, March-June 1975, n.p., no. 8 (illustrated in color).
London, Tate Gallery; Staatsgalerie Stuttgart; Berlin, Nationalgalerie, Francis Bacon, May 1985-April 1986, pp. 30 and n.p., no. 67 (illustrated and illustrated in color).
New York, Gagosian Gallery, Isabel and Other Intimate Strangers: Portraits by Alberto Giacometti and Francis Bacon, November-December 2008, p. 89 (illustrated in color).

 

Lot Essay

 

 

     Study of Henrietta Moraes Laughing  

 

                                  MARTIN HARRISON

 

 

“Henrietta had attracted Bacon’s attention by her vitality, her bursts of unconstrained laughter and her equally unconstrained behaviour...”

MICHAEL PEPPIATT

 

“I think if you want to convey fact... this can only ever be done through a form of distortion. You must distort to transform what is appearance into image.”

FRANCIS BACON

 

 

Study of Henrietta Moraes Laughing seizes our attention, like a person whose arrival lights up a room. We become immersed in it, gazing at a painting that, irrespective of the mysteriously, equivocally closed eyes, confronts us just as intently. Since I am no longer compiling an objective catalogue of Bacon’s oeuvre, I can admit that some of his paintings impress me more than others. For me, Study of Henrietta Moraes Laughing is one of Bacon’s great paintings, and this essay is, in part, an attempt to explain why I hold it in such high regard.

Bacon did not approach the empty canvas without an idea of what he wanted to paint, but he was trying to convey feelings—about himself, life and death, and of his subject—that were problematic to express in paint. To do so required both dexterity and an unforced sense of conviction that are impossible to maintain with absolute consistency. He worked alone in his studio. Often unwell, or anxious, it would be unreasonable to ask of him, or of any artist, to unfailingly maintain the level of inspiration, energy and exhilaration that resulted in Study of Henrietta Moraes Laughing. It is real, timeless: we experience its presence viscerally, as Bacon said he felt his paintings in himself—somatically—when they were working.

With only a perfunctory art training, Bacon had to forge his own repertory of technical skills. His most important lessons were gained through looking closely at paintings he admired. He made some early experiments in watercolors and gouache, but by 1932 he had settled on oils as his principal medium. His initial motivation to try to paint was Picasso, whose imagery rather than his craft fired his imagination; he learned more about technique from Matisse, Léger and Lurçat, and more directly from his friend, Roy de Maistre. By the late-1940s, when Bacon began to apply paint in more radical ways, he was absorbing from Velázquez, Rembrandt, Seurat and Degas, rather than his near-contemporaries. His first exhibition at the Hanover Gallery, London, in 1949, won the admiration of London’s small coterie of avant-garde artists and critics for the physical presence of Bacon’s paintings, their palpable “realism;” (it should also be noted that Alfred Barr had presciently acquired Painting 1946 for the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1948). Thereafter his reputation grew steadily, during a period that culminated in his first retrospective at the Tate Gallery, London, in 1962. This prestigious event was the catalyst for the reformulation of his painting practice, formally, technically and iconographically. Shortly afterwards he began to paint serial portraits of his close friends, Lucian Freud, Isabel Rawsthorne, George Dyer, and Henrietta Moraes.

Henrietta Moraes was born Audrey Wendy Abbott, in Shimla, India, in 1931. Raised mainly by an abusive grandmother, she never saw her father, who served in the Indian Air Force and who deserted the family when her mother was pregnant. In escaping her troubled childhood, she grew up a self-styled Bohemian, drifted into the Soho milieu inhabited by Bacon, and modelled for artists. An affair with Lucian Freud resulted in the painting Girl in a Blanket, 1953. Her great love was reputedly the artist John Minton, a homosexual; she lived in what was, in effect, a ménage-a-trois with Minton and Norman Bowler, whom she married in 1956 and with whom she had two children. Minton took his own life in 1957, leaving his house, 9 Apollo Place, Chelsea, to Henrietta; Bacon had stayed here in 1953, and it was here that John Deakin took the notorious nude photographs of Henrietta about 1959. She was thirty-eight when Bacon painted Study of Henrietta Moraes Laughing, with several suicide attempts and three failed marriages behind her. Her marriage to the Indian poet Dom Moraes, in 1961 was short-lived, but she kept his name. Thus, she typified Bacon’s ideal woman-friend—sexually uninhibited, unconventional, spirited if vulnerable, gregarious, and a serious drinker. On her part, Moraes regarded Bacon as a prophet, principally because his paintings of her lying on a bed with a syringe in her arm had foretold the drug addiction to which she later succumbed.

The first paintings Bacon made of Henrietta Moraes in which she was identified in the title date from 1963–a small triptych and a large nude, both of which are outstanding. Moraes was the “model” for all of Bacon’s female nudes after 1959, which he never painted from life; their body positions were based on photographs he had commissioned for this purpose from John Deakin. Similarly, Deakin provided the head-and-shoulders photographs that served as guides for Bacon’s standard triptych arrangement: right-facing, frontal, and left-facing. Numerous photographs of Moraes were found in Bacon’s studio, variously manipulated, torn and folded, but none that would have functioned effectively for the tilted head in Study of Henrietta Moraes Laughing. Indeed, if evidence remains in the painting of Deakin’s photographs, it is of marginal relevance, for Bacon reformulated the image of Moraes from other stimuli.

Bacon painted Moraes at least twenty-three times (counting each triptych as one work) between 1959 and 1969, but ceased to do so thereafter: Study of Henrietta Moraes Laughing was the final named portrait of her. In 1969 he had already painted two small-format triptychs of Moraes, both titled Three Studies of Henrietta Moraes. The right-hand panel of the later triptych, in particular, anticipates certain characteristics of Study of Henrietta Moraes Laughing; although Moraes’s eyes are open, the distortion of the mouth and the angle of the left-turning head are comparable. Closer still, is Moraes’s head in Study of Nude with Figure in Mirror, 1969. In this painting, the darkly-rimmed eyes and diversion of the nose leave no doubt that Bacon was referencing Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, 1907, specifically the heads of the two figures on the right. Bacon said in his first interview with David Sylvester, in 1962: “... I think there’s a whole area there suggested by Picasso, which in a way has been unexplored, of organic form that relates to the human image but is a complete distortion of it.” It has been assumed that Bacon was speaking solely of Picasso’s biomorphic forms of the “Cannes/Dinard” period, but his extended dialogue with Picasso was more diverse and more complicated than that, as we shall see.

Study of Henrietta Moraes Laughing was painted three months after the nude. It is now well known that the extra deformation of Moraes’s features depended in part on a still-frame image from Alain Resnais’s film, Hiroshima mon Amour, 1959; it shows a smiling Emmanuelle Riva in a shower scene with Eiji Okada, a strand of wet hair straggling down across Riva’s face. Bacon had seen the film, but he found the strange and striking image that he further manipulated in a book. The darkened eye sockets must have resonated with his mental picture of Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, or rather, with his recent appropriation and adjustment of two of Picasso’s demoiselles, and Bacon elided these two images. Evidently, he regarded the torn, eventually paint-spattered photograph as talismanic, for instead of throwing it onto the piles of detritus on his studio floor, he preserved it by attaching with paper-clips to a piece of card.

The present painting was known formerly as Study of Henrietta Moraes, 1969; it was exhibited under that title in Bacon’s major retrospectives at the Grand Palais, Paris, in 1971, and at the Tate Gallery in 1985. Beyond identifying body positions (“Seated,” “Lying,” “Reclining”) in his paintings, Bacon never appended descriptive adjectives to their titles, countering potentially anecdotal and narrative interpretations; evidently, he soon regretted adding the word “laughing,” and had Marlborough Fine Art remove it from the official title. I had not seen the reverse of the canvas when compiling the Bacon Catalogue Raisonné, but the pragmatic “common usage” argument I adhered to for titles would have been problematized by the fact that Bacon himself had originally written “laughing.” There is no correct procedure governing this debatable question, but the shorter title published in the Catalogue Raisonné may need to be adjusted, or certainly augmented.

Moreover, the laugh that Bacon adverted to is crucially significant, since it was a salient aspect of Moraes, the individual: Dom Moraes, for example, attested to her conversation being punctuated by a ‘noisy, emphatic laugh’. To be sure, in the painting it is an ambivalent laugh—it could be interpreted as an animalistic snarl. In this respect, it is analogous to Bacon’s so-called ‘screaming’ popes, which was a title he never employed; the popes’ gestures in fact convey a much wider range of emotions. In The Naked Ape, 1967, Bacon’s acquaintance Desmond Morris analyzed the laugh as a multivalent signal, as social, automatic and intimate. Bacon owned a copy of Morris’ book, which outraged some by relating the behavioral patterns and facial gestures of humans to those of hominoidea; these, of course, were concepts Bacon had been expressing in his paintings since the 1940s. Study of Henrietta Moraes Laughing suggests Henrietta’s animal nature in the teeth and jaw line, which metamorphose into tusk-like features. If her laugh is equally a grimace, it may be that of a predator viewing its prey, or a victim warning off a potential attacker. Bacon had been observing Moraes for more than fifteen years: this portrait documents his assessment of her animal spirit.

Since Moraes’s laugh could definitely be described as enigmatic, her expression invites comparison with a smile, an indication that Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa was in the back of Bacon’s mind; Moraes’s neckline, too, is similar to La Gioconda’s. Several circumstances support this conjecture, including the theft of the Leonardo from the Louvre Museum in 1911, in which Picasso and Apollinaire had at one point been implicated. Bacon was an avid follower of crime reporting, partly because criminality reinforced his low expectations of human behaviour. Study of Henrietta Moraes Laughing also has affinities with Picasso’s portrait of Dora Maar, Femme assise, robe bleue, 1939, the “smile” in which has also been compared with that of the Mona Lisa; Bacon was probably aware, too, of the coincidence that Maar’s first name was actually Henriette. These correlations, if speculative, are compelling in the context of Bacon’s theoretical discourse with Picasso. The facial distortions in the two paintings are not dissimilar, and Bacon is likely to have known that Paul Rosenberg, whose gallery in Paris was the site of his epiphanic encounter with Picasso’s paintings in 1927, had bought the painting of Maar in 1940; he would have relished its provenance—its larceny by the Nazis, and the recovery of it in 1944 when French Resistance forces intercepted the train transporting looted artworks to Germany. The 1964 film, The Train, dramatized these events, and Lt. Alexandre Rosenberg’s part in the recovery of the paintings, which included identifying his father’s Picasso.

In December 1968, Bacon’s studio was trashed by his lover, George Dyer, in a fit of rage and jealousy. While it was being repaired, from January to August 1969, Bacon worked in a studio in the nearby Royal College of Art; the arrangement benefitted Bacon and the college, whose Rector, Sir Robin Darwin, welcomed Bacon’s ‘electric mind’ being accessible to the students. The change of location coincided with Bacon starting to paint on yellow grounds, beginning with an atypical profile rendition in Portrait of Henrietta Moraes, 1969. Study of Henrietta Moraes Laughing was the first painting he completed after returning to his Reece Mews studio. In its first state the ground was yellow, and his repainting of it in lavender recalls a color-cipher employed by Picasso in his erotic paintings of Marie-Thérèse Walter; in this instance, the trace of yellow that Bacon retained around the head significantly reinforces the auratic undertone of the portrait.

Although the present painting was the last to which Bacon attached Henrietta Moraes’s name, he did paint two further small triptychs of her in 1976, both titled Three Studies for a Portrait. In these triptychs all three panels recycle the elements of Study of Henrietta Moraes Laughing, which Bacon evidently regarded as the ur-painting among his portraits of Moraes. Indeed, in the latter of the 1976 triptychs, Bacon repeated the leftward tilt of the head in all three panels—abandoning his right-facing, frontal, left-facing format: rather than a straightforward triple portrait of Moraes, it is a triplicated reworking of Study of Henrietta Moraes Laughing. This unique circumstance in Bacon’s oeuvre further underlines his approbation—a rare enough occurrence—of the original.

Bacon, who was not close to his family, was very fond of his sister, Ianthe; Study of Henrietta Moraes Laughing was probably always intended for his 1971 retrospective at the Grand Palais, Paris, but it was also a gift to Ianthe, whom he had visited in South Africa soon after completing the painting, and which emphasizes its special status. The satisfaction that the exhibition at the Grand Palais gave the Francophile Bacon was intensified by the fact that he was only the second artist to receive the honour in his lifetime: the first was Picasso, in 1966–1967. The Paris exhibition was an occasion that manifestly provided the incentive for Bacon to excel, not least in terms of his continuing conversation with Picasso’s art. Ultimately, Picasso was the one 20th century artist Bacon respected, and against whom he measured himself. In Picasso’s Grand Palais (and Petit Palais) retrospective, which Bacon attended, he was able to renew his acquaintance with Picasso’s Femme en chemise, assise dans un fauteuil, 1913 – 1914, which had been included in the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition, in London. An intriguing painting, marking Picasso’s return to depicting female sexuality, towards the end of his Synthetic Cubism period, it was Bacon’s favorite Picasso: in its iconography it invites comparison with Bacon’s paintings of Moraes generically, and, if possibly fortuitously, in its palette with Study of Henrietta Moraes Laughing.

Historically, in the etiquette of Western culture, broad smiles and open-mouthed laughing were considered vulgar, and were seldom depicted in art. In the medieval church only a beatific smile was considered decorous: the rare exceptions, such as gargoyles, or the ambiguous smiles of the sculptures at Strasbourg and Lincoln cathedrals, were not immediately obvious from ground level. The painted portrait in Western art is generally understood to have evolved during the late fourteenth century in the French royal court, driven by a developing interest in selfhood. In the late Middle Ages, individual likeness was comprehended as a complex quality, to be portrayed through costume, heraldic symbols, objects as attributes, and textual inserts, rather than a realistic representation. From the Renaissance through to the invention of photography there was a requirement that a portrait be lifelike, if sometimes flattering. But Bacon was interested in more than this: he aimed to literally get under the skin of his subjects, to remake their essence.

Formally, Study of Henrietta Moraes Laughing is a miracle of compression and conciseness: it has the concentrated intensity of portraits by, say, Robert Campin or Rogier van der Weyden, which it does not otherwise resemble. It may appear contradictory to describe Study of Henrietta Moraes Laughing as perfect, which is how I think of it, since this would preclude the rawness and immediacy that one expects of Bacon, but these aspects are undoubtedly present in the painting: he was refining the image of Moraes he had created, cumulatively, through the 1960s—it is the distillation of all the paintings, expressing his feelings for her and his understanding of her psyche.

Such were the risks Bacon took, technically as well as conceptually, that it was inevitable not all of his paintings would “come off,” as he put it. He approached the blank canvas with a mixture of confidence and apprehension, and however strong his conviction may have been at the moment he began to apply the paint, he would recount—almost with surprise, as if he had been assisted by a miracle of outside intervention—that certain paintings had ‘come off’. He was referring to the gamble he took in the act of painting, one that relied, as he habitually insisted, on “chance” or “accident:” the risk paid off with Study of Henrietta Moraes Laughing.

On a canvas of relatively small dimensions such as this, the breadth and vigor of the paintwork on his large canvases would have been inappropriately over-scaled. Yet the brushstrokes conspicuously exhibit energy and dynamism, evinced in the blending and smearing of paint across the “nose” and the virtuoso application of wet pigment pressed onto fabric above the teeth and across the left eye, a non-signifying, anti-verisimilitude strategy. Our gaze is drawn to the eyes—perhaps in the transitional motion of blinking–and moves ineluctably to the mouth—the site of the “laugh:” the allusions to dental instruments and X-ray photographs are incisive aspects of the “injury” Bacon said he did to his sitters. The flickering paint simultaneously evokes the aura of a vivid memory—contemplative, almost melancholic—and a factual presence: Study of Henrietta Moraes Laughing is metaphorically alive, before us.

Martin Harrison

 

     

      Francis Bacon in his studio at 7 Reece Mews, London, 1966

 

 

 

Francis Bacon from the S. I. Newhouse Collection Will Be Sold at Christie's in November, Estimated at $14 M. to $18 M.

 

 

ANNIE ARMSTRONG | MARKET | ART NEWS | 10 OCTOBER 2018

 

A painting by Francis Bacon, Study of Henrietta Moraes Laughing (1969), from the collection of the late publisher S.I. Newhouse is slated for sale at Christie’s New York on November 15 as part of its postwar and contemporary art evening sale. The piece, which measures just 14 inches by 12 inches, is estimated at $14 million to $18 million. It is a one-off sale from Newhouse’s collection, and has only had two owners in its 49 years: the media giant himself, and before that, the artist’s sister, Ianthe Bacon.

Newhouse, who was co-owner of Advance Publications, which includes the Condé Nast empire among its holdings, died last October at the age of 89. Shortly after his death, his family announced that it had hired former Sotheby’s auctioneer Tobias Meyer to advise on his collection.

Christie’s CEO Guillaume Cerutti said in a release, “It is an honor for Christie’s to present Francis Bacon’s remarkable Study of Henrietta Moraes Laughing from the Collection of S.I. Newhouse. This consummate canvas by Bacon is a wonderful representation of Mr. Newhouse’s extraordinary eye for quality, that has been constantly reflected throughout his entire art collection.”

 

 

      

                     Francis Bacon, Study of Henrietta Moraes Laughing, 1969)

 

 

 

 

  CHRISTIE'S

 

   Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Auction

 

    London | 4 October   Sale 15485 | Lot 7

 

   Francis Bacon (1909-1992)

 

     Figure in Movement  

 

  Estimate: GBP 15,000,000 - 20,000,000

 

    Price realised: GBP 19,921,250

 

     

 

Francis Bacon (1909-1992)
Figure in Movement


signed, titled and dated 'Figure in movement 1972 Francis Bacon' (on the reverse)
oil and dry transfer lettering on canvas
77 7/8 x 58 5/8in. (198 x 148cm.)

Executed in 1972

 

Provenance

Marlborough International Fine Art, Vaduz (acquired directly from the artist, 13 June 1973). 
Private Collection, Connecticut.
Marlborough Galerie, Zurich.
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 5 May 1977

 

Literature

L. Trucchi, Francis Bacon, London 1976, p. 41, no. 163 (illustrated, p. 163).
M. Harrison (ed.), Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné Vol. IV 1971-92, London 2016, p. 1028, no. 72-15 (illustrated in colour, p. 1029)

 

Exhibited

London, Marlborough Fine Art Ltd., Selected European Maters of the 19th and 20th Centuries, 1973, p. 7, no. 2 (illustrated in colour, p. 6). This exhibition later travelled to Toronto, Marlborough-Godard Gallery.
Zurich, Marlborough Galerie, Francis Bacon, 1975.
New York, Marlborough Gallery Inc., Recent Work: Arikha, Auerbach, Bacon, Botero, Genovés, Grooms, Katz, Kitaj, López-Garcia, Rivers, 1976, p. 2                                                                                                                                                        Tokyo, The National Museum of Modern Art, Francis Bacon: Paintings 1945-1982, 1983, p. 87, no. 30 (illustrated in colour, p. 55; illustrated, p. 87). This exhibition later travelled to Kyoto, The National Museum of Modern Art and Nagoya, Aichi Prefectural Art Gallery.
Monte Carlo, Grimaldi Forum, Francis Bacon: Monaco and French Culture, 2016, p. 226, no. 1 (illustrated in colour, p. 10 and 226)

 

Lot Essay

‘In a way Dyer’s death allowed him to paint some of his very greatest pictures. Suddenly he had no need of mythical or religious structures because he had his own tragedy’ 


Michael Peppiatt

 

Held for forty-one years in the prestigious collection of Magnus Konow, Francis Bacon’s Figure in Movement is a poignant meditation on the transience of human existence, shot through with the memory of his muse and lover George Dyer. Executed in 1972, it takes its place among an extraordinary group of works – including the celebrated ‘black triptychs’ – painted in the aftermath of Dyer’s tragic death the previous year. Rendered with impassioned streaks of impasto and thick stippled textures, a voluptuous, near-sculptural figure is suspended within a stark, abstract space-frame. Dark, billowing shadows engulf his form; a piercing flash of green encircles his profile. Dyer had taken his own life shortly before the opening of Bacon’s triumphant retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris. In the decades that followed, his likeness would come to haunt the artist’s work more powerfully than ever before. Wrought with nods to Michelangelo and Eadweard Muybridge, Figure in Movement transforms Dyer’s distinctive features into a commentary on the fleeting nature of life. The newspaper, demonstrating the artist’s early use of Letraset, functions as a memento mori of sorts. As the figure’s writhing form threatens to dissolve into oblivion, he clasps it to his face, as if desperately trying to remain in the present. Scrambled letters, evocative of Picasso’s Cubist collages, spill onto the floor beside him, like fragments from a discarded novel. For Bacon, who devoured literature and mythology, the story of Dyer’s death was as epic and profound as any of the great tragedies he admired. Set against a geometric abyss, the present figure is captured in a state of transition: from the realm of corporeal, factual reality to that of fiction, memory and legend.

 Konow, a Norwegian collector based in Monaco, came to know Bacon personally during this turbulent period. Purchased on 5 May 1977 – just five years after its creation – Figure in Movement was the first of four significant canvases by the artist that he acquired as a young man during the 1970s. His purchases included Three Studies for a Portrait (1973) – later donated to the Israel Museum, Jerusalem – as well as Study for Portrait (1977) and Painting (1978), which was illustrated on the cover of John Russell’s seminal biography reprinted the following year. Konow first encountered Bacon’s work on the cover of Esquire magazine, and was struck by its ‘sense of chaos’. His fascination with the artist would ultimately develop into a friendship. Bacon would regularly travel from Paris – once with Freud – to visit him in Monaco, where he indulged in his passion for gambling in the casinos of Monte Carlo. Konow’s family roots are in Norway: his father was a celebrated Norwegian Olympic sailor, who competed in multiple Olympics between 1908 and 1948, winning two gold medals and one silver. His paternal grandmother, Dagny Konow, sat for Edvard Munch during the late 1880s. Through his relationship with Bacon, Konow’s own artistic tastes developed to encompass other School of London painters: his impressive collection included David Hockney’s Swimming Pool (1965), Lucian Freud’s Naked Portrait II (1974) and Frank Auerbach’s To the Studios (1977), as well as paintings by R. B. Kitaj. 

Included in Bacon’s 1983 touring retrospective in Japan, as well as his 2016 exhibition at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco, Figure in Movement demonstrates the new artistic directions he pursued during the 1970s. The period following Dyer’s death saw him move away from the characterful portraits of his Soho circle that dominated his practice during the 1960s, gravitating instead towards dark, existential meditations on mortality. Channelling the influence of sculpture, photography and film, his figures took on a new intensity, captured in states of contortion and transformation. In the present work, Dyer’s spectral likeness is an ode to carnal pleasure: Bacon relishes in the physical act of caressing, deforming and moulding his pigment, as if modelling clay with his bare hands. Flashes of white and pink chart the contours of his body, whilst swarming passages of black propel his quivering form into three dimensions. Though the upper half of the figure exudes the solid presence of a marble bust, his lower half blurs into a dizzying, holographic whirl that flickers like a moving image. In counterpoint with this visceral brushwork, Bacon constructs an abstract chamber from flat, intersecting blocks of colour, creating a complex spatial interplay. The space-frame and curved interior – devices common to his practice – are intercepted by two light and dark panels, evocative of windows, canvases, tombstones or cinema screens. Letraset letters leap off the page in skewed formations, shimmering on the frontal plane like fragments of concrete poetry. In the hustle between figuration and abstraction, Bacon creates a vivid sense of the transition from life to death, capturing the point at which living flesh fades into shadow.

 

THE HUMAN FIGURE AFTER DYER AND DEAKIN

Bacon’s long-awaited retrospective at the Grand Palais opened on 26 October 1971. It was a prestigious honour granted to only one other living artist: his hero Pablo Picasso. Throughout the gallery, Dyer’s distinctive physique loomed large – his combed-back hair, the shape of his ear, his lithe figure and hunched shoulders. Captured on camera by the celebrated Soho photographer John Deakin, and transfigured in paint by Bacon, his face and form had redefined the parameters of twentieth-century portraiture. Major works, many now held in museum collections, filled the halls: among them Portrait of George Dyer Riding a Bicycle, 1966 (Fondation Beyeler, Basel), Two Studies of George Dyer, 1968 (Sara Hildénin Art Museum, Tampere) and Portrait of George Dyer in a Mirror, 1968 (Museo Thyssen- Bornemisza, Madrid). Dyer himself, however, was nowhere to be seen. Less than thirty-six hours before the exhibition’s opening, he had been found dead in the room he was sharing with Bacon at the Hotel des Saint-Pères, having taken his own life. As friends arrived for the celebrations surrounding the retrospective, the artist did his best to conceal his true feelings – yet his grief would never fully subside. ‘In the lives of all of us there is a human being whom we least wish to lose’, wrote John Russell. ‘Bacon sustained that particular loss at the time of his retrospective exhibition in Paris in 1971-1972. He bore it with a stoicism for which even Homer would have been hard put to find words; but in his real life – his life as a painter, that is to say – it came to the fore over and over again’ (J. Russell, Francis Bacon, London 1992, p. 151). 

The endurance of Dyer’s form in Bacon’s art it is a testament to the vital, complex nature of their relationship. The pair had met almost exactly eight years previously in a pub in Soho, where Bacon was drinking with Deakin. Raised in the East End, Dyer was a troubled character who had spent much of his life in and out of petty criminal activity. Physically commanding yet emotionally vulnerable, he provided Bacon with a fascinating character study, becoming both his lover and muse. Their relationship was tempestuous, punctuated by bouts of violence and anger as well as intimacy and passion. Towards the end of the 1960s, their affections became increasingly strained: a source of great sadness to Bacon, particularly in the immediate aftermath of Dyer’s death. In the black triptychs and elsewhere, his form is underscored by liquid pools of shadow which – on occasion – morph into curious echoes of the artist’s own silhouette. His figure, frequently captured in a state of transition, was infused with new levels of sculptural grandeur, carved like the great ancient monuments that Bacon had often admired in the British Museum. His desire to ‘trap this living fact alive’, as he put it, took on new significance in the wake of his mercurial lover’s passing (F. Bacon, quoted in D. Sylvester, The Brutality of Fact: Interviews with Francis Bacon, London 1975 [reprinted 2016], p. 66). In Figure in Movement, Bacon sets up a tension between the glowing, reincarnated human form and its dark, reflected counterpart, spread on the floor like blood or ink. 

