Francis Bacon News
Milein Cosman obituary
Artist who sketched some of the greatest cultural figures of the 20th century including Benjamin Britten, TS Eliot and Barbara Hepworth
AMANDA HOPKINSON | ARTS | THE GUARDIAN | MONDAY 4 DECEMBER, 2017
Francis Bacon, drypoint and monotype, 1984, by Milein Cosman
Milein Cosman, who has died aged 96, drew many of the greatest artistic names of the 20th century. Working on commission for publishers, magazines and newspapers, she sketched Benjamin Britten, Yehudi Menuhin, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Sir Thomas Beecham, Otto Klemperer, TS Eliot, Francis Bacon, Barbra Hepworth and Henry Moore, among others.
She drew primarily from life, and her subjects were mostly artists of various kinds, and above all musicians. Into this she was led by a love of music, but also by her almost 40-year-long collaboration with her Viennese husband, the musician, musicologist and broadcaster Hans Keller. Their book Stravinsky at Rehearsal (1962), which combined his words with her drawings, is a classic of a genre they largely devised themselves; he analysed the music, while she captured the musicians in the midst of its creation.
Cosman worked in ink, pencil and conté, and was never inhibited by the fame of her subjects: she drew Thomas Mann while he was lecturing; Sir Arthur Bliss conducting and John Ogdon at the piano. She worked extraordinarily swiftly, saying: “I can only draw fast. If I draw slowly, I almost always get it wrong. I think all the Stravinsky sketches were done in one day.” She also did many paintings, subjects including Stravinsky and Mstislav Rostropovich, the artist Fred Uhlman, and, most often, Keller.
In his appreciation of Milein’s work, published in the catalogue of her show of drawings and prints at the Belgrave Gallery in 1996, Sir Ernst Gombrich commented: “Posterity will be grateful to Milein Cosman above all for the sureness of her eye, with which she has succeeded in capturing the unique quality of so many of our distinguished contemporaries.” She claimed, however, that: “What I really like to draw best are people who work: fishermen and road menders. Yes, it must be said, that really a lot of people have quite wonderful faces.”
Emilie Cosmann (her brother nicknamed her “Milein” and she dropped the last letter of her surname when she came to Britain) was born into a comfortable German-Jewish family in the small town of Gotha, in Germany. She was educated largely in Düsseldorf, where she organised a pupils’ anti-fascist group and for her last two school years attended the Ecole d’Humanité and the International School in Geneva.
In 1939 she followed her brother, who was already installed in Scotland, to Britain. Thereafter, Milein always referred to herself as an émigrée rather than a refugee. Refugee was not the only label she refused to accept. “I’m not religious, I was brought up without religion, my religion is the arts,” she said, and: “I am not a ‘Jewish’ artist.”
After she gained entry to the Slade School of Fine Art – by turning up in person with her portfolio – she lived in a leaky garret behind the Ashmolean museum, Oxford, where the Slade was evacuated for the duration of the war. She studied drawing under Randolph Schwabe and lithography with Harold Jones, and in 1943 she alternated evening classes with Bernard Meninsky at Oxford Polytecnic with giving art classes for the Workers’ Educational Association. She supported herself by delivering milk with a pony and trap and teaching French at a convent school.
It was at Oxford, too, that she met Iris Murdoch, then a student, and was invited back for “cocoa at Somerville” after an evening lecture given by Graham Sutherland. Milein drew Murdoch’s portrait, commenting on the sharp features in the baby face, and the acute intelligence they revealed. This was the first lithograph Milein made, and demonstrated her ability to get under the skin of her subjects, to perceive more than perhaps they were aware of exposing.
While at Oxford, she met a constellation of musicians, artists and writers. The poet Sidney Keyes fell in love with her and dedicated some of his work to her. He was not the last poet to be struck by the tiny, lively-minded woman with birdlike movements and sharp intelligence. Years later, Dannie Abse was so impressed by a chance encounter in Zwemmer’s bookshop that he followed her all the way up the Charing Cross Road to pursue their conversation.
Milein moved to London at the end of the war, where she worked as an illustrator and began to submit sketches to magazines and newspapers. She became a regular contributor to the Radio Times, supplying portraits of the next week’s interviewees. Of Imogen Holst she said: “She looked quite funny, you know, in her sandals and ankle socks. She had the face of a Flemish Madonna.” Sometimes she generalised: “I find on the whole women quite difficult to do. They often have softer features – and very few of them are conductors”; of the cellist Rostropovich, she said: “He was marvellous to draw, as I believe cellists almost always are, crawling all over their instruments like beetles.”
In 1947, while working on a commission, she met Keller, who became her most frequent subject; his keenly angular, impish face adorned the small spaces of wall between the vast living-room windows of the Hampstead house which they bought in the 1960s, and where Milein stayed on alone after his death in 1985. With its unfolding rooms – French windows and a kitchen verandah giving on to a long front garden scattered with fruit trees – it had a German ambience often enhanced by the aroma of fresh poppyseed cake wafting through the open-plan modernist interior.
In 1958 Milein worked on a schools’ television series about drawing for ITV and in the 60s she joined Camden Printmakers, participating in numerous group shows. Her work was acquired by the Victoria & Albert Museum, the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery and the Jewish Museum in London, and internationally by the universities of Texas, Pennsylvania, McMaster, Canada and Kanagawa, Tokyo.
Her cousin Leo Goldschmidt established the permanent exhibition of her work in the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, where he was the director, and there is another at Milein’s beloved Wigmore Hall, where she was a regular attender.
In 1986 Milein’s illustrations appeared in Klemperer on Music, and in 1998, in the John Heath-Stubbs 80th birthday issue of Aquarius.
As a sideline she devised a series of animals to which she added ludic descriptions: a Bird Flautist, Dancing Kangaroos, Dream Camels. She drew Britten’s parrot, for which she had to obtain not only Britten’s permission, but also that of his ill-tempered housekeeper, Miss Hudson, for access to “her” kitchen.
In 2006 she established the Cosman Keller Art and Music Trust to support education in these fields, and to preserve her work and that of her husband. It has recently bequeathed her drawings and prints of musicians to the Royal College of Music in London, drawings and prints of dancers to Salzburg University and a selection of drawings and prints to the arts academy in Berlin.
Despite encroaching blindness from the 90s onwards and a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s in 2011, Milein carried on working for as long as she could. In 2014 she attended the opening of a major retrospective of her work in Gotha, and a documentary on her life, directed by Christoph Böll, was funded by the city. An exhibition of her work is due to be held at Clare Hall, Cambridge, in 2019
As she said, swiftly sketching a young child who came to her annual apple-picking party in 2003: “There’s always the thrill of the ink and the pen on the page.” Then, cocking her head to peer at what she’d just done: “It is a good drawing, isn’t it?”
Milein is survived by three nieces and a nephew.
Milein Cosman, artist, born 31 March 1921; died 21 November 2017
Milein Cosman at the opening of her exhibition in London in 2008. From left are pictures of Thomas Mann, Francis Bacon, Henry Moore Jean Cocteau.
Rare Works by Francis Bacon to be Exhibited at Tate Britain, London
BY HILARY WEBB | VISUAL ARTS | GALLERIES | BLOUIN ARTINFO | NOVEMBER 26, 2017
Francis Bacon - Portrait 1962
Extraordinary paintings by the notorious Francis Bacon, many of which have not been displayed in almost half a century, are going on show at Tate Britain. “All Too Human: Bacon, Freud and Century of Painting Life” celebrates some of Bacon’s most revered and hidden pieces. This landmark exhibition of paintings opens in London at the end of February 2018.
This exhibition will showcase “Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud,” a large scale painting by Francis Bacon of his friend Lucian Freud, which was only seen in public shortly after it was completed – first in London in 1964 and then in Hamburg and Stockholm in 1965. It has since remained in private hands and has not been exhibited for over half a century. The portrait shows an anxious looking, bare-chested image of a human figure, curled up in the corner of a darkened room, partly illuminated by a single light bulb. The portrait was over six feet high and was originally part of a three-piece panel, which the artist later made into three separate paintings. It was first showcased in the group exhibition “Aspects of XX Century Art” in 1964 at Marlborough Fine Art. The current exhibition will also showcase portrait of Bacon’s lover Peter Lacey in 1962, the year Peter died. The portrait, last exhibited in 1964, shows a scowling face of Peter, seated nude with all his internal organs bursting through his skin. “All Too Human,” another triptych created in 1975-77 will be showcased after 30 years, which is on loan from a private collection.
This is a final homage to Bacon’s lover George Dyer, which shows a twisted body under a black umbrella on a cold stretch of beach. Alex Farquharson, Director of Tate Britain said, “This will be an unmissable opportunity to see some truly extraordinary paintings, many of which have not been seen for decades. With this exhibition we want to show how British figurative painters found new and powerful ways to capture life on canvas throughout the 20th century, and Bacon’s portraits are some of the greatest examples of that endeavour.”
“All Too Human: Bacon, Freud and Century of Painting Life” will be presented from February 28, 2018 through August 27 at 2018 at Tate Britain, London, Millbank, Westminster, London SW1P 4RG, UK.
John Minihan's iconic photo archive acquired by UCC
CULTURE | THE IRISH TIMES | THURSDAY 17 NOVEMBER 2017
UCC Library has secured the photographic collection and archive of the photographer, John Minihan, boasting some of the most memorable photographic images from the last century.
Francis Bacon, 1976. Photograph: John Minihan
Sotheby's Totals $310.2 M. at Post War and Contemporary Sale, Bacon Triptych Sells for $36.8 M.
NATE FREEMAN | MARKET NEWS | ART NEWS | NOVEMBER 16 2017
Francis Bacon, Three Studies of George Dyer, 1966, oil on canvas, in three parts, sold for $36.8 million
The New York evening auctions wrapped tonight with a solid if imperfect postwar and contemporary evening sale at Sotheby’s, the house’s $310.2 million haul falling squarely between its low estimate of $250.4 million and its high estimate of $343.4 million. The sell-through rate was an impressive 95.8 percent, with only three works failing to sell throughout the long sale of 72 lots.
The night’s biggest lot was Francis Bacon’s Three Studies of George Dyer (1966), one of his coveted triptychs, which sold for $36.8 million, over its low estimate of $35 million. That was followed by another eight-figure juggernaut, Andy Warhol’s Mao (1972), which went for $32.4 million, over a low estimate of $30 million. (All sales prices include buyer’s premium, unless otherwise noted.)
While neither work had ever before been offered at auction, they both failed to capture the interest of the salesroom. Each earned just one bid—in both instances, the bidder was on the phone with the house’s contemporary art head for Europe, Alex Branczik. Both were subject to third-party guarantees.
Nothing here could match the era-defining events of Wednesday night’s sale at Christie’s, when Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi (ca. 1500) sold for a record 4450 million—considerably more than tonight’s entire sale. But during the press conference at Sotheby’s after the action, auctioneer Oliver Barker noted that, setting aside the Leonardo, the two sales were fairly comparable. If you compare contemporary to contemporary and remove the $450 million from the total, Christie’s totaled $338.6 million, just a bit higher than the total at arch-rival Sotheby’s tonight.
“Taking aside a certain Old Master that sold last night, in terms of the actual contemporary market, it was really quite level,” Barker said.
Gregoire Billault, the house’s contemporary art head, also obliquely mentioned the Salvator Mundi as he recapped tonight’s auction, saying, “This has been an historic week in the art market and this is one more step in the right direction.”
What’s more, the total was up from the same auction a year ago, which generated sales of just $276.6 million, and it nearly bested the $319.2 million sale of last May—a sale that was boosted by a bidding war that catapulted an untitled work by Basquiat past the $100 million threshold, making it the most expensive artwork by an American ever sold.
Here tonight, there was nothing that came close to that Basquiat in terms of price or excitement. But after a throat-clearing stretch of 24 works from the Diamonstein-Spielvogel Collection—nearly all low-priced work on paper—the sale began in earnest with an untitled 2012 work by Laura Owens, who has a wildly acclaimed show that just opened at the Whitney Museum in New York. (There’s a blank space in the museum’s exhibition space where the newly-auctioned Owens will go on loan right after the sale.)
A great deal of talk leading up to the sale had focused on the Owens, considered to be one of her finest, and the fact that it was priced so low, with an estimate of just $200,000 to $300,000. Sure enough, as soon as Barker started the bidding, an avalanche of bids surged forward, in the room and on the phones, bringing the price up to $800,000 before Sotheby’s chairman Lisa Dennison came in with a bid at $950,000, where it slowed. After going back and forth with bidders on the phone, Dennison secured the bid for her client for a $1.45 million hammer, or $1.75 million with fees. That shattered Owens’s previous auction record, which had been just $336,500.
But then a Jean Dubuffet estimated to sell for between $12 million and $18 million was a pass, and when Barker started the bidding on the Bacon, he chandelier bid up to $35 million, found a single bid from Branczik, and then could not find another interested party. The same happened with the Warhol Mao two lots later—one bid, and then nothing.
“So there’s always lots that have one bid, and yes, the Bacon sold on one bid, but if you look at things, we saw there were 73 lots and that was a long list,” said Billault after the sale.
Lucian Freud Painted By Francis Bacon To Be Shown At Tate Britain
FELICITY CARTER | FORBES | NOVEMBER 13 2017
A large-scale painting by Francis Bacon of his friend Lucian Freud is to be shown in Tate Britain’s landmark exhibition, All Too Human in February 2018. The work was only seen in public shortly after it was completed – firstly in London in 1964 and then in Hamburg and Stockholm in 1965. It has since remained in private hands and has not been exhibited for over half a century.
Bacon and Freud had a deep and complex friendship and were often viewed as artistic rivals. Having first met in the mid-1940s they were inseparable for years, seeing each other almost daily in Soho’s bars and clubs as well as visiting each other’s studios and occasionally sitting for portraits. The portrait that will be shown at Tate Britain next year is an angst-ridden image of the human figure, bare-chested and curled into the corner of a dark room beneath a single lightbulb. The painting stands over six feet high and was originally part of a triptych which Bacon then split into separate works. It was first unveiled in 1964 at the group exhibition Aspects of XX Century Art held at Bacon’s gallery Marlborough Fine Art. It then travelled from the Kunstverein Hamburg to the Moderna Museet in Stockholm over the following year as part of a solo show of Bacon’s work, but has not been seen in public since.
The work will be one of several key Bacon paintings on loan to Tate Britain for the exhibition All Too Human. These will include an important portrait of Bacon’s lover Peter Lacy made in 1962, the year of Lacy’s death, and not seen in the UK since. It shows him seated with a scowling expression and is the first time Bacon portrayed the nude body with its internal organs on display, seemingly bursting through the surface of its skin. An extraordinary Bacon triptych from 1974-77, on loan from a private collection, will also be exhibited for the first time in a UK public gallery in over 30 years. A final homage to George Dyer, the great love of Bacon’s life, it shows a contorted body beneath a black umbrella on a cold stretch of beach.
‘This will be an unmissable opportunity to see some truly extraordinary paintings, many of which have not been seen for decades. With this exhibition we want to show how British figurative painters found new and powerful ways to capture life on canvas throughout the 20th century, and Bacon’s portraits are some of the greatest examples of that endeavour.’ Alex Farquharson, Director, Tate Britain
All Too Human: Bacon, Freud and Century of Painting Life will be at Tate Britain, running from 28 February to 27 August 2018. This major exhibition will celebrate how artists have captured the intense experience of life in paint, portraying personal and immediate experiences. Much loved and rarely seen works will be included, from Walter Sickert and Stanley Spencer to Frank Auerbach, R.B. Kitaj and Leon Kossoff, through to Paula Rego and Jenny Saville. It will be curated at Tate Britain by Elena Crippa, Curator of Modern and Contemporary British Art and Laura Castagnini, Assistant Curator.
Study for a Portrait of Lucian Freud, 1964, by Francis Bacon (1909-92)
'Angst-ridden' portrait of Lucian Freud to go on display
It will be shown at Tate Britain's All Too Human exhibition
SHERNA NOAH | INDEPENDENT IRELAND | MONDAY 13 NOVEMBER 2017
A portrait of Lucian Freud by the painter’s friend Francis Bacon is going on display for the first time in half a century.
The 6ft-high work shows Freud “angst-ridden”, bare-chested and curled into the corner of a dark room beneath a lightbulb.
It will be shown at Tate Britain’s All Too Human exhibition next year, as the show examines how artists capture the “intense experiences of life” in paint.
Bacon’s painting has only been seen in public twice before, shortly after it was completed in London in 1964 and then in Hamburg and Stockholm the following year.
The painters had a deep and complex friendship, and were often seen as rivals.
They were inseparable for years after first meeting in the mid-1940s, seeing each other almost daily in Soho’s bars and clubs as well as visiting each other’s studios.
The painting, now in private hands, was originally part of a triptych which Bacon then split into separate works.
Tate’s exhibition will also feature works by Walter Sickert, Stanley Spencer, Frank Auerbach, RB Kitaj and Paula Rego among others.
It will also examine the role of women artists in the traditionally male-dominated field of figurative painting.
Other paintings on loan to the show include a nude portrait of Bacon’s lover Peter Lacy, a Bacon triptych from 1974-77 and his final homage to George Dyer, the great love of his life.
Tate Britain director Alex Farquharson said: “This will be an unmissable opportunity to see some truly extraordinary paintings, many of which have not been seen for decades.
“With this exhibition we want to show how British figurative painters found new and powerful ways to capture life on canvas throughout the 20th Century, and Bacon’s portraits are some of the greatest examples of that endeavour.”
All Too Human: Bacon, Freud And A Century Of Painting Life will be at Tate Britain from February 28 to August 27 next year.
Optimism abounds heading into November auctions
Discretionary sellers gain confidence in the market and Christie's leads its contemporary sale with a 500 year old Leonardo di Vinci.
But recent overreaches sound a cautionary note
SARAH P. HANSON | THE ART NEWSPAPER | 10 NOVEMBER 2017
Francis Bacon, Three Studies of George Dyer (1967)
After encouraging results in London in October, the auction houses are approaching their key November sales of Impressionist and Modern and contemporary art with optimism. More stable economic conditions have contributed to discretionary sellers’ willingness to part with choice material, and in the Impressionist category, the overall pre-sale estimates at Sotheby’s and Christie’s are at a two-year high. “We’ve had a very busy gathering season”, says Jessie Fertig, the head of the Impressionist and Modern evening sale for Christie’s.
After the failure of a £60m Francis Bacon at Christie's London last month, Friedlander says she aimed for "a really layered, textured sale" composed not only of heavy hitters but also more modestly priced but attractive material. The $100m Da Vinci alongside Mark Rothko's radiant yellow Saffron (1957, est $25m-$35m) and a 1980s Julian Schnabel painting on velvet (Ethnic Type #14, 1984, $500,000-$700,000), she says, "tells a story about what the marketplace is after right now."
Contemporary evening sale, 16 November
On the contemporary side, Sotheby's is offering a Francis Bacon triptych of George Dyer, one of five extant and one of three in private hands, bought by the consignor in 1967, the year after it was painted. Another triptych sold at Christie’s New York in May for $46m hammer; this one is tagged at $35m to $45m (and guaranteed by the house). “It’s absolutely magnificent”, says the head of contemporary art Grégoire Billaut. “He is at his best when painting the very close circle around him.” Other discoveries include a large Warhol Mao portrait, unseen in public since 1973 (est $30m-$40m) and Cabra (1981-82), a Jean-Michel Basquiat skull painting owned by Yoko Ono (est $9m-$12m).
What to expect from New York's November auctions
These major sales will dominate opinion on the market's health as a whole
MELANIE GERLIS | COLLECTING | FINANCIAL TIMES | NOVEMBER 3, 2017
Francis Bacon’s ‘Three Studies of George Dyer’ (1966) (est $35m-$45m, Sotheby’s)
November’s auction season in New York is often the stuff of headlines. Last year, when the sales of hundreds of pieces of Impressionist, Modern and contemporary art were squished into one week to avoid clashing with the uncertain US general election, a total $900m of art was sold across four evenings ($1bn with fees). Telephone-number sums for individual works included Edvard Munch’s “Girls on the Bridge” (1902) for $50m ($54.5m with fees), Willem de Kooning’s “Untitled XXV” (1977) for $59m ($66.3m with fees) and, top lot of the week, Claude Monet’s grainstack “Meule” (1891) for $72.5m ($81.4m).
There are several juicy offerings this year, again squeezed into one week (November 13-17), so the formula must have worked. Headlines have already been dedicated to Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” (c1500), which famously once sold for £45 and is now estimated at $100m, and to its accompanying, huge “Sixty Last Suppers” (1986) by Andy Warhol, estimated at $50m, both at Christie’s. Star lot at Sotheby’s is Francis Bacon’s “Three Studies of George Dyer” (1966, est $35m-$45m) and Phillips has Peter Doig’s 1995-96 “Red House”, sold in 2008 for $3.2m and now offered at between $18m and $22m. In all, up to $1.7bn of art is estimated to sell across five evening auctions, some $500m more than expected last year.
Auction houses control some of this outcome through guarantees and this series is no exception (though the Bass collection is being offered “naked”). So far, half of the 74 lots in Sotheby’s contemporary auction are effectively pre-sold, while the Leonardo and Warhol at Christie’s, Bacon at Sotheby’s and Doig at Phillips have also been backed.
So a dramatic failure — as witnessed with the Francis Bacon that went unsold at Christie’s in London last month — is not expected. And with the economic winds in favour, “there’s no reason why this season shouldn’t be record-breaking,” Nathan says.
CONTEMPORARY ART EVENING AUCTION
16 NOVEMBER 2017 | 6:30 PM EST | NEW YORK
1909 - 1992
THREE STUDIES OF GEORGE DYER
and dated 1966 on the reverse of the left panel
oil on canvas, in three parts
each: 14 by 12 in. 35.6 by 30.5 cm
35,000,000 - 45,000,000 USD
38,614,000 USD (Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium)
Marlborough Fine Art Ltd., London
Basil and Elise Goulandris, Athens (acquired from the above in 1968)
Acquired by the present owner from the above
Paris, Galerie Maeght; Rome, Marlborough Galleria d’Arte; Milan, Galleria Toninelli; and London, Marlborough Fine Art. Ltd., Francis Bacon: Recent Paintings, November 1966 – April 1967, n.p., no. 16 (Paris), p. 20, illustrated (detail of left panel) and p. 21, no. 12, illustrated in color (London)
Leiris, Francis Bacon: Full Face and in Profile, New York, 1983, p. 100,
no. 41, illustrated in color
Michel Leiris, Francis Bacon, New York, 1987, p. 48, no. 42, illustrated in color
Milan Kundera, Bacon: Portraits and Self-Portraits, London, 1996, p. 32, illustrated in color and p. 33, illustrated in color (detail of center panel)
Martin Harrison, ed., Francis Bacon Catalogue Raisonné, Volume III, 1958-71, London, 2016, pp. 816-817, no. 66-11, illustrated in color
Three Studies of George Dyer, 1966
By Martin Harrison
The impact of Francis Bacon’s most powerful portraits is in direct proportion to the intensity and conviction of his brushstrokes. The energy and dynamism of the paint projects the meaning of the paintings directly outwards onto the viewer’s psyche, as demonstrated in a serial portrait of a man under extreme pressure, Three Studies of George Dyer, 1966. Indubitably one of the most impressive of Bacon’s small triptychs, it is a passionate and incisive representation of a close (and emotionally troubled) companion.
n 1962 Bacon had arrived at a format for painting portrait heads which subsequently remained constant, and which formed a distinct and significant category of his work. Invariably painted on relatively small, 14 x 12 inch canvasses, he produced these subjects as single panels and diptychs, as well as triptychs. In contrast to the large canvasses, in which the spatial settings and more complex pictorial schemas of full-length figures afforded greater scope for variation, the portraits are remarkably consistent in their formal conception. Consequently, it is particularly impressive when, working within ostensibly limited parameters, Bacon was nonetheless able to create several of his masterpieces, including Three Studies of George Dyer, 1966.
With the catalogue raisonné published last year, I no longer have to search for ‘lost’ paintings, or their historiographies. Neither is there a requirement to maintain objectivity or detachment in assessing Bacon’s oeuvre. Hence I sometimes find myself thinking about whether there is a common factor, among the nearly six hundred extant paintings, linking those which ‘came off’, as Bacon used to put it. The answer would appear to be as unfashionable, in art-historical terms, as the notion of a qualitative hierarchy: that is, after 1952 the most potent paintings tend to be those of, or inspired by, Bacon’s lovers. This is manifestly true of the paintings of Peter Lacy, made between 1953 and 1963, and those of George Dyer painted from 1963 to 1976. Of course Bacon was projecting himself into, and out through, other subjects, the Popes for example, but the trajectory of his art was definitely in the direction of the intrapersonal.
Recently I have been writing in what was Bacon’s studio in Reece Mews, South Kensington, albeit in its later guise as a neutral, white space, stripped of all the legendary clutter and aura. I wonder at Bacon’s valiant drive to rise at daybreak and engage in a tussle with the canvas, a performance that would leave him, as his friend the photographer Peter Beard observed, literally breathless with nervous excitement as he emerged from an experience that was simultaneously physical and trance-like.
With virtually no conventional training, Bacon was forced to invent a technical repertory attuned to his expression. This is often characterised as painting in a thick impasto, but he developed a much more elaborate range than that. When appropriate he painted with subtlety and even delicacy; he also applied paint quite thinly – in what Georges Bataille memorably described as ‘brusque’ treatments. In the right panel of Three Studies of George Dyer, 1966, leaving Dyer’s jacket as background wash and under-drawing is a marvellous example of his wilfulness in this respect, his defiance, as well as his layered approach to representation. Bacon sought immediacy – he was keenly aware that boredom of execution would translate as apathy in the mind of the beholder: in this sense the shorthand techniques he developed are analogous to his determination to convey sensation in his paintings and avoid overt narratives.
Three Studies of George Dyer, 1966, exemplifies succinctly Bacon’s mid-career mastery of his craft. The grounds of each panel are rich in linseed oil, dense black voids that, contradictorily, also oscillate with light reflected from their textured surfaces. The palette of the three heads is reminiscent of two of Bacon’s early inspirations, late Monet and Degas’s pastels, but he pushes these stimuli into another dimension. The paint is applied in rapid, enervated sweeps, in arcing strokes of slippery, mixed colors, flicked from the wrist, that partly obliterate the hot skin tone. Arbitrary patches of coagulated black paint have been impressed with a variety of fabrics – to form a textured substance that is a classic Bacon anti-illustrational shorthand device. The outer panels, which vibrate with the restless motion of the paint, flank a pitiless frontal view of Dyer. In the center Dyer’s features are collapsing, the lubricious flesh and facial features are twisted, distorted: we may be sure that Bacon equally identified with these ‘wounds.'
Thus Three Studies of George Dyer, 1966, explodes from the picture plane: across a gap of more than fifty years Dyer appears to us as a living, pulsating presence. Transformed through paint applied with vigour and élan, it is a revelatory image of his friend and muse. Bacon was motivated to paint by love (however elusive or transitory) and sex, which were underpinned by a personal philosophy that can be partly defined as anti-religious, nihilistic, Nietzschean. And he was resolute about being a great artist: disingenuous about the importance of his reputation, when he excelled without compromise, as in the present triptych, he fulfilled with force and audacity his stated aim ‘to get on to the nervous system.'
Three Studies of George Dyer, 1966
Within the grand theater of Francis Bacon’s prolific 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. Charged with desire and framed within a seductive dark ground, Three Studies of George Dyer wields the full force of Bacon’s painterly bravura and pictorial authority with arresting intensity and consummate psychological depth. His portrayal encompasses the full range of human drama: at once vulnerable, brooding, romantic, heroic and tortured, Bacon’s stunning incarnations of Dyer reveal a multifaceted, tempestuous and passionate love affair. Between 1963 and 1969, an intensely busy moment in his career, Bacon would paint only five triptychs of Dyer in this intimate scale, two of which are in museums: the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and the Louisiana Museum of Art, Humlebæk. Of this jewel like size, John Russell has said, “The single head, fourteen inches by twelve, was from 1961 onwards the scene of some of Bacon’s most ferocious investigations. Just as a gunshot sometimes leaves an after-echo or parallel report, so these small concentrated heads carry their ghosts within them.” (John Russell, Francis Bacon, London, 1993, p. 99) Also unique to these rare triptychs, Bacon treated the characteristic profile from John Deakin’s famous source images of George Dyer (found ripped, torn and paint splattered among the debris in Bacon’s studio) in his unique visual vocabulary, abstracting them in dramatic gestural swaths of luminous color. Although Bacon would continue to render Dyer’s countenance after his death, he never again returned to a portrayal of Dyer in this highly charged and intimate format after 1969. Three Studies of George Dyer remains an incredibly rare gemlike triptych that exudes passion, vitality and a fervor that has immortalized both Bacon’s deep infatuation with his lover as well as his inimitable style.
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 richly textured surface of the present work. Beautifully sublime and framed within a dramatic background of a dense lustrous black, these three portraits masterfully illustrate Bacon’s twisted, torqued and scraped handling of paint. Exquisite tones of navy and violet sweep in graceful swaths and bold brushstrokes against a rich palette of brick red, apricot and lilac. Elegant impressions of corduroy and torn cloth imprint vigorous patterns onto the surface of the face, lending texture to and asserting the flatness of these indelible works. With sumptuous inflections of pigment, both delicately applied and heavily worked up, Bacon’s distortions of Dyer’s visage interrogate the limits of the self, presenting an ethereal and unearthly form of his muse that, while undoubtedly grounded in a photograph of Dyer, is manifestly surreal. Like a sequence of film stills, Dyer’s likeness eloquently unfolds from left to right, moving from asymmetrical three-quarter turn into full profile and back to three-quarter. Dyer’s suit collar provides a formal anchor to each canvas, an almost Matisse-like cut-out clarity that echoes Bacon’s physical manipulation and cutting up of Deakin’s photographs. Each of Dyer’s three portraits reverberates with violent smudges and a psychological profundity; however, these smears, swipes and blows to Dyer’s visage are not marks of brutality, but rather the artist’s insistence on chance, play, and radiant prismatic color. Bacon seems to make the case against any singular perspective on the individual, instead privileging a layered understanding of the human psyche. 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)
Divorced from the natural world, the distorted and vivid tonal spectrum coalesces into an almost dreamlike picture. With obscured eyes, curved noses, hollowed jawlines and torqued lips, Bacon has portrayed a deep introspection in an arresting and raw color palette. An intensely amorous response to Dyer’s looks overwhelms this work; these three portraits relay unbridled enthusiasm and delight for the contours and landscape of his physiognomy. Bacon’s tremendous ardor for Dyer and his masculine good looks outweighed Dyer’s downward spiraling propensity for alcoholism and violent self-pity. Towards the end of the 1960s, this already unsteady and tumultuous relationship became destructively marred by Dyer’s waning sense of purpose in Bacon’s 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. Dyer’s presence is at once the most pervasive, libidinal and inventive of Bacon’s entire oeuvre. The creative fecundity of these seminal years, both the decade prior to and following 1971, is predominantly owing to the abiding and all-consuming impact of George Dyer. Painted obsessively, Dyer’s likeness utterly dominates Bacon’s production: as strongly present in this extremely rare triptych, George Dyer fueled the tortured and extraordinary talents of a master of modern art at the apex of his imaginative and technical powers.
Painter Francis Bacon commemorated with a blue plaque
ITV REPORT | ITV NEWS | FINANCIAL TIMES | 28 OCTOBER 2017
Painter Francis Bacon has been commemorated with a blue plaque at the "insanely eccentric" mews home where he produced some of his greatest works.
The artist, who was known for his bold and shocking figurative style, lived at the studio in South Kensington, west London, from 1961 to his death in 1992.
English Heritage unveiled the blue plaque at the converted Victorian coach house, 7 Reece Mews, on the 108th anniversary of his birth.
The tiny studio, situated on the first floor, was a scene of chaos but where Bacon felt he worked best.
He used the walls to mix paints and used paint tubes, brushes and rags were strewn across the floor and covering every surface.
Author and broadcaster Melvyn Bragg, who knew Bacon well, said: "It's a great idea to put up a blue plaque for Francis Bacon at the idiosyncratic, almost insanely eccentric, tiny upstairs flatlet in which he did some of his finest work. I'm sure he would have loved it."
During an interview with Bragg on The South Bank Show in 1985, Bacon said the studio was the "kind of dump that nobody else would want but I can work here".
He added: "I work much better in chaos. I couldn't work if it was a beautifully tidy studio, it would be absolutely impossible for me... Chaos breeds images."
Bacon completed Three Studies for a Crucifixion (1962) shortly after moving into the mews house and went on to produce some of his most celebrated works there, including Portrait of George Dyer Talking (1966).
Six years after his death the studio and its contents were moved and recreated in The Huge Lane gallery in Dublin, the city where Bacon was born in 1909.
The blue plaques scheme, taken on by English Heritage in 1986, has been running since 1866 to commemorate the notable people who lived and worked in buildings in London.
Francis Bacon triptych on show for the first time in 50 years
Painting of artist’s lover and muse expected to fetch at least $35m at Sotheby’s
JAMES PICKFORD | UK ARTS | FINANCIAL TIMES | OCTOBER 24, 2017
A painting by Francis Bacon of his lover and muse George Dyer will be shown in public for the first time in 50 years this week, ahead of its debut auction sale.
in 1966, “Three Studies of George Dyer” is one of five triptychs Bacon created
of his troubled lover. Two of the works are held by museums.
Carrying an estimate of between $35m and $45m, the painting will be unveiled at Sotheby’s London showrooms on Wednesday, before appearing as the top lot in the auction house’s contemporary art sale in New York next month.
The painting has appeared in public just once, at a Marlborough Gallery show in 1967. The work is now being sold by an anonymous private collector, who bought it in a private sale from its original buyer, a European collector.
Bacon met Dyer met in 1963, before embarking on a passionate but tempestuous relationship. An alcoholic and convicted petty crook, Dyer was attracted to Bacon’s self-confidence and intellect, while Bacon was drawn by the younger man’s aura of criminal risk.
Tragedy followed in 1971, when Dyer was found dead in the couple’s Paris hotel room, having overdosed on sleeping pills just two days before the opening of Bacon’s first mid-career retrospective at the Grand Palais.
Traumatised by grief, Bacon repeatedly returned to Dyer’s image, producing a
series of “Black Triptych” portraits in the early 1970s.
Alex Branczik, Sotheby’s European head of contemporary art said: “This is Bacon at his most spontaneous and intense ... His stated aim was always to bring his observers closer to the nervous system of his sitters.”
Bacon’s reputation in the international art market has soared in recent years, and his work has achieved record prices at auction. A triptych depicting Dyer was sold by Christie’s in May for $51.8m. Another Bacon triptych of the artist’s friend and rival Lucian Freud smashed auction records in 2013 when it sold for $142m in New York.
But Bacon’s works are not always guaranteed to sell at auction. A 1971 study including both an image of George Dyer and a pope — another recurring Bacon theme — which was estimated at around £60m, failed to find a buyer at Christie’s earlier this month.
The day Francis Bacon got burnt in the saleroom
The Bacon that didn’t sell; a Leonardo with a back story; $1.1m art theft; Beijing museum gets backing
MELANIE GERLIS | THE ART MARKET | FINANCIAL TIMES | OCTOBER 13, 2017
Art collectors are not buying anything at any price any more. October’s auction season in London will be remembered as the time that Francis Bacon’s “Study of Red Pope 1962. 2nd Version 1971” (1971) didn’t sell. Since it includes both the artist’s lover, George Dyer, and a trademark Pope, and shown at a landmark Paris exhibition just days after Dyer had committed suicide in the French capital, the work was powerful — but not to the extent of its £60m to £80m price tag, according to many in the trade. “Ambitious” was the euphemism used by Christie’s specialists after its auction on October 6.
Despite palpable disappointment in the auction room, Christie’s executives are confident the painting will sell, but one question is whether or not it has been “burned”, an art market term for the loss of reputation suffered when a work fails in a public arena. This has historically meant a lengthy grace period before offering again, in order to avoid a dramatic fall in value. Seemingly, however, the market is shorter-term these days. Sotheby’s also had a disappointment at its evening auction on October 5, when Jean-Michel Basquiat’s “Bronze” (1982), estimated between £5m and £7m and guaranteed with Sotheby’s own money, attracted no bidders. The auction house swiftly added the work to its day sale the following afternoon, with the same estimate and, according to Sotheby’s, the same reserve, when it subsequently sold for £4.4m (£5.1m with fees).
Another question is whether we will experience again the drama of a work offered publicly for more than £50m without a guarantee to sell. I suspect not in the near future.
Mixed night for Francis Bacon at Christie's
Two works from Francis Bacon's (1909 - 1992) 'Popes' series met with contrasting fates at Christie's latest post-war and contemporary art evening auction.
ALEX CAPON| NEWS | ANTIQUES TRADE GAZETTE | OCTOBER 6, 2017
Francis Bacon’s ‘Head with Raised Arm’ from 1955 which sold for £10m at Christie’s.
The highest expectations at tonight's sale were on Study of Red Pope 1962. 2nd Version 1971 which was described in the catalogue as "the grand finale to his celebrated body of Papal portraits".
Dating from 1971, the picture was a reworking of his 1962 canvas Study from Innocent X but with the added inclusion of the artist's lover George Dyer in the background appearing as the Pope's reflection.
The 6ft 6in x 4ft 10in (1.98 x 1.48cm) oil on canvas had been acquired from Marlborough Fine Art in Zurich in February 1973 and had descended to the vendor. It had an 'estimate on request' which was reportedly in the region £60m-80m but, on the night, the bidding failed to reach the low end of this range and the work was left unsold.
Six lots later, Bacon’s earlier and smaller painting Head with Raised Arm was offered with a £7m-10m estimate.
The 2ft x 20in (61 x 50.5cm) oil on canvas from 1955 had been in the vendor's collection over 50 years in which time it had never been exhibited publicly. Indeed, its location was listed as ‘unknown’ in the most recent version of Bacon's catalogue raisonne published last year by Martin Harrison.
The painting belonged to a group of nine surviving paintings depicting the then-Pope, Pius XII, of which four are now in museum collections.
With market freshness in its favour and the pitch not deemed unreasonable for an artist whose single-format portraits have sold for over £35m at auction before, the bidding was taken up by a number of parties before it was knocked down at £10m.
It was not the only lot of the night to make £10m or more.
With Christie’s having dropped its June sale of Contemporary art in London (its two main series in this category now take place in March and October only), these two works by Bacon were part of a higher number of big-ticket lots than would usually appear at these Frieze week auctions.
Bacon's Pope, Estimated at $78 Million, Fails in $172 Million Christie's Sale
MARK BEECH | VISUAL ARTS | AUCTIONS | BLOUIN ARTINFO | OCTOBER 6, 2017
A Francis Bacon Pope did not sell in the most high-profile of failures at Christie's Frieze-Week auction tonight. The sale's star lot had an unpublished estimate put at £60 million (about $78 million) to £80 million.
Later, it was a tale of two Popes with a little good news to counteract the blow. Christie's managed to sell another Bacon pontiff for £11.48 million, the third-best price of the evening. But dealers were still reeling from the earlier mishap, which some said was a serious miscalculation.
The unsold Pope, a late addition to the sale, was larger and more important than the one that did get away. The bought-in Study of Red Pope 1962. 2nd Version, from 1971, had been in a private collection since 1973. Bidding went from £50 million to £58 million before its withdrawal. Perhaps it would have made it for just £2 million more, dealers whispered. The dealers also were speculating about the reasons for such a highly-valued failure, saying there are a limited number of buyers for a work of this level. Some said the level of bought-in would take some explaining, depending on agreed figures.
The work shows the Pope sitting, while in the background the burglar George Dyer, the artist's lover and muse, is poised by a switch ready to turn off the light that illuminates the scene. Dyer died just months after the work was completed.
The last time such a major work by Bacon appeared in a London sale was at Christie's last year when Version No. 2 of Lying Figure with Hypodermic Syringes from 1968, also said to be highly significant, fetched a less ambitious £20.2 million.
The Pope that sold is one of nine surviving Bacon paintings depicting Pope Pius XII. "Head with Raised Arm" from 1955 was last exhibited in Turin in 1962. After it was included in a 1964 catalogue raisonne of Bacon’s oeuvre, its whereabouts have been unknown for more than 50 years. The recent Bacon catalogue raisonne update stated that "despite every effort to locate this painting, we have been unable to trace it." Christie's Francis Outred had described the £7 million to £10 million estimate as "a come and get me" price. Perhaps a more tempting estimate would have helped the other work.
The Christie's news release that eventually followed made little mention of the Popes. It talked up the sale’s total – including the "Thinking Italian" event before it - of £131,719,000 ($172,156,735), the second-highest figure for an evening of postwar and contemporary art in London.
Francis Bacon Pope portrait could set record at auction
DAVID SANDERSON | ARTS CORRESPONDENT | THE TIMES | SEPTEMBER 15 2017
Study of Red Pope 1962, 2nd Version 1971 by Francis Bacon will be on view at Christie’s in London before the auction in October
The only Francis Bacon painting combining his two great muses could set a British record at auction after being hidden from the public for 45 years.
The artist's Study of Red Pope 1962, 2nd Version 1971 was his only work combining his two obsessions, the Pope and his lover George Dyer.
It was first exhibited in 1971 in Paris, only 36 hours after Mr Dyer had died from an alcohol and drug overdose in one of the city's hotels.
Two years later it was bought by the family of the present owner and has never again been seen publicly.
Christie’s announced today that it would be on view at its London offices from the end of the month and would be put up for auction on October 6.
The estimate is £60 million, which if met and coupled with a 12.5% buyer’s premium would be the highest price for an artwork sold at auction in Britain.
The record for a Bacon at auction is £89 million for his triptych of Lucian Freud, which was sold in the US in 2013.
“This painting is quite simply art history,” Francis Outred, head of post-war and contemporary art at Christie’s, said of the work. "Painted six months before George Dyer would commit suicide on the eve of Bacon’s major retrospective at the Grand Palais, it is a tragic premonition which unites Bacon’s two muses, the Pope and George Dyer, for the first and only time."
Bacon and Dyer had a volatile, alcohol-soaked relationship after meeting in a Soho pub in 1963. His death and the subsequent anguish prompted some of the darkest works in Bacon's output.
Bacon painted him frequently. He also executed numerous papal portraits, once saying: "He's put in a unique position by being the Pope, and therefore, like in certain great tragedies he’s as though raised onto a dais on which the grandeur of this image can be displayed to the world."
Mr Outred said the 1971 work — which was a revisiting of his 1962 canvas Study from Innocent X, itself inspired by Diego Velazquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X - represented the "ultimate landmark" of Bacon's career.
"If Bacon's oeuvre was shaped by his devotion to George Dyer and the aftermath of his death provided his darkest and most celebrated triptychs, then this painting represents the ultimate landmark."
He said he had rarely seen a "a single panel carry so much power and profundity", adding it gave him a "shiver down my spine".
"Against a background of naked canvas, an extraordinary outburst of controlled expression produces a maelstrom of activity, drawing the eye first to the sumptuous symphony of rounded red forms and then to the Pope at the centre of the composition whose own reflection appears in the back of the mirror and George Dyer’s in the front. Dyer's hand is poised ready to turn off the light," he said.
CONTEMPORARY ART EVENING AUCTION
LOT 25 | 05 OCTOBER | 7.00 PM BST | LONDON
PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED EUROPEAN PRIVATE COLLECTION
Estimate 1,800,000 - 2.500,000 GBP
Lot Sold 1,988,750 GBP
Francis Bacon 1909 - 1992
STUDIES OF ISABEL RAWSTHORNE
PROVENANCEDr. Paul and Mrs. Ruth Brass (a gift from the artist in 1983)
Sotheby's, London, 12 October 2007, Lot 31 (consigned by the above)
Private Collection, New York
Christie’s, London, 14 February 2012, Lot 33
Acquired from the above by the present owner
EXHIBITEDLondon, Marlborough Fine Art, Ltd., Francis Bacon 1909-1992, Small Portrait Studies, October - December 1993, n.p., no. 14, illustrated in colour
New York, Gagosian Gallery, Alberto Giacometti. Francis Bacon: Isabel and Other Intimate Strangers. November - December 2008, p. 43, illustrated in colour and p. 45, detail of the right panel illustrated in colour
Martin Harrison, Ed., Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné, Volume IV, 1971-91, London 2016, p. 1260, no. 83-01, illustrated in colour
Studies of Isabel Rawsthorne presents a deeply personal portrayal of Francis Bacon's closest female friend. Of all his female subjects and many companions, she was the woman to whom he felt closest: the extraordinary number of portraits after her likeness command a rare heroic dimension at once testament to Bacon’s affection and reflective of Isabel's remarkable magnetism as a person. Muse, mistress, and friend of the Parisian avant-garde during the 1930s, Isabel was a compelling personality and alluring subject for Andre Derain, Pablo Picasso, and most significantly, Alberto Giacometti, with whom she shared a drawn-out love affair. Undoubtedly enamoured by her sophisticated Parisian connections and impressed by her imposing presence, Bacon found in Isabel Rawsthorne an irresistible source of inspiration. Rawsthorne provided a unique focus for the artist: she was his preferred female muse and inspired a greater number of small portrait canvases than any of his other friends, accounting for at least eighteen works created between 1964 and 1983. From these, only three paintings in diptych format survive, amongst which the present work is outstanding. Bacon and Rawsthorne first met in the late 1940s at the home of Erica Brausen, who represented both artists at her Hanover Gallery in London. Painted decades later, Studies of Isabel Rawsthorne represents the final portrait after her likeness and thus summates nearly forty years of close friendship.
Michael Peppiatt has described Rawsthorne's prodigious facility for physiognomic change: "Her face would assume a look of extreme indignation, followed by one of raucous good humour, and then a glance of seduction, all dropped like masks and as readily replaced" (Michael Peppiatt, Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma, London 1996, p. 205). Bacon was inevitably seduced by this expressive variety and this diptych epitomises a rare mode of description that can only stem from a lifetime's worth of close observation. In 1984 Bacon told David Sylvester "I am certainly not trying to make a portrait of somebody's soul or psyche or whatever you like to call it. You can only make a portrait of their appearance, but I think that their appearance is deeply linked with their behaviour" (Francis Bacon in conversation with David Sylvester, 1984, in: David Sylvester, Looking Back at Francis Bacon, London 2000, p. 234). Rawsthorne described Bacon's paintings of her as "fabulously accurate" and this deeply personal work is the consummate conflation of her worldly exterior appearance and phenomenal interior character (Isabel Rawsthorne, quoted in: Michael Peppiatt, op. cit., p. 208).
