Francis Bacon News
October 28, 1909, Dublin - April 28, 1992, Madrid
Pop Goes the Art Market
By KELLY CROW, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, NOVEMBER 10, 2010
Never underestimate the power of suggestion: On Tuesday, Sotheby's hired waiters with silver trays to offer up tiny glass bottles of soda pop to collectors arriving for its major evening sale of contemporary art. Half an hour later, eight bidders fought over the sale's priciest offering - Andy Warhol's 1962 soda bottle, Coca-Cola  [Large Coca-Cola]. A telephone bidder won it for $35.3 million, over its $25 million high estimate.
But the sale relied heavily on faraway collectors to pick up its priciest pieces, including examples by boom-era favourites Mark Rothko and Francis Bacon. An Asian telephone bidder paid $22.4 million for a lemony, untitled Rothko from 1955 that was being sold by architect Graham Gund. Sotheby's London-based expert Oliver Barker also fielded the $14 million winning telephone bid for Bacon's orange-and-blue Figure in Movement, which was priced to sell for up to $10 million with fees. (Sale prices include the auction house's commission, which estimate prices omit.)
Eager Collectors Snap Up Pop Art at Sotheby’s Auction
By CAROL VOGEL, The New York Times, November 9, 2010
It was to have been Warhol’s night. Waiters in black served Coca-Cola in old-fashioned green-glass bottles to the throngs of collectors and dealers who packed Sotheby’s salesroom on Tuesday night, an homage to a 1962 Coke bottle painting by the artist that was on offer.
There has been far less work by Francis Bacon to come on the market this season than in years past, but Figure in Movement, a 1985 painting of one of the artist’s anguished figures, this one wearing knee pads and boxed in by sky-blue bars against a black background, was a present from Bacon to his doctor, Paul Brass, who had decided it was time to sell and was watching the sale from a skybox. Four people fought over the painting, which was estimated to bring $7 million to $10 million, and sold for $14 million.
ART UNCOVERED: THE PUBLIC'S ARTWORK DENIED AN AUDIENCE
IN THE current tough climate of arts cuts, Jane Clinton reports on the treasures that are costing taxpayers thousands of pounds to store but which remain hidden from view for much of the time.
By Jane Clinton, Sunday Express, Sunday November 7, 2010
THEY are the art treasures that are often away from view and include works by Francis Bacon and Damien Hirst.
News that the Arts Council England (ACE) has two thirds of its 7,500-strong collection in storage has drawn criticism from some quarters but it has hit back insisting theirs is the hardest-working collection in the country.
“We are like a gallery without walls,” says a spokeswoman. “We have a third of our collection on show whereas some museums have less than 10 per cent of theirs on display.”
Among those not on loan are Francis Bacon’s Head VI, 1949, Lucian Freud’s Girl In A Green Dress, 1954 and Damien Hirst’s He Tried To Internalise Everything, 1992-1994.
The Arts Council England is facing budget cuts of £100million and last week announced it will have to cut funding for more than 100 organisations by 2015.
It has also launched a new process whereby organisations will have to reapply for their grants. Despite the cuts, however, it insists the loans collection will not be sold off and is not under threat. “Selling off the collection would mean these world-class works would be lost to the British people for ever,” says Arts Council England chief executive Alan Davey.
“I’ve not heard anyone suggesting that we should sell off any of our other great national collections to pay off the national debt.
“A modest amount is invested on behalf of the public, supporting artists at the very beginning of their careers, many of whom have gone on to become key figures in the history of art. Francis Bacon’s Head VI was bought for £60 in 1952 and is now worth an estimated £12million. This means that these important works, a world-class collection of post-war British art, belong to, and can be seen by, the British people for ever.”
There are, however, plans to review the amount spent on new acquisitions. The Arts Council England collection is funded through its development fund, the budget of which has been cut by 64 per cent. “We are now evaluating priority projects which are supported from our development fund and hope to be in a position to confirm some funding soon,” adds a spokeswoman.
However, leading art critic Brian Sewell believes the Arts Council should sell off the collection to free up funds and save on the expense of storage and conservation. “I see no purpose in the collection at all,” he says. “The Arts Council is in many ways just duplicating what is done by the Tate and other collectors and collecting bodies. There is a great mass of material being accumulated by the museums and galleries that no one ever sees and the Arts Council simply joined in.
It has very little out on loan. The collection should be spread into galleries. The Tate Gallery, as the heritage body in contemporary art, should be encouraged to go through the collection and select what it doesn’t have. Then that should automatically pass to the Tate. “The rest of it could easily be sold and even if it doesn’t make a substantial amount of money you will immediately save the costs of storage, conservation, maintenance security and curatorial staff. It would be a neat solution to the budget cuts.”
Kundera, unmoved, turns the canon on itself
MILAN Kundera is a great essayist, and yet his best essays are reserved for his fiction.
Encounter: Essays By Milan Kundera Faber & Faber, 178pp, $24.95
Geordie Williamson, The Australian, October 30, 2010
It is in the novel, that zone of total imaginative freedom, where the Czech author's genius for melding pure idea to character and narrative is most apparent.
Taking in the four volumes of essays made available in English since The Art of the Novel in 1986, we might say Kundera's nonfiction operates as a series of retrospective explanations and genealogical justifications for the louche, playful and incorrigibly metaphysical content of his imaginative work.
Nonetheless, there is much that is fresh here, not least because the writer's attention is thrown outward, towards other creative figures (hence the title). The collection opens, for example, with an essay on Francis Bacon that aims straight at the heart of that magnificent and brutal artist's program:
Bacon's portraits are an interrogation on the limits of the self. Up to what degree of distortion does an individual still remain himself? To what degree of distortion does a beloved person still remain a beloved person? . . . Where is the border beyond which a self ceases to be a self?
What impresses Kundera about Bacon is not only his quest for an originality that does not sever modernism from earlier painterly traditions, but also his willingness to search, "in a time when the 'self' has everywhere begun to take cover", for (in Bacon's words) "that treasure, that gold nugget, that hidden diamond" that is "the face of the self".
And so Bacon serves as a template for what the creative figure should possess: "a clear-sighted, sorrowing, thoughtful gaze trying to penetrate to the essential". writing unique: "
Geordie Williamson is The Australian's chief literary critic.
An encounter on familiar turf
Franco-Czech writer Milan Kundera revisits favourite themes in collection of unrelated essays
By Jose Teodoro, Edmonton Journal, October 24, 2010
In The Painter's Brutal Gesture: On Francis Bacon, the piece that opens Encounter, Milan Kundera evokes that singular horror that characterizes Bacon's painting by aligning its effect on him to a personal experience.
He recalls meeting with a woman in a Prague suburb in 1972. The woman had been mercilessly interrogated by police about Kundera only days before, and remained so traumatized by the incident that she had yet to recover control of her bowels and had to repeatedly adjourn to the toilet. Like "a great knife," Kundera writes, "fear had laid her open. She was gaping wide before me like the split carcass of a heifer hanging from a meat hook."
Kundera was suddenly seized by the desire to rape her, a desire "uncalled for and unconscionable" - and, I hasten to note, not acted upon - yet nonetheless real. This desire is summoned back into memory when Kundera surveys Bacon's triptych of portraits of Henrietta Moraes, in which "the painter's gaze comes down on the face like a brutal hand trying to seize hold of her essence."
By confessing to such unsavoury urges, Kundera illuminates Bacon's portraits as "an interrogation of the limits of the self."
Jose Teodoro is a former Edmonton playwright now based in Toronto.
CONTEMPORARY ART EVENING SALE
Session 1: Tue, 9 Nov 10, 7:00 PM
Figure in Movement 1985 Francis Bacon
LOT SOLD Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium: 14,082,500 USD
LOT NO. 31
FIGURE IN MOVEMENT
7,000,00 - 10,000,000
A gift from the artist to the present owner in 1985
London, Marlborough Fine Art, Ltd., Francis Bacon: Paintings, May - July 1985, cat. no. 17, p. 39, illustrated in colour
Oxford, Museum of Modern Art, Current Affairs: British Painting and Sculpture in the 1980s, March 1987, cat. no. 2, illustrated in colour
Moscow, Maison Centrale Des Artistes, Nouvelle Galerie Tretyakov, Francis Bacon, September - November 1988, cat. no. 17, p. 61, illustrated in colour (organized by the British Council)
Glasgow, McLellan Galleries, Glasgow's Great British Art Exhibition, March - May 1990, p. 37, illustrated in colour
Paris, Centre national d'art et de culture Georges Pompidou, Francis Bacon, June - October 1996, cat. no. 81, p. 217, illustrated in colour
London, Hayward Gallery, Francis Bacon: The Human Body, February - April 1998, cat. no. 22, n.p., illustrated in colour
The Hague, Gemeentemuseum, Francis Bacon, January - May 2001, p. 111, illustrated in colour
London, Tate Britain; Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado; New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Francis Bacon, September 2008 - August 2009, p. 243, illustrated in colour
London, Tate Gallery, 2000 - 2010 (extended loan)
Hugh Davies and Sally Yard, Modern Masters: Francis Bacon, New York, London and Paris, 1986, no. 102, p. 107, illustrated and illustrated in colour on the back cover
Michel Leiris, Francis Bacon, Paris, 1987, no. 149, n.p., illustrated in colour
In the catalogue to the spectacular retrospective at the Tate Gallery in 1985, the museum's renowned director Alan Bowness described the art of Francis Bacon thus: "His own work sets the standard for our time, for he is surely the greatest living painter; no artist in our century has presented the human predicament with such insight and feeling....for Bacon, the virtues of truth and honesty transcend the tasteful. They give to his paintings a terrible beauty that has placed them among the most memorable images in the entire history of art" (Exh. Cat., London, Tate Gallery, Francis Bacon, 1985, p. 7). Executed in this very year, Figure in Movement represents physical testament to this acclamation. Exhibiting the most striking composition, a magnificent array of brushwork and a supremely arresting palette, this is a formidable portrayal of the human animal that epitomises the full gamut of Bacon's artistic genius. Indeed, the inimitable traits of his method, specifically the intense combination of brilliant cadmium orange with depthless black, directly compare with the masterpieces Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, 1944 (Tate Britain, London) and Three Studies for a Crucifixion, 1962 (Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York).
Gifted by the artist to his physician Dr. Paul Brass, who followed his father Dr. Stanley Brass as Bacon's personal doctor and with whom Bacon maintained a close bond until his death in 1992, Figure in Movement possesses an exceptional provenance. The terms of its ownership vividly reflect its importance to Bacon: not only was Dr. Brass a most trusted friend, but when he was first offered a choice of painting and initially suggested another work, the artist instead recommended Figure in Movement, assuring his doctor that it was a superior painting. Eminently regarded through its distinguished exhibition history in major shows in Moscow, Paris, London and The Hague, as well as its long-term loan to the Tate; this marks the historic occasion of its first appearance to market.
Foremost among Bacon's innermost clique in 1985 was John Edwards, a handsome East-Ender and the artist's closest companion at this time. Edwards wrote, "it was a perfect relationship. I was never Francis' lover, but I loved him as the best friend a man could have. He was fond of me like a son" (Exh. Cat., New York, Tony Shafrazi Gallery, Francis Bacon, 1998, p. 7) and Dr. Brass has also stated: "I never heard Francis say a bad word about John. He said to me...'I think of John like a son. He's a son to me really'" (interviewed for Bacon's Arena, directed by Adam Low, produced by Anthony Wall, BBC Arena and The Estate of Francis Bacon, 2005). The parity between Edwards and the present physiognomy is clear: the long jaw-line, the geometries of the eye, nose and mouth and the jet-black hairline. However, Bacon never painted his friend from life and the naked torso of this body is adapted from photos of other models, notably the infamous shots of George Dyer in his underwear taken 20 years earlier. Thus, Figure in Movement conflates two of the most important figures in the artist's life. Significantly, Bacon inserts this being, an amalgamation of that which he held most dear, onto an exposed dais that is a crucible of existential isolation: the natural environment of his extraordinary artistic and philosophical innovation.
While the figure twists and writhes as if to struggle free of the canvas, it is contained within indications of rigid cricket pads. The sport was a subject of fascination for the artist's later career. A photograph of source material littering his studio floor reveals the intriguing arrangement of a copy of Physique Pictorial lying on top of England cricketer David Gower's book With Time to Spare, so that the legs of a brooding male bodybuilder join up with the cricket pads of a batsman underneath. This fusion of diametrically opposed images is archetypal of Bacon's ability to meld starkly eclectic themes to portray the chaos of human existence, and provides apt parallel with Figure in Movement. Bacon draws on his knowledge of art historical precedent, such as the incomparable figural studies of Michelangelo. He accelerates the effects of light and shadow, plunging form in and out of darkness so that several passages of light flow in simultaneous chorus. Chiaroscuro rhythms of anatomic gesture negotiate between material and void, while the figure's left leg dissolves in the black ether of the platform.
More than any other artist of the 20th Century, Bacon held a mirror to the nature of the Human Condition, and Figure in Movement provides the perfect reflection of what he saw. He was fascinated by the postwar works of the French existentialists Sartre, Camus and de Beauvoir, and their themes of alienation, imprisonment and the absurd. The most important actors of Bacon's canon, typified by this figure, crystallise this entire philosophical enquiry, as they let go of the sureties of the past and stand on the threshold of an unknowable future.
An interview between Sotheby's Michael Macaulay and Martin Harrison, editor of the Francis Bacon catalogue raisonné in preparation for publication.
MM: Could you share your opinion of Bacon's late work of the 1980s and explain how Figure in Movement from 1985 fits into this important period?
MH: Bacon's project in the 1980s can be summed up as refining to their essence the themes that preoccupied him most of his career – the human body, gesture and movement. In eliminating superfluous detail, he could be described as a figurative minimalist. Figure in Movement is a quintessential exemplar of this process. It is a compelling variation of a concept he had first essayed in 1982, in which a naked form wearing cricket pads was raised on a dais. In the 1982 paintings, the 'figure' is an abstracted semi-torso, as in the panel Study from the Human Body, 1982–84, from the diptych in the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D. C. and in Study of the Human Body, 1982 (Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris). Evidently, in Figure in Movement, 1985, Bacon set himself the challenge of representing a more complete human body.