‘There’s an ancient story about the origins of painting’, writes Kitty Hauser, ‘in which a young woman traces around the outline of the shadow of her beloved’s profile as it is cast on the wall. The image will be there when he has gone; it will exist after his death. It’s hard not to think of this story when considering the use Bacon made of Deakin’s photograph of Dyer’s head in profile’ (K. Hauser, This is Bacon, London 2014, p. 66). Tragically, Deakin had also passed away in 1972: another great loss for the artist, who had been called upon to identify his body. Bacon had always been fascinated by the camera as a means of engaging with reality, preferring to work from Deakin’s snapshots rather than from life. Seen in the context of the photographer’s death, as well as Dyer’s, the present work takes on subtle new layers of meaning. The interior apparatus recalls that of a studio, or perhaps the inside of a camera, with its armature of screens, slides and veils. The space-frame, used throughout Bacon’s oeuvre, resembles the Chinagraph markings used by photographers to indicate areas for enlargement. Indeed, looking more closely at the figure, questions begin to arise. Dyer’s form, like a negative developing in a darkroom, is disfigured to the point of abstraction. The ear, hair and nose, so distinctive in Deakin’s photographs, are not wholly identifiable; in certain lights, they are in fact curiously reminiscent of Deakin’s own. A dark screen hangs from above, as if to make the point. Like the young woman’s lover in the ancient story, the figure – for all his full-blooded appearance – is but a projection, cast into blank space.

 

LETRASET AND LITERATURE

It is perhaps no coincidence that the first examples of Letraset in Bacon’s art – between 1969 and 1970 – coincided with the build-up to his retrospective at the Grand Palais. As he prepared to install his works in the same space that Picasso’s had hung just a few years earlier, the influence of the Spanish master preyed increasingly on his mind. His adoption of dry transfer lettering was, in part, inspired by the textual fragments that Picasso incorporated into his works during his Synthetic Cubist period. On one level, their appearance serves to introduce a temporal dimension to Bacon’s compositions. Evocative of newspaper reportage – particularly in the present work – they work in counterpoint with his fleeting, tortured figures, grounding the evanescent forms in the here-and-now. At the same time, the arrangements of letters are deliberately stripped of all narrative connotation – a strategy designed to prevent interpretation on the part of the viewer. Martin Harrison draws further links with the typographical montages of Marcel Duchamp, Tristan Tzara and Max Ernst, as well as William Burroughs’ ‘cut-up’ technique and the ‘Camera Eye’ sections of John Dos Passos’ USA Trilogy. More literally, perhaps, they may also be seen to recall the reams of crumpled newspapers, books, pictures and magazines that littered the floor of Bacon’s studio. Deakin’s original photographs had captured Dyer amidst this debris; a reminder, perhaps, that he had offered Bacon as complex a window onto the human condition as any great piece of art or literature. 

‘Existence is in a way so banal, you may as well try and make a kind of grandeur out of it’, said Bacon (F. Bacon, quoted in D. Farson, The Gilded Gutter Life of Francis Bacon, London 1993, p. 10). Dyer’s death brought with it a renewed awareness of the passage of time, furnishing the artist’s already nihilistic outlook with painful, deeply personal nuance. His readings of Greek mythology, existential philosophy, the poems of T. S. Eliot and W. B. Yeats and the plays of William Shakespeare – all of which had played their part in his oeuvre – took on new significance in this context. Following the triumph of his Grand Palais retrospective, and his subsequent move to France in 1974, Bacon would increasingly immerse himself in Parisian intellectual enclaves. The Surrealist writer Michel Leiris was instrumental in establishing Bacon’s relations with this milieu, authoring numerous texts on his work alongside his own poems, essays and research. Ensconced within these new circles, Bacon began to filter his own paintings through the lens of literature and text. References to mythological figures punctuated his canvases, as well as – in the case of the Letraset works – allusions to the concept of written narrative in a more abstract sense. Lines from Eliot’s Preludes echo throughout Figure in Movement: ‘And now a gusty shower wraps/the grimy scraps/of withered leaves about your feet/ and newspapers from vacant lots’. Even more pertinent, perhaps, are the final scenes Shakespeare’s Macbeth – a set of verses much admired by Bacon. ‘Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player’, proclaims the play’s protagonist, ‘That struts and frets his hour upon the stage/And then is heard no more’. 

 

ARENAS, SCREENS AND VEILS

Figure in Movement demonstrates a number of significant compositional devices that would come to dominate Bacon’s practice throughout the 1970s. Fuelled by a desire to strip his visual language back to its most essential form, his figural explorations were set within increasingly stark chambers, defined by bold planes of colour, passages of raw canvas and intersecting linear structures. In the present work, Bacon combines cubic and circular frameworks, creating a warped, angular spatial arena in which the volumetric figure blooms like a flower. Numerous sources have been identified for these geometries – the curved spaces of the roulette ring and the racing track, where Bacon spent many long hours, as well as the space-time discs and cage-like sculptures of his friend Alberto Giacometti. In this vein, Figure in Movement invites particular comparison with Bacon’s series of bullfight paintings, inspired – notably – by Leiris’ La Miroir de la Tauromachie. In these works, as in the present, the carnal specimen at the centre of the composition is enclosed within a ring. This structure acts as a railing of sorts, along which Bacon’s screens appear to slide in and out of position. A sense of voyeurism pervades these works, as though we are viewing the raw animal form through a window or a revolving door. By rooting his subjects within sparse, diagrammatic spaces, Bacon felt that – like a surgeon operating on the body – he was able to bring their visceral energy more clearly to the surface. Here, this approach gives way to an act of resurrection. Like the raging bull itself, Dyer’s form appears to take leave of its setting, alternately pushed into the viewer’s three-dimensional space and dragged back to the clinical void of the canvas. 

From the time of his earliest screaming Popes, Bacon had been fascinated by the human figure in motion. Movement, he felt, allowed him to glimpse the ‘emanation’ of the human spirit – the innate physical expressions that make up ‘all the pulsations of a person’. Mining hundreds of photographic and filmic sources, Bacon repeatedly sought to capture these revelations in paint, adopting an instinctive, heuristic approach to brushwork that relied heavily on the impulses of his own nervous system. ‘When I look at you across the table, I don’t only see you but I see a whole emanation which has to do with personality and everything else’, the artist explained. ‘… We nearly always live through screens – a screened existence. And I sometimes think, when people say my work looks violent, that perhaps I have from time to time been able to clear away one or two of the veils of screens’ (F. Bacon, quoted in D. Sylvester, The Brutality of Fact: Interviews with Francis Bacon, London 1975 [reprinted 2016], p. 94). Perhaps due to the intensely physical nature of his relationship with Dyer, Bacon’s portraits of him frequently captured him in the midst of dynamic activity: riding a bicycle, talking, turning, crouching and – in the black triptychs – caught in the final, gruesome throes of death. In the present work, the figure appears to disintegrate from the legs upwards, as if battling against the inevitable dissolution of flesh. Bacon even goes so far as to visualise the act of ‘clearing away the screens’: the black and white planes appear to part before the viewer, unveiling the lithe corporeal mass beneath.

Ultimately, then, Figure in Movement sheds critical light on Bacon’s understanding of the human condition during this period. Laced with allusions to photography, literature, reportage and film, it is not only an attempt to trap his subject’s ‘emanation’, but to visualise the ways in which figural traces continue to live in the mind. Alternately blank and fleshed-out, it speaks to the architecture of memory itself: a warped, tangled space in which today’s newspapers become tomorrow’s fictions. Dyer is simultaneously reincarnated and estranged, his likeness skewed to the point of ambiguity and mirrored imperfectly in billowing black. ‘If life excites you, its opposite, like a shadow, death, must excite you’, Bacon explained. ‘Perhaps not excite you, but you are aware of it in the same way as you are aware of life, you’re aware of it like the turn of a coin between life and death’ (F. Bacon, quoted in D. Sylvester, The Brutality of Fact: Interviews with Francis Bacon, London 1975 [reprinted 2016], p. 91). As his body swivels and turns, in dialogue with his silhouette, the figure’s form captures the perilous, fragile precipice upon which our existence is eternally poised.

 

 

 

 

  CHRISTIE'S

 

   Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Auction

 

    London | 4 October   Sale 15485 | Lot 34

 

   Lucian Freud (1922-2011)

 

     Francis Bacon  

 

  Estimate: GBP 5,000 - 7,000   

 

    Price realised: GBP 584,750

 

 

     

 

Lucian Freud (1922-2011)
Francis Bacon
conté crayon on paper
21½ x 16¾in. (54.7 x 43cm.)
Executed in 1951

 

Provenance

 The Hon. Garech Domnagh Browne, Ireland (acquired directly from the artist in the 1950s).

Thence by descent to the present owner.

 

Literature

 W. Feaver, Lucian Freud, New York 2007, p. 472, no. 69 (illustrated in colour, p. 105).
M. Holborn (ed.), Lucian Freud On Paper, London 2008, p. 267, no. 101 (illustrated, p. 165).

 

Exhibited

 Dublin, Irish Museum of Modern Art, The Moderns: The Arts in Ireland from the 1900s to the 1970s, 2011, p. 580, no. 99 (illustrated in colour, p. 163). 
London, Blain Southern Gallery, Lucian Freud Drawings, 2012, p. 215, no. 66 (illustrated in colour, p. 121 and p. 215). This exhibition later travelled to New York, Acquavella Galleries.

 

Lot Essay

‘[Bacon] had a very interesting, asymmetrical face. Everyone thought of him as a blur; but he had a very specific face. I remember wanting to bring Bacon out from behind the blur. I wanted to know him not just as an art world person, but as ... I don’t know ... as a friend I suppose. I have often painted people because I want to know them’ 

–Lucian Freud

 

FRANCIS BACON BY LUCIAN FREUD 
 

PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF THE LATE HON. GARECH DOMNAGH BROWNE

 

‘Francis always said that Lucian was the most entertaining and stimulating person he knew’ 

–David Sylvester

 

Rendered with intense precision and an impeccable control of line, Lucian Freud’s exquisite pencil studies of Francis Bacon are among the most intimate records of one of the twentieth century’s greatest artistic relationships. Unseen in public until 2011, they were acquired directly from the artist during the 1950s by the distinguished Irish collector and cultural patron the Hon. Garech Browne: a friend and supporter of both Bacon and Freud, and cousin of the latter’s second wife Lady Caroline Blackwood. Executed in 1951, the present two works belong to an outstanding group of three studies that represent Freud’s first depictions of Bacon, prefiguring the masterful painterly portraits of one another that would punctuate the artists’ respective practices. Like the sparring between Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, or the rivalry between Titian and Tintoretto, the turbulent dialogue between Bacon and Freud changed the course of art history, transforming the traditions of figurative painting in the post-War period. The present drawings depict Bacon in a spontaneous moment of characteristic irreverence: flies and shirt unbuttoned, eyes downcast, hips flexed and chest bared. We also catch a glimpse of Freud: the careful draughtsman and astute observationist, who not only registers Bacon’s likeness, but also captures a flickering vulnerability behind his ostentatious pose. In these two works, unlike their companion, Freud’s depiction of Bacon fills the entire page, his form extending to the very edge of the paper. Despite the delicacy and lightness of his touch, the line is assured and confident, tracing the contours of its subject with the deft economy of means that defines Freud’s graphic practice.

Bacon and Freud were introduced by the painter Graham Sutherland in 1945. As Freud later recounted, ‘I said rather tactlessly to Graham “who do you think is the best painter in England?” and he said “Oh, someone you’ve never heard of; he’s like a cross between Vuillard and Picasso; he’s never shown and he has the most extraordinary life; we sometimes go to dinner parties there”’ (L. Freud, quoted in W. Feaver, Lucian Freud, exh. cat., Tate Britain, London, 2002, p. 26). Sutherland invited the painters to visit him and his wife in the countryside, and the two travelled together from Victoria Station. They quickly struck up a rapport, imbibing the spirit of post-War London through their shared fondness for the decadent temptations of Soho. Throughout the 1950s, the two were inseparable: Freud found great inspiration in Bacon’s impulsive painterly language while Bacon appreciated his companion’s witty vitality. Both artists shared a fascination for the ‘human comedy’, exchanging gossip and observations in between bouts of gambling. Frequenting Wheeler’s, the Gargoyle and the Colony Room on an almost daily basis, the two painters were fully ensconced in each other’s lives. As Lady Caroline recalled, ‘I had dinner with [Francis Bacon] nearly every night for more or less the whole of my marriage to Lucian. We also had lunch’ (C. Blackwood, quoted in M. Peppiatt, Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma, London 1996, pp. 192-193).

It was during this period that Browne – then a young boy – first came to know the two artists. A member of the extended Guinness family, via his mother Oonagh, he first met Freud at the age of twelve, during the early years of the artist’s marriage to Lady Caroline. The couple had eloped to Paris in 1952, and were wed the following year; they would divorce by the end of the decade. Through Freud, Browne was introduced to Bacon, and by extension the thrilling haunts of 1950s London. ‘I remember well my years in Soho’, he recalled, ‘even sometimes with my younger brother Tara, who inspired the Beatles song A Day in the Life. We often went to the Gaston Berlemont’s French pub, officially called the York Minster, and had lunch with Francis, my first cousin Caroline Blackwood (then Caroline Freud) and Lucian in Wheelers restaurant, with my mother. We would then proceed to the Colony Club where the proprietress Muriel Belcher, one of the three known women Bacon ever painted, told me I was the only “member” ever allowed in under the age of 12. Later, Lucian would take me to the Gargoyle Club where Johnny Minton, Francis Bacon and Stephen Spender were often to be found. I would not be allowed in by the bouncers, so Lucian would put me under his long overcoat and I walked on his feet to gain entry … Many of the inmates were to be painted by both Francis and Lucian’ (G. Browne, quoted at Art Daily). Browne would go on to acquire works by both Freud and Bacon, including the latter’s 1969 Portrait of Henrietta Moraes – another mutual friend.

Over the course of his life, Browne – widely known by his Irish name Garech de Brún - became a passionate collector and supporter of the arts. In 1959, he co-founded Claddagh Records: a label devoted to traditional Irish music and spoken word, whose activities played a significant role in the revival of Celtic folk genres during this period. He oversaw the formation of legendary Irish band The Chieftains, and recorded a number of poets including Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes and Robert Graves, as well as Samuel Beckett read by Jack MacGowran. Each album produced by the label featured specially commissioned sleeve notes, with artwork by artists such as Louis le Brocquy. Browne also oversaw the care and renovation of his family estate at Luggala in the Wicklow mountains, which became a thriving cultural centre. Under his direction, the eighteenth-century shooting lodge was restored and refurbished to its original splendour, with family photos and visitor books carefully archived. It remains one of Ireland’s best-maintained historic houses; John Boorman chose the lodge as the setting for his 1981 film Excalibur. From the 1960s onwards, Browne’s fabled parties at Luggala were attended by the biggest names in music, theatre and literature: from Mick Jagger, Chrissie Shrimpton and Brian Jones during the heyday of Swinging London, to figures such as Marianne Faithfull, Bono, Michael Jackson, John Hurt, Patrick Kavanagh and Brendan Behan. ‘For one weekend’, writes Paul Howard, ‘the world capital of cool was transported to a remote corner of the Irish countryside’ (P. Howard, quoted at Independent Ireland).

The present works mark the dawn of the reciprocal portrait practice that would come to define the relationship between Bacon and Freud. Following Bacon’s Portrait of Lucian Freud (1951, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester) – the first of his paintings to name its subject – Freud returned the favour one evening at Clifton Hill. Recalling the event, William Feaver recounts how Bacon ‘undid his shirt buttons and flies, stuck his stomach out, flexed his hips and said “I think you ought to do this because I think it’s rather important here.” Freud drew him three times in that catwalk pose: three sketches latching on to the quips of body language that Bacon was so brilliant at swiping from newspaper photos and the like. Bared hips, the deferential nape of a neck, flinching eye contact, the inertia of despair or deep sleep were Bacon’s forte; for Freud such inroads of vision and expression were enticing potential’ (W. Feaver, Lucian Freud: Drawings, exh. cat., Blain Southern, London, 2012, p. 14-15). The resulting works bear witness to Freud’s graphic practice at the peak of its development. The present two works, in particular, appear to zoom in on their subject, creating a closely-cropped intimacy that would come to define his later small-format portrait heads. Freud’s line – almost calligraphic in its controlled simplicity – has a sharply analytical quality, tracing and retracing his subject in attempt to distil the very essence of his physical character.

The following year, Freud captured Bacon again – this time in paint. The work has achieved almost mythic status – not only for its piercing scrutiny but also for its tragic fate. Originally intended for the wall of Wheeler’s restaurant, the work was later acquired by the Tate collection, but was stolen during Freud’s retrospective in Berlin in 1988. The artist described how he and Bacon sat knee to knee for two or three months until the painting was finished. ‘As I did in many early portraits, I sat very close to him, face to face’, he recalls; ‘... he had a very interesting, asymmetrical face. Everyone thought of him as a blur; but he had a very specific face. I remember wanting to bring Bacon out from behind the blur. I wanted to know him not just as an art world person, but as ... I don’t know ... as a friend I suppose. I have often painted people because I want to know them’ (L. Freud, ‘Interview with M. Auping, in Lucian Freud: Portraits, exh. cat., National Portrait Gallery, London, 2012, p. 209). The painting was much admired, even by Bacon – a notorious critic. Lawrence Gowing described it as ‘quite unobtrusive, yet biting like a serpent when it caught you, exerting the transfixing spell of an image that is tantamount to the thing itself’ (L. Gowing, Lucian Freud, London 1984, pp. 67-8).

Following the paintings and drawings of 1951 and 1952, and a further unfinished portrait of Bacon by Freud in 1956-57, the two artists did not paint each other again until 1964. It was Bacon who initiated the revival with his Double Portrait of Lucian Freud and Frank Auerbach – the only existing work of the two contemporaries – which now hangs in the Moderna Museet, Stockholm. Bacon subsequently embarked upon his second large-scale triptych using Freud as his exclusive subject. This work, now forever disassembled, exists between the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art and a private collection. By this point, the lives of the two artists were becoming increasingly intertwined: Freud painted Bacon’s beloved George Dyer on a number of occasions, whilst Bacon painted Freud fourteen times between 1964 and 1971, including two small panels, four large panels (one destroyed), two small triptychs and three large triptychs, including the 1969 masterpiece Three Studies of Lucian Freud. Though the friendship between the two artists later cooled, the force of their relationship continued to reverberate throughout their practices. Indeed, as David Sylvester recounts, ‘Francis always said that Lucian was the most entertaining and stimulating person he knew. And whatever ambivalence, he made no pretence that he very much minded the gap in his life when in later years Lucian stopped ringing up’ (D. Sylvester, ‘All the Pulsations of a Person’, The Independent, October 24 1993).

 

 

 

  CHRISTIE'S

 

   Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Auction

 

    London | 4 October   Sale 15485 | Lot 35

 

   Lucian Freud (1922-2011)

 

     Francis Bacon  

 

  Estimate: GBP 5,000 - 7,000

 

    Price realised: GBP 488,750

 

      

 

Provenance

 The Hon. Garech Domnagh Browne, Ireland (acquired directly from the artist in the 1950s).

 

Literature

W. Feaver, Lucian Freud, New York 2007, p. 472, no. 69 (illustrated in colour, p. 105).
M. Holborn (ed.), Lucian Freud On Paper, London 2008, p. 267, no. 101 (illustrated, p. 165).

 

Exhibited

Dublin, Irish Museum of Modern Art, The Moderns: The Arts in Ireland from the 1900s to the 1970s, 2011, p. 580, no. 99 (illustrated in colour, p. 163). 
London, Blain Southern Gallery, Lucian Freud Drawings, 2012, p. 215, no. 66 (illustrated in colour, p. 121 and p. 215). This exhibition later travelled to New York, Acquavella Galleries.

 

Lot Essay

Thence by descent to the present owner.

‘Bacon undid his shirt buttons and flies, stuck his stomach out, flexed his hips and said “I think you ought to do this because I think it’s rather important here.” Freud drew him three times in that catwalk pose: three sketches latching on to the quips of body language that Bacon was so brilliant at swiping from newspaper photos and the like. Bared hips, the deferential nape of a neck, flinching eye contact, the inertia of despair or deep sleep were Bacon’s forte; for Freud such inroads of vision and expression were enticing potential’ 

–William Feaver

 

FRANCIS BACON BY LUCIAN FREUD 
 

PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF THE LATE HON. GARECH DOMNAGH BROWNE

 

‘Francis always said that Lucian was the most entertaining and stimulating person he knew’ 

–David Sylvester

 

Rendered with intense precision and an impeccable control of line, Lucian Freud’s exquisite pencil studies of Francis Bacon are among the most intimate records of one of the twentieth century’s greatest artistic relationships. Unseen in public until 2011, they were acquired directly from the artist during the 1950s by the distinguished Irish collector and cultural patron the Hon. Garech Browne: a friend and supporter of both Bacon and Freud, and cousin of the latter’s second wife Lady Caroline Blackwood. Executed in 1951, the present two works belong to an outstanding group of three studies that represent Freud’s first depictions of Bacon, prefiguring the masterful painterly portraits of one another that would punctuate the artists’ respective practices. Like the sparring between Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, or the rivalry between Titian and Tintoretto, the turbulent dialogue between Bacon and Freud changed the course of art history, transforming the traditions of figurative painting in the post-War period. The present drawings depict Bacon in a spontaneous moment of characteristic irreverence: flies and shirt unbuttoned, eyes downcast, hips flexed and chest bared. We also catch a glimpse of Freud: the careful draughtsman and astute observationist, who not only registers Bacon’s likeness, but also captures a flickering vulnerability behind his ostentatious pose. In these two works, unlike their companion, Freud’s depiction of Bacon fills the entire page, his form extending to the very edge of the paper. Despite the delicacy and lightness of his touch, the line is assured and confident, tracing the contours of its subject with the deft economy of means that defines Freud’s graphic practice.

Bacon and Freud were introduced by the painter Graham Sutherland in 1945. As Freud later recounted, ‘I said rather tactlessly to Graham “who do you think is the best painter in England?” and he said “Oh, someone you’ve never heard of; he’s like a cross between Vuillard and Picasso; he’s never shown and he has the most extraordinary life; we sometimes go to dinner parties there”’ (L. Freud, quoted in W. Feaver, Lucian Freud, exh. cat., Tate Britain, London, 2002, p. 26). Sutherland invited the painters to visit him and his wife in the countryside, and the two travelled together from Victoria Station. They quickly struck up a rapport, imbibing the spirit of post-War London through their shared fondness for the decadent temptations of Soho. Throughout the 1950s, the two were inseparable: Freud found great inspiration in Bacon’s impulsive painterly language while Bacon appreciated his companion’s witty vitality. Both artists shared a fascination for the ‘human comedy’, exchanging gossip and observations in between bouts of gambling. Frequenting Wheeler’s, the Gargoyle and the Colony Room on an almost daily basis, the two painters were fully ensconced in each other’s lives. As Lady Caroline recalled, ‘I had dinner with [Francis Bacon] nearly every night for more or less the whole of my marriage to Lucian. We also had lunch’ (C. Blackwood, quoted in M. Peppiatt, Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma, London 1996, pp. 192-193).

It was during this period that Browne – then a young boy – first came to know the two artists. A member of the extended Guinness family, via his mother Oonagh, he first met Freud at the age of twelve, during the early years of the artist’s marriage to Lady Caroline. The couple had eloped to Paris in 1952, and were wed the following year; they would divorce by the end of the decade. Through Freud, Browne was introduced to Bacon, and by extension the thrilling haunts of 1950s London. ‘I remember well my years in Soho’, he recalled, ‘even sometimes with my younger brother Tara, who inspired the Beatles song A Day in the Life. We often went to the Gaston Berlemont’s French pub, officially called the York Minster, and had lunch with Francis, my first cousin Caroline Blackwood (then Caroline Freud) and Lucian in Wheelers restaurant, with my mother. We would then proceed to the Colony Club where the proprietress Muriel Belcher, one of the three known women Bacon ever painted, told me I was the only “member” ever allowed in under the age of 12. Later, Lucian would take me to the Gargoyle Club where Johnny Minton, Francis Bacon and Stephen Spender were often to be found. I would not be allowed in by the bouncers, so Lucian would put me under his long overcoat and I walked on his feet to gain entry … Many of the inmates were to be painted by both Francis and Lucian’ (G. Browne, quoted at Art Daily). Browne would go on to acquire works by both Freud and Bacon, including the latter’s 1969 Portrait of Henrietta Moraes – another mutual friend.

Over the course of his life, Browne – widely known by his Irish name Garech de Brún - became a passionate collector and supporter of the arts. In 1959, he co-founded Claddagh Records: a label devoted to traditional Irish music and spoken word, whose activities played a significant role in the revival of Celtic folk genres during this period. He oversaw the formation of legendary Irish band The Chieftains, and recorded a number of poets including Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes and Robert Graves, as well as Samuel Beckett read by Jack MacGowran. Each album produced by the label featured specially commissioned sleeve notes, with artwork by artists such as Louis le Brocquy. Browne also oversaw the care and renovation of his family estate at Luggala in the Wicklow mountains, which became a thriving cultural centre. Under his direction, the eighteenth-century shooting lodge was restored and refurbished to its original splendour, with family photos and visitor books carefully archived. It remains one of Ireland’s best-maintained historic houses; John Boorman chose the lodge as the setting for his 1981 film Excalibur. From the 1960s onwards, Browne’s fabled parties at Luggala were attended by the biggest names in music, theatre and literature: from Mick Jagger, Chrissie Shrimpton and Brian Jones during the heyday of Swinging London, to figures such as Marianne Faithfull, Bono, Michael Jackson, John Hurt, Patrick Kavanagh and Brendan Behan. ‘For one weekend’, writes Paul Howard, ‘the world capital of cool was transported to a remote corner of the Irish countryside’ (P. Howard, quoted at Independent Ireland).

The present works mark the dawn of the reciprocal portrait practice that would come to define the relationship between Bacon and Freud. Following Bacon’s Portrait of Lucian Freud (1951, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester) – the first of his paintings to name its subject – Freud returned the favour one evening at Clifton Hill. Recalling the event, William Feaver recounts how Bacon ‘undid his shirt buttons and flies, stuck his stomach out, flexed his hips and said “I think you ought to do this because I think it’s rather important here.” Freud drew him three times in that catwalk pose: three sketches latching on to the quips of body language that Bacon was so brilliant at swiping from newspaper photos and the like. Bared hips, the deferential nape of a neck, flinching eye contact, the inertia of despair or deep sleep were Bacon’s forte; for Freud such inroads of vision and expression were enticing potential’ (W. Feaver, Lucian Freud: Drawings, exh. cat., Blain Southern, London, 2012, p. 14-15). The resulting works bear witness to Freud’s graphic practice at the peak of its development. The present two works, in particular, appear to zoom in on their subject, creating a closely-cropped intimacy that would come to define his later small-format portrait heads. Freud’s line – almost calligraphic in its controlled simplicity – has a sharply analytical quality, tracing and retracing his subject in attempt to distil the very essence of his physical character.