In this extraordinary portrait we see Bacon as "the Proustian recorder of time passing"; Studies of Isabel Rawsthorne is not only the valediction to a truly epic life that spanned the devastating excesses of the Twentieth Century, but also punctuates the closing chapter of her friendship with Bacon. As Martin Harrison further notes of this work, "The diptych of Isabel - he had not painted her since 1971, and this was to be his final painting of her - is redolent of the small panel paintings of fifteenth-century Northern Europe made for the private use of the laity, an intimate if, in Bacon’s version, entirely secularized devotional object. At the time, Isabel had just turned seventy. While profoundly yet unflinchingly conscious of the aging process, Bacon nonetheless opted to soften her strongly lined face. For some years, Isabel had been suffering from glaucoma; she had undergone an operation just before Bacon painted the diptych, and had lost sight in one eye. Astigmatic himself, Bacon must have feared blindness acutely and was doubtless deeply sympathetic to her plight. Thus, in an affectionate and overtly biographical gesture, Studies of Isabel Rawsthorne appears to be, especially in the smudged paint around the eye in the right panel, a touching and poignant document of his friend's depleted condition" (Martin Harrison, ‘Francis Bacon: The Pulsations of a Person’, in: Exh. Cat., New York, Gagosian Gallery, Alberto Giacometti. Francis Bacon: Isabel and Other Intimate Strangers, 2008, p. 210).
In this painting each head looms like a sculpture in paint, cut-out and superimposed onto the phosphorescent flatness of a vibrant backdrop that emphasises each head’s geometric silhouette. Throughout the work there is this tension between graphic dexterity and the power of colour, as is so typical of Bacon's most enthralling works. Within the circumscribed outlines of the two heads, Rawsthorne's idiosyncratic features – high forehead, long cheek-bones, and arched eyebrows - are confidently scribed in flecked streaks and variegated smears of densely worked paint. Variance of expression is revealed through the veiled layers of shuttered, shocking-pink hatching, rooted in the virtuosity of Edgar Degas' pastel technique, so that "sensation doesn't come straight out at you; it slides slowly and gently through the gaps" (Francis Bacon in conversation with David Sylvester, 1984, op. cit.).
Emulating mug-shot proportions of a photo-booth portrait, the unadorned immediacy of Bacon’s small portraits radiate endurance, nervousness, and involuntary mannerisms: these heads truly embody Bacon’s desire to paint as close to the 'nervous system' as possible. To quote William Feaver: " 'Studies’ or exercises though they are, these small paintings are central to Bacon’s art. The scale of a bathroom mirror-image makes them one-to-one, and when they are paired, or grouped in threes, the differences animate them. No rooms, no thrones, no perfunctory landscape settings are needed. Without context or posture, the heads have nothing to do but look, sometimes at one another, and wait” (William Feaver, 'That's It', in: Exh. Cat., London, Marlborough Fine Art, Ltd., Francis Bacon 1909 - 1992 Small Portrait Studies, 1993, p. 6). A series and format first settled upon in 1961 and maintained until the very end, these intimately scaled works form the very staple of Bacon’s mature practice, acting as the primary locus for the ‘brutality of fact’ and most immediate site for loosening the ‘valves of feeling’ so frequently referred to by the artist. Spectre-like and isolated within a chromatic ground of quintessential importance for Bacon – cadmium orange was significantly used as the base for the ground-breaking Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (1944) - Studies of Isabel Rawsthorne utterly exudes the visceral and psychological charge of Bacon's distorted yet searingly honest vision of humanity.
Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction
Lot 21 A | Sale 14442 | 6 October 2017, London
Francis Bacon (1909 - 1992)
Head with Raised Arm
GBP 7,000,000 - GBP 10,000,000
(USD 9,457,000 - USD 13,510,000)
Price realised GBP 11,483,750
Francis Bacon Head with Raised Arm 1955
Cataloguing & details
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
These lots have been imported from outside the EU for sale using a Temporary Import regime. Import VAT is payable (at 5%) on the Hammer price. VAT is also payable (at 20%) on the buyer’s Premium on a VAT inclusive basis. When a buyer of such a lot has registered an EU address but wishes to export the lot or complete the import into another EU country, he must advise Christie's immediately after the auction.
John Hewett, London.
James and Brenda Bomford, Aldbourne.
Brook Street Gallery, London.
Piccadilly Gallery, London.
Galleria d’Arte Galatea, Turin.
Acquired from the above in December 1963.
Thence by descent to present owner.
PROPERTY OF A PRIVATE EUROPEAN FAMILY
Rothenstein and R. Alley, Francis Bacon Catalogue Raisonné, London 1964,
p. 99, no. 107.
M. Harrison, ed., Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné: Volume II 1929-57, London 2016, p. 448, no. 55-14 (illustrated in colour, p. 449; listed with 'location unknown').
Victoria Art Gallery, Three Masters of modern British Painting: Sir Matthew
Smith, Victor Pasmore, Francis Bacon, 1958, no. 50, p. 12 (titled Portrait
of a Cardinal and incorrectly dated 1954). This exhibition later travelled
to Carlisle, Carlisle Art Gallery; Shrewsbury, Shrewsbury Art Gallery;
Bournemouth, Bournemouth College of Art; Manchester, Manchester City Art Gallery
and Cheltenham, Cheltenham Art Gallery (incorrectly titled ‘Portrait of
London, Piccadilly Gallery, Paintings Drawings and Sculpture, 1961, no. 1.
Turin, Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna, Francis Bacon, 1962, p. 100, no. 36 (illustrated in colour, p. 101).
‘[Head with Raised Arm] belongs to the small portrait category that Bacon established in 1952, and is indeed a portrait of Pope Pius XII. Particularly noteworthy are the vertical streaks of paint over the paler arm and mozzetta. Bacon amplified these marks in the diagonals that connect the hand to the Pope’s forehead, to signify motion; the white highlights in the interstices between the black diagonals were painted with a very fine brush, and indicate scrupulous technical attention’
‘It is true, of course, the Pope is unique. He’s put in a unique position by being the Pope, and therefore, like in certain great tragedies, he’s as though raised onto a dais on which the grandeur of this image can be displayed to the world’
'No other living painter has set forth with such pitiless clarity the tensions and paradoxes that surround all efforts to see, let alone to paint, the human figure in an age of photography'
'In any one period, there are only a finite number of images with almost limitless connotations. In our time, along perhaps with Picasso’s Demoiselles d’Avignon, Duchamp’s Le Grand Verre and a Giacometti Femme debout, Bacon’s Popes are not only the centerpiece of all his paintings in the 1950s but a centrepiece of the whole of twentieth-century art'
'I would like my pictures to look as if a human being had passed between them … leaving a trail of the human presence and memory trace of past events'
'I came to, as it were, accept that here you are, existing for a second, brushed off like flies on the wall'
'It was during those years [the 1950s], filled with rebuffs and reversals of fortune, but also with extraordinary invention and daring, that Bacon began to explore in depth all his great themes ... It was, in my view, the most fertile single decade of his career. Never again would the Baconian world be so rich and diverse'
'If you look at Velázquez, his greatness is his interest in people … Velázquez came to the human situation and made it grand and heroic and wasn’t bombastic. He turned to a literal situation and made an image of it, both fact and image at the same time. The Pope [Pope Innocent X] is like Egyptian art; factual, powerfully formal and unlocks valves of sensation at all different level'
Unveiled for the first time in over half a century – its whereabouts hitherto unknown – Head with Raised Arm (1955) is a unique specimen within Francis Bacon's celebrated series of Papal portraits. Last exhibited in 1962 at the Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna, Turin, the work was acquired by the present owners the following year, and has remained hidden from public view ever since. With a blurred hand lifted to his forehead – in anguish, prayer, benediction or surrender – Bacon’s spectral pontiff lies submerged in a silent black void, illuminated by the bars of his gilded throne and the gleaming white of his collar. Pushed to the brink of abstraction, his face and arm flicker like moving images caught on camera, subtly animated by a veil of vertical hairline striations. Pope Pius XII blessing the vast crowd gathered in St Peter's Square, 1955. Riddled with photographic instability and deeply human tension, the work belongs to a select group of nine surviving paintings depicting the then-incumbent, Pope Pius XII. With four held in museum collections, and a further on permanent loan, Bacon's portraits of the living Pope are among his most profound. Elected to the papacy in 1939, Pius's reign had spanned the Second World War, famously inciting accusations of silence in the face of atrocity. As the Church and media sought to uphold his infallibility, the artist cast him as a fragile, flawed being, tortured by the weight of his grand station. Rare for its closely-cropped depiction of the pontiff’s head and shoulders, the present work confronts its subject on a piercing, intimate scale. It is one of only two Popes executed in Bacon’s jewel-like 24-by- 20-inch format, aligning it with his first small portrait triptych of 1953. Combed vertically with a fine brush over layers of deep red, black, blue and purple, the work’s marbled palette and intricately-scored surface generate a powerful sense of repressed friction, recalling the so-called ‘shuttering’ effects of the artist’s early screaming pontiffs. The sacred hand, so often raised in blessing, is denatured in motion: its gesture of solemnity and grandeur becomes one of pain, violence, resignation and despair. Cloaked in ghostly pallor, the work is a poignant memento mori for a man whose reign had witnessed some of the greatest crimes against humanity, and would come to an end with his death three years later.
Pursued over nearly two decades, and numbering more than fifty canvases, Bacon’s Papal portraits are widely regarded as his finest achievements. These works were his first and most significant existential enquiries, and stand today among the foremost images of the twentieth century. 'It's true, of course, the Pope is unique’, he explained. 'He's put in a unique position by being the Pope, and therefore, like in certain great tragedies, he’s as though raised onto a dais on which the grandeur of this image can be displayed to the world’ (F. Bacon, quoted in D. Sylvester, The Brutality of Fact, London 1990, p. 26). Whilst many of his portraits sprung from his acknowledged ‘schoolboy crush’ on Diego Velazquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X, the artist was particularly entranced by ‘those magnificent processional photographs’ of Pius being carried through St. Peter’s upon the shoulders of other cardinals. Pictures of this description sat in his studio alongside newspaper clippings of wartime dictators and henchmen: figures who similarly set themselves upon a pedestal. At the core of these investigations was a question that would haunt Bacon for the duration of his career: how to paint the human figure in the age of photography. In a world mediated by reproduced images, the raw pulsations of reality were increasingly held at bay. The camera’s ability to cast fiction as truth resonated with the fundamental tension that Bacon identified in religious and political figureheads: a conflict between public image and innate animal instinct. Evoking the works of Eadwaerd Muybridge, as well as anticipating Gerhard Richter’s blurred photo-paintings of the following decade, Head with Raised Arm speaks directly to this theme. It is an image of impermanence in the face of documentary reality; an image of ambiguity in the face of divine infallibility; an image of motion and turmoil in the face of statuesque poise. The controversial nature of Pius’s reign, combined with his increasingly ill health from 1955 onwards, only serves to magnify this dichotomy. We exist ‘for a second’, claimed Bacon, ‘brushed off like flies on the wall’ (F. Bacon, quoted in D. Sylvester, The Brutality of Fact, London 1990, p. 133). By hinting at the transience of a figure immortalized through the camera lens, the artist ultimately lifts the veil on his humanity.
During the 1950s, Head with Raised Arm was owned by the pioneering Bacon collectors James and Brenda Bomford, who acquired the work from the dealer Kenneth John Hewett. The Bomfords purchased a number of significant works by Bacon during this period, many of which are now held in important museum collections. As well as the landmark painting Head VI, 1949 (Arts Council Collection, Southbank), they owned five portraits of Pius, including Pope II, 1951 (Kunsthalle Mannheim), Figure Sitting, 1955 (Stedeljk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Ghent), Study for a Head, 1955 and Study for Portrait II, as well as the present work. In addition to their extraordinary collection of Bacon Popes, they acquired the major early work Figure Study I, 1945-46 (Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh), as well as Head I, 1951 (Cleveland Museum of Art), Bacon’s first small portrait triptych Three Studies of the Human Head, 1953, Chimpanzee, 1955 (Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart) and his first self-portrait of 1956 (The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth). Their collection also included Impressionist and Modern British paintings, as well as Persian bronzes and ancient glass, examples of which were later given to the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford and the Bristol Museum respectively.
PAINTING IL PAPA: BACON’S PAPAL PORTRAITS
To trace the evolution of Bacon’s Popes is to chart an obsession that began with a painting – or, more precisely, a photographic reproduction. It was during the 1940s, leafing through a book of images, that the artist encountered Velázquez’s masterpiece for the first time. His varied portrayals of the pontiff over the next twenty years – portraits of Pius included – would be riddled with elements this image. ‘I became obsessed by this painting and I bought photograph after photograph of it’, he later explained. ‘I think really that was my first subject’ (F. Bacon, quoted in M. Harrison, In Camera. Francis Bacon, London 2005, p. 14). Whilst Head VI is often hailed as Bacon’s inaugural Pope, the artist’s initial engagement with the subject was in 1946. ‘I am working on 3 sketches of the Velasquez portrait Pope Innocent II [sic]’, he wrote to Graham Sutherland on 19 October. 'I have practically finished one.' The painting referenced is thought to be Landscape with Pope/Dictator, completed that year. Situated against a classical colonnade, with his mouth open in a scream, the work captures the artist’s early response to Velázquez. Portrait of Pope Innocent X was, he believed, a fundamentally human image, with glimmers of vice lurking beneath the pontiff’s regal façade. 'If you look at Velazquez, his greatness is his interest in people’, he explained; '… Velazquez came to the human situation and made it grand and heroic and wasn’t bombastic. He turned to a literal situation and made an image of it, both fact and image at the same time. The Pope [Pope Innocent X] is like Egyptian art; factual, powerfully formal and unlocks valves of sensation at all different level’ (F. Bacon, quoted in Hugh M. Davies, Francis Bacon: The Early and Middle Years, 1928-1958, New York 1978, p. 99). The connection between Pope, tyrant and ancient art would become a driving force in Bacon’s progressive analysis of the pontiff as a 'tragic hero'.
Extending the theme of crucifixion that ran throughout his early work, Bacon's first Popes were presented in the manner of torture victims. Where Velázquez's protagonist harboured his secrets in stony silence, Bacon’s early figures erupted into primal screams of terror – a motif inspired in part by Sergei Eisenstein's 1925 film Battleship Potemkin. Often housed within cubic space frames resembling cages, their cries detonated the structural integrity of the picture plane. The so-called shuttering effect – vertical ribbons of paint that fractured the surface of the composition – invoked a kind of cinematic distortion that fed into Bacon’s fascination with the effects of the camera lens. After Head VI, these devices were brought together in a number of works during the early 1950s: notably the two Studies after Velázquez of 1950, and the 1953 masterpiece Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X (Des Moines Art Center, Iowa). The landmark series of eight Studies for a Portrait, created shortly afterwards, marked a shift in his treatment of the subject: though many were still conceived as open-mouthed phantoms, Bacon’s shuttering gave way to silent black voids, in which the Pope’s writhing head and torso was suspended like a hologram. As the 1950s progressed, the patriarch became increasingly disfigured, culminating in the sequence of six Studies for a Pope in 1961. Here, God’s messenger on Earth is reduced to a series of silent, demented waifs, bound to their thrones as if by a straitjacket. Saddled with the neuroses of post-War society, the Pope is driven to a state of dementia, his features pummeled into abstraction in a manner that anticipates the artist's portraits of George Dyer, Henrietta Moraes and Isabel Rawsthorne during the 1960s.
Despite the wide emotive range of the Velázquez-inspired Popes, however, it is ironically in his select portraits of Pius that Bacon came closest to matching the spirit of the Spanish master's silent, brooding vision. Aside from Pope II of 1951 (Kunsthalle Mannheim), which aligns with the early screaming effigies, Bacon’s paintings of the living Pope are predominantly images of repressed turmoil. Pope I (Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museum Collections), created the same year, looms within the darkness like an apparition, eyes wide and lips sealed. Small Study for Portrait (Lambrecht-Schadeberg Collection, on permanent loan to the Museum fur Gegenwartskunst Siegen) and Figure Sitting (Stedeljk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Ghent), both executed in 1955, bare their teeth less in a cry than a haunting grimace. Bacon’s celebrated Study of the same year, now held in the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich, reduces the Pope to a faceless spectre, shrouded in a veil reminiscent of Titian’s Portrait of Archbishop Filippo Archinto. In Study for Portrait II, completed in 1956, the pontiff hangs his head in despair, concealing his face altogether. Within this grouping, Head with Raised Arm occupies an intriguing position. On one hand, the Pope is bathed in reverential silence, cast in the image of the ancient monument. On the other hand, the noise of his internal struggle is writ large in the cascading vertical motion of the picture plane – a sotto voce reincarnation of his screeching shuttering technique. That images of Pius sat in Bacon’s studio alongside pictures of gesticulating orators and autocrats lends this gesture a disquieting overtone. If Velázquez’s portrait had hinted at the fine line between power and corruption, Head with Raised Arm may be seen as one of Bacon’s most bold extrapolations of the theme. The human, the divine and the monstrous conspire in the depths of its flickering abyss.
BACON’S PORTRAIT HEADS: THE ‘TRAIL OF THE HUMAN PRESENCE’
Described by Michael Peppiatt as ‘the most fertile single decade of his career’, the 1950s was a pivotal period in Bacon’s practice (M. Peppiatt, Francis Bacon in the 1950s, exh. cat., Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich, 2006, p. 14). By the time of the present work, he had put an end to his years of wandering and settled in a studio space at Overstrand Mansions in Battersea, where he would remain until 1961. Having represented Britain at the Venice Biennale the previous year, he had also been granted a small retrospective at the ICA in London – the first major solo presentation of his work at a UK institute. If the Popes were part of a broader study of the human condition, they found their counterpart in the artist’s burgeoning corpus of portraits that flourished during this period. Beginning with the 1952 works Study for a Head (Yale Center for British Art) and Study for a Portrait (Tate, London) – both imbued with Papal qualities – Bacon launched a piercing enquiry into the expressive properties of the human head. As the decade progressed, the 24-by-20-inch canvas would become the primary site of these investigations, encompassing anonymous figures, friends – notably Lisa Sainsbury and David Sylvester – as well as a series of studies after the life mask of William Blake. Along with Small Study for a Portrait, Head with Raised Arm is the only Papal portrait executed in these dimensions – a testament, perhaps, to its humanizing narrative. On this compact scale, the head was examined as a twitching nerve centre, animated by neuronal convulsion. The pulsations of the psyche were channelled through the pliable medium of paint, which coagulated in increasingly free-flowing formations across the surface of the canvas. In certain lights, the Pope’s features resonate with those of Peter Lacy – a former Spitfire pilot, whose tempestuous relationship with Bacon reached is denouement shortly after the present work. Bacon’s sojourn at the Imperial Hotel in Henley-on-Thames, and his subsequent move to Battersea, had provided him with an escape from Lacy’s volatile, frequently abusive character. Viewed in this light, the present work’s raised arm may be seen to quiver with the still painful memories of his lover’s violent tendencies.
Partly because of the intimate nature of his response to his subjects, Bacon preferred to work not from life, but from a wealth of secondary material. His studio was a veritable reservoir of photographs, books and newspaper clippings, splattered with paint and crumpled underfoot. So deep was his obsession with photographs of the Velázquez painting that he refused to encounter it in the flesh, believing that it would diminish his carnal response to the image as he knew it. By allowing the portrait to exist as a fiction – as a figment of his imagination – Bacon gave it freedom to merge with the countless other sources that were beginning to consolidate themselves within his mental archive. The motion photography of Muybridge was particularly noteworthy in this regard, and the present work’s blurred hand – captured as if in a moment of rapid elevation – is among the most significant examples of his influence during this period. Sculpture, too, was a fundamental point of reference: from the monuments of antiquity – as evidenced by Bacon’s comparison between Velázquez and Egyptian art – to the bronzes of Auguste Rodin. In Head with Raised Arm, the Pope’s face hovers in the darkness like a Renaissance bust, his cheekbones chiselled with the elegance of Michelangelo. ‘Actually, Michelangelo and Muybridge are mixed up in my mind together’, Bacon would later explain, ‘and so I perhaps could learn about positions from Muybridge and learn about the ampleness, the grandeur of form from Michelangelo’ (F. Bacon, 1975, quoted in D. Sylvester, The Brutality of Fact, London 1990, p. 114). Infused with statuesque composure yet flickering like a grainy snapshot, the present work is a fitting embodiment of this statement.
'I would like my pictures to look as if a human being had passed between them’, wrote Bacon in 1955, ‘… leaving a trail of the human presence and memory trace of past events’ (F. Bacon, quoted in Francis Bacon and the Tradition of Art, exh. cat., Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, Vienna, 2004, p. 233). In Head with Raised Arm, the Pope’s spectral form speaks directly to this ambition. Through his intimate zoom-lens, Bacon exposes the pontiff as a frail mortal, whose divinity was held in tension with his inescapable human nature. His drawn, angular features – both skull-like and sculptural – hint at his entombed fate. If wartime salutes and speeches had corrupted the raised arm, perhaps here it ultimately blurs into a gesture of farewell. As his body fades into oblivion, Bacon’s Pope becomes a signifier for the fleeting nature of existence.
Christie's Fails to Sell Bacon Painting
NATE FREEMAN | MARKET | ART NEWS | 06 OCTOBER 2017
Christie’s netted £99.5 million ($130 million) during its postwar and contemporary art evening auction at its King Street salesroom in London Friday night, securing a sell-through rate of 83 percent. But the sale was defined by a single lot that, once it failed to sell, made for one of the most notable pricing miscalculations in recent auction memory. That work, Francis Bacon’s Study of Red Pope 1962. 2nd version 1971, was marketed with an on-request estimate of £60 million to £80 million ($78.4 million to $104.5 million), which, if achieved, would have made it the priciest artwork ever sold at auction in Europe. But Christie’s could not find a buyer in that range, and the lot flopped.
The auction house had been spinning Bacon hagiography for a month, highlighting the fact that the painting hadn’t been seen publicly in 45 years. It was displayed in a cupola room at the house’s headquarters in London for all the people in town for the Frieze Art Fair to gawk over, and beside it wall text explained that the figure in the painting with the Pope, George Dyer, killed himself in a drug overdose two days before the work was first exhibited in Paris. In press releases, Francis Outred, Christie’s chairman and head of postwar and contemporary art, said things like “this painting is quite simply art history.”
Tonight, the culmination of all the frenetic Frieze week activity, auctioneer Jussi Pylkkänen started the bidding on the Bacon, the week’s biggest and most-discussed lot. But after opening at £50 million and taking that figure up to £58 million only to find no takers in the salesroom or on the phone, he realized he was below the threshold of £60 million that the seller had agreed upon, and he resigned himself to fate, declaring it a pass.
However, another Bacon, the 24-by-20-inch Head with Raised Arm (1955), which looks like a close-up of one of the artist’s popes during a moment of contemplation (rather than torture), had no trouble finding a buyer. It went for £11.5 million (about $15 million), a bit above its high estimate of £10 million. (All sales prices include the buyer’s premium, unless otherwise noted.)
The sale at least got off to an energetic start, with Pylkkänen announcing that the room was “extremely full. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s a good way to end the week and start the weekend.” He added, “It’s been an incredible week for the London art market.” And then he quickly set a world auction record for Grayson Perry, for a glazed earthenware amphora going for £200,000, naturally hammering for around its high estimate (£120,000, without premium) as is customary for opening lots in high-profile sale.
Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction
Lot 16 A | Sale 14442 | 6 October 2017, London
Francis Bacon (1909 - 1992)
Study of Red Pope 1962. 2nd Version 1971
Estimate £60,000,000 – £80,000,000 UNSOLD
Study of Red Pope 1962. 2nd Version 1971
signed, titled and date 'Study of Red Pope 1962. 2nd version 1971 Francis Bacon' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
78 x 58 1/8in. (198 x 147.5cm.)
Painted in 1971
Cataloguing & details
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
Marlborough Fine Art, Zurich.
Acquired directly from the above by the previous owner in February 1973.
Thence by descent to the present owner.
PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTION
Trucchi, Francis Bacon, London 1976 (illustrated in colour, p. 150).
W. Schmied, Francis Bacon. Commitment and Conflict, Munich 1996, fig. 34, no. 18 (illustrated, p. 27 and illustrated in colour, p. 54).
Francis Bacon. Lo Sagrado y lo Profano, exh. cat., Valencia, IVAM Institut Valencia d'Art Modern, 2003-2004 (illustrated in colour, p. 31).
M. Harrison (ed.), Francis Bacon. Catalogue Raissoné: Volume III 1958-71, London 2016, p. 970, no. 71-04 (illustrated in colour, p. 971).
Paris, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Francis Bacon, 1971-1972, no. 107 (illustrated, p. 137). This exhibition later travelled to Dusseldorf, Kunsthalle.
‘In any one period, there are only a finite number of images with almost limitless connotations. In our time, along perhaps with Picasso’s Demoiselles d’Avignon, Duchamp’s Le Grand Verre and a Giacometti Femme debout, Bacon’s Popes are … a centrepiece of the whole of twentieth-century art’
‘A compact and chunky force of nature, with a vivid and highly unparsonical turn of phrase, [George Dyer] embodied a pent-up energy. As a spirit of mischief, touched at times by melancholia, he had been the subject, and the inspiration, of some of Bacon’s greatest images’
‘Not an hour goes by when I don’t think about George’
‘[Study of Red Pope 1962. 2nd version 1971] is the final work in the series. Once again, Bacon introduces an element that complicates the spatial situation and sharpens the challenge to the viewer’s perceptions. The element in question is the mirror, an inherently ambivalent image that can also be read as a window. Here, too, the backrest of the throne has the function of a picture within a picture, but in this case it is extended to form a triptych, a winged altarpiece whose two side-panels are folded out so that the viewer sees only their inner surface’
‘I was drinking with John Deakin, who had just done some photographs for me, and lots of others. George was down the far end of the bar and he came over and said, “You all seem to be having a good time. Can I buy you a drink?” And that’s how I met him. I might never have noticed him otherwise’
‘In the lives of all of us there is a human being whom we least wish to lose. Bacon sustained that particular loss at the time of his retrospective exhibition in Paris in 1971-1972. He bore it with a stoicism for 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’
‘I think [Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X] is one of the greatest portraits that has ever been made, and I became obsessed by it. I buy book after book with this illustration in it of the Velázquez Pope, because it just haunts me, and it opens up all sorts of feelings and areas of – I was going to say – imagination, even in me’
‘It is true, of course, the Pope is unique. He’s put in a unique position by being the Pope, and therefore, like in certain great tragedies, he’s as though raised onto a dais on which the grandeur of this image can be displayed to the world’
‘You’re more conscious of the fact that nine-tenths of everything is inessential. What is called “reality” becomes so much more concentrated and can be summed up with so much less’
‘The tragic hero is necessarily somebody who is elevated above other men to begin with’
‘Bacon's space subverts our habit of seeing, abandoning perspective and breaking up the familiar appearance of our everyday surroundings ... All Bacon's spaces are conceived with human life in mind. Every corner of the space is related to a person, whose presence charges it with extreme tension. It is only through the figure that we really see the space and, in turn, only through the space that we learn to see the individual human being. That is its function. The purpose of space is the revelation of the human’
On 26 October 1971, the Grand Palais in Paris opened its landmark retrospective of Francis Bacon’s work. It was a career-defining moment for the artist, newly anointed ‘Britain’s greatest living painter’. Among the distinguished canvases exhibited was Study of Red Pope 1962. 2nd version 1971, painted earlier that year: a grand finale to his celebrated body of Papal portraits. In this rare masterpiece, for the first and only time in his oeuvre, Bacon had united his two greatest obsessions. Reworking the 1962 canvas Study from Innocent X, the artist staged a haunting encounter between the Pope and George Dyer – his great muse and lover. Tinged with ghostly pallor, Dyer’s spectral likeness was brought face to face with the pontiff, confronting his gaze like a mirrored reflection. Throughout the rooms of the Grand Palais, his visage loomed large, enshrined in the ardent brushwork of Bacon’s finest portraits. In the flesh, however, Dyer was painfully absent. Less than thirty-six hours earlier, he had been found dead in his hotel room, having taken his own life. As words of praise for Bacon filled the gallery, lauding his contribution to contemporary art, the artist did his best to conceal his grief. Unbeknownst to the eminent guests who admired the painting that day, it now stood as a tragic premonition of Dyer’s fateful end.
Unseen in public for forty-five years, Study of Red Pope 1962. 2nd version 1971 offers a deeply poignant conclusion to one of the twentieth-century’s most important bodies of work. Inspired by Diego Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X, Bacon’s output of the 1950s and early 1960s had been dominated by visions of the Il Papa: a man tortured by the weight of his own authority. As the years progressed, his face was replaced by that of Dyer: an equally conflicted character, whose sharp, handsome exterior belied a troubled past. The tension that Bacon identified in the Papal condition – a combination of power and vulnerability – was one that he also saw in his beloved muse. In Study of Red Pope 1962. 2nd version 1971, the two figures are bound together like twisted alter-egos: icons of the spirit and the flesh – the sacred and profane – juxtaposed in the manner of a devotional diptych. Their faces are thickly worked with vigorous impasto, lit by streaks of lead white paint. Visceral tangles of marbled pigment writhe within the Pope’s cloaked body, extending from his torso in a single holographic sweep. A glowing, contrapuntal duet of green and cerulean strokes circles his form, whilst the crystalline blue of Dyer’s backdrop is tinged with faint residue of the pontiff’s scarlet palette. In contrast to the work’s 1962 predecessor, here Bacon offsets his dynamic painterly brushstrokes with flat, intersecting planes and passages of bare canvas, creating a stark amphitheatre of colour, geometry and formal abstraction. The cubic space frame that houses the Pope is flanked by two curved wing mirrors, producing a luminous tripartite screen that seems to anticipate the legendary ‘black triptychs’ painted in the wake of Dyer’s death. For both subjects, it was the end of an era. A cord hangs between them, as if – with a fatal swipe – their light might be extinguished at any moment.
Bacon’s Papal portraits are widely regarded as the paragon of his artistic enquiries. From the early screaming phantoms to silent, demented creatures that followed, Bacon repeatedly cast the Pope as a victim of his own status, tormented by his position as God’s messenger on Earth. ‘It is true, of course, the Pope is unique’, he explained. ‘He’s put in a unique position by being the Pope, and therefore, like in certain great tragedies, he’s as though raised onto a dais on which the grandeur of this image can be displayed to the world’ (F. Bacon, quoted in D. Sylvester, The Brutality of Fact: Interviews with Francis Bacon, London 1975, p. 26). Fascinated by Velázquez’s portrait, yet loathe to encounter it in the flesh, Bacon preferred to work from a printed reproduction of the image, deforming and remodelling its protagonist according to the impulses of his nervous system. His depictions of Dyer, too, were born of the same strategy, filtered through a reservoir of memories and photographs. Both figures, for Bacon, exemplified the magnificence and fragility of human existence, giving rise to portraits that were brutal and impassioned in equal measure. As the artist prepared for his exhibition at the Grand Palais – an accolade granted to no other living painter except Picasso – the present work acknowledged the dual space these subjects occupied in his psyche. The deadlock between them would be resolved in the subsequent Study of George Dyer, executed the following month, in which Bacon’s tragic muse usurps the pontiff from the centre of the composition. Together, these works represent the final images of Dyer painted during his lifetime.
GEORGE DYER: A TRAGIC PREMONITION
Though no-one could have predicted the dark shadow that would fall upon Bacon’s Parisian triumph, the Grand Palais retrospective was nonetheless a fitting tribute to Dyer’s role within his practice. As the exhibition made plain, his face had fundamentally redefined the parameters of twentieth-century portraiture. There was the early triptych Three Studies for Portrait of George Dyer (on pink ground), painted shortly after their first meeting. There was Portrait of George Dyer Riding a Bicycle: a masterpiece from 1966 now held in the Fondation Beyeler, Basel. Two Studies of George Dyer (Sara Hildén Art Museum, Tampere) and Portrait of George Dyer in a Mirror (Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid), both painted in 1968, were joined by numerous additional paintings of Dyer that collectively charted Bacon’s achievements of the 1960s. ‘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). Dyer’s likeness would continue to haunt Bacon’s canvases for the rest of his career, most immediately in the powerful series of triptychs created in his memory. In these works – now held in institutions including the Fondation Beyeler and Tate, London – the artist made a fervent attempt at catharsis, pouring his grief and guilt into near-cinematic tableaux. Perhaps the present painting, with its prophetic overtones, lingered in his mind as he strove to exorcise his despair. Its curious tripartite screen, imprinted with Dyer’s image, would be transformed into vast, triple-panelled imaginings of his lover’s death.
Almost exactly eight years earlier, in the autumn of 1963, Bacon and Dyer had met for the first time: a now-legendary encounter that took place in a Soho pub. ‘I was drinking with John Deakin, who had just done some photographs for me, and lots of others’, recalled Bacon. ‘George was down the far end of the bar and he came over and said, “You all seem to be having a good time. Can I buy you a drink?” And that’s how I met him. I might never have noticed him otherwise’ (F. Bacon, quoted in M. Peppiatt, Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma, London 1996, p. 259). The two men quickly struck up a rapport, and over the next few years Dyer became Bacon’s lover, muse and dependent. A handsome man who took meticulous care of his appearance, he wore a uniform of clean-cut suits and narrow ties tightly knotted around the neck. Around thirty years old at the time, his distinctive good looks and classical proportions reminded Bacon of the lithe figure studies undertaken by his hero Michelangelo. Beneath Dyer’s debonair façade, however, lay an anxious, emotionally fraught character. Raised in the East End of London, he had fallen to petty theft at a young age, and was frequently crippled by a sense of purposelessness. His innate vulnerability, combined with his athletic, near-sculptural figure, provided Bacon with a fascinating double-edged subject. The tumultuous nature of their relationship – passionate and tempestuous – inspired a painterly dynamism that simultaneously deformed and caressed. As Michael Peppiatt has observed, ‘however great the liberties Bacon had taken in pulling apart and remaking the appearance of his other friends, with Dyer he reached a maximum intensity, not only paint pummelling his features into near-extinction but creating complex visual conceits, brilliant puns on seeing unlike anything he had attempted before’ (M. Peppiatt, Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma, London 1996, p. 261).
Throughout Bacon’s oeuvre, Dyer was frequently portrayed as a doubled image, captured in motion, in speech, or in a mirror. He was, as Russell put it, ‘a compact and chunky force of nature’, who fundamentally ‘embodied pent-up energy’ (J. Russell, Francis Bacon, London 1993, pp. 160-65). For Bacon, Dyer was eternally conflicted: a man whose inner turmoil was palpable in every aspect of his carefully-poised exterior. Punctuated by sharp mood swings and fits of emotion, their relationship grew increasingly fractured towards the end of the 1960s – a source of great sadness to the artist. It is perhaps significant, then, that in the present work Dyer undergoes something of a transformation. He is no longer ‘pummelled’ and ‘pulled apart’, but rigid, clear and still as a statue. His features, so often distorted beyond recognition, are unmistakably his own. He is consigned to a reflection: a spectral apparition, who peers into the composition as if through an outside window. Under the watchful gaze of the Pope, he is reduced to a funereal shadow of his former self, positioned – as it were – beyond the veil. For many years, Bacon had acted as something of a father figure to Dyer, loving and nurturing in spite of his mercurial tendencies. Here, as their strained relationship reached its climax, he is brought to judgment before the ultimate patriarch. Though the subsequent Study of George Dyer restores him to muscular, carnal glory, the present work’s macabre vision is eerily prophetic. ‘Not an hour goes by when I don’t think about George’, Bacon confessed; ‘… one of the terrible things about so-called love, certainly for an artist, is the destruction’ (F. Bacon, quoted in M. Gale and C. Stephens (eds.), Francis Bacon, exh. cat., London, Tate Britain, 2009, p. 262). In Study of Red Pope 1962. 2nd version 1971, Bacon gives voice to his own fear: that Dyer, for all his flaws, might one day be no more than a pale, motionless memory.
PAINTING IL PAPA: BACON’S LAST POPE
Bacon’s meeting with Dyer in 1963 coincided with the arrival of a new set of subjects. Whilst the 1960s would be marked by portraits of his closest friends – a colourful cast of Soho characters who congregated in Wheeler’s restaurant, the Colony Room Club and other local haunts – the previous two decades had been dominated by another obsession: the head of the Catholic Church. Though seemingly far-removed from his worldly circles of artists, models and bar owners, Bacon’s depictions of the Pope fundamentally established the conceptual scope of his subsequent portrait practice. For Bacon, the Supreme Pontiff – a man bound eternally to his station – embodied in extreme terms the existential anxieties of all mankind. Fascinated by men of power, Bacon was attracted to the tragic combination of authority and entrapment latent in the Pope’s status. Taking to task the ultimate establishment figure – immortalised by the Old Masters and deified by the media – Bacon transformed the Pope into a vessel for the woes of post-War society, saddled with its fears and denatured by its neuroses. We exist but ‘for a second’, Bacon once claimed, ‘brushed off like flies on a wall’ (F. Bacon, quoted in D. Sylvester, The Brutality of Fact: Interviews with Francis Bacon, London 1990, p. 133). By stripping away the trappings of Papal infallibility to reveal the complex, fragile spirit beneath, Bacon sought to expose the fleeting nature of existence – a state that, in many portraits, erupted into a primal scream of terror. In his depictions of the Pope, created over nearly twenty years, Bacon launched a painterly interrogation of the human condition that would guide his portraits of Lucian Freud, Isabel Rawsthorne, Henrietta Moraes, Muriel Belcher – and, perhaps more than any other, George Dyer.
A select handful of Bacon’s Popes were modelled on processional photographs of Pope Pius XII, who reigned from the outbreak of the Second World War until 1958. However, it was Velázquez’s time-honoured Portrait of Pope Innocent X that undoubtedly had the biggest impact on his psyche. Bacon had first discovered the image in reproduction around 1946, and immediately developed what he would later describe as a ‘schoolboy crush’ on the image. ‘I think it is one of the greatest portraits that has ever been made, and I became obsessed by it’, Bacon explained. ‘I buy book after book with this illustration in it of the Velázquez Pope, because it just haunts me, and it opens up all sorts of feelings and areas of – I was going to say – imagination, even in me’ (F. Bacon, quoted in D. Sylvester, The Brutality of Fact: Interviews with Francis Bacon, London 1990, p. 24). Bacon’s attempts to unmask the Pope’s sanctity were in many ways born of the profoundly human tensions he perceived within Velázquez’s portrait: a momentary glimpse of man’s raw animalism, fundamentally at odds with the holy Papal office. As photographs of Bacon’s studio have revealed, his various reproductions of the painting rubbed shoulders with images of wartime dictators and henchmen, testifying to his preoccupation with the fine line between power and corruption. Bacon characteristically preferred to work from secondary sources rather than encountering his muses first-hand: a method, he felt, which allowed him to transcend literal appearance and drill down to the existential core of his subjects. ‘I think it’s the slight remove from the fact, which returns me onto the fact more violently’, he told David Sylvester. ‘Through the photographic image I find myself beginning to wander into the image and unlock what I think of its reality more than I can by looking at it’ (F. Bacon, quoted in D. Sylvester, The Brutality of Fact: Interview with Francis Bacon, London 1987, p. 30). Created without ever having seen Velázquez’s original painting, Bacon’s Papal portraits were among the first works on which this method was truly brought to bear.
Building on the theme of crucifixion that ran throughout his early work, Bacon’s initial Popes took the form of opened-mouthed ghouls, pinned down in cages and shuttered into oblivion. From the inaugural Head VI of 1949 (Arts Council Collection, Southbank), through the first major trio of Popes in 1951, to the seminal Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X of 1953 (Des Moines Art Center, Iowa) and the ensuing series of eight Studies for a Portrait, Bacon’s figures actively sought to escape their condition, depicted as writhing beings whose cries detonated the structural integrity of the picture plane. By the early 1960s, these ethereal figures had contorted into deformed, demented creatures, incapacitated and silenced by their own paranoia. The six Studies for a Pope of 1961 present tensile, muted figures, rooted to their chairs is if bound by straitjackets. Study from Innocent X represents an extension of this series, and stands among the last Popes Bacon produced before the present work. Collectively, these tormented beings have been variously interpreted as self-images, much in the way that many of the German Expressionists cast themselves as prophets, priests and martyrs. In this regard, Bacon’s decision to revisit the Pope in 1971 – and to pair him with the muse that succeeded him – takes on a new degree of poignancy. Much like Dyer himself, the Pope is flattened into stark, planar existence, stripped of his former physical substance. The figures confront each other like paintings on a wall or images on a television screen; the Papal throne becomes a canvas – or, to follow the filmic analogy, an illusory digital space. Painted as Bacon prepared to place his life’s work under scrutiny in the cavernous chambers of the Grand Palais, the Pope becomes a projection of his own anxieties. For the first time in his oeuvre, Bacon’s pontiff is watched – viewed – by another. In the grand finale to the series, the Pope stands as a symbol of art and image-making itself, ‘raised onto a dais’ before the eyes of the world.
1962-1971: PAINTERLY EVOLUTIONS
By virtue of its direct link to an earlier work, Study of Red Pope 1962. 2nd version 1971 offers a unique insight into the evolution of Bacon’s painterly language during his most important decade. It was during this period that the diverse strands pursued during the 1940s and 1950s began to coalesce into a powerful visual lexicon: one of visceral, fleshy animations, in which thick twists of pigment brought the raw essence of his subjects, writhing and twitching, to the very surface of the canvas. What Bacon sought, as he later put it, was ‘a concentration of reality and a shorthand of sensation’: one in which the interior pulsations of a person were made visible in the depiction of their external features (F. Bacon, quoted in ‘Interview with Melvin Bragg’, South Bank Show, LWT, London 1985). The pain, fear and paranoia he had excavated from the sacred image of the Pope paved the way for his familiar portraits of the 1960s, in which currents of lust, rivalry, devotion and sexual intimacy coursed through their painterly veins. As the 1970s dawned, however, Bacon’s bid to distil sensation to its purest form led him to cast a reductive light on his working methods. Gradually, the human body was relocated to stark, airless vacuums: clinical geometric chambers where Bacon’s convulsing anatomies could be placed under deeper examination. ‘You’re more conscious of the fact that nine-tenths of everything is inessential’, he explained. ‘What is called “reality” becomes so much more concentrated and can be summed up with so much less’ (F. Bacon, quoted in Francis Bacon, exh. cat., Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2009, p. 237). The swirling painterly vortex of Study from Innocent X, rendered with thick intuitive streaks of impasto, is thus boiled down to a series of deeply saturated colour fields, with vast swathes of canvas left bare. All sense of carnal motion is reserved for the figures’ faces and limbs, which swarm with activity like cells under a microscope.
This sense of zooming in on his subjects is amplified by the linear space-frame within which the figures are contained. A constant in Bacon’s oeuvre since his earliest Popes, the cubic structure was conceived as a perceptual tool, often compared to the Chinagraph marks used in photography to delineate areas for enlargement. ‘I cut down the scale of the canvas by drawing in these rectangles’, he said, in order to ‘concentrate the image down. Just to see it better’ (F. Bacon, quoted in D. Sylvester, Looking Back at Francis Bacon, London 2000, p. 40). In his works of the 1950s, this device masqueraded as a ‘cage’ of sorts – comparable to those of Alberto Giacometti – in which his subjects’ inner existential turmoil was brought into focus. Whilst this was certainly true of Study for Innocent X, the present work offers a more nuanced treatment of the motif. The sides of the cube that flank the Papal throne are transformed into mirrors, creating a kind of folded screen that foreshadows the sequential, filmic quality of the later triptychs. The figure’s interior dialogue is played out less in the force of the surrounding brushwork than in the imagery projected onto these planes – namely, the lingering spectre of Dyer himself. The edges of the frame not only delineate the physical presence of the subject, but ultimately stand as a metaphor for the architecture of Bacon’s own subconscious – the only space in which his two tragic heroes had ever coexisted. A red ellipse hovers at the centre of the composition – a structure that increasingly came to dominate his later oeuvre. Frequently read as a signifier for the artist’s all-seeing eye, here it confronts the viewer as an unblinking, bloodshot lens, boring into the depths of the psyche. As Bacon’s dialogue with Velázquez becomes a dialogue with himself, visions past, present and future combine. The result is not only a poignant meeting of muses, but a sharp metaphysical commentary on the complex relationship between artist, subject and viewer.
Francis Bacon painting – Study of Red Pope
– to sell for record £60
Francis Bacon painting
– Study of Red Pope
to sell for record £60 million
A LANDMARK painting by Francis Bacon hidden from the public for almost
half-a-century is set to sell for £60 million
–a record for any art at auction in Europe.
NEWS | THE DAILY EXPRESS | FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2017
Study of Red Pope, from 1971 is the grand finale to Bacon's celebrated body of Papal portrait. It is also the only painting which unites the Pope with the artist's great love, George Dyer, who is depicted in the shadow.
Dyer and the Pope were the British artist's two biggest obsessions and it the painting became a tragic premonition of Dyer's fateful end when, less than 36 hours before the opening of the career-defining Paris exhibition in 1971, he was found dead.
The painting was acquired by the family of the present owner in 1973 and has appeared in all the major publications dedicated to Bacon's work - but it has never been shown public.
Christie's today announced it will be selling Study of Red Pope 1962. 2nd version 1971 on October 6 during London's Frieze WeeK. They have given it a guide price of £60 million - which will set a record for any artwork sold at auction in Europe.
The auction house has put the large painting, which is almost two-metres high and 1.5-metres wide, on display in London.
Francis Outred, chairman and head of post-war and contemporary art, Christie's EMERI described the painting as “quite simply art history”.
He said: “If Bacon's oeuvre was shaped by his devotion to George Dyer and the aftermath of his death provided his darkest and most celebrated triptychs, then this painting represents the ultimate landmark.
“Painted six months before George Dyer would commit suicide on the eve of Bacon's major retrospective at the Grand Palais, it is a tragic premonition which unites Bacon's two greatest muses, the Pope and George Dyer for the first and only time
“Against a background of naked canvas, an extraordinary outburst of controlled expression produces a maelstrom of activity, drawing the eye first to the sumptuous symphony of rounded red forms and then to the Pope at the centre of the composition whose own reflection appears in the back of the mirror and George Dyer's in the front. Dyer's hand is poised ready to turn off the light.