MM: How does Bacon's symbolic content, in this case the gladiatorial inference of the inclusion of the cricket pads, relate to the isolation of his figures?
MH: The reference to cricket is deliberately ambiguous: the figure, isolated in an artificial arena, is simultaneously vulnerable and aggressive. Bacon's figures are radically decontextualised into a kind of existential vacuum: cricket is an outdoor sport, but Bacon's visual field is neither exterior nor interior. Figure in Movement is one of a select group of works made in the last decade of his life that feature a dominant, bright cadmium orange ground, Bacon's favourite colour. In its positive and vibrant aspects it intensifies the confinement of the abject yet heroic figures.
MM: The cricket pads invoke Bacon's appropriation of found imagery as cues for composition. How had the artist's treatment of found imagery altered by this stage in his career?
MH: Bacon collected images of cricketers in the 1980s, and four books on cricket that remained in his Reece Mews studio at the time of his death are now in the collection of Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane: Patrick Eagar and John Arlott, An Eye for Cricket, (1979); David Gower and Alan Lee, With Time to Spare (1980); Mike Brearley, Phoenix from the Ashes: The Story of the England – Australia Series 1981, (1982); Patrick Eagar and Graeme Wright, Test Decade 1972–1982 (1982). He was familiar with cricket through his relationship with Eric Hall from the 1930s to the 1950s; Hall was an aficionado of the sport and on intimate terms with many of the leading players. Bacon greatly admired David Gower, one of England's leading batsmen renowned for his good looks, and David Sylvester identified Gower as a specific spur for the paintings. [Interviews, p. 180] However, even in the last painting to reference cricket, the central panel of Triptych 1987, the head is unequivocally that of John Edwards whose representations were based on photographs: therefore, Bacon's modus operandi in terms of appropriated imagery remained the same as it had since the 1940s, when he first adapted reproductions of Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X and Eadweard Muybridge's Animal Locomotion.
MM: This work was executed seven years before Bacon's death. Do you perceive a growing sense of his own mortality, and what does Figure in Movement say about the artist's self-perception in this final period?
MH: Crucial to Bacon's anti-narrative strategy, he located the elements of Figure in Movement in a zone of ambiguity. The protagonist is non-specific, adopting neither an offensive or defensive attitude. The figure also defies spatial logic, occupying an abstract field both behind and in front of the pale blue and black backdrop. The padded left leg dissolves into a smoky shadow on the floor of the elevated dais, the dissociated 'field of play' that acts as a cipher for the confrontation between batsman and bowler on the cricket field. It is too facile to relate the dissolving of forms to his consciousness of mortality, although the black backdrops – opaque voids that resemble tombstones – tend to support such an interpretation, as would the collapsing of the head into the negative space.
This intense and deceptively simple painting transforms the role of the viewer from a passive to an active state: Bacon's fragmented forms and anatomical diversions – the tilt of the body and the violent diagonal sweep of the sketchy arms and hand – insist on a creative interaction. Our gaze is drawn through the converging perspective of the wicket/pedestal and we become both observer and participant.
£94 million of art sold at Frieze auctions
Last week’s auctions fetched more than double the amount achieved last year.
By Colin Gleadell, The Daily Telegraph, 18 Oct 2010
Study for a Dog Francis Bacon
No one, it seems, was bold enough to bid at Christie’s fund-raiser for the Royal College of Art for the chance to have their portrait painted by Jake and Dinos Chapman. Nor was anyone prepared to bid on a scrappy painting of a dog by Francis Bacon that the artist chucked in a skip. The painting was rescued by an electrician, Mac Robertson, who sold it at an auction in Surrey three years ago, when it fetched £30,000 from a New York gallery against a £1,000 estimate. Last week it was presented by Christie’s with a £120,000 estimate, but with no mention of its history in the catalogue.
Howzat? Francis Bacon’s cricketing portrait to fetch £6m
A Francis Bacon portrait which the artist gave as a gift to his doctor is expected to fetch over £6 million at auction.
By Anita Singh, Arts Correspondent
The Daily Telegraph, 12 October 2010
Francis Bacon's Figure in Movement is estimated to fetch over £6 million at auction.
The 1985 painting, Figure In Movement, is being sold by Dr Paul Brass, the artist's friend and personal physician. It depicts a figure wearing cricketer's kneepads - Bacon had a lifelong passion for the sport.
Bacon, who died in 1992, was the perfect patient, Dr Brass said. "He was always 15 minutes early for every appointment." The portrait has been on loan to Tate Britain for the past decade and will be sold at Sotheby's in New York on November 9.
Francis Bacon painting of cricketer to be auctioned in New York
Figure in Movement, a gift to the artist's friend and GP, expected to fetch at least £4m in Sotheby's sale
Mark Brown, arts correspondent
The Guardian, Monday 11 October 2010
Francis Bacon’s Figure In Movement
A Francis Bacon painting of a tortured cricketer twisting and writhing is to be sold at auction after hanging in Tate Britain for much of the last decade, Sotheby's announced today.
The painting is being sold by Bacon's friend and personal doctor, Paul Brass, who was given the portrait in 1985, the year it was completed.
After loaning it to the Tate, Brass has decided to sell and an estimate of $7m-$10m (£4.4m-£6.3m) has been placed on it ahead of the auction in New York on 9 November.
Figure in Movement, featuring a typically agonised figure, common in Bacon's work, this time in cricket pads and against a black and bright orange background with blue cage-like struts, also featured in the major 2008 Bacon retrospective at Tate Britain, which toured New York and Madrid.
Brass took over the role of being Bacon's personal physician from his father, Dr Stanley Brass, and was offered a choice between two paintings – the cricketer and one of a jet of water.
In an interview with the New York Times, Brass said: "I was tempted to opt for the jet of water, but when I told that to Francis, he said no, that painting happened by mistake when he spilled white paint on the canvas. He told me, 'If I were you, I would choose the cricketer'."
Bacon died in 1992 and his works attract some of the biggest prices for any 20th century artist although no one expects the painting to get anywhere near the record, set in 2008 when Bacon's Triptych 1976 was bought by Roman Abramovich for $86m, reportedly to hang on the walls of his London home.
There have been disagreements about what is going on in Figure In Movement and who it is based on. The figure seems to resemble John Edwards, the man Bacon found solace in after the suicide of his lover George Dyer in 1971, but there have also been suggestions Bacon based it on David Gower, captain of the England cricket team in the mid-1980s.
A Bacon Cricketer With a Back Story
By CAROL VOGEL
The New York Times, October 8, 2010
The Francis Bacon that Dr. Paul Brass knew was altogether different from the raucous, hard-drinking artist whose canvases depict distorted figures screaming to be freed from their frames.
Dr. Brass, an internist, knew Bacon as a friend and as a patient of his father’s. “The first time I met him I must have been 16,” Dr. Brass recalled, sipping tea in a conference room at Sotheby’s in London recently. He added later, “I would occasionally treat him when my father was on holiday.”
When the senior Dr. Brass retired, his son took over the practice. “I never liked to send fees” — that is, bills — “to friends and family,” he said. “And one day I received a letter from Francis saying that if I didn’t send him a bill for the last two years he would have to find another doctor.”
Not only did Bacon, who died in 1992, pay by “return post,” as Dr. Brass put it, but he also “was always 15 minutes early for every appointment.”
Over the years, as their friendship grew, Dr. Brass would make a point of going to Bacon’s exhibitions. At a show at the Marlborough Gallery in London, Valerie Beston, a director of the gallery at the time, told Dr. Brass that Bacon wanted to give him a painting and that he was to choose from two in the show: one of a jet of water, the other a figure of a cricketer.
“I was tempted to opt for the jet of water, but when I told that to Francis, he said no, that painting happened by mistake when he spilled white paint on the canvas,” Dr. Brass said. “He told me, ‘If I were you, I would choose the cricketer.’ ”
So he did. But Dr. Brass has decided to sell this 1985 painting, Figure in Movement, which features one of Bacon’s anguished figures, this one wearing knee pads and boxed against a black background within a sky-blue frame that is much like a cage. It will go on the block on Nov. 9 at Sotheby’s in New York, where it is expected to bring $7 million to $10 million.
For the past decade the painting has been on loan to Tate Britain. It has also been included in many major Bacon exhibitions, most recently a retrospective at the Tate that travelled to the Prado in Madrid and then the Metropolitan Museum of Art last year.
Cricket fascinated Bacon, and beginning in the 1950s he would attend matches. Over the years the subject crept into several of his paintings. In Figure in Movement, however, the man’s jaw line, eyes, nose, mouth and hair are unmistakably those of John Edwards, Bacon’s closest companion from the mid-1970s until his death.
But the body was adapted from 20-year-old photographs of George Dyer in his underwear. Mr. Dyer was Bacon’s companion until Mr. Dyer committed suicide in 1971. “Dyer and Edwards were both patients,” Dr. Brass noted.
Il compito dell'artista? Svelare qualcosa di me
La mostra milanese di Maurizio Cattelan fa riaccendere il dibattito sul ruolo dell'arte: ha una missione sociale o la sua responsabilità è di altro tipo? Per capirlo, proviamo a fare i conti con «due giganti del Novecento»
di Giuseppe Frangi, Tracce, Italy, 28/09/10
Francis Bacon Autoritratto.
Complice (anche) la mostra milanese di Maurizio Cattelan, sui giornali è riaffiorata una domanda che tendiamo a dare un po’ per scontata, quando si parla di artisti contemporanei. Esiste una responsabilità sociale dell’arte? Insomma, l’artista ha dei doveri, un compito, in qualche modo “una missione da assolvere” nei confronti della società a cui si rivolge? Rispondo provocatoriamente dicendo di no. L’arte ha un’altra responsabilità: quella di “rispondere” alle domande che riguardano la radice dell’essere.
Francis Bacon Painting Shown Alongside Artist's Favourite Work
Art Daily, Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Untitled (Crouching Figures), c.1952 Francis Bacon
Estate of Francis Bacon has generously placed an important painting by the
artist on loan to The Courtauld Gallery. Untitled
(Crouching Figures), c.1952, went on display from yesterday and will
initially be presented alongside Honoré Daumier’s Don Quixote and Sancho
Panza, c.1870, in recognition of Bacon’s admiration for Daumier’s
Le Figaro 14/09/2010
Black and white photograph of Francis Bacon, 1967. John Deakin
L'endroit est incroyable. Au cœur de la même Galerie municipale d'art moderne, l'atelier du peintre irlandais Francis Bacon apparaît dans une salle tel qu'il fut au 7, Reece Mews (South Kensington) à Londres. Il aura fallu le travail de 40 archéologues durant un an pour démonter et remonter à l'identique ce fabuleux trésor. Tout est en place : murs, fenêtres, sol jonché de papier journal et bouteilles de champagne vides. Des photographies du peintre, de ses proches et de son repaire londonien encerclent l'atelier, ainsi que quelques toiles. Devant le refus de La Tate Modern de recevoir cet espace, John Edwards, légataire universel de Bacon, s'était tourné vers Dublin, où naquit le peintre en 1909. Une initiative successful.
The Hugh Lane, Parnel Square. Jusqu'au 31 oct. 2010.
Brian Clarke: rock star of stained glass
Paul McCartney and David Bailey are fans and friends; Francis Bacon chose him to look after his estate; and later this month the Pope will bless his work. Meet Brian Clarke, the world's grooviest stained-glass artist.
By David Jenkins, The Daily Telegraph, 08 September 2010
Pyramid of Peace, Kazakhstan Photo: Brian Clarke
There’s a stained-glass window in one corner of the former ballroom that occupies the first floor of Brian Clarke’s west London house, and it’s a marvel of smoky blues, glowing reds and trenchant whites.
It’s by Clarke and, as the 57 year-old talks about it, his rich Lancashire accent throbbing with enthusiasm, he sings a hymn to the glory of light and of stained glass as a medium: how the blue becomes transparent, the red goes on fire and the white becomes incandescent at 6pm each day, just 30 summer days a year. It’s how ‘stained glass is always kinetic’ that he adores, the ‘liquid element’ of glass that he loves, the ‘transillumination’ he reveres.
Beneath the glass is an ice-blue, geometric, double-sided sofa designed for him by his old friend Zaha Hadid to complement the window, a window she calls ‘fluid and stunning’; on the other walls are a huge lead on sheet lead representation of his even older friend Paul McCartney’s hands – ‘I was drawing his face for a record cover or something and he started playing air guitar, and I drew that, so it’s a sort of portrait of Paul’; a Warhol of Jackie Kennedy – ‘you felt, when you were with Andy, that you were with an artist. He was Narcissus looking into the pool and telling us our reflection was all right’; and a Francis Bacon – ‘I said to Francis once: “You know Francis, some of the things you’re doing could translate into stained glass in a tremendously interesting way, and you’d have the benefit of transmitted colour rather than reflected colour. Have you ever thought of doing any stained glass?” And Francis said [Clarke adopts a camp and bitchy voice]: “No, dear – and I’ve not done any macramé either.”’
Clarke honks with laughter, his broad, large-eared face creased with amusement and shakes his head. ‘He was such a b-----d.’ (Clarke is chairman of the Bacon Estate; so, he says, ‘a lot of people in the art world are, you know, very, very keen to be my friend’).
For all his famous friends and success as a painter, it’s for his stained glass that Clarke is best known. He has, he says, done ‘more stained glass than anyone, probably ever’, and it’s found in settings as diverse as the Pyramid of Peace in Kazakhstan, the Pfizer building in New York, the Holocaust memorial in Darmstadt and the lobby of the Apax Group in Jermyn Street – the last a shimmering mix of deep blues, greens and carnation reds that is, Hadid says, like a ‘window to the outside world, very controlled, very strong’.