The following year, Freud captured Bacon again – this time in paint. The work has achieved almost mythic status – not only for its piercing scrutiny but also for its tragic fate. Originally intended for the wall of Wheeler’s restaurant, the work was later acquired by the Tate collection, but was stolen during Freud’s retrospective in Berlin in 1988. The artist described how he and Bacon sat knee to knee for two or three months until the painting was finished. ‘As I did in many early portraits, I sat very close to him, face to face’, he recalls; ‘... he had a very interesting, asymmetrical face. Everyone thought of him as a blur; but he had a very specific face. I remember wanting to bring Bacon out from behind the blur. I wanted to know him not just as an art world person, but as ... I don’t know ... as a friend I suppose. I have often painted people because I want to know them’ (L. Freud, ‘Interview with M. Auping, in Lucian Freud: Portraits, exh. cat., National Portrait Gallery, London, 2012, p. 209). The painting was much admired, even by Bacon – a notorious critic. Lawrence Gowing described it as ‘quite unobtrusive, yet biting like a serpent when it caught you, exerting the transfixing spell of an image that is tantamount to the thing itself’ (L. Gowing, Lucian Freud, London 1984, pp. 67-8).

Following the paintings and drawings of 1951 and 1952, and a further unfinished portrait of Bacon by Freud in 1956-57, the two artists did not paint each other again until 1964. It was Bacon who initiated the revival with his Double Portrait of Lucian Freud and Frank Auerbach – the only existing work of the two contemporaries – which now hangs in the Moderna Museet, Stockholm. Bacon subsequently embarked upon his second large-scale triptych using Freud as his exclusive subject. This work, now forever disassembled, exists between the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art and a private collection. By this point, the lives of the two artists were becoming increasingly intertwined: Freud painted Bacon’s beloved George Dyer on a number of occasions, whilst Bacon painted Freud fourteen times between 1964 and 1971, including two small panels, four large panels (one destroyed), two small triptychs and three large triptychs, including the 1969 masterpiece Three Studies of Lucian Freud. Though the friendship between the two artists later cooled, the force of their relationship continued to reverberate throughout their practices. Indeed, as David Sylvester recounts, ‘Francis always said that Lucian was the most entertaining and stimulating person he knew. And whatever ambivalence, he made no pretence that he very much minded the gap in his life when in later years Lucian stopped ringing up’ (D. Sylvester, ‘All the Pulsations of a Person’, The Independent, October 24 1993).

 

 

 

  CHRISTIE'S

 

   Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Auction

 

    London | 4 October   Sale 15485 | Lot 47

 

   Francis Bacon (1909-1992)

 

     Rug  

 

  Estimate: GBP 70,000 - 1,00,000

 

    Price realised: GBP 137,500

 

      

 

Francis Bacon (1909-1992)

Rug

signed 'FRANCIS BACON' (lower left)
wool
83 5/8 x 50 3/8in. (212.5 x 128cm.)
Executed circa 1929

 

Provenance

Eric Allden, London. 
Francis Elek, London (acquired from the above late 1940s).
Thence by descent to the present owner (on long-term loan to Tate Britain since 2009).

 

Literature

J. Rothenstein and R. Alley, Francis Bacon Catalogue Raisonné, London 1964 (with incorrect measurements illustrated, p. 24). 
C. Domino, Francis Bacon 'Taking Reality by Surprise', London 1997, p. 129, no. 20a (with incorrect centimetre measurements illustrated in colour, p. 20). 
C. Domino, Francis Bacon: Painter of a Dark Vision, New York 1997, p. 129, no. 20a (with incorrect centimetre measurements illustrated in colour, p. 20). 
M. Harrison, In Camera: Francis Bacon Photography, Film and the Practice of Painting, London 2005, p. 245, no. 24 (with incorrect measurements illustrated in colour, p. 25). 
J. Norton, 'Bacon's Beginnings', in The Burlington Magazine, January 2016, no. 30 (illustrated in colour, p. 23).

 

Exhibited

Lugano, Museo d'Arte Moderna, Francis Bacon, 1993, no. 2, (illustrated in colour, p. 18; illustrated, p. 136). 
Milan, Palazzo Reale, Bacon, 2008, p. 229, p. 16, no. 2 (illustrated in colour, p. 84).
London, Tate Britain, Francis Bacon: Early Works, 2009-2010.

 

Lot Essay

‘Under [Jean Lurçat’s] influence, it seems, Bacon hung some of his rugs like tapestries on the wall, thereby lending an even more up-to-date, Continental look to his interior’ 


–Michael Peppiatt

 

An Important British Collection of Early Works by Francis Bacon


‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’

 

‘[Bacon’s] earliest works are marked by conspicuous intelligence and an innate capacity for the actual application of paint’ 


–John Rothenstein 

 

Christie’s is delighted to present an exceptional group of six rare early paintings and rugs by Francis Bacon. Standing among the very first works in his catalogue raisonné, they capture the birth of one of the twentieth century’s greatest artistic voices. On loan to Tate, London, since 2009, the collection bears an outstanding provenance that includes Bacon’s first patron Eric Allden and his early artistic mentor Roy de Maistre. In the 1940s, five of the works entered the family collection of Francis Elek, who met Allden around this time; he acquired the sixth following de Maistre’s death in 1968. Collectively, they chronicle the artist’s formative influences, blending his early interests in furniture design with the contemporary innovations of the European Avant-garde. Few works remain from this seminal period: the present group includes his earliest surviving large-scale work (Painted Screencirca 1929) – a precursor to his famed triptychs – as well as his first extant painting (Painting, 1929-1930) and an exquisite early work on paper (Gouachecirca 1929). Forms, colours, motifs and techniques resonate across the collection, offering a profound insight into the artist’s early working methods. These creations remained largely unseen by the public for over sixty years, and have been widely exhibited since their unveiling at the Museo d’Arte Moderna, Lugano, in 1993. Together, they mark the dawn of an extraordinary seven-decade career that would redefine the nature and purpose of art-making.

In 1927, a seventeen-year-old Bacon arrived in Paris. He had just spent two months in Berlin, where his father had hoped that he would find distraction from the bright lights of 1920s Soho. Though Bacon would not stray far from his favoured London haunts, returning to the city just two years later, his time in Europe had a pivotal impact upon his life and work. His nascent interests in furniture and interior design were sharpened by his contact with the Bauhaus movement, as well as his exposure to French architects and designers such as Le Corbusier, Charlotte Perriand, Pierre Chareau, André Lurçat and Eileen Gray, all of whom responded to the momentum generated by the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes. Paris at the time was a thriving centre of cultural innovation, and Bacon immersed himself in its currents. Under the guidance of the Bocquentin family, with whom he stayed for several months, he primed himself to the achievements of French modernism, absorbing the revolutionary aesthetics of Cubism and Surrealism. He admired the works of Fernand Léger and Giorgio de Chirico, as well as the paintings and tapestries of Jean Lurçat. A turning point, however, came in the summer of 1927, when Bacon attended an exhibition of Pablo Picasso’s drawings at Galerie Paul Rosenberg. He was struck by the fluid morphology of his figures, formed and deformed through a visceral command of line. ‘That’s when I first thought about painting’, he would later recall (F. Bacon, quoted in A. Sinclair, Francis Bacon: His Life and Violent Times, New York 1993, p. 53). The influence of the Spanish master would saturate his early works, and would continue to reverberate throughout his career. In 1929, Bacon returned to London, where he reflected upon what he had seen in Europe. The lessons of Paris began to manifest themselves in his burgeoning design practice, and would ultimately give way to his first painterly explorations. In January 1930, he moved into a new studio and living quarters in a converted garage at 17 Queensbury Mews West in South Kensington, where he remained until the following year. The space, which became both a showcase and source of inspiration for his work, was stylishly furbished with the flair of a young, up-and-coming designer. Sleek, minimal and elegant, it was a far cry from the chaotic, littered, paint-splattered rooms he would later inhabit at 7 Reece Mews, just around the corner. Anne Baldessari describes a ‘space devoted to geometrical order, in brown and gray monochrome, with metal furniture, all gleaming fittings, glass, and leather. Mirrors played a starring role, conferring on the one-time garage in Queensbury Mews a peculiar light, and diffracting reflections of the carpets and the grid-like furnishings ad infinitum, composing ever-new variations. On the walls hung rugs signed like Old Master pictures next to hand-painted folding screens, decorative objects, and bouquets of flowers. White rubber drapes concealed the barred windows with heavy folds like grooved columns’ (A. Baldessari, Bacon Picasso: The Life of Images, exh. cat, Réunion des Musées Nationaux, Paris, 2005, p. 73). For Bacon, who was deeply influenced by his working environments, this set-up would have an important impact upon the subsequent use of geometric structures in his paintings. The cubic spaceframes, ellipses, circular railings, vertical striations and fractured perspectives of his later works may be said to owe much to the early mise-en-scène of his studio – itself a product of his time in Paris.

Sharing the premises with Bacon at 17 Queensbury Mews West were Jessie Lightfoot – his former nanny and lifelong confidante – and his new patron and companion Eric Allden. Bacon had met Allden, a retired diplomat, in July 1929 on the ferry from Dover to Calais. Allden noted in his diary that the artist was ‘starting a shop in London for ultra modern furniture and was going to Paris to purchase examples’ (E. Allden, quoted in M. Harrison, Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonne, Vol. 1, London 2016, p. 77). The two became friends, and Allden would become one of the first buyers of Bacon’s work. Together, they travelled widely, visiting the artist’s native Ireland and attending the Bayreuth Festival in Germany, as well as touring London’s galleries and museums. At the National Gallery that autumn, they stood before Piero della Francesca’s Nativity, whose geometric structuring fascinated the young Bacon. In October 1929, the artist rented a maisonette at 54 Vincent Square in Pimlico to share with Lightfoot and Allden; the trio took up residence in South Kensington ten weeks later. Allden was initially struck by the artist’s rug designs. ‘His rugs arrived from Wilton’s’, he wrote. ‘They have made them up beautifully. One, called “Formal Design”, in black & grey with a touch of white & scarlet, he is letting me have at cost price as a birthday present’ (E. Allden, quoted in J. Norton, ‘Bacon’s Beginnings’, The Burlington Magazine, January 2016, p. 22). He would go on to acquire at least four of these works, along with the rest of the present grouping and Bacon’s first ever documented artwork Watercolour (1929).

By 1930, Bacon was gaining increasing recognition as a designer, advertising in the Kensington Directory as ‘Francis Bacon: Modern decoration, furniture in metal, glass and wood; rugs and lights’. In August that year, the magazine The Studio published an article entitled ‘The 1930 Look in British Decoration’, hailing Bacon as one of most inventive English designers of the time and featuring in situ photographs of his works. Concurrently, however, a new métier was beginning to blossom within his output: painting. Bacon’s embrace of the medium owes much to his relationship with the Australian-born artist Roy de Maistre, who he had met earlier that year. Fifteen years Bacon’s senior, he became an important mentor and father figure, guiding his first steps in the art world. De Maistre cultivated a wide social circle of artists and literary figures at his studio on Eccleston Street, introducing Bacon to the writer Patrick White and the art historian Douglas Cooper, among others. One of the first artists in Sydney to engage with the developments of Post-Impressionism, he had studied, taught and exhibited in his native country, initially visiting Europe during the mid-1920s before returning permanently at the end of the decade. Styling himself ‘Roi de Mestre’, in deference to his French ancestry, he had particular interests in colour and synaesthesia, working in a variety of media including painting, film and occasionally dabbling in furniture design. For Bacon, who had no formal training, de Maistre offered a wealth of knowledge, schooling the young artist in numerous aspects of painterly technique. Bacon quickly became hooked: shortly afterwards he would abandon his design practice altogether, devoting himself exclusively to the endless possibilities of pigment on canvas.

The artistic relationship between Bacon and de Maistre was in many ways reciprocal. The young artist arguably became a source of inspiration to his mentor – indeed his studio featured in around ten works by de Maistre during this period. Among the most notable of these is Francis Bacon’s Studio in Queensbury Mews West (1930), depicting two of the artist’s rugs as well as the central panel of Painted Screen, which de Maistre acquired from Allden. Between 4 – 22 November 1930, Bacon and de Maistre mounted a joint exhibition in the studio with the artist and actress Jean Shepeard. Bacon designed the invitation card, and exhibited four rugs and five paintings; de Maistre exhibited seven. Though most of Bacon’s listed works no longer survive, the small printed catalogue reveals that Painting was probably shown, originally believed to have been titled Trees by the Sea. It was thus that Bacon made his first public statement as a painter; he and de Maistre would exhibit jointly again in two shows at the Mayor Gallery in 1933. The second of the two saw Bacon unveil his 1933 Crucifixion – a now-landmark painting that brought him to the attention of a much wider audience. The work, at the suggestion of Douglas Cooper, was included in Herbert Read’s book Art Now, published that year in conjunction with the exhibition, and illustrated opposite Picasso’s Female Bather with Raised Arms (1929). Just a few short years after his return from Paris, and still in his early twenties, Bacon’s fledgling painterly practice was already being discussed in relation to that of his idol. It is a conversation that continues today.

In 1939, Francis Elek came to England from Czechoslovakia as part of a swimming team, and became separated from his family at the outbreak of conflict in Europe. It was whilst searching for them through the Red Cross after the war that he met Allden, and subsequently acquired the majority of the present collection in the late 1940s. The acquisition of Painted Screen several decades later completed the group: like the missing piece of a puzzle, it speaks to its companions in myriad ways. The brickwork and columns are echoed in Gouache, along with the bright orange tone streaked vertically down the length of the third panel. This colour finds itself splashed in dots across one of the rugs – a motif similarly present in the work on paper. The truncated arms of the screen’s figures resonate with the severed tree trunks in Painting, whilst its folded form is reflected in the work’s central interlocking panels. Its geometric armature resounds across the entire grouping, manifesting itself in a variety of bold planar structures. The result is a cohesive snapshot of Bacon’s early aesthetic preoccupations, united in conversation for over half a century.

These works, then, represent the crucible of Bacon’s artistic language as he steered a revolutionary course from design to painting. Within their depths, we catch glimpses of his later achievements: of the cubic frames that housed his screaming Popes; of his 1960s portraits, with their geometric interiors; and of famed triptychs, where – through a metamorphic combination of figures and screens – he would fuse grandiloquent mythological and religious narratives with his own tales of triumph and tragedy. ‘[Bacon’s] earliest works are marked by conspicuous intelligence and an innate capacity for the actual application of paint’, wrote John Rothenstein in the artist’s first catalogue raisonné (J. Rothenstein, ‘Introduction’, in R. Alley, Francis Bacon, London 1964, p. 10). As the years went by, witnessing global conflict, unprecedented technological advancement in film and photography, new studios in London and Paris and a constantly-evolving cast of lovers, friends and subjects, this early flash of brilliance would give rise to a new chapter in the history of painting. Through a complex, intuitive and deeply sensory command of pigment, Bacon would come to chronicle the human condition, in all its shifting guises.

 

 

 

 

  CHRISTIE'S

 

   Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Auction

 

    London | 4 October   Sale 15485 | Lot 48

 

   Francis Bacon (1909-1992)

 

     Gouache

 

 

    Price realised: GBP 488,750

 

  Estimate: GBP 180,000 - 220,000

 

      

 

Francis Bacon (1909-1992)

Gouache

signed and dated 'Francis Bacon. 29.' (lower left)
gouache, distemper and watercolour on paper
13 7/8 x 9 7/8in. (35.4 x 25cm.)
Executed in 1929

 

Provenance

Eric Allden, London. 
Francis Elek, London (acquired from the above late 1940s).
Thence by descent to the present owner (on long-term loan to Tate Britain since 2009).

 

Literature

J. Rothenstein and R. Alley, Francis Bacon Catalogue Raisonné, London 1964, p. 25, no. 2 (illustrated, p. 159).
H.M. Davies, Francis Bacon: The Early and Middle Years 1928-1958, New York 1978, pp. v and 11, pl. 5 (illustrated, p. 225).
Francis Bacon, exh. cat., Paris, Centre National d'art et de culture Georges Pompidou, 1996 (illustrated, p. 285).
C. Domino, Francis Bacon: Painter of a Dark Vision, New York 1997, p. 129, no. 21 (illustrated in colour, p. 21).
C. Domino, Francis Bacon: 'Taking Reality by Surprise', London 1997, p. 129 (illustrated in colour, p. 21).
Francis Bacon: A Retrospective, exh. cat., New Haven, The Yale Center for British Art, 1999 (illustrated, p. 19). 
Bacon Picasso: The Life of Images, exh. cat., Paris, Réunion des musées nationaux and Paris, Musée Picasso, 2005, p. 235, no. 53 (illustrated, p. 75).
M. Harrison and R. Daniels (eds.), Francis Bacon Catalogue Raisonné Volume II 1929-57, London 2016, pp. 110, no. 29-02 (illustrated in colour, p. 111).

 

Exhibited

Lugano, Museo d'Arte Moderna, Francis Bacon, 1993, p. 16, no. 1 (illustrated in colour, p. 17; illustrated, p. 136). 
Milan, Palazzo Reale, Bacon, 2008, p. 229, no. 1 (illustrated in colour, p. 83). 
London, Tate Britain, Francis Bacon: Early Works, 2009-2010. 
Monaco, The Grimaldi Forum Monaco, Francis Bacon: Monaco and French Culture, 2016, no. 22 (illustrated in colour, p. 56 and p. 228).
Bilbao, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Francis Bacon: de Picasso a Velázquez, 2016-2017, pp. 48 and 202, no. 1 (illustrated in colour, p. 49).

 

Lot Essay

‘… the skewed white and yellow rectangle prefigures the “spaceframes” that would become salient aspects of Bacon’s paintings twenty years later’ 


–Martin Harrison

 

The second artwork documented in Francis Bacon’s catalogue raisonné, Gouache was created shortly after the artist’s return to London in 1929, and remained unseen in public until 1993. Originally owned by his early patron Eric Allden, it has been on loan to Tate, London, since 2009. With its series of interlocking planes, styled as windows, doors, floorboards and frames, the work offers a captivating spatial drama that bears witness to Bacon’s early fascination with interior architecture and design. Informed by his encounters with Synthetic Cubism in Paris, it anticipates the geometric interplay between figure and ground, as well as the use of cubic ‘spaceframes’, that would come to define his later oeuvre. The striated floorboards – developed from the preceding Watercolour (1929) – conjure Picasso’s ubiquitous guitar strings, whilst the leaf and Greek column recall motifs borrowed from Léger and de Chirico respectively. Whilst these influences certainly speak to Bacon’s time in Paris, Harrison notes that they might also have been received indirectly through other English artists who engaged with the work of their French contemporaries – notably Edward Wadsworth and John Armstrong, whose exhibition Bacon attended at the Leicester Galleries in 1929. Picasso, however, remained a determining first-hand source of inspiration: his drawings, seen at Galerie Paul Rosenberg in 1927, were the primary catalyst for Bacon’s experiments with painterly media. In the present work, the artist combines the impetus of the European Avant-garde with techniques derived from his design work – layers of pencil under-drawing are visible beneath the fluid planes of colour.
 

An Important British Collection of Early Works by Francis Bacon
‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’

‘[Bacon’s] earliest works are marked by conspicuous intelligence and an innate capacity for the actual application of paint’ 


–John Rothenstein 

 

Christie’s is delighted to present an exceptional group of six rare early paintings and rugs by Francis Bacon. Standing among the very first works in his catalogue raisonné, they capture the birth of one of the twentieth century’s greatest artistic voices. On loan to Tate, London, since 2009, the collection bears an outstanding provenance that includes Bacon’s first patron Eric Allden and his early artistic mentor Roy de Maistre. In the 1940s, five of the works entered the family collection of Francis Elek, who met Allden around this time; he acquired the sixth following de Maistre’s death in 1968. Collectively, they chronicle the artist’s formative influences, blending his early interests in furniture design with the contemporary innovations of the European Avant-garde. Few works remain from this seminal period: the present group includes his earliest surviving large-scale work (Painted Screencirca 1929) – a precursor to his famed triptychs – as well as his first extant painting (Painting, 1929-1930) and an exquisite early work on paper (Gouachecirca 1929). Forms, colours, motifs and techniques resonate across the collection, offering a profound insight into the artist’s early working methods. These creations remained largely unseen by the public for over sixty years, and have been widely exhibited since their unveiling at the Museo d’Arte Moderna, Lugano, in 1993. Together, they mark the dawn of an extraordinary seven-decade career that would redefine the nature and purpose of art-making.

In 1927, a seventeen-year-old Bacon arrived in Paris. He had just spent two months in Berlin, where his father had hoped that he would find distraction from the bright lights of 1920s Soho. Though Bacon would not stray far from his favoured London haunts, returning to the city just two years later, his time in Europe had a pivotal impact upon his life and work. His nascent interests in furniture and interior design were sharpened by his contact with the Bauhaus movement, as well as his exposure to French architects and designers such as Le Corbusier, Charlotte Perriand, Pierre Chareau, André Lurçat and Eileen Gray, all of whom responded to the momentum generated by the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes. Paris at the time was a thriving centre of cultural innovation, and Bacon immersed himself in its currents. Under the guidance of the Bocquentin family, with whom he stayed for several months, he primed himself to the achievements of French modernism, absorbing the revolutionary aesthetics of Cubism and Surrealism. He admired the works of Fernand Léger and Giorgio de Chirico, as well as the paintings and tapestries of Jean Lurçat. A turning point, however, came in the summer of 1927, when Bacon attended an exhibition of Pablo Picasso’s drawings at Galerie Paul Rosenberg. He was struck by the fluid morphology of his figures, formed and deformed through a visceral command of line. ‘That’s when I first thought about painting’, he would later recall (F. Bacon, quoted in A. Sinclair, Francis Bacon: His Life and Violent Times, New York 1993, p. 53). The influence of the Spanish master would saturate his early works, and would continue to reverberate throughout his career. In 1929, Bacon returned to London, where he reflected upon what he had seen in Europe. The lessons of Paris began to manifest themselves in his burgeoning design practice, and would ultimately give way to his first painterly explorations. In January 1930, he moved into a new studio and living quarters in a converted garage at 17 Queensbury Mews West in South Kensington, where he remained until the following year. The space, which became both a showcase and source of inspiration for his work, was stylishly furbished with the flair of a young, up-and-coming designer. Sleek, minimal and elegant, it was a far cry from the chaotic, littered, paint-splattered rooms he would later inhabit at 7 Reece Mews, just around the corner. Anne Baldessari describes a ‘space devoted to geometrical order, in brown and gray monochrome, with metal furniture, all gleaming fittings, glass, and leather. Mirrors played a starring role, conferring on the one-time garage in Queensbury Mews a peculiar light, and diffracting reflections of the carpets and the grid-like furnishings ad infinitum, composing ever-new variations. On the walls hung rugs signed like Old Master pictures next to hand-painted folding screens, decorative objects, and bouquets of flowers. White rubber drapes concealed the barred windows with heavy folds like grooved columns’ (A. Baldessari, Bacon Picasso: The Life of Images, exh. cat, Réunion des Musées Nationaux, Paris, 2005, p. 73). For Bacon, who was deeply influenced by his working environments, this set-up would have an important impact upon the subsequent use of geometric structures in his paintings. The cubic spaceframes, ellipses, circular railings, vertical striations and fractured perspectives of his later works may be said to owe much to the early mise-en-scène of his studio – itself a product of his time in Paris.

Sharing the premises with Bacon at 17 Queensbury Mews West were Jessie Lightfoot – his former nanny and lifelong confidante – and his new patron and companion Eric Allden. Bacon had met Allden, a retired diplomat, in July 1929 on the ferry from Dover to Calais. Allden noted in his diary that the artist was ‘starting a shop in London for ultra modern furniture and was going to Paris to purchase examples’ (E. Allden, quoted in M. Harrison, Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonne, Vol. 1, London 2016, p. 77). The two became friends, and Allden would become one of the first buyers of Bacon’s work. Together, they travelled widely, visiting the artist’s native Ireland and attending the Bayreuth Festival in Germany, as well as touring London’s galleries and museums. At the National Gallery that autumn, they stood before Piero della Francesca’s Nativity, whose geometric structuring fascinated the young Bacon. In October 1929, the artist rented a maisonette at 54 Vincent Square in Pimlico to share with Lightfoot and Allden; the trio took up residence in South Kensington ten weeks later. Allden was initially struck by the artist’s rug designs. ‘His rugs arrived from Wilton’s’, he wrote. ‘They have made them up beautifully. One, called “Formal Design”, in black & grey with a touch of white & scarlet, he is letting me have at cost price as a birthday present’ (E. Allden, quoted in J. Norton, ‘Bacon’s Beginnings’, The Burlington Magazine, January 2016, p. 22). He would go on to acquire at least four of these works, along with the rest of the present grouping and Bacon’s first ever documented artwork Watercolour (1929).

By 1930, Bacon was gaining increasing recognition as a designer, advertising in the Kensington Directory as ‘Francis Bacon: Modern decoration, furniture in metal, glass and wood; rugs and lights’. In August that year, the magazine The Studio published an article entitled ‘The 1930 Look in British Decoration’, hailing Bacon as one of most inventive English designers of the time and featuring in situ photographs of his works. Concurrently, however, a new métier was beginning to blossom within his output: painting. Bacon’s embrace of the medium owes much to his relationship with the Australian-born artist Roy de Maistre, who he had met earlier that year. Fifteen years Bacon’s senior, he became an important mentor and father figure, guiding his first steps in the art world. De Maistre cultivated a wide social circle of artists and literary figures at his studio on Eccleston Street, introducing Bacon to the writer Patrick White and the art historian Douglas Cooper, among others. One of the first artists in Sydney to engage with the developments of Post-Impressionism, he had studied, taught and exhibited in his native country, initially visiting Europe during the mid-1920s before returning permanently at the end of the decade. Styling himself ‘Roi de Mestre’, in deference to his French ancestry, he had particular interests in colour and synaesthesia, working in a variety of media including painting, film and occasionally dabbling in furniture design. For Bacon, who had no formal training, de Maistre offered a wealth of knowledge, schooling the young artist in numerous aspects of painterly technique. Bacon quickly became hooked: shortly afterwards he would abandon his design practice altogether, devoting himself exclusively to the endless possibilities of pigment on canvas.