“Rarely have I seen a single panel carry so much power and profundity, the swipes of colour and scumbling which realise the heads are a sight to behold.
“This painting gives me a shiver down my spine and I am extremely excited to be sharing it with the public this October.
If the painting sells for a £60 million hammer price, the final cost including premiums will exceed the £65 million paid for Giacometti's life-sized sculpture L'homme qui marche I in 2010.
Legend has it that Bacon and petty thief Dyer first met when the former caught the latter breaking his mews home in Kensington in 1963 - but the reality was they met in a pub.
Over the next eight years, Bacon created at least 40 paintings of Dyer only for his lover to die from a drink and drugs overdose in 1971 - just 36 hours before a major exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris.
In March, a painting of George Dyer by Francis Bacon was sold by Christie's in New York for £40 million.
The record for a work by Bacon is currently £89 million, set in New York in 2013 for a painting of his friend, Lucian Freud.
Francis Bacon's painting Study of Red Pope is set to sell for £60 million
cost of Bacon
he cost of Bacon
MELANIE GERLIS | THE ART MARKET | FINANCIAL TIMES | SEPTEMBER 15 2017
Francis Bacon's Study of Red Pope 1962. 2nd Version (1971), to be auctioned at Christie's
One of the most heart-wrenching paintings by Francis Bacon comes to Christie’s next month (October 6). Study of Red Pope 1962. 2nd Version was unveiled at the artist’s 1971-72 retrospective at the Grand Palais, Paris. Just 36 hours before, George Dyer — Bacon’s lover and inspiration, who features spectre-like in the painting — had committed suicide in their hotel room.
painting has not been on public view since. “It’s truly and simply art history,”
enthuses Francis Outred, Christie’s chairman of postwar and contemporary art.
Christie’s will offer the work with a £60m-£80m estimate, which would make it the priciest work to sell in Europe this year. It could become the most expensive painting ever sold at auction in London. Accounting for inflation, this record is currently held by Rubens’ The Massacre of the Innocents, which sold for £45m (hammer price) in 2002, the equivalent of £67m in today’s money.
The European seller of the Bacon has turned down Christie’s offer to guarantee the work, according to the auction house.
'Lost' Francis Bacon
painting of the Pope and George Dyer could set new auction record
'Lost' Francis Bacon painting of the Pope and George Dyer could set new auction record
ANITA SINGH | ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR | THE TELEGRAPH | 15 SEPTEMBER 2017
Christie's staff hang Francis Bacon's Study of Red Pope 1962. 2nd Version 1971
A ‘lost’ painting by Francis Bacon could become the most expensive art work ever sold in Europe when it goes under the hammer next month.
Carrying an estimate in the region of £60 million, Study of Red Pope 1962. 2nd version 1971 unites two subjects that obsessed Bacon during his career: his lover and muse, George Dyer, and the figure of Pope Innocent X.
The canvas has been in a private collection for the past 45 years and never loaned. It was exhibited at the Bacon retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris in 1971, then in Dusseldorf the following year, before disappearing from public view.
The painting foretells a tragedy. Bacon met Dyer, a young, East End crook, in a Soho pub in 1963 and their relationship was tempestu
He completed the work in April 1971, to be unveiled at the retrospective in October. Dyer accompanied him to Paris, but the artist had little time to spend with him in the run-up to the show.
Two days before the opening, Dyer took an overdose and was found dead in his hotel bathroom.
A grief-stricken Bacon carried on with the show. He said later: “If I’d have stayed with him rather than going to see about the exhibition, he would be here now. But I didn’t and he’s dead.”
The painting will be sold at Christie’s, London, on October 6. Christie’s believes it could surpass the European record for a work of art sold at auction: £65 million for Giacometti’s Walking Man bronze in 2010. The hammer price for that work was £58 million, with the final figure including buyer’s premium.
If the Bacon painting achieves its £60 million estimate, it will fetch around £67 million with premium added.
Francis Outred, Christie’s head of post-war and contemporary art, hailed the painting as “quite simply art history”. He said: “It is a tragic premonition which unites Bacon’s two greatest muses, the Pope and George Dyer, for the first and only time.”
Francis Bacon and George Dyer on the Orient Express in 1964
Katharine Arnold, senior specialist at Christie’s, said: “Bacon described himself as almost having a boyhood crush on the painting by Velazquez. And he definitely had a crush, or something more powerful, on George Dyer.
“The painting is very intense. There must have been friction in their relationship at this point, and I’m sure the pressure in the lead-up to the exhibition must have had an impact on Dyer as well.
“There are two sash cords in the picture, as if to turn off a light - it’s almost prophetic. It has this sense of the dramatic. The wall on the right looks blue on first glance, but then you see the reflection of the red.”
The painting was acquired by the family of the present owner in 1973. Arnold said: “London in October feels like the right time to show a masterpiece.”
It will not be the most expensive Bacon painting ever sold. That record is held by Three Studies of Lucian Freud, a triptych that went for £89 million in New York in 2014.
Pope painting by Francis
Bacon to go on sale after 45 years hidden away
Pope painting by Francis Bacon to go on sale after 45 years hidden away
Estimated to be worth £60m, the painting depicts a slumping pope whose formless body is capped by a drunk's red nose
JONATHAN JONES | THE GUARDIAN | FRIDAY 15 SEPTEMBER 2017
Francis Bacon’s landmark painting, Study of Red Pope 1962. 2nd version 1971, at Christie’s in London.
The pope’s body is a spiralling heap of sausages wrapped in white and pink robes. Go closer, and even stranger physical images arise: brown smears over his fleshy hands look disturbingly faecal. You could almost believe it, if this were not a £60m – or more – masterpiece soon to go on sale in the opulent setting of Christie’s London auction house.Francis Bacon’s Study of Red Pope 1962. 2nd Version 1971 is as close to a new painting by the great bohemian painter who died in 1972 as we are ever likely to see.
The painting was first exhibited in Paris in 1971, six months after Bacon finished it, and was shown in Düsseldorf the following year. Since then it has been locked away by a private collector, who never lent it or showed it.
The gold-framed explosion of velvety red and rose on raw beige canvas has been hidden away for 45 years, said Jussi Pylkkänen, the president of Christie’s.
Pylkkänen will be auctioning this choice cut of raw artistic beef in person early next month, when the world’s art collectors converge on London for the Frieze art fair.
Bacon painted Study of Red Pope 1962. 2nd Version 1971 – probably not his best title – at the most intense moment of his life. It was the best of times and the worst of times for the Irish-born artist. He was about to put on a massive one-man exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris. As a francophile who was friends with Paris intellectuals including the surrealist Michel Leiris, he cared deeply about how he would be received there.
Yet, Pylkkänen said, Bacon faced a problem. He wanted to include his renowned 1962 painting Study for Innocent X but its owner refused to lend it. With just six months to go before the most important exhibition of his life, Bacon shut himself in his cramped studio at 7 Reece Mews, Kensington to create a new version of a masterpiece.
He was facing a personal as well as artistic crisis. As Bacon painted, his relationship with George Dyer, the small-time East End criminal who was the love of his life, was getting ever more futile. Dyer had descended into an alcoholic malaise, unable to live as Bacon did in a giddily creative permanent champagne high. He was vanishing from Bacon’s life, but invades this painting.
As the pope squirms like a giant silk-clad turd, sitting not on a papal throne but a 1970s swivel chair, the glass booth that encloses him morphs into a mirror in which he sees the figure of George Dyer. This is not the decaying man Dyer had become by 1971. It looks more like the handsome, well-dressed young thug he was when Bacon first met him in a pub in 1963. Wearing a smart suit and tie, his hand elegantly clenched in a proud fist, Dyer is upright, strong and a bit cocky.
Is the slumping pope whose formless body is capped by a drunk’s red nose in fact a portrait of Dyer drunk, looking at a last vision of his former self?
Pylkkänen thinks Bacon was working at an artistic and emotional peak when he painted this furious bloody mary cocktail of artistic ambition and private sorrow.
“There’s something about it that tells me – ‘I’m going to paint a great picture for this show, the last of my popes, with my muse George Dyer in it,’’’ he says.
Bacon succeeded, at least artistically. The exhibition at the Grand Palais would be the greatest triumph of Bacon’s career, raising his reputation to the sublime level it has held ever since. Yet as Bacon got ready for the opening, Dyer killed himself with a drug overdose in their hotel room. Notoriously, there was a conspiracy of silence for two days so the death wouldn’t spoil Bacon’s vernissage.
“We’re talking about £60m,” says Pylkkänen. That’s actually quite a bit less than Bacon’s record of £89.3m for Three Studies of Lucian Freud, so the estimate may be exceeded if bidders get excited enough by the painting’s intense combination of aesthetic and human drama.
“It’s got all the elements that collectors are looking for,” says Pylkkänen.
The president of Christie’s is by definition a good salesman – but his excitement is justified. This modern Baroque marvel proves Bacon was the Caravaggio of the 20th century.
Francis Bacon Pope Portrait
Resurfaces After 50 Years at Christie's London
Francis Bacon Pope Portrait Resurfaces After 50 Years at Christie's London
The rediscovered painting measures just 26 by 20 inches, is estimated to sell for £10 million
CHRISTIE'S | ART MARKET | ARTLYST | 6 SEPTEMBER 2017
Francis Bacon, Head with Raised Arm (1955)
A portrait by the British artist Francis Bacon which has not been seen in public for over 55 years is to be sold at Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction, a highlight of London’s Frieze Week auctions. Head with Raised Arm (1955, estimate: £7,000,000 – £10,000,000) will be unveiled for the first time in over half a century as part of the sale.
One of only two known Papal paintings of that size, while most of Bacon’s 50 Pope paintings are inspired by Velasquez, only nine relate to the incumbent Pope, Pius X11. Bacon had a photograph of Pius being carried on his throne through St Peter’s pinned to his studio wall next to images of wartime dictators.
Last exhibited in 1962 at the Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna, Turin, the work was acquired by the present owners the following year. It has remained hidden from public view ever since. The work’s location was listed as ‘unknown’ in the most recent version of the catalogue raisonné published last year by Martin Harrison. Riddled with quiet introspection and human tension, it belongs to a group of nine surviving paintings depicting the then incumbent, Pope Pius XII. With four held in museum collections, and a further on permanent loan, Bacon’s portraits of the living Pope are among his most profound. The work will be on view from 8 September, Christie’s Rockefeller Center, New York; 18 September, Christie’s Hong Kong; and 30 September 2017 at Christie’s King Street as part of the Post War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction that will take place on the 6 October 2017.
Francis Outred, Chairman and Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art EMERI: “Bacon’s Head with Raised Arm poses the question that would haunt Bacon for the duration of his career: how to paint the human figure in the age of photography. The camera’s ability to cast fiction as truth resonated with the fundamental tension that Bacon identified in religious and political figureheads: a conflict between public image and innate animal instinct. Evoking the works of Eadwaerd Muybridge, as well as anticipating Gerhard Richter’s blurred photo-paintings of the following decade, Head with Raised Arm speaks directly to this theme. Pius was the only living Pope that Bacon would ever look to capture and by hinting at the transience of a figure immortalized through the camera lens, Bacon lifts the veil on his humanity. Illustrated in the first catalogue raisonne created by Ronald Alley with Francis Bacon in 1964 and listed as ‘whereabouts unknown’ in the most recent version by Martin Harrison in (2016), this is a landmark moment, marking the reappearance of a major Bacon portrait after more than 50 years.”
The Pope’s face and arm flicker like moving images caught on camera, animated by a veil of rapid hairline striations. Combed vertically with a fine brush over layers of colour, the work demonstrates Bacon’s dialogue with photography in his bid to capture what he termed ‘the trail of the human presence’. Rare for its closely-cropped depiction of the pontiff’s head and shoulders, the present work confronts its subject on a piercing, intimate scale. It is one of only two Popes executed in Bacon’s jewellike 24-by-20-inch format, aligning it with his first small portrait triptych of 1953. Elected to the papacy in 1939, Pius’s reign had spanned the Second World War, famously inciting accusations of silence in the face of atrocity. As the Church and media sought to uphold his infallibility, the artist cast him as a fragile, flawed being, tortured by the weight of his grand station.
Pursued over nearly two decades, and numbering more than fifty canvases, Bacon’s Papal portraits are widely regarded as his finest achievements. These works were his first and most significant existential enquiries, and stand today among the foremost images of the twentieth century. ‘It’s true, of course, the Pope is unique’, he explained. ‘He’s put in a unique position by being the Pope, and therefore, like in certain great tragedies, he’s as though raised onto a dais on which the grandeur of this image can be displayed to the world’ (F. Bacon, quoted in D. Sylvester, The Brutality of Fact, London 1990, p. 26).
A "centrepiece of the of the whole of 20th-century art"
Rediscovered Francis Bacon piece to be auctioned at Christie's
BY COLIN GLEADELL | LUXURY | ART | THE TELEGRAPH | 4 SEPTEMBER 2017
Francis Bacon, Head with Raised Arm (1955)
A rediscovered painting by Francis Bacon is to be shown for the first time in over 50 years at next month's contemporary art sales in London. The 1955 painting of Pope Pius X11 seated on a golden throne, his hand raised in some enigmatic gesture, was last exhibited in 1962 and sold the following year in Turin. Since then it has been locked away in a very private collection.
Even the extensive, 10-year research conducted by art historian, Martin Harrison for the catalogue raisonne of all the artist’s works, published last year, could not uncover its whereabouts and lists the painting, Head with Raised Arm, as ‘location unknown.’ It is the only one of Bacon's 584 paintings which Harrison could not locate. Christie’s is withholding the identity of the seller, but speculation will be centred around the descendants of Italian collectors, such as film producer, Carlo Ponti, or car manufacturer, Gianni Agnelli, who bought examples of Bacon’s work in Turin at that time.
Bacon’s Papal portraits are considered his finest achievements. They are, writes his biographer, Michael Peppiatt, "not only the centrepiece of all his paintings of the 1950s, but a centrepiece of the whole of 20th-century art."
They began after he saw a reproduction of Velazquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X in 1946 and became obsessed with it, attracted by the idea that an all-powerful religious leader could also be a tragic figure, terrified by the human situation.
Amazingly, he never saw the original, but bought a photograph of it to work from. One of the series, a 76-inch tall Study for Innocent X, sold in 2007 for a then record £26.6 million. The buyer was thought to be shipping heir, Philip Niarchos.
The rediscovered painting measures just 26 by 20 inches, which accounts for the lower £10 million estimate, but is rare - one of only two known Papal paintings of that size. And, while most of Bacon’s 50 Pope paintings are inspired by Velasquez, only nine relate to the incumbent Pope, Pius X11. Bacon had a photograph of Pius being carried on his throne through St Peter’s pinned to his studio wall next to images of wartime dictators.
While his Velazquez inspired paintings are rent with the anguish of a scream, his Pius paintings express a more repressed anxiety. When this was painted, Pius was extremely ill, suffering terrible nightmares and hallucinations. Hardly surprising for a pontiff who had to negotiate Nazism, speak out against persecution and protect the Vatican at the same time.
The Post War & Contemporary Art auction will be held at Christie's London (8 King Street, St. James's , SW1Y 6QT) on October 6th at 7pm.
Spanish police recover three stolen Francis Bacon paintings
JENNIFER O'BRIEN | IRELAND REPORTER | THE TIMES | JULY 21 2017
Bacon, who was born in Dublin in 1909, became one of the best-known surrealist artists of his era
Three paintings by Francis Bacon that were stolen from a Madrid apartment have been recovered by Spanish police.
The works were three of five that were taken in a robbery in 2015. The five are estimated to be worth more than €25 million.
Spanish police confirmed that ten people were arrested during the investigation into the robbery at the home of José Capelo, a friend of Bacon’s, who had inherited the paintings after the artist’s death in 1992.
The burglars also made off with a safe containing jewels from the house. A Spanish police statement said that the three works were recovered after a tip-off from a London team specialising in tracking down missing art. Police offered no further details about which paintings had been recovered, or where they were discovered.
In May 2016, police arrested and bailed seven suspects over the stolen works. Three more suspects were arrested in January after police raided homes in Madrid and seized arms, safe-cracking manuals and oxy-fuel cylinders used for cutting metal.
Bacon, who was born in Dublin in 1909, famously had no formal training as a painter, but became one of the best-known surrealist artists of his era.
He drew inspiration from the old masters for his work, in particular Diego Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X which Bacon used as the basis for his own series of screaming popes.
His expressionist-surrealist works, many of which centred around imagery of wounded and traumatised humanity in the postwar era, remain hugely sought after.
In November 2013, his painting, Three Studies of Lucian Freud, sold for €122 million at auction, breaking the record for the highest price paid for an artwork.
It was succeeded 18 months later with the sale of Les Femmes d’Algers, by Pablo Picasso, which sold for €153 million.
Modern Master Paintings Cause Legal Pile-Up in NY
ADAM KLASFELD | COURTHOUSE NEWS SERVICE | MANHATTAN (CN) | 14 AUGUST 2017
Auctioned two years ago for $16 million, British painter Francis Bacon’s Study for Head of Isabel Rawsthorne and George Dyer lies at the heart of a legal battle in Manhattan.
Christie’s described the painting as one of only 10 diptychs that the Dublin-born Bacon painted before he died at 82 in 1992.
The auction house said the piece "commemorates two of the artist’s most profound relationships: with his lover and muse, George Dyer, and his lifelong friend and confidante, the artist Isabel Rawsthorne."
At the center of the new lawsuit is a wealthy Chinese businessman who bought two famous artists’ paintings he could not afford.
Zhang Chang bid more than 12.1 million British pounds for Bacon's work at the June 30, 2015, auction in London.
Then on Nov. 16, 2016, Zhang agreed to shell out another $24 million for German artist Gerhard Richter’s Düsenjäger (Jet Fighter) at Phillips’ auction house in New York.
Both purchases inspired lawsuits in New York County Supreme Court.
This order inspired another lawsuit by Lin San, another Chinese citizen, who claims he loaned Zhang the money for the Bacon art.
Mr. Zhang paid Christie's for the purchase over time, using funds loaned by Mr. Lin for this purpose in accordance with a loan agreement between them executed in June 2015," the 9-page complaint states. "Those loans from Mr. Lin first began in June 2015, and continued through 2017.
Lin says Zhang agreed to transfer the painting to him because he was not able to repay the loans.
Lin on Thursday filed a petition to intervene in Phillips Auctioneers v. Chang, saying the painting is rightfully his.
"At the time of this supplemental agreement in February 2017, Mr. Lin was unaware of any dispute between Mr. Zhang and Phillips, or that Mr. Zhang allegedly owed Phillips any money," his complaint states.
Christie’s and Gagosian are not named in the petition, which lists Phillips as the sole respondent. Phillips declined to comment.
Lin is represented by New York-based attorney Gerald Novack.
Spanish police recover stolen Francis Bacon paintings after tip-off from the Art Loss Register
Three Francis Bacon artworks stolen in Madrid in 2015 have been recovered by Spanish police near Barcelona.
LAURA CHESTERS | ANTIQUES TRADE GAZETTE | THE ART MARKET WEEKLY | 24 JULY 2017
This portrait is one of the five Francis Bacon artworks stolen in Madrid.
The Spanish police have now recovered three of the five works.
The paintings were seized following a tip-off from art database firm Art Loss Register (ALR). The three artworks were among five Bacon pictures taken in June 2015 alongside jewellery and other objects from the belongings of Spanish banker José Capelo, who was a friend of the Dublin-born artist.
Last year the ALR was contacted by an individual in Sitges, a resort to the southwest of Barcelona, who requested a check against its database of one of the paintings.
The artwork was discovered to have been stolen, having been recorded as so at the ALR after Interpol issued the alert in 2015.
ALR then contacted the Spanish police to alert them.In a statement, the Spanish national police said the email from the individual to ALR contained unpublished photographs of the artworks taken after the theft. With these, it was possible to find the specific model of camera that the photographs were taken with. The police traced it to a camera rental company and then the lessee of the photographic equipment. This information led the police to the suspected thieves and eventually to the stolen artworks.
Ten arrests have now been made related to the case.
The ALR’s director of recoveries and general counsel, James Ratcliffe, said: "The return of the pictures is testament to the value of collaboration between the public and private sector. We gave the police this lead to help them track down these individuals. The Spanish police have done a fantastic job."
Spanish police recover 3 Francis Bacon paintings stolen in 2015
Five paintings by the British artist were stolen from the home of a friend of Bacon in July 2015
AFP | THE JOURNAL IE | IRELAND | JULY 20, 2017
SPANISH POLICE HAVE recovered three of five paintings by British artist Francis Bacon that were stolen from a Madrid apartment in 2015, they said today.
“I can confirm that three paintings have been recovered,” a police spokeswoman said.
She said she could not give more details because of the ongoing investigation to find the remaining two artworks.
The five paintings are estimated to be worth more than €25 million.
They were stolen from the home of a friend of Bacon in central Madrid in July 2015 while he was away in London.
The thieves also made off with a safe that contained a collection of coins and jewels. Spanish police have so far arrested 10 suspects linked to the theft.
In May 2016, with the help of a British firm that searches for stolen art, they arrested one of the suspected perpetrators, as well as five accomplices that allegedly helped hide the painting
A Barcelona resident had sent the firm pictures of a Bacon painting to see if it appeared on the company’s list of stolen artworks.
Police analysed the photos and found clues that led them to another suspect who they believed carried out the robbery.
This suspect then led police to an art dealer and his son who are suspected of hiding the stolen paintings.
Police did not provide details on the stolen paintings but daily newspaper El Pais said they depicted the owner of the artworks, Bacon’s friend.
The thieves tried to sell the paintings on two occasions, the newspaper added.
Police recovered one painting several months ago and the other two just a few days ago, according to the newspaper.
Bacon often visited Madrid, where he spent time studying old masters paintings in the Prado Museum, and died in the city in 1992, aged 82.
Francis Bacon at the Tate Gallery in 1985.
Three Francis Bacon works stolen in Madrid recovered by Spanish police
Paintings were seized following a tip-off from the Art Loss Register
by GARETH HARRIS | THE ART NEWSPAPER | 21 JULY 2017
Cecil Beaton, Francis Bacon in His Studio (1960).
Gelatin silver print with paint from Francis Bacon's studio on the recto and verso.
police say that they have recovered three works by Francis Bacon that were
stolen from a private residence in Madrid in June 2015. Five works by the
Dublin-born artist were removed during the raid.
According to the BBC, the three unidentified works, which belong to Bacon’s acquaintance José Capelo, were recovered following a tip-off from the Art Loss Register, the London-based stolen art database. The UK organisation was contacted by an individual in Sitges who wanted to verify one of the works. Spanish police did not respond to further enquiries.
"The return of the pictures is testament to the benefits of international cooperation between the private sector and law enforcement agencies. That these pictures have now been recovered through the skill of the Spanish police, after the Art Loss Register had identified them, and following the circulation of details of the loss via Interpol, is a perfect example of the value of such collaboration," says James Ratcliffe, director of Recoveries & General Counsel at the Art Loss Register.
Ten people have so far been detained in connection with the robbery; seven arrests were made in Madrid last year and three more people were arrested in January.
Bacon’s triptych, Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer (1963), the first portrait of the artist’s longtime lover, fetched $51.8m at Christie’s New York in May.
Beyeler to reunite Giacometti and Bacon
Swiss museum to stage show on the artists, who first met in the early 1960s, in time for Art Basel in 2018
MARTIN BAILEY | SWITZERLAND, SPECIAL REPORTS | THE ART NEWSPAPER | 13 JUNE 2017
Alberto Giacometti and Francis Bacon at the Tate Gallery, London, in 1965.
Giacometti and Bacon will be the stars of the Fondation Beyeler’s main exhibition next year, which is due to coincide with Art Basel 2018. The show is being organised by the Fondation Beyeler’s curator, Ulf Küster, Catherine Grenier, the director of the Fondation Giacometti, and Michael Peppiatt, an expert on Bacon and Giacometti.
Peppiatt promises that “the sheer visual excitement of two great 20th-century masters” will make this a major show. Discussions are taking place about a second venue for the Bacon-Giacometti exhibition after Basel (29 April-2 September 2018), possibly in the US.
Peppiatt sees strong parallels between the art and lives of the two artists. Both were strongly influenced by Surrealism and worked in a figurative style at a time when abstraction was “becoming louder”. They were existentialists, avid readers, deeply affected by the Second World War and lived in chaos. With huge drive, both proved to be survivors.
Peppiatt says that the two men first met in Paris in the early 1960s: “Bacon told me that he had gone up to Giacometti in a café in St Germain, probably Les Deux Magots or Flore, to say he admired his work.”
Swiss-born Alberto Giacometti (1901-66) was eight years older than the UK artist Francis Bacon (1909-92). They met again a few years later, probably through their mutual friend Isabel Rawsthorne, who was Giacometti’s lover and also modelled for both artists. Peppiatt says that on one occasion the two artists stayed up all night talking. They remained friends until Giacometti’s death in 1966.
The artists had two motifs in common: the scream and the cage. Both used a cage-like device in their compositions to create space and perspective and to concentrate attention on the central figure. Giacometti led the way, influencing his younger contemporary. Bacon once introduced his friend Daniel Farson to Giacometti, saying: “This is the man who has influenced me more than anyone.” There are, of course, also considerable differences in their work. “They were both X-raying their figures, but whereas Giacometti was stick-like in his depictions, Bacon was decidedly fleshy,” Peppiatt says.
Works by the two artists will be intermingled at the Fondation Beyeler. The majority of the Giacometti loans are to come from the Fondation Giacometti, with works by Bacon coming from a wide range of lenders, including a number of Swiss owners.
Francis Bacon Painting Hits $51.8 Bid
OLIVIA O'MAHONY, EDITORIAL ASSISTANT | IRISH AMERICA | 28 MAY 2017
Francis Bacon’s Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer, 1964, which sold for $51.8 million in May.
A triptych painting of George Dyer, the lover and muse of Irish-born figurative artist Francis Bacon, sold for $51.8 million at a Christie’s auction for contemporary works in May. The painting, once owned by children’s author Roahl Dahl, a close friend of Bacon’s, spent the last 25 years in the private collection of French actor Francis Lombrail and was originally slated to reach up to $70 million with bidders. However, a substantial fall on Wall Street at the time of the auction resulted in a notably cooled demand.
The piece, Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer, was painted in 1963, one year after the two men met, and is the first of almost 40 works inspired by their relationship. One of only five triptychs painted of Dyer, it is representative of the explosive vitality of new romance and was completed during the period of Bacon’s greatest satisfaction in his personal and professional lives. A petty thief with a yearning to learn his true place in the world, Dyer was 33 years Bacon’s junior and sought meaning through his role as muse. When their dynamic as creatives and lovers alike began to crumble, Dyer fell into an intense depression. After some time apart, Bacon invited him to Paris for a retrospective at the Grand Palais in 1971, but ignored him in favour of other guests upon arrival. The young man finally snapped, and after a hurricane of drinking and drug use, he was found dead the following morning. In his guilt-ridden grief, Bacon would paint several more portraits of Dyer in the years that followed.
“George Dyer is Bacon’s number one muse, like Dora Maar was for Picasso,” said Loic Gouzer, deputy chairman of postwar and contemporary art at Christie’s. “He was the subject who allowed Bacon to push his limits and become the artist he became.”
Bacon’s triptychs are incredibly sought after among art collectors; one piece that depicted his joint friend and rival, Lucian Freud, previously held the world record for highest bid fetched by a painting at an auction, with an offer of $142.4 million in 2013.
Tate Britain to show Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon works side by side in major new exhibition
The Tate will have to borrow work from some of the world's greatest private collections for the show
ROBERT DEX | ARTS | EVENING STANDARD | THURSDAY 25 MAY 2017
Two giants of modern British art - Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon - will share wallspace in a major new exhibition next year.
The Tate will have to borrow work from some of the world’s greatest private collectors for the show which is part of a new season of exhibitions across the various galleries announced today.
Among the works likely to feature in the show, called All Too Human, is Freud’s Sleeping By The Lion Carpet which shows one of his regular models Sue Tilley asleep in his studio.
A similar work showing the same model, Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, was bought at auction for £17.2 million almost a decade ago, setting a then record for a work by a living artist.
Both artist’s work is highly collectable with Bacon’s work attracting even higher sums - three portraits he did of Freud in 1969 sold for a staggering £89 million at auction four years ago.
Both men were members of the 1970’s-era School of London which was associated with more traditional work rather than the abstract approach fashionable at the time and the show will also include work by less-well known artists who were also members of the School such as Frank Auerbach and R.B. Kitaj.
Other shows announced today include an exhibition of work at Tate Britain by Pre-Raphaelite Edward Burne-Jones.
Around 150 of his works, including painting, stained glass and tapestry, will appear in the show which is the first major retrospective of his work in four decades.
As well as a previously announced Picasso show, Tate Modern will feature shows dedicated to two pioneering women artists - Joan Jonas, an early exponent of video art, and Anni Albers who transformed the use of textiles in art as part of Germany’s Bauhaus movement and then later in exile in the United States.
Other planned shows include an exhibition of photography with work by names including Man Ray and another examining how the First World War influenced the art of different countries including France, Germany and the UK
ATHENAEUM ART HISTORY LECTURES: FRANCIS BACON
ART | LECTURES | LA JOLLA | SAN DIEGO READER | 20 MAY 2017
The Athenaeum Music & Arts Library is pleased to announce An Introduction to Francis Bacon, a series of art history lectures presented by Hugh Davies, director emeritus of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. On May 25 the subject will be Francis Bacon: Paintings from 1945-1973 and on June 29, Francis Bacon: the Late Work.
Hugh Davies did his doctoral dissertation on Francis Bacon at Princeton University, largely based on a series of interviews with the artist in London from February through July 1973. The dissertation was subsequently published by Garland Press as Outstanding Dissertations in the Fine Arts. Davies co-published another book on Francis Bacon with Sally Yard through Abbeville Press in 1986, contributed chapters and articles on Bacon for several other publications and exhibition catalogues, and curated Francis Bacon: Papal Portraits in 1999 for MCASD. He currently serves as one of the five members of the Francis Bacon Authentication Committee, which published his catalogue raisonné in 2016.
Note: If you previously attended the April 13 lecture introducing the art of Francis Bacon and had purchased tickets for the series (originally planned for just two lectures), contact the library to find out how to incorporate the third lecture.
When: Thursday, May 25, 2017, 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Contemporary Art Buyers Cautious After Wall Street Dips
By SCOTT REYBURN | ARTS | THE NEW YORK TIMES | MAY 17, 2017
Francis Bacon’s brooding “Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer” from 1963 drew a winning bid of $51.8 million, including fees. “The Bacon could have done a bit better,” a private dealer said.
A substantial fall on Wall Street cooled demand Wednesday night at a Christie’s auction of contemporary works that was regarded by many as the first serious test of the art market in the Trump economy.
The 71-lot sale raised $448.1 million with fees against a low estimate of $339 million. Ninety-six percent of the works found buyers — helped by the auction house’s guaranteeing the minimum price of no fewer than 39 works — but bidders were conspicuously cautious, and few lots sold significantly above their estimates. Fifty-five percent of the lots were bought by American bidders, Christie’s said.
“If Wall Street hadn’t taken a dive, there would have been fireworks,” said David Benrimon, a New York dealer. “While the sale was strong over all, it did change the mood among American bidders, and these contemporary sales are about Americans.”
The core of Christie’s sale was a group of 25 works formerly owned by the eminent Kings Point, N.Y., collectors Emily and Jerry Spiegel, who both died in 2009. In September, their collection was divided between their daughters, Pamela Sanders and Lise Spiegel Wilks, who were reported to be feuding. Ms. Sanders is selling a total of 107 pieces with a value of more than $100 million at Christie’s while Ms. Wilks will be offering a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting valued at $60 million at Sotheby’s on Thursday night. Both sisters have been guaranteed minimum prices by the auction houses.
Ms. Sanders’ most highly valued Spiegel collection works at Christie’s were Sigmar Polke's 1964 Ben-Day dot canvas, Frau mit Butterbrot, and Untitled, a 1988 Christopher Wool word painting emblazoned with “PLEASE” six times. Both works sold toward the low end of their estimates to telephone bidders, for $17 million and $17.2 million.
The Spiegel pieces, all of which were guaranteed — which can in itself sometimes dampen demand — raised $116 million against an estimate of $79 million.
Tellingly, the two highest-bid lots in Christie’s sale were both offered without guarantees. Cy Twombly’s six-foot-tall abstract, Leda and the Swan, was fresh to the auction market and was valued at $35 million to $55 million. It attracted at least five bidders before going to the dealer Larry Gagosian, who was in the room to bid the night’s top price of $52.9 million
Francis Bacon's brooding Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer from 1963 was also fresh to the market without a guarantee. Entered from a private collection in Paris, having previously been owned by the author Roald Dahl, this triptych of expressive head studies of the artist’s lover was estimated to sell for at least $50 million — an auction high for Bacon canvases of smaller format. It attracted two telephone bidders and a winning bid of $51.8 million, including fees.
“The Bacon could have done a bit better,” said Ivor Braka, a private dealer based in London. “Because it wasn’t glazed, it lacked luster.” Mr. Braka added that the bidding was “measured and stable — unlike the politics in this country.”
Mr. Braka said that demand was all the more measured because of some ambitious estimates. Eyebrows were raised before the sale by Christie’s $13 million valuation on a monumental and thickly textured abstract by Mark Grotjahn, Untitled (S III Released to France Face 43.14), dating from 2011. The painting had been acquired by Patrick Seguin, a collector and dealer in 20th-century design based in Paris, directly from the artist for an undisclosed price.
Paintings by Mr. Grotjahn, who is based in California, are on the shopping lists of many wealthy collectors, but this work was valued — and guaranteed by a third party — at a level that was exactly double the artist’s previous auction high. Nonetheless, two telephone bidders pushed the price up to $16.8 million.
It was a strong estimate, but we went for it,” said Alex Rotter, Christie’s co-chairman of postwar and contemporary art in the Americas. He added: “It’s a competitive environment, and that leads to certain price expectations. I was worried when I looked at the stock market today, but if a lot sells for a couple of ticks above estimate, that’s a success.”
Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale
17 May 2017, New York, Rockefeller Center
SALE 14187 | LOT 38 B | FRANCIS BACON (1909 - 1992)
Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer
titled and dated '3 Studies For Portrait of George Dyer 1963.'
(on the reverse of the
triptych—oil on canvas each: 14 x 12 in. (35.5 x 30.5 cm.)
Painted in 1963.
Price realised USD 51,767,500
Marlborough Fine Art, London
Roald Dahl, Great Missenden
Waddington Galleries, London
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Property From a Private Collection, Paris
Francis Bacon, exh. cat.,
Paris, Centre National d'Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou, 1996, p. 64
D. Sturrock, Storyteller: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl, New York, 2010, p. 440.
J. A. Knapp, ed., Shakespeare and the Power of the Face, Farnham, 2015, pp. 168-170, fig. 10.2 (illustrated).
M. Harrison, ed., Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné: Volume III 1958-71, London, 2016, pp. 738-739, no. 63-15 (illustrated in color).
Oslo, Kunstnerforbundet; Trondheim,
Kunstforening; Bergen, Kunstforeningen; Warsaw, Museum Narodowe; Poznan, Museum
Narodowe and Krakow, Museum Narodowe, British Paintings 1945-1970,
January-July 1972, n.p., no. 10 (illustrated).
Saint-Paul-de-Vence, Fondation Maeght, Bacon-Freud: Expressions, July-October 1995, pp. 46-47 and 204, no. 11 (illustrated in color).
Stockholm, Moderna Museet, Wounds: Between Democracy and Redemption in Contemporary Art, February-April 1998, vol. 1, p. 171; vol. 2, n.p. (illustrated in color).
Paris, Fondation Dina Vierny-Musée Maillol, Francis Bacon: Le Sacré et le Profane, April-June 2004, pp. 112 and 157 (illustrated in color).
Edinburgh, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Francis Bacon: Portraits and Heads, June-September 2005, pp. 60-61, no. 29 (illustrated in color).
Hamburger Kunsthalle, Francis Bacon. Die Portraits, October 2005-January 2006, p. 73, no. 28 (illustrated in color).
London, Tate Britain; Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado and New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Francis Bacon: A Centenary Retrospective, September 2008-August 2009, pp. 186 and 280 (illustrated in color).
Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer is the very first portrait Francis Bacon painted of his greatest muse. Executed in 1963, this mesmeric triptych was completed mere months after Bacon first met George Dyer, a handsome petty thief from London’s East End. It marks the inception of their turbulent and ultimately tragic relationship and introduces a model who, John Russell declared, “will live forever in the iconography of the English face” (J. Russell, Francis Bacon, London, 1971, p. 165). The encounter between the two lovers was transformative, with Dyer becoming to Bacon what Dora Maar famously was to Picasso. His masculinity and muscularity, his sexual aura and anxious persona, acted as a wellspring for pictorial breakthroughs that helped stake Bacon’s claim as one of the 20th-century’s most celebrated artists.
This triptych is the beginning of a journey that saw Bacon paint Dyer’s face and body obsessively for many years. Dyer would appear in at least 40 of Bacon’s paintings, many of which were created after his death in Paris in 1971, barely 36 hours before Bacon’s major retrospective opened at the Grand Palais. The convulsive beauty of the present work represents the flowering of Bacon’s infatuation with the man portrayed and is only one of five triptychs of Dyer that the artist painted in this intimate scale. This example is unique among them, as it does not depict the white shirt and sharp suit that Dyer invariably wore. Instead, the head and neck emerge disembodied from the darkness—explosive, agitated, naked, and unmoored from spatial or temporal reality.
Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer was completed during the moment of greatest personal and professional contentment in Bacon’s career. In the autumn of 1961 he had ended his somewhat transient existence by securing a permanent base at 7 Reece Mews in South Kensington. He also established a habitual structure for his paintings during this time—limiting his supports to the 14 x 12-inch canvas format used exclusively for portrait heads, and the large 78 x 58-inch canvases that typically show full-length bodies and biomorphic figures. When the artist met Dyer towards the end of 1963, Bacon was being praised by a public who now saw him less as a maverick, than a master of figurative painting. This came on the heels of his first major retrospective in May 1962 at Tate in London, which was followed by a triumphant exhibition at New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in October 1963.
beginning of the 1960s also signaled a new virtuosity and complete change of
style for the artist as all his brushwork became concentrated in the figure,
whereas in earlier works the figure tended to dissolve into the field. What
first strikes the viewer of this triple portrait are the vigour, passion and
fluidity of Bacon’s painting
technique. Dyer’s presence materializes from dynamic interlocking lines and
planes rendered in white and flesh-toned hues mixed with sweeps of emerald, all
set against a gritty black void. His distorted features appear and dissolve in
the sweeps of gestured paint, with flecks of vermilion and gaping holes
articulating the contours of his animated visage. There is something beyond
representation on display here—this is the individual presented as their very
essence. It is this quality that made Three Studies for a Portrait of George
Dyer so compelling to its first owner—another titan of the arts—writer Roald
Dahl, who chose with great care five singular works from Bacon’s oeuvre between
1964 and 1967. The triptych was seldom displayed publicly in the decades to
follow, but it has in more recent years been included in significant
international solo exhibitions, including the Francis Bacon retrospective that
toured the Tate in London, the Museo Nacional Prado in Madrid and the
Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York between 2008 and 2009.
The Rise and Fall of George Dyer
Bacon and Dyer’s first encounter is the stuff of art world legend, thanks to Bacon’s claim that he caught Dyer in the act of breaking into his Reece Mews studio—a myth perpetuated by the 1998 biopic film Love is the Devil. But the artist also told a less glamorous but much more plausible tale of meeting him during a night of drunken fun. Whichever the case, Bacon was instantly attracted to the handsome young man with the build of a Michelangelo figure and an air of latent violence. This was in the autumn of 1963, when Bacon was almost 54 and Dyer was around 30. An intense friendship immediately sprung up between the two very different men, with Dyer becoming Bacon’s lover, muse and dependent throughout much of the 1960s and early ‘70s.
Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer was painted within a couple of months
of their first acquaintance, when Bacon’s passion for the younger man was at its
most fervent. As a known masochist who had a predilection for “rough trade,”
Bacon was drawn to Dyer’s underworld mystique and criminal past. He would soon
discover, however, that behind Dyer’s immaculately groomed yet somewhat menacing
façade was a shy, kind-hearted man who made a hopeless career criminal.
“[George] was much too nice to be a crook,” Bacon would later joke (F. Bacon,
quoted in M. Peppiatt, Francis Bacon in Your Blood: A Memoir, London, 2015, p.
248). In fact, the man Bacon dubbed “Sir George” was a troubled, emotionally
fraught character. Often pale, anxious
and constantly smoking, Dyer
frequently found himself crippled by a sense of insecurity and purposelessness.
He devoted himself to Bacon and tried to convince himself that being a
significant artist’s companion and subject of much-lauded paintings gave his
life greater meaning. But as the decade wore on and the pair’s dynamic began to
unravel, Dyer’s drinking and despondency grew increasingly worse. Bacon became
impatient with his neediness and Dyer became desperate—he attempted suicide on
more than one occasion and framed the artist for cannabis possession, which led
to a humiliating court case that ultimately came to center on Dyer unreliability
as a witness. The intensity of his relationship with Dyer became a source of
both deep personal sadness and important artistic stimulation for Bacon, who
chronicled Dyer’s perceived deficiencies in a masterful series of large
stand-alone canvases, including George Dyer Riding a Bicycle, 1966 (Fondation
and Portrait of George Dyer in a Mirror, 1968 (Museo
Although Bacon tried to distance himself from Dyer on several occasions, the pair remained close. Dyer was invited to join Bacon’s entourage to Paris for the retrospective at the Grand Palais in 1971, but Bacon virtually ignored him on arrival. Unable to cope with the crowd of dignitaries and admirers that permanently surrounded Bacon there, Dyer went on an alcohol- and pill-fueled bender. The next morning, he was found dead in their hotel room. On a recent BBC documentary, A Brush with Violence, former Marlborough Gallery employee Terry Danziger-Miles revealed that he was one of the first people at the scene, along with Bacon’s gallerist Valerie Beston, and that Beston, Bacon and the hotel’s manager agreed not to announce Dyer’s death for two days to prevent the whiff of scandal ruining the exhibition’s opening proceedings.
The degree to which Bacon was
subsequently consumed by grief and guilt was evidenced in his posthumous
paintings known collectively known as the Black Triptychs, which relate the
tragic circumstances of his lover’s last, lonely hours: In Memory of George
Dyer, 1971 (Fondation Beyeler, Basel), Triptych August, 1972 (Tate, London)
and Triptych May-June, 1973 (private collection). Bacon was immensely tortured
by his death, and portraits of Dyer continued to haunt his output for some
years. He later reflected that, “[Dyer’s] stealing at least gave him a raison
d’être, even though he wasn’t very successful at it and was always in and out of
prison. It gave him something to think about... I thought I was helping him when
I took him out of that life. I knew the next time he was caught he’d get a heavy
sentence. And I thought, well, life’s too short to spend half of it in prison.
But I was wrong, of course. He’d have been in and out of prison, but at least
he’d have been alive” (F. Bacon, ibid. p. 248).
Portraiture and the Search for the Self
From the early 1960s Bacon was increasingly drawn to portraiture for its element
of artistic jeopardy. Long the preserve of High Art, portraiture was then out of
step with prevailing trends and needed to be completely reinvented if it was to
remain culturally relevant. It needed to investigate the existential nature of
life itself. Bacon was above all concerned with the conditions of painting and
sought to make his ideas and their method of delivery inseparable. His aim was
to find a technique that would “trap the energy that emanates” from a person,
this task he recruited a select
number of close friends whose personalities shared his own taste for risk.
Although Bacon idealized Dyer’s thuggish good looks, he was also able to grasp beneath the veneer of his tough appearance to expose something of his inner vulnerability. In Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer, Dyer’s head and neck completely fill the frame, confronting the viewer with the concentrated intensity of an intimate and startlingly animated portrait. Mute and isolated upon a vacant ground, the figure is engulfed within the dark depths of his own psyche. The sequence of ever-shifting visages, rendered in a palette more reminiscent of muscle and tissue than skin, seems to turn Dyer inside out, stripping him down to mutable flesh hanging from bone. Still identifiable despite the contortions, Dyer’s portrait seems to speak of mortality and the fleetingness of human life in simple and universal terms.
David Sylvester once asked Bacon, “When you’re painting a portrait, are you at all conscious of trying to say something about your feelings in regard to the model or about what the model might be feeling, or are you only thinking about their appearance?” Bacon replied, “Every form that you make has an implication, so that, when you are painting somebody, you know that you are, of course, trying to get near not only to their appearance but also to the way they have affected you” (D. Sylvester, Interviews with Francis Bacon, 1962–1979, London, 1980, p. 130). This statement acknowledges the unavoidable trace of the artist’s subjectivity in summoning his images. For although a portrait is a representation of another individual, it is also inevitably a reflection of the self. Bacon’s practice of working in isolation from his sitters, relying on memory, photographic cues and an instinctive approach to color, form and line, permitted him to not simply describe, but also to invite the realm of the unconscious and imaginary into his art. In this way, he felt better able to distil into the paint surface a sense of the emotional impact his subjects made upon him.
Bacon would often further muddy the waters between subject and object by impressing aspects of his own features onto that of his sitters. There are hints of this practice in Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer, particularly in the right-hand panel where an enlarged eye socket and broad right cheek have more in common with Bacon’s face than Dyer’s. The triptych can therefore be seen as a dramatic conjoining of two lovers’ bodies. Here Bacon seeks a proximity and intensity to Dyer through paint that was impossible in life, for, as he once described his frustration, “If you’re in love you can’t break down the barriers of the skin” (F. Bacon quoted in M. Harrison, In Camera Francis Bacon: Photography, Film and the Practice of Painting, London, 2005, p. 216).
As the first portrait of Dyer that Bacon ever painted, the present work is a dedication to his all-consuming new relationship. This idea is given added poignancy when one reflects on the resonance it has with a triptych Bacon painted the previous year featuring a self-portrait flanked by images of his former partner Peter Lacy. Bacon had received the news of Lacy’s death in Tangier on the occasion of his 1962 retrospective exhibition at the Tate, and within a month or so he completed Study for Three Heads, 1962 (Museum of Modern Art, New York), initiating the 14 x 12-inch measurements that he would subsequently use for all his small portrait paintings. Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer is like the earlier work not just in its scale, but also in its concentration on the disembodied head rendered in a palette of pinks, white and emerald green against a black background. Yet Study for Three Heads has a more spectral quality as the application of pigment is thinner, the brushstrokes broader. It somehow lacks the intense physical presence and visceral paint application of the Dyer triptych. Considered together, it would seem Bacon used his art to exorcize his feelings of loss towards one lover and to celebrate the beginning of a new chapter with another.