Right now, though, Clarke is having an ecclesiastical moment, having fled the overpowering shadow of church architecture 25 years ago: last weekend, in Linköping Cathedral, Sweden, three of his windows are being unveiled in a medieval church that has never before had stained glass in it (‘They went on a tour of Europe, the bishop and his mates and advisers from Swedish Heritage, to look at contemporary stained glass. And they saw a Cistercian Convent I’d done in Switzerland and commissioned me’). And in 12 days’ time the Pope will be blessing a stained-glass window, suffused in ultramarines and ruby reds, which Clarke has done for the Papal Nunciature in Wimbledon.
‘I’d said it wasn’t really my bag: I’m definitely not holy. But the Papal Nuncio is a genuinely cool guy, he really is; he’s everything you want in an archbishop. It’s a small work, but I’m very, very pleased with it – it’s a winner.’
As he tells me this we’re sitting in the kitchen of his house, eating chicken wrapped in bacon, couscous and salad. He’s wearing a pink shirt, khaki-coloured jeans and no shoes; glinting in his right earlobe is a gold cross. The house has been home to many artists from the late Victorian era onward, though Clarke bought it from the singer Leo Sayer (‘we found one of his clown outfits in the attic’) after his then dealer – the ultra-hip and very dangerous Robert Fraser – found it and told him: ‘If you don’t buy it, I’ll regard it as a personal insult.’
Ever ready with an anecdote and dauntingly erudite, Clarke is very affable company. ‘He’s good fun,’ cackles David Bailey, another good friend, ‘though not as funny as me – he hasn’t got my vicious cockney tongue.’ And it’s true: there’s a Lancastrian warmth to Clarke that helps explain why he’s so liked by so many.
The son of working-class parents, Clarke was born in the cotton-spinning town of Oldham. At ‘11 or 12’, a school trip to York Minster was a ‘very powerful juvenile experience. It’s a very warm stone, and I remember the light coming through the stained glass and the choir was practising. In my head, I say I could smell incense, but I suspect… But that was a definite moment, and in a way I’m always trying to recapture it.’
At 12, he won a scholarship to the Oldham School of Arts and Crafts and moved on, via Burnley School of Art and North Devon College of Art and Design, to be awarded a Churchill Memorial Travelling Scholarship. He was already working with stained glass, as well as painting. Teachers thought him: ‘Nuts. Most people were just worried I wouldn’t earn a living.’ Still, by 23, he was already the subject of a BBC arts documentary and living in an old vicarage in Derbyshire with his then wife, Liz.
It was, he says, an idyllic existence, but the capital beckoned and in 1978 he moved to London. ‘There was no possibility of me realising the grandiose ambitions I had for stained glass if I’d stayed.’ And there was his frisky character to take into account.
Clarke was, John McEwen wrote in the Spectator, ‘the most Sixties character to have emerged in the London art scene since the Sixties’, and, Clarke says, his Finsbury Square studio became ‘a hub of activity and of what today, I suppose, is called glamour’. Bailey became a friend (‘I learnt a lot about light from Bailey’), and Bacon’s lover, John Edwards, and then the McCartneys.
An electrifying period, then? ‘Oh yeah. I was the kid, I was the young one. And if I’d thought about it long enough, I couldn’t possibly have dealt with Francis, for example, because I would have been in awe. But I wasn’t, because I thought I was as good as he was: I was full of the arrogance of inexperience. And I wasn’t impressed, you know – by then I’d become friends with Paul [McCartney], close friends with Paul and Linda, and after Paul and Linda it’s difficult to be impressed, really.
‘They took it all so easily, so matter-of-factly – they were so unimpressed themselves. They were very supportive: they bought paintings from me, commissioned me to do stained glass projects for their home, stage sets. Paul really gets art: he gets it very quick, very sharp. And I was working ferociously.’
As McEwen put it when a show of Clarke’s paintings reopened Fraser’s gallery in 1983: ‘A year for Clarke is an age for most of us. His energy is both undeniable and commendably against the English grain.’
But there’s something very English in the singer and actor Richard Strange’s memory of that opening: Clarke’s mother was the guest of honour at an event littered with stars. And, Strange says, Mrs Clarke saw a familiar face across the room and said: ‘“Ooh Brian, you’ve got to introduce me.” So Brian took her across the room, saying: “Excuse me, Andy, excuse me, Mick, I’ve got to introduce my mum to someone.” And they come up to Paul McCartney and Brian says: “Now, mum, I’d like to introduce you to…’ and she interrupts him and says, “Oh Brian, Derek Nimmo needs no introduction.’”
Another important friend made at this time was Norman Foster, with whom Clarke later worked extensively. ‘We shared enthusiasms,’ Clarke says. ‘One of them is light. And the early period of our friendship – by which I mean the first 15 years or so – was just ricocheting from one thrilling moment to another. We’d see each other three or four times a day – breakfast, lunch and dinner, with telephone calls in between. It was all about discovery, new things; we developed new technologies.’
Clarke developed techniques that involve the bonding of glazed colours to architectural ‘float’ glass, often doing this in multiple layers that create an oscillating visual effect; a method that allows colour to be applied to large areas of glass without the familiar dividing lead strap work. Colour, in Clarke’s case, that’s radiantly life affirming.
Many of Clarke’s best friends are architects – Hadid, Foster, Peter Cook, the late Jan Kaplicky – and it is, Hadid says, ‘very rare to have someone who’s an artist who knows about architecture’.
Still, Clarke says: ‘I’ve done things I consider among my best work and they’re in buildings I think should be pulled down, quite frankly. But I can’t do that any more, because it’s lipstick on a gorilla. I can only really do my best when it’s in harmonious tandem.’
That harmony is what he enjoys about working with architects. ‘Artists work on the principle that they have a direct line to God. Well, very often that direct line has bad reception. And what was so thrilling about Norman, and architectural culture, was the inclusiveness of it, the collaboration,’ Clarke says. The downside being, of course, that people introduce him as ‘some kind of architect, or designer. And I’m not. I’m an artist – I’m a poet, not an organiser of imagery.’
It was that savage poet of violence, Francis Bacon who threw a spanner in Clarke’s works. ‘Francis quite liked talking about dying and how he was leaving everything to John – he kind of boasted about it. And John would say: “I don’t know what I’m going to do, Francis; I don’t know how I’ll manage all this.” And Francis would say: “Oh, Brian’ll help you.”
‘It was like that. And then it became that; I’d made a solemn promise I would. And John was as close a friend as I’ve ever had – he had great intuition; he could spot a phoney across a crowded pub. And Francis had been dead about three years and John came for help; he said to me: “I don’t understand these papers.”’
Clarke was, he says, in the middle of ‘an incredibly productive and exciting period of my life’. Still, at Edwards’s request, the High Court made Clarke sole executor of the Bacon Estate and he took up legal cudgels against Bacon’s old gallery, the Marlborough.
He assumed the matter would be over in months; six years later, litigation was still going on – at one stage, Clarke had 20 lawyers working for him. ‘It was horrible. It nearly killed me. If I could rewind the clock, that would be something I would definitely not want to be involved with.’
While the case was going on, ‘we moved Francis’s studio [from Reece Mews, Kensington] to Dublin and that helped me, because it showed some good could come out of this s---, as well as angst and anger and money – the money got bigger and bigger’. No surprise, really: as Clarke notes: ‘Francis used to say: “What people like about my paintings are the noughts.”’
Edwards died before the case was over, leaving Clarke his sole executor. He is chairman of the Bacon Trust, but he’s keen to resign. Meanwhile, a catalogue raisonné is in preparation, works are loaned and gifted, grants given. And ‘there’s one big pay off: I’ve been so close to Francis’s work now, at such an intimate level, with access to great masterpieces on a daily basis’.
Bacon’s studio was famously squalid and chaotic. Clarke’s – on an industrial estate in north-west London – is more ordered, despite the presence of his son’s drum kit. Classical music plays; there’s a view of the ‘lumpen’ Wembley arch; seven people work there.
Over here are the stairs down which Dennis Hopper fell on a visit to the studio; over there an oil on canvas study for a portrait of Andy Warhol. Here are drawings Clarke is making of paint tubes and of chocolate caramel sweet wrappers – ‘I’ve eaten thousands of them.’ Here’s the Fleur de Lys glass he did for Linda McCartney. Here’s multiple evidence of the ‘great hand’ and ‘fine line’ both Hadid and Doris Saatchi Lockhart praise. Here are the skulls that preoccupy him.
And here’s a large-scale proposal he’s preparing for a stained-glass installation at Stratford International, ‘where you get off the train from Paris and Brussels and for the Olympics’. It’s to be 300ft long and 20ft high, his first big work in London, green and yellow and flickering, punctuated with bands of swirling blue. ‘It’s such a quintessentially English thing,’ he says, ‘light coming through oak leaves.’
He pauses. ‘Stained glass – I’m more excited about it than I’ve ever been. It can transform the way you feel when you enter a building in the way nothing else can.’
Encounter: Essays by Milan Kundera
Milan Kundera's exhumed essays cast a spell with their insights into creativity, writes Geoff Dyer
Geoff Dyer, The Observer, Sunday 2 August 2010
Milan Kundera, Czech born writer who has lived in exile in France since 1975. Portrait taken in Paris in 1981
It is a tribute to Kundera's ability to weave his essayistic spell that my interest was undiminished by the fact that I am either wholly ignorant of many of the composers and writers discussed (Iannis Xenakis, Marek Bienczyk, Gudbergur Bergsson) correct or am familiar with them only through Kundera's earlier books. In any case, Kundera's subjects are mirrors, offering variously distorted reflections on his own work and situation. As he says with reference to a remark by Francis Bacon about Beckett: "When one artist is talking about another, he is always talking (indirectly, in a roundabout way) of himself, and that is what's valuable in his judgment."
The book kicks off with a particularly outrageous example as he reflects on and reprints a piece from the 1970s. In 1972, in an apartment in Prague, he met a demure young woman he knew well who had been interrogated for several days by the authorities. The trauma had upset her bowels so badly that every few minutes she had to rush off to the lavatory. "The noise of the water refilling the toilet tank practically never let up and I suddenly had the urge to rape her."
"Unconscionable" though this desire was, Kundera cannot disavow it; it forms the basis of his understanding of "the brutal gesture" – the "hand movement that roughs up another person's face in hopes of finding, in it and behind it, something that is hidden there" – of Francis Bacon's art. This may not be art history as understood by Kenneth Clark but it shoves us into a horrible confrontation with Bacon's art. The standard art-critical habit is to comment on the horror without conveying it so that we look and listen quite comfortably.
Milan Kundera's Encounter is an excellent essay collection
Book review: In Encounter (Faber, £12.99) Milan Kundera reflects on the artists and aesthetic tenets he holds dear.
Metro (UK), Alan Chadwick - 17th August, 2010
Writing about the art of Francis Bacon, Kundera praises Bacon’s ‘clearsighted, sorrowful gaze trying to penetrate to the essential’.
Yet that description could just as easily apply to Kundera’s own writing here, whether he is celebrating the music of Janácek or delighting in the comic marker laid down by Rabelais.
At one point, Kundera bemoans the demands of contemporary fashion (cultural ‘blacklists’) in a world where the importance of art is becoming diminished.
Book review: ‘Encounter’ by Milan Kundera
Compelling essays by someone who writes of authors, composers and artists from whom he continues to learn.
Encounter Essays Milan Kundera, translated from the French by Linda Asher Harper: 192 pp., $23.99
By Michael S. Roth, Special to the Los Angeles Times, August 15, 2010
“Bacons Finsternis”: Immer dem Maler nach
von Florian Asamer, Die Presse, 31.07.2010
Im Kunstgeschichte-Krimi "Bacons Finsternis" sucht und findet ein verlassener Ehemann Trost und jede Menge Abenteuer in den Bildern des Leinwandapokalyptikers Francis Bacon.
Auch dieser Griechenland-Urlaub endet, wie Griechenland-Urlaube eben enden: bei Meerblick und Wein in der Taverne. Zum Nachtisch erfährt Arthur Valentin von seiner geliebten Frau Isabel allerdings, dass mit dem Urlaub auch ihre Ehe vorbei sein wird.
Zurück in Wien stürzt Arthur, der ein Antiquariat betreibt, nach dem Auszug von Isabel ins Bodenlose. Er verlässt die ehemals gemeinsame Wohnung kaum mehr, überlässt die Arbeit im Antiquariat zur Gänze seiner Partnerin Maia und hängt rosaroten Erinnerungen an seine Ehejahre nach.
Monaten der Verzweiflung führt ihn eine Laune ins Kunsthistorische Museum.
Dort in eine Ausstellung von Francis Bacon. Die Bilder rütteln Arthur auf,
sie spiegeln seine verborgensten Ängste wider und geben ihm gleichzeitig neue
Lebensenergie. Wie in Trance besucht Arthur immer wieder die Ausstellung und
beschließt schließlich, den Bildern des irischen Malers quer durch Europa
nachzureisen. In der Schweiz begegnet er dann erstmals auf einer Leinwand
Bacons Muse Isabel Rawsthorne. Und zieht prompt Parallelen zu seiner Isabel.
Dabei glänzt das Buch mit detaillierten Schilderungen – nein, fesselnden Interpretationen vieler Bacon-Gemälde, die dazu einladen, sie gleich noch einmal zu lesen, diesmal mit einem Bacon-Katalog in der Hand. Vor allem mit der seitenlangen Beschreibung des Triptychons „Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion“ gelingt es Steiner, den Leser in tiefe Beunruhigung zu versetzen.
In der Tate Modern in London bekommt die Handlung eine völlig neue Wendung. Während Arthur wieder einmal einen Tag im Museum verbringt, bemerkt er „seine“ Isabel, die mit einem älteren Mann Bilder betrachtet. Er belauscht die beiden unbemerkt, schnappt Gesprächsfetzen auf, die darauf hindeuten, dass eine Exfrau mit ihrem Begleiter einen Kunstraub planen könnte. Als er seiner Geschäftspartnerin Maia von dieser Entdeckung erzählt, und Maia den Mann als einen ihrer an Kunstkatalogen interessierten Kunden wiedererkennt, der auch bei Scotland Yard kein unbeschriebenes Blatt ist, scheint die Sache klar. Arthur und Maia versuchen, den vermeintlichen Kunstdieben in Hamburg auf die Schliche zu kommen.