The artistic relationship between Bacon and de Maistre was in many ways reciprocal. The young artist arguably became a source of inspiration to his mentor – indeed his studio featured in around ten works by de Maistre during this period. Among the most notable of these is Francis Bacon’s Studio in Queensbury Mews West (1930), depicting two of the artist’s rugs as well as the central panel of Painted Screen, which de Maistre acquired from Allden. Between 4 – 22 November 1930, Bacon and de Maistre mounted a joint exhibition in the studio with the artist and actress Jean Shepeard. Bacon designed the invitation card, and exhibited four rugs and five paintings; de Maistre exhibited seven. Though most of Bacon’s listed works no longer survive, the small printed catalogue reveals that Painting was probably shown, originally believed to have been titled Trees by the Sea. It was thus that Bacon made his first public statement as a painter; he and de Maistre would exhibit jointly again in two shows at the Mayor Gallery in 1933. The second of the two saw Bacon unveil his 1933 Crucifixion – a now-landmark painting that brought him to the attention of a much wider audience. The work, at the suggestion of Douglas Cooper, was included in Herbert Read’s book Art Now, published that year in conjunction with the exhibition, and illustrated opposite Picasso’s Female Bather with Raised Arms (1929). Just a few short years after his return from Paris, and still in his early twenties, Bacon’s fledgling painterly practice was already being discussed in relation to that of his idol. It is a conversation that continues today.

In 1939, Francis Elek came to England from Czechoslovakia as part of a swimming team, and became separated from his family at the outbreak of conflict in Europe. It was whilst searching for them through the Red Cross after the war that he met Allden, and subsequently acquired the majority of the present collection in the late 1940s. The acquisition of Painted Screen several decades later completed the group: like the missing piece of a puzzle, it speaks to its companions in myriad ways. The brickwork and columns are echoed in Gouache, along with the bright orange tone streaked vertically down the length of the third panel. This colour finds itself splashed in dots across one of the rugs – a motif similarly present in the work on paper. The truncated arms of the screen’s figures resonate with the severed tree trunks in Painting, whilst its folded form is reflected in the work’s central interlocking panels. Its geometric armature resounds across the entire grouping, manifesting itself in a variety of bold planar structures. The result is a cohesive snapshot of Bacon’s early aesthetic preoccupations, united in conversation for over half a century.

These works, then, represent the crucible of Bacon’s artistic language as he steered a revolutionary course from design to painting. Within their depths, we catch glimpses of his later achievements: of the cubic frames that housed his screaming Popes; of his 1960s portraits, with their geometric interiors; and of famed triptychs, where – through a metamorphic combination of figures and screens – he would fuse grandiloquent mythological and religious narratives with his own tales of triumph and tragedy. ‘[Bacon’s] earliest works are marked by conspicuous intelligence and an innate capacity for the actual application of paint’, wrote John Rothenstein in the artist’s first catalogue raisonné (J. Rothenstein, ‘Introduction’, in R. Alley, Francis Bacon, London 1964, p. 10). As the years went by, witnessing global conflict, unprecedented technological advancement in film and photography, new studios in London and Paris and a constantly-evolving cast of lovers, friends and subjects, this early flash of brilliance would give rise to a new chapter in the history of painting. Through a complex, intuitive and deeply sensory command of pigment, Bacon would come to chronicle the human condition, in all its shifting guises.

 

 

 

 

  CHRISTIE'S

 

   Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Auction

 

    London | 4 October   Sale 15485 | Lot 49

 

 

   Francis Bacon (1909-1992)

 

 

    Painted Screen

 

 

    Price realised: GBP 2,408,750

 

  Estimate: GBP 700,000 - 1000,000

 

 

      

 

Francis Bacon (1909-1992)


Painted Screen


oil on plywood with metal hinges
each panel: 72 x 24 x 1 1/8in. (183 x 61 x 2.8cm.) 
overall: 72 x 72 x 1 1/8in. (183 x 183 x 2.8cm.)
Executed circa 1929

 

Provenance

Eric Allden, London. 
Roy de Maistre, London (until 1968). 
Francis Elek, London.
Thence by descent to the present owner (on long-term loan to Tate Britain since 2009).

 

Literature

J. Rothenstein and R. Alley, Francis Bacon Catalogue Raisonné, London 1964, p. 26, no. 3 (illustrated, p. 159). 
H.M. Davies, Francis Bacon: The Early and Middle Years 1928-1958, New York 1978, pp. v, 11,12, pl. 8 (illustrated, p. 228).
H. Johnson, Roy De Maistre: The English Years 1930-1968, Sydney 1995, pl. 3 (installation view illustrated, p. 21).
Francis Bacon, exh. cat., Paris, Centre National d'art et de culture Georges Pompidou, 1996 (illustrated, p. 286).
Bacon Picasso: The Life of Images, exh. cat., Paris, Musée Picasso, 2005, p. 235, no. 51 (illustrated, p. 75).
M. Peppiatt, Francis Bacon: Anatomy of An Enigma, London 2008, p. 64.
J. Norton, 'Bacon's Beginnings', in The Burlington Magazine, January 2016, no. 25 (detail illustrated, p. 20).
M. Harrison and R. Daniels (eds.), Francis Bacon Catalogue Raisonné Volume II 1929-57, London 2016, p. 112, no. 30-01 (illustrated in colour, p. 113).

Exhibited

Lugano, Museo d'Arte Moderna, Francis Bacon, 1993, p. 136, no. 3 (illustrated in colour, p. 19; illustrated, p. 136).
Milan, Palazzo Reale, Bacon, 2008, p. 229, no. 3 (illustrated in colour, p. 85). 
London, Tate Britain, Francis Bacon: Early Works, 2009-2010.

 

Lot Essay

‘[Painted Screen] is Bacon’s earliest surviving large-scale work and contains the first of his large figures. In both respects, and in being conceived as a “triptych”, it anticipates prominent characteristics of his mature oeuvre’ 


–Martin Harrison 

 

Documented in the artist’s catalogue raisonné as his earliest surviving large-scale work, Painted Screen (circa 1929) is a seminal object that contains the seeds of Francis Bacon’s later practice. Comprising three painted panels, connected to form a two-metre-high folding screen, it represents the birth of his artistic outlook, forming an extraordinary precursor to his celebrated triptychs. Shot through with the influence of Picasso, Léger and de Chirico, the work contains the artist’s first large figures, arguably anticipating the three biomorphic ‘Furies’ that would inhabit his first canvas triptych Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, 1944 (Tate, London). Unseen by the public until 1993, when it was shown at the Museo d’Arte Moderna, Lugano, the work has been on loan to Tate, London, since 2009. It was originally owned by the artist’s early patron Eric Allden before passing to his friend and mentor Roy de Maistre, who depicted the central panel in his 1930 painting Francis Bacon’s Studio in Queensbury Mews West. The work became a centrepiece of de Maistre’s own studio and remained in his possession until his death in 1968, subsequently entering the Elek family collection. Painted shortly after Bacon’s return to London following sojourns in Berlin and Paris, it captures the subtle negotiation between art and design at the dawn of his oeuvre, marking the shift from his early work in furniture and interiors towards his embrace of wide-ranging painterly techniques. His encounters with the European Avant-garde had a powerful impact on this trajectory – in particular Paul Rosenberg’s 1927 exhibition of Picasso’s drawings, which inspired his early essays in paint. Intriguingly, Anne Baldessari notes that Rosenberg’s stock at the time included a 1921 folding screen by Picasso – a forerunner, she suggests, to the present work. Compositionally, the work’s geometric forms anticipate Bacon’s embrace of architectonic devices as a means of spotlighting his subjects. Its blend of curved and rectilinear planes, in particular, seems to foreshadow the elliptical and cubic spaceframes in which Bacon would dissect his figural specimens. With an uncannily apt turn of phrase, he would later conceptualise this process as ‘clearing away the screens’ that obstruct our perception of raw sensation. The white columns recall not only de Chirico’s deserted Italian piazzas but may also be seen to relate to folded white rubber drapes – ‘grooved like columns’, writes Baldessari – that hung in his studio. Technical analysis of the work’s material make-up sheds intriguing light upon Bacon’s incorporation of methods from both design and painting – a key feature of his early works. As Elke Cwiertnia writes, ‘it shows a carefully planned figure composition and painterly qualities in the use of the applied materials. After the plywood-sandwiched board was primed, a pencil drawing was applied to outline the composition. The outlined areas were loosely filled with oleoresinous paint, using a brush. A pointed tool, like a brush handle, was used to draw lines in the wet paint to depict a brick wall and to further define the figures – a technique Bacon would later use in some of his paintings. Early versions of Bacon’s surface modulation techniques are also visible; thick paint on the centre board shows a rough surface (i.e. peaks due to stubbing with a brush) … The screen links Bacon’s design objects to his paintings and works on paper’ (E. Cwiertnia, ‘Francis Bacon: Materials and Techniques’, in M. Harrison, Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné, Vol. 1., London 2016, p. 67).
 

An Important British Collection of Early Works by Francis Bacon
‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’

‘[Bacon’s] earliest works are marked by conspicuous intelligence and an innate capacity for the actual application of paint’ 


–John Rothenstein 

 

Christie’s is delighted to present an exceptional group of six rare early paintings and rugs by Francis Bacon. Standing among the very first works in his catalogue raisonné, they capture the birth of one of the twentieth century’s greatest artistic voices. On loan to Tate, London, since 2009, the collection bears an outstanding provenance that includes Bacon’s first patron Eric Allden and his early artistic mentor Roy de Maistre. In the 1940s, five of the works entered the family collection of Francis Elek, who met Allden around this time; he acquired the sixth following de Maistre’s death in 1968. Collectively, they chronicle the artist’s formative influences, blending his early interests in furniture design with the contemporary innovations of the European Avant-garde. Few works remain from this seminal period: the present group includes his earliest surviving large-scale work (Painted Screencirca 1929) – a precursor to his famed triptychs – as well as his first extant painting (Painting, 1929-1930) and an exquisite early work on paper (Gouachecirca 1929). Forms, colours, motifs and techniques resonate across the collection, offering a profound insight into the artist’s early working methods. These creations remained largely unseen by the public for over sixty years, and have been widely exhibited since their unveiling at the Museo d’Arte Moderna, Lugano, in 1993. Together, they mark the dawn of an extraordinary seven-decade career that would redefine the nature and purpose of art-making.

In 1927, a seventeen-year-old Bacon arrived in Paris. He had just spent two months in Berlin, where his father had hoped that he would find distraction from the bright lights of 1920s Soho. Though Bacon would not stray far from his favoured London haunts, returning to the city just two years later, his time in Europe had a pivotal impact upon his life and work. His nascent interests in furniture and interior design were sharpened by his contact with the Bauhaus movement, as well as his exposure to French architects and designers such as Le Corbusier, Charlotte Perriand, Pierre Chareau, André Lurçat and Eileen Gray, all of whom responded to the momentum generated by the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes. Paris at the time was a thriving centre of cultural innovation, and Bacon immersed himself in its currents. Under the guidance of the Bocquentin family, with whom he stayed for several months, he primed himself to the achievements of French modernism, absorbing the revolutionary aesthetics of Cubism and Surrealism. He admired the works of Fernand Léger and Giorgio de Chirico, as well as the paintings and tapestries of Jean Lurçat. A turning point, however, came in the summer of 1927, when Bacon attended an exhibition of Pablo Picasso’s drawings at Galerie Paul Rosenberg. He was struck by the fluid morphology of his figures, formed and deformed through a visceral command of line. ‘That’s when I first thought about painting’, he would later recall (F. Bacon, quoted in A. Sinclair, Francis Bacon: His Life and Violent Times, New York 1993, p. 53). The influence of the Spanish master would saturate his early works, and would continue to reverberate throughout his career. In 1929, Bacon returned to London, where he reflected upon what he had seen in Europe. The lessons of Paris began to manifest themselves in his burgeoning design practice, and would ultimately give way to his first painterly explorations. In January 1930, he moved into a new studio and living quarters in a converted garage at 17 Queensbury Mews West in South Kensington, where he remained until the following year. The space, which became both a showcase and source of inspiration for his work, was stylishly furbished with the flair of a young, up-and-coming designer. Sleek, minimal and elegant, it was a far cry from the chaotic, littered, paint-splattered rooms he would later inhabit at 7 Reece Mews, just around the corner. Anne Baldessari describes a ‘space devoted to geometrical order, in brown and gray monochrome, with metal furniture, all gleaming fittings, glass, and leather. Mirrors played a starring role, conferring on the one-time garage in Queensbury Mews a peculiar light, and diffracting reflections of the carpets and the grid-like furnishings ad infinitum, composing ever-new variations. On the walls hung rugs signed like Old Master pictures next to hand-painted folding screens, decorative objects, and bouquets of flowers. White rubber drapes concealed the barred windows with heavy folds like grooved columns’ (A. Baldessari, Bacon Picasso: The Life of Images, exh. cat, Réunion des Musées Nationaux, Paris, 2005, p. 73). For Bacon, who was deeply influenced by his working environments, this set-up would have an important impact upon the subsequent use of geometric structures in his paintings. The cubic spaceframes, ellipses, circular railings, vertical striations and fractured perspectives of his later works may be said to owe much to the early mise-en-scène of his studio – itself a product of his time in Paris.

Sharing the premises with Bacon at 17 Queensbury Mews West were Jessie Lightfoot – his former nanny and lifelong confidante – and his new patron and companion Eric Allden. Bacon had met Allden, a retired diplomat, in July 1929 on the ferry from Dover to Calais. Allden noted in his diary that the artist was ‘starting a shop in London for ultra modern furniture and was going to Paris to purchase examples’ (E. Allden, quoted in M. Harrison, Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonne, Vol. 1, London 2016, p. 77). The two became friends, and Allden would become one of the first buyers of Bacon’s work. Together, they travelled widely, visiting the artist’s native Ireland and attending the Bayreuth Festival in Germany, as well as touring London’s galleries and museums. At the National Gallery that autumn, they stood before Piero della Francesca’s Nativity, whose geometric structuring fascinated the young Bacon. In October 1929, the artist rented a maisonette at 54 Vincent Square in Pimlico to share with Lightfoot and Allden; the trio took up residence in South Kensington ten weeks later. Allden was initially struck by the artist’s rug designs. ‘His rugs arrived from Wilton’s’, he wrote. ‘They have made them up beautifully. One, called “Formal Design”, in black & grey with a touch of white & scarlet, he is letting me have at cost price as a birthday present’ (E. Allden, quoted in J. Norton, ‘Bacon’s Beginnings’, The Burlington Magazine, January 2016, p. 22). He would go on to acquire at least four of these works, along with the rest of the present grouping and Bacon’s first ever documented artwork Watercolour (1929).

By 1930, Bacon was gaining increasing recognition as a designer, advertising in the Kensington Directory as ‘Francis Bacon: Modern decoration, furniture in metal, glass and wood; rugs and lights’. In August that year, the magazine The Studio published an article entitled ‘The 1930 Look in British Decoration’, hailing Bacon as one of most inventive English designers of the time and featuring in situ photographs of his works. Concurrently, however, a new métier was beginning to blossom within his output: painting. Bacon’s embrace of the medium owes much to his relationship with the Australian-born artist Roy de Maistre, who he had met earlier that year. Fifteen years Bacon’s senior, he became an important mentor and father figure, guiding his first steps in the art world. De Maistre cultivated a wide social circle of artists and literary figures at his studio on Eccleston Street, introducing Bacon to the writer Patrick White and the art historian Douglas Cooper, among others. One of the first artists in Sydney to engage with the developments of Post-Impressionism, he had studied, taught and exhibited in his native country, initially visiting Europe during the mid-1920s before returning permanently at the end of the decade. Styling himself ‘Roi de Mestre’, in deference to his French ancestry, he had particular interests in colour and synaesthesia, working in a variety of media including painting, film and occasionally dabbling in furniture design. For Bacon, who had no formal training, de Maistre offered a wealth of knowledge, schooling the young artist in numerous aspects of painterly technique. Bacon quickly became hooked: shortly afterwards he would abandon his design practice altogether, devoting himself exclusively to the endless possibilities of pigment on canvas.

The artistic relationship between Bacon and de Maistre was in many ways reciprocal. The young artist arguably became a source of inspiration to his mentor – indeed his studio featured in around ten works by de Maistre during this period. Among the most notable of these is Francis Bacon’s Studio in Queensbury Mews West (1930), depicting two of the artist’s rugs as well as the central panel of Painted Screen, which de Maistre acquired from Allden. Between 4 – 22 November 1930, Bacon and de Maistre mounted a joint exhibition in the studio with the artist and actress Jean Shepeard. Bacon designed the invitation card, and exhibited four rugs and five paintings; de Maistre exhibited seven. Though most of Bacon’s listed works no longer survive, the small printed catalogue reveals that Painting was probably shown, originally believed to have been titled Trees by the Sea. It was thus that Bacon made his first public statement as a painter; he and de Maistre would exhibit jointly again in two shows at the Mayor Gallery in 1933. The second of the two saw Bacon unveil his 1933 Crucifixion – a now-landmark painting that brought him to the attention of a much wider audience. The work, at the suggestion of Douglas Cooper, was included in Herbert Read’s book Art Now, published that year in conjunction with the exhibition, and illustrated opposite Picasso’s Female Bather with Raised Arms (1929). Just a few short years after his return from Paris, and still in his early twenties, Bacon’s fledgling painterly practice was already being discussed in relation to that of his idol. It is a conversation that continues today.

In 1939, Francis Elek came to England from Czechoslovakia as part of a swimming team, and became separated from his family at the outbreak of conflict in Europe. It was whilst searching for them through the Red Cross after the war that he met Allden, and subsequently acquired the majority of the present collection in the late 1940s. The acquisition of Painted Screen several decades later completed the group: like the missing piece of a puzzle, it speaks to its companions in myriad ways. The brickwork and columns are echoed in Gouache, along with the bright orange tone streaked vertically down the length of the third panel. This colour finds itself splashed in dots across one of the rugs – a motif similarly present in the work on paper. The truncated arms of the screen’s figures resonate with the severed tree trunks in Painting, whilst its folded form is reflected in the work’s central interlocking panels. Its geometric armature resounds across the entire grouping, manifesting itself in a variety of bold planar structures. The result is a cohesive snapshot of Bacon’s early aesthetic preoccupations, united in conversation for over half a century.

These works, then, represent the crucible of Bacon’s artistic language as he steered a revolutionary course from design to painting. Within their depths, we catch glimpses of his later achievements: of the cubic frames that housed his screaming Popes; of his 1960s portraits, with their geometric interiors; and of famed triptychs, where – through a metamorphic combination of figures and screens – he would fuse grandiloquent mythological and religious narratives with his own tales of triumph and tragedy. ‘[Bacon’s] earliest works are marked by conspicuous intelligence and an innate capacity for the actual application of paint’, wrote John Rothenstein in the artist’s first catalogue raisonné (J. Rothenstein, ‘Introduction’, in R. Alley, Francis Bacon, London 1964, p. 10). As the years went by, witnessing global conflict, unprecedented technological advancement in film and photography, new studios in London and Paris and a constantly-evolving cast of lovers, friends and subjects, this early flash of brilliance would give rise to a new chapter in the history of painting. Through a complex, intuitive and deeply sensory command of pigment, Bacon would come to chronicle the human condition, in all its shifting guises.

 

 

 

   Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Auction

 

    London | 4 October   Sale 15485 | Lot 50

 

   Francis Bacon (1909-1992)

 

     Rug  

 

  Estimate: GBP 70,000 - 1,00,000

 

    Price realised: GBP 170,000

 

 

      

 

Francis Bacon (1909-1992)

Rug

signed 'FRANCIS BACON' (lower right)
wool
83 5/8 x 49 1/8in. (212.5 x 124.7cm.)
Executed circa 1929

 

Provenance

Eric Allden, London. 
Francis Elek, London (acquired from the above late 1940s).
Thence by descent to the present owner (on long-term loan to Tate Britain since 2009).

 

Literature

J. Rothenstein and R. Alley, Francis Bacon Catalogue Raisonné, London 1964 (with incorrect measurements illustrated, p. 24).
Francis Bacon: A Retrospective, exh. cat., New Haven, The Yale Center for British Art, 1999, p. 21 (illustrated, p. 20).
J. Norton, 'Bacon's Beginnings', in The Burlington Magazine, January 2016, no. 27 (illustrated in colo
ur, p. 22).
Francis Bacon: From Picasso to Velázquez, exh. cat., Bilbao, Museo Guggenheim, 2016-2017, fig. 10 (illustrated in colour, p. 34).

 

Exhibited

London, Tate Britain, Francis Bacon: Early Works, 2009-2010.

 

Lot Essay

‘His rugs arrived from Wilton’s. They have made them up beautifully. One, called “Formal Design”, in black & grey with a touch of white & scarlet, he is letting me have at cost price as a birthday present’ 


Eric Allden 

 

An Important British Collection of Early Works by Francis Bacon
‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’

‘[Bacon’s] earliest works are marked by conspicuous intelligence and an innate capacity for the actual application of paint’ 


–John Rothenstein 

 

Christie’s is delighted to present an exceptional group of six rare early paintings and rugs by Francis Bacon. Standing among the very first works in his catalogue raisonné, they capture the birth of one of the twentieth century’s greatest artistic voices. On loan to Tate, London, since 2009, the collection bears an outstanding provenance that includes Bacon’s first patron Eric Allden and his early artistic mentor Roy de Maistre. In the 1940s, five of the works entered the family collection of Francis Elek, who met Allden around this time; he acquired the sixth following de Maistre’s death in 1968. Collectively, they chronicle the artist’s formative influences, blending his early interests in furniture design with the contemporary innovations of the European Avant-garde. Few works remain from this seminal period: the present group includes his earliest surviving large-scale work (Painted Screencirca 1929) – a precursor to his famed triptychs – as well as his first extant painting (Painting, 1929-1930) and an exquisite early work on paper (Gouachecirca 1929). Forms, colours, motifs and techniques resonate across the collection, offering a profound insight into the artist’s early working methods. These creations remained largely unseen by the public for over sixty years, and have been widely exhibited since their unveiling at the Museo d’Arte Moderna, Lugano, in 1993. Together, they mark the dawn of an extraordinary seven-decade career that would redefine the nature and purpose of art-making.

In 1927, a seventeen-year-old Bacon arrived in Paris. He had just spent two months in Berlin, where his father had hoped that he would find distraction from the bright lights of 1920s Soho. Though Bacon would not stray far from his favoured London haunts, returning to the city just two years later, his time in Europe had a pivotal impact upon his life and work. His nascent interests in furniture and interior design were sharpened by his contact with the Bauhaus movement, as well as his exposure to French architects and designers such as Le Corbusier, Charlotte Perriand, Pierre Chareau, André Lurçat and Eileen Gray, all of whom responded to the momentum generated by the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes. Paris at the time was a thriving centre of cultural innovation, and Bacon immersed himself in its currents. Under the guidance of the Bocquentin family, with whom he stayed for several months, he primed himself to the achievements of French modernism, absorbing the revolutionary aesthetics of Cubism and Surrealism. He admired the works of Fernand Léger and Giorgio de Chirico, as well as the paintings and tapestries of Jean Lurçat. A turning point, however, came in the summer of 1927, when Bacon attended an exhibition of Pablo Picasso’s drawings at Galerie Paul Rosenberg. He was struck by the fluid morphology of his figures, formed and deformed through a visceral command of line. ‘That’s when I first thought about painting’, he would later recall (F. Bacon, quoted in A. Sinclair, Francis Bacon: His Life and Violent Times, New York 1993, p. 53). The influence of the Spanish master would saturate his early works, and would continue to reverberate throughout his career. In 1929, Bacon returned to London, where he reflected upon what he had seen in Europe. The lessons of Paris began to manifest themselves in his burgeoning design practice, and would ultimately give way to his first painterly explorations. In January 1930, he moved into a new studio and living quarters in a converted garage at 17 Queensbury Mews West in South Kensington, where he remained until the following year. The space, which became both a showcase and source of inspiration for his work, was stylishly furbished with the flair of a young, up-and-coming designer. Sleek, minimal and elegant, it was a far cry from the chaotic, littered, paint-splattered rooms he would later inhabit at 7 Reece Mews, just around the corner. Anne Baldessari describes a ‘space devoted to geometrical order, in brown and gray monochrome, with metal furniture, all gleaming fittings, glass, and leather. Mirrors played a starring role, conferring on the one-time garage in Queensbury Mews a peculiar light, and diffracting reflections of the carpets and the grid-like furnishings ad infinitum, composing ever-new variations. On the walls hung rugs signed like Old Master pictures next to hand-painted folding screens, decorative objects, and bouquets of flowers. White rubber drapes concealed the barred windows with heavy folds like grooved columns’ (A. Baldessari, Bacon Picasso: The Life of Images, exh. cat, Réunion des Musées Nationaux, Paris, 2005, p. 73). For Bacon, who was deeply influenced by his working environments, this set-up would have an important impact upon the subsequent use of geometric structures in his paintings. The cubic spaceframes, ellipses, circular railings, vertical striations and fractured perspectives of his later works may be said to owe much to the early mise-en-scène of his studio – itself a product of his time in Paris.

Sharing the premises with Bacon at 17 Queensbury Mews West were Jessie Lightfoot – his former nanny and lifelong confidante – and his new patron and companion Eric Allden. Bacon had met Allden, a retired diplomat, in July 1929 on the ferry from Dover to Calais. Allden noted in his diary that the artist was ‘starting a shop in London for ultra modern furniture and was going to Paris to purchase examples’ (E. Allden, quoted in M. Harrison, Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonne, Vol. 1, London 2016, p. 77). The two became friends, and Allden would become one of the first buyers of Bacon’s work. Together, they travelled widely, visiting the artist’s native Ireland and attending the Bayreuth Festival in Germany, as well as touring London’s galleries and museums. At the National Gallery that autumn, they stood before Piero della Francesca’s Nativity, whose geometric structuring fascinated the young Bacon. In October 1929, the artist rented a maisonette at 54 Vincent Square in Pimlico to share with Lightfoot and Allden; the trio took up residence in South Kensington ten weeks later. Allden was initially struck by the artist’s rug designs. ‘His rugs arrived from Wilton’s’, he wrote. ‘They have made them up beautifully. One, called “Formal Design”, in black & grey with a touch of white & scarlet, he is letting me have at cost price as a birthday present’ (E. Allden, quoted in J. Norton, ‘Bacon’s Beginnings’, The Burlington Magazine, January 2016, p. 22). He would go on to acquire at least four of these works, along with the rest of the present grouping and Bacon’s first ever documented artwork Watercolour (1929).