According to Michael Peppiatt, George Dyer “came to feel inseparable from the effigies Bacon had created of him. They gave him a raison d’être, a stature even, that his failure to be anything else made all the more precious” (M. Peppiatt, op. cit., p. 213). Dyer took enormous pride in being the subject of so many paintings, but he could not fathom why Bacon depicted him as he did. Indeed, Bacon’s practice of pulling apart and reconstructing people’s appearance reached a new level of intensity with the portraits of George Dyer. Not only had Bacon reached the height of his creative powers, but found in Dyer’s handsome visage and athletic body the perfect vehicle for conveying his most complex feelings towards human existence.
As with all his portraits of Dyer, the liberties Bacon took with his appearance in this triptych are underpinned by an erotic charge. His features are at once pummeled out of shape and caressed by sweeping brushstrokes, echoing the sadomasochistic pleasures Bacon desired from his lovers. But the portraits also expose Bacon’s sensitivity to Dyer’s fragility. The eyes in each canvas are averted from the viewer, either searching the surroundings furtively, looking downwards, or slightly detached, as if the sitter were withdrawn in anxious thought. The mouth, meanwhile, is closed and twisted, and is even partially obscured by gestural brushwork, particularly in the central panel. These erasures seem intended to evoke Dyer’s slight speech impediment, which made him sound, according to Daniel Farson, “as if the words were struggling to break free” (D. Farson, The Gilded Gutter Life of Francis Bacon, London, 1993, p. 172). Bacon considered his painterly deformations and dissolutions to be a concentration of reality, a shorthand of sensation. His work confronts the forces of the body that make it flesh and bone, as well as the forces outside the body that infuse and surround it. His aim was to slow down the chaos of reality, the chaos of emotion, to provide a new concept of the portrait, a new sensation that harnesses a balance between tension and collapse. “What fascinates him are the invisible forces that model flesh or shake it,” Gilles Deluze observed. “This is the relationship not of form and matter, but of materials and forces—making these forces visible through their effects on the flesh. …What fascinates Bacon is not movement, but its effects on an immobile body: heads whipped by wind or deformed by an aspiration, but also all the interior forces that climb through the flesh. To make the spasm visible” (G. Deleuze, Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation, London, 2005, p. xii).
The malleable quality of Bacon’s figures and heads was founded on the early influence of Picasso on his ambition to become an artist. Picasso’s example had revealed to him “how realism can draw on the unconscious” to great effect (F. Bacon, quoted in D. Sylvester, Looking Back at Francis Bacon, London, 2000, p. 13). Taking this lesson on board, Bacon contorted his subjects with the goal of making them somehow more real, more poignant, than if they were painted in a naturalistic fashion. In Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer, Bacon’s prodigious use of rapid, impulsive brush marks creates an encrusted surface wrought from swirling rhythms of scumbled paint, giving the sense of Dyer’s life force. Despite the visual turmoil, the figure remains instantly recognizable, perfectly encompassing Bacon’s quest to “distort the thing far beyond the appearance, but in the distortion to bring it back to a recording of the appearance” (F. Bacon, quoted in D. Sylvester, The Brutality of Fact: Interviews with Francis Bacon, London, 1987, p. 40).
“Triptychs are the things I like doing most,” Bacon stated in 1979. “So far as my work has any quality, I often feel perhaps it is the triptychs that have the best quality” (F. Bacon, quoted in D. Sylvester, Looking Back at Francis Bacon, London, 2000, p. 100). Indeed, Bacon’s triptych paintings, both epic and intimate, have largely defined his career. With his portrait studies, he found in this structure a vehicle for painting differing angles and perspectives within a sequence of closely related units, while in his larger paintings he could establish complex interrelated yet isolated scenes. It was a device that he often used since painting his groundbreaking 1944 triptych, Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (Tate, London), as it allowed him to explore his subject matter both more accurately and with more detachment.
When asked what attracted him to this format, he answered, “I see images in series. And I suppose I could go on long beyond the triptych and do five or six together, but I find the triptych to be the most balanced format” (F. Bacon, ibid, p. 100). When not painting triptychs, Bacon tended to think in broader series, producing variations on thematically linked imagery such as his Popes, men in suits and van Gogh paintings. The present work seems to fit into both categories of Bacon’s work for, as a triptych belonging to a grouping of five Dyer portrait triptychs, its seriality is multiplied. An inscription on the reverse of the later triptych, Three Studies of George Dyer (on pink ground) 1964 (private collection) stating, “3 Portraits of George Dyer Series No. 2 1964,” would suggest the artist intended for present work to become an extended cycle, thereby multiplying its serial nature well beyond the confines of the tripartite form.
In historical Christian art, triptychs often followed a hierarchical structure, where the most attention is concentrated on the central panel and the attendant wings are dedicated to supporting stories or portraits of saints or donors. With Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer there is no such hierarchy, in fact the subject itself is the same across all three canvases. In the left and right-hand panels, the two heads look slightly inward towards the central panel, effectively bracketing the work and lending the three images a collective and cohesive unity. This creates a kind of visual circuit as the viewer’s eye tracks back and forth between Dyer’s turned heads and his line of sight. This feature is a progression on the linear dramatic development evident in Bacon’s earliest portrait triptych, Three Studies of the Human Head 1953 (private collection)—a seminal work that depicts three individuals respectively grinning, screaming and in a state of collapse.
The conscious building of three different images into a unity is a unique and powerful feature of Bacon’s later portrait triptychs that reflects his belief that a combination of images merges together in the mind to form a stronger and more accurate picture of hard factual reality. In this triptych, the isolated frames suggest a kind of shuttering or strobe effect that throws the essence of Dyer’s psychological and physical presence into relief. “Of course,” Bacon once said, “what in a curious way one’s always hoping to do is to paint the one picture which will annihilate all the other ones, to concentrate everything into one painting. But actually in the series one picture reflects on the other continuously and sometimes they’re better in series than they are separately because, unfortunately, I’ve never yet been able to make the one image that sums up all the others. So one image against the other seems to be able to say the thing more” (F. Bacon, quoted in, D. Sylvester, The Brutality of Fact, Interviews with Francis Bacon, London, 1990, p. 130-133).
Photography, Time and Motion
Bacon hated making people pose for him in his studio. He stated, in an oft-cited quote, that sitting models “inhibit me. They inhibit me because, if I like them, I don’t want to practice before them the injury that I do to them in my work. I would rather practice the injury in private by which I think I can record the fact of them more clearly” (F. Bacon, ibid., p. 41). He instead found reference images were enough of a trigger to access his unconscious, intuitive impulses—they were “a release mechanism for ideas, a detonator” (F. Bacon, quoted in M. Kundera & F. Borel, Portraits and Self-Portraits, London, 1996, p. 201). As with most of his portraits of friends, Bacon relied on photographs for the creation of Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer. The source images for the triptych were a series commissioned from John Deakin, a drinking companion who had previously worked as a photographer for Vogue. Deakin captured at least four sets of photographs dedicated to Dyer, including close-up portraits and nudes. The black-and-white prints used for this work show Dyer in profile and front on, like a group of police mug-shots—a significant coincidence given his criminal history.
It is important to note that in Bacon’s effort to advance portrait painting, he turned to the very thing that had usurped it. Yet Bacon sought something more than the illustrative, something that could only be achieved through the mercurial medium of paint. He did not use photographs slavishly, depending at least as much on his memory and imagination to harness the sought-for essence of the individual. Adopting a dispassionate, almost scientific, detachment from his subject matter, Bacon consciously disrupted the recognizability of Deakin’s images, smearing and battering Dyer’s head into a distorted image—one more real, he hoped, than any naturalistic representation. “I think it’s the slight remove from the fact, which returns me onto the fact more violently,” he told David Sylvester. “Through the photographic image I find myself beginning to wander into the image and unlock what I think of its reality more than I can by looking at it” (D, Sylvester, op. cit., p. 30).
A photographic image is laden with pathos, as, in freezing the transient, it points to our mortality. The triptych format of the present work, and its depiction of Dyer’s ever-shifting face, seems to respond to this notion of temporality. The three variants of the same subject speak to time’s active force in a way that recalls Eadweard Muybridge’s famous sequential photographic studies of the figure in motion—another key visual reference for Bacon. Deakin’s original “mug-shots” of Dyer captured several viewpoints to convey a sense of three dimensions, but it is Bacon’s dynamic reinterpretation that has truly brought the subject to life. The dramatic changes to Dyer’s head imply that nothing is permanent, that even when we are static we are defenseless to change at the hands of time. As John Russell has explained, with Bacon’s painting, “the image is nowhere fixed, finite, descriptive; and yet it tells us more fully and more truthfully than any conventional portrait what it is like to be a human being. It suggests to us that earlier images have been unwarrantedly bland in their presentation of human nature; and it also suggests that this particular new kind of presentation is something that only painting can do. Painting here reclaims its rights” (J. Russell, Francis Bacon, London, 1971, p. 132)
Francis Bacon's childhood home in Co Kildare guides €2.75m
MADELEINE LYONS | THE IRISH TIMES | THURSDAY, MAY 11, 2017
When Marcus and Edel Beresford took up residence at Straffan Lodge in 1989, the primary appeal was its location. Dublin based for the preceding decade, the couple, who originally hailed from stately homes, wanted to return to country life. Just 18 miles from Dublin, Straffan Lodge on the outskirts of the Kildare village of Straffan, provided the ideal base for Marcus, a solicitor (and former chairman of A&L Goodbody) and historian, and his wife Edel, a keen sportswoman who fly-fishes for Ireland.
The couple are also equine enthusiasts, and trained racehorses locally with Arthur Moore for many years, including Marcus du Berlais which placed second and third in the 2004 and 2005 Grand Nationals
The 34 acres of land at Straffan Lodge was mainly kept for the children’s ponies as they pursued eventing and showjumping interests.
Marcus Beresford almost apologetically admits that Straffan Lodge’s most prominent claim to fame had practically eluded him until they had already taken up ownership. For it was here that the internationally acclaimed Irish artist Francis Bacon spent his early years.
From 1909 the artist lived here until 1926 when he famously fell out with his father, a former British army captain, who had retired to Kildare to train and breed racehorses, with little success, his son always said.
Marcus defends Bacon junior’s harsh analysis, having reviewed Bacon senior’s training records, and he regrets never having contacted Bacon before his death in 1992 to ask about his time at Straffan Lodge.
Instead, and for many years, Bacon’s sister, Ianthe, was a frequent visitor to the property where she recalled an idyllic childhood. Unsurprising really, given the lovely matured sylvan setting and the 5,000sq ft Georgian country manor at its heart.
Artist Francis Bacon lived in Straffan Lodge from 1909 to 1926.
Straffan Lodge was most likely built on the land of the original Straffan House Demesne – where the K Club is now located – originally owned by the Barton family, of Barton & Guestier wine.
The house itself, like many Irish country homes, appears to have evolved over two eras. The front section dates from the 1820s, and was likely to have been added to the more modest rear as the owner’s fortunes improved.
The main hall, approached via a flight of granite steps, retains its Georgian features including simple cornices, fanlight above the front door and original timber floors.
In keeping with the symmetry of the era, the two main receptions are accessed to the right and left of the hall, and with their original floor to ceiling shuttered sash windows, they make the very most of their sunny southerly aspect on a glorious May day.
The formal receptions are covered with oil portraits of notable figures from the Beresford family tree. Marcus is the 7th Baron Decies in the de la Poer Beresford line, and ancestors of note include Marshall Williams Carr Beresford who, as Captain General of Spain, was Wellington’s right-hand man in the Napoleonic war, and Archbishop of Tuam, William Beresford, whose unfeasibly large and flamboyant portrait quite dominates the upper stairway.
Both receptions feature fine marble fireplaces – the one in the diningroom came from Edel’s family home, Belleville, beside the Ashtown gates of the Phoenix Park.
Off the dining room is a cosy duck egg blue country kitchen added in the 1920s and updated by the Beresfords, with a lovely bay window overlooking the lawn, and French windows lead out to a very nicely contained patio and large enclosed garden.
One side of the enclosure – where the barbecue is located – comprises an ornate folly wall hand-built by previous owner, Robert Guinness of the Guinness banking family, who lived here for 20 years.
To the rear of the ground floor are probably the original more modest rooms of Straffan Lodge, and include a study with woodburning stove, an office, a cloakroom and a second scullery kitchen/utility.
Upstairs are five bedrooms laid out over two levels. The grander two – added with the main receptions below – face to the front, providing lovely uninterrupted views across the lawn, beyond the Ha-Ha to the paddocks running to the boundary. Two smaller doubles, a single, two en suites and an updated bathroom complete the upstairs accommodation.
The basement, as with all these country homes, has long since retired its original function as a downstairs kitchen, although a sprawling old range stands as testimony. Now it’s used as a snooker room, there’s a tack room off it with access to the yard, a wine cellar and gun room.
Francis Bacon: lived at Straffan Lodge until he was 16.
Just outside the back door of the house is a strip of loose boxes and garages, and somewhat surprisingly, three further bedrooms of guest accommodation in a fully refurbished and heated two-storey house adjacent to the main house.
Behind this, in an area replanted where the original orchard once stood, is an astro turf tennis court and, Marcus’s pride and joy, a fruit garden which promises a huge bounty of raspberries, strawberries, blackcurrants, blueberries, loganberries and gooseberries any day now.
With their four children reared the Beresfords are moving on – albeit with a heavy heart after many happy years here – and Straffan Lodge is for sale by tender, with Paddy Jordan guiding €2.75 million.
The tender process is a little different to the usual private treaty and auction methods, and is more often applied to commercial land sales.
Unconditional sealed bids are invited before July 3rd, which means all due diligence must be completed and the deposit prepared in advance. Paddy Jordan is banking on concentrating minds over a finite selling period – not a bad strategy given that country home sales can often be protracted affairs over a minimum of 12 months. Whether it pays off is anyone’s guess.
Straffan Lodge will doubtless need another injection of cash to bring it up to modern day living requirements, but the basic ingredients for a lovely rambling family home are all there. The land itself may also have appeal for local stud farms looking to extend their footprint in the heart of bloodstock country.
Sensationeller Neuerwerb: Francis Bacons „Portrait“ von 1962 im Museum für Gegenwartskunst
Siegen. Das ist großartig. Francis Bacons „Portrait“ von 1962 ist wieder zu sehen, aber nicht irgendwo, sondern in Siegen im Museum für Gegenwartskunst. Die Ausstellung „6 x Francis Bacon … und andere Höhepunkte der Sammlung Lambrecht-Schadeberg“, die ihr 25-jähriges Bestehen feiert, läuft bis Dezember diesen Jahres.
SIEGERLAND KURIER | 12 MAI 2017
Museumsdirektorin Dr. Eva Schmidt und Sammlungs-Kurator Prof. Dr. Christian Spies vor Francis Bacons „Portrait“ von 1962.
30 Jahre lang befand sich Francis Bacons „Portrait“ von 1962 in der Privatsammlung des italienischen Filmregisseurs Michelangelo Antonioni, unzugänglich für die Öffentlichkeit.
Das Gemälde ist besonders, nicht nur weil es lange Zeit „verschwunden“ war; es gibt dazu eine Zeichnung mit der Notiz: „This painting is a portrait of Peter (Dieses Bild portraitiert Peter)“. Das war Bacons Lebensgefährte Peter Lacy. Dadurch bekommt das Gemälde eine sehr persönliche Komponente, stellt es doch einen Dialog zwischen den beiden Partnern dar. Außerdem zeigt sich in dem Bild erstmals ein Rundraum, in dessen Mitte sich die Figur wie auf einer Bühne präsentiert. Am Rand verarbeitete Bacon dünne Farben, während er zur Mitte hin und gerade dort dicke Farbschichten auftrug. Francis Bacon ist bekannt für seine impulsiven Selbstinszenierungen, auch dass er sein Privatleben in seine Kunst mit einbrachte; er machte keinen Hehl aus seiner Homosexualität. „Interessant ist, dass Francis Bacon etwa im Gegensatz zu Lucian Freud lieber alleine im Atelier war und nach Fotovorlagen arbeitete“, weiß Museumsdirektorin Dr. Eva Schmidt zu berichten. Die Preise für Bacons Bilder sind in den vergangenen Jahren enorm gestiegen; er gilt als einer der bedeutendsten Maler des 20. Jahrhunderts. Sein „Portrait“ von 1962 zeigte Francis Bacon übrigens zum ersten Mal in seiner ersten Retrospektive. Stationen waren damals Glasgow, Zürich und das Kunstmuseum in Bochum. Neben Bacons Frühwerken der 50er Jahre und Spätwerken der 80er Jahre zählen insbesondere die Arbeiten aus den 60ern und 70ern zu seinen eindrücklichsten.
Insgesamt sechs Gemälde des Iren Francis Bacon (1909-1992), der im Alter von 58 Jahren der 3. Rubenspreisträger der Stadt Siegen geworden war, können Besucher jetzt betrachten: neben dem „Portrait“ von 1962 noch „Study for Portrait (Pope)“ von 1957, „Small Study for a Portrait“ von 1959/50, „Study from the Human Body and Portrait“ von 1988, „Study for Landscape after Van Gogh“ von 1957 sowie „Man at Curtain“ von 1949/50. Somit beherbergt das Museum für Gegenwartskunst eine der wichtigsten Bacon-Sammlungen in Europa.
Aber es gibt noch zusätzliche spektakuläre Neuankäufe des Museums, wie etwa weitere Bilder von Lucian Freud, Bridget Riley, Emil Schumacher und Fritz Winter. Mit all diesen Bild-Höhepunkten feiert die Sammlung, die 1992 von Barbara Lambrecht-Schadeberg gegründet wurde, ihr 25-jähriges Bestehen. Zur Ausstellung gibt es ein filmisches Portrait und sonntägliche Führungen bezüglich Francis Bacon. „Jedes einzelne Bild der Sammlung Lambrecht-Schadeberg prägt diese, wertet sie weiter auf und schreibt mit an der Geschichte der Malerei des 20. und 21. Jahrhunderts“, betont Kurator Prof. Dr. Christian Spies.
Siegen: Sammlung mit Francis Bacon
KUNST & DESIGN | WESTFALIUM | 8 MAI 2017
Die Neuerwerbung: Francis Bacon, Portrait, 1962
Siegen – Zerrissenheit, Isolation und Gewalt sind die Themen, mit denen sich der irische Maler Francis Bacon beschäftigte. Mit dem Erwerb des großformatigen Gemäldes „Portrait“ von 1962 gelingt es der Sammlung Lambrecht-Schadeberg die repräsentative Werkgruppe zu erweitern. Mit nun insgesamt sechs zentralen Gemälden beherbergt das Museum für Gegenwartskunst in Siegen jetzt eine der wichtigsten Bacon-Sammlungen in Europa.
Francis Bacon (1909-1992) gilt als einer der bedeutendsten Maler des 20. Jahrhunderts. Als Autodidakt begann er in den 1920er Jahren mit der Malerei. Inspiriert von Pablo Picasso, Van Gogh oder Velázquez schuf er melancholisch-aggressive Werke von enormer Präsenz und Wirkung.
Der Mensch steht in Bacons Gemälden im Zentrum. Oft ist er als torsohafte, deformierte und surreale Erscheinung dargestellt. Nur durch Verzerrung und Entstellung – so Bacons Ansicht – könne man der existentiellen Realität näher kommen. Der Betrachter solle mit der Wirklichkeit konfrontiert, von ihr überfallen, bedrängt und sogar überwältigt werden. Empfindungen sollen nicht allein durch Motive ausgelöst werden, sondern geradewegs in der Malerei – den Farbkörpern Bacons – provoziert werden.
Auch der Bildraum spielt dabei eine entscheidende Rolle. Vielfach ist er widersprüchlich konstruiert, teils umfängt er die Porträtierten als Käfig, teils wirkt er undurchdringlich und leer.
Grundsätzlich bezieht sich Bacon auf bereits vorhandene Bilder, auf Gemälde, Fotografien und Filme, die dann durch eine Neu-Formation der Lebenswirklichkeit näher kommen sollen. Bacon selbst sprach von einen neuen Realismus, den er „recreation“ nannte.
Für seine Fähigkeit, die Realität so unmittelbar und schonungslos darzustellen, erhielt Francis Bacon vor genau 50 Jahren den 3. Rubenspreis der Stadt Siegen.„Jedes seiner Bilder ist von einer überzeugenden, oft bitteren Monumentalität beherrscht“, urteilte die Jury im Jahre 1967.
Inzwischen umfasst die Sammlung Lambrecht-Schadeberg repräsentative Werke aus allen Schaffensphasen Bacons. Darunter befindet sich sowohl ein Gemälde aus Bacons berühmter Papstserie nach dem Vorbild von Diego Velázquez aus dem Jahr 1957, wie eines seiner grellfarbigen Selbstporträts des Spätwerks („Study from the Human Body and Portrait“ 1988). Aus der Serie über ein Gemälde von Vincent von Gogh stammt das Landschaftsgemälde „Study for a Landscape After Van Gogh“ von 1957.
Am gestrigen 7. Mai hat das Museum für Gegenwartskunst das neu-erworbene Bacon Gemälde in einer Sonderpräsentation erstmals der Öffentlichkeit vorgestellt. Zugleich wird das 25-jährige Bestehen der Sammlung Lambrecht-Schadeberg mit weiteren Neuerwerbungen der letzten Zeit gefeiert, darunter Arbeiten von Emil Schumacher, Fritz Winter, Lucian Freud und Bridget Riley.
Dienstag bis Donnerstag 11.00 bis 18.00 Uhr
Donnerstag 11.00 bis 20.00 Uhr
Montag geschlossen, alle Feiertage geöffnet.
A world premier at the gallery
MARIA GREGORIOU | CYPRUS MAIL | MAY 1st, 2017
Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud in Soho: photograph: Harry Diamond 1974
Theatre and great painters come together in a new play entitled Bacon/Freud by Anthie Zachariadou, which is to have its premiere on Saturday in Nicosia.
The new play, based on the true friendship between two art legends Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud is presented as part of a third theatre collaboration between Alpha Square and Leventis Gallery.
Bacon/ Freud is set in 1988 in a Berlin gallery where a small painting was stolen – a portrait of the great artist Francis Bacon. Since then, it is nowhere to be found. This disappearance isn’t just a loss of a great work, for the creator, famous painter Lucian Freud (grandson of Sigmund), that painting possibly represented the most significant relationship he ever had. Just like, the painting the relationship was also lost and the work of art was all he had to remind him of it.
The play is co-directed by Andreas Araouzos and Varnavas Kyriazis, who also take on the parts of Bacon and Freud while Elena Katsouri is responsible for the design, set and costumes.
The play, which will run for ten performances, will be staged every Wednesday and Saturday at 8.30pm and Sunday at 6.30pm. There will be no show on May 10.
Performance of the play based on the relationship between the two artists. May 6-28. Leventis Gallery, Nicosia. 8.30pm. €15. In Greek. Tel: 22-668838
The Mystery of Lucian Freud's Missing 'Bacon'
In the middle of a crowded 1988 show, someone absconded with Lucian Freud’s relatively small painting of his one-time friend Francis Bacon.
ALLISON MCNEARNEY | THE DAILY BEAST | 2 APRIL 2017
In 1988, the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin debuted an exhibition of Lucian Freud paintings. By all accounts, the show was a success, with the Germans warmly embracing the work of the famed British painter…maybe a little too warmly.
On May 27, the gallery filled with students on a trip to see the exhibit. It was just another day at the show with visitors milling around examining Freud’s paintings under the watchful eye of art guards when someone noticed something alarming—one of the works was missing.
In broad daylight, in the middle of a crowded show, someone had absconded with Lucian Freud’s relatively small painting of his one-time friend Francis Bacon.
While Freud had started a second painting of his fellow artist, the missing copper canvas was the only portrait of Bacon that he ever completed.
In a 2008 piece in The Guardian, art critic Robert Hughes called the painting an “unequivocal masterpiece,” continuing on to write “that smooth, pallid pear of a face like a hand-grenade on the point of detonation, those evasive-looking eyes under their blade-like lids, had long struck me as one of the key images of modernity.”
But twenty years earlier, that important “image of modernity” had disappeared with not so much as a peep heard or a glimpse caught in the time since. Zero substantial leads have turned up in the case of the missing Francis Bacon.
The seeds of Freud’s small masterpiece were sown in 1945, when Lucian Freud and Francis bacon were introduced by their mutual friend, artist Graham Sutherland.
The 23-year-old Freud and 36-year-old Bacon hit it off almost immediately.
n his book, The Art of Rivalry: Four Friendships, Betrayals, and Breakthroughs in Modern Art, Sebastian Smee described their friendship as “the most interesting, fertile—and volatile—relationship in British art of the twentieth century.”
The two painters were opposites in many ways. At the beginning of their friendship, Bacon was a rising star on the British art scene while Freud was still toiling over his canvases in relative obscurity. And toil he did—Freud was painstaking in his work, spending up to several months working on one piece, while Bacon painted much more quickly and instinctually.
But despite their different working styles, they developed a deep friendship and respect that would lead to each artist’s work being influenced—and criticized—by the other.
At the height of their relationship, the two painters would meet daily at the Gargoyle Club, and then the Colony Club once it opened, where they would drink, gamble, and argue the evening away with a coterie of other friends who came and went. While art was the most important thing in their lives, they also lived on the edge with days filled with drink and debauchery.
During that time, the two were spending so much time together that Lady Caroline Blackwood, Freud’s second wife, said, “I had dinner with [Bacon] nearly every night for more or less the whole of my marriage to Lucian. We also had lunch.”
Naturally, given the amount of time spent in each other’s company talking about art, the artists also decided to paint one other. Bacon completed16 works of Freud, the most influential of which was a triptych of his friend sitting in a chair that became the most expensive piece of art ever sold at auction when it was snapped up for a cool $142 million in 2013. (This record was shattered in 2015 when a Picasso sold for $179.4 million.)
But the much more methodical Freud only reciprocated with two paintings. Bacon sat first for three months in 1952 resulting in the Francis Bacon on copper. Freud worked on the second painting of his friend between 1956 and 1957, but it was eventually left unfinished after Bacon stopped sitting for him. (The unfinished work still fetched a respectable $9.4 million at auction in 2008).
For a quarter of a century, the friendship burned bright. But, as was most likely inevitable given the two very opinionated and passionate artists, their friendship blazed to an end by the 1970s and it would never recover.
While all missing or destroyed art delivers a deep blow to an artist’s oeuvre, the loss of Francis Bacon was a particularly upsetting one.
Not only was it a seminal portrait in the development of Freud’s style, but, some have suggested, it also was an emotional reminder of his former friend.
After discovering that Freud kept a “Wanted” poster of the portrait (more on that later) hanging next to his studio door, Smee told Artsy, “I knew that he wanted that painting back very much because of its quality, but I also thought it must have been partly to do with the fact that the subject of the painting was this person who had played such a crucial role in his life and in his artistic career.”
With no suspects in the theft, all that was left to do was speculate who could have taken the painting.
A camera crew visiting the exhibit filmed the portrait at 11am; by 3pm, it had been reported missing. Sometime in those four hours, someone had simply unscrewed the piece from the wall and walked off with it, aided by the fact that there were no alarms or cameras in the vicinity. Rather than an organized crime ring or an experienced art thief, Freud always thought the culprit was someone a little more naive, a little closer to home.
“I wonder whether it was taken by a student because it was stolen when the gallery was full of students. Also, for a student to take a small picture is not that odd, is it?” Freud told The Telegraph. He also suspected that the student nabbed it not out of admiration for Freud’s talent, but out of an admiration for Bacon.
Germany has a 12-year statute of limitations on prosecuting crimes like these. Once the statute on the Francis Bacon theft had expired, Freud decided to make one last attempt to recover the painting.
In 2001, ahead of a retrospective planned the following year at the Tate, Freud sketched out a black and white reproduction of the missing painting on a poster that proclaimed “Wanted” in bright red type. “Would the person who holds the painting kindly consider allowing me to show it in my exhibition next June?” the text read above the offer of a reward of over $100,000 for its return and the promise that no questions would be asked.
Around 2,500 copies of the poster were printed and plastered across Berlin but, alas, no one stepped forward to heed Freud’s polite plea. The only thing that came out of the campaign was the aforementioned art on Freud’s wall—one of these posters received a place of honor hung next to the door of the artist’s studio.
The loss continued to sting Freud up to his death in 2011.
From the day it was taken in 1988, the artist only allowed black and white photos of the painting to be shown or printed.
It was a decision he made “partly because there was no decent colour reproduction, partly as a kind of mourning,” the painter told The Telegraph.
It was an artistic—and a symbolic—gesture of loss. “In fact, the painting is quite near monochrome—so it comes out quite well, and I thought it was a rather jokey equivalent to a black arm band. You know—there it isn’t!”
Homage to Francis Bacon's triptych series
JUDITH RITCHIE | THE NELSON MAIL | EST. 1866 | 28 MARCH 2017
Viv Sellers and James Taylor, with the triptych Playing Bacon on display at The Framing Rooms.
The Framing Rooms on Collingwood St are featuring a triptych, titled Playing Bacon, in honour of British expressionist painter Francis Bacon. Painted by Viv Sellers, also originally from England and a fan of Bacon's work, the triptych is a tongue-in-cheek homage to Bacon's portrait series.
"I remember the first time I saw three of Bacon's works, it was at the Tate Gallery, I was about eight years old and went with my aunt," says Sellers. "They were lying on the floor waiting to be hung; the guy's take on the human condition, capturing the often grotesque, really stuck in my brain."
To compose the portraits in the triptych, Sellers used still shots taken from his television from the 1998 film titled: Love is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon. The scene showed Bacon, played by Derek Jacobi, posing in a photo booth. Once completed, he took the triptych into the Framing Rooms to have them framed.
By coincidence, James Taylor, co-owner of the Framing Rooms, had just read in the English Guardian newspaper about a 1963 triptych painted by Bacon, appearing at auction for the first time.
Showing the artist's lover and muse George Dyer, the triptych, once owned by author Roald Dahl, is on display at Christie's in London before its sale in New York in May. It is estimated to sell for US$50-$70m.
Taylor, who learned his craft at the renowned John Jones Picture Framers in London, can recall Bacon himself coming into the shop to have his paintings framed.
"He turned up once with a cheap, ready-made metal frame in a Tesco's bag and asked if we thought it would suit one of his paintings," says Taylor. "The answer was most definitely no."
When Sellers brought Playing Bacon into the Framing Rooms, Taylor recommended a dynamic black frame to complement the strength of the work.
Sellers wondered if Bacon would approve of the choice of frame but concluded that, typically, he probably "wouldn't give a damn."
Playing Bacon, Viv Sellers, The Framing Rooms, Collingwood St, to April 15.
Stunning collection of modern art goes on display in Tehran
Exhibits include works by Francis Bacon and gay Iranian painter Bahman Mohasses – bought before Islamic revolution of 1979
SAEED KAMALI DEHGHAN | IRAN CORRESPONDENT | THE GUARDIAN | FRIDAY 10 MARCH 2017
CENSORED: Francis Bacon’s Attendants displayed without the central panel Two Figures Lying on a Bed
A remarkable collection of modern western and Iranian art that had been gathering dust in the cellar of a Tehran museum and blocked from being shown in Europe has gone on display in Iran’s capital.
The collection features works by two prominent gay artists, Francis Bacon and Bahman Mohasses.
Some of the hidden treasures of Tehran’s museum of contemporary art had been due to travel to Berlin and Rome this year for their first show outside Iran since they were bought by the museum before the 1979 revolution.
But those exhibitions were cancelled, bringing embarrassment to German and Iranian officials, after Iranian artists protested about the secrecy surrounding their transfer, concerns about their fate, and the fact that some had never been shown before in Iran.
Now the works that were due to arrive in Europe have gone on display in Tehran, much to the delight of art lovers in Iran.
Speaking at the opening of the exhibition, Majid Molanorouzi, a former head of the museum, said there was still hope that the works would get to the German and Italian capitals “in the summer this year”.
Tehran’s museum of contemporary art is believed to have the finest collection of modern western art anywhere outside Europe and the US, including works by Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol. The works are thought to be worth more than $2.5bn (£2bn) in total.
A total of 30 western artists and 30 works by Iranian figures are on show at the exhibition, entitled Berlin-Rome Travellers.
But two artists stand out: Bacon and Mohasses, both of whom were openly gay. Bacon’s painting Reclining Man with Sculpture and his triptych, Two Figures Lying on a Bed with Attendant, are displayed.
Mohasses, who died in Rome in 2010, is seen as Iran’s most prominent artist of the past century and is certainly the country’s best-known artistic figure to have been openly gay, although he lived in post-revolutionary times in Italy.
Homosexuality is punishable by death in Iran and carries a huge social stigma. Mohasses’ sexuality is not discussed officially in his home country.
In a recent poll conducted by an Iranian art journal, he came first in the list of the country’s popular contemporary artists. But his prominence was overlooked for many years – some of his works were destroyed by the authorities and some by the artist himself.
Iranian painter Nicky Nodjoumi, whose work has been acquired by the British Museum, said the elites and those close to the artist knew he was gay.
“To me, his artistic significance in Iranian contemporary art is enormous,” he told the Guardian.
“He followed his instinct to portray the suffering of humanity according to what he was feeling, rather than depicting the benign decorative Islamic motives. No doubt his being gay influenced his art – most of his paintings are figurative, the majority of [his] paintings are nude men in a orgy situation.
“Even though he was trying to conceal it with different tactics to hide them, he was living in Islamic society. In many respects we can compare him with Frances Bacon and I would say [he was] influenced by him.”
In 2012, Iranian film-maker Mitra Farahani made a documentary about the life and works of Bahman Mohasses, Fifi Howls from Happiness, which is named after a painting by the artist himself. The film provided a unique insight into Mohasses’ life in exile.
“Being homosexual did not have anything to do with him being reclusive, it was the opposite – he was proud of his sexuality and lived it fully,” she said.
Farahani complained about the lack of efforts by the Iranian government to retrieve, restore and list Mohasses’ work.
“The people who chose Mohasses as their most popular artist should know how many works have remained from him and where they are,” she said.
“The six-metre long sculpture of Les Amants that was made for a Shah villa in the Kish island, and was influenced by a poem by [Persian poet] Nima [Yooshij], where is it?”
She added: “Even if they can’t put them on display, they should keep them safe and let people know about them, because [his works] belong to the people.”
Iran’s LGBT community thrives despite restrictions. Works by internationally-known gay writers have been translated into Persian and published in Iran.
These include works by by Marcel Proust and André Gide. Officials appear to tolerate such works so long as their subjects are not explicitly gay or cannot be easily detected.
Sohrab Sepehri, Mohsen Vaziri, Monir Farmanfarmaian and Paarviz Tanavoli are among other Iranian artists featured in Berlin-Rome Travellers.
Controversial Francis Bacon Crucifixion Drawings Go On Display In London Church
Last year a Gallery in Mayfair exhibited a selection of drawings and collages from the Cristiano Lovatelli Ravarino collection of works by Francis Bacon. It created quite a stir in the press, as the collection remains unauthenticated by the Bacon Estate and rejected as fakes by the author of the new catalogue raisonné.
ART NEWS | ARTLYST | 6 MARCH 2017
The works are said to have been made between 1977 and 1992 and given to Cristiano in Italy. The drawings are described as in “temporary custody” of David Edwards, the brother of Bacon’s long-term lover, the late John Edwards, but are still owned by Ravarino. Last year, Gallery owner, Alice Herrick told the Art Newspaper that around 600 drawings were given to Ravarino, who was one of the artist’s lovers, from 1977 up until Bacon’s death in 1992. The author of the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Bacon paintings, undertaken for the Francis Bacon Estate, has rejected the Ravarino works. In 2012 Martin Harrison told a Cambridge court that six drawings he had been shown were “pastiches, or even parodies, and profoundly disrespectful of Bacon’s authentic body of work”. The works have passed through a number of experts who have deemed the signatures correct and the court has been unable to prove that the body of work is wrong.
Now, St Stephen Walbrook is exhibiting Crucifixion drawings by Francis Bacon from “The Francis Bacon Collection of the drawings given to Cristiano Lovatelli Ravarino”. Between 1977 and 1992 Francis Bacon donated to an intimate Italian friend a considerable number of drawings, pastels, and collages. Today those drawings are part of a collection which has previously been exhibited in Bologna, Dubrovnik, London, Madrid and Trieste among other locations.
The image of crucifixion was consistently utilised by Francis Bacon in his art to think about all life’s horror as he could not find a subject as valid to embrace all the nuances of human feelings and behaviours. This exhibition of crucifixion drawings by Bacon provides an opportunity to explore why the image of the crucified Christ retained its power for an avowed atheist such as Bacon and to reflect on the horror of the suffering that Christ endured for humanity.
Revd Jonathan Evens says: ‘Francis Bacon rather obsessively revisited religious imagery in his iconic paintings. The subject of the crucifixion preoccupied him throughout his life as he made at least eight major Crucifixion paintings, spanning five decades, including the work that launched his career, Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion. Bacon thought that this subject, more than any other, had the validity to embrace all the nuances of human feelings and behaviours that enable us to think about all life’s horror. Bacon’s basing of his godless images on an image freighted and weighted with salvific power highlights its enduring impact, even in the secular West and even in the work of an avowed atheist. The bleak obscuring of features in Bacon’s images of Christ reveals the emanation of love which leads Christ into nothingness. For all these reasons, Bacon’s crucifixion drawings deserve the interest of Christians, as well as that of art historians or art lovers, and reward informed reflection and contemplation.’
In his recollections of Francis Bacon, Cristiano Lovatelli Ravarino suggests that: ‘It is completely wrong to see Francis Bacon as a determined blasphemer and convinced atheist. As a matter of fact, and paradoxically, Francis was almost more fascinating in what he thought about religion than in what he actually painted. This man frequently described (first, by we journalists) like a merciless satanic drunkard was one of the most pitifully charitable people I ever met.’ He suggests that ‘Bacon was a gambler, but he was a gambler more in hiding himself from people than in actually playing roulette.’
Controversial or not this exhibition is one not to miss! If the courts can’t decide on an outcome of authenticity, it is up to members of the public to assess this vast collection of works. We think whatever they are the works are rather nice!
London based public art collaborative Art Below will feature selected works from the exhibition in stations including Bond Street, Green Park and St. Paul’s from the 13th March for two weeks.
Exhibition events • Monday 6 March, 5.00pm: Francis Bacon & The Crucifixion – lectures by Edward Lucie-Smith & Revd Jonathan Evens • Monday 6 March, 6.30pm: Preview & opening night reception • Monday 13 March, 6.30pm: The Crucifixion in modern art & Poetry reading – Revd Jonathan Evens (lecture) & Rupert Loydell (poetry reading)
Wednesday 29 March, 7.00pm: concert by Claudio Crismani This will be amazing and full so book your tickets in advance
Crucifixions: Francis Bacon – 6-31 March 2017, 10.00am – 4.00pm Mon – Fri (Weds, 11.00am – 3.00pm), St Stephen Walbrook, 39 Walbrook, London EC4N 8BN
Roald Dahl's Francis Bacon Studies To Be Auctioned Estimate $50-$70m
ART NEWS | ARTLYST | 27 FEBRUARY 2017
George Dyer was to Bacon what Dora Maar was to Picasso – Loic Gouzer Christie’s
Francis Bacon’s Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer, 1963 will be a featured highlight at Christie's in its May 17 Post-War and Contemporary Evening Sale in New York. Estimated at a staggering $50,000,000-70,000,000 the work painted in 1963, marks the beginning of Francis Bacon’s relationship with Dyer, one of his greatest source of inspiration.
The triptych is the very first portrait Bacon made of his longtime muse who came to feature in many of the artist’s most arresting and sought after works. Dyer came to appear in at least forty of Bacon’s paintings, many of which were created after his death in Paris in 1971. The convulsive beauty of this work represents the flowering of Bacon’s infatuation with Dyer, and is only one of five triptychs of Dyer that the artist painted in this intimate scale.
The present example once resided in the collection of Bacon’s close friend, Roald Dahl. The celebrated author became an adamant admirer of Bacon’s work upon first encounter at a touring exhibition in 1958.
However, collecting his work was not financially viable at the time. In the 1960’s, Dahl’s career saw new heights. He published celebrated books, James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and he wrote the screenplay for the James Bond film, You Only Live Twice. Buoyed by his newfound success, Dahl acquired four judiciously chosen works by Bacon between 1964 and 1967. The present triptych was among them.
Loic Gouzer, Deputy Chairman, Post-War and Contemporary Art, remarked: “Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer is a masterful triptych, which was completed within the first three months of Bacon’s encounter with Dyer. This powerful portrait exemplifies the dynamism and complex psychology that the artist is most revered for. George Dyer is to Bacon what Dora Maar was to Picasso.
He is arguably the most important model of the second half of the 20th century, because Dyer’s persona as well and physical traits acted as a catalyst for Bacon’s pictorial breakthroughs. The Francis Bacon that we know today, would not exist without the transformative encounter that he had with George Dyer.”
Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer was completed during the greatest moment of personal and professional contentment in Bacon’s career. When the artist met Dyer towards the end of 1963, Bacon was being praised by a public who now saw him as a master of figurative painting. This came on the heels of his first major retrospective in May 1962 at the Tate in London, which was followed by a triumphant exhibition at New York’s Guggenheim Museum in October 1963.
Over the past 40 years, Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer has been a central fixture in many of the artist’s most important exhibitions. It was most recently featured in Bacon’s celebrated 2008-2009 retrospective that travelled to the Tate Britain, London, the Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. It has also been shown in the National Scottish Gallery, Edinburgh and the Moderna Museet in the Stockholm, among other institutions.
Bacon’s first ever portrait of
his great muse, George Dyer Formerly in the collection of author Roald Dahl On
view at Christie’s London from 24 February – 8 March Auction: Post-War and
Contemporary Art 17 May 2017 7pm
Bacon triptych, once owned by Roald Dahl, to lead Christie's New York sale in May
The auction house is also selling works by Picasso, Ernst and Lichtenstein to benefit Cleveland Clinic
GABRIELLA ANGELETI | HELEN STOILAS | THE ART NEWSPAPER | 24 FEBRUARY 2017
Francis Bacon, Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer (1963)
Christie’s has offered an early peek at the works consigned for its 20th-century art auctions in New York in May, which will be led by Francis Bacon’s triptych Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer (1963), and include pieces by Picasso, Ernst, Giacometti, and Lichtenstein.
The triple portrait is the first Bacon ever made of his longtime muse and lover George Dyer—he would go on to use him as a subject in some 40 paintings—and was created at the very start of their relationship. “George Dyer is to Bacon what Dora Maar was to Picasso,” says Loic Gouzer, Christie’s deputy chairman for post-war and contemporary art. “He is arguably the most important model of the second half of the 20th century, because Dyer’s persona as well and physical traits acted as a catalyst for Bacon’s pictorial breakthroughs.”
The work, estimated to make between $50m to $70m, was once owned by the British author Roald Dahl, a close friend of Bacon’s. Bloomberg has identified the current owner as the French actor Francis Lombrail, who has held it for 25 years and loaned it to a number of exhibitions dedicated to the artist, including the travelling retrospective in 2008-09 that was shown at London’s Tate Britain, Madrid’s Prado, and New York’s Metropolitan Museum. Christie's sold another triptych by Bacon, Three Studies of Lucian Freud (1969) in 2013, which broke the record at the time for the most expensive work sold at auction when it made $142.4m against an estimate of $85m.
The auction house will also offer eight works from the collection of Sydell Miller with all proceeds to be donated to the Cleveland Clinic Heart & Vascular Institute, a non-profit medical centre located in Ohio. Miller, an American philanthropist, is a member of the centre’s board of trustees.
Slated for the 17 May post-war and contemporary art evening sale is a cast, made during the artist's lifetime, of Alberto Giacometti’s sculpture of his wife, Buste d’Annette VI (conceived 1962, cast 1964, est $1.5m-$2.5m), as well as works by Jean Dubuffet and Louise Bourgeois.
Francis Bacon Painting May Reach $70 Million at Christie's Sale
The 1963 triptych previously belonged to author Roald Dahl
The seller is the French actor and collector Francis Lombrail
by Katya Kazakina | Bloomberg | February 24, 2017
Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer
A portrait of Francis Bacon’s lover may fetch as much as $70 million at Christie’s in May, when bellwether auctions test the health of the high-end art market.
The triptych Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer was painted in 1963, soon after the two men met. It depicts three versions of Dyer’s twisted face, each on a separate, small, black canvas. In 2014, a similar triptych, done in 1964 on a light background, sold for 26.7 million pounds (about $45.6 million at the time) at Sotheby’s.
The work for sale at Christie’s is the first major consignment for the next auction season in New York. Sales of works by Bacon, who became the most expensive artist at auction in November 2013, have fallen 74 percent since 2014, according to Artprice.com. Last year, his sales tallied $69.6 million as the industry’s supply of top-tier works dried up amid economic and political volatility.
The work previously belonged to Roald Dahl, the British author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach. The piece, which isn’t guaranteed, will be offered during the evening sale of postwar and contemporary art on May 17, Christie’s said Friday in a statement.
“It’s a real trophy work,” said Loic Gouzer, Christie’s deputy chairman of postwar and contemporary art. “George Dyer is Bacon’s No. 1 muse like Dora Maar was for Picasso. He was the subject who allowed Bacon to push his limits and become the artist he became.”
The seller is Francis Lombrail, a French actor who’s owned it for 25 years. Lombrail said he first spotted the work when it was turned against the wall at a Paris art fair; all he could see was back of the canvas.
“I saw the title. I saw the date. And before I even saw the work, I knew it’s my painting,” Lombrail, 70, said in a telephone interview. “I knew I had an incredible chance.”
Although he declined to disclose his purchase price, Lombrail said he had to sell much of the art he owned at the time to pay for the Bacon. It may turn out to be a savvy investment, as Christie’s is estimating the work at $50 million to $70 million.
Over the years, he lent the piece to major exhibitions, including at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, London’s Tate and the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid. He said he will use the proceeds to pay for an historic Paris theatre he recently bought.
“All the biggest actors in France played there,” said Lombrail. “It’s like the Bacon of theaters.”