Wilfried Steiner, der als künstlerischer Leiter am Linzer Posthof arbeitet, verbindet in seinem Roman drei Stränge: eine anschauliche kunstgeschichtliche Reise durch das Leben von Francis Bacon, die tragisch-ironische Schilderungen eines gebrochenen Verlassenen, der über die Trennung von seiner großen Liebe nicht hinwegkommen will, und schließlich einen Kunstdiebstahl in Rififi-Manier. „Bacons Finsternis“ verdankt seinen unbestreitbaren Reiz wohl gerade dem Kontrast zwischen der in jeder Hinsicht schweren Bacon-Kost und einer etwas leicht geratenen Krimihandlung.
Wilfried Steiner, Bacons Finsternis, Deuticke Verlag, 286 Seiten, 20,50 Euro.
Wilfried Steiners zweiter Roman
Ruth Halle, ORF, o6/08/2010
Ist es ein Krimi, eine intelligente Kunstgeschichte rund um den Maler Francis Bacon oder ein Liebesroman? Wilfried Steiners soeben erschienenes Buch "Bacons Finsternis" ist von allem etwas und lässt sich dennoch nur schwer kategorisieren.
Der Linzer Schriftsteller stellt in seinem bei Deuticke publizierten Buch die faszinierende Figur des radikalen Francis Bacon in den Mittelpunkt und umkreist den irischen Maler mit einer sehr komplexen und auch humorvollen fiktiven Handlung.
Trost von Francis Bacon
Ein Ehepaar verbringt einen
harmonischen Urlaub auf Kreta und genießt den letzten Abend auf der
griechischen Insel in einer Taverne. Für Steiners Protagonisten Arthur
Valentin nimmt der Abend allerdings eine völlig unerwartete Wendung. Beinahe
nebenbei erfährt Arthur Valentin nach 15-jähriger Beziehung von seiner
Ehefrau, dass dies der letzte gemeinsame Urlaub gewesen sein soll.
Doch die Faszination für Francis
Bacon erweist sich in Steiners Roman keineswegs als probate
Beziehungstherapie: Während Arthur der Beschaulichkeit und Innigkeit seiner
Ehe nachtrauert, setzen sich die Ereignisse temporeich und von Steiner
stakkato-artig erzählt in Gang.
"Bacons Finsternis", den
zweiten Roman des Linzer Autors Wilfried Steiner, einordnen zu wollen,
erscheint schwierig: Er ist sowohl eine teils humoristisch erzählte
Liebesgeschichte, ein rasant und klug erzählter Krimi, als auch eine
aufschlussreiche, gut recherchierte Abhandlung über das Leben und Werk
Trauma, Tragedy, Therapy
Arts and Human Suffering
by Marko Zlomislic, Ph.D.
Levine would have us "embrace our own chaos". However, what does this exactly mean? He writes, "Since we are chaotic, we can face the chaos of trauma without feeling that we must expel it from our being". Is it not the other way around? Since we are not chaotic, we have such difficulty with trauma. If chaos were the essence of our Heideggerian ground, then there would be no problem in dealing with trauma. Trauma would be just another form of chaos that we already are. The experience of trauma says otherwise.
Levine asks, "What kind of art is adequate to the experience of trauma? To me, the answer is the art of the terrible, the grotesque, and the ugly". Here Levine cites the paintings of Francis Bacon. Bacon's work had a huge impact on me. I thought, yes, this is it. I must take his work further into ugliness and darkness. Therefore, I painted a la Bacon and then I had an epiphany.
What I was painting was only giving strength to death, darkness and chaos. I then began to paint landscapes and I think this is when I began to heal. Ten years after my traumatic event, I realize that art cannot save us from anything. Art is not salvific. It is not a salve or ointment. Returning to life is the grace that saves.
Master thatcher advises fire crews
Wokingham Times - 3 Aug 2010
Wokingham fire crews passing Long Cottage in Davis Street, Hurst, took the opportunity to quiz master thatcher James McCormack on how thatch roofs are constructed so they would have a better idea of how to fight a future thatch blaze.
Mr McCormack, of Country Thatching based in Wokingham, told firefighters about the types of reed and straw used in thatching and explained how twisted hazel spares are used to fix bundles of wheat reed to the original thatch.
The impromptu lesson proved so popular a further five teams from fire stations around Wokingham went along to quiz Mr McCormack, who has been a thatcher for 21 years.
He is currently working on Long Cottage which is believed to date back to 1629 and has featured in a BBC film about 20th century painter Mr Bacon.
The owners of the cottage would like to hear from anyone with details about the history of the cottage.
Crossing the Channel
Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud and Alberto Giacometti
and Connections in Paris and London 1946-1965
Télérama France, Le 18 décembre 2009 à 17h00 - Mis à jour le 18 décembre 2009 à 17h41
Mêlant architecture médiévale, géorgienne et moderne, Dublin la chaleureuse se découvre à pied. Plus de mille pubs, de nombreux restaurants et boutiques, sans oublier les musées, sont situés dans le centre. Trinity College et sa old bibliothèque (1712), avec l'extraordinaire Livre de Kells (copie en latin des quatre Evangiles), le National Museum, le National History Museum, la National Gallery et la National Library s'offrent aux nourritures de l'esprit.
Study for Portrait of John Edwards By Francis Bacon
A Parnell Square, le Dublin Writers Museum célèbre les plus grands écrivains. A deux pas, pour le centenaire de la naissance de Francis Bacon (à Dublin le 28 octobre 1909), la Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane, lui consacre une exposition exceptionnelle, Francis Bacon : a terrible beauty, titre extrait de Easter 1916, du poète W.B. Yeats, qui symbolise parfaitement la vie et l'oeuvre du peintre. John Edwards, compagnon et héritier de l'artiste, fit don de l'atelier de Bacon (qui se trouvait à Londres) à la Hugh Lane Gallery, qui, après en avoir exhumé près de 7 500 pièces (photos, livres, notes, dessins, toiles...), l'a reconstitué à l'identique. Ces archives et une sélection de toiles (1944-1989) permettent d'appréhender l'univers, les méthodes de travail du peintre qui disait : « Si vous n'avez pas un sujet qui vous habite, vous ronge intérieurement, vous tombez dans la décoration...
Photograph of George Dyer by John Deakin
Plus de cent toiles tailladées ont également été retrouvées car, pendant dix ans, l'artiste irlandais détruisit tout son travail ; il continuait d'affirmer, peu avant sa mort: « Parfois, il m'arrive de penser que j'aurais dû continuer à tout détruire ! » Soixante-dix dessins remettent en cause l'idée qu'il ne faisait jamais de travaux préparatoires... Amateur de poésie, Bacon se disait hanté par cette phrase d'Eschyle : « L'odeur du sang humain ne me quitte pas des yeux. » Une exposition unique, qui permet de mieux comprendre l'oeuvre de celui que l'on considère comme l'un des peintres majeurs du XXe siècle... Quant à la récente polémique qui a opposé l'Irlande à la France, allez voir un match de football gaélique : on peut y jouer indifféremment au pied et à la main
To celebrate Francis Bacon's centenary in 2009, Tate Britain mounted a retrospective exhibition that was subsequently shown at the Prado in Madrid and the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Bacon's theater of cruelty was an enormous popular success at all of its venues, but especially in New York, where he was hailed by fans as the greatest painter of the twentieth century. However, such clouds of hyperbole were already a touch toxic following the sale in 2008 of a flashy triptych for $86 million, and serious reviews of the Met show were anything but favourable. Also, those of us who care about the integrity of an artist's work were worried by the appearance on the market of paintings that, if indeed they are entirely by him, Bacon would never have allowed out of the studio.
As a longtime fan of Bacon, I have strong feelings about these matters. My admiration dates back to World War II, when, like many another art student, I was captivated by an illustration of a 1933 painting entitled Crucifixion in a popular book called Art Now, by Britain's token modernist, Herbert Read (first published in 1933, and frequently reprinted). Read's text was dim and theoretical, but his ragbag of black-and-white illustrations—by the giants of modernism, as well as the chauvinistic author's pets—was the only corpus of plates then available. This Crucifixion—a cruciform gush of sperm against a night sky, prescient of searchlights in the blitz—was irresistibly eye-catching. But who Bacon was, nobody seemed to know.
And then (circa 1946), craning my neck to get a look at a large canvas carried by a youngish man with dyed hair on the doorsteps of a neighbor's house, I realized that this had to be the mysterious Bacon. The neighbour turned out to be the artist's cousin and patron. I arranged for a mutual friend to take me to see him. Bacon struck me as being exhilaratingly funny—very camp in his disdain for masculine pronouns. Everything about his vast, vaulted studio was over the top: martinis served in huge Waterford tumblers; a paint-stained garter belt kicked under a sofa. The place had famously belonged to the pre-Raphaelite Sir John Everett Millais, but a later owner had left more of a mark on it: Emil Otto Hoppé, the foremost "court" photographer of his time. Hoppé's grungy hangings had survived the blitz, and so had the great dais where, crouched under a black, umbrella-like cloth (a feature of Bacon's earlier paintings), he had photographed society beauties in aigrettes and pearls. The ramshackle theatricality that permeated the studio also permeated the three iconic mastershockers—scrotum-bellied humanoids screaming out at us from the base of a crucifixion—that were about to make the artist famous.
Francis's blind old nanny, Jessie Lightfoot, knitting away at the back of the studio, came as a surprise. Besides helping Francis cook—she slept on the kitchen table—Nanny provided cover for Francis's shoplifting sprees (groceries, cosmetics, and Kiwi shoe polish for his hair). Nanny also helped him organize the illicit roulette parties that paid for the copious drink and excellent food he served to his guests. The lavish tips she extorted from gamblers desperate to use the one and only lavatory helped pay off Francis's gambling debts. Supposedly she also vetted his lovers. When she died in 1951, he took against the studio and sold it—a move he would always regret. The space would linger on in his visual memory: many a triptych is set in a photographer's studio in Hell.
Ultrasecretive about his artistic provenance, Bacon was exhibitionistically frank about the traumatic adolescent events that would define his role as an artist as well as a lover. In the recently published revised edition of his excellent, refreshingly unhagiological biography, Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma, Michael Peppiatt describes a fancy dress party given by Francis's parents—the chilly, moneyed mother and the brutal, bluish-blooded father—at Cannycourt, near Dublin, where Captain Eddy Bacon trained racehorses that, according to Francis, very seldom won. Already adept at seducing his father's grooms, sixteen-year-old Francis had gotten himself up as
an Eton-cropped flapper, complete with backless dress, beads, and a cigarette holder so long it reached to the candles in the middle of the table. Dressed as a curate, his father stared uneasily and said nothing as Francis rolled his eyes [and] shook his earrings.
Unease turned to rage when Captain Eddy caught his son wearing his mother's underclothes and gave him a thrashing. As a result "I fell sexually in love with him," Francis said. Years later, he would still slip on his fishnets in the hope of a replay.
To "make a man" of Francis, his father turned him over to a supposedly—though not in the least—respectable cousin for a disciplinary two months in Berlin. To Bacon's delight, the cousin turned out to be bisexual and, he assured me, "one of the most vicious men I ever met." Two months in the German capital, at its most depraved, reinforced the boy's masochistic and fetishistic proclivities. Berlin did indeed make a man of Francis: "Tough as old boots, albeit camp as a row of tents," an old friend recalled. However, his next stop, Paris—he spent two months nearby at Chantilly—would make an artist of him. His visit coincided with an exhibition of Picasso's drawings at Paul Rosenberg's gallery. Ironically, the drawings were mostly classicistic ones set in an ancient Mediterranean world. Bacon would later condemn these works, but at the age of seventeen he was captivated. Picasso would be the only contemporary artist whose influence he would ever acknowledge.
Francis seldom mentioned it, but he was proud of being a collateral descendant of Elizabeth I's all-powerful chancellor, after whom he had been named. He was especially intrigued that this Renaissance genius—philosopher, cabalist, courtier, Rosicrucian, statesman, as well as a writer so sublime that he is sometimes credited with writing Shakespeare's plays—had been a flamboyant homosexual. Lytton Strachey had made much of this in his book Elizabeth and Essex, published to wide acclaim in 1928. Strachey's baroque characterization of his forebear had fascinated him, Francis told me. How could he not identify with Strachey's view of the Elizabethan Bacon?
Instinctively and profoundly an artist...one of the supreme masters of the written word. Yet his artistry was of a very special kind.... His eye—a delicate, lively hazel eye—"it was like the eye of a viper," said William Harvey—required the perpetual refreshment of beautiful things.
Francis would also have sympathized with his forebear's "exuberant temperament [that] demanded the solace of material delights," expensive boyfriends, "half servants and half companions," whom he had shod in Spanish leather boots, since "the smell of ordinary leather was torture to him." The twentieth-century Bacon would ironically mock the family's motto, Mediocria firma ("moderation is best"), inscribed on the armorial dinner plates he would inherit. His illustrious ancestry and his sense of it might also account for his personal largesse as well as his desperate attempts at grandiloquence, which undermine many of the later triptychs.
Bacon's earliest paintings were mostly pastiches of Picasso; though attractive, they failed to sell. Since this driven, as yet unformed artist had no desire to be perceived as a pasticheur, he destroyed most of them. He continued sporadically to paint and decorate, but devoted most of his energies to gambling. Successive stays at Monte Carlo—hence the glimpses of Mediterranean vegetation in the early works—financed by a lover, enabled him to become an expert roulette player as well as a canny croupier in private games. He would approach painting in much the same way as he approached gambling, risking everything on a single brushstroke.
Never having attended an art school was a source of pride to Bacon. With the help of a meretricious Australian painter, Roy de Maistre, he taught himself to paint, for which he turned out to have a great flair; tragically, he failed to teach himself to draw. Painting after painting would be marred by his inability to articulate a figure or its space. Peppiatt recalls that, decades later, so embarrassed was Bacon at being asked by a Parisian restaurateur to do a drawing in his livre d'or that he doubled the tip and made for the exit.