By 1930, Bacon was gaining increasing recognition as a designer, advertising in the Kensington Directory as ‘Francis Bacon: Modern decoration, furniture in metal, glass and wood; rugs and lights’. In August that year, the magazine The Studio published an article entitled ‘The 1930 Look in British Decoration’, hailing Bacon as one of most inventive English designers of the time and featuring in situ photographs of his works. Concurrently, however, a new métier was beginning to blossom within his output: painting. Bacon’s embrace of the medium owes much to his relationship with the Australian-born artist Roy de Maistre, who he had met earlier that year. Fifteen years Bacon’s senior, he became an important mentor and father figure, guiding his first steps in the art world. De Maistre cultivated a wide social circle of artists and literary figures at his studio on Eccleston Street, introducing Bacon to the writer Patrick White and the art historian Douglas Cooper, among others. One of the first artists in Sydney to engage with the developments of Post-Impressionism, he had studied, taught and exhibited in his native country, initially visiting Europe during the mid-1920s before returning permanently at the end of the decade. Styling himself ‘Roi de Mestre’, in deference to his French ancestry, he had particular interests in colour and synaesthesia, working in a variety of media including painting, film and occasionally dabbling in furniture design. For Bacon, who had no formal training, de Maistre offered a wealth of knowledge, schooling the young artist in numerous aspects of painterly technique. Bacon quickly became hooked: shortly afterwards he would abandon his design practice altogether, devoting himself exclusively to the endless possibilities of pigment on canvas.

The artistic relationship between Bacon and de Maistre was in many ways reciprocal. The young artist arguably became a source of inspiration to his mentor – indeed his studio featured in around ten works by de Maistre during this period. Among the most notable of these is Francis Bacon’s Studio in Queensbury Mews West (1930), depicting two of the artist’s rugs as well as the central panel of Painted Screen, which de Maistre acquired from Allden. Between 4 – 22 November 1930, Bacon and de Maistre mounted a joint exhibition in the studio with the artist and actress Jean Shepeard. Bacon designed the invitation card, and exhibited four rugs and five paintings; de Maistre exhibited seven. Though most of Bacon’s listed works no longer survive, the small printed catalogue reveals that Painting was probably shown, originally believed to have been titled Trees by the Sea. It was thus that Bacon made his first public statement as a painter; he and de Maistre would exhibit jointly again in two shows at the Mayor Gallery in 1933. The second of the two saw Bacon unveil his 1933 Crucifixion – a now-landmark painting that brought him to the attention of a much wider audience. The work, at the suggestion of Douglas Cooper, was included in Herbert Read’s book Art Now, published that year in conjunction with the exhibition, and illustrated opposite Picasso’s Female Bather with Raised Arms (1929). Just a few short years after his return from Paris, and still in his early twenties, Bacon’s fledgling painterly practice was already being discussed in relation to that of his idol. It is a conversation that continues today.

In 1939, Francis Elek came to England from Czechoslovakia as part of a swimming team, and became separated from his family at the outbreak of conflict in Europe. It was whilst searching for them through the Red Cross after the war that he met Allden, and subsequently acquired the majority of the present collection in the late 1940s. The acquisition of Painted Screen several decades later completed the group: like the missing piece of a puzzle, it speaks to its companions in myriad ways. The brickwork and columns are echoed in Gouache, along with the bright orange tone streaked vertically down the length of the third panel. This colour finds itself splashed in dots across one of the rugs – a motif similarly present in the work on paper. The truncated arms of the screen’s figures resonate with the severed tree trunks in Painting, whilst its folded form is reflected in the work’s central interlocking panels. Its geometric armature resounds across the entire grouping, manifesting itself in a variety of bold planar structures. The result is a cohesive snapshot of Bacon’s early aesthetic preoccupations, united in conversation for over half a century.

These works, then, represent the crucible of Bacon’s artistic language as he steered a revolutionary course from design to painting. Within their depths, we catch glimpses of his later achievements: of the cubic frames that housed his screaming Popes; of his 1960s portraits, with their geometric interiors; and of famed triptychs, where – through a metamorphic combination of figures and screens – he would fuse grandiloquent mythological and religious narratives with his own tales of triumph and tragedy. ‘[Bacon’s] earliest works are marked by conspicuous intelligence and an innate capacity for the actual application of paint’, wrote John Rothenstein in the artist’s first catalogue raisonné (J. Rothenstein, ‘Introduction’, in R. Alley, Francis Bacon, London 1964, p. 10). As the years went by, witnessing global conflict, unprecedented technological advancement in film and photography, new studios in London and Paris and a constantly-evolving cast of lovers, friends and subjects, this early flash of brilliance would give rise to a new chapter in the history of painting. Through a complex, intuitive and deeply sensory command of pigment, Bacon would come to chronicle the human condition, in all its shifting guises.

 

 

 

  CHRISTIE'S

 

   Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Auction

 

    London | 4 October   Sale 15485 | Lot 51

 

   Francis Bacon (1909-1992)

 

     Painting

 

 

    Price realised: GBP 548,750

 

  Estimate: GBP 450,000 - 650,000

 

       

 

Francis Bacon (1909-1992)

Painting 

signed 'F. Bacon' (lower right)
oil on canvas
36 x 23 7/8in. (91.5 x 60.6cm.)
Painted in 1929-1930

 

Provenance

Eric Allden, London. 
Francis Elek, London (acquired from the above late 1940s).
Thence by descent to the present owner (on long-term loan to Tate Britain since 2009).

Literature

J. Rothenstein and R. Alley, Francis Bacon Catalogue Raisonné, London 1964, p. 26, no. 4 (illustrated, p. 160).
H.M. Davies, Francis Bacon: The Early and Middle Years 1928-1958, New York 1978, pp. v and 13, pl. 9 (illustrated, p. 229).
M. Peppiatt, Francis Bacon: Anatomy of An Enigma, London 2008, p. 64.
M. Harrison and R. Daniels (eds.), Francis Bacon Catalogue Raisonné Volume II 1929-57, London 2016, p. 114, no. 30-02 (illustrated in colour, p. 115).

 

Exhibited

(Probably) London, Francis Bacon Studio, Recent Paintings by Roi de Mestre, Drawings and Pastels by Jean Shepeard, Paintings and Rugs by Francis Bacon, 1930 (titled 'Trees by the Sea').
Lugano, Museo d'Arte Moderna, Francis Bacon, 1993, pp. 20 and 137, no. 4 (illustrated in colour, p. 21; illustrated, p. 137).
Milan, Palazzo Reale, Bacon, 2008, p. 229, no. 4, pp. 86 and 229 (illustrated in colour, p. 87).
London, Tate Britain, Francis Bacon: Early Works, 2009-2010.
Monaco, The Grimaldi Forum Monaco, Francis Bacon, Monaco and French Culture, 2016, no. 26 (illustrated in colour, pp. 59 and 228).
Bilbao, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Francis Bacon: From Picasso to Velázquez, 2016-2017, p. 202, no. 2 (illustrated in colour, p. 50).

 

Lot Essay

 

‘This is the most substantial of Bacon’s few surviving paintings made before 1933, and the earliest extant example in oil on canvas’ 


–Martin Harrison 

 

The earliest surviving oil on canvas by Francis Bacon, Painting is a rare work that represents his most significant painterly achievement prior to the seminal Crucifixion of 1933. Originally owned by the artist’s early patron Eric Allden, and on loan to Tate, London, since 2009, it is thought to be the only work remaining from his historic studio exhibition of November 1930, and is believed to be the painting listed in the catalogue as Trees by the Sea. The exhibition, which also featured works by Roy de Maistre and Jean Shepeard, took place in Bacon’s recently-acquired studio at 17 Queensbury Mews West, showcasing his rug designs as well as his early paintings and works on paper. It was here that Bacon presented himself, for the first time, as an artist. Under de Maistre’s guidance, he had made his first forays into pigment, combining influences from the Cubist and Surrealist works he had recently encountered in Paris. Both Ronald Alley and Martin Harrison invoke the work of Jean Lurçat in relation to the present work: Harrison compares its brooding mise-en-scène to paintings such as Arcachon and La dune, both created in 1930, whilst noting that Bacon may well have seen the artist’s extensive solo exhibition at Alex Reid & Lefevre in London that May (M. Harrison, Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné, Vol. 2, London 2016, p. 114). Perhaps most striking is the work’s surreal, metamorphic imagery, in which the fusion of nature and interior architecture assumes an almost human quality. The severed tree branches resemble truncated limbs, offering an intriguing corollary to the figures in Painted Screen. Like a stage prop, it sets the scene for the uncanny dialogue between figural presence and absence – articulated through a similar combination of screens, shadows and doorways – that would come to dominate his later oeuvre.

 

An Important British Collection of Early Works by Francis Bacon
‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’

‘[Bacon’s] earliest works are marked by conspicuous intelligence and an innate capacity for the actual application of paint’ 


–John Rothenstein 

 

Christie’s is delighted to present an exceptional group of six rare early paintings and rugs by Francis Bacon. Standing among the very first works in his catalogue raisonné, they capture the birth of one of the twentieth century’s greatest artistic voices. On loan to Tate, London, since 2009, the collection bears an outstanding provenance that includes Bacon’s first patron Eric Allden and his early artistic mentor Roy de Maistre. In the 1940s, five of the works entered the family collection of Francis Elek, who met Allden around this time; he acquired the sixth following de Maistre’s death in 1968. Collectively, they chronicle the artist’s formative influences, blending his early interests in furniture design with the contemporary innovations of the European Avant-garde. Few works remain from this seminal period: the present group includes his earliest surviving large-scale work (Painted Screencirca 1929) – a precursor to his famed triptychs – as well as his first extant painting (Painting, 1929-1930) and an exquisite early work on paper (Gouachecirca 1929). Forms, colours, motifs and techniques resonate across the collection, offering a profound insight into the artist’s early working methods. These creations remained largely unseen by the public for over sixty years, and have been widely exhibited since their unveiling at the Museo d’Arte Moderna, Lugano, in 1993. Together, they mark the dawn of an extraordinary seven-decade career that would redefine the nature and purpose of art-making.

In 1927, a seventeen-year-old Bacon arrived in Paris. He had just spent two months in Berlin, where his father had hoped that he would find distraction from the bright lights of 1920s Soho. Though Bacon would not stray far from his favoured London haunts, returning to the city just two years later, his time in Europe had a pivotal impact upon his life and work. His nascent interests in furniture and interior design were sharpened by his contact with the Bauhaus movement, as well as his exposure to French architects and designers such as Le Corbusier, Charlotte Perriand, Pierre Chareau, André Lurçat and Eileen Gray, all of whom responded to the momentum generated by the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes. Paris at the time was a thriving centre of cultural innovation, and Bacon immersed himself in its currents. Under the guidance of the Bocquentin family, with whom he stayed for several months, he primed himself to the achievements of French modernism, absorbing the revolutionary aesthetics of Cubism and Surrealism. He admired the works of Fernand Léger and Giorgio de Chirico, as well as the paintings and tapestries of Jean Lurçat. A turning point, however, came in the summer of 1927, when Bacon attended an exhibition of Pablo Picasso’s drawings at Galerie Paul Rosenberg. He was struck by the fluid morphology of his figures, formed and deformed through a visceral command of line. ‘That’s when I first thought about painting’, he would later recall (F. Bacon, quoted in A. Sinclair, Francis Bacon: His Life and Violent Times, New York 1993, p. 53). The influence of the Spanish master would saturate his early works, and would continue to reverberate throughout his career. In 1929, Bacon returned to London, where he reflected upon what he had seen in Europe. The lessons of Paris began to manifest themselves in his burgeoning design practice, and would ultimately give way to his first painterly explorations. In January 1930, he moved into a new studio and living quarters in a converted garage at 17 Queensbury Mews West in South Kensington, where he remained until the following year. The space, which became both a showcase and source of inspiration for his work, was stylishly furbished with the flair of a young, up-and-coming designer. Sleek, minimal and elegant, it was a far cry from the chaotic, littered, paint-splattered rooms he would later inhabit at 7 Reece Mews, just around the corner. Anne Baldessari describes a ‘space devoted to geometrical order, in brown and gray monochrome, with metal furniture, all gleaming fittings, glass, and leather. Mirrors played a starring role, conferring on the one-time garage in Queensbury Mews a peculiar light, and diffracting reflections of the carpets and the grid-like furnishings ad infinitum, composing ever-new variations. On the walls hung rugs signed like Old Master pictures next to hand-painted folding screens, decorative objects, and bouquets of flowers. White rubber drapes concealed the barred windows with heavy folds like grooved columns’ (A. Baldessari, Bacon Picasso: The Life of Images, exh. cat, Réunion des Musées Nationaux, Paris, 2005, p. 73). For Bacon, who was deeply influenced by his working environments, this set-up would have an important impact upon the subsequent use of geometric structures in his paintings. The cubic spaceframes, ellipses, circular railings, vertical striations and fractured perspectives of his later works may be said to owe much to the early mise-en-scène of his studio – itself a product of his time in Paris.

Sharing the premises with Bacon at 17 Queensbury Mews West were Jessie Lightfoot – his former nanny and lifelong confidante – and his new patron and companion Eric Allden. Bacon had met Allden, a retired diplomat, in July 1929 on the ferry from Dover to Calais. Allden noted in his diary that the artist was ‘starting a shop in London for ultra modern furniture and was going to Paris to purchase examples’ (E. Allden, quoted in M. Harrison, Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonne, Vol. 1, London 2016, p. 77). The two became friends, and Allden would become one of the first buyers of Bacon’s work. Together, they travelled widely, visiting the artist’s native Ireland and attending the Bayreuth Festival in Germany, as well as touring London’s galleries and museums. At the National Gallery that autumn, they stood before Piero della Francesca’s Nativity, whose geometric structuring fascinated the young Bacon. In October 1929, the artist rented a maisonette at 54 Vincent Square in Pimlico to share with Lightfoot and Allden; the trio took up residence in South Kensington ten weeks later. Allden was initially struck by the artist’s rug designs. ‘His rugs arrived from Wilton’s’, he wrote. ‘They have made them up beautifully. One, called “Formal Design”, in black & grey with a touch of white & scarlet, he is letting me have at cost price as a birthday present’ (E. Allden, quoted in J. Norton, ‘Bacon’s Beginnings’, The Burlington Magazine, January 2016, p. 22). He would go on to acquire at least four of these works, along with the rest of the present grouping and Bacon’s first ever documented artwork Watercolour (1929).

By 1930, Bacon was gaining increasing recognition as a designer, advertising in the Kensington Directory as ‘Francis Bacon: Modern decoration, furniture in metal, glass and wood; rugs and lights’. In August that year, the magazine The Studio published an article entitled ‘The 1930 Look in British Decoration’, hailing Bacon as one of most inventive English designers of the time and featuring in situ photographs of his works. Concurrently, however, a new métier was beginning to blossom within his output: painting. Bacon’s embrace of the medium owes much to his relationship with the Australian-born artist Roy de Maistre, who he had met earlier that year. Fifteen years Bacon’s senior, he became an important mentor and father figure, guiding his first steps in the art world. De Maistre cultivated a wide social circle of artists and literary figures at his studio on Eccleston Street, introducing Bacon to the writer Patrick White and the art historian Douglas Cooper, among others. One of the first artists in Sydney to engage with the developments of Post-Impressionism, he had studied, taught and exhibited in his native country, initially visiting Europe during the mid-1920s before returning permanently at the end of the decade. Styling himself ‘Roi de Mestre’, in deference to his French ancestry, he had particular interests in colour and synaesthesia, working in a variety of media including painting, film and occasionally dabbling in furniture design. For Bacon, who had no formal training, de Maistre offered a wealth of knowledge, schooling the young artist in numerous aspects of painterly technique. Bacon quickly became hooked: shortly afterwards he would abandon his design practice altogether, devoting himself exclusively to the endless possibilities of pigment on canvas.

The artistic relationship between Bacon and de Maistre was in many ways reciprocal. The young artist arguably became a source of inspiration to his mentor – indeed his studio featured in around ten works by de Maistre during this period. Among the most notable of these is Francis Bacon’s Studio in Queensbury Mews West (1930), depicting two of the artist’s rugs as well as the central panel of Painted Screen, which de Maistre acquired from Allden. Between 4 – 22 November 1930, Bacon and de Maistre mounted a joint exhibition in the studio with the artist and actress Jean Shepeard. Bacon designed the invitation card, and exhibited four rugs and five paintings; de Maistre exhibited seven. Though most of Bacon’s listed works no longer survive, the small printed catalogue reveals that Painting was probably shown, originally believed to have been titled Trees by the Sea. It was thus that Bacon made his first public statement as a painter; he and de Maistre would exhibit jointly again in two shows at the Mayor Gallery in 1933. The second of the two saw Bacon unveil his 1933 Crucifixion – a now-landmark painting that brought him to the attention of a much wider audience. The work, at the suggestion of Douglas Cooper, was included in Herbert Read’s book Art Now, published that year in conjunction with the exhibition, and illustrated opposite Picasso’s Female Bather with Raised Arms (1929). Just a few short years after his return from Paris, and still in his early twenties, Bacon’s fledgling painterly practice was already being discussed in relation to that of his idol. It is a conversation that continues today.

In 1939, Francis Elek came to England from Czechoslovakia as part of a swimming team, and became separated from his family at the outbreak of conflict in Europe. It was whilst searching for them through the Red Cross after the war that he met Allden, and subsequently acquired the majority of the present collection in the late 1940s. The acquisition of Painted Screen several decades later completed the group: like the missing piece of a puzzle, it speaks to its companions in myriad ways. The brickwork and columns are echoed in Gouache, along with the bright orange tone streaked vertically down the length of the third panel. This colour finds itself splashed in dots across one of the rugs – a motif similarly present in the work on paper. The truncated arms of the screen’s figures resonate with the severed tree trunks in Painting, whilst its folded form is reflected in the work’s central interlocking panels. Its geometric armature resounds across the entire grouping, manifesting itself in a variety of bold planar structures. The result is a cohesive snapshot of Bacon’s early aesthetic preoccupations, united in conversation for over half a century.

These works, then, represent the crucible of Bacon’s artistic language as he steered a revolutionary course from design to painting. Within their depths, we catch glimpses of his later achievements: of the cubic frames that housed his screaming Popes; of his 1960s portraits, with their geometric interiors; and of famed triptychs, where – through a metamorphic combination of figures and screens – he would fuse grandiloquent mythological and religious narratives with his own tales of triumph and tragedy. ‘[Bacon’s] earliest works are marked by conspicuous intelligence and an innate capacity for the actual application of paint’, wrote John Rothenstein in the artist’s first catalogue raisonné (J. Rothenstein, ‘Introduction’, in R. Alley, Francis Bacon, London 1964, p. 10). As the years went by, witnessing global conflict, unprecedented technological advancement in film and photography, new studios in London and Paris and a constantly-evolving cast of lovers, friends and subjects, this early flash of brilliance would give rise to a new chapter in the history of painting. Through a complex, intuitive and deeply sensory command of pigment, Bacon would come to chronicle the human condition, in all its shifting guises.

 

 

 

 

U.K. Tycoon Festoons $257 Million Yacht With Landmark Bacon Art

 

 

Joe Lewis displays ‘Triptych 1974-1977’ inside his superyacht

 

 

BENJAMIN STUPPLES | SENIOR REPORTER | WEALTH | BLOOMBERG | 11 SEPTEMBER 2018

 

How do you decorate a superyacht’s interior? If you’re anything like London-born billionaire Joe Lewis, you might start with the works of one of your country’s most famous painters.

Lewis’s 321-foot (98-meter) yacht, Aviva, has captivated the public since anchoring more than two weeks ago in the tourist-teeming docklands beside London’s Tower Bridge. While some passersby have asked who owns the vessel and ogled its gleaming exterior, those more familiar with Britain’s 20th century artists may have noticed what appears to be Francis Bacon’s “Triptych 1974-1977” hanging on its lower deck in golden frame.

Lewis, 81, bought the work - Bacon’s last triptych focused on the loss of his lover George Dyer, who committed suicide in 1971 - a decade ago for 26.3 million pounds ($34.3 million). The piece is now worth about $70 million, according to a person with knowledge of the asset. The vessel it graces is estimated at $257 million, according to Vessels Value.

The panels, each almost 7 feet tall and 5 feet wide, more recently formed part of an exhibition celebrating U.K. painters of the human form at London-based art gallery Tate Britain. An online guide for the exhibition, which closed on Aug. 27, identifies “The Lewis Collection” as the owner of the three paintings.

The piece is “a kind of landmark” for Bacon because of its beach backdrop, the artist’s biographer, Michael Peppiatt, told Christie’s in 2008. Bacon usually “has everything happening within four walls, and then for some mysterious reason, and I won’t pretend to know why, this takes place outside,” he said.

Bacon died in 1992 at age 82. In the central panel of “Triptych 1974 -1977,” Dyer’s disfigured body kneels on a blue-skied beach beside a black void. For the setting, Tate Britain said Bacon was “indebted” to Edgar Degas’s 1876 “Beach Scene”.

Lewis owns Tavistock Group, a Bahamas-based holding company that has stakes in more than 200 businesses worldwide. His investments include real estate, resorts and restaurants. The billionaire, who made his first fortune through currency trades during the 1990s, also owns North London soccer team Tottenham Hotspur. He’s the world’s 297th-richest person with an estimated $5.6 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Representatives for Lewis didn’t reply to messages seeking comment.

He now spends most of his time in the Bahamas. On top of works from Bacon, his art collection includes pieces by Picasso, Freud, Klimt and Degas. Tavistock Group’s website describes his trove as “one of the largest private art collections in the world.”

Lewis is looking to offload a painting from one of the U.K.’s most celebrated living artists, David Hockney, 81. Lewis is seeking $80 million for “Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures),” which would make him the most expensive living artist at auction.

 

 

 

 

Soho in the Eighties by Christopher Howse

 

bohemian rhapsody

 

 


A sketch of Soho’s celebrated drinkers reveals bullies, charlatans and chancers

 

 

 

GRUB SMITH | BIOGRAPHY & MEMORY | THE FINANCIAL TIMES | FRIDAY 7 SEPTEMBER 2018



Opening this book is like walking into a heavy drinkers’ pub. You are immediately confronted by a surly, unwelcoming cast of alcoholics, bullies, charlatans and chancers. The air is thick with cigarette smoke and, this being 40 years ago, the food is awful: certainly, the only thing gastro about this pub would be “-enteritis”. Depending which chapter you dip into, the scene might be the Coach and Horses, the Colony Room Club, or the French. If you’re really unlucky, it might be the Kismet, known to its clientele back then as Death in the Afternoon. (“What’s that smell in here?” someone once asked. “Failure,” came the reply.)

Fortunately, the Virgil guiding readers through this particular hell is Christopher Howse, an elegant writer and journalist, who warmed a barstool in every one of these haunts back in the 1980s, and sat within earshot of his subjects as they behaved appallingly. When he recounts an anecdote about Francis Bacon dyeing his hair with boot polish, or John Hurt drunkenly launching himself towards a wall of glass bottles, it is usually because he was there at the time, or heard it directly from somebody who was.

There is no shortage of villains in Soho in the Eighties, a patchwork of biographical sketches. But the recurring hero is Jeffrey Bernard, famous for his Low Life column in the Spectator, memorably described as “a suicide note in weekly instalments”. While candidly admitting to Bernard’s many flaws, Howse is loyally in thrall to his talents as a raconteur and writer. Bernard’s listing in the index alone provides an insightful, if cautionary, piece of found poetry: “drunk at book launch . . . whisky . . . vodka . . . ignites tablecloth . . . leg amputated . . . nightmares of maggots . . . not drunk on 2 November 1987”. Howse also includes a bone dry joke at the expense of Bernard’s vanity. At a party in his flat, which was entirely decorated with photographs of “Jeffrey with Graham Greene, Jeffrey with Lester Piggott, Jeffrey in Red Square, a very young Jeffrey, Jeffrey with Richard Ingrams, Jeffrey with Keith Waterhouse”, a female guest inquired if this was Jeffrey’s room. “Either that,” replied his brother Bruce, “or someone who likes him very much.”

Less attractive, not least physically because of his booze-ruined “great swollen, pitted nose”, is Ian Board, the master of ceremonies at the Colony Room. It would be difficult to imagine a man more poorly suited to a career in hospitality than this vituperative, bitterly camp ogre. As Howse recalls, he would habitually wake up on the floor of his club, on the “asphalt carpet” strewn with fag ends and spilt beer, then revive his stomach with a “Vera Vomit” and his lungs with a cough “that would turn into a visceral retching”, before downing a large brandy for breakfast. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he would greet his customers with the words, “Hello, cunt.”

As the day progressed, his behaviour seems, if anything, to have grown worse. His hobby was to “observe the self-destruction” of other people, and he would sometimes drop coins into the lavatory bowl, knowing that some poor drunk would stoop to pick them out. Such characters — and Board is by no means the least virtuous in these pages — barely deserve so fine a memorialist as Howse. He has a talent for nailing a description, whether referring to a raddled drinker’s “pickled onion eyes”, or recalling a profoundly hungover man complaining “of the noise the [snowflakes] made landing on his balding head”.

The Soho of these hacks, artists and has-beens has gone now, fallen victim to property development and an economy that is less forgiving of missed deadlines and liquid lunches. It had its charms and its occasional instances of nobility, but a reading of this book reinforces the opinion that it should not be viewed through rose-tinted spectacles. The worst crime in the small world of these soi-disant bohemians was to be a “bore”, an insult aimed in scattergun fashion at anyone who did not share their attitudes. But the truth is that they could not see how tedious they often were themselves, drinking to excess, fighting, threatening to hit women, cheating each other out of pathetically small sums of money.

The book’s title tips a hat to Daniel Farson’s Soho in the Fifties, which chronicled, among others, Dylan Thomas. The great poet once remarked, deep in his cups, “Somebody’s boring me. I think it’s me.” Despite Howse’s thorough and likeable attempt to salvage their reputation, there could be few more apt epitaphs for a generation that so squalidly wasted its time, and all too often its talent.

 

 

   

                                                      Ian Board with Jeffrey Bernard

 

 

 

 

Soho in the Eighties by Christopher Howse

a decade of debauchery

 

 

How pub prophets, poets, local artists and above all booze created London’s little Bohemia

 

 

WILL SELF | REVIEW | HISTORY BOOKS | THE GUARDIAN | THURSDAY 6 SEPTEMBER 2018

 

At the fag end of this at once elegiac and emetic memoir, Christopher Howse observes: “Obviously a painter like Francis Bacon would not have painted as he did if he had not fallen into Soho.” But I wonder if this is really obvious at all? Bacon was the standout celebrity of London’s little Bohemia, not only in the 80s, but the 50s, 60s and 70s as well – his was also a burgeoning international celebrity, such that in the years since his death he’s come to be recognised as the pre-eminent figurative painter of the second half of the 20th century. That it should have been this tight grid of streets – the area pretty much contained by Wardour Street to the west, Charing Cross Road to the east, Oxford Street to the north and Shaftesbury Avenue to the south – that engendered such genius would seem as preposterous as the assertion that it was the Bateau-Lavoir alone that inspired Picasso’s cubism.