Francis Bacon's first portrait of lover George Dyer goes on sale
1963 triptych of muse was painted three months into relationship and was once owned by Roald Dahl
Mark Brown | Arts Correspondent | The Guardian | Friday 24 February 2017
Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer is on display as Christie’s in London before auction in New York.
Francis Bacon’s first portrait of George Dyer, the East End petty criminal who became the artist’s lover and muse, is to appear at auction for the first time.
The 1963 triptych, once owned by Roald Dahl, was painted three months into a relationship which, a much repeated story goes, began after bacon caught Dyer attempting to burgle his home in South Kensington, south-west London.
Instead of calling the police the artist invited him to bed. The truth is far more pedestrian in that they met in a Soho pub, Dyer offering to buy Bacon a drink.
So began a tempestuous and largely drunken relationship which ended in tragedy a decade later when Dyer killed himself days before Bacon’s important retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris.
Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer has gone on display at Christie’s in London before its sale in New York in May. The work has an estimated price tag of between $50m (£40m) and $70m.
The auction house’s head of postwar and contemporary art in London said the passion of the relationship was plain to see. “It is like they are making love together, it is a sensual portrait of George Dyer but you can almost find some hints of Bacon … the two bodies are merging, it is very dramatic,” said Edmond Francey.
Dyer appeared in more than 40 of Bacon’s paintings. That this this triptych was the first, makes it a historically important work.
Loic Gouzer, Christie’s deputy chairman of postwar and contemporary art, said the portrait exemplified “the dynamism and complex psychology” that Bacon was most revered for.
He added: “George Dyer is to Bacon what Dora Maar was to Picasso. He is arguably the most important model of the second half of the 20th century, because Dyer’s persona as well and physical traits acted as a catalyst for Bacon’s pictorial breakthroughs.
“The Francis Bacon that we know today would not exist without the transformative encounter that he had with George Dyer.”
The former ownership of the work adds an extra layer of interest. Dahl was a passionate Bacon fan and keen to collect, but the artist’s works were not cheap.
The success of his books, James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, as well as money from writing the screenplay for the James Bond film You Only Live Twice, allowed Dahl to indulge his passion, buying the Dyer triptych along with three other works by Bacon between 1964 and 1967.
The triptych has been given a room of its own at Christie’s in London. On public display in other galleries are works that will be sold in the capital in the coming fortnight as part of Christie's and other auction houses' impressionist and modern art, surreal art and postwar and contemporary sales.
Among the highlights are one of Gauguin’s Tahitian landscapes, Te Fare (La maison), which has estimate of £12m-18m, and a Magritte surreal landscape of a cloud on a drinking glass, La corde sensible, which has an estimate of £14m-£18m and is expected to set an auction record for the artist.
Book Review: Michael Peppiatt's Francis Bacon In Your Blood is a fascinating exploration of the artist, the author, and a decades long friendship
JODIE SLOAN | THE AU REVIEW | EST. 2008 | FEBRUARY 23 2017
As a young student in Swingin’ Sixties London, Michael Peppiatt met the star of British contemporary art, Francis Bacon. Initially just hoping to secure an interview for a university magazine, what followed was thirty years of friendship, late nights, copious amounts of champagne, and an interview that never really ended.
The author of an acclaimed biography of Francis Bacon, Michael Peppiatt here presents more of his own story, albeit one told through the lens of a decades long friendship with one of recent art history’s most controversial and talked about figures. Following Peppiatt as he moves around Europe establishing his career as an art writer and critic, Francis Bacon in Your Blood shows how his relationship with the famous artist influenced and inspired him, and gave him access to exclusive social and professional circles.
Throughout Peppiatt’s life, Bacon appears and disappears, often with an eclectic selection of hangers on and true friends in tow, picking up the tab every time. This makes for a slightly repetitive nature to the book, and the cycle of nights of heavy drinking, interactions with wild characters, and Peppiatt and Bacon musing on life, love, the universe, and, of course, art can start to jar after a while.
But thanks to Peppiatt’s beautiful writing and insightful commentary, the memoir successfully steers clear of monotony. Peppiatt explores all sides of Bacon’s character, including those that lead Bacon to seemingly constantly toe the line of self destruction; and muses on how the friendship reflects upon Peppiatt himself. It’s neither an indictment nor a celebration of Bacon’s lavish lifestyle, rather it’s an interesting insight into how a friend sees the actions of another, with Peppiatt taking a step back and looking at Bacon from a distance.
Given the background of the author, and the fact that the front cover of the book hones in on Bacon, readers might be forgiven for expecting another biography focusing on the artist. Peppiatt himself seems to fall into the same trap from time to time, almost as if his own story isn’t as interesting, and while it’s true that Bacon’s life is a rich tapestry, his ‘gilded gutter life’ only takes on real poignancy when it’s explored by an outsider like Peppiatt. Peppiatt is a way to ground the artist’s heavy handed and excessive ideas and behaviours, making Bacon that much more accessible. It’s a side of the artist that is so well hidden by his work, but Peppiatt, someone who visited his studio, was there at gallery openings to see him speaking so gregariously and openly, and sat with him during his some of his darkest times, is able to draw that out. By analysing Bacon’s words and by presenting his own story side by side, Peppiatt’s rise from starstruck student to someone who understands and reads his older friend with such clarity is central to the book.
Francis Bacon in Your Blood mixes art, ambition, and friendship, with a heavy dose of alcohol, to craft a potent dual portrait of Peppiatt and Bacon. Filled with moments of intense emotion and deep conversation, the story is as beautiful and grotesque as any of the enfant terrible’s paintings, shattering myths and exploring an unlikely, but lasting friendship.
Francis Bacon in Your Blood is available now through Bloomsbury.
Freud and Bacon to visit Málaga's Picasso Museum
CULT British artists will be the focus of a huge new Picasso Museum exhibition.
CHLOE GLOVER | THE OLIVE PRESS | 20 FEBRUARY 2017
Works by Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud will be flown over from Tate London for the five month showcase, open from April 26 to September 17.
Titled Bacon, Freud and the School of London, the exhibition focuses on post-war and late 20th century art which discuss the symbolism and fragility of the human figure.
Among the famed works going on display will be Freud’s Girl with a White Dog, which features of painting of his first wife Kitty while she was pregnant.
Other renowned artists on show include Frank Auerbach, David Bomberg, William Coldstream, B Kitaj, Leon Kossoff, Paula Rego and Euan Uglow.
Talking about the exhibition, a spokesperson for the museum said: “By painting the human figure and their own everyday landscapes, these artists conveyed the fragility and vitality of the human condition.
“Simultaneously, they developed new approaches and styles, translating life into art and reinventing the way it is depicted.”
Much-married, hard-drinking Old Etonian artist who haunted Soho with Bacon and Freud
OBITUARIES | THE TIMES | FEBRUARY 18 2017
Timothy Behrens, Lucien Freud, Francis Bacon, Frank Auerbach, Michael Andrews at Wheelers Restaurant in Soho, London, 1963.
Although Timothy Behrens was one of the “School of London” artists, with Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud, he may be equally remembered for outselling a naked and pregnant supermodel, Kate Moss. He did not paint her; Freud did, selling the work, Naked Portrait, for £3.928 million at Christie’s in 2005. To the shock of the 200 people in the auction room that day, Red-Haired Man on a Chair, a 1962-63 portrait of Freud’s friend and fellow artist Behrens, fetched £4.152 million from an unknown buyer. It was a record price for a Freud.
Moss was said to have been rather miffed about being outshone in this way. As for Behrens, he was underwhelmed by his new-found fame. He was a painter, not a sitter. A fine bilingual poet and writer too. While he was part of the School of London in the late 1950s and early 1960s, which included Frank Auerbach, Michael Andrews and occasionally David Hockney, Behrens was a maverick, an outsider among outsiders. “The School of London never existed,” he said not long ago. “The term was invented by the media. We were just a group of guys who got together in Wheeler’s fish restaurant or the Colony Room [both in Soho], to drink. Simple as that.”
School of London was coined by another member of the group, the American artist RB Kitaj, who had adopted London as his home, and the media jumped on it. The acclaimed photographer John Deakin captured Behrens, Bacon, Freud, Auerbach and Andrews wet-lunching at Wheeler’s in Soho. When not there, they were usually in the Colony Room at 41 Dean Street, where they were known as Muriel’s Boys, after the club’s owner, Muriel Belcher. The “Boys” included other bibulous regulars such as Jeffrey Bernard, Peter O’Toole and George Melly.
ehrens, who spent the last third of his life in Galicia, northwest Spain, where he died, was a great painter in his own right. He kept his prices low as part of his social conscience. “Call me a member of the Galician or La Coruña School, rather than the School of London,” he told a Spanish newspaper. “It disgusts me that a painting can cost more than a house. Lucian wasn’t good and he knew himself he was a pedantic painter. I detested the way he painted. I still don’t like it. I always preferred Bacon, and especially Michael Andrews.”
A painting of Behrens by Andrews — Portrait of Timothy Behrens (1962, oil on cardboard), showing a young skinny Behrens in a doorway — is in the Thyssen-Bornemisza museum in Madrid. When Behrens’s own paintings went up for sale in Spain in recent years they were snapped up.
Timothy John Behrens was born in central London in 1937 to Michael, a Jewish banker from an old Hamburg family, and Felicity (née Arnold). He grew up in Hillingdon, west London, after the Blitz, because it was considered safer. His father, whom he nicknamed “Pooch,” got him into Eton, but he was determined to be an artist. As a child whose talents were seen as troubling, he was sent to see a psychologist. He skipped the session, smoked a packet of cigarettes on the train and went to the Slade School of Fine Art, of University College London, to show them some of his artwork. He was accepted and, aged 16 and the Slade’s youngest pupil, bade farewell to Eton.
His father was not amused. “Pooch really showed me my road in life because all I had to do was the opposite of anything he thought or did. I was always thinking, ‘Fuck you, you bastard.’ I used to dream, asleep or awake, of killing him that day. At breakfast he’d be reading The Times and I’d be thinking: ‘I could do it now, I could go up with my little knife.’ I thought him an incredibly stupid man and now I know it. He was a snob and a bigot, an antisemitic Jew.”
At the Slade, Freud became his tutor, friend and mentor. “He suggested I pose for him and I, 18 years old, was delighted to pose for a painter whose work was hanging in the Tate. There was a time when he protected me, but most of all there was a relation of friendship. He kind of adopted me, but later he cast me out of the nest, as birds do.” Behrens guessed their split may have been related to differences in their perception of the Jewish identity.
Behrens’s sittings, in Freud’s Paddington studio from 1962-63, resulted in Red-Haired Man on a Chair. At the time Behrens felt his uncomfortable, months-long pose was a sacrifice for the greater good of art. Later in life he was more cynical: “I’m a glorified hooligan. I drink plenty and, as you know, we English are famed throughout Europe as drunks who destroy bars.”
Shortly before he died Behrens was in his local bar, Calypso, in the Galician city of A Coruña, gazing out to sea and writing a poem. Those who knew him, which included most of the locals, went into mourning for the loss of the flamboyant, hard-drinking, red-haired English artist. To them he was a Van Gogh-like figure, although with a pirate-style black eye patch rather than an ear bandage. He had lost the sight in his right eye some years previously.
Behrens first married, in 1958, Janet Rheinberg, a fellow student at the Slade, and they had twin girls, Kate and Sophie. Janet died in 1963, Sophie died in 1985 and Kate is among his survivors. In 1963, he married Harriet Hill, daughter of an avant-garde bookseller in Curzon Street. They had two sons, Algy and Charlie, and a daughter, Fanny. In 1983 Behrens got married again, this time to the artist and printmaker Diana Aitchison, niece of the Scottish painter Craigie Aitchison, who was a fellow student and close friend of Behrens at the Slade. The couple met at Craigie’s home at Montecastelli in Tuscany, and they had a child, Harry. Diana survives Behrens, as do his sons, Algy, Charlie and Harry, and his daughters, Kate and Fanny, and his younger brother, Jonathan. Algy is a musician, teacher and artist; Charlie an artist and graphic designer; Kate a poet and writer; Harry a musician and artist; and Fanny a guide and mentor for people with emotional difficulties.
In 1988 Behrens wrote a book, The Monument, the tragic story of his younger brother, Justin, and Justin’s wife, Ursula, an art dealer ten years his senior. After they had lived a nomadic life together, Ursula committed suicide in Sudan in 1981 and a heartbroken Justin took his own life the next year.
According to Behrens’s son Charlie: “Tim was intellectual, a drinker and a rebellious spirit . . . He would play Devil’s advocate to the end. It was a kind of mischievousness, played straight, to see how people might react. His style of painting is fluid and idiosyncratic. He believed in not overcharging for his paintings. In fact, he undercharged.
“He once told me, ‘We’re not really making something much different to food. It shouldn’t be inflated like that, and I don’t like it being elitist, either. The trouble is that sometimes it antagonises your colleagues. It makes them annoyed, they think, what’s he doing, charging [low] prices like that? He’s just undermining us.’ ”
The locals in Galicia nicknamed him torero (bullfighter) and he called his studio his bullring. Often shirtless during the summer, he would hover, stare at his work and then make lunges for the canvas with the brush. “It did look a little like boxing,” said Charlie Behrens, “and the effect was that his brushstrokes would have a certain dynamism.” In Galicia, Behrens did not want to be just another expat, learning only enough Spanish to order una cerveza. He mastered the language and went on to write volumes of poetry in Spanish. “You can’t just learn a few words for use in restaurants,” he said. “You’ve got to learn to fucking perform in it.”
Timothy Behrens, artist, was born on June 2, 1937. He died of thrombosis on February 8, 2017, aged 79
Tim Behrens, artist – obituary
OBITUARIES | THE TELEGRAPH | 18 FEBRUARY 2017
Tim Behrens, Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, Frank Auerbach and Michael Andrews, having lunch at Wheelers Restaurant in Soho, 1963
Tim Behrens, who has died aged 79, was a painter and writer who in his youth promised to be as much a star of the London art world as his friends and drinking companions Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon; but he later rejected the British way of life and, hobbled at times by personal tragedy, lived from his thirties in obscurity abroad.
In 1963, John Deakin took a now-celebrated photograph of the group of painters later dubbed by RB Kitaj the “School of London”. Behrens sits beside his mentor Freud in it, the others lunching being Bacon, Frank Auerbach and Michael Andrews. Taken at Wheelers oyster bar in Soho, the image was posed – the cork is in the bottle and the glasses empty – and Behrens came to deny their having been a group with aims in common.
Yet the friendship was real, particularly with Freud, whom he saw every day for nine years. A decade older than Behrens, he came to be a substitute father figure – the younger painter hating his own parent – and Freud’s abrupt dissolution of their association in late 1964 shattered Behrens’s world.
They had met when Freud taught Behrens at the Slade. Thereafter they shared a flat for a time, caroused together in Soho – for Behrens a place that was “a school of ideas” – and played frenetic games of pinball. The red-headed Behrens was fierily competitive and never lost.
Once when they were together they bumped into a man who cheerily saluted Lucian. “Run!” Freud shouted, having head-butted the acquaintance. When Behrens had got his breath back, he asked how much Freud owed the man. “Fourteen,” came the reply. “Pounds?” asked Behrens. “Grand,” said Freud.
From the Mephistophelean Freud, Behrens acknowledged, he learned to fill every centimetre of canvas with emotional energy. He said that Freud admitted that he lacked natural talent and compensated for it with intensity of effort. The painters gave each other pictures and Behrens sat for Freud in several portraits during the period in which Freud’s art was evolving into the more vigorous, free-flowing style that would characterise his maturity. In 2005, by which time Freud had become arguably Britain’s most famous living artist, one of his portraits of Behrens sold for a near-record £4.1 million.
So close were they that some assumed they must be in a relationship. As it was, they often went out with the same girls. Freud also shared his contacts in the art world. In 1959, Behrens had the first of three one-man shows at the avant-garde Beaux Arts gallery in London, where Bacon, Auerbach and Andrews had had exhibitions.
Behrens always termed himself a figurative painter. His pictures at the time had a detached, dream-like quality much influenced by Balthus, whose painting The Card Game was owned by his father. Yet in the mid-Sixties his life suddenly altered its seemingly pre-ordained direction.
To Freud’s biographer, Geordie Greig, he said that the cause of his rift with Freud was his attraction to someone who looked like his first wife, shortly after she had died in an accident, although the evidence for this is debatable. He himself never revealed to friends why Freud had broken with him, who overstepped what mark, albeit Freud was to repeat the pattern with others.
The Beaux Arts having closed, Behrens let a lucrative contract with the Marlborough Gallery fall through, moved his family to rural Italy, and swapped painting in oil for acrylic. He later confessed that he did not much like the results, though the change was cathartic. While he remained ambitious for recognition, that was rather harder away from the self-regarding gaze of the London art market and without an entrée to his former circle of friends. “I was a deserter,” he mused in 2003, “and deserters don’t get easily forgiven.”
Timothy John Behrens was born in London on June 2 1937. His father Michael was a City financier who later co-owned The Ionian Bank. He was also a collector of beautiful things, among them art and women; his affair in the late Forties with Elizabeth Jane Howard led her to use him as the model for the protagonist of her novel The Long View (1956).
Although Tim was close to his mother Felicity – his two brothers were much younger – he came to hold a violent dislike for his unbending father. His parents’ London home was in a Nash terrace by Regent’s Park. In 1949, however, they bought Culham Court, an imposing Georgian house and estate bordering the Thames near Henley (now owned by the Swiss billionaire Urs Schwarzenbach).
There Michael entertained artistic friends including Hugh Casson and Edward Ardizzone. Seeing some youthful paintings of Tim’s, Matthew Smith said that he should be encouraged, while Tim took as his model for a bohemian life another visitor, the artist Bateson Mason.
Although good at games and at Latin, Tim did not find Eton– or at least its ambience – sympathetic, and though Michael Behrens had even bought the influential Hanover Gallery from Arthur Jeffress he opposed his son’s artistic intentions.
Suffering from anxiety, Tim began to be sent once a week from school to London to see a psychologist. Naturally, he bunked off and explored the city, learning to smoke Woodbines on the journey back. On one trip, he took his drawings to the Slade and, at 17, was the youngest student admitted.
His contemporaries included Paula Rego and Euan Uglow, while he became lifelong friends there with Craigie Aitchison. With the cartoonist Nicholas Garland he shared a flat rented from the former tutor to Tsar Nicholas II’s children. Nicholas Gibbes had been with them almost until their murders and, having become a Greek Orthodox priest in their memory, kept the house as a shrine to them.
Behrens first married a fellow student, Janet Rheinberg. Their parents had refused them permission to wed and, when they ran away to Gretna Green, they found the police waiting. Craigie Aitchison drove the getaway car.
Although the couple had twin daughters, the marriage did not endure long. Some years after they had split up, Jan had a fatal reaction to a wasp sting while holidaying in Turkey. By then, in 1963, Behrens had married Harriet Hill, daughter of the bookseller Heywood Hill.
While staying in Tuscany with friends – Matthew Spender, the sculptor, and his painter wife Maro – they saw a ruined farmhouse near Siena and decided on the spur of the moment to buy it. They raised the twins and their first two children there (Behrens enjoying sojourns in the hills where he drank and played ping-pong in rustic dives) but they divorced in 1979 and returned to London. Then Behrens was hit by two further blows: the suicides of his youngest brother, Justin, and his twin daughter, Soph. He wrote a book about his brother’s death, The Monument (1988), and for much of the Eighties he stopped painting.
He had done some commissions, however, for the well-connected Spanish decorator Jaime Parladé and, having explored the country with his third wife Diana – a painter and niece of Craigie Aitchison – whom he married in 1983, settled in Galicia.
He and the people of La Coruña took each other to heart and he even began to compose poetry in Spanish. When he returned to painting in the Nineties, once again in oil, his shows sold out quickly. He had retrospectives both in La Coruña and Madrid – the city whose Thyssen collection houses his portrait by Mike Andrews.
By turns rambunctious and intellectual, shocking and conventional, Behrens was an enriching, mischievous, seductive and often tumultuous presence in the lives of those who knew and held him dear. He worked at his painting tirelessly, lunging at his canvas like a bullfighter, although latterly he was handicapped by a piratical eyepatch.
He was irritated by the supposed link between talent and price in the art market and thought that paintings should be an everyday commodity like food. Every so often, someone would ask whether he was not the painter who had belonged to the School of London.
“No,” he would say. “I haven’t lived in London for a long time. I prefer to belong to the School of La Coruña.”
He is survived by a daughter of his first marriage, a daughter and two sons of the second, and by his third wife and their son.
Tim Behrens, born June 2 1937, died February 8 2017
Francis Bacon painting goes on show at Barber Institute
Gallery at the University of Birmingham is showcasing a Bacon work for the first time
By TAMLYN JONES | BIRMINGHAM MAIL | 14 FEBRUARY 2017
A painting by renowned artist Francis Bacon has gone on display in Birmingham.
The Barber Institute of Fine Arts is showing Two Figures in a Room, 1959 for the next six weeks at its gallery on the University of Birmingham campus in Edgbaston.
The Barber does not own a work by him and no example has ever been exhibited there previously.
Two Figures in a Room has been lent to the Barber by the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts at the University of East Anglia - only the second time it has been shown publicly in the UK outside the centre since 1962.
The painting is a disquieting image from Bacon's middle years, one of a series of similar composition
The Barber said the faceless figures may be read as two lovers, apparently both men, a daring and provocative image to paint at a time when homosexual acts between men in private were still illegal in the UK.
Works by Matisse and Degas featuring bathers, and even the Michelangelo sculpture Crouching Boy, have been suggested as sources for the two figures, the institute says.
Two Figures in a Room joins Frank Auerbach's Primrose Hill - Winter (1981/2) - the only painting in the Barber collection by a living artist - also on display in the Red Gallery.
Deputy director Robert Wenley said: "Both juxtapositions emphasise the continuity of the European painting tradition and the continuing relevance of historic art to modern and contemporary artists."
The painting is on display until March 26
Two Figures in a Room, 1959, by Francis Bacon goes on display at The Barber Institute of Fine Arts
The Art of Rivalry - when Bacon met Freud and other creative friendships
How Picasso became pals with Matisse and why Manet slashed a Degas … all in Sebastian Smee’s study of painter friends
Anthony Quinn | The Guardian | Friday 3 February 2017
Admiration and anxiety … Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud in 1974.
In the end, the true artist goes it alone, no matter what the promptings of advisers, critics, friends. Especially those friends who are artists themselves, for without even knowing it they may also be your rivals. It’s not that the competitive impulse hardwired into so much artistic enterprise is necessarily a harmful one. It might be the thing that drives you on, that piques what this new book describes as “the yearning to be unique, original, inimitable”. But it is just as well to assume the brace position when the ambition of the artist collides with the duty of friendship.
The Art of Rivalry selects four pairs of artists who were also pals and investigates the streams of influence that flowed between each pair. Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon, Degas and Manet, Picasso and Matisse, Pollock and and Willem de Kooning are led into the ring like prizefighters, each eyeballing the other in a posthumous contest of achievement. Art being an unpredictable and often indecipherable commodity, it isn’t clear what conclusions the book is leading us towards. What Sebastian Smee does essentially is to reformulate familiar material – biography, art history, gossip – by viewing it through the prism of a close friendship. Perhaps the most enjoyable of the pairings is Bacon and Freud, because the ambivalence between them feels so awkward and profound. The earliest battleground of their friendship was Freud's exquisite 1952 portrait of Bacon, painted on copper plate in a series of sittings close enough for artist and subject to be touching knees. Mesmerising, memorable, utterly modern, the picture pierced to the very core of Bacon’s volatile nature, somehow giving his face, in Robert Hughes's great phrase, “the silent intensity of a grenade in the millisecond before it goes off”. Sadly it was stolen from the wall of a German museum in 1988 and has never been recovered.
What attracts one artist to another in this account is more than a matter of professional admiration. It is the magnetic force of personality, of daring to be one’s own man. Freud once said of Bacon, “His work impressed me, but his personality affected me.” He envied the older man’s social charm and gregariousness as well as his ruthless attitude to his work (Bacon would destroy whatever he considered unsatisfactory). A century earlier, in Paris, Manet’s sense of passionate conviction would inspire Degas to cultivate a similar boldness of outlook. In the early days of their friendship Picasso, the uncertain expatriate, was struck by the self-possession and ease of Matisse. De Kooning, who called his friend Pollock “the painting cowboy”, was beguiled by the younger man’s outlandishness, his sense of freedom, and his “desperate joy”. Temperament was as much a subject of emulation as technique.
Smee is good on the sense of these friendships as a two-horse race. When one of them enjoys a coup or some kind of breakthrough, you feel the other man brood and take stock: how did he do that? It is not about admiration expressed through gritted teeth – there seems a genuine urge to absorb the other’s example, and then adapt it. Under Bacon’s influence, Freud quit drawing for years to explore the possibilities of paint. In time, it would enable his “mature” style and catapult him into the firmament of international masters. But it’s when the glaze of amity begins to crack that the reader’s interest quickens. Matisse regarded Picasso “almost as a younger brother”, encouraging him, introducing him to family and friends. When offered a gift from Matisse’s studio, Picasso asked for the portrait of his daughter Marguerite, an unusual choice given Picasso’s own struggle with fatherhood: he had recently returned his 13-year-old adopted daughter to the orphanage. He kept the picture all of his life, yet it didn’t prevent him one night – in a stew of resentment towards Matisse – firing toy arrows at it.
Influence, as we know, can create anxiety. While there is pleasure in falling under another’s spell, there comes the countervailing impulse to protect your own identity – “to push back”, in Smee’s phrase. It provokes strange behaviour. One of the famous stories here is of Degas’s 1868-69 portrait of Manet and his wife, Suzanne. As a portrait of a marriage it revealed rather more than Manet liked – the wife absorbed at her piano, the husband sprawled in a pose of bored distraction, perhaps dreaming of another woman. When Degas later visited Manet’s studio, he noticed that the painting he had given the couple had suffered an assault: the canvas had been slashed with a knife through Suzanne’s face. The culprit turned out to be Manet himself, for reasons unknown. They stayed friends, but it marked a break. Degas, one-time protege, had ambushed the master and asserted his independence. “A picture is something that requires as much trickery, malice and vice as the perpetration of a crime,” he once said – and he should know.
In the last months of his life, Jackson Pollock fell in with a younger woman, an artist named Ruth Kligman. She was the only survivor of the car crash that killed Pollock and another friend. Within a year De Kooning, the dead man’s friend and rival, himself began a relationship with Kligman, which lasted seven years – yet when Kligman later wrote a memoir, it was about her time with Pollock. The connection endured: in 1963, De Kooning moved to a house opposite the cemetery where Pollock was buried. It is a tale twisted enough for a Hitchcock movie.
Smee doesn’t have any new material, but he shuffles the pack of familiar stories with dexterity and enthusiasm. His prose, spruce and well-mannered for the most part, suffers minor lapses here and there. He writes “impunity” when he means “impudence”, “a burr in the side” is surely meant to be “a thorn” and so on. He gets the year of Freud’s death wrong, and is perhaps the only man in the world who thinks the Titanic went down in 1913 – a few small blemishes to be painted out when the paperback comes round. As a study of the dynamics of friendship between artists it offers some useful lessons, not the least of them in the tension that may inform every friendship: the longing to be close against the need to stand apart.
The Art of Rivalry: Four Friendships, Betrayals and Breakthroughs in Modern Art is published by Profile.
Francis Bacon: a Brush With Violence
Rachel Cooke | New Statesman | 2 February 2017
Beauty is the thing right now, isn’t it? All I want to do is to sink down into music, novels, art. On which note, the documentary Francis Bacon: a Brush With Violence (28 January, 9pm) seemed to me to be mistitled – and not only because of the woeful pun. Beauty, I say, not violence. The biographer John Richardson, a friend of the artist, said it best at the end of the film, when he suggested that these days people think of Bacon almost as a religious painter, the disgust that trailed his earliest big shows in the 1940s having long since dissipated. Gazing at the paintings, you feel as someone might have done in the 16th century on catching sight of a pietà. What I get from Bacon’s work is an other-worldliness: a transporting, almost paralysing sense of awe. The filth and brutality are almost beside the point.
This is not to criticise Richard Curson Smith’s gossipy but never prurient film. It was incredibly good, elegantly combining footage of Bacon – whose voice always startles me by sounding of the drawing room rather than the gutter – with some transfixing talking heads. Listening to Richardson was thrilling. (“Everything was torn, everything was dirty, everything was . . . wonderful,” he said of Bacon’s studio.)
The same was true of another friend, Nadine Haim. She had never been his subject, she noted, an unfiltered cigarette in her hand. But were he alive now, perhaps her wrinkles would – at this she laughed, darkly – encourage him to take up his brush.
Rather less compelling were the Bacon-fryer-in-chief, his biographer Michael Peppiatt, who fell back on all the old Jekyll and Hyde clichés; and Damien Hirst, still stupidly insistent in the matter of his kinship with the master.
Only one thing spoiled the drama for me. Why are film-makers so afraid of silence and so determined to avoid it by using music? Quiet was badly needed here: moments in which, some terrible biographical truth or infelicity having been uttered, we might have paused to take it all in.
Francis Bacon: A Brush with Violence
Sam Wollaston | Last night's TV | The Guardian | Monday 30 January 2017
This is more BBC2, more Reithian – Francis Bacon: A Brush with Violence (BBC2, Saturday). But also a ton of fun because of the fabulousness of the contributors – not just biographers and critics but drinking mates, neighbours, gallery workers, lovers, wannabe lovers, didnawannabe lovers, doctors, disciples, pop stars, actors, hangers on – and their stories. Insiders from that world with a brilliant way of talking about the extraordinary as if it was quite normal.
John Richardson remembers Bacon’s blind nanny, who slept on the kitchen table, and organised the drugs and the gambling parties, until she died. Bacon’s partner, Peter Lacy, regularly used to beat Francis up, something he actively encouraged and enjoyed, says Michael Peppiatt. Lord Gowrie had a very nice girlfriend at the time, who was vegetarian, but she converted under Gowrie’s tutelage, to meat, though never to Bacon, hahaha. Francis used to pick Marianne Faithfull up from the wall on which she lived and took heroin after splitting up from Mick, and he’d take her to Wheelers, which was wonderful because she could warm up and eat and they’d have a good natter … etc. Everyone drank, gambled, hit each other and tied each other up. And killed themselves, which had to be covered up until after the exhibition.
It is – and they are – ghastly and terrifying, as well as brilliant. And it makes sense that a world of some light and a lot of darkness – and both tenderness and brutality – should be the one from which Bacon’s paintings came.
Remembering John Hurt and the Colony Room
Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world.
Rakewell | APOLLO | 1 February 2017
It was with great sadness that Rakewell learned of the passing of actor John Hurt, star of Alien, The Elephant Man and much more. Hurt, whom the Rake encountered propping up the bar of the French House with a glass of tonic on more than one occasion, came to London in the ’50s to study as an art student. Aside from the fateful afternoon on which Hurt first encountered Quentin Crisp, whom he would twice portray on screen, and who was the model in one of his life drawing classes, St Martin’s did not contribute greatly to his future thespian success. But this is not to suggest it was the limit to his ties with the art world.
As art students were supposed to do in those days, Hurt fell under the spell of the boho set of Soho’s Colony Room club. Quickly becoming a regular at the infamous dive bar, which from 1948 fostered three generations of artists. According to some testimony, Hurt was ‘most often seen at The Colony falling down its staircase’.
But reminiscing about the bar when it finally closed in 2008, Quietus editor John Doran remembered quite differently: ‘The first time I ascended those stairs I nearly got knocked back down again by John Hurt who was being helped on his way by alcohol, gravity and a gentle push from some burly chaps, who shouted after him: “Fuck off!”’
Nevertheless, Hurt made many friends among the Colony’s clientele, not least founding member Francis Bacon. Indeed, according to artist Mark Clark, when the great painter had fleeting ambitions to direct a film in the 1980s, he was adamant that Hurt should star in it. Alas, the picture was never realised, but speaking to the Telegraph in 2015, Hurt reminisced about another encounter with Bacon.
Walking into the Colony one afternoon, Hurt found Bacon sitting alone, reading the newspaper. ‘“Mmmm,” said Bacon. “When Pablo [Picasso] dies, I’ll be Number One.”’
O caso do roubo de cinco obras de Bacon continua a somar detidos – mais três
Pinturas no valor de 25 milhões de euros continuam em parte incerta.
PÚBLICO | 31 de Janerio de 2017
O roubo de cinco pinturas de Francis Bacon em Madrid, em 2015, continua a somar detenções quase dois anos após o sucedido. O El País noticia esta terça-feira que foram detidos mais três suspeitos pelo furto das cinco obras, que estão avaliadas em cerca de 25 milhões de euros. Sobe assim para dez o número de detenções relacionadas com o caso, que constitui o maior roubo de arte contemporânea alguma vez realizado em Espanha.
As pinturas, subtraídas da residência do coleccionador e amigo do pintor britânico José Capelo no Verão de 2015, terão sido roubadas por um grupo especializado no assalto a casas, ao qual pertenceriam os agora detidos. A operação levou à detenção de outros suspeitos de envolvimento neste tipo de furto e também à apreensão de material diverso, desde fardas de empresas de telecomunicações a armas e munições.
O caso foi inicialmente revelado pelo El País, que contou detlhadamente uma história cujo fim, independentemente das detenções, não estará próximo – as pinturas continuam desaparecidas, embora a investigação tenha apurado que os assaltantes tentaram vendê-las em várias ocasiões. Os suspeitos detidos no ano passado estão agora em liberdade condicional.
Spanish police arrest three in £19m Bacon art heist
Graham Keeley, Madrid | The Times | January 31 2017
One of the portraits stolen from the home of a Spanish financier in a raid described by police as “worthy of a Hollywood movie”
Spanish police have arrested three men in connection with the theft of five paintings by Francis Bacon worth £21 million.
Police raided six homes in the Madrid region and seized a gun, ammunition, manuals for cracking safes, laser devices and oxy-fuel cylinders used to cut metal. Officers said that the suspects were “directly linked” to the robbery and were part of a gang which burgled homes across Spain. They were detained last Thursday but officials only released the information today.
In July 2015 portraits and landscapes by Bacon were stolen from a house in an affluent neighbourhood of the Spanish capital in a break-in police described as “worthy of a Hollywood movie”.
The thieves observed the movements of the home owner and waited until he was away before they struck, disabling the alarm system at the house, which is near the Spanish parliament. Security staff at the building and neighbours did not notice anyone entering or leaving with the stolen works of art.
The thieves, who also took a safe containing coins and jewels, left no trace inside. The stolen paintings were bequeathed by Bacon to his close friend José Capelo Blanco, a Spanish financier. Among the stolen works of art is a portrait of Mr Capelo.
Seven men were arrested last May after a tip-off from a British company that tracks stolen art. The London-based company had received an email from a man living in Sitges, near Barcelona, with images of one of the stolen paintings. The man inquired if the painting was on a list of stolen works of art.
The British company passed the information to a specialised unit of the Spanish police which deals in art thefts. Detectives tracked down the company that had leased the camera used to take the photographs of the stolen painting and details of the customer who hired the equipment. The man who allegedly took the photographs was arrested at his home with another man. None of the paintings has been recovered. The theft is one of the biggest art heists in Spain in recent years.
Mr Capelo Blanco, 61, inherited the works when Bacon died in Madrid in 1992. He was in London when the theft at his home occurred. Mr Capelo met Bacon at a party in honour of the choreographer Frederick Ashton, when the artist was 78 years old. Mr Capelo went on to pose for Bacon for a 1987 portrait and a 1991 triptych, which is part of the collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Francis Bacon: A Brush with Violence
Saturday night’s barnstorming Francis Bacon documentary was a savagely intimate biography
Andrew Billen | TV Review | The Times | January 30 2017
Francis Bacon: A Brush with
The artist Francis Bacon was a tormented and tormenting man. Photo: Peter Stark, 1975
In a brief career detour as this paper’s arts correspondent, I crossed paths regularly with Margaret Thatcher’s gentlemanly arts minister Richard Luce. An experienced Foreign Office hand, he found himself on a tough learning curve when it came to the arts. One day he told me he would like to meet Francis Bacon, just to ask him why his paintings were so unpleasant.
I hope he saw Saturday’s Francis Bacon: A Brush with Violence. All was revealed. This was a barnstorming arts documentary that paid no lip service to the notion that we need to know about an artist’s technique to understand his work. Impeccably sourced from interviews with Bacon’s friends and colleagues and from interviews with the man himself, Richard Curson Smith assembled a savagely intimate biography of a tormented and tormenting man.
The cruelty of his work was no pose, no intellectual reaction to the war. It painted instead the heady horror of his sex life, starting in the stables of his childhood home in Ireland, where the grooms, on his father’s orders, beat him and then, presumably on their own initiative, buggered him. Lord Gowrie, Luce’s predecessor as arts minister, traced his weirdness to those days. The biographer John Richardson thought he was born a “through-and-through masochist”. Who knows? The die was cast.
As an adult, Bacon’s first great love was a soberly dressed but sadistic former Spitfire pilot who threw the artist through a plate-glass window, causing him only to love him more. After they parted, the pilot took revenge by killing himself, or so the artist believed, on the day Bacon’s first big retrospective opened.
His last lover was an East End thug called George Dyer, who turned out to be disappointingly gentle, a crime for which he was excoriated in portraits that cut off parts of his face. Yet it was Bacon who committed the literal crime. When Dyer died on the lavatory in the Paris hotel they were staying in, the artist connived in keeping the body hidden for two days lest it spoil the opening of his exhibition.
Yet Bacon remained capable of great and non-sexual friendships, and of acts of kindness, such as lunching Marianne Faithfull when, post Jagger, she was living rough. I spoke to him only once, when the newsdesk asked me to check out a rumour he had died. Somehow, I got his number. He was very polite, and sorry he could not help me “on this occasion”.
Bacon's nanny knew best how to source drugs and gay lovers
Richard Brooks, Arts Editor | The Sunday Times | Sunday, 29 January 2017
Francis Bacon was heartbroken when Jessie Lightfoot died
By any standards, Jessie Lightfoot was no ordinary nanny. She cared for the artist Francis Bacon during his childhood in Ireland and then in later years became his drug dealer, the organiser of his gambling parties and even his pimp.
The extraordinary influence of Lightfoot on Bacon — regarded as the most influential artist of the second half of the 20th century — is revealed in a documentary to be broadcast next Saturday on BBC2.
Sir John Richardson, the art historian, got to know Bacon immediately after the Second World War while living with his mother in Kensington, opposite the artist’s home. “He lived like no one else in the world,” says Richardson in the documentary, Francis Bacon — A Brush with Violence.
“I would go there often. There were a lot of incredibly strong cocktails, so you got plastered pretty quick. Then Nanny would appear and say, ‘Would anybody like something to smoke?’ And this didn’t mean Player’s cigarettes.
“She was totally blind. How on earth she cooked, and how she knew what she was doing, I don’t know. She organised the gambling parties he gave.” Lightfoot also placed adverts in local shops asking for “a gentleman’s gentleman” — a euphemism for young lovers for the gay Bacon.
Nanny Lightfoot then went with Bacon to live in the south of France but died in 1951. “Francis was heartbroken,” according to Richardson. “She was his adviser. She ran his life, and so after her death he had to depend on himself.”
Later, when Bacon was living in Reece Mews in South Kensington, the actor Terence Stamp, who was famed for roles in Billy Budd and Far from the Madding Crowd, got to know him through a mutual friend, the musicals composer Lionel Bart.
“Lionel, who lived very close to Bacon, told me that in his kitchen were loads of pictures of me,” Stamp recalls.
“He then told Lionel that the two handsomest men in the world were Terence Stamp and Colonel Gadaffi. And I thought Gadaffi would give him a good hiding.”
Stamp, decidedly heterosexual, got to know Bacon well and would often visit him at his home.
The singer Marianne Faithfull, who had a relationship with Mick Jagger in the 1960s, also recalls her gratitude to Bacon for taking her out when she was in a bad way on drugs after her split from the singer.
“Francis would take me to Wheeler’s [a restaurant in Soho] and feed me,” she says.
Francis Bacon: A Brush With Violence, BBC Two
Portrait of the artist as disaster
Adam Sweeting | The Arts Desk | Reviews | Sunday, 29 January 2017
Francis Bacon: 'His work can be seen as a search for God'
Francis Bacon died in April 1992, aged 82, but heaven knows how he managed to live that long. The tortuous story of his life is now fairly well known, but Richard Curson Smith's documentary marshalled a formidable array of critics, biographers and celebs including Marianne Faithfull, Damien Hirst and Terence Stamp to create a portrait of a man capable of effervescent wit and charm, yet fuelled from within by a monstrous darkness.
The film lit the blue touch paper by looking at Bacon's Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, which, when exhibited in London in 1945, did little to enhance any sense of euphoria at the prospect of a Nazi-free world. Critics and public were shaken by Bacon’s ghastly, misshapen figures, which may look to us now like antecedents of HR Giger’s appalling Alien. Nonetheless, it was clear that a major talent was on the loose, and horror and pain would become familiar traits in his work (below, Bacon's Study for a Self-Portrait – Triptych, 1985-86).
In this telling, Bacon’s progress resembled a mashed-up narrative concocted by the Marquis de Sade, Edgar Allan Poe and Joe Orton. His life could almost be seen as a kind of diabolical experiment, designed to explore ways in which psychological damage can be used as the raw material of artistic genius. His father, Captain Eddy Bacon, was a Boer War veteran and racehorse trainer, who apparently used to order his stable boys to whip his son. Young Francis, meanwhile, admitted to feeling a sexual attraction to his father and enjoyed homosexual romps with the aforesaid grooms (“buggaring in the barn” as Lord Gowrie, one of the talking heads, put it).
He ended up for a time in Weimar Berlin, chaperoned by an exploitative bisexual friend of his father, then moved to Paris, where a Picasso exhibition made a deep impression on him. Back in London, he moved into John Everett Millais’s old house in South Kensington (partially bombed), where he held riotous gambling parties and was attended by his childhood nanny, Jessie Lightfoot. Although blind and forced to sleep on the kitchen table, Nanny Lightfoot diligently supplied visitors with cannabis.
Though we saw scenes of the convivial, bon viveur Bacon (bearing an odd resemblance to Dudley Moore), sometimes babbling enthusiastically in fluent though thoroughly Anglified French, his emotional life was driven by his masochistic urges. He fell into an arduous love affair with ex-Spitfire pilot and sadist Peter Lacy, who beat him mercilessly and (as one contributor recalled) once hurled the artist through a second-floor window. In later years he became infatuated with George Dyer, an East End criminal and acquaintance of the Krays, but instead of the brutal, dominant lover Bacon wanted, the disappointing Dyer was a borderline alcoholic who suffered from erectile dysfunction.
Yet Dyer’s suicide in Paris in 1971, as Bacon launched a major exhibition at the Grand Palais, shocked the artist deeply, and prompted some of his most powerful work including the “Black Triptychs”, which fixated on the Dyer suicide in agonising close-up. Artist and friend Maggi Hambling, in one of several astute comments, noted how it was almost considered “a dirty habit” to go and look at Bacon’s paintings, and also pointed out how he defied the prevailing tides of abstract expressionism and “American stuff” to concentrate on depictions of the human body. Bacon’s instinct proved unerring, as his legacy of screaming popes and crucifixion scenes, Figure with Meat, the Study for a Self-Portrait – Triptych, 1985-86 and his sequence of late landscapes attests.
In the end, could some sort of salvation be dragged from the wreckage? Hambling suggested that “his work can be seen as a search for God,” while art critic John Richardson reckoned that Bacon is now seen “almost as a religious painter”. He certainly wouldn’t have been deterred by the prospect of flagellation and crucifixion.
Francis Bacon: A Brush With Violence was a riotous ride but didn’t quite get the full picture
Jeff Robson | Television | News | Saturday 28 January 2017
The documentary portrayed a fascinating, but ultimately elusive, personality
As Amazon launched its lavish treatment of the Zelda Fitzgerald story, another tortured artist got the full-blown BBC documentary treatment.
BBC2’s Francis Bacon: A Brush with Violence focused on the life and work of the man who, 25 years after his death remains one of the most fascinating and sought-after British painters, as much known for his riotous private life as his rawly disturbing canvases.
It assembled a fine array of talking heads and contemporary footage, but didn’t tell me much I didn’t know already – the “block of ice” childhood in Ireland, the Soho carousing, the violent and/or low-life boyfriends who fulfilled a sado-masochistic urge.
Impossible to make dull
It’s a story that’s impossible to make dull and there were a feast of choice quotes and reminiscences – Bacon described how one painting arose when he “started off trying to do a gorilla” and Marianne Faithfull matter-of-factly described how they became friends because he “walked past the wall where I was living” every day.
But I’d have liked to known more about his working methods and the influences which enabled him to combine the classical figurative tradition with an abstract vividness and savagery in works that still look groundbreaking – and unnerving – 70 years on.
In the end his true personality remained elusive, subsumed into the image of the charming, eccentric bon vivant. Which, I suspect, is exactly how he would have wanted it.
Francis Bacon - A Brush with Violence
BBC MEDIA CENTRE | Saturday 28 January 2017
BBC 2 | 9 pm | 1 hour, 19 minutes
Francis Bacon was the loudest, rudest, drunkest and most sought-after British artist of the 20th century.
Francis Bacon was the loudest, rudest, drunkest, most sought after British artist of the 20th century. 25 years after his death, his canvases regularly exceed £40million at auction. Bacon's appeal is rooted in his notoriety - a candid image he presented of himself as Roaring Boy, Lord of Misrule and Conveyor of Artistic Violence.
This was true enough, but only part of the truth. He carefully cultivated the facade, protecting the complex and haunted man behind the myth. In this unique, compelling film, those who knew him speak freely, some for the first time, to reveal the many mysteries of Francis Bacon.
Contributors include Michael Peppiatt, Nadine Haim, John Richardson, Marianne Faithfull, Terence Stamp, Grey Gowrie, Maggi Hambling, Paul Brass and Martin Harrison.