After Bacon's death, David Sylvester, the artist's Boswell-cum-Saatchi, attempted to turn this deficiency into an advantage. In a chapter of his posthumous miscellany, entitled Bacon's Secret Vice, he proposed an "alternative view" of this fatal flaw: "His most articulate and helpful 'sketches' took the form of the written word." The "precisely worded" examples that supposedly demonstrate the linguistic origin of Bacon's paintings turn out to be a preposterous joke: offhand notes scrawled on the endpapers of a book about monkeys: Figure upside down on sofa; Two figures on sofa making love; Acrobat on platform in middle of room; and so on. Sylvester's contention that this shopping list constitutes "Bacon's most articulate and helpful sketches" raises doubt about the rest of his sales pitch.
Bacon's own excuse for his graphic ineptitude is more to the point: "[The painter] will only catch the mystery of reality if [he] doesn't know how to do it" is what he actually told Sylvester. This is fine, but only so long as the artist avoids subjects that call for graphic skill, subjects, for instance, that include hands. His celebrated variants on Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X are either magnificent flukes or near-total disasters. In the earliest of this ten-year series, Bacon famously portrays the Pope screaming. He's good at screams but hopeless at hands, so he amputates, conceals, or otherwise fudges them. At the age of eighty, Bacon apologized for this series to Michael Kimmelman: "Actually, I hate those popes because I think the Velázquez is such a superb image that it was silly of me to use it."
Infinitely more effective are the versions that Bacon did around the same time of Eadweard Muybridge's celebrated sequential photographs in The Human Figure in Motion, which record successive stages of various physical activities. Muybridge's photographs enormously facilitated Bacon's drawing, literally squaring up the composition for him to transfer to canvas. The finest of them, Two Figures, is based on pictographs of two athletes wrestling each other to the ground. Known with some justice to Bacon's friends as The Buggers, this work is the more subtle and hauntingly sexual for overtly depicting something supposedly innocent.
Two Figures 1953 Francis Bacon
Inability to draw might explain Bacon's initial decision to become a decorator. He had a real flair for interior design. His furniture was chic but brutal—too much for potential clients, and so he became a painter, and hustled on the side to pay the bills. Calling himself Francis Lightfoot (after his nanny), he advertised in the personal column of the London Times. An elderly client accused him of theft. "Probably true," he admitted later. Unluckily, the client was a relative of the vengeful Douglas Cooper, who had bought a major piece of Bacon's furniture and arranged for the publication of his Crucifixion in Art Now. Later, Cooper would bad-mouth Bacon in favour of his rival, Graham Sutherland, to the former's delight and gain.
Bacon's passion for belle peinture and his inventive handling of paint would usually but not always compensate for his inept draftsmanship. Though painterliness was a quality disdained by most modernists, Bacon realized this was the element that would enable him to tweak the onlooker's senses into accepting and indeed enjoying a painful visual shock. To enhance his paint surfaces he tried out additives—pastel and tempera—but in the end stuck to oil paint, which he manipulated with ever more gestural abandon. On an early visit to the studio, I watched Francis experiment. Ensconced in front of a mirror, he rehearsed on his own face the brushstrokes that he envisaged making on canvas. With a flourish of his wrist, he would apply great swoops of Max Factor "pancake" makeup in a gamut of flesh colours to the stubble on his chin.
The makeup adhered to the stubble much as the paint would adhere to the unprimed verso of the canvas that he used in preference to the smooth, white-primed recto. I told him that this effect evoked Rupert Brooke's line about "the rough male kiss of blankets." Besides setting his faces and figures spinning, gestural twists endow his portrait heads—to my mind far and away his most powerful and original works — with a dose of his own inner turmoil.
Bacon's attempts at a conventional likeness usually fail, but when he connects with what he calls "the pulsations of a person," he usually triumphs, particularly when that person is himself. Instead of working from a sitter, he would have his gay drinking companion, John Deakin, take nude photographs of the women he proposed to paint. Deakin, who on the side would sell the photographs to sailors for ten shillings each, enjoyed mortifying his "victims," as he called them. Bacon's favourites were Henrietta Moraes, a drunken Soho groupie who worshiped Bacon and his circle; Isabel Rawsthorne, a desperate allumeuse who had had affairs with Picasso, Derain, and above all Giacometti; and Muriel Belcher, the formidable foul-mouthed fag-hag of the Colony Room. These were women Bacon could empathize with. To that extent their portraits are self-portraits, as are the superb ones of his victim-to-be, George Dyer. Significantly, there is not a trace of self-identification in the twenty or so portraits of Lucian Freud. There was no question of victimizing him.
In 1950, Bacon's studio would become the focus of attention for a three-day celebration that, in retrospect, was the coming-out party for a new variety of bohemia. In its excess it could also be seen as Bacon's debut as a star. The occasion was the wedding of his close friend Ann Dunn, penniless daughter of a steel magnate, and Michael Wishart, son of the Communist Party's publisher. Both were painters, Dunn an exceedingly sensitive one. Two hundred guests were invited; two hundred more gate-crashed.
It was a totally new mix. Although the guests were mostly heterosexual, the ambience was decidedly gay. Francis had painted the chandeliers red to match his maquillage; at the piano an old queen belted out campy versions of popular songs. Same-sex couples embracing in dark corners were not necessarily the same colour. A woman known as "Sod" (real name Edomy) Johnson, who lived on the top of a bus, helped to welcome the guests: these included members of Parliament and fellows of All Souls, as well as "rough trade," slutty debutantes, cross-dressers, and the notoriously evil Kray brothers (gay gangsters Francis was proud of knowing). The bridegroom was a junkie, as were such guests as Sir Napoleon Dean Paul and his beautiful sister, who were both on the Home Office list and thus entitled to an official drug ration.
The consumption of hundreds of cases of champagne would have left Francis, who was as generous as he was extravagant, broke, had he not had the support of a rich and indulgent lover, a merchant banker called Eric Hall. Hall had ditched his wife and family to become a stand-in for the flagellant father Bacon desired and hated. After eight years, this relationship came to an end. A devotee of Proust, Bacon may have identified too closely with that writer's Baron de Charlus, who, in a memorable scene, complained to his pimp that the brute procured for him was insufficiently brutal.
Hall's replacement was a demonic lover out of the pages of another of Bacon's favourite writers, Georges Bataille. A former fighter pilot, Peter Lacy was a dashing thirty-year-old whom I remember playing Gershwin and Cole Porter on a white piano in a bar called the Music Box. He owned an infamous cottage in the Thames valley, where Francis would spend much of his time—often, according to him, in bondage. Alcohol was a major link between the two men. Unfortunately, drink released a fiendish, sadistic streak in Lacy that bordered on the psychopathic. Besides taking his rage out on Bacon, he took it out on his canvases. To his credit, however, he inspired some of his lover's most memorable works, among them, the Man in Blue paintings: a menacing, dark-suited Lacy set off against vertical draperies inspired by Emil Hoppé's, and some black rubber curtains Bacon had used as a decorator.
Landscape near Malabata, Tangier 1963 Francis Bacon
A 1955 self-portrait with a bandaged head seemingly refers to Lacy's most heinous assault. In a state of alcoholic dementia, he hurled Bacon through a plate glass window. His face was so damaged that his right eye had to be sewn back into place. Bacon loved Lacy even more. For weeks he would not forgive Lucian Freud for remonstrating with his torturer. Mercifully, Lacy moved to Tangier, where he played the piano in Dean's famously raffish bar. Bacon would occasionally join him. He enjoyed Tangier's expatriate intelligentsia: Paul and Jane Bowles; Allen Ginsberg, who tried and failed to get him to paint his portrait; William Burroughs, whom he admired and stayed friends with; and the playwright Joe Orton, soon to be done in by his murderous boyfriend. He also enjoyed the torturers in the local brothels. Tangier finished Lacy off. "He was killing himself with drink," Bacon told Peppiatt, "like a suicide, and I think in the end his pancreas simply exploded.... He was the only man I ever loved." The artist's memorable Landscape near Malabata, Tangier depicts Lacy's place of burial: a threatening patch of ground with a dark humanoid serpent squirming out of it.
On May 22, 1962, when Bacon was fifty-two, his first retrospective opened at the Tate Gallery to an avalanche of praise never as yet accorded to a modern British artist. A triumph, it was also a tragedy: the day before, death had done away with Lacy, his principal source of sensation—mental and physical, but above all pictorial. Some of his friends saw this as retribution, others as a new dawn for British art. Sylvester was quick to grab Bacon's coattails. In the years to come he would help him transform himself into a superstar. Today Bacon has come to be seen in the blogosphere as a kind of Michael Jackson of art—an anomalous weirdo of divine power.
Those of us who had hoped that the organizers of the recent retrospective and contributors to the catalogue would help us to reevaluate this superstar were in for a disappointment. The badly needed deconstruction of the self-congratulatory interviews between Bacon and Sylvester was not forthcoming. True, in her essay "Real Imagination Is Technical Imagination," Victoria Walsh acknowledges "just how radical their reformatting and editing had been." In support of this she cites Sylvester's preface to the interviews. However, no contributor takes this matter any further. Nor was there any attempt to see Bacon in his rightful historical setting: as one of a trio of brilliant young British artists—Lucian Freud and Frank Auerbach being the other two—who felt that abstraction was done for and were out to explore new ways of reconciling paint and representationalism.
In an essay coyly entitled Comparative Strangers, Simon Ofield sees Bacon with respect to Keith Vaughn, a highly esteemed figurative painter, yet one far too artistically correct for Bacon's taste, on the grounds that they were both openly gay men in the 1950s. Because the two artists apparently perused "physique magazines" and happened to be working at a time when the Wolfenden Report—the document that led to the decriminalization of homosexual acts between consenting adults—was about to change Britain's social and sexual landscape, Ofield concludes that "the paintings of Francis Bacon and Keith Vaughn make sense in pretty close proximity to one another." Actually, Bacon, who was not entirely immune to the allure of Nazi kink, had little sympathy for gay rights—too politically correct. As for gay artists, the only ones Bacon had a kind word for were Michelangelo, Andy Warhol, and the pornographer known as Tom of Finland. About the Wolfenden Report, I remember Francis echoing his nanny: "They should bring back hanging for buggery." He was certainly not the only gay Englishman for whom guilt was intrinsic to sex.
Compared to Lacy, Bacon's next great love, George Dyer, was more victim than victimizer, a good-looking thirtyish petty thief from London's East End who appeared to be a great deal sharper than he actually was. Cockney sweetness and a slight speech impediment ("fink" for "think") endeared him to Bacon's friends. Although an alcoholic like Lacy, George was not a sadist. That would now become Bacon's role. In the course of an evening, his high-camp wit would sour into incoherent malice. Lucian Freud remembers driving a drunken Bacon home and being kept out of the studio because it was full of "victims of my tongue." Bacon would goad George into a state of psychic meltdown and then, in the early hours of the morning—his favourite time to work—he would exorcise his guilt and rage and remorse in images of Dyer aimed, as he said, at the nervous system. Such images, a woman admirer of Bacon told me, induced "a visceral shudder" in her.
The dynamics of Bacon's relationship with George were much in evidence in November 1968, when they arrived for the first time in New York to attend a show at the Marlborough- Gerson Gallery. The visit began pleasantly enough with a gallery lunch. Francis was seated next to a handsome young dealer. Averse as usual to the masculine pronoun, he hissed across the table, "Who's the gorgeous girl they've put next to me?" "Jackson Pollock's nephew," I hissed back. "You mean the niece of that old lace-maker?" he said, raising his voice. Egged on by the deafening silence, Francis proceeded to dismiss another prominent American artist as "a neat little sewer," and yet another as "what's-his-name who does women."
That evening, some friends and I took Francis and George out on the town. No equivalent of London's raffish Colony Room was to be found in Manhattan, so we ended up at a friendly, multiracial, multisexual bar around 100th Street. Childishly eager to play the host, George tried to buy us drinks. Francis wouldn't have it. "Don't listen to her. She's penniless," and he called imperiously for a magnum of champagne, whereupon the bartender suggested we go elsewhere. George stumbled off and the evening soon ended. Around 3 AM, Francis called me. "She's committed suicide!" He had found George on the floor of their room at the Algonquin, pockets stuffed with hundred-dollar bills, unconscious from having washed down a handful of his sleeping pills with a bottle of scotch. Vomiting saved him. The gallery had the two of them flown back to England first thing that morning.
Two years later, in a pitiful attempt to strike back, George concealed some marijuana in Bacon's studio and denounced him to the police. Since the artist was asthmatic and virtually never smoked, a jury found him innocent. Instead of ridding himself of George, Bacon took him back, thereby sealing his fate. The goading worsened, the imagery intensified, and there was a further suicide attempt in Greece.
Once again, a major retrospective would coincide with death. The day of Bacon's greatest triumph—the opening of his exhibition at the Grand Palais, Paris on October 25, 1971, the show that would bring him the international recognition he craved—George succeeded in his third attempt at suicide. As before, he chose to do so in a hotel bedroom in a foreign land and, as Bacon would paint it, on a toilet seat. After the hotel manager telephoned him at the Grand Palais, the dazed artist took President Georges Pompidou around his show and later attended a dinner for several hundred people organized by his distinguished admirer Michel Leiris. "Death can be life-enhancing," he later commented, and for the next few years would apply this thought to his last great bursts of heartfelt work, in which Dyer often figures.
The hosannas unleashed by the Paris retrospective climaxed in a Conaissance des Arts magazine poll that crowned Bacon the world's greatest living artist—ahead of Picasso and the members of the schools of Paris and New York. Whether or not he actually believed this claptrap, Bacon was vain enough and insecure enough to derive an enormous boost from the stardom and the huge hike in his prices. Always more Francophile than Anglophile in matters of art, he was elated by the esteem of the French public as well as the intelligentsia, so elated that he rented an apartment in the Marais where he would spend much of the 1970s.