But then all bohemian milieus are really the creation of their minor not their major figures – the big beasts cruise through, ships in the night, en route for more exalted destinations, leaving bobbing in their wake parasitic poetasters, ready to cash in. It would be unfair, perhaps, to class Howse as one such: his sensitive, well-drawn book does a good job of conveying a particular place at a particular time, without either undue reverence or the anachronisms that dog hindsight. In particular, Howse is flinty-eyed about what principally animated Soho’s high spirits during the 80s (and the previous three decades for that matter): alcohol.

If Bacon – a non-stop champagne tippler – was its presiding deity, standing a few feet from the bar of the Colony Room Club, above a crap trattoria on Dean Street, then Soho’s postwar prophet was indubitably Jeffrey Bernard, who succeeded Julian MacLaren-Ross as its best known chronicler. Bernard’s favoured hangout was the Coach and Horses on the corner of Romilly and Greek streets, which at that time was presided over by the self-styled “Soho’s Rudest Landlord”, Norman Balon. I never hung out much in the Coach – as it was known to Bernard, and its other regulars – or in the French, round the corner, where Gaston Bachelard’s waxed moustaches wavered over the bar like some signpost to a hipper future; but I knew the Colony Room Club well in the late 1970s and early 80s (giving me a little seniority over Howse), and can testify to the – for the most part – accuracy of his depiction of its crapulent denizens. Bernard, besides penning his celebrated Low Life columns for the Spectator, was also a career alcoholic – and it’s this, a sort of existential commitment to the ruination of chronic drinking, that marked out the Soho of this era.

There are still one or two illegal after-hours drinking clubs operating in the locale – remarkably, there also remain a few of the so-called “walk-ups”, brothels that occupy the upper storeys of the elegant Georgian houses that characterise the quarter. Meanwhile, the street-low-life component of Soho has been on the rise, such that the legendary “front line” for hard drug dealing has been resurrected around Shaftesbury Avenue and its environs. But for the most part, this Stygian cockpit is under assault – not from the guardians of morality, but the property developers who are the true arbiters of our age. Shiny developments on Archer Street and around the new Crossrail station at Tottenham Court Road seem to me to be silvery spikes hammered into Soho’s vampiric heart.

Howse regrets the crowds of youngsters in from the ’burbs, who filled up the pubs and clubs towards the end of his nominated decade – but neglects to mention it was the Blair government’s liberalisation of the licensing laws that made this possible, together with its obvious sequel: the superannuation of the afternoon and after-hours drinking clubs that had supplied its 60% proof lifeblood. He also, as I’ve noted, wishes to make a case for the Soho of these years as a crucible of creativity, and steps aside from his anecdotes about this or that pisshead to provide little disquisitions on painters and poets, who, with Bacon being the obvious exception, are mostly unknown to the wider world. Howse mentions the Groucho Club – which opened right next door to the Colony Room in 1985 – scarcely at all, remarking only that while Bernard et al despised the Groucho for its association with the worlds of “meejah” and advertising, they nonetheless availed themselves of its superior facilities and tolerant staff. Of that self-appointed Queen of Soho Julie Burchill we hear nothing – and that’s altogether a relief, because along with her contrarian, cocaine-fuelled grandstanding would have come the whole wider world of the 1990s, with Britpop, the Young British Artists and the final extinction of anything with any more than a pretence to be avant garde.

It was and is the micro-locales of Soho that preoccupy Howse – so much so that for two set-piece anecdotes of his era, he supplies diagrams of the interiors of the Coach and Horses and the Colony Room Club, so that those unfamiliar with the establishments can imaginatively place themselves at the centre of the action. He gives us the blow-by-blow of a raid conducted against Bernard for running an illegal horse racing book in the first establishment, and the constabulary attending the latter because its proprietor, Ian Board, had allegedly smashed up a customer’s mobile phone.

While only too happy to laud him as an enemy of these ghastly gadgets almost avant la lettre, I must state for the record that Board was a nasty piece of work, with a vicious tongue and little of the wit Howse ascribes to him, unless you consider peppering your discourse with “cunt” in all its possible variations – nounal, adjectival, verbal, conjunctive – to be hilarious. His predecessor at the Colony was Muriel Belcher, the original Queen of Soho, but while Board also aspired (on grounds of sexuality, at least) to the same title, the truth was that like most chronic alcoholics he was an embittered and resentful creep. He was a pander and a pimp as well. Howse seems to have been blinded – perhaps by his spiritual inclinations – to the truly dark side of Soho. I was privy to major drug deals that were set up in the Colony, as well as other genuinely criminal enterprises, rather than merely farcical ones.

Howse ponders whether the Bohemian mores of Soho inspired any real social changes, and suggests that it was in their contempt for money, vested privilege and worldly recognition that its devotees distinguished themselves. I have my doubts: he allocates a considerable portion of the book to the Private Eye crowd, who memorably lunched at the Coach; and while the journal may have an honourable tradition when it comes to speaking truth to power, at a social level it has mostly comprised a sniggering in‑crowd of ex-public schoolboy establishmentarians. No, if Soho was notable for anything during these years, it was that the former haven of out gay men – and a few women – was losing its singularity. While around the corner in Old Compton Street things grew gayer and gayer, with same-sex couples walking proudly hand-in-hand and gay-friendly businesses opening, inside the Colony Room Club things grew greyer and grimmer, as the dwindling handful of old Polari speakers, like some lost Amazonian tribe, faced their miserable extinct

But most miserably extinguished of all was the putatively straight (and really rather misogynistic, as Howse concedes) Bernard. Tiring of the endless physical depredations of his chosen lifestyle, which included by this stage kidney dialysis and an amputated leg, he effectively killed himself in 1997: inviting friends to a “party” that began when he forwent treatment, and ended with his death. Howse refused to attend, presumably because as a Catholic convert he couldn’t morally sanction an act of felo de se. It’s a strange coda to a book about bohemia, and I can’t help but see in Howse’s privileging of transcendent morality over personal amity a warped allegory of Soho’s own slow extinction by impersonal market forces.

Soho in the Eighties by Christopher Howse (Bloomsbury Continuum, £20).

 

 

    

               Francis Bacon and his partner John Edwards embrace in Dean Street, London

 

 

 

Francis Bacon the interior designer:

artist's early homewares to be auctioned at Christie's

 

 

COLIN GLEADELL | ART | THE TELEGRAPH | 4 SEPTEMBER 2018

 

A number of myths about the great 20th century British artist, Francis Bacon, have exploded since his death. That he never drew or relied heavily on photographic imagery are two; he was adept at covering up the traces of his creative process.

Another cover up was his tendency to destroy work he was not happy with. This is normal practice for any artist, but with Bacon, it almost eliminated that whole chapter of his life when he was an interior designer - prior to his sudden eruption on the art scene in 1945 as a fully-fledged painter of human anxiety.

Fortunately, Bacon’s attempt to eradicate his early design orientated production was foiled by his earliest patron, an art loving civil servant called Eric Allden, whom he met on a cross-channel ferry in 1929, aged just 19. Bacon had recently returned to London after a three-year jaunt around the hot spots of Paris and Berlin, and was setting himself up as an interior design.

Although Bacon had no official artistic training, he was consumed with enthusiasm for the fashionable artistic styles of the continent, from Art Deco to Synthetic Cubism, Surrealism and the Bauhaus movement. These he managed to fuse together in his neatly structured studio, and sell.

Through his friend, the Australian painter Roy de Maistre, he designed furniture for the likes of Samuel Courtauld’s daughter, Sydney, the art historian Douglas Cooper, and the writer, Patrick White. But he later dismissed it all, telling the art critic David Sylvester, they were “over-influenced by the French and not very original.”

However, Allden hung onto his pieces by Bacon, and sold them to a modern design enthusiast, Francis Elek, in the late 1940s. Elek then added a strikingly painted 1929 screen that had belonged to de Maistre and kept the collection together until he died in 2008. The following year they were lent by his family to Tate Britain on a long term loan. But last month, they were removed and handed to Christie’s, which is are to sell them next month

Few examples of Bacon’s work from this period remain extant; less than 10 are known to have sold at auction before. But they do not command such astronomic prices as his more familiar images of screaming popes and contorted portraits. While a 1972 painting of his lover, John Dyer, could make £20m in the same sale, the early works are estimated from £70,000 for rugs and up to £1m for a three-panelled painted screen.

The price disparity is largely to do with an art world snobbery which classifies design as a mere craft – inferior to the more elevated inspiration and production of fine art. The rugs with their interlocking forms are in the modernist idiom already purveyed by Eileen Gray or the Art Deco textile artist Ivan da Silva Bruhns.

The paintings have a more surreal content, influenced by Giorgio de Chirico and Jean Lurçat with elements of Fernand Leger thrown in. The screen is perhaps the most impressive of these early works, anticipating the triptych format which Bacon adopted for his painting.

However original they may or may not be, Tate Britain clearly felt the whole group was of more than purely archival interest. To have accepted the loan and displayed the works, hanging them together with early paintings from Tate's and Damien Hirst’s collections, indicated the importance attached to them.

A number of commentators have sought to establish links between these youthful works, and his later mature work. They point, as Christie’s does, to certain compositional devices: his use of geometric structures and ‘spaceframes’ which herald his later cage-like structures for the popes, for instance, and the narrative element and biomorphic figures of the screen panels which continues in his triptychs.

But there is a puzzle here. In the artist’s catalogue raisonné, in which the first four entries were all owned by Allden, there are just 20 works made between 1929 and 1936, and none between 1936 and 1944. What was Bacon making in all those years? And, while there may be some formal connection between the early and later works, what triggered the radical change in content from, as his biographer, Michael Peppiatt puts it, his ‘politely decorative’ designs to his signature ‘howling figures’? Was it the war, or some deep personal tragedy, or, as Peppiatt suggests, his desire to ‘surprise and astonish’, to make an impact.

Whatever the answer, the market now has its best ever opportunity to judge the import of Bacon’s earliest known works of art.

 

 

     

              A rug signed Francis Bacon circa 1929, one of few examples in existence

 

 

 

 

Remembering Soho: A conversation on debauchery, drunks and Francis Bacon

 

 

The Spectator’s Michael Heath and Christopher Howse on their time in the infamous Coach and Horses in the 1980s

 

 

MICHAEL HEATH & CHRISTOPHER HOWSE | FEATURES | THE SPECTATOR | AUGUST 30, 2018

 

Christopher Howse has just written a book about Soho. He drank there regularly with Michael Heath, The Spectator’s cartoon editor, in the 1980s. Last week, in the editor’s office, they remembered a vanished world.

 

MICHAEL HEATH: I introduced you to Soho.

CHRISTOPHER HOWSE: Well, I don’t know if you’re entirely to blame for that. But you taught me a thing or two.

HEATH: There were such things as groupies for cartoonists in those days. There were girls hanging round you in Fleet Street waiting for you to finish the drawings for the following day and then they’d go off with the cartoonists and have meals or go to various clubs. The cartoonists were wealthy, really, because it was cash in hand. You couldn’t get a cartoonist who was stable. They didn’t have houses or anything like that because they spent freely. I came across a similar lifestyle in Brighton, where they were all criminals. I thought they were terrific fun, as long as you didn’t get on the wrong side of them. Some had razor blades stuck under their fingernails. It was very much like Graham Greene. They’d get angry and whack each other with billiard cues. The idea was to have a fight and you’d get whacked or slashed, claret would be all over the place. And they’d like that because it left them with a nice scar.

HOWSE: The barman at the Colony Room Club had a marvellous chiv right down his cheek. People would drink there because, until 1988, the pubs closed at three o’clock and didn’t open again until half-past five. What are you supposed to do until then? You had to spend the afternoon somewhere, so you had afternoon drinking clubs, the Colony Room Club being the best of them. They were all private members’ clubs, so they were perfectly legal.  But there were some very nasty ones. There was one called the Kismet Club in Newport Street and it had two nicknames. One was ‘Death in the Afternoon’ and other one was ‘the Iron Lung’. It was underground with no windows, walls weeping with damp and bits of paint coming off them. The lavatory opened straight onto the bar with no intervening doors. It was run by a rather wonderful woman called Maltese Mary who knew what was what.

HEATH: Yes, the place where someone asked: ‘What’s that strange smell?’ Then gave the answer: ‘Failure.’ But the thing was, we all worked. It wasn’t like a crowd of drunks on a bombsite; you were surrounded by very intelligent people. These were professional circles; you had to come up with something to say.

HOWSE: The big sin was to be a bore, because then you were immediately victimised and your foolish remarks thrown back at you. Jeffrey Bernard used to introduce something that he was going to say with a phrase like ‘Do you know what your worst trouble is?’ and you knew it was going to come. Whereas Ian Board in the Colony Room Club would just go into a tirade of abuse that would last about 17 minutes. It didn’t happen to me because I defended myself by being weak and making jokes.

 

The Coach and Horses 

HEATH: A typical day would start at the Coach and Horses when it opened at the stroke of 11. Jeffrey would be sitting at the bar at one end and two other people standing next to him, real serious old barrow boys...

HOWSE: Charlie Clarke. He was mixed up with that business where somebody’s head was found in a public lavatory. But he was quite normal. There was a stage door-keeper, who wouldn’t hurt a fly, called Gordon Smith. He was given the nickname Granny Smith because he was like an old grandmother. He wasn’t a bore and he wasn’t subservient, but he didn’t show off. He was just there constantly.

HEATH: One of the things you couldn’t do was boast. You could never suggest that you might be somewhat happy, or that things were all right. You had to be in a total state of panic and despair about something or other. There was a whole lot of us: intelligent people, but we had failed this, that and God knows what else. Even Francis Bacon, who was earning then £76,000 a painting — huge money. But you could never talk about money. We were all amateurs, starting out all over again. And fearless, when you think of the booze we shifted. I was doing an average of 15 large whiskies a day. My liver and I ended up having separate bedrooms.

HOWSE: You didn’t show it. You never gave any signs whatsoever of being drunk. I drank a good deal too. We had drink in the office and we had drink in the pub, so it would go on from day to day. But some people were just astonishing drinkers. There was a man there called Bill Moore, he was a driver, of all things, God help us. He used to sit there at the bar with his sweater on and he would just sit there drinking double Bell’s whisky until it was closing time, then he’d drive home or drive to France or whatever it was.

HEATH: At opening time Jeffrey Bernard would be in the corner. Nobody’s saying anything. Jeffrey would sit there doing some terrible coughing, nose-blowing and all the rest of it. Then he’d have his first drink and he’d start telling some awful story, always to do with something of his rotting or falling apart.

HOWSE: Or somebody being decapitated by a helicopter.

HEATH: That’s right. ‘Somebody parachuted down from a plane and landed on a helicopter rotor. Can you imagine the noise and the filth and the smell…?’ Anyway, these three or so men just drank and drank. You’d go up and be involved in it, so it was your round and you’ve got four people to buy for. Then another person comes in and then he buys a round and so that’s five people. You couldn’t escape without being in serious trouble.

HOWSE: It was just great fun, despite the misery. It was funnier than any situational comedy could be, because you knew all the people. The things that happened were astonishing and it always ended in tragedy, breakdown of health, falling down the stairs. Death — that was the automatic ending. But in the meantime it was great fun.

 

Francis Bacon

HEATH: At some point Francis Bacon was bound to turn up. When he did, every-one jumped up and started hanging around him because he was enormously famous, even then. My feeling about him drinking is a bit odd, because he certainly was drunk some of the time. But he mainly got other people pissed. I think he liked seeing people falling apart. Though by the morning, I’d see him hanging on the bandstand.

HOWSE: Yes, he did get completely pissed. He used to speak in this very Cockney camp way. He was picked up for being drunk and disorderly in Old Compton Street and as he was put in the back of the Black Maria, he said to the constable: ‘I’m a very fime-ous pine-ter!’  There was always that air of terror with him.

HEATH: He had a doctor work on him because he liked being beaten up, seriously and regularly.

HOWSE: For sexual purposes.

HEATH: Seriously beaten up. I was told the doctor had to put his eyeball back in once the following morning.

HOWSE: Marge Dunbar, a great friend of mine, she said that Francis Bacon was the funniest person she ever knew. She thought John Minton was great fun. He was a painter.

HEATH: Ruined by Francis Bacon.

HOWSE: Minton killed himself at the age of 39.

HEATH: Francis killed many people, just with words. Minton was doing very well after the war. His drawings would sell well to magazines and he was quite a star. He mixed with Francis and drank with that mob. Francis, when he was asked what he thought of Minton’s work, said: ‘He can’t paint. He’s a book illustrator.’ That went straight into Minton. He just gave up. Francis was always cutting when asked what he thought of people. Some could not take it. I knew people who’d been destroyed by a few words.

 

Falling in love

HEATH: I kept falling in love. I fell hopelessly in love with three women who all ruined me and took everything I had. But that was something to do with whisky, I think. There were a lot of women, but there’s something about their constitution. They can’t drink the way men can. They started the day with the rest of us and drank white wine and they’d be very jolly and sexual and all that, and by four o’clock they’re all crying.

HOWSE: It doesn’t do me much credit, but I’m afraid I was just an observer. I was a little bearded camera in the corner just fascinated by all these people. There were one or two whom you didn’t make jokes to. There were some pornographers who were quite dangerous, weren’t they? People were very disinhibited. John Hurt used to come to the Coach and Horses because he liked conversation and also because he got drunk there. And one Sunday evening he was so arseholed that he stood up on the bar. He was going to throw himself off as if he was crowd-surfing into the bottles and glasses on the back wall. It was going to be disastrous — he would have been cut to ribbons — but somebody had the presence of mind to catch his legs before he did it. Nobody made anything of it. And even though he was a very famous actor it never made it into the press, because you wouldn’t bother.

 

Jeffrey Bernard

HEATH: We were all in the same boat. We were a mess. People were rude and horrible and outrageous, but they were fun, original, and their like does not exist anymore. With Jeffrey Bernard it was different. I couldn’t keep up. He used to say to me: ‘You haven’t got any guts!’ And I realised that you had to be pretty fit to drink yourself to death in Soho. Good-looking, nice, charming women would fall in love with him and they’d marry him. They didn’t seem to realise that they weren’t going to go the theatre, that they weren’t going to the cinema, just the pub. Occasionally they’d go out with him to dinner but he’d fall asleep in his soup, so it wasn’t romantic in any way. But the women kept coming back.

HOWSE: They thought they could save him, literally, from death.

HEATH: In the end, he decided to commit suicide and invited me to do it with him. Well, not to commit suicide but to have a meal with him in his horrible flat behind the King of Corsica. It was like a huge ashtray. He smoked continuously.

HOWSE: And his artificial leg was standing in the bath, unused. He never had the strength or determination to use it. Next to that was a bucket full of under-clothes swimming around in disinfectant.

HEATH: I went up with him to the ashtray flat and there were two women  there. They specialised in coming to look after him and bringing him the most  expensive stuff from Fortnum & Mason to eat. And he’d mumble something rude to them, but they didn’t mind that at all. He’d eat all this food he wasn’t allowed to eat. He was on dialysis. He’d lost a foot and the other one was due to be taken off and he couldn’t take it any more. We sat there and choked while he ate all the wrong food, like Chinese, and drank all the booze he wanted to drink, vodka and stuff like that. Then he got these huge morphine tablets, and in front of us downed about eight and crashed. We carried him to bed, sat with him a bit until midnight when he woke up and said, ‘I feel great’ and then went back to sleep. I left and he died at about three in the morning. Sad endings.

 

A vanished era

HEATH: The idea in the war — blackout and everything else — was that everyone drank on the assumption it would be their last day. Women would sleep with men even if they loved their husbands. I’d grown up with that. You had American sailors, for God’s sake. Women would do anything to be with Americans. The clothing was enough to drive you mad. They had gabardine and aftershave. It was unheard of here. We were all walking around in mouldy old tweeds. And it sounds awfully soppy, but there was this decency about it. You needed some sort of class, regardless of what social class you came from. There were still criminals then. They did do awful things — you could be nailed to the floor and things like that — but still decent. The general malaise that we have now, depressing beyond belief, is the result of inertia and dim television. Mobiles have ruined our lives.

HOWSE: Everything’s changed. The difference was, and I’m not sure how healthy this was, but very odd people — they all sound like monsters, the way we talk about them — they did regard it as home. When Oliver Bernard, Jeffrey’s eldest brother, ran away at 16 just before the war, he found himself at home in Soho. People lent each other shillings and spoke about poetry and things that mattered; they didn’t talk about salaries and so on. One can’t idealise it, but there was something remarkable about the difference.

HEATH: I’d apply it here at The Spectator. Quite a few of the people we’ve been talking about worked here. I got Jeffrey Bernard into The Spectator. He did a racing column and then started the Low Life column. But that whole world we’re talking about has gone, vanished. And as far as we can gather, it can’t be resurrected.

HOWSE: I don’t think it can be. It would be nice to see something taking its place.

HEATH: On the whole, most of the people had an education and were very bright. They knew about things. I had no education, but I still knew what was what. You could make jokes about this, that and the other; make references to things. There was this assumption you should know about things, in a way that is different now.

HOWSE: People had stocked minds. They knew about poetry and art from having read and seen them, not from having looked them up on their mobiles. It’s a different way of thinking. It’d be marvellous to get some of the dreary management types you get now and take them back 30 years and put them in the Coach or the Colony Club. It wouldn’t make a man of them, but it might just make them think.

 

 

 

 

The gilded gutter: inside the lives of Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon

 

 

Post-war British painters like Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud are valued as much for their rackety lives as their artistic explorations

 

 

BY TANYA HARROD | ARTS & BOOKS | PROSPECT MAGAZINE | JULY 13, 2018

 

 

On the eve of Francis Bacon’s 1985 retrospective at the Tate Gallery, the English art critic Michael Peppiatt wrote anxiously about the “excessively philosophico-literary commentary” that he believed Bacon’s art provoked. Perhaps he had in mind the French theorist Gilles Deleuze, whose refreshing if challenging Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation had appeared in 1981. Deleuze had little interest in Bacon’s life. Instead of “gilded-gutter” reminiscences, he sought to connect the artist with a wider intellectual world—including the work of fellow theorists Maurice - Merleau-Ponty and Jean-François Lyotard.

But this has not been the British way. Insular histories of post-war British art have mostly avoided theory in favour of direct witness, elegantly tracing networks and encounters based on personal anecdotes.

Such testimonies have taken many forms: they range from Peppiatt’s own touching Francis Bacon in Your Blood to the newly-anointed Daily Mail editor Geordie Greig’s record of a Johnny-come-lately friendship with Lucian Freud, Breakfast with Lucian to Catherine Lampert’s magisterial Frank Auerbach: Speaking and Painting.

In the background, there is David Sylvester’s Interviews with Francis Bacon, the rich but unreliable text that all Bacon scholars have to mine. These narratives focus on a male group of figurative painters often referred to as the School of London.

This was the phrase initially used by Sylvester in 1950 as a riposte to North American artistic dominance. It was taken up again in 1976 by the American painter RB Kitaj, who spent much of his life over here. He identified what he saw as “a number of world-class painters… a School of real London, England, in Europe” that included 48 artists whose drawings he had acquired for the Arts Council. He had particular admiration for Auerbach, Bacon and David Hockney.

At first sight the trio appear to have little in common. But together with Freud they all operated at a remove from avant-garde practice. All four continued to use the pictorial devices of traditional painting, working observationally, employing perspective, using colour in loose relation to the lived world. The results were varied explorations of reality—personal painterly interrogations.

But they were pushing against the tide. By the 1970s painting of any kind was no longer regarded as an essential—or even an interesting—way of making art. The handcrafting of pictures, what the Marxist art historian John Roberts has dismissively described as “a continuous process of pushing, dabbing and pulling of paint across the surface,” had been challenged early in the 20th century by Cubism’s use of found materials in collage, and by Marcel Duchamp’s advocacy of a directorial role in which the artist organises, selects, copies and directs rather than simply paints.

By the 1980s, however, painting was making something of a comeback. The 1981 show The New Spirit in Painting, reinforced by British Art of the Twentieth Century in 1987, both staged at the Royal Academy, convincingly reinstated figuration. Since then figurative painting has continued to be reprised as a radical practice in numerous exhibitions and publications.

Now we have Martin Gayford’s entertaining Modernists & Mavericks: Bacon, Freud, Hockney & the London Painters and, as a coincidental companion, the current show at Tate Britain All Too Human: Bacon, Freud and a Century of Painting Life.

Gayford offers a persuasive history of painting in Britain from 1945 to around 1970. His book belongs firmly in the personal testimony camp, being partly based on the author’s numerous interviews over a long journalistic career. Although wonderfully vivid, it suggests the losses as well as the gains peculiar to a biographical approach. It opens with the 2013 sale at Christie’s of Francis Bacon’s Three Studies of Lucian Freud (1969).

At £89.6m, it became for a time the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction—more than a Van Gogh or Rembrandt. In the 1970s such stratospheric prices for either Bacon or Freud would have seemed highly unlikely. In Gayford’s account this trajectory reads like myth, as a tale of triumph over the odds, in which relative poverty and a measure of obscurity were ultimately vindicated by market recognition.

That representational art came back into fashion should come as no surprise. At its best such art helps us measure ourselves within the world. But there may be another reason for the retrospective success of painting from life. Much of the austere, abstract and conceptual art that had refreshed the art world in the 1970s has turned out to be ultimately less marketable, even if the 1990s saw Damien Hirst and the YBAs forge a more accessible and desirable brand of conceptualism.

One reason may be that such art, stripped of personal emotion and often focused on language, adds little to received ideas about the nature of artistic genius. Such ideas may be hopelessly stereotypical, but they are nonetheless remarkably potent and are usually communicated through well-honed anecdotes about the artist.

Anecdotes are more important than they sound. In 1934 the Austrian critics Ernst Kris and Otto Kurz identified a series of motifs that occur repeatedly in accounts of artists’ lives from classical times onwards. They include the idea of miraculous youthful talent that requires no training; the artist as dangerously rivalrous with peers; as socially alert, witty, and more intelligent than his critics and patrons.

Artists were seen to exercise unusual power over their models, and to be capable of great brutality in the service of creativity. Secretive about sources and techniques, they were committed to artistic labour to the exclusion of everyday concerns. The anecdotal approach was rejected by the modern discipline of art history in favour of documentary sources. But there is something undeniably haunting about such historico-mythic stories.

Gayford’s Modernists & Mavericks does include abstraction in his story of post-war painting, and argues persuasively for the porous nature of the abstract/figurative divide. But he also gives us stories in abundance that mostly relate to figurative artists.

So we learn of Freud, as a frighteningly precocious adolescent, opening the door naked to an important dealer. And of Bacon betraying no emotion as he attends his historic show at the Grand Palais, knowing that his lover and model has committed suicide. Hockney, at a loss at the Royal College of Art, embarks on a series of drawings of a skeleton with such skill that one fellow student—RB Kitaj—is overwhelmed.