Saturday's best TV: Francis Bacon - A Brush with Violence
9pm, BBC 2
A revealing documentary profiles the hellraising painter
The Guardian | Saturday 28 January 2017
Since his death in 1992, Francis Bacon has come to be regarded as among the greatest of 20th-century British painters, his violently figurative artwork timelessly unnerving. He was also something of a Soho hellraiser, a “Lord Of Misrule”. This, however, was a facade, to protect his truer, more complex private self, as this revealing documentary shows. Contributors include Marianne Faithfull, Terence Stamp, Maggi Hambling and Damien Hirst. David Stubbs
John Hurt interview: 'alcoholic is a silly word'
In this interview, which originally ran on December 15, 2015, John Hurt talks to Gaby Wood about gossiping, his battle with cancer, and the irresistible allure of Soho in the Fifties
Gaby Wood | Culture | The Telegraph | Saturday 28 January 2017
Hurt in The Elephant Man
Before I meet John Hurt, the PR who has set up the interview informs me that there is one subject I absolutely must not ask him about. In fact, she suggests, he’s so loath to talk about it that it’s more or less a condition of my meeting him. Please can I promise not to mention his cancer? After a brief discussion of what sort of thing might be considered invasive, we agree that I am allowed to ask him how he’s feeling.
That afternoon, a buoyant Hurt tells me, seconds after shaking my hand, that he’s just come from a treatment. "I'm completely in remission," he says, as if we were here to celebrate the fact - and perhaps we are, or should be. He orders a black coffee and a glass of red wine. Far from being reluctant, Hurt is only too keen to tell me about his new lease of life. Who wouldn't be? After being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer earlier this year, he underwent a hefty six-month therapy; he now has gentler, preventative treatments once a fortnight, and thinks even his oncologist is surprised he’s clear.
Hurt says he feels better now than he did before he was ill. And although he had to accept quite quickly that he had “a nasty one”, it never occurred to him that it wouldn’t disappear. “People say it’s the attitude. But I don’t put on an attitude. I just knew it wasn’t supposed to be there. You think: well, supposing it hadn’t gone away - people would just think you were in denial and rather silly. Just like footballers, when they take a long shot and it goes nowhere near the goal, people say: oh well how ridiculous, such an ambitious shot from such a long way out. But if it goes in, they say: what a goal!!” At this, Hurt propels himself out of his armchair like a rabid football fan, laughing and cheering with all his chesty voice.
If confirmation were needed, it might be found in Hurt’s thoroughly dapper dress sense. Today he's wearing a charcoal tweed ensemble, with a flat cap and a faint herringbone pattern in his sharp-lapelled jacket. There’s a pale grey paisley shirt, proper braces with leather trim, and round tortoiseshell glasses. The whole look suggests the Artful Dodger has grown up and turned into James Joyce.
Hurt is now 75, and over a career that began in the first years of the 1960s, he has played a vast range of roles on large and small screens, from a flame-haired and florid Quentin Crisp and the proud, disfigured Elephant Man to a balding, drug-addicted prisoner and a spaceship captain impregnated by an alien. He’s not averse to fun – children of all ages will remember him as the man who sells Harry Potter his first wand, and his unmistakably gravelly voice in the Seventies animations of Watership Down and Lord of the Rings. But he has also played something more consistent: variations on a particular sort of buttoned-up Brit with an unreadable hinterland and an incalculable proximity to power – whether it’s a well-connected doctor (Stephen Ward in Scandal), a Tory MP (the eponymous hero of Alan Clark’s Diaries), or the head of the British Intelligence service (in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy).
After a childhood he describes as being governed by fear – his father was a vicar, and he was "beaten and thrashed" at school – Hurt came to London as an art student. He knew it wasn’t what he wanted to do, but St Martin’s School of Art was on Charing Cross Road, and the nearest place to get a drink was Soho. There, in the late Fifties, he found a world that was "more sympatico than anything I’d ever met in any church ever”. Alcohol released his mind “from religion, from the Fifties, from the Forties", and although it’s often said that drink contributed to the breakdown of some of Hurt’s marriages (he is now on number four), he says he has never been an alcoholic. "I think those are silly terms," he suggests. "To my generation the jokes were: 'Are you a drunk? No, I can’t drink enough.’ The word was 'dipsomaniac'."
Soho, he says was "the first place that I put my trust in". "The place was stacked with talent, and basically good feeling for people. They weren’t there to bring each other down." He spent time with the artists: Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach, the two Scottish Roberts, MacBryde and Colquhoun. (Hurt still paints – "in fact," he says, "it's rather more important than acting”.) One afternoon, after “the morning session, as we called it”, Hurt found Bacon on his own at the Colony Room, reading the papers. Or almost on his own – the formidable landlady Muriel Belcher was sitting in the corner “like a spider.” “Mmmm,” said Bacon, apropos of nothing, "When Pablo [Picasso] dies, I'll be Number One."
Hurt’s impersonation of Bacon is impeccably camp. He interrupts himself to laugh at it. "You see, I can’t do the difference between him and Quentin Crisp, I'm afraid. They all come out the same, these queens!”
Another friend was Jeffrey Bernard, whom Hurt played this past summer in a Radio 4 adaptation of Keith Waterhouse's play, Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell. Hurt says he was offered the lead in the original 1989 West End production before Peter O’Toole, but turned it down. “I think the original play missed the danger of it,” he remembers. “It might have been the way I was when I read it – you never know. But it seemed to me that it was too funny. It IS a little on the flippant side. But somehow, as the years have gone by, and when I did it for the radio, it worked.”
Our conversation strays – into quips about his age (“The portrait has fallen from the attic, heftily”); regrets that he hasn’t served his own sons (now 25 and 22) well enough because his marriage to their mother broke down; his contention that Ian McKellen wrecked his performance as Hamlet, back in 1978, “by silliness”. The PR offers a final, nervous prompt to say something about The Last Panthers, and requests that we not give away the ending. “Don’t worry darling,” Hurt pipes up, “I can’t remember it!” He turns to me. “I’m the worst gossip in town,” he says, as if the previous hour had not passed in reminiscence, “I remember nothing.”
A spoonful of brown sugar
The Sunday Times | January 22 2017
The idea that Mary Poppins was the perfect nanny must infuriate childcare professionals. As we know from the film, she not only takes her children to dance with chimney sweeps on the rooftops of London — contravening all the latest thinking about the safety and welfare of young people — but she also offers unregulated financial advice that causes a run on the banks.
Yet it seems there was a nanny who was even more mischievous and irresponsible. A BBC documentary will reveal this week that Jessie Lightfoot, nanny to the artist Francis Bacon, looked after him into adulthood, supplying him with drugs, arranging gambling parties and organising his love life.
A nanny is for life. Winston Churchill never forgot Elizabeth Everest, who cared for him as a child. He was by her side when she died. The nanny of the Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg now looks after his own children and canvassed for him at election time. The BBC’s revelations explain much about Bacon’s rackety life. When nanny orders you to drink, gamble and take lovers, who would be brave enough to refuse?
Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon: Fraught friendship and art
Rosamma Thomas | Times of India | January 22 2017
JAIPUR: Of all reasons to turn down an invitation to a wedding, this must take the cake - artist Lucian freud, once invited to a wedding, was forced to decline because he had slept not just with the bride, but also the groom and the mother-in-law! This was one juicy nugget that emerged during a discussion at the Jaipur Literature Festival on Sunday on the book 'Art of Rivalry' by Pulitzer-winning art critic Sebastian Smee.
Smee's book is about the relationship between four pairs of artists. On Sunday, he chose to dwell on the fraught ties between Lucien Freud, grandson of the famous psychoanalyst, and Irish-born painter Francis Bacon.
Bacon was older than Freud by a decade or so. It was clear that the older artist was held somewhat in awe by Freud. Through a series of carefully chosen slides, Smee commented on how the artistic styles of Bacon and Freud were so different - yet their lives were woven together through strange bonds of deep friendship that later soured.
Smee said Freud, who died in 2011, had admitted to him that he had once got so riled by a violent lover of Bacon's, who had thrown him out of the window and left him with an eye that almost dangled out of his face. Angry at the violence, Freud had held the lover by the collar - but he later realized that even the violence was some form of sexual expression that he did not quite understand. The relationship between the two artists was marred irrevocably by this "intrusion".
end of the session, some members of the audience wanted to know if it was indeed
helpful to assess an artist on the basis of his life. Smee said in response that
it was not as if, standing in front of a work of art, one can infer anything
about the artist's life. Even so, he said, contemplating the life afterwards,
one might glean some important insights. He spoke with great appreciation for
Matisse, who he said was doing such amazing things with colour at a time when he
was also troubled in his personal life.
Rajalaxmi Kamat, who was at JLF from Bangalore, said, "This is one session that I will remember for long. This is what I shall take away with me from this festival."
Francis Bacon's Screaming Popes now on display at Ferens Art Gallery
By HANNAH ROBINSON | HULL DAILY MAIL | JANUARY 20, 2017
"Painting is the pattern of one's own nervous system projected onto canvas".
Five iconic paintings from a leading British painter are officially on display from today - showing how far Ferens Art Gallery has come with its ability to fund and hold major exhibitions.
The Francis Bacon: Nervous System will be displayed alongside the permanent collection at Ferens in Gallery 9 after the venue secured a £70,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Bacon's widely acknowledged masterpiece, Head VI, 1949, will act as the centrepiece of the display on a year-long loan from the Arts Council Collection. It will be accompanied, until 1 May, by four others from his "Screaming Pope" series.
Kirsten Simister, curator of art at the Ferens Art Gallery, said: "We are extremely grateful to our lenders and the Heritage Lottery Fund who have made it possible to bring these exceptional works to Hull audiences this year.
"It is amazing to show Bacon's extraordinary 20th century secular paintings at the same time as the equally extraordinary 14th-century sacred paintings by Lorenzetti and his Sienese contemporaries."
The additional 'Screaming Pope' loans come from the collections of Aberdeen Art Gallery, The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich and a private collection.
"This has always been a painting in high demand and we never managed to get it to Hull until it was announced we were going to be UK City of Culture 2017," she said.
"I immediately thought it would be a good idea to contact them again and they said yes. It is a juxtaposition between the religious work of the Lorenzetti and the atheism of Bacon. It is wonderful to have and has massively exceeded my expectations."
Bacon is known for his darkly visceral, yet striking portraits. The five powerful canvases convey the darker side of the human condition suggesting what lies beneath everyday life.
Bacon himself expressed his working processes in very direct terms stating: "Painting is the pattern of one's own nervous system projected onto canvas."
Drawing from varied sources including photography, film and Surrealism, Bacon was also inspired by the Old Masters and in this case Diego Velazquez's 17th century portrait of Pope Innocent X.
The artworks will be shown alongside highlights from the Ferens' strong modern and contemporary portrait collection from the last 100 years including Wyndham Lewis' iconic and deliberately repellent Self-Portrait As a Tyro of 1920-21.
Councillor Terry Geraghty, portfolio holder for culture and leisure and chairman of Hull Culture and Leisure Limited, said: "The display of these spectacular art works underscores the very reason for undertaking the major investment in the Gallery that has just been completed.
"With the new environmentally controlled galleries, the Ferens is able to display the work of internationally acclaimed artists amongst its very own permanent collection displays.
"These Francis Bacon loans make a powerful dramatic statement to open our UK City of Culture year."
free to all Hull City Council's museums and art gallery, and are open Monday to
Saturday from 10am to 5pm and Sunday from 11am to 4.30pm. The Maritime Museum
and Ferens Art Gallery is also open until 7.30pm every Thursday.
Kirklees Council scraps proposed Francis Bacon sale
Francis Bacon in Your
Blood by Michael Peppiatt review - the artist's life
Francis Bacon in Your Blood by Michael Peppiatt review - the artist's life
In contrast to the
bleakness of his art, this starry-eyed chronicle shows the painter could be
genial, generous and waspishly funny
In contrast to the bleakness of his art, this starry-eyed chronicle shows the painter could be genial, generous and waspishly funny
ANTHONY QUINN | |
|THURSDAY 24 DECEMBER 2016
Francis Bacon in his studio, 1980. Photograph: Jane Bown
In the summer of 1963, exactly 200 years after James Boswell first met Dr Johnson, an impressionable young man named Michael Peppiatt was introduced to Francis Bacon in a Soho pub, the French House. It was a momentous occasion, for one of them at least. Peppiatt, a 21-year-old art history student at Cambridge, revered the painter, then (at 53) in the full flush of his talent, and was tickled to be taken under his capacious wing. He found himself not merely part of Bacon’s court on his noon-to-night jaunts around the fancy restaurants and louche drinking-dens of London but his chief confidant and protégé.
The photographer John Deakin, who had introduced them at “the French” that day, later remarked to Peppiatt: “It’s incredible, but you’ve become a sort of Boswell to Francis...He talks to you about everything”. His advice is to “get it all down”, to be the painter’s amanuensis and thus ensure his own place in the mythology of Bacon’s “gilded gutter life”.
Peppiatt didn’t need telling twice. In the years since Bacon’s death in 1992 he has published five books about his hero, including a full-length biography, Anatomy of an Enigma, in 1996. One might have considered that a sufficiency, but here comes another, this one a memoir of their friendship over 30 years and a reckoning of Peppiatt’s own development in his mentor’s shadow.
The Boswell-Johnson analogy, however, now looks rather presumptuous. For one thing, Boswell – despite his buffoonery – was a superb writer even before he began the biography that was his life’s work (see his London Journal). For another, his subject was a brilliant talker whose wit and bons mots still crackle through the language.
On neither count can Peppiatt or Bacon remotely compare. Francis Bacon in Your Blood is partly a record of its subject’s table talk, which Peppiatt sets down as though recalling it verbatim. The strategy is a risky one. While Bacon was indisputably a great painter, his was not a great mind, and the deeper one reads into the book the more threadbare and repetitious its contents appear. His philosophy, if such it can be called, was one of devil-may-care nihilism, expressed in a few gnomic phrases: Life is ridiculous and futile. We come from nothing and return to nothing. Existence is a kind of charade. His “nervous system” is a “compost” from which his paintings emerge.
These same pronouncements keep coming around, until they take on an incantatory air. But they are hardly profound. At one point he admits, “half the time I don’t know what my painting’s about”.
It’s a telling moment: surely the greatness of Bacon’s work lies locked in his subconscious, of which there can be no telling. Or as Henry James put it, “Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.” Why should we expect a painter to be able to explain its mystery?
And yet the bleakness of Bacon’s paintings – the screaming heads, the flayed and distorted flesh – is strikingly at odds with his social exuberance. As a host, fortified by drink and company, he could be genial and generous and waspishly funny. Over oysters and Krug at Wheeler’s, or caviar and grouse at Claridge’s, Bacon carpes the diem and most of the noctem, with Peppiatt in grateful attendance.
If the painter is vague about his own art, he is magisterial about others’. He admires Velázquez, Giacometti, Picasso; he is respectful of Lucian Freud (though he later declares that he has “the smallest cock in England”); the rest – Jackson Pollock (“the old lace-maker”), Matisse (“squalid little forms”), Hockney (“there’s nothing really there”) – he disdains. Abstract art he dismisses as “a free fancy about nothing”. He says that he can’t read novels – “I find them so boring” – yet goes on to profess his “deep” admiration of Proust and Joyce, apparently unaware that they were both novelists. If Peppiatt saw the contradiction he failed (or didn’t dare) to point it out.
Peppiatt makes a starry-eyed chronicler, as besotted with his patron’s fine wine and grub as he is with his closeness to the throne. Yet one does wonder what he could have offered in return to Bacon. The thought occurs to Peppiatt, too, worried that he might just be a “person from Porlock”, forever getting in the way of genius. Beyond an ability to speak French and supply company at a moment’s notice, the young man has very little to recommend him – as Sonia Orwell, another Bacon intimate, would gloweringly point out. But “Francis” seems content to have made him his pet, and besides, he’s convinced that “all men are really homosexual”, even if they don’t realise it.
Peppiatt proceeds on his girlfriends coming and going, though one is never in doubt that Bacon remains the most important figure in his life – a substitute, moreover, for his own unsatisfactory father, a manic-depressive who bullied the family for years.
The underlying tension between master and protégé keeps the pages turning, though Peppiatt’s prose seldom quickens the pace. He shows no great resistance to a cliche (“over the moon” and “rose-tinted spectacles” are waved through) and his dipping in and out of the present tense doesn’t lend his narrative the freshness he intends.
His social nervousness, which might otherwise have been touching, makes his writing plod the more: “When I’m doing one of my large parties I serve a spicy chicken curry with exotic condiments, much appreciated by my French friends, or for a sit-down dinner I often make a slowly braised boeuf bourguignon, to which in a slight departure from the classic recipe I add mushrooms and top with diced bacon, croutons and crisp-fried parsley – the latter being something I know Francis likes especially, since we had it once in a restaurant on some grilled fish and he pronounced it ‘one of the most delicious things you can possibly eat’.” Monsieur Pooter lives – and cooks too!
Oddly, Peppiatt is at his most readable on Bacon’s painting, the hardest trick of all, and the one area in which he allows his critical discernment the upper hand. Elsewhere his pride and his gratitude smudge the portrait – he never really pays Bacon the tribute of suspecting him.
Their relationship did not have a happy ending. The first cracks opened when Bacon vetoed Peppiatt’s projected biography of him, despite his long service as bag-carrier and Boswelliser. The rift became wider when Peppiatt announced he was about to become a father for the first time. Bacon, pale with fury, reacts to the news as a personal “affront”.
Was this a heterosexual step too far? Did Bacon, now old and ill, fear the prospect of “losing” his one-time disciple? Perhaps he had become too attached to the idea of the tragic exit, like that of his troubled lover George Dyer, who killed himself in a Paris hotel bathroom on the eve of Bacon’s 1971 retrospective at the Grand Palais. (Peppiatt’s reminiscence of Dyer, spouting broad cockney-sparrowisms, is pitifully inadequate).
Long goodbyes didn’t suit Francis Bacon, and one wonders if his shade would be any better pleased by his friend’s ongoing parade of memorials.
Installation view, Francis Bacon: From Picasso to Velázquez, Guggenheim Bilbao, 30 September - 8 January 2017
Francis Bacon: From Picasso to Velázquez at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, curated by Martin Harrison, is conceivably one of the most significant Bacon exhibitions to date. It features a number of paintings on which little is known and some that have never been exhibited. The exhibition is timely, occurring after the publication of the masterly five-volume catalogue raisonné (edited by Harrison), which unveiled these new or later works. Many Bacon exhibitions to date have focused on a core of well known works and so it is refreshing to see relatively unknown works, especially ‘Sea’ (c. 1953) and ‘Landscape near Malabata, Tangier’ (1963), and indeed forecasts exciting times ahead.
The exhibition is outstanding in the sheer range of work shown, surveying more than six decades of Bacon’s painting. While most are from Bacon’s later career, his earliest works from 1929 to 1933 are also exhibited. One of his erstwhile ‘crucifixions’ from 1933 is displayed, retitled as ‘After Picasso, ‘La Danse’ (1933), which we learn from the catalogue raisonné was never intended to be conceived of as a crucifixion. The relative technical simplicity of these early works makes the contrast with those from the mid-1940s stark. The rooms focus on different themes – ‘Human Cages’, ‘Isolated Figures’ and ‘Exposed Bodies’. One of the galleries showcases the power of his portraits, including self-portraits, all painted with ferocious intensity and stark simplicity. This is complemented by additions by Alberto Giacometti and Chaïm Soutine.
The focus of this exhibition is on the continental European, mainly Spanish, connection. Bacon’s Francophilia is noted here and, not least through the recent Monaco exhibition, ‘Francis Bacon, Monaco and French Culture’. However, acknowledgement of the influence of Spanish culture has been overdue. The influence of Pablo Picasso, especially his biomorphic bather forms of the late 1920s, which has been well documented, lasted for about a decade from 1933. The exhibition also features Picasso’s cubist works as well as those of his contemporaries, such as Juan Gris. The fragmentation of form, characteristic of these works, provides an interesting parallel with Bacon’s own aesthetic of distortion.
Velázquez’s ‘Portrait of Innocent X’ (1650), itself not present in the exhibition, was a landmark painting for Bacon, evident in his amassing of multiple copies of the painting in his studio. These were the basis of his inspiration for multiple works. Whilst declaring it to be one of the greatest paintings, he did not actually see it first-hand when visiting Rome, preferring instead to consult reproductions. The papal theme is explored in conventional portrayals by other artists, which collectively underscore the aberrance of Bacon’s pontiffs. Other religious works by a host of Spanish artists exhibited include José de Ribera, Francisco de Zurbarán and Bartolomé Esteban Murillo. While their depictions contrast with Bacon apropos the religious tenor of ‘Saint Paul the Hermit’, ‘The Crucified Christ with a Donor’ and ‘Saint Peter in Tears’, they share with Bacon raw intensity brought about by the use of the pared down image of a spectral figure emerging out of darkness.
A separate room features Francisco de Goya’s ‘Tauromachy’ series of 1816, which served as a counterpart to and summary of Bacon’s overarching preoccupations with the shadow of death on life. Bacon spoke of his interest in bullfighting and painted a couple of bullfighting scenes in the 1960s. The final painting he worked on before his death is ‘Study of a Bull’ (1991).
One of the highlights of the show, and quite a thrill it is, is the virtual reality headset which reveals a three-dimensional view of Bacon’s studio (7 Reece Mews) and literally brings Bacon into the digital age. The opportunity for immersion into Bacon’s private space is an unexpected but welcome treat. This is part of a continuing trend to acknowledge the working practices of Bacon – his sketches, ‘drawings’, sources and other integral material aspects of his practice. The leather cases containing ‘detritus’ found in Reece Mews capture the vitality of his working environment and pinpoint his sources of creativity.
LONDON CALLING: RAW BACON
LONDON CALLING: RAW BACON
LAURENCE FULLER | | OCTOBER
OCTOBER 18, 2016
Why do we find sexuality a taboo subject in our culture? It is what creates life and yet can be a destructive force for many, a primordial unity for others and for all there is an element of sacrifice. The French call it La Petite Mort (The Little Death), Marcelle Hanselaar's series of etchings by this name have been were an early influence on me. I feel much of life comes down to this tiny demise, figurative painting by the London School in particular Bacon and Freud capture this so well.
Each relationship is structured differently and for conventional morality to get in the way of others happiness is ludicrous. For instance, it’s hard to believe not so long ago Homosexuality was not allowed, in fact it was illegal, as Francis Bacon’s work vividly demonstrates, during the creation of Reclining Woman 1961 (on display in this exhibition) the figure was suppose to be male, presumably his lover at the time, and in order to not be found out for his crimes he painted over the penis to make the figure appear female. This was the case with a number of his portraits up until the Sexual Offenses Act of 1967 allowed homosexual relationships in private. These works offer some exposure, revealing some things that are strange and difficult in our nature, yet I believe
Bacon is so present in all his paintings, the canvas and the subject are reflections of himself, there is no distance between himself and the painting. The same could be said of his lovers, his willingness to express a violent space even in the most casual ways is not an intimidation, but an invitation. He wanted to instigate the other, his way of seduction.
Though since Sigmund Freud the revelation that a person's sexuality informs so much about their behaviour, the sexuality of Freud and Bacon standing in parallel opposition to each other, respectively extreme cases of both, Freud having potentially fathered 54 children (though only 14 of them confirmed publicly). Says something very fundamental about the way they see their subjects. For Freud he is like the observer, with a penetrating eye wishing to see his subject at their most vulnerable, to deeply understand them for the individuals they are. For Bacon he wishes to inspire his subjects for them to fight back at him, Freud wishing to subdue his subject.
"It's true to say when you paint anything you are also painting not only the subject but you are also painting yourself as well as the object that your trying to record" - Francis Bacon
There is, I feel, in my father Peter Fuller's perception of Bacon a fear of the humiliation of his gaze, and to meet Bacon would in itself be a violent act without any physical manifestations taking place. The mutilation that would occur in the mind alone would be enough to warrant a skepticism of his work. My father saw a threat in Bacon's pictures, that he thought only a concern with the grotesque could entertain. And he walked with this weight, the underlying value that their cannot be dignity in roughness. I don't believe roughness should be shied away from, but wholly embraced in order to fully live.
Here is where me and my father differ, on painters like Bacon, roughness, adrenaline, immediacy are all vital parts to an actors craft. An actor has only their humanity to bear, it's all they have to offer, even in the flesh, skin deep, blood flowing moment the actor finds their true self and that is what they bring to the world. Immediacy and sponteity are key aspects to Bacon's work. In acting there is a necessary ugliness, not in order to shock but in order to reveal, the best actors are emotionally naked, they've put themselves bare faced onto the world's stage, their ideas, their feelings and their unique individual song and if they've stayed the course they've been subject to all the ridicule the Western world has to offer in its competitive nature and still they stand in front of the camera lens, brave and naked. Daniel Day-Lewis said that it is "very hard to have any dignity as an actor" though he has tried for both, and in contradiction has revealed his soul through the life of another. There's this idea that actors are like meat puppets or narcissists, and all that they say is in order to sell themselves, and yes indeed the profession does attract many people like this, but the truly great actors know that there is not enough of their own humanity to bear to fill the void of the swelling mob as they seek love in another, and humility in the face of this is their only option, a constant, unending sacrifice of dignity, all the while struggling to pick it back up. I feel this same dichotomy is present in Bacon's pictures and in our relationship to sexuality.
Bacon said that he would to have liked to make some films towards the end of his life, painting solely from photographs and raw emotions, his subjects are reimagined first through a lens and then with the brush. American films are far more accepting of portrayals of violence, than they are depictions of sexuality, the naked human form is judged far more harshly by the censors than that same form being blown to bits by a machine gun. I believe that this is a mistake in our culture.
In the famous interview between David Sylvester and Francis Bacon, Sylvester suggests that Hockney is the antithesis of Bacon. And if as I have suggested in the past London based expressionist artist Marcelle Hanselaar is in line with Bacon, certainly one that that they share is this sense of theatricality in their work. I remember talking to Marcelle Hanselaar in this interview about the comparisons between theatre and painting. When I asked Marcelle 'Do you think shocking images will captivate people more?' she responded "I think because an image is artificial what you do on a canvas, you try to grab a whole life or a whole situation really on a square or rectangular piece. So of course it's like theatre you have to dramatize it, it has to be intensified, because otherwise people for the same money will just look at the wall and think 'nice wallpaper'". We discussed how in the mise-en-scène, the situation which we find her characters there is quite often a social dynamic whether its a lone figure caught in the act of something or multiple figures and they are caught, Marcelle told me that this sense of theatricality comes from a need to create an immediacy in her work, something Bacon was continually concerned with.
Yet there is a decided difference between what Bacon and Hanselaar call immediacy and theatricality, and the kind that Hockney puts to use in his work. It's much the same subjective approached from completely different corners.
An actor friend told me recently that I maintain a kind of stoic position to life in spite of it all, I feel in full consideration of the moment of death it becomes very difficult not to value the preciousness of life. "It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live” - Marcus Aurelius. Bacon had much the same outlook when he suggested to David Sylvester that life life is so much sweeter to this who walk in the shadow of death because it can be taken away at any moment.
My father, who defended the preciousness of life, would constantly tell his friends that he was going to die young and would go about his work leaving the legacy that he did by the age of 42, with a kind of franticness, which is now recited back to me by those same friends as an ironic part of his story. I believe this stoic awareness of death was a vital aspect to his point of view on art. Though in the case of Bacon he defended the dignity of the image by bearing his own demons on paper and allowing the images to speak to the most vulnerable parts of ourselves, therefore he had a difficult relationship to Bacon's paintings:
y Peter Fuller
Their heads are eyeless and tiny. Their mouths, huge. Two of them are baring their teeth. All have long, stalk-like necks. The one on the left, hunched on a table, has the sacked torso of a mutilated woman; the body of the centre creature is more like an inflated abdomen propped up on flamingo legs behind an empty pedestal; the third could be a cross between a lion and an ox: its single front leg disappears into a patch of scrawny grass.
They exude a sense of nature’s errors; errors caused by some unspeakable genetic pollution, embroidered with physical wounding. One has a white bandage where its eyes might have been. All are an ominous grey, tinted with fleshly pinks: they are set off against backgrounds of garish orange containing suggestions of unspecified architectural spaces.
Francis Bacon painted this triptych, Three Studies for Figures at the Base o f a Crucifixion, now in the Tate Gallery, in 1944. It was first exhibited at the Lefevre Gallery the following April, where it hung alongside works by Moore, Sutherland and others who had sought to redeem the horrors of war through the consolations of art. Although Bacon referred to traditional religious iconography, he did not wish to console anyone about anything. Indeed, he seemed to want to rub the nose of the dog of history in its own excrement.
When the Three Studies was first shown, the war was ending and it was spring. Bacon was out of tune with the mood of his times. Certainly, as far as the fashionable movements in art were concerned, he was to remain so. And yet his star steadily ascended. By the late 1950s he was one of an elite handful of ‘distinguished British artists’. Today his stature among contemporary painters seems unassailable. And yet Bacon - who recently held an exhibition of new work at Marlborough Fine Art to mark the publication by Phaidon of a major monograph, Francis Bacon, by Michel Leiris - must be the most difficult of all living painters to evaluate justly. His work is so extreme it seems to demand an equally extreme response.
Bacon has always denied that he set out to emphasise horror or violence. In a chilling series of interviews conducted by David Sylvester, he qualified this by saying, ‘I’ve always hoped to put over things as directly and rawly as I possibly can, and perhaps, if a thing comes across directly, people feel that that is horrific.’ He explained that people ‘tend to be offended by facts, or what used to be called truth.’ He has repeatedly said that his work has no message, meaning or statement to make beyond the revelation of that naked truth.
Bacon’s serious critics have largely gone along with his own view of his painting. Michel Leiris, a personal friend of the painter’s, is no exception; Leiris argues that Bacon presents us with a radically demystified art, ‘cleansed both of its religious halo and its moral dimension’. Again and again, Leiris calls Bacon a ‘realist’, who strips down the thing he is looking at in a way which retains ‘only its naked reality’. He echoes Bacon himself in arguing that his pictures have no hidden depths and call for no interpretation ‘other than the apprehension of what is immediately visible’.
No doubt the ‘horror’ has been overdone in popular and journalistic responses to Bacon. But it is just as naive to think Bacon is simply recording visual facts, let alone transcribing ‘truth’. Creatures like those depicted in Three Studies can no more be observed slouching around London streets than haloes can be seen above the heads of good men, or angels in our skies. Of course Bacon’s violent imagination distorts what he sees.
But the clash between Bacon’s supporters and the populists cannot be dismissed as easily as that. The point remains whether Bacon’s distortions are indeed revelatory of a significant truth about men and women beyond the facts of their appearances; or whether they are simply a horrible assault upon our image of ourselves and each other, pursued for sensationalist effects. And this, whether Bacon and his friends like it or not, involves us in questions of interpretation, value and meaning.
The stature of Bacon’s achievement from the most unpropitious beginnings is not to be denied. Although his father named his only son after their ancestor, the Elizabethan philosopher of sweet reason, he was himself an unreasonable and tyrannical man, a racehorse trainer by profession. Nonetheless, Francis, a sickly and asthmatic child, felt sexually attracted to him. Francis received no conventional schooling and left home at sixteen, following an incident in which he was discovered trying on his mother’s clothes.
He worked in menial jobs before briefly visiting Berlin and Paris in the late 1920s; soon after, he began painting and drawing, at first without real commitment, direction or success. In the early 1930s, he was better known as a derivative designer of modern rugs and furniture, although an early Crucifixion, in oils, was reproduced by Herbert Read in Art Now. Bacon subsequently destroyed almost all his early work; his public career thus effectively began only with the exhibition of Three Studies in 1944.
Bacon then began to produce the paintings for which he has become famous: at first there were some figures in a landscape; but soon he moved definitively indoors. He displayed splayed bodies, surrounded by tubular furniture of the kind he had once designed, in silent interiors. A fascination with the crucifix and triptych format continued; but he painted the naked, human body - usually male - in all sorts of situations of struggle, suffering and embuggerment. A picture of two naked figures wrestling on a bed of 1953 is surely among his best. But a series of variations on Velazquez’s Portrait o f Pope Innocent X - which he now regrets - became among his most celebrated. By the 1960s, the echoes of religious iconography and the Grand Tradition of painting had become more muted. Bacon could never be accused of ‘intimism’ : ‘homeliness’ is one of the qualities he hates most. The large, bloody, set-piece interiors continued; but the forms of their figures became less energetic, more statuesque. Bacon seemed increasingly preoccupied with portraits, usually in a triptych format, of his friends and associates: Isabel Rawsthorne, Henrietta Moraes, Lucian Freud, George Dyer (his lover), Muriel Belcher, the owner of a drinking club in Soho he frequented, and himself.
Bacon has repeatedly said that he is not an ‘expressionist’; it is easy to show what he means by this by contrasting his work with that of the currently fashionable, but lesser, painter George Baselitz (at the Whitechapel Gallery) - who is. Baselitz deals with a similar subject matter; but he invariably handles paint in an ‘abstract expressionist’ manner; i.e. in a way which refers not so much to his subjects as to his own activity and sentiments as an artist. Anatomy, physiognomy, gesture and the composition of an architectural illusion of space mean nothing to him: to Bacon, they are everything. Or rather almost everything.
For if he has sought to work in continuity with the High Art of the past, Bacon recognises that the painter, today, is in fact in a very different position. He has regretted the absence of a ‘valid myth’ within which to work: ‘When you’re outside tradition, as every artist is today, one can only want to record one’s own feelings about certain situations as closely to one’s nervous system as one possibly can.’
He stresses that the echoes of religion in his pictures are intended to evoke no residue of spiritual values; Bacon is a man for whom Cimabue’s great Crucifixion is no more than an image of ‘a worm crawling down the cross’. He is interested in the crucifix for the same reason he is fascinated by meat and slaughterhouses; and also for its compositional possibilities: ‘The central figure of Christ is raised into a very pronounced and isolated position, which gives it, from a formal point of view, greater possibilities than having all the different figures placed on the same level. The alteration of level is, from my point of view, very important.’ But, for Bacon, the myths of vicarious sacrifice, incarnation, redemption, resurrection, salvation and victory over death mean nothing - even as consoling illusions.
The appeal to a meaningful religious iconography is, in effect, replaced in his work by an appeal to photography; similarly, in his pictures, as in his life, the myth of a jealous and omnipotent god has been replaced by the arbitrary operations of chance.
Bacon’s fascination with Muybridge’s sequential photographs of men, women and animals in motion is well-known. References to specific Muybridge images are often discernible in his pictures; even his triptych format seems to relate more to them than to traditional altarpieces. He seems to believe that Muybridge exposed the illusions of art, and freed it from the need to construct such illusions in the future. Unlike many who reached similar conclusions, they did not, of course, lead Bacon to narrow aestheticism or abstraction. Rather, he sometimes insists that the artist should become even more ‘realist’ than the photographer, by getting yet closer to the object; and, at others, that as a result of photography’s annexation of appearance, good art today has become just a game.
But this insistence on ‘realism’, and reduction of art to its ludic and aleatory aspects, are not, in Bacon’s philosophy, necessarily opposed. Accident and chance play a central role in his pursuit of ‘realistic’ images of men; they enter into his painting technique through his reliance on throwing and splattering. In fact, of course, Bacon exercises a consummate control over the effects chance gives him; but, as he once said, ‘I want a very ordered image, but I want it to come about by chance.’ He fantasizes about the creation of a masterpiece by means of accident. The religious artists of the High Tradition attributed their ‘inspiration’ to impersonal agencies, like the muses or gods; and Bacon, too, is possessed of an overwhelming need to locate the origins of his own imaginative activity outside of himself.
The role of photography and chance in his creative process relate immediately to the view of man he is seeking to realise. ‘Man,’ he has said, ‘now realizes that he is an accident, that he is a completely futile being, that he has to play out the game without reason.’ Thus, in reducing itself to ‘a game by which man distracts himself’ (rather than a purveyor of moral or spiritual values) art more accurately reflects the human situation even than photography . . . The human situation, that is, as seen by Bacon.
Bacon then has achieved something quite extraordinary. He has used the shell of the High Tradition of European painting to express, in form as much as in content, a view of man which is utterly at odds with everything that tradition proclaims and affirms. Moreover, it must be admitted that he has done so to compelling effect. It is perfectly possible to fault Bacon, technically and formally: he has a tendency to ‘fill-in’ his backgrounds with bland expanses of colour; recently, he has not always proved able to escape the trap of self-parody, leading to mannerism and stereotyping of some of his forms. But these are quibbles. Bacon, in interviews, has good reason constantly to refer back to the formal aspects of his work; he is indeed the master of them.
But this cannot be the end of the matter in our evaluation of him. Leiris maintains his ‘realism’ lies in his image of ‘man dispossessed of any durable paradise . . . able to contemplate himself clear-sightedly’. But is it ‘realistic’ to have a Baconian vision of man closer to that of a side of streaky pig’s meat, skewered at random, than to anything envisaged by his rational ancestor?
Nor can we evade the fact that Bacon’s view of man is consonant with the way he lives his life. He emerges from his many interviews as a man with no religious beliefs, no secular ethical values, no faith in human relationships, and no meaningful social or political values either. ‘All life,’ he says, ‘is completely artificial, but I think that what is called social justice makes it more pointlessly artificial . . . Who remembers or cares about a happy society?’ One may sympathise with Bacon because death wiped out so many of his significant relationships; but his life seems to have been dedicated to futility and chance. It has been said that, for him, the inner city is a ‘sexual gymnasium’. He is obsessed with roulette, and the milieu of Soho drinking clubs. He wants to live in ‘gilded squalor’ in a state of ‘exhilarated despair’. He is not so much honest as appallingly frank about his overwhelming ‘greed’.
it is, of course, just such a view of man which Bacon made so powerfully real
through his painterly skills. Because he refuses the ‘expressionist’ option, he
also relinquishes that ‘redemption through form’ which characterises Soutine’s
carcasses of beef, or Rouault’s prostitutes. But it may, nonetheless, be that
there is something more to life than the spasmodic activities of perverse hunks
of meat in closed rooms. And perhaps, even if the gods are dead, there are
secular values more profound and worthwhile than the random decisions of the
roulette wheel. I
believe there are; and so I cannot accept Bacon as the great realist of our
time. He is a good painter: he is arguably the nearest to a great one to have
emerged in Britain since the last war. (Though I believe Frank Auerbach and Leon
Kossoff are better.) Nonetheless, in the end, I find the vision of man he uses
his undeniable painterly talents to express quite odious. We are not mere
victims of chance; we possess imagination - or the capacity to conceive of the
world other than the way it is. We also have powers of moral choice, and
relatively effective action, whether or not we believe in God. And so I turn
away from Bacon’s work with a sense of disgust, and relief: relief that it gives
us neither the ‘facts’ nor
the necessary ‘truth’ about our condition.
And it is, of course, just such a view of man which Bacon made so powerfully real through his painterly skills. Because he refuses the ‘expressionist’ option, he also relinquishes that ‘redemption through form’ which characterises Soutine’s carcasses of beef, or Rouault’s prostitutes. But it may, nonetheless, be that there is something more to life than the spasmodic activities of perverse hunks of meat in closed rooms. And perhaps, even if the gods are dead, there are secular values more profound and worthwhile than the random decisions of the roulette wheel.
believe there are; and so I cannot accept Bacon as the great realist of our
time. He is a good painter: he is arguably the nearest to a great one to have
emerged in Britain since the last war. (Though I believe Frank Auerbach and Leon
Kossoff are better.) Nonetheless, in the end, I find the vision of man he uses
his undeniable painterly talents to express quite odious. We are not mere
victims of chance; we possess imagination - or the capacity to conceive of the
world other than the way it is. We also have powers of moral choice, and
relatively effective action, whether or not we believe in God. And so I turn
away from Bacon’s work with a sense of disgust, and relief: relief that it gives
us neither the ‘facts’ nor
the necessary ‘truth’ about our condition.
mere victims of chance; we possess imagination - or the capacity to conceive of the world other than the way it is. We also have powers of moral choice, and relatively effective action, whether or not we believe in God. And so I turn away from Bacon’s work with a sense of disgust, and relief: relief that it gives us neither the ‘facts’ nor the necessary ‘truth’ about our condition.
The Art of Rivalry by Sebastian Smee
review – from shared vision to slashed canvas
Picasso and Matisse, Bacon and Freud… this study of great painters’ rivalries buzzes with gossip but little real insight
Rachel Cooke | The Observer | Sunday 16 October 2016
FRANCIS BACON BY ROTE
FRANCIS BACON BY ROTE
The paintings he made at the end of his life are repetitive rather than
innovative. But they satisfy our hunger for an artistic happy ending
The paintings he made at the end of his life are repetitive rather than innovative. But they satisfy our hunger for an artistic happy ending
GEORGE PENDLE | LIFE
& CULTURE |
THE DAILY ART |
1843 MAGAZINE | THE
ECONOMIST | DECEMBER
| LIFE & CULTURE
THE DAILY ART
| 1843 MAGAZINE
| THE ECONOMIST
DECEMBER 14, 2015
You’ve seen them before, those three eyeless monsters with their maws stretched taut in terrible screams. The unforgettable characters at the centre of Francis Bacon’s “Three Studies For Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion” (above) were so shocking when they were first revealed in 1944 that the critic John Russell declared, “We had no name for them, and no name for what we felt about them.” Yet the three figures which have been on show at the Gagosian Gallery in New York do not fill the viewer with the same sense of terror. In fact the effect is quite the opposite. Here are the same shrieking creatures, but this triptych is much larger and neater than the original, which was as small as a devotional painting and as raw as a chunk of meat. That’s because this is not the same picture but a copy entitled “Second Version of Triptych 1944”, a painting made almost half a century later when the Tate wouldn’t loan the original out for an exhibition of Bacon’s work.
Gagosian’s show of Bacon’s late paintings is full of such double-takes and do-overs. All the signifiers of his best known pictures are here – the bare rooms, the fleshy shadows, the sickly puces and vulgar violets – but they appear in lesser known works. As the wall text proudly states, “there has until now never been a show devoted solely to investigating the innovations and departures of his late paintings.” Judging from the evidence, that is because Bacon appears to have innovated and departed not very much at all
It’s true that in the last 15 years of his life he started using spray paint to add blossoming white lesions to his murky canvases. He also began imprinting them with strips of corduroy and developed a peculiar obsession with dressing his amorphous, fleshy lumps in cricket pads. But if there is one significant change it is that by the 1980s his once terrifying ghouls and gobbets had come to seem almost familiar. These are horrors drawn by rote. In his late paintings Bacon was no longer painting the void, he was decorating it
It’s hard to venture into a museum these days without stumbling upon a “rediscovery” of the “late” works of a great artist. Matisse, Rembrandt, Malevich and Turner have all had major exhibitions devoted to such pieces over the last couple of years. Similarly, commercial galleries like Gagosian have been strip-mining artists’ late careers for hidden value. The question for today’s viewer is whether such art has an intrinsic value that has been overlooked, or whether it is derivative twaddle being revived purely for financial speculation
The idea of a “late” period in an artist’s life comes from Giorgio Vasari’s 16th-century tome, “Lives of the Painters”. He recalls a visit to the 70-something Titian in Venice, and remarks that “it would have been well for him in these his last years not to work save as a pastime, so as not to diminish with works of less excellence the reputation gained in his best years.” In Vasari’s eyes an artist’s work followed the path of an artist’s body, going through stages of maturation, mastery, decline and eventual decrepitude. Nevertheless, by the following century Titian’s late works were being roundly praised and have been ever since. Goethe called them a major revolution in painting, depicting “in abstracto those materials which he had rendered before concretely: so, for instance, only the idea of velvet not the material itself.”
Rembrandt’s late work is the examplar. The paintings made between the 1650s and his death in 1669 are wildly original and strikingly emotional. Nevertheless, as with Titian’s later works, they were not popular at the time. One of his most famous late paintings, the weird and mystical “The Conspiracy of the Batavians Under Claudius Civilis” (1661), was commissioned for the walls of Amsterdam’s town hall only to be taken down almost immediately. Similarly J.M.W. Turner’s late paintings, with their pre-Impressionistic take on natural phenomena, were roundly attacked by critics at the time for not telling “the general truth.” They are now among the most popular pictures in Britain
What is it that these artists’ late periods have in common? Experimentation? Self-reflexivity? Unpopularity? In the 19th century a German word, “Altersstil”, was coined to describe this phase of an artist’s career. Yet while everybody could agree that such a thing existed, nobody was quite sure what it consisted of. When one thinks about it, the idea of any kind of late period that is common to all seems ludicrous: Rembrandt’s began in his 50s, Picasso’s in his 80s
The fact is that we like narrative. We like continuity. The concept of a late period allows us a kind of happy ending, an artistic version of walking off into the sunset, all canvas spent. We like the idea that an artist’s last gasp creates something that is quite distinct from everything that has gone before, and yet unites it. What we seek in an artist’s late period is a form of aesthetic transcendence. The wall text at the Francis Bacon show hints at this, speaking of “fragments of classical figuration…pared down to their very essence” and “a celebratory sense of disintegration”. But perhaps the clearest description of what an artist’s late period is can be found in a 16th-century description of the medieval Chinese artist Ni Tsan: “In his old age he followed his own ideas, rubbed and brushed and was like an old lion, walked alone without a single companion.”
George Pendle is a writer based in Washington, DC
FRANCIS BACON: LATE PAINTINGS
FRANCIS BACON: LATE PAINTINGS
EUGENE RABKIN | | STYLE
ZEITGEIST | DECEMBER
DECEMBER 11, 2015
Few artists that came into their own after high modernism measure up to Francis Bacon, whose paintings are models of twisted introspection. What’s more, Bacon actually knew how to paint. Not silk-screen, not put messages on LED boards, not make collages, not arrange objects together, but actually work with phenomenal skill like the greatest of the artists had done. And his work hits not only on the visceral level, but on the intellectual as well.
A delicious slice of Bacon’s oeuvre is now on view at the Gagosian gallery in New York (though you will have to hurry, as the last day of the exhibit is tomorrow). This is the third exhibit of the artist at Gagosian since 2006, and this one “Francis Bacon: Late Paintings” concentrates on the last twenty years of Bacon’s career. Since Gagosian has significant pull in the art world, some of the twenty paintings were pulled from Centre Pompidou, MoMA, and the Smithsonian, among others.
Though the late paintings are less brutalist in some ways – the colors are more subdued and the paint lays flatter on the canvas, their subject matter remains as challenging as ever. The large red triptych in the first room, the second version of his infamous 1944 painting “Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion” in particularly emblematic of Bacon’s tortured work – the figures in the right and in the left painting look like they were modeled from something you’d normally find at the butcher. The torsos are gone, only the connected limbs remain, fleshy white, like butchered chicken. In place of faces are screaming mask.