Michel Leiris would be central to Bacon's life in Paris. This great writer, ethnographer, and hero of the Surrealist wars was the only littérateur left whose judgment Picasso could trust and, to that extent, a rather more prestigious mentor than Sylvester and the boozy habitués of the Colony Room. Although Bacon had no time for Leiris's communism, masochism and a gay streak constituted a link. Whether Leiris told Bacon that back in the 1920s he had asked a horrified Juan Gris to take a knife and carve a parting for his hair into his scalp we do not know. What we do know is that Bacon was very conscious of the fact that by virtue of being D.H. Kahnweiler's stepdaughter, Leiris's long-suffering wife Zette was dealer to Picasso, who was soon to die. Despite the Conaissance des Arts poll, there would be no question of Bacon stepping into the great man's shoes.
Now that Paris had crowned him king, Bacon's work developed a slight French accent. Freud, whose close friendship with Bacon had worn a bit thin, was amused at his new-found fondness for the concept of "accident," the idea that uncontrolled effects would change the character of a painting. Freud likened "accident" to a horse in Bacon's stable. "When necessary, Francis has 'Accident' saddled and takes him out for a canter." To judge by many of the paintings in the retrospective, there was another horse in Bacon's stable, its name "Contrivance."
"Accident" takes the form of semen-like white paint that Bacon claimed to "fling" out of the tube at some of his canvases. As for the small red arrows he added to his paintings, intended to draw one's attention to extraneous details, they strike me as little shrieks for help; likewise, the gimmicky bits of trompe l'oeil newspaper that fail to animate the inert foreground areas of his triptychs. Contrivance also takes the form of shadows that fail to generate light or space. They either look cartoonish (for instance, the Batman shadow exuded by the dying Dyer in the May–June 1973 triptych) or as if someone has spilled something.
Three years would pass before Bacon found a successor to George Dyer. The muscular young East Ender John Edwards was less damaged than his predecessor, and therefore less of a tragic muse. He never learned to read, but was very good at figures. Although homosexual, Edwards preferred adolescents, and his relationship with Bacon was all the less fraught for being platonic, seemingly free of sadomasochistic overtones. This may explain why Bacon's work lost its sting and failed to thrill. Paintings inspired by Edwards as well as a Formula 1 driver and a famous cricketer the artist fancied (fetishism survives in the batting pads) reveal that in old age Bacon managed to banish his demons and move on to beefcake. His headless hunks of erectile tissue buffed to perfection have an angst-free, soft-porn glow. It comes as a surprise to find that MoMA acquired a major example of these campy subjects to replace the superb early Dog painting they had deaccessioned.
By the late 1970s, as the Met retrospective made very clear, Bacon's work was becoming glib, trite, and colour-coordinated to a decorous degree. From boasting that he couldn't do it—that was the whole point—he let it be known that he could do it, indeed had always been able to do it. Freud believes that Bacon had also lost "the most precious thing a painter has: his memory," and forgotten that he had done it all better before. The elegance of the Met's installation, which worked so well in the earlier galleries, worked to the artist's disadvantage at the end. Few of the later triptychs pack as much of a punch as the explosive Jet of Water and Blood on Pavement (both 1988), which are refreshingly free of the artist's formulaic figures. As if to register the extent of Bacon's decline, the Met enabled us to contrast the artist's wonderful 1944 breakthrough, Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, in an earlier gallery with the garish, red carpet remake of it from 1988, which brought the show to a disheartening end.
This year the hundredth anniversary of Bacon's birth dovetails with the four-hundredth anniversary of Caravaggio's death next year, and the director of the Galleria Borghese in Rome is celebrating this double event by setting these two artists, who had both been canonized in recent years by gay filmmakers (Derek Jarman, Caravaggio; John Maybury, Love Is the Devil), against each other. The museum's six works by Caravaggio, plus a few loans, have been paired off with an equivalent group by his putative modern counterpart. These pairings are not confined to a specific space, but scattered throughout the museum's galleries. A handout defines the show's aim as "an exceptional aesthetic experience"—so much for art history. Bacon would have relished rubbing shoulders posthumously with the greatest of the great. He would also have relished the enormous controversy in the Italian press.
A few months earlier, the Florence Accademia had launched a similar show, entitled Perfection in Form, which pitted Robert Mapplethorpe's photographs against "iconic Renaissance masterpieces" by Michelangelo, etc. The show has been so successful that its run has been extended. Setting twentieth-century kinkmeisters against Renaissance masters has evidently paid off, and attracted a vast new public into museums they might not have otherwise visited.
However, wouldn't it be more useful to measure Bacon against a predecessor of his own stature and genre: for example, Henry Fuseli (1741–1825), someone he went out of his way to denounce and disassociate himself from? ("Banal" was the epithet Bacon used in the interviews with Sylvester; what he probably meant was "illustrative.") Bacon was determined to prevent people realizing how indebted he was to this Swiss-born Londoner. Fuseli was a somewhat conventional manipulator of paint, but he was also one of the most spectacular draftsmen of the second half of the eighteenth century. And in many respects his neoclassical imagery was every bit as focused on the subconscious, every bit as sadomasochistic and fetishistic as Bacon's. A master of theatrical effects, Fuseli had the courage to use his perverse sexuality to express a view of life that corresponds in certain respects to his virtual twin, the Marquis de Sade. Fuseli's obsession differed from Bacon's in that it involved women rather than men, but their exhibitionistic responses to the imagery of their respective times was uncannily close.
After his death, Victorian prudes saw to it that Fuseli's work was suppressed. A century would pass before scholars rediscovered it. Following his centennial retrospective in 1925, there would be successive shows in London in 1935 and 1950, at a time when Bacon was formulating his style and moving in the intellectual circles where Fuseli was revered. Another artist who suffered a similar fate was the equally histrionic John "Mad" Martin (1789–1854), whose vast, enormously popular canvasses such as The Seventh Plague of Egypt and The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah had been forgotten, only to be admired anew one hundred years later. Like Halley's Comet, these exemplars of Romantic agony seem doomed to flash in and out of the darkness of history. Might a similar trajectory be in store for Bacon Agonistes?
Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma; 1997 (Skyhorse, 2009).
Looking Back at Francis Bacon (Thames and Hudson, 2000), p. 208.
Sylvester attributes this theory to Brian Clarke, a painter who administers the Francis Bacon estate.
Interviews with Francis Bacon: 1962–1979 (Thames and Hudson, 1980), pp. 100–101.
of the exhibition edited by Matthew Gale and Chris Stephens
Tate/Metropolitan Museum of Art, 288 pp., $60.00; $40.00 (paper)
A Fictional Organ With a Surface Anatomy of Four Lobes
By Will Self Bloomsbury. 277 pp. $26
By Richard McCann, The Washington Post, Tuesday, December 15, 2009
The title of this quartet of new stories by British novelist and satirist Will Self is almost as charming as it is aggressive. There are doubtless thousands of stories and novels whose titles contain the word "heart," but only Self, with his passion for the grotesque, the comic and the fantastical, would name a collection of stories after the "noble organ" - as 17th-century British physician William Harvey termed the liver - that most Westerners probably now think of as little more than a sickening item in their grocer's meat display case, a glossy, shrink-wrapped slab of brownish viscera, bleeding out onto its foam tray.
Each of the four "lobes" in Self's Liver - a collection of vaguely linked "hepatofictions" - features one or more human livers. Most of them are cirrhotic or cancerous, and all of them are in wretched condition, as are their owners, whose dismal maladies serve as metaphors for toxic decay. Decay is so pervasive, in fact, that in Self's story Prometheus, it affects even the diseased "body" of London, host to the "tumour of the Swiss Re tower, the tapeworm of the Thames, the fatty deposits of Broadgate and the Barbican."
Decay also affects the Plantation Club, the private Soho drinking establishment that provides the setting for the collection's lead story, Foie Humain. The club's proprietor repeatedly spikes his barman/lover's lager with vodka, performing upon him a kind of human gavage, not unlike the force-feeding that goose farmers do in the Dordogne when making foie gras. In the end, however, it's the proprietor himself who loses his liver - to a most unlikely chef. But the story's brilliance lies not in its narrative, which feels at once too clotted and too saggy, "proceeding not with straightforward honesty," as the narrator himself describes it, "but waddling through needless digressions and lunging into grotesque interpolations." Rather, Self's brilliance lies in his acute rendering of the miasmal Plantation Club, "an aquarium filled with absinthe," which he models closely on the Colony Room in London's Soho, the private drinking club founded in 1948 by the famously rude and foul-mouthed Muriel Belcher. She adopted as her "daughter" one of the club's first members, the painter Francis Bacon, who appears in Self's story as a world-famous painter of "brachiating apes," "well-built nudes" and "neotenous golems, their heads part skull, part the melted plastic of dolls." It's there in the Plantation Club - "an establishment where stasis was the prevailing mode," with "a permanently fizzing rod of neon screwed to the nicotine ceiling, lending a mortuary ambience to the already deathly scene" - that Self's bohemians destroy themselves with alcohol and the cruelly lacerating remarks they regard as wit.
Thanks to its startling language and grim sense of humour, along with its almost ceaseless sense of claustrophobia, Foie Humain is arguably the collection's best story, along with the novella Leberknödel (liver dumplings), in which a widowed hospital administrator travels to Zurich, with "its reassuring orderliness, its stolid vitality," to be euthanized in a private clinic. Once there, however, she changes her mind, and soon afterward her disease goes into an inexplicable remission that the local Catholics who befriend her regard as a miracle. Although the novella's elements never fully cohere - its chapters, for instance, are named for the parts of the Mass, and it alludes repeatedly to Carol Reed's The Third Man, with Orson Welles and Trevor Howard – Leberknödel is the only work in this collection in which Self drops his ironic tone, particularly in his empathetic depiction of the protagonist's pained and aging body.
Still, these are largely what one might regard as high-concept stories, inspired and constructed more from the shrewdness of wit and intellect than from feeling. In Prometheus, for instance, a London advertising man allows a griffon vulture to feed on his liver in exchange for renewing his "genius at breathing fire into the most sodden products." In Birdy Num Num, which takes its title from a Peter Sellers routine in Blake Edwards's 1968 movie, The Party, the narrator is a hepatitis C virus, observing a chaotic gathering of infected human hosts.
Certainly, there are real and original pleasures to be had from these stories, particularly from Self's extravagant and startling sense of language, as well as from the imaginative extremity of his vision. But they are not warm or merciful. These are for those who like their stories brainy, cunning, hard-edged and diabolical.
McCann is the author, most recently, of Mother of Sorrows, a collection of linked stories. He teaches at American University.
ENTRETIENS. Parler amusait le peintre anglais.
Franck Maubert publie leur longue conversation
Sud Ouest, Dimanche 06 Décembre 2009
C'est un opuscule indispensable pour qui, un jour, fut saisi d'effarement par la peinture de Francis Bacon : entre répulsion pour ses corps de douleur et fascination hypnotique pour ses hommes sans visage, donc sans émotion, sans autre identité que celle de leurs cris. Sur cette oeuvre majeure et sa gestation, le livre de Franck Maubert se lit et se relit. Y est rapportée avec un souci du fait la longue conversation que ce journaliste d'art eut avec le peintre anglais pendant trois ans, dans les années 80.
Dans son logement nu jusqu'aux ampoules, dans son atelier que les ordures encroûtent de saleté, l'artiste se livre par bribes, aussi désespéré que vivant. D'une oeuvre de Poussin qui le traversa à 20 ans aux étals d'un boucher qui le bouleverse, le peintre raconte que seules les images extraordinaires et violentes aimantent son imaginaire : les rouges, les jaunes, les orange, le gras, la viande. Citant l'impensable vers d'Eschyle - « L'odeur du sang humain ne me quitte pas des yeux » - ou le tranchant « Macbeth » de Shakespeare, Bacon évoque Picasso, Velázquez ou Giacometti, son amour de la littérature, son amitié avec Duras, son absolue passion de la poésie.
Du thé qui le lave à l'aube, quand il rejoint l'atelier, à l'alcool qui accompagne ses déambulations de fins de journée, de son indifférence à l'argent qu'il gagna de son vivant : tout éclaire celui qui cherchait ce réalisme clinique et froid, sans émotion mais « capable paradoxalement de provoquer un grand sentiment ».
« L'odeur du sang humain ne me quitte pas des yeux », de Franck Maubert, éd. Mille et Une Nuits, 80 p., 12 ?.
Auteur : C. Debray
Deirdre Fernand, The Sunday Times, December 6, 2009
His coffee is getting horribly cold, but he doesn’t care. The afternoon light is fading and there’s important work to be done today. As there will be tomorrow and the day after. For the past 55 years, the artist Frank Auerbach has lived and worked in a modest studio down an alley in the London borough of Camden. Rising early and finishing late, he is totally absorbed and, at the age of 78, says there is nothing he would rather do. “I work all the time because I have always felt time is short,” he says. He never takes a holiday and rarely leaves London, let alone Britain. “I don’t recommend this way of working as a virtue; it suits me, it’s my temperament,” he says. “I do think that if I hadn’t been able to do this, I would have felt a deep sense of loss and waste with my life. The only way was to carry on painting.” Would he consider himself obsessional? “Oh yes, I hope so.”
Along with Lucian Freud and David Hockney, Auerbach is acknowledged to be one of the Grand Old Men of British painting. Together with the late Francis Bacon, who died in 1992, this group has dominated the British scene since the 1950s. And this particular Grand Old Man, notoriously private, rarely gives interviews. But he has made an exception for The Sunday Times on the occasion of his latest exhibition at the Courtauld Gallery in London. Gathering together his earliest works, it’s called London Building Sites 1952-1962, but it may as well be titled View From a Bus. It was riding around at the top of a double-decker, observing the bomb-damaged city, that gave him his earliest inspiration. These pictures of craters and pits, majestic in their beauty, have reminded the critics just how good he is. As one reviewer put it, “True art is kept safe in the strong hands of Auerbach.”
It was always safe in his hands. Long before today’s YBAs were born, Auerbach was a respected figure of the art world. Unlike them, however, he was never the object of sensational hype, merely of consistent praise. When the eminent art critic David Sylvester visited his first exhibition in 1955, he pronounced it “the most exciting and impressive first one-man show by an English painter since Francis Bacon in 1949”.