In Gayford’s valorisation of genius women are in short supply. Even the greatest woman painter appears less likely to generate anecdotes of interlinking friendships and shared experiences of the kind that are chronicled here: so much turns on the male artist’s sometimes predatory relationship with his model. Pauline Boty blazes with beauty and talent for a few pages. Gillian Ayres (who died in April) and Bridget Riley find their place as great abstract artists and Prunella Clough, also ultimately abstract, is given a cameo role.

Does it matter? Gayford’s entertainingly seamless insights make outsiders feel like insiders. But on reflection much of what we learn is oddly familiar, part of the folk memory of the London art world—legend, myth and magic in the image of artist.

The current show at Tate Britain, All Too Human, is a helpful counterpoint to Gayford’s book. It adjusts a white male story by including the Indian artist Francis Newton Souza and, by coming up to the present day, includes five women: Paula Rego, given a room to herself, Celia Paul, Jenny Saville, Cecily Brown and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, a tempering of the ubiquity of the male gaze.

The strength of this exhibition lies in its focus on artists who offer an intense engagement with the observed subject, and its first rooms are dominated by the School of London. It is a show, almost without exception, of oil painting.

Acrylic hardly features save in one work by Michael Andrews (who worked lyrically with the medium) and another by Paula Rego, otherwise represented by some remarkable large pastels that reinstate the 18th-century conversation piece, stripped of gentility.

Bacon occasionally used acrylic emulsion for backgrounds, but as he explained to Sylvester: “I don’t think that generally people really understand how mysterious, in a way, the actual manipulation of oil paint is. Because moving—even unconsciously moving—the brush one way rather than the other will completely alter the implications of the image.”

This is, therefore, an exhibition about the mystery of oil paint, whether applied with great refinement in early portraits by Freud, or treated with anxious caution by -William Coldstream and Euan Uglow, or worked in churning impasto by Auerbach, the images surfacing battered, evanescent, just readable.

Although they worked with traditional materials, it is significant that none of these artists were Royal Academicians. In the first post-war decades, the Royal Academy was the home of exactly the kind of -figurative art from which Bacon, and Freud, Auerbach and Kossoff wished to distance themselves. From today’s perspective, though, the gulf between the Royal Academy and the RA refusniks appears narrower.

As Andrew Brighton points out in the All Too Human catalogue, both they and the RA traditionalists painted as if Cubism never happened. And does not early Freud have a good deal in common with the largely forgotten Academician - Norman Blamey? Can’t we make a comparison with Michael Andrew’s multi-figure compositions and those by Leonard Rosoman? Why have a show about British figurative painting and leave out Carel Weight?

Both Gayford’s book and this exhibition should be celebrated in the context of a boom time for fresh research into post-war British painting, proving that dissecting British art need not be a parochial exercise. But perhaps the time for testimony is over, in favour of attending to what was not said, and making the connections that artists themselves chose not to make.


 

 


     

Bacon and Giacometti remain as elusive as ever at the Fondation Beyeler

 

 

 

SAMUEL REILLY | REVIEWS | APOLLO MAGAZINE | 4 JULY 2018

 

 

    

                                      Alberto Giacometti and Francis Bacon (1965) Graham Keen.

 

 

When an exhibition brings together two modern artists who didn’t work together, never thought of themselves as part of a common movement, forged their careers in different countries and met for the first time only a few years before one of them died, one usually has misgivings of false connections and strained comparisons. With ‘Bacon–Giacometti’ at the Fondation Beyeler, however, the worry is that the two artists will go together far too well.

There may not have been an existentialist movement in art but, since the early 1950s, critics have been yoking Bacon and Giacometti together as the two pre-eminent illustrators of Jean-Paul Sartre’s philosophy. In some respects, their reasoning is clear. Placing a premium on individual freedom, existentialism sought to position itself in opposition to the abstract, essentialising conceptions of human life and its worth that, Sartre contended, linked the European philosophical tradition to the horrors of the concentration camps. By eschewing the contemporary predilection for abstract art, turning instead to the human figure, Bacon and Giacometti were understood as having involved themselves in the same project. But existentialism has often been reduced to a hackneyed vocabulary of the void, a kind of proto-gothspeak that renders the freedom of the individual a kind of isolation, and even a punishment – ‘Man is condemned to be free’, in Sartre’s oft-quoted phrase. By association, the art of Bacon and Giacometti has come to seem for many like two kindred howls into the abyss; Sartre himself likened Giacometti’s etiolated sculptures to the survivors of Auschwitz, while the critic David Sylvester, who was so influential in popularising both artists in the UK, writes memorably about Bacon’s ‘screams’.

However, any fears of finding oneself trapped in an existentialist prison at the Beyeler are dispelled in the exhibition’s opening room. Screams and cages seem to dominate at first – from a wrought-iron enclosure hangs the plaster head of Giacometti’s The Nose (1947–49), its mouth open in a frozen scream that finds an echo across the room in Bacon’s Head VI (1949), one of his grotesque interpretations of Velazquez’s Pope Innocent X. Yet it soon becomes apparent that the two artists are interested in not only constructing prisons, but breaking out of them too. The Pinocchio-like organ of Giacometti’s sculpture punctures the imaginary partition of air that is established between skull and viewer by the bars; meanwhile, the bars in Bacon’s painting are as evanescent as his pope’s head and vacillate between white and black, presence and absence. Both works are, at first glance, terrifying manifestations of the human figure – but look a little longer, and they also reveal their creators’ shared obsession with fixing and unfixing the appearance of the figure in the perspective of the viewer, establishing and dissolving equilibrium.

In the airy, daylit galleries of the Fondation Beyeler, it is this formal restiveness that comes to the fore. Certain well-chosen biographical coincidences help to tie the show together – not least the influence on both artists of the painter Isabel Rawsthorne, who introduced them in the early 1960s. An encounter with Rawsthorne in the late ’30s was an important spur for Giacometti; he saw her at ‘some distance away’ on the Boulevard Saint-Michel one night, and embarked over the proceeding years on a series of sculptures, radically reduced in scale so as to ‘give her the size she had at that distance’. Rawsthorne also appears in a great number of Bacon’s arresting portraits of the ’60s, where the features warp and the flesh of the subject retains all of the viscous, fluid qualities of the oil paint that constitutes it. this meeting of contrasts – Giacometti’s upright, stony figures; Bacon’s prone, fleshly blobs – what impresses is how each art

As you follow the progression of both artists’ depictions of Rawsthorne, it becomes clear that the value of an exhibition like this is not in the search for similarities, which would risk collapsing what makes each artist distinctive. Rather, the exhibition brings their differences into focus, and celebrates the sparks generated by the friction of the encounter. This point is made most powerfully in the central room, where the power of Giacometti’s giant Walking Man sculptures is heightened both by the sheer amount of space the Beyeler has given them and by the vast canvases by Bacon on the walls. Most impressive is the Three Studies of Figures on Beds triptych of 1972; here, Bacon’s earlier use of cages to structure the picture space has given way to ambiguous spirals, which establish the wildly distorted positions of the lying figures as though the viewer is looking through a magnifying glass. The bodies appear rigid in their contortions – and yet, the spirals are pronged with cartoon arrows, inscribing signs of movement into the composition. In this meeting of contrasts – Giacometti’s upright, stony figures; Bacon’s prone, fleshly blobs – what impresses is how each artist has, on his own terms, managed to create an object that both moves and is still.

The show concludes with a slideshow of snaps from the two artists’ studios. It almost seems a bit of a let down. They’re projected in a darkened room – on to the floor, images of the scraps that littered Bacon’s home, all those reproductions of paintings and photographs he snipped out of books and magazines; across two walls, a life-size cross-section of Giacometti’s Montparnasse quarters that emphasises how cramped they were. Having done so much to release the two artists from the straitjacket of perceptions about their personalities, it’s as though the curators have strapped them back in at the final moment. But if a joint statement emerges from this impressive display of paintings and sculptures, it’s that the work of neither artist can submit to these constraints for long.
 

‘Bacon-Giacometti’ is at the Fondation Beyeler until 2 September.

 

 

 

 

“Bacon — Giacometti” Joint Exhibition at Fondation Beyeler, Basel

 

 

 

BY BLOUIN ARTINFO | ARTICLE | VISUAL ARTS | MUSEUMS | JUNE 20, 2018

 

The works of two giants of Modern Art, Alberto Giacometti and Francis Bacon, are being exhibited together in a landmark exhibition at Fondation Beyeler. The outstanding creators’ works will be compared and contrasted at the Basel museum until September 3, 2018.

In this first-ever joint exhibition where the creative vision and powerful influence the two artists exerted are explored, illuminating the relationship between the two artistic personalities

Bacon and Giacometti did not meet until the early 1960s when they were introduced by British painter Isabel Rawsthorne.  By 1965, their friendship had grown close enough for Bacon to visit Giacometti at the Tate Gallery in London, where he was setting up a retrospective. “Bacon — Giacometti” bring out both the similarities and differences that ran through the works of this artists. It presents around 100 thematically arranged works, spread across nine rooms

The exhibition juxtaposed the similarities in the works of Bacon and Giacometti as direct comparisons. Themes in the exhibition include the artists’ obsession with depicting the human head; the representation of movement in painting and sculpture; love and violence; and the use of cage-like structures to create space and perspective.

“Bacon and Giacometti were united by an unwavering belief in the importance of the human figure. They were intensely concerned with the role of tradition and the Old Masters, whom they studied, copied and paraphrased. Both of them engaged with the problem of the two and three-dimensional representation of space, integrating cage-like structures into their works as a means of isolating figures in their surroundings. Both occupied themselves with the fragmented and deformed body and shared an obsession with portraiture and the depiction of human individuality. Both claimed to be ‘realists,’ taking the human figure as their main point of reference, yet exploring — each in his own way — new extremes of abstraction, and thereby challenging the antithesis of figuration and abstraction that played such a central part in the history of Modern Art,” writes Fondation Beyeler

The exhibition brings together a selection of well-known works as well as rarely shown ones by both artists. A series of original plaster figures from Giacometti’s estate that have never been publicly displayed before and four triptychs by Bacon are special highlights.

The exhibition will be on view through September 2, 2018, at Fondation Beyeler, Baselstrasse 101, 4125 Basel, Switzerland.

 

 

 

 

Bacon-Giacometti at the Fondation Beyeler:

a pairing of modernist giants

 

 


By juxtaposing two of the biggest names in postwar art, this show risks covering familiar ground— but succeeds instead in casting new light on their oeuvres

 

 

JACKIE WULLSCHLAGER | ART BASEL | THE FINANCIAL TIMES | 13 JUNE 2018



How to astonish the world’s most sophisticated art audience? Bacon-Giacometti, the Fondation Beyeler’s show during this year’s Art Basel fair, risks the familiar and transforms it into the sublime. Europe’s greatest postwar painter and greatest postwar sculp
tor have each been massively exposed lately; their dialogue with each other, and with this iconic gallery’s towering day-lit spaces, jolts us into a fresh experience of all three.

Bacon’s brutal swagger portrait “Isabel Rawsthorne Standing in a Street in Soho”, a ferocious black-robed harridan before flashy motorists and spinning tyres, glares at Giacometti’s “Femme au Chariot”, a sculpture on wheels also based on a view of Isabel from afar: a moment of perfect visual affinity backed by biographical context — Isabel was both men’s lover (and Bacon’s only female partner). A series of portraits in paint, pencil, bronze and terracotta spanning 1936-67 unravels how her strong features, prominent chin and high cheekbones offered the resistance which allowed each artist to savage her into an image at once monstrous and full of pathos.

Pity, horror, awe and supreme formal virtuosity: Bacon and Giacometti both had false start careers before World War II and emerged after it with a conviction, against the tide of abstraction, that only an art of Old Master gravitas, obsessively concerned with distortions and fragments of the human form, could uphold figuration after the Holocaust. Bacon’s sinister “Marching Figures”, an army of white silhouettes within a ghostly outline of a cage topped by a ghastly dictator’s bust, shimmer here against Giacometti’s huddle of massed figures, “La Forêt”. The desperate woman on a swing in Bacon’s “Study for the Nurse in the Film Battleship Potemkin” veers towards Giacometti’s filigree suspended figure, stretched out to suggest a crucifixion, in the delicate plaster frame “La Cage”.

The similarities, and the shared existentialist milieu, of these two deeply pessimistic artists are pronounced, but so are compelling contrasts, the drama of what makes each unique. In a gallery entitled “La Vérité Crainte”, two Bacon screaming popes imprisoned on their thrones, the privately owned “Study after Velázquez” and MoMA’s theatrical gold-encased “Study for Portrait VII”, face Giacometti’s hieratic, still, seated figures: the fragile, plaster “Homme à mi-corps” and the bronze “Eli Lotar III (assis)”, both with arms and huge hands so elongated that they seem to imprison their owners’ bodies. Hysterical versus mute anguish; voluptuous, violent colour versus bleached out, deathly pallor: difference within likeness of such high wire expressiveness makes each more affecting.

For from the initial salvo, Bacon’s early yelling “Head VI” and Giacometti’s “Le Nez” — a skull hung from a crossbar like a gallows, with extravagantly protruding nose suggesting a gun — both 1949, it is clear that Bacon brings out the subliminal menace in Giacometti, while Giacometti makes us aware of the monumental, sculptural ambition of Bacon’s painting from the start. “This is the man who has influenced me more than anyone”, Bacon said of the sculptor.

Although Giacometti drew then sculpted from life whereas Bacon, fearing preliminary drawing would detract from the spontaneity of the first fluid, loaded brush marks, fused mostly photographic sources, films here show close parallels in their ways of working: obsessive stalking of the motif, filthy chaotic hovels as studios, places which shape a sense projected by each of dark, claustrophobic interiors.

This aspect is flamboyantly offset by the lavish, light-filled Beyeler, its glassy façades giving on to broad vistas of cornfields, vineyards, ancient trees. The incongruity is sharp: the apogee of art world wealth and grace — Beyeler, a successful, influential, sympathetic dealer, was founder of Art Basel — versus the tough grit of the lone artist in his atelier confronting his demons. But then, Renzo Piano’s Fondation is among the brightest, most optimistic 20th-century galleries anywhere — “I have always perceived works of art as parables of creation, as an expression of joie de vivre,” Beyeler declared at the opening — and the demons, if aestheticised, roam thrillingly here as things of unlikely beauty and eloquence.

Go for the central gallery alone, amply accommodating three triptychs, five further huge Bacon canvases, and arenas of nearly a dozen large Giacometti figures. Crowds circle among the stately, enigmatic, upthrusting “Femmes de Venise”, take selfies, imitating the poses of various versions of “L’Homme qui marche”, and stand dwarfed by the10-foot “Grande Femme IV”.

The performative element in turn energises Bacon’s key paintings of movement gathered here, from the Beyeler’s own unruly, white on maroon, almost affectionate “Portrait of George Dyer Riding a Bicycle” — Bacon’s clumsy, vulnerable lover peering out suspiciously beneath a helmet — to the staging of birth, copulation and death as butchery and voyeurism in the Hirshhorn’s lime/midnight blue “Triptych” inspired by TS Eliot’s “Sweeney Agonistes”. Not since Tate and MoMA’s Matisse Picasso in 2002 has a pairing of modernist giants felt so apt and pleasurable.

To September 2

 

 

     

              Francis Bacon's 'Study for the Nurse in the Film Battleship Potemkin' (1957)

 

 

 

 

The lives of the artists, brought to you by Willem Defoe

 

 

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world.

Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.

 

 

RAKEWELL | APOLLO MAGAZINE | 8 JUNE 2018

 


Willem Dafoe has been on quite an artistic journey – or rather, a journey via the lives of the artists. Next month, the actor will appear at the Beyeler Foundation in Basel to read from interviews conducted by the legendary critic David Sylvester with the artists Francis Bacon and Alberto Giacometti.

When it comes to Giacometti, Rakewell wonders whether Dafoe will get close to matching the beguilingly crotchety performance of Geoffrey Rush in Final Portrait. Well, maybe: Dafoe is a dab hand at impersonating historical figures, after all, with turns as Pier Paolo Pasolini (in Pasolini), T.S. Eliot (in Tom & Viv) and, erm, Jesus (in The Last Temptation of Christ). And he recently finished a stint as Vincent Van Gogh, playing the much-pained painter in Julian Schnabel’s forthcoming film, At Eternity’s Gate.

But Dafoe hasn’t always had the blue-chip roles. In Schnabel’s Basquiat he appears as a sculptor who has given up on success. ‘It’s good to have something to fall back on,’ Dafoe’s character tells the young Jean-Michel. ‘That’s why I became an electrician’.

 

 

       

 

 

 

 

 

Bacon – Giacometti 

 

 

 

FEDERICA LUSIARDI | INEXHIBIT | 26 MAY 2018

 

 

From April 29, 2018 the Fondation Beyeler will be presenting two extraordinary protagonists of modern art. Alberto Giacometti (1901–1966) and Francis Bacon (1909–1992) were friends and rivals whose creative visions shaped art from the latter half of the twentieth century to the present day.

This is the first time that a museum exhibition is being devoted to shedding light on these two artists and their relationship to each other. Although their respective artistic oeuvres differ greatly at first glance and appear autonomous, the exhibition reveals commonalities and amazing parallels between them. Presented together, their lives and creative personalities will be seen a new light.

While the individualists Giacometti and Bacon perceived each other like signal emitting lighthouses, the curators Catherine Grenier, director of the Fondation Giacometti in Paris, Michael Peppiatt, Bacon expert and a personal friend of the artist, as well as Ulf Küster, curator at the Fondation Beyeler, make astonishing parallels visible in this exhibition encompassing circa 100 works.

Bacon and Giacometti shared an unshakable belief in the importance of the human figure and the role played by the old masters they both studied, copied and paraphrased. Both were interested in the problem of the two-dimensional and threedimensional representation of space, integrating cage-like entities into their works as a means of isolating figures in their surroundings. Both occupied themselves with the fragmented and deformed body and also shared an obsession with portraiture in addition to the associated depiction of human individuality. Both characterized themselves as ‘realists’. And although the human figure always served as a benchmark in their work, they each raised its level of abstraction to an extreme in his own way. By doing so, they called the antithesis of figuration and abstraction into question that was of such central importance for the history of modern art.

It has been possible to obtain loans of works by Francis Bacon from major private collections and renowned museums from around the world, including the Art Institute in Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Centre Pompidou, Paris. The Giacometti loans come almost entirely from the Fondation Giacometti in Paris. They include numerous original plaster sculptures from the artist’s estate that have never before been shown in public.

Bacon – Giacometti April 29 / September 2, 2018 FONDATION BEYELER Baselstrasse 101 CH-4125 Riehen/Basel

 

 

 

     

      Francis Bacon, Portrait of George Dyer Riding a Bicycle, 1966, Oil and sand on canvas, 78 x 58 in.

 

 

 

 

 

Want your stolen portrait back? Bring us £100,000 cash: What gangsters told Francis Bacon after taking his famous likeness, painted by Lucian Freud, from Berlin art gallery 30 years ago

 

 

Mail on Sunday can reveal that Bacon received a ransom demand a year later

 

 

DALYA ALBERGE | NEWS | THE MAIL ON SUNDAY | 20 MAY 2018

 

 

   Portrait Of Francis Bacon was spirited out of Berlin's National Gallery 30 years ago. Pictured: Francis Bacon and Lucien Freud
 

 

It is one of the art world's great unsolved mysteries – the daring theft of Lucian Freud's portrait of fellow artist Francis Bacon.

The masterpiece, Portrait Of Francis Bacon, disappeared without trace after it was removed from its wire frame and spirited out of Berlin's National Gallery 30 years ago.

But The Mail on Sunday can reveal that Bacon received a ransom demand a year later in 1989 and was apparently poised to recover the work – only for the operation to be wrecked by a police blunder.

Barry Joule, Bacon's close friend and neighbour in London's South Kensington, has now revealed that the artist received a phone call in his studio from 'a tough-sounding East End man, probably an associate of the Krays'.

Joule recalls: '[The gangster] told him, 'If you want to get yer face picture back, get £100K together and wait by the phone for a call at noon exactly.' '

Francis called Joule who drove his black Porsche to pick up Bacon from his studio and take him to his flat. Even though he didn't own the painting, Bacon then panicked and stuffed £140,000 into a satchel, reappearing 'sweating and nervous'.

Instead he alerted the head of security at the Tate gallery, which had bought the picture in 1952 from Freud and had loaned it to the German museum in 1988 when it was stolen.

Then they went back to the studio to await the noon call, but it never came. Leaving the studio several hours later the two men spotted 'three undercover policemen' in a Ford Fiesta. Joule said they all had their 'heads buried in newspapers'.

Convinced the gangsters must also have spotted them, Bacon shouted angrily at the officers.

For weeks afterwards, Bacon 'remained paranoid that the Krays and associates would be 'out to get me for grassing to the police',' said Joule, who added: 'If it wasn't for policemen sitting in their car right outside the building, Francis might have got the stolen painting back.' In a recorded interview with Joule three months after the ransom blunder, Bacon spoke of 'how much the police have gone down in my estimation'.

The 7in x 5in oil on copper was one of the few Freud paintings Bacon really liked, so much so he kept a photograph of it in his kitchen.

Freud later plastered Berlin with 'Wanted' posters of the image, offering a £100,000 reward for its recovery so he could include it in a retrospective of his work.

Although the Tate has never claimed the insurance money, because it has hoped to be reunited with the painting, Bacon, who died in 1992, was more pessimistic. 'Most likely it was burnt,' he says on the recording.

The Tate continues to list the painting in its catalogue, simply noting 'not on display'.

In 2004, Joule gave the Tate 1,200 Bacon sketches. They were then valued at about £20million.

He kept about 120 sketches, and he is lending some to an exhibition in Italy, at the Foundation Sorrento museum, in Sorrento, which opens today and runs until October 21.

 

 

 

       

         Bacon (pictured) 'remained paranoid that the Krays and associates would be 'out to get me for grassing to the police'



 

 

 

Devastatingly Human

 

 

 

JENNY UGLOW | NYR DAILY | THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS | 19 MAY 2018

 

The gripping and dramatic show “All Too Human: Bacon, Freud and a Century of Painting Life” merits its title: it is “all too human” in the tender, painful works that form its core. But “a century of painting life” promises something wider—does it smack of marketing, a lure to bring people in? In fact, the heart of the show is narrower and more interesting, illustrating the competing and overlapping streams of painterly obsession in London in the second half of the twentieth century. It shows us how, in their different ways, painters such as Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud, Leon Kossoff and Frank Auerbach, R.B. Kitaj, and Paula Rego redefined realism. In defiance of the dominant abstract trend, they teased and stretched the practice and impact of representational art. “What I want to do,” Francis Bacon said in 1966, “is to distort the thing far beyond the appearance, but in the distortion to bring it back to a recording of the appearance.” In this show, terms like “realism” and “human” take on new meaning and power.

The exhibition begins, cleverly, with some forebears of these London artists, pre-war painters who looked with intensity at the lives, settings, and landscapes that most affected them, and used paint in a highly personal way to convey not only what they saw, but what they felt. It feels odd, at first, to walk into a show that claims to be about “life” and find a landscape rather than a life-study, yet the urgent, textured use of paint in Chaïm Soutine’s earthy landscapes, as well as his distorted figures and the raw strength of The Butcher Stall (circa 1919), with its hanging carcasses, had a profound impact on Francis Bacon. In a similar way, all the works in this first room reach toward the future: Stanley Spencer’s portraits of his second wife, Patricia Preece, clothed and naked, stare out with the unpitying confidence of Lucian Freud’s early portraits. Sickert’s dark portrayals of London prostitutes—his attempt to give “the sensation of a page torn from the book of life”—anticipate the unsentimental nudes of Freud and Euan Uglow (no relation to me). David Bomberg’s layered, arid Spanish landscapes point toward the scumbled, perspectiveless scenes of Kossoff and Auerbach. 

Nothing, however, prepares one for the tender ferocity of Bacon’s isolated, entrapped figures. In the earliest of these, the large canvas of Figure in a Landscape (1945), a curled-up, almost human form appears to be submerged in a desert—we see his arm and part of his body, but the legs of his suit hang, empty, over a bench. This is masculinity destroyed. The sense of desperation is even stronger in Bacon’s paintings of animals, such as Dog (1952), in which the dog whirls like a dervish, absorbed in chasing its tail, while cars speed by on a palm-bordered freeway, or Study of a Baboon (1953), where the monkey flies and howls against the mesh of a fence. In their struggles, these animals are the fellows of Bacon’s “screaming popes”: in Study after Velazquez (1950), a businessman in a dark suit, jaws wrenched open in a silent yell, is trapped behind red bars that fall like a curtain of blood. The curators connect Bacon’s postwar angst with Giacometti’s elongated statues, isolated in space, and to the philosophy of existentialism. Yet Bacon’s vehement brushstrokes speak of energy and involvement, physical, not cerebral responses. In Study for Portrait II (after the Life Mask of William Blake) (1955), you feel the urgent vision behind the lidded eyes. He cares, passionately.

This was a postcolonial as well as a postwar world, a point made abruptly by devoting a room to the work of F.N. Souza, who came to London from Bombay in 1949, and worked here until he left for New York in 1967. Despite Souza’s popularity at the time, and the range of sacred and profane references that link him uneasily to Bacon, his stark religious iconography feels out of keeping with the bodily compulsion of Bacon’s work and the new streams of influence shaping  what R.B. Kitaj named “the School of London.”

One of these streams flowed from the Slade, where William Coldstream was professor of Fine Art and the young Lucian Freud was a visiting tutor. Here, in a very different way to Bacon, you feel the pressure of flesh. Coldstream believed that artists should work without preconceptions, through minute, painstaking observation, fixing “reality” with measurement, allowing the subject to emerge slowly on the canvas. His Seated Nude (1952–1953) was painted over at least thirty sittings of about two hours each—no wonder the model looks glazed. His pupil Euan Uglow adopted this technique, setting his figures against a geometric grid. It gives them an eerie physicality. (I’m not the only person to stand in front of his 1953–1954 Woman with White Skirt and say, “Paula Rego.”) Uglow is famous for telling a model, “Nobody has ever looked at you as intensely as I have.” Over time, his control of detail and setting became obsessive, but his piercing gaze and careful technique remained, rendering his subjects at once solid and dreamlike, their inner spirit elusive but embodied.  