There is a fare share of self-portraits in the exhibit. In all of them Bacon had taken the existential pain that twisted him inside, and put it on the outside. One part of his face remains lifelike, while the other one is irreparably warped. It’s captivating, it demands attention in a way that genuine pain, and genuine art does. One cannot look away.
Francis Bacon: Late Paintings – Gagosian, 980 Madison Avenue, New York. Through Dec 12.
The Calmer, Contemplative
Mood of Francis Bacon's Late Paintings
The Calmer, Contemplative Mood of Francis Bacon's Late Paintings
by Melissa Stern | Hyperallergic | December
by Melissa Stern
December 7, 2015
Francis Bacon: Late Paintings Blood on Pavement (1984); Second Version of Triptych 1944 (1988)
Over the past several years the Gagosian Gallery in New York City has mounted shows described as "museum quality," Borrowing heavily from institutions and private collectors these exhibitions such as Jean-Michel Basquiat (2013), the Takashi Murakami exhibition (2014), Picasso & the Camera (2014), and the two-part exhibition In The Studio (2015) all wowed New Yorkers with their breadth and depth. Each drew impressive crowds — with lines down the block — for a commercial gallery
The most recent show Francis Bacon: Late Paintings is perhaps the most stunning of them all. Not because of size; in fact, it’s probably the smallest of all the aforementioned blockbusters. Twenty-seven paintings all made in the last two decades or so of Bacon’s turbulent life have been hung on mushroom-colored walls on the two floors of Gagosian’s Madison Avenue gallery. The works are complemented by a hallway exhibit of candid personal photographs of Bacon taken by Eddy Batache, mostly shot in the mid-1980s, in which Bacon appears almost happy, an occasional flutter of a smile replacing his usual look of utter despair.
Having not really focused on Bacon’s work in quite a while I was blown away by how fresh, shocking, and incredibly beautiful the paintings are. His work seems to be a lightening rod for strong reaction. From Jerry Saltz’s fierce review of the 2009 retrospective of Bacon’s work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the group of ladies on an art tour, who were at the gallery the day I visited and left muttering “too hard.” Indeed, a group young art students in the gallery were so moved that they were almost unable to speak when asked what they thought of the show.
The paintings in the exhibit reflect a change of mood in Bacon’s work over time. Work of the earlier decades portray the agonies of man, masses of ectoplasm, flesh, bone, and loneliness, whereas his later works give way to calmer psycho-landscapes. Gone are the piles of flesh, replaced by a vision more stripped to its essentials, both in terms of painting and psychology.
There is, of course, that gorgeous color that Bacon’s work has characteristically employed. His palette has always been sophisticated. Pairings of brilliant oranges and reds with cool blues and greens, and of odd, neutral tones with warm black set the images in motion. The work is both aggressively modernist, reflecting a color palette that was initially used in fashion and interior design in the ‘60s and 70s (look at Rudi Gernreich's clothes and Harry Bertoia's furniture) and is distinctly 20th century. The use of oil pastel in conjunction with oil paint contributes to many of the urgent gestures in these works as well as the delicate veils of color we see.
All of this sublime color of course belies the deep psychological trauma and loneliness of the figures that inhabit Bacon’s world. The later paintings more often than not portray a solitary figure constrained by the suggestion of a geometric architecture. In the triptychs, there is a single figure in each frame. As always, Bacon walks the line between figuration and abstraction. Figure in Movement (1978) can be seen as an acrobat caught in movement, the backdrop and suggestion of a painted ring hinting at a performance. Or one may look at the work as the interplay of form, color, and paint, the figure reduced to a tangle of strong, abstracted forms. The kicker in this painting is the purple shadow that lies underneath the figure. The shadow, which appears as a standing figure with hands on its hips, bears no relation to the movement or figure above, suggesting that it is perhaps someone else’s shadow, a watcher of some sort, and perhaps it is we who are the watchers, a tacit acknowledgement of the relationship between the painter and the viewer. It is part of the mystery of the narrative.
In Study From the Male Body (1986) Bacon has placed a male nude on what could be a sculpture stand or a piece of mid-century furniture. The figure sits in an awkward pose, head looking right, torso dissolved into vague outlines of muscle and flesh. There is a very odd spatial game in this painting. It’s impossible to tell whether the architecture is advancing or receding — everything is out of whack here in time, space, and mind. The architectural black square behind the figure’s head melts and merges with the body, a depiction painted in beautiful, glowing color, like darkness descending over the mind.
Much of the overt pain and fear of Bacon’s earlier work from the 1940s seems to turn inward in the ‘70s and ‘80s. These paintings are more contemplative. We see few of the screaming rictuses that haunted the paintings of the 1940s; rather, that pain feels more muted. The small portraits that hang interspersed between the huge canvases seem to be exploring form and abstraction, rather than the “horror” often attributed to Bacon’s portraits. In Study for a Portrait (1978) we see a placid male face, perhaps painted from a photograph, as Bacon was known to prefer this to painting from life. The face is defined by pastel forms and gesture begins to take over figuration. Bacon has begun to carve the face, not in a gristly way, but into abstraction. The concrete forms have begun to be more prominent than the flesh of the man beneath them
If you didn’t already like Francis Bacon’s work, this exhibition may not change your mind. However, perhaps those who found Bacon’s early work too graphic and too “fleshy” will be drawn in by the sheer beauty of his painting as well as by what some might perceive as a more palatable sensibility. These later paintings convey both a technical mastery and the self-reflectiveness of an artist who had entered a new phase of maturity.
Francis Bacon: Late
Paintings continues at Gagosian Gallery (980
Madison Avenue, Upper East Side, Manhattan) through December 12.
Francis Bacon: Late Paintings
continues at Gagosian Gallery (980 Madison Avenue, Upper East Side, Manhattan) through December 12.
Francis Bacon, Study from the Human Body (1981)
Francis Bacon, Study from the Human Body (1981)
Walk' at White Cube
'Tightrope Walk' at White Cube
the long shadow of abstraction
In the long shadow of abstraction
WULLSCHLAGER | VISUAL
ARTS | THE
FINANCIAL TIMES | DECEMBER
THE FINANCIAL TIMES
DECEMBER 4, 2015
Study for Portrait of Isabel Rawsthorne (1982) by Francis Bacon
Painting after abstraction is a subject so rich that it could support scores of group shows. But until now it hasn’t. White Cube’s compelling Tightrope Walk: Painted Images after Abstraction is not only the first exhibition on the theme, it is the first major survey of modern and contemporary painting in London for almost a decade, since the Hayward’s The Painting of Modern Life in 2007.
This is extraordinary. Tate Britain in these years has presented just one small snapshot of conceptual practice (Painting Now). Tate Modern has had only A Bigger Splash: Painting after Performance, essentially about performance art. No other public institution has attempted an overview of painting.
Immensely welcome, therefore, is this vast private gallery’s ambitious display of some 60 works, ranging chronologically from Matisse’s “Laurette au châle vert” (1917) through Patrick Caulfield’s sunny graphic architectural delineation “Springtime: Face à la mer” (1974) to Gary Hume’s laconic glossy abstracted “Yellow Nude 4” (2014) and Michael Armitage’s decorative/violent “Conservationists” (2015), painted in acknowledgment of Gauguin in oily swirls of pastel colours on coarse lubugo bark cloth from his native Kenya. Curated by US writer Barry Schwabsky, the exhibition considers a subject at the heart of 20th- and 21st-century figuration: how representational painters had to revise their strategies in acknowledgment of abstraction as a competing proposition. Tightrope Walk is not trying to be a museum show — there is an informal, scattergun quality to Schwabsky’s choices that feels closer to art-fair randomness, and the contemporary work is uneven: weakest links include Tracey Emin’s oversized wispy nude “I think of you All the time” and Karen Kilimnik’s Christmas-card kitsch “the fairy washing the mountain stream”. Yet a lightly worn erudition underpins a generous, pluralistic tone and many pleasures.
The highlights are from classic modernism, and indeed some of these come straight from this year’s art fairs. Francis Picabia’s “Halia” (1929), where four portraits are superimposed like photographic transparencies, giving a ghostlike illusory effect, was at Helly Nahmad at Art Basel, and Thomas Gibson offered the Matisse at Maastricht. But here, these belong to a narrative: the Picabia implies how abstraction was one response to photography, and “Laurette” signifies a critical moment in Matisse’s development.
For in the bleak war years of 1914-17 Matisse came as close to abstraction as possible: “French Window at Collioure” reduced to monochrome panels, “Shaft of Sunlight, the Woods of Trivaux” to an equilibrium of green and black slabs.
Francis Bacon admired Picasso's 'brutality of fact', which had made him decide to be a painter
Then, at the end of 1916, he engaged Laurette, an Italian model with black curls, strong features and a flair for role-play and dressing up. She liberated the artist back to a more naturalistic way of working — although, as the geometric patterning of Laurette’s heart-shaped face and the triangular dip of her shawl demonstrate, the impact of abstraction invigorated the composition.
The show’s title comes from Francis Bacon, who said he aimed to achieve an image by “a kind of tightrope walk between what is called figurative painting and abstraction. It will go right out from abstraction but will really have nothing to do with it.” Bacon’s enigmatic oil and pastel “Study for Portrait of Isabel Rawsthorne” (1982) here captures her strong beauty of high forehead and long cheekbones, emerging from a sumptuous crimson ground. This is the “brutality of fact” Bacon admired in Picasso’s deconstructions, which had made him decide to become a painter.
Schwabsky’s broad aim is to illuminate links binding the pioneering modernists with the mid-century generations for whom the abstract/figurative divide was a determining formal consideration — and for some American painters in Clement Greenberg’s orbit even a moral one — and in turn to today’s artists embracing more hybrid approaches. Inevitably central is Picasso, continuing to test the limits of figuration to the end: an especially burlesque “Homme à la moustache”, the artist’s stand-in image for the vanity, fear of impotence yet desperate vitality of old age, and a contrasting rare, blocky yet tender portrait of childhood, “Mère et Enfant”, are the examples from the 1960s-1970s.
In Schwabsky’s reading, these sit easily with works by US artists who famously repudiated yet incorporated abstraction. Philip Guston developed a comparably late grotesquerie in which the swollen, lumpy, soft forms — the pink-blue mock-prettiness of “Cloud”, the furnacelike hints of “Frame” (1976) — of his cartoon realism were fleshed out from earlier abstract grids and modules. And assimilating abstraction’s flat planes and broad swaths of colour, Alex Katz’s lucid, hard-edged, condensed depictions of beautiful people were established in New York by the 1970s — “Dorothy” here — and continue to evolve with the playful spot-the-difference portraits of a gymnast in red bathing suit, “Double Sarah B” (2011).
'Fight in the Elevator', based on footage of Beyoncé's sister Solange attacking Jay Z, is the star new work
And what a delight, after the Royal Academy’s revelatory Richard Diebenkorn show this spring, to encounter another marvellous Bay Area figurative painter: “Untitled (Portrait of Tom Jefferson)” (1957), a push-pull of mystery and declaration, fluidly mixing delicate brushwork and brusque scrapes of the palette knife, is by David Park, who, in 1949, took all his abstract canvases to the dump and set about “much more troublesome” representational works, infused nevertheless with the gestural freedom of abstract expressionism.
Today’s most accomplished inheritor of that language is Cecily Brown. “Ever and Anon” (2015), a diptych of fraught bodies tangled up in splashes and clots, presumably refers both to the battles of sex and of abstraction and figuration — terms she avoids “because I’ve always tried to have it both ways”. Maybe only a woman painter in the late 20th century could have dared take on this macho legacy, co-opting it to express intimacy and female sexuality.
Perhaps for similar reasons, the 21st century’s most persuasive neo-cubist is also a woman: Dana Schutz. Her eight-foot “Fight in an Elevator”, based on CCTV of Beyoncé’s sister Solange Knowles attacking Jay Z in a Manhattan hotel lift in 2014, is the star new work. A drama of eye-gouging claw-like hands, severed limbs and blue stilettos stamping on squashed faces is crammed into three wedges — the interior of the lift as a trapezoid flanked by doors — and executed in crisp, broken geometric shapes and gaudy colours. It is suffused with the claustrophobia of celebrity media saturation and the panicky exuberance of urban life, yet luxuriates in the splash and resonance of painterly history.
Tightrope Walk: Painted Images after Abstraction’, White Cube, London, to January 24.
'Francis Bacon: Late Paintings', at Gagosian, Is a Vivid
'Francis Bacon: Late Paintings', at Gagosian, Is a Vivid Narrative
By KEN JOHNSON | THE NEW YORK TIMES | DECEMBER 3, 2015
In 1944, Francis Bacon painted a triptych called Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion which caused a considerable stir when it was exhibited in London the following year. With its horrifying, anguished, gargoyle-like figures rendered in gray against vivid orange backgrounds, it captured the feeling of a mind pushed to the brink of insanity by the violence, terror and absurdity of a world at war. Bacon (1909–92), who had no formal art schooling, was in his mid-30s and not well known. Generally seen as his first mature work, “Three Studies” started a career that would make him one of the most popular artists of the 20th century.
Forty-four years later, Bacon reprised the Three Studies with a triptych called Second Version of Triptych 1944, this one much bigger, at about 20 feet wide and almost 5 feet high, with the same three demonic figures on backgrounds of velvety maroon. It’s one of the outstanding works in Francis Bacon: Late Paintings, a show at Gagosian Gallery of paintings from his last two decades. Billed by the gallery as the first in-depth presentation of the artist’s late work, it’s an exhibition that Bacon fans should not miss.
The show proves that Bacon worked at a high level into his 80s. The eight works displayed in Gagosian’s sixth floor, skylit gallery are all terrifically vivid, psychologically as well as visually. The 17 miscellaneous works of portraiture and narrative crowded into the narrow gallery on the fifth floor make a weaker impression, but they testify to a still vital imagination and painterly ambition.
The exhibition also offers an opportunity to rethink what kind of artist Bacon was. If your idea of him was formed by the more than 45 versions of the so-called screaming popes that he started producing in the early 1950s, you may think of him as a painter of 20th century horror. But is this scathing image of hysteria not also hysterically funny? As his palette brightened from the 1960s on, and as broader areas of pure color set off his smeary, rubbery, cartoonish figures, he started to look more like a painter of mordant comedy than existential tragedy.
Second Version of Triptych 1944 might not seem funny at first, but consider the gray monsters pictured in the middle and right-hand panels. They’re more goofy than scary. The middle one has an egg-shaped body on three, long, pointy stilts; the other resembles a side of beef. Both have long serpentine necks ending in toothy mouths, one grinning, the other either screaming or threatening to bite. They resemble escapees from movies like Ghostbusters and Men in Black. The kneeling, armless woman in gauzy orange dress in the left-hand panel seems to be warily eyeing them.
On the other hand, the deep red backgrounds of the outer panels, darkened in places by black spray paint, suggest high seriousness. Without the figures, they could be late Rothkos. In the middle panel, a red carpet leads to a platform where the central chimera presides like a nightmarish priest. With shiny gold frames and reflective glass containing each canvas — required by Bacon for his later works — the whole ensemble becomes a hyperbolic, ultimately comedic mix of the sacred and the profane, the ridiculous and the sublime. That can be said about his entire oeuvre.
Bacon wasn’t a painter’s painter in the sense that, say, his onetime friend Lucian Freud was. But if you don’t think of illustration as a bad thing, then it’s fair to say he was a great illustrator. Often his paintings are like much-enlarged panels from an unusually stylish graphic novel. The two canvases of Diptych: Study of the Human body – From a Drawing by Ingres could be details lifted from a longer, sequential narrative. The right side features a headless, fleshy, nude female torso, while the left pictures a headless man, naked but for a cricket player’s leg- and foot-wear, crouching with hands ready to catch a ball. Backgrounds of lush cadmium orange and overall dimensions of about 6½ feet high by 10 feet wide, give the diptych an imposing physicality, but it remains essentially a kind of surrealistic cartoon.
Oedipus and the Sphinx After Ingres updates an ancient myth with help from one of Bacon’s favorite artists. In a room with bright pink walls, a muscular man in a sleeveless white undershirt, with his foot and lower leg in bandages leaking blood, faces a beast inspired by an Ingres painting with the head and breasts of a woman merged with a stumpy body of indeterminate species; whether animate or carved from stone is hard to say. An open closet door reveals something ragged, bloody and spectral hanging from a horizontal bar. As Bacon was wont to do, he added graphic signs like forensic markers: an oval around Oedipus’s foot and a white arrow pointing to the thing in the closet — the Sphinx’s secret revealed, perhaps.
The exhibition’s funniest painting is Jet of Water. From the end of a pipe emerging to one side of an urban alley or rooftop a diagonal swath of white paint shoots across the whole canvas. It’s a visual pun linking Abstract Expressionist-style splatter to a phallic reference.
Most surprising of all is Blood on Pavement, a nearly abstract painting of a puddle of blood on a sidewalk with a black wall directly behind it. Like a lingering shot in a noirish detective movie, this raises a question: What if Bacon had been a filmmaker? Chances are he’d have been a great one.
Blood on Pavement 1988 Francis Bacon
The Rule of Three
For many scientific awards, such as Nobels and Laskers, the maximum number of recipients is limited to three. This Rule-of-Three forces selection committees to make difficult decisions that increase the likelihood of singling out those individuals who open a new field and continue to lead it. The Rule-of-Three is reminiscent of art’s three-panel triptych. The master of the modern triptych is the British artist Francis Bacon, who used the triptych format to distill a complex story so that it could be painted and told in a bold way.
What’s Magic About the Number 3?
There’s something magical and magisterial about the number 3. Religion has its Holy Trinity; literature has its Three Musketeers; comedy has its Three Stooges; folk music has its Peter, Paul and Mary; thoroughbred racing has its Triple Crown; the universe has its First Three Minutes. In baseball, it’s Three Strikes and You’re Out; In science, it’s the Nobel Rule of Three. And in art, it’s the Three-Panel Triptych.
Origin of the Nobel Rule-of-Three
The original will of Alfred Nobel made no mention of the number of recipients who could share a Nobel Prize. For the first 50 years of Nobel Prizes (1901-1950), the prizes in every category were given primarily to one or two individuals with very few exceptions (Levinovitz and Ringertz, 2001). In 1902, one-half of the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Henri Becquerel for his discovery of spontaneous radioactivity, and the other half was shared between the husband and wife team of Pierre and Marie Curie for developing methods for measuring radioactivity and identifying new radioactive elements such as radium. A physics prize to three was not given again for 54 years at which time William Shockley, John Bardeen, and Walter Brattain were honored in 1956 for the discovery of the transistor.
The first time three individuals received a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was in 1934 when the prize went to George Whipple, George Minot, and William Murphy for discovery of liver therapy for pernicious anemia. The second time that the Karolinska Institute recognized a threesome was in 1945 when Alexander Fleming, Howard Florey, and Ernst Chain were honored for the discovery of penicillin. It was not 1946 that the first Chemistry Prize was given to three individuals. This award recognized the discovery that enzymes could be crystallized (James Sumner) and that viruses could be prepared in a pure form (John Northrop and Wendell Stanley). No further chemistry prizes to three occurred until 1967 when the Nobel was awarded to Manfred Eigen, Ronald Norrish, and George Porter for studies of fast chemical reactions.
In 1968 the Nobel Foundation formally decided that the maximum number of recipients to receive any of their prizes would be three (Levinovitz and Ringertz, 2001). In the last 50 years, about one-third of the prizes in Physics, Chemistry, and Physiology or Medicine have each been shared by three people. Following in Nobel footsteps, the Lasker Foundation adopted the Rule of Three in 1997. Since then, about one-third of Lasker Basic and Clinical Awards have been shared by three individuals.
Origin of Triptychs
The first triptychs go back to the Middle Ages when Byzantine churches were decorated with biblical altar paintings. One of the most famous of all triptychs is the altarpiece in the Antwerp Cathedral by Peter Paul Rubens, completed in 1612 (Fig. 1). Rubens’ triptych, entitled Descent from the Cross, depicts the Visitation (left panel), the Descent (middle panel), and the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple (right panel). The central panel shows four men lowering the body of Christ with the aid of a shroud. At the top of one ladder, the grey-haired man holds one end of the shroud in his teeth, while at the top of a second ladder, the brown-haired man holds the other end of the shroud with his left hand. One of Christ’s feet comes to rest on Mary Magdalene’s shoulder, right next to her beautiful golden hair (Bialostocki, 1964).
In 1794 after winning the battle of Fleurus in the Netherlands, Napoleon visited the Antwerp Cathedral where he became awe-struck by Rubens’ triptych. As part of the victory spoils, Napoleon removed the painting and sent the three panels to the Louvre. After his death, all three panels were returned to the cathedral in 1815.
Francis Bacon: Master of the Bold Triptych
Fast forward to 1944, when the Irish-born British artist Francis Bacon entered the art world. Bacon is one of the most important painters of the last half of the 20th century. His mastery of bold, raw, and emotionally charged human images are exceptionally powerful in much the same way that the human figures of Picasso and Willem de Kooning shock and haunt the spectator (Sylvester, 2000; Harrison, 2016).
In adopting the triptych format, Bacon was greatly influenced by Rubens, especially his Descent triptych and the related triptych Elevation of the Cross, also in the Antwerp Cathedral. From 1944 to 1986, Bacon painted 31 large triptychs (~78 x 58 in) and 45 smaller ones. His favorite subjects were crucifixions, screaming Popes, drinking companions, famous artists, and wealthy businessmen. Figure 2 shows a 1965 triptych by Bacon entitled Crucifixion, in which he depicts three forms of violent death. In the central panel, a half human-half animal hybrid figure hangs upside down from a scaffold hook – a modernist rendition of Rubens’ Descent from the Cross.
During the 15-17th centuries, Popes were celebrated and immortalized in portraits by renowned artists, such as Raphael, Titian, and Velasquez. Although Bacon was fascinated by Popes as bearers of power, he was angered by their authority. Inspired by a photograph of Pope Pius XII, in 1951 he painted three Pope portraits, entitled Pope I, Pope II, and Pope III (Fig. 3). This series of paintings was his first to show the same figure in three different poses (see legend for more details on the history of how this triptych was assembled and disassembled). Bacon depicted his three Popes, not as sanctified figures, but as anti-Pope creatures in which “the papal throne becomes the electric chair, the papal attire becomes gaudy dress, and the organ of speech becomes the aperture of a scream” (Arya, 2009). Moreover, the scream becomes a clever double entendre, mimicking the shrieks of many viewers who are shocked at what they are seeing.
Fig. 3. Popes I, II, and III by Francis Bacon
1951. Oil on canvas. Each canvas, 6.5 x 4.6 ft. The three portraits were originally done as three separate pieces and not combined as a triptych until 1962 when they were exhibited together in a retrospective of Bacon’s work at the Tate Gallery in London (Sylvester, 2000). At the close of the exhibition, the three portraits were separated. Pope I is now exhibited at the Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museum Collection (Aberdeen, Scotland). Pope II is now exhibited at the Stadtische Kunsthalle (Mannheim, Germany). Pope III was damaged beyond repair when it fell into Tokyo Harbor in 1966; it was subsequently destroyed on Bacon’s instructions (Harrison, 2016).
Bacon’s most famous screaming Pope is his 1953 Study after Velazquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X, which is shown in Fig. 4 adjacent to Velazquez’s 1650 version. Bacon considered Velazquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X to be the finest portrait ever painted (Sylvester, 2000; Harrison, 2016).
One of Bacon’s contemporaries in the London art world during the last half of the 20th century was another of England’s highly original artists, Lucian Freud. Bacon and Freud had a complicated relationship; they were confidants and rivals at the same time. One of Bacon’s most acclaimed triptychs, Three Studies of Lucian Freud, depicts Freud in a hellish Holy Trinity – tangled and trapped in a series of cages, sitting like a coiled spring about to erupt and shoot out of the flat picture frame (Fig. 5). Freud is shown in his trademark navy blue socks and rolled-up white shirt. In 2014, this triptych was sold at auction for $142 million – the highest price ever paid for an artwork at auction - until last year when a Picasso painting sold for $165 million.
Why the Triptych Format? Why the Rule-of-Three?
What attracted Francis Bacon to the triptych format? In addition to the influence of Rubens, Bacon believed that having three images next to each other allowed him to tell a better story than did a single image. Moreover, limiting his painting to three panels forced him to distill and simplify a complex story so that it could be presented in a chronological way much like a series of successive photographs captures a key event.
How does the triptych approach for telling a good story relate to the Rule-of-Three? Why should a Nobel Prize and a Lasker Award be limited to a maximum of three individuals if the scientific story being recognized is based on the work of four, five, six people, etc. or a team of many? Bypassed scientists may legitimately feel that their contributions have been left out in the cold, and without their inclusion the story would be incomplete.
Scientific awards afford a special opportunity to enlighten the general public on how scientific discoveries arise. Like a Francis Bacon triptych, a prizeworthy scientific discovery has its greatest impact in capturing the public’s imagination when the story of its origin can be traced to its fundamental roots and told in an engaging way.
2016 LASKER AWARDS: TWO TRIPTYCHS AND ONE SPECIAL MONOTYPE
This year’s Lasker awardees made discoveries that reflect the type of boldness and adventurousness exemplified in the triptychs of Francis Bacon.
The Lasker Basic Research Award honors three scientists: William G. Kaelin, Jr. (Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Harvard Medical School), Peter J. Ratcliffe (University of Oxford/Francis Crick Institute), and Gregg L. Semenza (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine). The combined triptych-like discoveries of these three scientists revealed the pathway by which human and most animal cells sense and adapt to changes in oxygen availability - an essential process for their survival. The unique features of this signaling pathway involve an oxygen-stimulated proline hydroxylation of a protein called HIF-1α (Hypoxia-Induced Factor), followed by ubiquitination and proteasomal degradation. Under hypoxic conditions, HIF-1α is no longer modified and becomes available to dimerize with a partner protein. The resulting dimeric complex activates transcription of many genes that aid cells in adapting to the hypoxic state, including those encoding erythropoietin, VEGF, PGDFβ, and glycolytic enzymes. Discovery of the oxygen-sensing pathway not only provides major insights into a fundamental physiological process but also plays a central role in a wide range of human pathologies.
The Lasker~DeBakey Clinical Research Award honors three scientists for discoveries concerning the hepatitis C virus (HCV), which causes a chronic, often lethal disease. Two of the awardees - Ralf F.M. Bartenschlager (University of Heidelberg) and Charles M. Rice (Rockefeller University) - developed a system for studying the replication of HCV in cultured human liver cells. The third awardee is Michael J. Sofia (formerly at Pharmasset, Inc.; now at Arbutus Biopharma, Inc.) who used the replicon system to invent the first effective and nontoxic inhibitor of the HCV polymerase (NS5B). This drug, called sofosbuvir (Sovaldi) was FDA-approved in December 2013. It is now the cornerstone component of three FDA-approved combinations for HCV disease that provide effective and curative therapies that do not require the toxic co-administration of interferon and ribavirin. The first of these curative therapies to be approved contains sofosbuvir in combination with lepidasvir, which inhibits the HCV nonstructural protein 5A (NS5A). This drug combination, called Harvoni (developed by Gilead Sciences, Inc. and approved in October 2014), set the stage for revolutionizing the treatment for HCV disease. The lives of many thousands of HCV-infected individuals have now been improved and saved as a result of this pioneering work
Special Achievement Award
The Lasker~Koshland Special Achievement Award honors only one scientist, but one with three bold strokes. The awardee is Bruce M. Alberts (University of California, San Francisco) who during a 55-year career, is highly regarded by the scientific community for his triptych of accomplishments, which include: 1) fundamental discoveries in DNA replication and protein biochemistry; 2) visionary leadership in directing national and international scientific organizations to better people’s lives, including a 12-year term as president of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences; and 3) passionate dedication to improving education in science and mathematics. A notable example of this latter accomplishment was his leadership role in teaming up with five other scientists to write the most influential textbook of its kind Molecular Biology of the Cell. The first edition, which was published in 1984, is now in its 6th edition (appearing in 2015). This classic textbook has been translated into 11 languages (including Chinese) and has been devoured by tens of millions of students as well as established researchers, all of whom praise it for its clarity, the logic of its explanations, and its splendid illustrations. Even though the 2015 edition was assembled by seven authors, the material is integrated in such a way that it reads like the work of a single hand - undoubtedly the deft hand of Bruce Alberts.
When I was younger the anguish and fervent, incomprehensible levels of emotion made me turn away from it, as though it was too much to bear. It didn’t seem overwhelming at first; I just thought it wasn’t for me, until new ways of understanding gradually began to reveal themselves. One such moment was embarrassingly recently, with the Tate’s text-based campaign that revealed Bacon’s Triptych - August 1972. “You describe obsessive love as something you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy,” it reads. It continues: “The day before your first Tate Retrospective your partner is found dead…History mockingly repeats itself. Nearly a decade later, just before your Retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris, your next partner is found dead from an overdose in your hotel room.”
The triptych is this horrific torture realised in brutal brushstrokes; one, two, three canvases of utter trauma. While I recalled snippets of the work’s story, to have it spelled out so plainly was enough to shed a silent tear at the unimaginable horrors behind the work.
It would be easy to believe that all contexts through which to view Bacon’s work have already been explored; he’s surely one of the most exhibited, written about and discussed artists of the 20th Century, such is the vastness of his output and the narratives that surround him and his work. But a new exhibition, Francis Bacon: From Picasso to Velazquez, at the Guggenheim in Bilbao, hones in on yet another avenue: Bacon’s relationship to Spanish artists.
Curiously, it takes a long look at the impact on Bacon of a work he never in fact saw “in the flesh”, and one that it was impossible for the Guggenheim to acquire – Velazquez’s 1650 Portrait of Pope Innocent X. The image is said to have obsessed Bacon throughout his career, so much so that given the chance to see it in real life in Rome, he refused, instead choosing to savour it as he remembered so vividly from reproductions.
The exhibition intersperses a huge and impressive series of works by Bacon alongside works that impacted him and his career, beginning with Picasso. In Bacon’s words, he was the artist who “opened the door to all these systems. I have tried to stick my foot in the door so that it does not close.”
And it remained open, welcoming in a breeze of other influences, which as From Picasso to Velazquez demonstrates includes Toulouse-Lautrec for his haunting figures; Braque and Gris’ Cubist compositions and muted tones; El Greco’s trapped and darkened protagonists; Rodin’s exposed human corporealities, and the bleak, powerful sketches of Alberto Giacometti.
Presented almost like the most prized and choicest galleried scrapbook, Bacon’s visions take on new fronds of meaning. The pieces of his curious and powerful puzzle gradually move into clearer focus, though never so much as to lose their intrinsic mystery. It’s harrowing to be in a room filled with the cage paintings, men howling and entrapped in oil painted shackles. Yet it’s joyful and life affirming to see the vibrant hues of late works, as shown in the final room, “Life Essence”; where bright swathes of colour backdrop disfigured objects and bodies.
It makes for a show that gives layers
and layers of meaning and inference; one that you could easily visit again and
again and always come away with something new. It’s exhaustive, and exhausting.
From Picasso to Velazquez is accompanied by detailed wall text narrating
Bacon’s life and sources, and a revealing snippet tells of the influence of T S
Eliot’s poems and plays on Bacon. For the confusing flotsam and jetsam of life,
beauty, sex, figures, death, meaning, confusion and of course artistic genius
that make up Bacon and his legacy, the words of Eliot’s Waste Land seem utterly
apt. “These fragments I have shored against my ruins.”
As this exhibition proves, there are so many fragments, and so many ruins, and it’s only in the hands of artistic greatness that we can start to fathom them, if we ever fathom them at all.
The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is currently featuring a retrospective of the 20th century British/Irish artist Francis Bacon. Considered one of the most important artists of his time, Francis Bacon: From Picasso to Velázquez surveys more than six decades of the artist’s painting, displaying an impressive selection of his paintings alongside those of some of the Spanish and French masters who influenced him the most. This is one of the most daring exhibitions of Bacon’s work ever to be mounted and showcases many works never before displayed in public and offers an interesting insight into his work, especially later works which are in private collections.
This show reveals the importance that Bacon attached to tradition and allows visitors to grasp one of the keys to his creative impetus. Even though Bacon’s work embodies modernity and expresses the angst common to men of his time, he also boldly and ambitiously revisits and carries on the legacy of the great masters while providing referents to the culture of his day and age. The human figure is at the core of most of his compositions, which reflect a stark existentialist view of the individual. Bacon painted extraordinarily expressive portraits with a large dose of authenticity, which means being alive in all senses and with all its consequences. He sought to capture the mystery of life and reduce reality to its essence, synthesizing it in the guise of paint. Iberdrola’s support of this show on the British artist with Irish roots is part of our close partnership with the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, as well as our commitment to disseminating art and culture wherever we operate. I would like to congratulate everyone who has worked to put together this wonderfully broad and representative selection of paintings from Francis Bacon’s career. It is very gratifying for Iberdrola, in its role as a patron of the arts, to have contributed to materializing a project which allows us to further explore the oeuvre of an exceptional artist.
The exhibition seamlessly displays 80 works many large scale, including some of the most important and yet least exhibited paintings by this artist, alongside the works of the classic masters from French and Spanish culture who played a huge role in his career. Transgressive in both is life and his art, Bacon broke down many barriers that were deeply entrenched at the time, placing human beings in front of a mirror in which we could see ourselves in a raw, violent way. Francis Bacon was a fervent Francophile. He was an avid consumer of French literature by authors like Racine, Balzac, Baudelaire and Proust and passionate about the art of Picasso and Van Gogh, both of whom lived in France, and the painters who preceded them like Degas, Manet, Gauguin, Seurat and Matisse. Bacon lived in and frequently visited France and the Principality of Monaco. As an adolescent, he discovered Nicolas Poussin’s Massacre of the Innocents (1628–1629) near Chantilly, and in 1927 he had a revelatory encounter with Picasso’s work when he visited the exhibition Cent dessins par Picasso in the Paul Rosenberg Gallery in Paris, which, in fact, spurred him to decide to embark on his career as a painter. In 1946, he left London for Monaco, where he lived for three crucial years in his career, and where he would regularly return until 1990.
Bacon always regarded his retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris in 1971 as the peak of his career, even though it came at one of the most tragic times of his life, just after the death of his partner, and despite the fact that he had held major retrospectives in London and elsewhere. Throughout his career, Francis Bacon continued to develop ever closer ties with Paris, as attested to by the portraits of his Parisian friends and that fact that he kept a studio in Le Marais until 1985. After his initial contact with Picasso’s oeuvre in the 1920’s and 1930’s, Bacon’s influence from Spanish culture is the most obvious in his obsession with the portrait of Pope Innocent X that Velázquez painted in 1650, which would serve as Bacon’s inspiration for more than 50 works. Curiously, Francis Bacon never saw this Velázquez painting, which hangs at the Doria Pamphilj Gallery in Rome, in person; when he had the chance to lay eyes on it during his visit to the Italian capital in 1954, he preferred instead to retain the reproductions in his memory instead of seeing the original painting. In addition to Velázquez, he was also fascinated by other classic Spanish painters such as Zurbarán, El Greco and Goya, whose paintings he fervently admired at Madrid’s Museo del Prado, a museum he asked to visit alone just a few years before his death after seeing the Velázquez retrospective held there in 1990. Francis Bacon died on a brief visit to Madrid in 1992, and even though he never had a permanent home in Spain, he was known to have made extended sojourns in Málaga and visits to Seville, Utrera and Madrid.
Born into a wealthy British family living in rural Ireland, a place of upheaval in the early 20th century, Francis Bacon was confronted with Pablo Picasso’s work in Paris’s Paul Rosenberg Gallery at the tender age of 17. Bacon himself revealed that this signaled his shift towards a career in art; this is attested to in some of his earliest works, such as Composition (Figure) (1933), which clearly references Picasso’s works from the 1920’s, especially Las casetas, the series depicting deformed bathers holding a key, an object that fascinated Picasso and seduced Bacon as well. Starting with absolutely no technical training, Bacon gradually entered the world of art and quickly assimilated what other creators near him, such as Roy de Maistre, were able to teach him. The mere handful of paintings that have survived from this time—Bacon was dissatisfied with most of them and destroyed them—attest to his early influence from Analytical and Synthetic Cubism, and from Picasso’s biomorphic Cubism, which would lead Bacon to develop a language of his own. This vocabulary garnered recognition for the first time in 1933, when the critic Herbert Read reproduced Bacon’s Crucifixion (1933) in a privileged spot, opposite Picasso’s Bather (1929) in his publication Art Now: An Introduction to the Theory of Modern Painting and Sculpture. Even though Bacon received this recognition at the start of his career and at a After World War II, in which Francis Bacon worked in a civil capacity because of his chronic asthma, the artist’s work was once again recognized by critics and the public. He also drew the attention of gallery owner Erica Brausen, who soon exhibited his paintings in different European countries. In 1948, the Museum of Modern Art of New York purchased its first Bacon work from Brausen. During this period, the artist created a new universe of images conceived via literature, film, art, and his own life. Bacon approached this iconography using a unique language, reflecting human vulnerability with utter rawness. Somewhere between human and animal—as in some of Eadweard Muybridge’s photographs—the figures begin to appear enclosed and entrapped in cages or cubes. Bacon used this device to focus the viewer’s attention on the figures, which were smudged or disfigured, reduced to strokes of greyish and bluish colours reminiscent of El Greco and the drawings of Alberto Giacometti, which Bacon preferred over his sculptures. Later in this period, Bacon also paid homage to Vincent van Gogh, whom he evoked through his loose brushwork and bright palette, which contrast with the dark figures in other paintings. Bacon was fascinated by the way Van Gogh veered away from the rules and literal reality in favour of expressiveness.
E-FLUX | 28 September, 2016
The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao presents Francis Bacon: From Picasso to Velázquez, an exhibition of some 80 works including some of the most important and yet least exhibited paintings by this British artist born in Ireland, alongside the works of the classic masters from French and Spanish culture. Portraits, nudes, landscapes, bullfighting… the exhibition offers a new perspective on Bacon’s oeuvre by highlighting the influences exerted on his art.
Así se intentaron vender los cuadros de Bacon robados en Madrid
Una red de peristas, joyeros e intermediarios intentó colocar las obras sin éxito
JOSÉ MARIA IRUJO | LUIS MAGÁN | MADRID | EL PAÍS | 20 SEPTEMBER 2016
Los cinco cuadros de Francis Bacon robados hace más de un año en Madrid a José Capelo, amigo y heredero del pintor, se intentaron vender en España en dos ocasiones. La última durante una reunión celebrada el pasado mes de febrero en el número cuatro de la calle Duque de Alba de Majadahonda, una casa moderna de tres alturas situada a escasos metros del paseo principal de esta localidad madrileña, según ha podido acreditar la investigación policial y describe el sumario judicial al que ha tenido acceso EL PAÍS.
El encuentro tuvo lugar en el piso en el que residía Ricardo Barbastro Heras, que mostró fotografías de uno de los cuadros robados a Antonio Losada de la Rosa, un perista de El Rastro de Madrid interesado en su compra. El vendedor pidió por el cuadro dos millones de euros y el comprador exigió hablar con el dueño de la obra y un contrato legal. La oferta no prosperó porque este último descubrió finalmente que la obra era robada.
Antonio Losada y su hijo José habían sido informados de la existencia de los cuadros de Bacon por Rafael Heredia González, un vendedor de joyas, que estuvo presente en la reunión de Majadahonda y que antes del encuentro había mostrado al padre y al hijo fotografías de uno de los retratos robados en junio de 2015 en una casa señrial situada en el número 2 de la Plaza de la Encarnación, muy cerca del Senado, en pleno centro de Madrid. El valor de los cuadros supera los 30 millones de euros y el golpe está considerado como el mayor robo de pintura contemporánea en España. Los cuatro protagonistas de este encuentro fueron detenidos por la Policía el pasado mes de marzo y están en libertad provisional en calidad de investigados (imputados) por los delitos de encubrimiento de robo con fuerza. El caso sigue envuelto en un halo de misterio porque pese a las numerosas pistas obtenidas y personas detenidas (siete) el botín continúa sin aparecer.
En septiembre de 2015, solo dos meses después del robo, se produjo el primer intento de colocar las obras. Y lo protagonizó la misma persona. Ricardo Barbastro, de 45 años, con cinco antecedentes por tráfico de drogas y lesiones, llamó a su primo Jorge de las Heras, empleado de una galería de arte, y le ofreció “unos cuadros muy buenos”. Le comentó “que las obras procedían de una pelea entre una pareja y que uno de ellos se había llevado los cuadros del otro como compensación porque le había echado de casa. El propietario de los cuadros vivía en Londres y venía muy poco a España”, según aseguró en su declaración policial. La llamada le extrañó. No habían hablado desde hacía 17 años, pero Ricardo insistió en que conociese a los vendedores y se negó a enviar fotos de los cuadros por WhatsApp.
El encuentro se celebró a principios de octubre, sobre las 14.15 horas en un bar del número 5 de la madrileña calle Doctor Fleming. Ricardo acudió con cuatro personas más, tres se sentaron en la mesa y uno permaneció sentado en la barra escuchando, pero sin intervenir. Según su relato, su primo le volvió a contar la historia de la falsa pelea y aseguró que el propietario no se había enterado porque vivía en Londres. “Les propuse sacar las obras a subasta que es donde más beneficio obtendrían, pero contestaron que no se podía porque hay un problema legal en relación con la herencia de Francis Bacon y una parte de los herederos pueden reclamar las obras. Querían saber si teníamos algún cliente interesado en la compra de cuadros de Bacon”, describió el empleado de la galería a la Policía. “Uno de ellos me dijo que podía ganar mucho dinero si buscaba un comprador”, añadió el galerista que rechazó el ofrecimiento y respondió que no conocía a nadie interesado porque “todo me pareció muy raro”.
Antes de despedirse la prometieron que le enviarían un lápiz de memoria con las fotografías de los cuadros, pero nunca se volvieron a poner en contacto. Él tampoco quiso saber nada de su primo.
Barbastro y sus acompañantes conocían detalles de las características de los cuadros robados y de su dueño, que también reside en Londres. Explicaron que las obras eran tres dibujos y dos óleos, que estaban dedicados al propietario de las obras y que uno de ellos era un retrato de este último. En realidad los cinco cuadros representan el rostro de su dueño y estaban colgados en su dormitorio donde los ladrones robaron también una caja fuerte que contenía joyas y una espléndida colección de monedas antiguas valorada en 400.000 euros. Cuando se produjo el hurto Capelo estaba pasando unos días en la capital británica.
El testigo de esta reunión ha identificado a Alfredo Cristian Ferriz, un chófer de empresa de 40 años años, como la persona que llevó “la voz cantante” durante toda la reunión en la que le ofrecieron los cuadros. Cristian, como le llaman sus amigos, un tipo alto, calvo, de brazos corpulentos y cinturón negro de kárate, tiene un largo rosario antecedentes policiales, ocho de ellos por robo con fuerza, tres por hurto de vehículos, uno por amenazas y otro por tráfico de drogas. Fue detenido junto al marchante de arte Cristóbal García, en el domicilio de este último en Madrid, porque Ricardo Barbastro afirma que Cristian es la persona que tiene en su poder los cuadros y que su amigo Cristóbal es el cerebro del golpe. Los tres se conocen. Barbastro ha declinado responder a este periódico.
Los ladrones utilizaron una cámara Canon EOS 5D Mark II alquilada en la productora madrileña Addict Studios para fotografiar el anverso y el reverso de los cinco cuadros robados y ofrecerlos a los peristas de El Rastro. Agustín González, uno de los dueños de la productora ha hecho negocios con este marchante y el albarán del alquiler está firmado por Cristóbal Caballero, nombre y segundo apellido de García. “Han utilizado mi nombre e imitado mi firma. No tengo nada que ver con estas personas aunque conozco a alguna de ellas. Soy inocente. Lo último que se me ocurriría es intentar colocar estas obras tan importantes entre peristas de El Rastro”, afirma Cristóbal García a este periódico, un marchante de arte que ha trabajado en Madrid, París y Londres. Un informe caligráfico encargado por el Juzgado que investiga el robo no ha podido acreditar que la letra sea del considerado por la Policía como presunto cerebro.
Antonio Losada, el perista del Rastro que acudió a la reunión en Majadahonda, ofreció uno de los Bacon a Juan Manuel Marce Gea, anticuario y marchante en Sitges, quien a su vez comprobó con la empresa londinense The Art Loss Register si eran o no robados. El correo que recibió este último no dejaba lugar a dudas. “Le informo que la pintura de Bacon es posiblemente una pintura robada y registrada en la base de Interpol. Mis mejores deseos”, escribió Will Korner el pasado 23 de febrero a Marce. “La pintura fue robada en Madrid el 22 de junio de 2015..”, escribió más tarde la empleada de la empresa Nina Neuhaus quien más tarde comunicó a la Brigada de patrimonio Histórico de la Policía la consulta del marchante catalán.
El anticuario catalán llevaba desde enero negociando la venta del cuadro a varios clientes con una fotografía enviada por el perista Losada y citaba abiertamente a Capelo como dueño de la obra. A dos de ellos les remitió un correo bajo el título de “peligro” en el que reproducía la información recibida desde Londres. La conversación intervenida por la Policía entre Marce y el perista Antonio Losada, el hombre que acudió a la reunión de Majadahonda y que le ofreció uno de los cuadros robados, demuestra la preocupación de ambos al descubrir que eran robados.
-Antonio Losada: “ni hablar con ellos, nada, nada.. fuera. Una ruina, una ruina..
-Juan Manuel Marce: “no tenemos edad para estas cosas… muy bonito negocio y todo lo que tu quieras, pero aquí hay gato encerrado ¿o no? Hay que chequearlo todo en esta vida, en estos momento, porque no podemos patinar. Si salen otros negocios que sean correctos y legales pues vamos, pero si no …no. No quiero líos ¿Vale?