But if posing can be a chore, so can painting. “You do it and nothing happens and you do it again. But there’s always the possibility that you might do something marvellous and totally unpredictable and surprise yourself… Eventually it seems that the painting happens.” Later, he adds: “I think there’s an analogy in a woman bringing up a family. There’s a lot of work, then there’s an epiphany. For perhaps one and a half hours a week you are in touch with what it’s all for.” That’s the key to remaining engaged. Auerbach is always waiting to “clinch the image”, revealing “the buried truth” of his picture — what Bacon used to call “the lucky strike”.
Auerbach was born in 1931 in Berlin to German-Jewish parents who sent their precious only child, aged nearly eight, to England just before the outbreak of war. He never saw them again. They were killed in the death camps. He thinks they were sent to Auschwitz but has never bothered to find out. “What difference does it make which camp they were taken to?” he asks. “They died.”
He doesn’t drink in Soho any more. He remains close to Freud, but his friendship with Bacon ended long before the latter’s death. Bacon had dismissed his work saying: “I hate that kind of sloppy sort of Central European painting.” According to Freud, Bacon was jealous: “My feeling is when he became successful, Francis turned against him.”
Frank Auerbach: London Building Sites 1952-62 runs until January 17, 2010, at the Courtauld Gallery (www.courtauld.ac.uk). Frank Auerbach by William Feaver (Rizzoli, £100) is out now
White Cube At Mason's Yard
Mason's Yard, SW1Y 6BU
Ben Luke, London Evening Standard, 03.12.09
Hamfisted: Hirst’s triptychs, such as Insomnia, are confused and incoherent attempts to ape Francis Bacon
When Damien Hirst showed A Thousand Years, his vitrine featuring a cow’s head, maggots, flies and an insectocutor at the Saatchi in 1992, it attracted a particularly esteemed visitor. Francis Bacon, Hirst’s hero, praised the piece in a letter to a friend: “It really works,” he wrote.
Hirst had taken Bacon’s obsession with flesh and decay and his complex framed space and synthesised them with sculptural influences such as Jeff Koons and Donald Judd to create an original visual language.
Bacon’s recognition of Hirst’s achievement echoed through my thoughts as I viewed Hirst’s latest paintings at both branches of White Cube. The works’ debt to Bacon is enormous — there are numerous triptychs, his favourite format; they are set in weighty golden frames; and they contain expressively painted figures and objects set amid sketchy lines reminiscent of Bacon’s “space frames”.
But where Bacon counterbalanced his often tortured subject matter with a fluent and even graceful handling of paint, Hirst’s application is leaden and blunt. Where Bacon created spaces that were ambiguous and enticingly enigmatic, Hirst’s are confused and incoherent. Twenty years ago, Hirst was eloquently moving Bacon along. Now he hamfistedly apes him.
Both shows are divided into two discrete groups of paintings. Hoxton Square has three triptychs featuring crows shot in mid-flight, with trails of blood pouring from them, as well as several skull paintings. At Mason’s Yard, a series of works reflects Hirst’s response to the tragic suicide of the artist Angus Fairhurst last year, including five portraits of Fairhurst, while below are four triptychs depicting interiors packed with still lifes and figures.
The lexicon of forms in the paintings will be familiar to anyone who has seen Hirst’s paintings at the Wallace Collection — skulls, shark jawbones, skeletal and shadowy figures, roses and knives. The crows join this list of harbingers and symbols of death, as do the empty chairs that recur in the triptychs at Mason’s Yard and the Medusa figure who appears in two works.
Like his sculptures and installations over the past two decades, the paintings are dominated by macabre thoughts. But in those earlier works he was often able to create lucid and, I would argue, beautiful images reflecting this obsession. His painterly language remains inarticulate, especially in the cluttered triptychs at Mason’s Yard.
Even in the Fairhurst portraits, which are no doubt heartfelt, he struggles to turn his grief for his friend into fitting elegies, or to capture convincingly the anger he mentions in a catalogue interview; they are gloomy rather than poignant.
Unlike other commentators, I take no joy out of finding these works so unsuccessful. Like Bacon, I was impressed, in fact quite profoundly affected and excited when, as an art student, I saw A Thousand Years in the Saatchi Gallery. But his paintings so far feel like a gigantic backwards step. To use Bacon’s term, they really don’t work.
Until 30 January (020 7930 5373, www.whitecube.com). Tues–Sat, 10am–6pm, admission free.
It is 30 years since Ridley Scott made cinematic history by putting a woman centre-stage in a horror movie. Xan Brooks celebrates.
Sydney Morning Herald, December 5, 2009
It is 30 years since Ridley Scott's picture was unleashed on an unsuspecting public. Since then, its influence has bloomed and mutated. Alien was the film that set the visual template (grungy and industrial) for any director keen to shoot a picture about monsters in outer space. It was the film that contained a grisly, chest-bursting centrepiece that tapped into the fears of the age. Yet ultimately it all comes back to the character Ellen Ripley. In the figure of the resolute Sigourney Weaver, Alien may just be the film that overhauled the old, unreconstructed horror genre and dared to put a woman centre-stage.
This gave rise to Scott's joke that nothing actually happens for the first 45 minutes. In its opening sections, Alien rattles around a space freighter (the Nostromo) and introduces us to its bickering crew (John Hurt and Ian Holm among them). Then boom! The film bursts into hideous life with one of cinema's most notorious setpieces. Hurt's character, impregnated by an extraterrestrial, abruptly goes into labour at the breakfast table. His chest explodes and the beast is loosed.
In Scott's film, the horror came garnished with sexual politics. Take another look at the creature that hatches from Hurt's chest. It was designed by the Swiss artist H.R. Giger, who borrowed freely from the images in Francis Bacon's 1944 painting Three Studies For Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, which in turn took its lead from the Greek myth of the Furies. Scott's film was initially pitched as ''Jaws in space'' and Giger's alien features the requisite razor-blade teeth and unreadable, implacable air. Sometimes it is limpid and wet, fashioned on the set out of oysters and clams brought in from a local fishmongers. Sometimes it is hard and blunt. Not to put too fine a point on it, the alien in Alien comes in two guises: vaginal and phallic.
Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion 1944
''Alien is a rape movie with male victims,'' explains David McIntee, the author of the Alien study Beautiful Monsters. ''And it also shows the consequences of that rape: the pregnancy and birth. It is a film that plays, very deliberately, with male fears of female reproduction.''
Does this make Alien a conservative film or a radical one? Over the years the debate has been teased out in either direction. In the opinion of the cultural critic Barbara Creed, Scott's film epitomised what she refers to as ''the monstrous feminine''. It trades in classic Freudian imagery (penis-shaped monsters; dark, womb-like interiors) and shudders at the bloody spectacle of childbirth. Here is a horror film made by men that exploits a particularly male fear of all that is female. Others beg to differ. Ripley, they argue, is the game-changer; the character who sends Alien (and its sequels) off in a bold new direction. ''Ripley is pretty revolutionary,'' insists McIntee. ''All of a sudden you have a horror film that has a younger female character who is a survivor and a heroine as opposed to a victim.''
Britart's bad boy gets his paints out again, but the results are not exactly Bacon ... more like a dog's breakfast
Lest you are newly back from Mars, something in the nature of a miracle has happened in British art: Damien Hirst has begun to paint. In Hirst's work, the artist's hand became a metonym of the flesh and the flesh of mortality. Rid art of the hand and, vampire-like, it might never die.
So the insistent hands-on-ness of Hirst's new work is historically significant, whether you like it or not. And frankly, I don't. Who could? Underlying this work is the belief that you can, in middle age, take up painting and have the results shown at the most important contemporary gallery in London as if by right. And guess what? If your name is Damien Hirst, you can. But, other than as historical curiosities, will paintings made under such an assumption ever be worth looking at? Can they in any sense be good?
Let me say that "good" here is not another word for polished or skilled: Bad Painting, done well, has a solid place in 20th-century art. But there is Bad Painting and bad painting, and Hirst's work is the second.
In the ground floor space at Mason's Yard are canvases done largely in blue. Hirst's Blue Period – he has been painting for nearly two years now – echoes not so much Picasso's as Francis Bacon's, particularly the Savile-Row-blue images Bacon made of his lover, Peter Lacy, when he, like Hirst, was 44. Downstairs are Bacon-ish triptychs in Bacon-ish frames surrounding such Bacon-ish things as anatomised bodies and empty staircases.
Of course, Hirst has also made anatomical figures, most famously the 20ft bronze doll, Hymn. I suppose the frame of his trademark shark-in-a-box might explain the sketchy white lines, apparently lifted from Bacon's pope-cages, that score the surface of Walk Away in Silence – the shark jaws in Insomnia and Time Will Tell certainly refer less to Bacon than to a Bacon-like tendency in Hirst. And then there are the smaller (and, to my mind, better) paintings of the object with which Hirst is most closely identified as an artist, namely the human skull.
All of which raises a great many questions, the most obvious of which is why? Hirst, with his vitrines of flyblown meat, has always been a Baconite. Why does he now feel the need to work like Bacon? A triptych called How Did We Lose Our Way? may suggest an answer. Bacon died mid-way between Freeze and Sensation, the two shows that made Hirst's name. Could the younger man's return to paint on canvas mark an admission that the Britart experiment has, in the end, been a failure? Seen like this, the dreadfulness of Hirst's painting might be excused as intentional, a sign that something has been lost in British art and that that loss is irreparable.
I certainly prefer this possibility to the other, which is that Damien Hirst feels he can paint by dint of being Damien Hirst. This, appallingly, is not the case. I went to White Cube determined not to fall into the British trap of thinking that artists can only do one thing well, that installationists and conceptualists can not also be painters. Look at Michelangelo. I left with a sense of sadness that a man whose pills and diamond-covered skull will remain icons of his time should have been laid so low.
White Cube, London N1 and W1 (020-7930 5373) to 30 Jan 2010
Realism meets surrealism in Rome’s painting exhibition
by Silvia Marchetti, China View, 27-11-2009
ROME, Nov. 26 (Xinhua) - The Galleria Borghese of Rome, one of the world's leading museums, is hosting till Jan. 14 the unique painting exhibition Caravaggio-Bacon.
Caravaggio is one of most profound and revolutionary 16th century Italian painter, while English artist Francis Bacon is a 20th century Expressionist artist deeply influenced by Surrealism.
The occasion for a joint exhibition of their works by the Galleria is the celebration of two concurrent dates: the quarter-centenary of Caravaggio's death and Francis Bacon's birth centenary which fall this year.
The Caravaggio-Bacon exhibition is the fourth of a series of 10 that Rome's Galleria Borghese is staging. It follows ones of the great Renaissance artists Raffaello, Canova and Correggio.
There are 13 works of Caravaggio on display and 17 of Bacon, most of which coming from the Tate Art Gallery of London. The curators of the exposition are Anna Coliva, director of the Galleria, and Michael Peppiatt, a biographer, intimate friend, and leading connoisseur of Francis Bacon.
On Wednesday evening the gallery invited the foreign press to admire the exhibition. Italian Culture Minister Sandro Bondi and Undersecretary of State Paolo Bonaiuti attended the event.
"The Galleria Borghese is one of the artistic temples of our country and Italian culture is one of the main reasons why Italy is admired worldwide," Bondi said.
He added that the government was working hard to make Italy's cultural heritage become an instrument for civil, social, democratic growth and not only economic growth.
Bonaiuti stressed the importance of culture as "the key to Italian tradition, society and way of being."
Coliva said the event was an occasion to present the historic collections of the Galleria Borghese through an unusual artistic juxtaposition.
"Caravaggio and Bacon are 400 years apart from one another but what links them is a spiritual relation based on a deep suffering for the human condition and an internal sense of devastation," Coliva told Xinhua.
She explained how these two extreme figures have entered the collective imagination as "accused" artists, who expressed the torment of existence in their painting with equal intensity and creative brilliance.
Coliva said that both are painters of truth. While Caravaggio distorts the artistic formal vision rooted in Humanism by dealing with human figures as objective facts, Bacon expresses the loss of centrality of vision by mixing the unconscious with reality.
However, the goal of the joint exposition is not to theorize an influence of Caravaggio on Bacon. "There is nothing of Caravaggio in Bacon, who was not inspired by him, but if there is a contemporary artist who is comparable to Caravaggio it is indeed Bacon. Caravaggio and Bacon are among the deepest and most revolutionary interpreters of the representation of the human figure," added Coliva.
Michael Peppiatt underlined how both artists were obsessed by the human body and by the uncertainty of life. "It's an emotional impact that links the two together, they're like mirrors," he told Xinhua.
The exhibition is a meeting between these two extraordinary artists and you can nearly sense an electric current uniting them, he said, adding how both Caravaggio and Bacon "are very extreme in showing the fragility and vulnerability of human life."
"For Francis Bacon, one of the most anguished 20th century artists, being received at the Galleria Borghese is of great importance," Peppiatt said. "Bacon's breakaway from tradition is healed today through his presence in this gallery."
Bondi also said the original juxtaposition Caravaggio-Bacon helped to better understand art in all its different variations by "leading the public inside our museums to discover our great artists."
Caravaggio (1571-1610) was active in Rome (where he painted for the Pope), Naples and Malta. He had a very tormented life and was accused of murder. His intensely emotional realism and dramatic use of lighting make him a founder of modern painting.
Francis Bacon (1909-1992), just like Caravaggio, was an anguished painter. The subjects of his paintings scream in physical and psychic pain. He depicts contorted and corrupted human and animal forms. Many of Bacon's works appear as nightmares.
The Galleria Borghese, a magnificent villa in the historical center of Rome, was completed in 1620 on Pope Paolo V Borghese's commission. It hosts some of humanity's greatest works of arts such as sculptures by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and paintings by Il Canaletto and Piero della Francesca.
Damien Hirst is undaunted. It was only a few weeks ago that a show of his paintings opened at the Wallace Collection in London. The critics were like sharks swimming free of their pickling platitudes. They spotted their victim and ripped him to shreds.
Any less robust ego might well have given up. But Hirst didn’t get where he has done through listening to others. He kept his nerve and remained resolute. Just give him a bit more time and he would be painting as well as Rembrandt, he responded. And already he’s back.