In the 1950s, Uglow’s belief in the value of minute observation was shared by Freud, who admitted, as Emma Chambers writes in the exhibition catalogue, to a “visual aggression” toward his sitters: “I would sit very close and stare. It could be uncomfortable for both of us.” His paintings from this period, delicately wrought with a fine sable brush, are almost hallucinatory in their detail, with a Pre-Raphaelite veracity of sheen and texture. We see the softness of material, the fur of the dog. And how exposed and alarmed his first wife, Kitty Garman, looks in the extraordinary Girl with a White Dog (1950–1951), in her pale green dressing gown with one white, veined breast revealed. 

At the same time as Coldstream was instilling in his students the virtues of precision and measurement, David Bomberg was inspiring his pupils at the Borough Polytechnic in South London from 1946 to 1953 with a far freer, more tactile approach. To Bomberg, painting was about the “feeling” and experience of form, not its mere appearance. His own work conveyed the sense of mass in fluid, sensuous oils, and young artists such as Frank Auerbach, Dennis Creffield, Leon Kossoff, and Dorothy Mead flocked to his classes. Often working outdoors, as Bomberg did, Auerbach and Kossoff painted the settings they knew, showing a new London rising from the old, driving across the canvas in slabs of paint and thick encrustations. Auerbach’s Rebuilding the Empire Cinema, Leicester Square (1962) and Kossoff’s Building Site, Victoria Street (1961) are so tactile that they make you want to trace the lines with your hand, while the sticky ridges of Auerbach’s Head of E.O.W. I (1959–1960)—so strong from a distance, so baffling up close—seem as much sculpture as painting. 

Again and again in this exhibition, we move from the exchange of ideas and influences to the individual vision. Some works, indeed, are so drenched in emotion that they produce ripples of shock. The intimacy of Freud’s work is intensified when he moves, around 1960, from minute, close-up fidelity to large, expressive brushstrokes. In his later paintings, he catches the twist of muscles, the sweat on the skin, the pride and fullness of bodies in sleep, as in the great Leigh Bowery (1991), showing Bowery, a performance artist with a body of billowy corpulence,  with his head slumped gently on his shoulder, or in Sleeping by the Lion Carpet (1996), where Sue Tilley—“Big Sue,”  Bowery’s cashier at his Taboo night club and a benefits supervisor at the Charing Cross JobCentre—dozes safely before a predatory image.

By the 1960s, when Freud was subjecting his models to hours and days of sitting, Bacon was standing back, using photographs rather than live models. One room here shows a selection of portraits he commissioned from the photographer John Deakin. These are direct, intimate, and suggestive, but when Bacon explores the human form, the effect is very different. Bodies and heads become twisted, swollen, contorted. In his Study for a Portrait of P.L. (1962), painted in the year of Lacy’s death, after ten years of their turbulent, sometimes violent relationship, the internal and sexual organs seem to bulge through their covering. Two years later, his Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud emphasized the strong torso, the fierce expression, the unnerving clarity of Freud’s gaze. These are psychological as much as physical studies. In the moving Triptych (1974–1977), an unusual outdoor, light-filled work, the body beneath the umbrella writhes on the deserted beach, as Bacon mourns the death of his lover, George Dyer. But beyond them, the clear sky suggests a slow, painful coming to terms with loss—the promise of new life , or at least oblivion, in the deep blue of the sea beyond?

Bacon’s solitary figures are, paradoxically, imbued with a feeling of relationship. The same is true of Freud’s portraits, of his wife, his mother, his daughter, his friends. The intimacy of the family is also part of what it means to be “all too human.” Michael Andrews, for example, intrigued by Bacon’s use of photography, worked from a color photograph of a holiday in Scotland for his darkly beautiful Melanie and Me Swimming(1978–1979), spray-painted in acrylic. This feels like a moment swimming out of time into memory. And sometimes the sociability of London’s artistic life is itself  commemorated. In Colony Room I (1962), Andrews painted the Colony Club, where Bacon, Freud, and Deakin drank with Soho’s artists and writers. “Life,” in the sense of a community, also fills R.B. Kitaj’s brilliant group scenes, such as Cecil Court, London W.C.2. (The Refugees) (1983–1984). His crowded, colorful The Wedding (1989–1993) celebrates not only his marriage to Sandra Fisher but his friendships—with Auerbach, Freud, Kossoff, and David Hockney, among others.

Hockney’s work is inexplicably absent here, and so, up to this point in the show, are works by women, apart from a blurry, atmospheric nude by Dorothy Mead.  But suddenly, you turn a corner, and there is Paula Rego. The streams of the London School flow together. Rego came from Portugal when she was sixteen to finish her education, and from 1952 to 1956 she studied at the Slade under Coldstream, alongside Andrews, Uglow, and her future husband, Victor Willing. As Victor slowly declined from multiple sclerosis, her painting became increasingly personal. The Family (1988), painted in the last months of his life, shows two women helping him take off his jacket—yet there is a strange undertone here: they seem to be shuffling him into the grave. The feeling  is curiously sinister, perhaps reflecting Rego’s awareness that women—always the carers—are often so intimate with death. The little shrine in the background may show George slaying the dragon, but above him stands St. Joan, the martyred, martial saint.

Rego has often used stories to uncover the depths of our humanity, exposing the shattered dreams and desires of women across time. In Bride (1994), the bride lies back awkwardly, as if her wedding dress were a strait-jacket. In the trilogy The Betrothal: Lessons: The Shipwreck, after ‘Marriage a la Mode’ by Hogarth (1999), Hogarth’s moral tale of greed and disease, a mockery of the dream family, is reworked in the fashions of her own childhood.

By contrast, the final room—apart from Celia Paul’s Family Group (1984–1986) and the powerfully interior Painter and Model (2012)—feels like a token addition, a nervous nod to gender and diversity. Jenny Saville, Cecily Brown, and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye are fine artists, but they belong in a different narrative. A misstep, yet “All Too Human” remains an extraordinary exhibition, full of works of deep seriousness and bold, brave fidelity to life. For me, it ends with Rego’s bitingly honest work. With her bold, distinctive use of outline and color, and her mighty sympathy for human pain and longing, her paintings show life in all its senses.

“All Too Human: Bacon, Freud, and a Century of Painting Life” is at the Tate  through August 27.

 

 

   

                                                  Francis Bacon: Dog, 1952; Tate

 

 

 

 

Out with the old, in with the new, with a side of Bacon, at Philips and Christie's $528.8m auction night

 

 

New record for Joan Mitchell as fresh artists join the $10m-and-up club—but Bacon and Basquiat still dominate top prices in New York

 

 

SARAH P. HANSON & GABRIELLA ANGELETI | NEWS | ART MARKET | THE ART NEWSPAPER | 18 MAY 2018

 

“It’s a bad time to be a white male artist”, quips the art advisor Lisa Schiff, but the joke rang true at the evening sales of post-war and contemporary art at Phillips and Christie’s on 17 May. The results confirmed the pattern set at Sotheby's the previous night and in record-setting day sales this week: the market is strong, expanding and in search of freshness. “There is an appetite and a hunger for great things”, says the advisor Abigail Asher, of Guggenheim Asher, “but the energy feels different.”

Bacon tops Christie's contemporary offering

Swivelling across Fifth Avenue to Rockefeller Center, the crowd seemed to lose some energy in the transfer, but Christie’s 64-lot post-war and contemporary auction realised $397.2m, just north of last year's result.

The second lot, David Hockney’s oil on canvas Antheriums (1995, est $2.5m-$3.5m), sparked a three-way tussle that landed at $5.6m (with fees), a coda to the strong prices seen for Hockney elsewhere this week. But it was lot six that opened the floodgates—Joan Mitchell’s sunny, heavily daubed canvas Blueberry (1969; est $5m-7m), painted the year after Mitchell moved from Paris to the countryside of Vetheuil, which signalled a fertile period for the artist, at least seven bidders were in the chase, including contestants in the room and on the phone with Christie’s Asia head Rebecca Wei, before the hammer finally fell at $14.5m, or $16.6m with fees, a new record for the late artist.

Immediately after came Francis Bacon’s Study for Portrait (1977), an anguished portrayal of the artist’s lover, George Dyer, who committed suicide in 1971, in his studio. As head of sale Ana Maria Celis noted in advance of the auction, this the only full-length painting of Dyer to appear on the auction block since 2014, when Portrait of George Dyer Talking (1966) made $70.2m at Christie’s London. This one, estimated around $30m, rang up $49.8m with fees, offered by a determined client on the phone with Renato Pennisi of Christie’s Milan. It was the highest price of the week for a contemporary work.

The Bacon was trailed by Andy Warhol’s silvered Double Elvis (Ferus Type) (1963), which had sold for $37m from Steve Wynn at Sotheby’s in 2012 and went for the same price to dealer Brett Gorvy, of Lévy Gorvy, on his cell phone in the room. He and business partner Dominique Lévy wound up bidding against each other on the priciest Richard Diebenkorn of the night, Ocean Park #126 (1984), which lodged just north of its high estimate at $23.9m with fees. The work was part of a passel of 12 Diebenkorns consigned from the collection of Donald and Barbara Zucker and sold to benefit their family foundation. Demand largely met that volume, though with a preference for the later abstractions over early figurative works. Altogether, the Zucker lots contributed $43m to the total.

It was not a great night for the postwar and contemporary titans who have dominated the category in recent years. A Donald Judd wall stack, a Dan Flavin “monument” for V Tatlin, and a sombre Clyfford Still were among the scant number of buy-ins. Works by Jeff Koons, Yves Klein, Damien Hirst, Christopher Wool, and Agnes Martin sold but on the low end of their estimates.

 

 

 

 

$49.8 M. Francis Bacon Portrait Leads Solid $397.1 M. Christie's Contemporary Sale  

 

 

 

BY JUDD TULLY | AUCTIONS | MARKET | NEWS | ART NEWS | 18 MAY 2018

 

Anchored by a powerful Francis Bacon cover-lot portrait, Christie’s closed the season’s evening auctions in New York on Thursday night with a postwar and contemporary art sale in a subdued room that nevertheless brought in a strong $397.1 million, reaffirming its standing as the market leader over its arch-rival Sotheby’s.

The tally, including fees, surged past the auction’s $320 million presale low estimate, but Christie’s didn’t provide a high estimate for comparison, due to five lots being “estimate on request” as well as a general lack of transparency. Six of the 64 lots offered failed to sell, for a trim buy-in rate by lot of 9 percent, and the total hammer was $343.5 million.

Tonight’s result, including fees, trailed last May’s more robust $448 million sale over 68 lots, led by Cy Twombly’s Leda and the Swan (1962), which fetched $52.8 million.

Forty-eight of the 58 offerings that sold this evening made over a million dollars and of those, seven sold for over $15 million. Better yet, seven artist records were set.

A huge number of lots were backed by guarantees—37 lots from third parties and five from the house. In all, then, 42 of the 64 offerings had financial backing, assuring success.

(All prices reported include the hammer price plus the buyer’s premium, which is 25 percent of the hammer up to and including $250,000, 20 percent on that part of the hammer above $250,000 and up to and including $4 million, and 12.5 percent for anything beyond that number.)

There was also high-end action on the figurative painting front, with Francis Bacon’s searing and iconic cover lot, Study for Portrait (1977), bearing a ghostly likeness to the artist’s lover George Dyer who committed suicide in October 1971, two days before the opening of Bacon’s career defining-retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris. It sparked a bidding battle between a trio of telephone bidders, finally going down at a hammer price of $44 million ($49.8 million with fees) against an estimate on request in the region of $30 million.

The seller acquired the painting from Marlborough Gallery in Vaduz, Lichtenstein, in May 1977, at a time when his paintings were selling for under $50,000 at auction. Market intel suggests the painting arrived at auction after making the rounds on the private market for a long stretch.

“It’s a really strong price and a very good subject,” said London dealer and Bacon expert Pilar Ordovas as she exited the salesroom, “but the subject [George Dyer] simply isn’t enough, as we know.”

Ordovas was referring to the fact that other Bacon portraits of Dyer have fetched as much as $70 million at auction, which is what Portrait of George Dyer Talking (1966) made at Christie’s London in February 2014. Still, tonight’s Bacon ranks as the highest-priced postwar and contemporary works of the season.

The work is based on a studio photo by John Deakin in which Dyer is seated bare-chested in his white undershorts, his head swiveled to one side as if avoiding the gaze of the viewer. Bacon never painted from life, always from photographs.

 

     

       

            Francis Bacon, Study for Portrait, 1977, oil and dry-transfer lettering on canvas, sold for $49.8 million

 

 

 

 

BACON — GIACOMETTI      

 

 

 

Michael Peppiatt: An intimate portrait of Francis Bacon

 

 

Beyeler Museum AG, Baselstrasse 101, 4125 Riehen/Basel

 

 

MICHAEL PEPPIATT | LECTURE | FONDATION BEYELER | WEDNESDAY, MAY 30, 7.00

 

Michael Peppiatt, co-curator of the Bacon–Giacometti exhibition, at the Fondation Beyeler, was a close personal friend of Francis Bacon for decades. Peppiatt lives in London and Paris.

Alberto Giacometti (1901 – 1966) and Francis Bacon (1909 – 1992) had a decisive influence on the art of the twentieth century. This exhibition brings the two artists together for the first time. Different as their art may initially appear, the joint presentation of their work reveals many surprising similarities.

Bacon and Giacometti both take the human figure as their main point of artistic reference. Both occupy themselves with the fragmented and deformed body. Moreover, they devote themselves to portraiture and the depiction of human individuality in an almost obsessive manner. Both claimed to be “realists,” while exploring new extremes of abstraction.

Giacometti and Bacon worked surrounded by clutter, in exceptionally small and cramped studios. These two spaces, the centers of their creativity, have been reconstructed specially for the exhibition as full-scale multimedia projections that provide a vivid insight into the artists’ work environment.

The exhibition comprises 100 paintings and sculptures from major museums and private collections in Europe and the USA. It has been organized by the Fondation Beyeler in cooperation with the Fondation Giacometti, Paris, the administrator of the artist’s estate, which has made available most of the works by Giacometti presented here, some of which are rarely exhibited or have never been publicly displayed before. The exhibition is curated by Catherine Grenier, Michael Peppiatt and Ulf Küster. 

 

 

 

 

  Modernists and Mavericks:

 

 

   Bacon, Freud, Hockney and the London Painters by Martin Gayford

 

 

      A superb biography of the postwar painters whose fresh techniques and ideas energised art captures their resolve – and the bond between them

 

 

      RACHEL COOKE | REVIEW | BIOGRAPHY | BOOK OF THE DAY | THE GUARDIAN | SUNDAY 13 MAY 2018

 

 

       

                    Timothy Behrens, Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, Frank Auerbach and Michael Andrews at Wheeler’s restaurant, Soho, 1963. Photograph: John Deakin

 

 

n 1942, which is roughly when Martin Gayford’s capacious new survey of postwar art begins, London was partially in ruins, many of its streets reduced to piles of rubble and buckled iron. “The silence, the absolute dead silence,” remembered Graham Sutherland f his first encounter with such desolation (commissioned by the War Artists’ Advisory Committee to record the devastation of the blitz, he had travelled into the city from his house in Kent). Its buildings seemed to him to resemble living, suffering creatures; a lift shaft, twisted and yet still clearly visible in the remains of one structure, looked like “a wounded tiger in a painting by Delacroix”. Where, though, did art fit among all this? Even as Sutherland sketched, this must have seemed an impossible, not to say obscene, question. But of course there was, undeniably, beauty here, too: beguiling new silhouettes, sulphurous new colours. And quite soon, there would also be an opening sense of possibility. New energies were stirring, their shoots taking hold just like those of the pink willow herb that would shortly colonise the dead buildings.

It is these energies, daring, indomitable and deeply contradictory, that Gayford hopes to capture in Modernists & Mavericks – and as he begins, gamely describing the strange house in St John’s Wood that Lucian Freud and John Craxton began sharing in the same year (the floors were covered, for whatever reason, with broken glass, and the walls decorated with every possible kind of hat), you wonder how on earth he’ll do it. Flux is almost as hard to pin to the page as so-called genius. Try to ensnare the peculiar, perfectionist spirits of men such as Freud, Francis Bacon and Frank Auerbach, setting them in context and unpicking their mysterious, stubbornly unspoken processes, and you risk draining them of all their power, wringing them out like so many dishcloths. Somehow, though, he pulls it off. This is a panorama, one that feels in some senses definitive (largely, perhaps, because he has the guts to turn periodically away from the most famous figures of the time, the better to allow other names – David Bomberg, say, or Victor Pasmore – a look in). But it also swirls excitingly. Even the long, drawn-out conflict between abstraction and figuration appears here not as some dry, academic thing, but as the very air artists breathed – and on which some of them would end up choking.

Gayford takes a chronological path, finishing up at the back end of the 60s, with Bridget Riley and David Hockney; his interests lie solely with London, and with paint. Inside these boundaries, however, each movement, each important teacher, each plucky gallerist, stakes their own claim on the territory, however briefly. This is a book about community and influence; about the connections, sometimes powerfully strong and sometimes only thread-like, between artists of dizzying talent and wildly varying impulses. It is a pull-me-push-me kind of a narrative, its protagonists being much given to repudiating techniques and ideas – and, inevitably, to repudiating their various repudiations. In the end, you feel Auerbach sums it up best when he talks of borders that must be crossed not once, but again and again. To take one position or another is to hit a dead end. To be permanently in motion, on the other hand, is to touch the sky.

It’s also, being a book about the waxing and waning of reputations, an extended cautionary tale. People tend to forget, now, how low Freud’s star had fallen by the early 60s; how long his paintings then stayed in the racks at his gallery, how rapidly his gambling debts piled up (not that he cared: “I felt I was living on a private income,” he once said). Still, he kept going. Nearly all the artists in Modernists & Mavericks have what Walter Sickert, a presiding influence over many of them, referred to as “self-preservation in a talent”. They safeguarded their instincts and thus were able to break, almost unwittingly, the various artistic taboos of the day. Freud stuck to his process – factual, as he put it, but never literal – like glue, even as abstraction threatened to wipe out his kind entirely. “They were fascists,” recalled Gillian Ayres, of her brilliant tutors at Camberwell School of Art (she was taught by, among others, John Minton, a “dangerous” dancer, before he grew so sad and sour). Hockney filled his canvasses with love and happiness, emotions generally disdained by the avant garde. Patrick Caulfield, determined to retain his “own sensation”, proudly indulged his instincts for the decorative, then the dirtiest word in the studio. In the face of the popularity in the 60s both of grit and of glamour, Michael Andrews painfully turned out paintings so numinous, even other artists could not account for his “touch”.

Bacon, though, never went out of fashion; the idea that he ever will is preposterous. Gayford knew Freud: he could be said to have a particular connection with the artist, having famously had his portrait painted by him. In this book, though, it’s Freud’s one-time friend – his second wife, Caroline Blackwood, complained that she had dinner with Bacon every night for almost the entirety of her marriage – who appears as the abiding genius of the age: fast where Freud is slow, free where he is ever hunkered down, the “total consternation” people felt on seeing his Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion in 1944 still present and correct even when you stumble, as here, on a mere reproduction of it (confronted with it too suddenly, I can hardly move, the familiar adjectives rolling in like waves: appalling, terrifying, brilliant, unsurpassed).

Gayford deploys Bacon’s voice to brilliant effect, and you hang on to every word, from his conviction that he wanted his pictures to look as if a human being had passed between them, leaving a trace of human presence “as a snail leaves its slime”, to his sudden, hungry observation, made one sunny day in Soho, that a horizontal shadow “eats into the figure, like a disease”. He painted from photos because he didn’t like people watching him committing “the injury that I did them in my work”. He wanted to combine the sense of reality that could be found in the greatest pictures of Velázquez and Rembrandt with the chance effects of, as Gayford puts it, “ceding conscious control”. In the early part of his career, his relationship with paint was so symbiotic, he mixed it on his arm (this habit eventually, by one account, gave him turpentine poisoning, at which point he switched from oil to acrylic). In Modernists & Mavericks, then, he is inevitably the star around which all the other planets orbit. Wherever you look, however wide your eyes, he is always calling; screaming, in fact. There he is, louder and more wondrous than ever: the fleshy embodiment of inspiration, the ne plus ultra of the heroic brushstroke.

Modernists & Mavericks: Bacon, Freud, Hockney and the London Painters by Martin Gayford is published by Thames & Hudson (£24.95).

 

 

 

 

 

Drink-Up Pay-Up F-Off: Tales from the Colony

 

– London’s Lost Bohemia

 

 

 

CLIVE JENNINGS | ART NEWS | ARTLYST | WEDNESDAY 9 MAY 2018

 

Darren Coffield’s new book “Tales from the Colony: the Lost Bohemia of Bacon, Belcher and Board” is an authorised history of London’s most notorious arts club. The Colony Room Club was dominated, indeed created, by two personalities – its owner and founder, Muriel Belcher, a tough, sharp-tongued veteran of the Soho drinking club scene, who opened the Colony Room in 1949; and the artist Francis Bacon who was one of her first customers, and became Belcher’s co-conspirator when she paid him a retainer to bring in his rich pals. Ian Board served behind the bar at the Club for 46 years, first as Muriel’s barman and after her death as proprietor.

Ten years after it closed, and almost seventy since it opened, this book puts the record straight by drawing on a wealth of new material taken from audio tapes given to Coffield by the Colony’s last proprietor Michael Wojas. This includes previously unpublished interviews with Jeffrey Bernard, Daniel Farson, Ian Board and Francis Bacon, who, as one would expect, gives his outspoken opinion of some of the members. Coffield has also tracked down many leading habitués and conducted interviews that feature their personal reminiscences and memories that range from the poignant to the vitriolic. This wealth of material is accompanied by many unpublished photos from the Club. The Club has become the stuff of Soho myth, the truth often lost in a fuddled alcoholic mist, but Coffield explains: “the aim of this book is to give the reader a flavour of what it was like to frequent the Colony and its environs by using the authentic voices of those who were actually there.”

The draconian licensing laws, whereby the pubs were closed from 3 pm to 6 pm created a mid-afternoon vacuum filled by over 200 small members clubs and “bottle parties” in the West End. While many of these of these disappeared over time, especially after the introduction of all-day opening in 1988, the death knell for much of Soho, The Colony Room Club survived – a continuous party from 1949 to 2008 that you could drop in and out of.

Imagine a tiny room, the size of a modest living room, at the top of an undistinguished staircase behind an anonymous door on Soho’s Dean Street. The walls were a distinctive but rather bilious green, and there was a bar at one end and a single unisex toilet at the other. Coffield describes it as a “theatre of hate” where the vituperative regulars gave as good as they got. Strategically placed mirrors enabled both staff and drinkers to keep an eye on each other, and the modest space even hosted cabaret nights, giving many performers, the Magic Numbers, for instance, their first break. Soho regular Edwina “Eddi” McPherson sums it up:

“The club was like a performance space. They were being watched and were watching themselves in the mirrors. I would go to the club in the afternoon. The odd afternoon hours were always the best time to meet the most eccentric members – people who don’t actually work.”

The Club’s reputation for louche characters hurling insults at each other, and the owner’s habitual and convivial greeting of “hello cunty”, made for a perfect Soho mix of class, colour and status. The Aristocracy rubbed shoulders with poets, painters, writers, tailors, sailors, editors, African chiefs, Lords, landowners, barrow boys, musicians, singers, strippers, stagehands and petty crooks as the club’s membership ran the whole gamut of types, trades and professions who lived or worked in London’s West End. Purchased bottles of champagne were kept behind the bar, and a well-heeled member would often find their bottle mysteriously low, while a more impecunious member at the other end of the bar had a full glass, care of the caring bar staff. Noms de guerre were popular at the Colony: they included: Twiggy, Hitler, Brian the burglar and Butterlegs (apparently so called because they spread so easily!) People went there for sanctuary, and Coffield claims that 30 years on, he still doesn’t know what many people that he met there do.

Many other well-known artists drank in the club alongside Bacon, over the years: Craigie Aitchison, Michael Andrews, Frank Auerbach, Peter Blake, Edward Burra, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Patrick Caulfield, Joshua Compston, John Craxton, Tracey Emin, Lucian Freud, Alberto Giacometti, R.B Kitaj, Jeff Koons, Leon Kossoff, Augustus John, Sarah Lucas, Eduardo Paolozzi, Edward Seago, Keith Vaughan, the list goes on and on.

The lethal triangle of The French, The Coach & Horses and The Colony were the staging points of the Dean Street shuffle, with occasional forays into other joints such as The Gargoyle or The Mandrake in the early days and The Groucho or Blacks at the end. During the period that Damien Hirst and other YBAs made it their watering hole of choice, clambering out of the toilet window and sneaking across the roof and in through a Groucho window was a popular jape.

Many Sohoites mourned the passing of the Colony, and the old refrain of “Soho isn’t what it used to be” is frequently heard. It has never been – Colin McInnes said the same thing around the time that he wrote “Absolute Beginners” in 1959. At a time when “Absolute Hell”, Rodney Ackland’s 1952 play, set in 1945, about another Soho drinking joint is playing to packed houses at The National Theatre, it is an appropriate time to take a nostalgic voyage through the salacious underbelly of the post-war art scene.

With a glass of Champagne in your hand, get laid with Lucian Freud, queue for the loo with Christine Keeler, go racing with Jeffrey Bernard, and pass out with Peter Langan. I well remember the neon sign that was propped up against the altar at the funeral of the Colony’s last proprietor Michael Wojas: DRINK UP / PAY UP / FUCK OFF – ah, happy days!

 

 

      

                                   Colony Room, September 1, 1983 from Britons by Neal Slavin

 

 

 

 

Tapes reveal Francis Bacon's shock at 1968 drug bust

 

 

 

Artist told friend he ‘straight away went to my easel’ after police found lover’s cannabis

 

 

DALYA ALBERGE | ART & DESIGN | THE GUARDIAN | SUNDAY 6 MAY 2018

 

 

 

                                                   Francis Bacon in studio circa 1960. Photograph: Paul Popper

 

 

Francis Bacon was so shaken after the police raided his studio and found cannabis hidden in the base of an African carved statue that he vented his fury at his easel.

To release his tension, the artist painted a portrait of his then lover George Dyer, to whom the drugs belonged and who had tipped off the police after a row, a previously unheard recording reveals.

Taken to trial after the raid in 1968, Bacon argued that someone must have planted them and that he was too asthmatic to smoke anything. He was found not guilty but had to pay costs of £3,000.

The shock never left him, according to the recordings made by his friend Barry Joule in 1987, in which Bacon recalls “this dreadful drug bust episode”.

Joule said Bacon knew the drugs belonged to his lover. Dyer kept them in a large hole in a statue given to him by his gangster associates the Kray twins.

Joule said that when they discussed the incident Bacon pointed to a photograph of a masterpiece titled Two Studies of George Dyer with Dog 1968, which is now in a private collection.

Bacon says on the recording: “At the time of my arrest, and for a long time after, I stayed furious. To release some of the tension,