Los Losada, padre e hijo, pese a conocer ya que los cuadros eran robados buscaron otras personas donde colocar los Bacon, según se desprende de otras conversaciones telefónicas intervenidas en marzo, semanas antes de ser detenidos
Artists of the Colony Room
Artists of the Colony Room Club -
The Dark Art of Soho
Kensington, Chelsea & Westminster Today, 16th September 2016
Hooray! No need to travel to Chichester if you never seem to make it, Bonhams is putting on a terrific show from the magnificent Pallant House Galleries in its Bond St galleries during Freize week. This is a very special collection from an important time of 20thCentury British art. Post War it was when so much about art was being revaluated, stretched and reinvented; most of this occurred through conversation and those conversations between this group of Artists happened at their adopted club, and hangout The Colony Room Club, in Dean Street Soho. Starting in 1948, it continued for 60years,
Post-war Soho was a very different place, it had the taste of danger and the smell of sex around every street corner. It was a howling screech away from the smart, clean and comfortable tourist centre it has evolved into, full of media members clubs. The Colony run by the out spoken, witty and barbed tongue owner Muriel Belcher and her barman Ian Board drew in first of all Francis Bacon, who was paid in 1949 £10 a week to bring in rich and influential customers (this just about covered his bar bill), but as a charismatic and leading artist of the day he also attracted his fellow artists amongst them Lucien Freud, Frank Auerbach, John Minton, John Craxton, The two Roberts Colquon and MacBryde, Richard Hamilton, Peter Blake, RB Kitaj shown in this show, reflects a certain time but the Colony went on until 2008 and became the breeding ground for so much more, including the YBA movement of the 1990’s.
The Colony Room wasn’t singularly an artists club otherwise how could it survive? Somebody has to buy the drinks! What made it so special was the rare mix of intellectual, lords, ladies, musicians and poets and somebody to conduct and orchestrate a room full of people against the moral conventions of the day; Muriel Belcher. Francis Bacon summed it up as,’ “an oasis where the inhibitions of sex and class are dissolved… and you can be yourself” And who doesn’t want to be that?
Sophie Parkin is the author of The Colony Room Club 1948-2008 – A history of Bohemian Soho pub by Palmtree Publishers £35. 277pgs. ISBN 978-0-9574354-1-4.
The exhibition will be in the main saleroom of Bonhams, 101 New Bond Street, London W1, from Sunday 2 October to Tuesday 11 October. Opening hours are 9.30am – 4.30pm. Closed on Saturdays and Sunday 9 October. Admission free.
Life as meat
–World War II London artists dabbled with expiration date
W.S. DI PIERO ART
W.S. DI PIERO|
ART REVIEW| LOS ANGELES | SAN DIEGO READER | SEPT. 14 2016
Portrait of Isabel Rawsthorne, by Francis Bacon (1966), oil on canvas
In the years following World War II, the biggest art conversation was about abstraction and what to do with it. The critical center was New York and the artists in question were Pollock, Rothko, de Kooning, Gorky, and Kline. At the same time, several painters in England (though not all British-born) were complicating the idiom of representational painting. Each side had things to say about the other. Francis Bacon, the most articulate of the British artists, called Abstract Expressionism “decoration.” Harold Rosenberg, one of Abstraction’s house critics, called Bacon’s work “too figurative, too narrative, too concerned with Christian imagery yet dangerously unpious in its view of religion.” Barnett Newman said (approvingly) that Abstract Expressionists were “freeing [themselves] of the impediments of memory, association, nostalgia, legend, myth.” Bacon and five other figurative artists working in and around the ruins of postwar London were cultivating those “impediments,” and a sampling of their work is on view in London Calling, currently at the Getty Center.
These artists ate and drank together; they argued about and observed one another’s work; Bacon and Freud gambled together in casinos. I first saw Francis Bacon’s pictures in 1972, during the opening credits of Last Tango in Paris. I was a 27-year-old poet with no thought of ever writing about painting, but seeing those illustrations stirred a desire to say something, sooner or later, about Bacon’s work. (I’m slow: I didn’t get around to it until the 1990s.) The Tango images — a woman slouched in a chair, a figure sagging on a divan — were expressions of emotional disfigurement, solitariness, and tense anticipation kneaded into mercurial shapes, appropriate icons for Tango’s drama of carnal appetite and existential strain.
Dublin-born (in 1909) of British parents, Bacon was the oldest of what one of the six, R.I. Kitaj, termed the “London School,” and his palette of incited yellows, billiard-table greens, flamingo pinks, indigos, and reds gave a posh, privileged look to his vision of human animalism, of life as meat with an expiration date. The gamble of accident was part of his process. Artists before him had invited randomness into their interaction with the canvas, but Bacon’s interventions were more purposeful. He required instability. As a picture came into a structure, he’d destabilize it, pull it out of an achieved form, sometimes by swiping a rag across the canvas. It was an aggressive kind of painting-against-itself. His portraits of acquaintances and lovers, usually photograph-based, featured smeared skulls, enfolded faces, and elastic bodies composed of glistening planes that shed a protoplasmic “skin,” a kind of shadow incarnate.
Bacon left home at 17, travelled, worked as a furniture and interior designer, and by the early 1930s, virtually self-taught, was making paintings on profane and messily sacred subjects. His work responded as much to the containments of space as to human mood and expressiveness. Within the pictures he created staging areas, boxy structures or display platforms that look like laboratory containers or jewelry displays. The settings expose more than they enclose. The figures’ mouths sometimes remodel the mouth of a screaming woman in Eisenstein’s film Battleship Potemkin. In the 1954 Figure with Meat, her mouth appears on a figure derived from Velázquez’s 1650 Portrait of Pope Innocent X: the blue-robed pontiff shares a caged space with split halves of a beef carcass, meat-and-blood wings that obliterate any sense of the transcendent.
Other of Bacon’s photographic models were the stop-action motion studies Eadweard Muybridge made of wrestlers, acrobats, and ordinary people walking, jumping, and climbing steps. Bacon subverted photography’s stillness by working colour to make it look a little runny and decomposing. In the central panel of Triptych August 1972 two males muscle around each other like wrestlers or lovers. On the left panel is a seated George Dyer, Bacon’s model and lover who had recently killed himself, and on the right, the artist. Seeping from the figures is that familiar flayed-skin human spoor, a puddling pinkish flesh tone that looks like a spill of selfhood.
Bacon met Lucian Freud in the 1940s. Freud’s ambition was the pursuit of fleshly countenance. In an early work like Girl with a Kitten from 1947, the girl’s skin has a bruised pearliness, a tone Freud would work many variations on in his career, and her lost gaze directs her consciousness way beyond the picture. (She’s holding the kitten by the neck, like a trophy.) Freud experimented with consistency of surface and the elasticity of interior space. The surface of Girl with a Kitten is smooth, chaste, indifferent. The placid flesh from the 1950s pictures gradually gets eroded and corrupted by time; the fineness of finish breaks down into flaky cellular bits and knobs as Freud inquires more and more into the contemplative weathered-ness of the human form. The later work has coarser, broken consistencies, and his nudes look as if they’ve just now dropped or been pushed awkwardly onto beds. The skin in Freud’s work is a blast of carnal presence. He painted the life of time in the body, the decrepitude, the fat, the little and great collapses, just as in the early work he showed a lovely, though tough, youthfulness of presence.
One of Freud’s students at the Slade School of Fine Art was Michael Andrews, born in 1928 and, dead at age 67, the shortest lived of the six artists in London Calling. Of them, he was the most social; his paintings observe human consciousness registering its awareness of others and its surroundings. One of his best known pictures, A Man Who Suddenly Fell Over, doesn’t illustrate the act of falling so much as it reveals two states of mind in that moment. A portly businessman, trying feebly to break the fall with his shoulder, is suspended in a state of worried amusement that there’s nowhere for him to go but down, while the woman observing the event registers a shocked queasiness. Andrews liked parties and liked making pictures based on them. In the busy drinking-club crowd in Colony Room I (not included in the exhibition), his friends Bacon and Freud mix it up with journalists, arts people, and hangers-on. In his landscapes, Andrews aspirates the surfaces and breaks them down into a beautifully expressive unevenness. In a swirling grayish 1994 painting of the Thames Estuary, globs and chunks of clotted ash and dirt are mixed with the paint to create a pensive, elegiac moment in the mind: the churned textures of land and water become a platform for fishermen revealed high in the scene like presiding spirits. The entire picture feels like a modernist dream of 19th-century representation.
Der doppelte Bacon
Christoph Vitali, Direktor vom Haus der Kunst in München, schreibt über den englischen Maler Francis Bacon und über ein Buch, das in eindringlicher Weise den Mythos vom ausschließlich tragisch, ja apokalyptisch fixierten Bacon zerstört.
ART DAS KUNSTMAGAZINE
DAS KUNSTMAGAZINE| 7 SEPTEMBER 2016
Die nochmalige Lektüre von Michael Peppiatts großer Francis-Bacon-Biografie war für mich auch das Eintauchen in ein Stück Vergangenheit. Im Jahre 1996 hatten wir vom Musee National d'Art Moderne in Paris die große Retrospektive des nur wenige Jahre zuvor gestorbenen Malers nach München geholt. Ich hatte sie zusammen mit David Sylvester, einem Freund und Weggefährten des Künstlers, im Haus der Kunst gehängt - eine Einrichtung, die mir unvergesslich bleibt: zentrierend um die sechs großen Triptychen im Hauptsaal, die Bacon zum Ende der sechziger und zu Beginn der siebziger Jahre malte und deren Gegenstand stets das Bild seines Freundes George Dyer war.
Dyer hatte sich am Vorabend der großen Ausstellung im Grand Palais in Paris im Herbst 1971, der Krönung des Werkes von Bacon überhaupt, umgebracht. Unsere Münchner Schau wurde zu einer Inszenierung, wie sie prachtvoller, aber auch furchterregend-abweisender kaum je gelungen war. Für Münchens bildverliebtes Publikum ein harter, schwer zu verdauender Brocken. Zur Eröffnung brachte Michael Peppiatt, auch er mit Bacon dreißig Jahre lang befreundet, die englische Originalausgabe seines eben erschienenen Buchs über den Maler mit.
Bacon führte ein Doppelleben
Bacon führte ein Doppelleben
Was kann uns die kluge Biografie heute sagen? Sie zerstört in eindringlicher Weise den Mythos vom ausschließlich tragisch, ja apokalyptisch fixierten Künstler. Sie zeigt uns statt dessen über viele Seiten den in die Welt verliebten, sein Leben in vollen Zügen genießenden Francis Bacon, der, als ein brillanter Causeur von Kneipe zu Bar zu Nachtclub in Londons Soho ziehend, eine große Anzahl von Bewunderern an sich fesselte. Danach allerdings, wenn er spät nachts als eleganter Dandy in sein bescheidenes Atelier zurückkehrte und zum Pinsel griff, verwandelte sich der Lebemann und protokollierte Zwänge in großen einsamen Bildern. Diese Doppelexistenz des Künstlers macht Peppiatts Buch in unnachahmlicher Weise deutlich.
Es ist in der kunsthistorischen Analyse so nüchtern und präzise, als ginge es um das Werk eines völlig Fremden. Gleichzeitig, und darin liegt seine große Kraft, ist es das eindrückliche Zeugnis eines sympathisierenden Beobachters voller Zuneigung. So liest sich die Biografie über weite Strecken wie ein fesselnder Roman, und es ist ihr eine gute Aufnahme bei den vielen Bacon-Freunden in Deutschland von ganzem Herzen zu wünschen.
Der Artikel erschien zuerst in art -
das Kunstmagazin, Ausgabe 12, 2000
Der Artikel erschien zuerst in art - das Kunstmagazin, Ausgabe 12, 2000
Francis Bacon, une sorte de g énie
absolu si plaisant
énie absolu si plaisant
Monaco propose un parcours
autour des œuvres de l’artiste britannique, dont une partie a été réalisée dans
cette principauté où il a vécu un temps et qu’il n’a jamais totalement quittée.
Alcool, jeu et peinture. Il impose une forme d’honnêteté artistique si rare
Monaco propose un parcours autour des œuvres de l’artiste britannique, dont une partie a été réalisée dans cette principauté où il a vécu un temps et qu’il n’a jamais totalement quittée. Alcool, jeu et peinture. Il impose une forme d’honnêteté artistique si rare aujourd’hui
MARDI, 23 AOÛT, 2016
Francis Bacon, Fragment of a Crucifixion, 1950
Francis Bacon, Fragment of a Crucifixion, 1950
Principauté de Monaco,
Principauté de Monaco, envoyé spécial.
Il faut reconnaître à la principauté de Monaco son engagement pour les arts. Loin de tout point de vue et autres images du monde, il existe une vie culturelle en dehors du célèbre casino de Monte-Carlo. C’est pourtant un lieu assez palpitant, il faut le dire même dans l’Humanité, qui plaisait à Francis Bacon. Le peintre britannique, amoureux comme on le sait de la culture française, venu à la peinture grâce à Picasso, s’est installé là, entre France et Italie, un beau jour de 1946. Pour trois ans. Trois années prolifiques. Alcool, jeu et peinture. Cocktail détonant. Un triptyque infernal qui n’aura jamais vraiment quitté l’artiste.
L’amant toujours là, l’aplat qui s’offre au relief du couteau
Monaco, donc, qui a décidé de rendre hommage à Bacon par un drôle d’intitulé : « Francis Bacon. Monaco et la culture française ». C’est au Grimaldi Forum. Un espace. C’est bien ce qu’il faut pour un Bacon qui n’a eu de cesse d’interroger les figures, de s’emparer de l’être pour le décortiquer comme le ferait un médecin légiste avant de recomposer le tout dans un esprit moins ludique que grave et parfois graveleux. N’est-ce pas ce qu’exprime cette photo signée John Deakin, saisie en 1952 à Londres, qui ouvre l’exposition ? Les bras levés, Bacon tient dans chaque main les deux parties d’un animal fraîchement coupé. La chair et les côtes ainsi brandies semblent les ailes de cet ange démoniaque qu’est l’artiste torse nu, avec cette gueule qui est la sienne. Qu’on croit déceler dans chacune de ses toiles. Belle entrée en matière et un étrange pied de nez à ses portraits de papes – si fameux – dont il a commencé l’exploration dans une principauté tellement liée à l’histoire d’un moine.
L’espace Grimaldi n’est pas un musée. Pas non plus une fondation. C’est un lieu qui s’agence comme on veut présenter des œuvres. C’est aéré au sens spatial du terme. Les œuvres sont là. Elles s’offrent à vous, seules, ou visibles en un groupement qui marquent des unités. Recherche réelle, ou bien le plasticien trouve-t-il dans le geste cet obscur objet du désir ? L’amant toujours là, le mouvement qui fait la vie, l’aplat qui s’offre au relief du couteau. Chez Bacon la couleur n’est pas là pour être chatoyante, mais pour exprimer la pensée, le sentiment, le désarroi. L’emportement certainement. La colère aussi. On sent des flèches, des morsures. C’est ce qui bouleverse. Cette façon d’imposer tout à la fois sa certitude et son incertitude. Son amour et son dégoût. C’est cette forme d’honnêteté artistique qu’impose Francis Bacon.
Alors, la France et Monaco dans tout ça, puisque c’est le thème de l’exposition ? Peu importe après tout. Oui, peut-être faut-il rappeler qu’il a cherché et trouvé en France ce qu’une certaine Angleterre ne lui permettait pas. A-t-il perçu dans le rocher monégasque, la proximité de la mer, la haute rocaille qu’on a toujours dans le dos, le décor absolu qui se pare des atours du fric, de la dépravation, du luxe insolent et du factice ? Il y a dans ce parcours monégasque une sorte de génie absolu si plaisant. Si simple et si dérangeant à la fois, qu’on se retrouve à regarder Bacon d’un autre œil. Déstabilisé, mais bien. Il ne s’agit pas tant de se retrouver embringué dans une sorte d’histoire de l’art, de revisitation de la représentation que d’être immergé dans un monde qui se suffit à lui-même et est en même temps universel.
L’artiste ose, en se mettant à nu, dépouiller le regardant
C’est évidemment à cette aune que l’on peut reconnaître un grand artiste. Celui qui aide à soulever les strates de l’esprit. Celui qui ose, en se mettant à nu, dépouiller le regardant. Lui faire les poches, en quelque sorte. De manière telle qu’en sortant on se demande si ce n’est pas soi-même que brandit le Bacon du départ. Celui de la photo qui brandit de la bidoche. Comme pour nous dire, avec un rien de mépris, que nous ne valons pas mieux. Que la déconstruction est la meilleure des constructions. Que l’angle droit ne vaut rien sans la distorsion. Ses ateliers, à Londres comme à Paris, n’étaient rien d’autre qu’un fatras de papiers, de cartons, de restes de ses gestes. Et que, de toute manière, à Monaco ou ailleurs, rien ne vaut la sincérité. Il faut le voir ainsi.
I maestri del '900: Francis
Bacon alla mostra
I maestri del '900: Francis Bacon alla mostra
"Dall’Opera al libro, dal
"Dall’Opera al libro, dal libro all’Opera"
La litografia Oedipus and
the Sphinx after Ingres rimarrà esposta a Palazzo Corvaja fino al 16 ottobre
La litografia Oedipus and the Sphinx after Ingres rimarrà esposta a Palazzo Corvaja fino al 16 ottobre
di Redazione |
Taormina Today| 16 August 2016
Il pittore irlandese Francis Bacon (Dublino, 28 ottobre 1909 – Madrid, 28 aprile 1992)
Una visione contemporanea del mito di Edipo. Francis Bacon in Oedipus and the Sphinx after Ingres crea un ponte artistico tra il mito dell’antichità e la guerra. Nato nel 1909 a Dublino ha vissuto in prima persona il dramma delle guerre mondiali. Paura, odio, violenza vengono riversate nell’opera. Edipo è ferito, non è più l’incarnazione dell’intelligenza umana rappresentata da Ingres. Nella versione di Bacon la Sfinge ed Edipo occupano entrambi i lati della litografia lasciando il centro vuoto. Sullo sfondo, in posizione centrale, quasi a dominare l’intero quadro una figura indistinguibile, una creatura alata raffigurante una Erinni che personifica la maledizione lanciata sulla terra. Per Ingres, questa scena è solo un pretesto per la rappresentazione del corpo maschile ideale, mentre con Bacon si è di fronte con una reinterpretazione del mito che ha lo scopo di far riflettere sulla mostruosità dell’uomo del dopoguerra. Ingres raffigura un passato perfetto, mentre Bacon si confronta con un presente imperfetto dominato dalla violenza.
La litografia Oedipus and the Sphinx after Ingres fa parte della collezione privata di Enzo Gribaudo esposta a Palazzo Corvaja fino al prossimo 16 ottobre. Francis Bacon dedicò questa litografia all’editore Ezio Gribaudo in occasione della pubblicazione della propria monografia Fabbri. Il testo incluso nel volume, scritto da Lorenza Trucchi, fu giudicato dall’artista irlandese il migliore mai scritto sul proprio lavoro. La mostra dal titolo “Dall’Opera al Libro, dal Libro all’Opera. Ezio Gribaudo e i maestri del Novecento” prende il nome dal prezioso catalogo (curato da Paola Gribaudo, figlia del maestro e sua fidata collaboratrice sin da giovanissima) nel quale non soltanto è documentata l’esposizione ma è anche offerta un particolare focus di lettura sull’editoria d’arte attraverso la loro storia familiare. Una storia e una tradizione fatta di prestigiose collaborazioni e amicizie con i grandi maestri e le maggiori personalità artistiche del Novecento, da Picasso a De Chirico, passando per numerosi altri nomi illustri.
La testimonianza di Ezio
Gribaudo. Oedipus and the Sphinx after Ingres fa parte della collezione
privata di Enzo Gribaudo esposta a Palazzo Corvaja fono al prossimo 16 ottobre
La testimonianza di Ezio Gribaudo. Oedipus and the Sphinx after Ingres fa parte della collezione privata di Enzo Gribaudo esposta a Palazzo Corvaja fono al prossimo 16 ottobre
«Nella lista di artisti, stilata a suo tempo dalla Fabbri, ai quali dedicare una monografia, il nome di Bacon era uno dei primi, almeno in ambito europeo – spiega Ezio Gribaudo – per me sicuramente quello al quale avrei voluto dedicare un’opera a strettissimo giro. In quel momento la triade dei grandi inglesi era costituita da Moore, Sutherland e Bacon. L’anno precedente era uscito Sutherland, poco prima Moore e ora mi sembrava il momento per Bacon. Decidemmo così di iniziare. Presi un appuntamento con Valerie Beston, che avevo già conosciuto in occasione della monografia su Henry Moore. La incontrai alla galleria Marlborough di Londra – racconta Gribaudo – e mi procurò un appuntamento con Bacon. Avere un incontro con lui non era facile, era un personaggio un po’ irraggiungibile; in quel periodo dipingeva degli straordinari grandi trittici. Bacon organizzò una cena da Willer, un pub famoso per il pesce. Fu un incontro bellissimo durante il quale decidemmo il taglio da conferire al libro. Parlammo di molte cose, di Torino dove aveva avuto dei rapporti con la galleria Galatea. Il mattino successivo andai nel suo mitico atelier e mi dedicò una bellissima fotografia scattata da Cartier Bresson. In quel periodo abitava anche a Parigi, in rue de Birague, vicino a Place des Vosges; divideva il suo tempo fra Londra e Parigi, a lui piaceva molto il mondo parigino. Proposi a Bacon – continua Ezio Gribaudo -di far scrivere il testo da Lorenza Trucchi e credo che il testo della monografia sia il suo capolavoro. Difatti quando fu tradotto Bacon lo ritenne il miglior scritto dedicatogli fino ad allora. Stampammo velocemente e, nel marzo del 1975, riuscimmo a presentare il libro alla vernice della grande mostra che il Metropolitan Museum di New York aveva allestito su Bacon. Prima d’allora però lui presenziò ad una mia personale alla Marlborough Graphics di Londra, diretta da Barbara Lloyd. Nel libro d’oro Bacon scrisse parole molto lusinghiere. Bacon era talmente entusiasta del libro che scendendo le scale del Metropolitan mi disse: “Vieni a Londra perché voglio farti un ritratto, di quelli piccoli”. Gli dissi che sarei andato, ma preso da mille cose, stupidamente non trovai il tempo. Voleva che posassi per lui a Londra! Un rimpianto che mi porterò dietro tutta la vita. Comunque lo rividi ancora, in occasioni ufficiali e non, più a Parigi che a Londra, ed elaborammo inoltre un aggiornamento della monografia».
Dall’Opera al libro, dal
Dall’Opera al libro, dal libro all’Opera.
Il libro è il veicolo più diffuso del sapere. Ma non è solo uno strumento: le copertine possono, in alcuni casi, essere delle vere e proprie opere d’arte. La mostra allestita a Palazzo Corvaja trae spunto dai grandi nomi di spicco del contesto culturale e artistico del Novecento in stretto rapporto con Ezio Gribaudo e che si pone come un trait d’union tra testo e arti figurative, tra il libro e la copertina. La veste editoriale di un libro può, infatti, divenire arte, valore aggiunto al suo contenuto. Dai capolavori di Guttuso a quelli di Mirò, l’esposizione mette in risalto il valore del libro come oggetto d’arte. L’arte incontra quindi la letteratura. “Dall’Opera al libro, dal libro all’Opera” è, infatti, il frutto della collaborazione tra Taobuk (Taormina International Book Festival) e Artelibro Festival del Libro d’Arte.
Classe 1909, omosessuale dalla personalità complessa. Pioniere della cosiddetta Nuova Figurazione inglese esplosa in seno ad una interpretazione più esistenziale del surrealismo, con l’ambizione di indagare artisticamente la vera essenza dell’uomo contemporaneo, dilaniato dalla seconda guerra mondiale ma soprattutto bloccato dal dopoguerra. Il suo mondo artistico è animato da soggetti esasperati, quasi a volerne indicare un progressivo processo di crollo spirituale. Un diario delirante e visionario, quello dei racconti per immagini di Francis Bacon, che dipingeva sempre sulla base di esperienze personali e intime. C’è il debutto degli anni Trenta che già rivelava un interesse per l’ambiguità della trama figurativa, che si perpetua nei lavori degli anni Quaranta, la sua ufficializzazione di artista, al fianco di Henry Moore e Graham Sutherland. Nelle sue opere degli anni Cinquanta Bacon che si accanisce sulla figura, con forza ed originalità punta ad esaltare il volto umano. Lo dimostrano i suoi Studi, le serie delle Teste, gli Uomini in blu, incorporei e spettrali, dai volti argentei e sfocati, fino alle rivisitazioni del Ritratto di papa Innocenzo X da un’opera di Velázquez. Opere che fanno ormai di Bacon il maestro indiscusso della “defigurazione”. Negli anni ’60 i suoi personaggi prendono luce e spazio, come i ritratti di cari amici o dell’amato George Dyer. Fino all’apoteosi dell’interiorità umana coi Trittici degli anni ’70.
close look at the conflict and competition that drove these legendary British painters.
SEBASTIAN SMEE | TOWN & COUNTRY | AUGUST 15, 2016
When the artists Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon first met in the 1950s, Freud was little known beyond a small circle of supporters while Bacon was a rising star in Britain's art world. Their fraught friendship, which spurred major creative breakthroughs and coincided with upheavals in both men's love lives, was a source of inspiration, exasperation, and later, regret. As Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic Sebastian Smee writes in his new book The Art of Rivalry: Four Friendships, Betrayals, and Breakthroughs in Modern Art, it was "the most interesting, fertile—and volatile—relationship in British art of the twentieth century."
Here, an excerpt from the book details the dysfunctional—and legendary—friendship of these two great artists.
Influence is erotic. Lucian Freud was young, and he was surely susceptible—ready to be seduced. And yet, even as he admitted Francis Bacon's example, he now found himself caught up in a struggle to hold true to his own course. He became increasingly aware of what distinguished them, of the differences between them—in temperament, talent, and sensibility that were most likely unbridgeable. You can hear the ambivalence—the wariness and nervous excitement—in his reactions, remembered many decades later: Bacon, he said, "talked about packing a lot of things into one single brushstroke, which amused and excited me," he said, "and I knew it was a million miles from anything I could ever do."
There was, too, another complicating factor, which was that, for a long time, Freud very much depended on Bacon's largesse. Bacon would regularly pull out a bundle of bank notes, saying, "I've got rather a lot of these, I thought you might like some of them.
"It would make a complete difference to me for three months," said Freud.
Bacon would regularly pull out a bundle of bank notes, saying, "I've got rather a lot of these, I thought you might like some of them."
Gambling, for Freud, was a visceral thrill, and perhaps, too, an expression of his disdain for conventional notions about what matters in life. It was not yet, however, a way of life—much less a philosophy—as it had become for Bacon, whose more extreme and theatrical proclivity for gambling beguiled Freud, as did the beautiful rhetoric Bacon used to explain his habit. It was all of a piece with Bacon's attitude to painting: the emphasis on risk; the willingness to stake all on a spontaneous swipe of a rag or smear of the hand; the conjuring of nightmare and disaster; and the tendency to destroy as much as he created. It all exemplified how Bacon's work, in Freud's own phrase, "related immediately to how he felt about life."
Only by going too far can you go far enough. —Francis Bacon
All this had almost nothing in common with Freud's own exacting methods. Bacon's approach— "only by going too far can you go far enough," as he put it—was rooted in a gambler's mentality. In reality, he exaggerated aspects of his approach to making art, and most of his paintings, especially in the 1940s and 50s, actually involved a lot of labour. But his method was still a world away from Freud's patient and concentrated scrutiny, his slow accumulation of observed lines and stylized hatchings. Where Freud spent weeks and months on a portrait, Bacon talked during these years about images being handed to him ready-made, dropping into his mind, one after the other, like slides.
Freud himself was never a serious, self-destructive drinker; remaining in control mattered too much to him. It was Bacon who led this dance—Bacon with his epic benders, his charisma, his compulsive generosity, all of which [Freud's wife] Caroline Blackwood found terribly seductive.
Neither husband nor wife had been faithful, although Freud's straying was, as usual, more egregious than hers. The collapse of a marriage—especially a marriage between two volatile personalities—is never straightforward. And yet Freud later said, in a typically sly construction, that, "If there's such a thing as fault, putting it mildly it was completely my fault." Blackwood herself claimed that the main reason for the collapse of the marriage was Freud's gambling. It was an obsession that lasted decades. He was in thrall to it. Breaking even was the one thing he detested.
Even if Blackwood's claim is only partially true, it's certainly the case that Freud's whole mentality through these years was infected by Bacon's devotion to leading a life of chance. When Daniel Farson, who was part of the Soho circle, asked Blackwood why her marriage to Freud had ended, she asked, "Have you ever driven with him?"
When a friend asked Blackwood why her marriage to Freud had ended, she responded, 'Have you ever driven with him?'
"Yes," he replied, "I was so terrified that when he stopped at a red light, for once, I threw myself out."
Exactly," came Blackwood's reply. "That's what being married to him was like."
The Art of Rivalry: Four Friendships, Betrayals, and Breakthroughs in Modern Art (Random House) will be released August 16, 2016.
How Monaco and France Inspired
FARAH NAYERI | INTERNATIONAL ARTS | THE NEW YORK TIMES | AUGUST 17, 2016
Some of the Francis Bacon paintings on view through Sept. 4 at the Grimaldi Forum in Monte Carlo.
MONTE CARLO — The glamorous Mediterranean principality of Monaco is not usually viewed as a cradle of pioneering modern art. Yet in the 1940s, the painter Francis Bacon spent three productive years there, developing his best-known pictorial theme: the “screaming” popes, inspired by a Velázquez portrait.
Those years are the focus of Francis Bacon: Monaco and French Culture which runs through Sept. 4 at the Grimaldi Forum in Monte Carlo and then opens on Sept. 30 (in an expanded version that also highlights Bacon’s Spanish influences) at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain, illustrating the influence of Monaco on Bacon’s career and his lifelong relationship with France.
There are 66 Bacon oil paintings on show, along with a dozen works by Picasso, Soutine and other artists who worked in France and inspired him. Bacon was born in Dublin but spent most of his life in Britain, travelling frequently to Paris, where he kept a studio apartment. The exhibition is curated by Martin Harrison, a Briton who edited the first catalogue raisonné of Bacon’s work, published in June.
Bacon, who visited Monaco as early as 1940, moved there in July 1946 with the proceeds of a painting sale.
One of Monaco’s undisputed attractions for the painter was gambling.
“I became very obsessed by the casino, and I spent whole days there,” the artist recalls in a filmed interview that is part of the exhibition. “I used to think that I heard the croupiers calling out the number at roulette, the winning number, before the ball had fallen into the socket.”
On one particular afternoon, Bacon “heard these echoes” as he was playing “rather small stakes” at three different tables. Soon, he had won himself the equivalent of 1,600 pounds — “a lot of money for me then” — which he immediately spent on renting a villa, stocking it with food and drink, and entertaining nonstop. Ten days later, Bacon said, he could barely afford the fare back to London.
Monaco was more than just about fun and games. It was here that Bacon started developing his pope paintings, a few months after his arrival, by copying the Velázquez masterpiece Portrait of Innocent X (circa 1650).
“I don’t know how the copy of the Velázquez will turn out,” he wrote to his friend Graham Sutherland in December 1946. “I have practically finished one I think, and am going to start on a portrait I want to do, but it is thrilling to paint from a picture which really excites you.”
Bacon ended up destroying most of those early depictions of popes. One survivor, Head VI (1949) — a howling, caged figure in a purple shoulder cape — is in the exhibition. Next to it are his later paintings of popes and authority figures. Another source of inspiration for the series, in addition to the Velázquez portrait (represented in the show by a 19th-century copy), is a clip of the screaming nurse from the 1925 Sergei Eisenstein movie Battleship Potemkin.
Art historians interpret the popes as depictions of dictatorial figures, but also as evocations of Bacon’s father, a retired army major with whom the artist had a difficult relationship.
Although he lived for three years in Monaco, Bacon — a studio painter — scarcely ever depicted the Mediterranean coastline. It appears as a thin, ribbonlike blue strip that runs across two unrelated paintings in the show: Fragment of a Crucifixion (1950) and Dog (1952).
The exhibition illustrates the deep attachment that Bacon had to France, a country he first visited in his late teenage years and to which he often returned.
A robust Rodin sculpture of a woman stands beside equally corpulent and muscular Bacon male nudes. Picasso’s swirling and circular Femme couchée à la mèche blonde (1932) hangs next to Bacon’s similarly shaped Lying Figure in a Mirror (1971).
Bacon’s relationship with France reached its apotheosis in 1971, when he became the only living artist aside from Picasso to have a retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris. Photographs show him smiling at the exhibition preview and at a celebratory dinner, surrounded by dignitaries and intellectuals.
Yet his public glory was coupled with personal tragedy: Two days before the preview, Bacon’s lover, George Dyer, who was in Paris with him, committed suicide. A posthumous depiction of Dyer (Portrait of a Man Walking Down Steps, 1972) is among the show’s most poignant displays.
Dyer reappears in the exhibition’s closing section — a partial recreation of Bacon’s studio at his death in 1992 — via a note that he wrote to Bacon in Paris, and a black-and-white photograph. Archival material consists of color photographs of the crowded atelier, and facsimiles of the paraphernalia that he left behind. These include a magazine cover picturing the Formula One driver Ayrton Senna, medical images of diseased feet and toenails (a major source of inspiration for Bacon), and a painting of a crucifixion by the 13th-century Italian artist Cimabue.
One standout document (an original) is a letter from Bacon to the Fiat chairman Gianni Agnelli, who had refused to lend Bacon’s three heads of Henrietta Moraes (an artists’ model) for the Grand Palais show.
“As it is probably the last retrospective exhibition I shall have,” Bacon writes in large, slanting cursive, “I would be very very grateful if you would change your mind and lend it, as I believe them to be one of the best sets of 3 heads I have done.”
Agnelli eventually agreed.
West Cork photographer
reflects on friendship with late painter Francis Bacon
West Cork photographer reflects on friendship with late painter Francis Bacon
photographer John Minihan was in Monaco recently to see an exhibition of
paintings by his late, great friend
West Cork-based photographer John Minihan was in Monaco recently to see an exhibition of paintings by his late, great friend
Irish Examiner | Wednesday, 10th August, 2016
The late artist Francis Bacon with photographer John Minihan
AN EXHIBITION of Francis Bacon’s paintings anywhere in the world is always a major artistic event. In Paris he has approached the status which was once accorded to Picasso. Hardly a month passes without reading about the artist whose paintings sell for record millions.
He’s also appreciated further south. I was invited recently to view the summer exhibition at Monte Carlo’s Grimaldi Forum, entitled Francis Bacon, Monaco and French Culture.
The installation with sensitive lighting guides the viewer from one room to another, each room more exhilarating than the other with Screaming Pope, Triptych’s, Heads by Bacon inevitably present, a portrait gallery of his friends, since the heads are always of people he knew, like Michel Leiris 1976; who was a close friend of the artist for many years.
For me it was a visual and emotional tour de-force — seeing the work that was so familiar to me for over 50 years and seeing others that have never been exhibited and were found by Martin Harrison who curated the Monaco exhibition and whose definitive five-volume catalogue raisonne (by the Estate of Francis Bacon, costing £1,000) was published in June, the most scholarly work on Francis Bacon now in print.
The extraordinary intense emotional charge in his works is still shocking and enthralling an ever- growing public, books about Bacon are constantly published with titles, Bacon and Picasso, Bacon and Henry Moore, Bacon and Rodin, Bacon and Nazi propaganda.
During the 1950s, Bacon lived in the south of France, and loved visiting his favourite city Paris, where he regularly visited the Musées Rodin. I first met and photographed the artist in 1971 outside the Marlborough Street Magistrates Court in London where he had just been found not guilty of possessing cannabis following a police raid.
He moved effortlessly from the high life to the world of the Colony Club in Dean Street, Soho. Hosted and founded by his friend Muriel Belcher, who created a refuge for Bacon along with petty criminals, actors, poets and those who were Beats of a certain generation. Sadly the Colony Club is no longer with us, those who knew Francis are diminishing in number, Soho is now very much a mixture of cafés and overpriced restaurants.
Attendees at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco look at paintings by Francis Bacon.
Like many others I was captivated by the Colony Club and spent much of my time there in the early 70’s and 80’s.
Those who frequented it went there in the hope that Francis Bacon would be there in his affable and abusive manner, “Champagne for your real friends and real pain for your sham friends” was his favourite toast.
As obstreperous and obnoxious as he could be to people at the Colony, he was always kind to me inviting me to his show in Paris in 1977 at the Claude Bernard Gallery. I have fond memories of Francis sitting alone a few years before he died, having lunch and liquid refreshment at the most exquisite Bibendum Restaurant in what was the Michelin Building on the Fulham Road, a 10 minute walk from the Bacon Studio at 7 Reece Mews, South Kensington.
I remember calling him on the day of his retrospective at the Tate Gallery in 1985 and asking what time he would arrive, as I wanted to photograph him outside on the steps of what was then the original Tate Gallery, now renamed Tate Britain.
As always, his manner over the phone was welcoming and he said I should be there about 2pm as he would be arriving with his friend’s Richard Chopping and Denis Wirth-Miller for what was then his second retrospective at the Tate.
The press pack were already in the gallery waiting for Bacon who gave me the exclusive outside this illustrious building.
His subjects were always a handful of friends and himself painted from photographs.
He would often visit the Victoria and Albert Museum, near his studio Mews home, and look at the Eadweard Muybridge photographs in the collection, very often stopping at the Auto-photo booth in South Kensington tube station to pose for a sequence of head shots, that he would paint from.
Bacon created his own legend well before he became a Sunday supplement name.
Born in Dublin in 1909, moving between England and Ireland in his childhood, receiving little formal education — his time in Ireland was marked by the violence in the early years of the Troubles.
“I was aware of danger at a young age,” Bacon would say. It was a world from which Francis Bacon had to escape in order to invent himself.
Bacon at the Grimaldi Forum in Monte Carlo until September 4, 2016.
From Picasso and Matisse to Bacon and Freud, Artists' Rivals Are Also Their Greatest Assets
BY ABIGAIL CAIN
BY ABIGAIL CAIN| ARTSY EDITORIAL | ARTSY
Harry Diamond, Francis Bacon; Lucian Freud, 1974.
As he trailed Lucian Freud up the stairs of the artist’s Holland Park home, something caught art critic Sebastian Smee’s eye. There, hanging beside the studio door, was a “wanted” poster printed with an image of Freud’s Portrait of Francis Bacon (1952). The flyers had been part of an unsuccessful campaign to recover the work, which was stolen in 1988 from a Berlin museum. To this day, the portrait has never been found.
Bacon and Freud had famously befriended each other in London in the 1940s. But by the 1970s their relationship had completely unraveled. (The photograph, above, from the National Portrait Gallery’s collection captures their friendship near its end.) Even a decade after Bacon’s death in 1992, it was considered taboo to broach the subject with Freud during interviews. So why, Smee wondered, did the portrait of Bacon still hang next to his studio door?
“I knew that he wanted that painting back very much because of its quality,” Smee recently told Artsy. “But I also thought it must have been partly to do with the fact that the subject of the painting was this person who had played such a crucial role in his life and in his artistic career. And in that sense it felt poignant.”
For Smee, the lingering questions posed by the “wanted” poster served as the jumping off point for his latest book, The Art of Rivalry. Out August 16th, it traces the complicated relationships between four pairs of modern masters—Freud and Bacon, Picasso and Matisse, Manet and Degas, and Pollock and de Kooning. Although the term “rivalry” may conjure up visions of bitter adversaries pitted against each other, Smee believes that model is outdated. “The famous rivalries you hear about, whether it’s between Delaccroix and Ingres in the 19th century, or the famous Renaissance rivalries, they’re all about competing with your enemy—a kind of macho idea,” he said. “I detected something really different in these relationships between artists coming into the modern era.”
Instead of out-and-out competition, Smee spends much of the book exposing the layers of uneasy friendship and intimacy that existed between the pairs—subtle moments that are often overlooked in the art historical narrative. “I just related to it; I think perhaps we all can, if there are people in our lives who we are seduced by and impressed by,” Smee said. “We're drawn to them—and if they're an artist, their way of looking at things—and that's a very intoxicating feeling. But at the same time, we are made conscious of things that may be lacking in ourselves, and again, if we’re artists, in our own artistic approach.”
Freud’s relationship with the older Bacon came early in his artistic career. Although he always painted portraits, initially these were crafted in a childlike, innocent manner. The smooth surfaces and wide eyes of Freud’s early subjects were miles away from the eventual fleshy, paint-heavy portraits that would go on to define his oeuvre. It was Bacon’s risk-taking, his loose, smeared paint and fascination with the space surrounding his sitters, that inspired the younger artist. Freud later said, “I think that Francis’s way of painting freely helped me feel more daring.” Bacon’s influence led the painter—considered by critics to be an excellent draftsman—to give up drawing completely for several years, resulting in a rapid shift in style that alienated many of his supporters. In fact, art historian Kenneth Clark, one of the artist’s early admirers, never spoke to Freud again.
Henri Cartier-Bresson, Francis Bacon, London, 1971
Public rejection and disapproval often helped forge these artistic relationships. It wasn’t until the modern era that originality emerged as a factor in the way art was judged, a shift “that creates all sorts of problems,” Smee noted. “Once you value originality over so many other things, you lose hold of the criteria that used to exist to help us judge the quality of art. It affects the artists themselves in profound ways, because they’re suddenly unable to know for sure whether what they’ve just done is any good.”
Matisse’s experiments with Fauvism in the early years of the 20th century are one such example. These works, so far from accepted artistic practice at the time, provoked panic attacks, insomnia, and fierce anxiety as the painter considered public reaction. “In that context, other artists become incredibly important—people whose judgment you can trust, people who you can admire for their own originality and their own artistic virtues, whatever they may be,” Smee explained.
Matisse and Picasso served as each other’s sounding boards for years, with each pushing the other to new experiments and broader horizons. At first, it was Matisse who took the risks—painting with increasingly brighter colors in flatter and more saturated compositions. Picasso’s work, while original and capable, did not yet push boundaries in the same way as his fellow painter. But as the two of them spent hours together, often in the home of Leo and Gertrude Stein, Picasso started to chafe at living in the established artist’s shadow.
“I think Matisse deeply destabilized Picasso in a way that ended up being unbelievably fruitful for his whole artistic career,” Smee explained. “It’s a dynamic of being drawn to him and the things he was experimenting with and his influences, and yet at the same time pushing against him and trying to find his own identity and his own voice.” Inspired in part by the African masks that fascinated Matisse, Picasso commenced work on his eventual masterpiece, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907). And while Matisse initially thought of Picasso as a protégé, the older artist eventually realized that the relationship might be more fluid than he first imagined—even taking cues from Picasso’s competing artistic school of Cubism.
ometimes the rivalries between the artists had an obvious visual representation. Such was the case with Manet and Degas, whose relationship came to head when Degas painted a portrait of his fellow artist and his wife, Suzanne. Inexplicably, Manet—who was known by all as an easygoing and affable man—slashed the painting in half, slicing through his wife’s face and body. Degas later began to repair the painting with a strip of canvas but never got around to repainting the missing portion. De Kooning and Pollock’s rivalry had an even more visceral personal connection. In a move that shocked the close-knit New York art world, de Kooning began an affair with Ruth Kligman, Pollock’s lover, soon after Pollock died in a car crash.
What is perhaps most intriguing, however, about Smee’s four pairings is the undercurrent of uncertainty that runs throughout. In a world where a Picasso sells for $179 million and a Pollock for $140 million, it can be easy to forget that these artists once felt insecure, even threatened, as they set out to create works that would redefine artmaking in the coming decades. “You really do feel their vulnerability in these early years,” Smee said. “And that’s something that when they’ve become haloed in this aura of greatness, you think, ‘Oh, it must have been always like that. They must have always known that they were great.’ And I just don't believe that at all.”
New Francis Bacon Exhibition Announced By Guggenheim Bilbao
Francis Bacon Exhibition, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
Portrait of Michel Leiris, 1976, Francis Bacon
A new exhibition of the work of Francis Bacon titled Francis Bacon: From Picasso to Velázquez has been announced by the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. The show presents a selection of nearly 80 of the Anglo-Irish artist's most compelling paintings, including some of his most important and yet least exhibited paintings. These are displayed alongside the works of the classic masters from French and Spanish culture who played an influential role in his career, including El Greco, Diego Velázquez, Toulouse-Lautrec, Pablo Picasso and Alberto Giacometti.
The exhibition will span six decades of Bacon's career over eight rooms, including his portraits, nudes, crucifixions, landscapes and bullfighting series, offering a new perspective on the artist's oeuvre by highlighting the impact that French and Spanish cultures exerted on his art. Visitors will be able to see one of his earliest works Composition (Figure) (1933) alongside Picasso's series of bathers, the monumental triptych Three Studies of Figures on Beds (1972) with John Philip's La Bomba (1863) and the Portrait of a Dwarf (1975) with Velázquez's The Buffoon el Primo (1664).
The human figure is at the core of most of his compositions, which reflect a stark existentialist view of the individual. Bacon painted extraordinarily expressive portraits with a large dose of authenticity, which means being alive in all senses and with all its consequences. He sought to capture the mystery of life and reduce reality to its essence, synthesizing it in the guise of paint.
Bacon created a new universe of images conceived via literature, film, art, and his own life using a totally unique language, reflecting human vulnerability with utter rawness. The exhibition will show how Bacon broke down many barriers that were deeply entrenched at the time, placing human beings in front of a mirror in which we could see ourselves in a raw, violent way. It will become apparent how Bacon was an avid consumer of French and Spanish culture, developing obsessions with the literary and visual works of the countries' masters from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries, appropriating and twisting their visual language in order to create his own unique style.
The exhibition is organised by Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in collaboration with Grimaldi Forum Monaco, curated by Martin Harrison.
Francis Bacon from PICASSO
TO VELÁZQUEZ 9·30·2016/1·8·20 2017 Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
Francis Bacon from PICASSO TO VELÁZQUEZ 9·30·2016/1·8·20 2017 Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
'London Calling' at the Getty and the tension between abstract and figurative painting
By Christopher Knight
Times Art Critic
Los Angeles Times
29 July 2016
By Christopher Knight|
Times Art Critic|
Los Angeles Times|
29 July 2016
The center panel of Bacon's triptych derives from Eadweard Muybridge's 19th-century photographic studies of wrestlers
Is the School of London real?
A new exhibition at the J. Paul Getty Museum features six prominent painters working in London in the decades following World War II, and it assumes as much — although without making a vigorous case for their coherence as an artistic school one way or the other. “London Calling: Bacon, Freud, Kossoff, Andrews, Auerbach, and Kitaj” is a pretty loose-limbed show. It hinges on what the artists didn’t do rather than what they did.
What they didn’t do is make abstract paintings.
Postwar art saw abstraction definitively push figurative painting to the margins, where it mostly languished for a generation. Pushback came from several quarters in the 1950s and into the early 1960s. It rumbled through Willem de Kooning’s “Woman” paintings, as well as the black paintings of Jackson Pollock. Most notably as a group, it fueled the great Bay Area figurati