Tomorrow, a new show of his work — titled, with a dash of bravura, Nothing Matters — opens at the White Cube. His gallery fires back at detractors with both barrels. It has dedicated both its London spaces to the works of its most important money-spinner. With prices ranging from £235,000 to £9.5 million, this exhibition looks set to be surefire commercial hit. Four of seven large-scale triptychs have, apparently, already been sold.
The visitor, however, cannot expect to see the works of a contemporary Rembrandt yet. These paintings have not moved on much from the Wallace pictures. They are ham-fisted melodramas. Here, in the Hoxton Square gallery, are huge triptychs of crows. The birds appear to have been caught up in a paint-balling splatter-fest. Black creatures explode in a splash of flung pigment and stuck-on feathers. Hirst has a boyish, B-movie fascination for their death.
His admiration for the work of Francis Bacon — for everything from his gilt frames to his flat planes of colour, his isolated figures and his eerie blue Insect-o-cutor-style glow — is obvious. There is even a figure screaming inside a cage of fragile lines.
So is this the end for Hirst? Has the pack leader, who led his Goldsmiths-trained, cocaine and vodka-fuelled gang in the now famous (though few went at the time) Freeze show in Docklands into the hallowed halls of the Royal Academy, finally run out of ideas?
I don’t think so. Hirst from his earliest beginnings was enthralled by the work of Bacon. His animals in formaldehyde, his finest and most famous pieces and the only ones so far that I think art history will remember him for, are basically transpositions of Bacon’s vision into sculpture. Instead of a screaming pope he has a shark’s gaping mouth. Instead of a painted cage, he has a metal-framed tank.
Hirst wades awkwardly through a medium that he has not yet learned how to manage towards a clearer vision. His first steps are predictably derivative. His greatest predecessors, Bacon not the least prominent among them, looted others’ ideas. But his mistake will be to continue to treat these early efforts as accomplished artworks.
Nothing Matters is at White Cube Hoxton Square, N1, and Mason’s Yard, SW1, from today to January 30
Barely a month since his first show of paintings was panned, Damien Hirst is back with two more. Is he trying too hard?
Adrian Searle, The Guardian, Tuesday 24 November 2009
With their triptych formats, hefty gold frames and glazed surfaces, Damien Hirst’s new paintings, which fill both White Cube galleries in London, once again recall Francis Bacon.
There are further nods to Bacon within the paintings: figures who turn and squirm, cigarette butts underfoot, linear space frames. There are also worryingly vacant chairs: are they meant for us? Has somebody died? Rather than Bacon's door handles, taps, blind-pulls and switches, Hirst gives us butcher's knives (recalling the jangling cutlery in certain Picassos, painted in the hungry years of the war), and his familiar ashtrays and fag packets; there is a glass of red wine that could have come from a later painting by Patrick Caulfield. Hirst no longer drinks or smokes.
While certain Bacon figures look on the verge of turning themselves inside-out, Hirst's already have. His viscerated meat-men and skeletons hang about, waiting for a death that's already happened: they just haven't noticed yet. There is almost nothing but death in Hirst's new show.
Where Bacon was grandly, sometimes campily theatrical (grand guignol is the phrase often used, to the point of cliché), Hirst is more often hammy. And while Bacon managed both restraint and libidinous assault in his best work – the restraint adding to the squeamishness and implied violence – Hirst has often appeared, since the late 1990s, less ambitious for his art than for his career and for fame.
Sobered up and serious, Hirst has turned to painting, and painting takes a long time to master – if one is ever to master it at all. One might see what he is doing as brave, in the sense that he unashamedly exposes his vulnerabilities and weaknesses as an artist. But ambitious though his paintings are, they appear to be trying to look like successful art, rather than actually being so. They are concoctions, confections, rather than unified or achieved paintings. Hirst acknowledges Rembrandt, Goya and El Greco among his heroes, all of whom are insurmountable in many ways. Bacon's mannerisms, meanwhile, are unapproachable: there is the particularity of his signature style, its artificiality, his marshalling of extreme contrasts of facture, premeditation and impetuosity. Even Bacon ended up parodying himself; you can't, I think, start off by parodying Bacon. Still, you fight your battles of influence and originality where you must.
Hirst's scenes of destruction and misery haven't undergone the reworkings or journeys they need to go on in order to arrive somewhere new. They are too artful, and his current shows are premature – however much he needed to go through the process of making the works themselves. In the end, what it comes down to is Hirst's touch, or lack of it. It lacks conviction. His paintings are filled with approximations. The paint goes down with a dead thunk, one that lacks life or individuality. You feel as much as see this living spark in a great painter's touch, however casual or offhand or anonymous that touch might appear to be. This, in part, is what makes one painter great and another mediocre. Some great painters are far from able or felicitous craftsmen, yet they turn difficulty to their advantage. Hirst still wants to make successful art and this, paradoxically, is his problem. You can smell failure almost as much as see it – in the same way that Heston Blumenthal has said you can taste fear in an ailing restaurant's cooking.
Bacon, le radici sadomaso del genio
LEA MATTARELLA, La Stampa, 24/11/2009
Francis Bacon in un autoritratto del 1973
L’arte è ossessione della vita» diceva Francis Bacon,
il grande pittore scomparso nel 1992 e oggi considerato uno dei maestri del
XX secolo. La sua tavolozza però si è nutrita anche di morte, di fantasmi, di
sensi di colpa, di dolore inflitto e subìto. Anzi, secondo lo storico
dell’arte John Richardson, è stato proprio il lato nero di una vera e propria
nevrosi sadomasochista a generare le opere più interessanti e risolte di Bacon.
Senza questi aspetti torbidi, senza un’esistenza di eccessi sessuali ad alta
gradazione alcolica, l’artista sarebbe stato, magari, soltanto un pittore che
«semplicemente non era capace di disegnare». Roma gli ha già aperto le porte
della Galleria Borghese in un confronto con un altro pittore estremo come
Caravaggio (fino al 20 gennaio).
Richardson ha conosciuto Bacon negli anni Quaranta e oggi, sul New York Review of Books, racconta alcuni aneddoti che aiutano a chiarire anche il suo modo di dipingere e di creare. Tutto comincia con l’episodio di papà Bacon che picchia selvaggiamente il sedicenne Francis dopo averlo trovato con indosso la biancheria intima della madre. Al capitano inglese in pensione che si era trasferito ad allevare e allenare cavalli da corsa a Dublino (dove il pittore nasce nel 1909), l’idea di avere un figlio omosessuale non piaceva per niente. Da qui l’eccesso di violenza cui segue la fuga del giovane che raggiunge Berlino e poi Parigi, dove resta folgorato da Pablo Picasso. Secondo Richardson (che prima di dedicarsi a Bacon ha scritto proprio una delle più apprezzate biografie dell’artista spagnolo), il trauma dello scontro fisico con il padre è all’origine di un vero e proprio disturbo erotico in cui desiderio e sopraffazione - fisica o psicologica - vanno a braccetto.
Così ecco entrare in scena il pilota di caccia Peter Lacy, definito da Richardson un soggetto quasi psicopatico, con cui Bacon ha una relazione tutta sesso e sangue. Tanto che un giorno, in uno «stato di demenza alcolica», il pilota lo fa volare contro una finestra ferendolo al volto. «Dopo - scrive Richardson - Bacon lo amava ancora di più». A quanto pare Lacy sfogava la sua rabbia non solo sull’artista ma anche sulle tele che trovava nello studio. E, per contro, Bacon ha lasciato dell’amante un memorabile ritratto in cui il suo volto sfuggente e deformato contrasta con le linee orizzontali dello sfondo.
«Ogni volta che vado dal macellaio - affermava intanto il pittore - penso che è straordinario che non sia io al posto dell’animale». Ma il passaggio da vittima a carnefice è breve. A farne le spese è la nuova passione di Bacon, George Dyer che si toglie la vita nel bagno di una camera d’albergo nel 1971. L’artista è a Parigi per inaugurare la grande mostra allestita al Grand Palais. Sembra che dopo, impassibile, abbia accompagnato il Presidente Pompidou a visitare l’esposizione e partecipato al pranzo organizzato in suo onore. Dyer aveva tentato il suicidio altre due volte: una in Grecia e l’altra a New York, dove lo stesso Richardson era stato testimone della lite finita con una dose di barbiturici e una bottiglia di scotch. «Bacon lo provocava - scrive lo studioso - fino a ottenere un vero e proprio collasso psicologico. Dopo, nelle prime ore del mattino, quelle che preferiva per lavorare, esorcizzava i suoi sensi di colpa, la sua rabbia e il suo rimorso realizzando immagini di Dyer che, come egli stesso amava dire, miravano a colpire il nostro sistema nervoso».
Il suo amante è inquadrato accovacciato, ferito, crocifisso, abita spazi indefinibili, scatole dell’incertezza, luoghi senz’aria dominati da una claustrofobia che rivela il drammatico stato di tutti gli esseri umani, prigionieri dell’esistenza. E, in effetti, anche dopo la tragica morte, il volto dolente e la carne sofferente di George, il piccolo ex ladruncolo amato ma umiliato e offeso, continua ad alimentare la pittura di Francis. Assieme a pontefici che gridano, carcasse, crocifissioni, ghigni, siringhe conficcate nelle braccia.
Bacon, dice sorprendentemente Richardson, non era capace di articolare la figura nello spazio. «Le sue celebri versioni di Papa Innocenzo X di Velázquez sono un magnifico colpo di fortuna oppure un disastro quasi totale. Era capace di fare un grido ma era senza speranza nel realizzare le mani, così le amputava, le nascondeva, le deformava». Ma lui voleva «dipingere il grido prima dell’orrore» o anche «dipingere come Velázquez ma con una materia pittorica che assomigliasse alla pelle di un ippopotamo». Si comportava come un voyeur a caccia di relitti umani in un disordinato sottosuolo. Un po’ sadomasochista anche lui, come l’antieroe di Dostoevskij, faceva dormire su un tavolo in cucina la sua governante cieca. E la mandava a distrarre i negozianti per poter liberamente rubare generi alimentari, cosmetici e, soprattutto, il lucido da scarpe per tingersi i capelli.
“Intensified imagery”: Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon was once thrown through a plate-glass window by an enraged lover, damaging his face so badly that his right eye had to be sewn back into place, according to a biographer.
Art historian John Richardson also argues that Bacon's best work was inspired by sado-masochistic relationships - with his "goading" of one lover, George Dyer, eventually leading to the latter's death. The fatal end, in a hotel room lavatory, on the eve of a retrospective of the artist's paintings in Paris in 1971, was immortalised by Bacon in one of his most famous works.
Richardson, 85, who is completing the final volume of his biography of Picasso, uses an article in the forthcoming edition of the New York Review of Books to reveal secrets of Bacon's life - a man he knew since the Forties when the artist was in his early twenties.
Richardson recalls that Bacon, who died in 1992, revelled in a "most heinous assault" by an earlier lover, Peter Lacy.
He writes: "In a state of alcoholic dementia, he hurled Bacon through a plate glass window. His face was so damaged that his right eye had to be sewn back into place. Bacon loved Lacy even more. For weeks he would not forgive Lucien Freud for remonstrating with his torturer. Mercifully, Lacy moved to Tangier."
In the article, Richardson said there was a direct link between Bacon's desires and his artistic output.
"Bacon would goad George [Dyer] into a state of psychic meltdown and then, in the early hours of the morning - his favourite time to work - he would exorcise his guilt and rage and remorse in images of Dyer aimed, as he said, at the nervous system."
Richardson recalled spending a drunken evening with the pair in New York in 1968, after which Dyer was found by Bacon unconscious on the hotel room floor, having washed down sleeping pills with a bottle of whisky. "The goading worsened, the imagery intensified," Richardson said of Bacon's subsequent work.
Bacon's studio in the Forties was a place of "ramshackle theatricality" where martinis were served in huge Waterford tumblers and a paint-stained garter belt was kicked under a sofa.
Bacon enlisted his blind nanny's help in his shoplifting exploits, when he would steal groceries, cosmetics and Kiwi boot polish for his hair.
Americans don't 'get' Francis Bacon
The Daily Telegraph, 23 November 2009
Possessed of extraordinary moral courage: Francis Bacon
The huge reputation of some artists in their own country is often baffling to art lovers in another. Which might explain why an article on Francis Bacon by John Richardson, the art critic and celebrated biographer of Picasso, has raised hackles over here.
Though Richardson is English by birth, he’s lived in New York so long it is not surprising that his forthcoming essay on Francis Bacon in the New York Review of Books reflects an American assessment of the painter’s stature, not the much more reverential attitude we have towards him in this country. Richardson was reviewing a show of Bacon’s work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that that received a mixed reception from New York critics who basically just don’t `get’ Bacon. (The same thing happened to Lucian Freud a few years ago). From across the Atlantic Bacon looks like an overrated neo romantic, a good colourist whose pictures of junkies and toilets amount to little more than a good old wallow in self pity.
Richardson is certainly right that much of the later work is weak, the notorious example being those risible paintings of a humanoid wearing only cricket pads, which are said to have been inspired by Bacon’s fantasies about a then-famous blonde hunk who captained England.
Richardson is a distinguished art historian and, just as he did in his magisterial biography of Picasso, he can speak about Bacon with authority because they were friends. But a lot of what he has written about the violent, sado-masochistic nature of Bacon’s relationships with his lovers Peter Lacy and George Dyer is already in the public domain. Richardson’s insight, that Bacon’s best work is fuelled by anger and pain, sounds right, but then even the Bacon biopic Love is the Devil connected his creativity to his penchant for violent sex.
I have only read the a filleted version of what may well be a much more balanced piece in the New York Review, but friends who knew Bacon tell me that the version I saw gives a distorted picture of a man who, when not being hurled through plate glass windows by his boyfriends, was courteous, cultured, highly educated and possessed of extraordinary moral courage. But that’s ok. Richardson is writing as a critic, not a biographer, and the official biography, which is in preparation, will give us a more rounded portrait of the man.
Richardson makes much of Bacon’s inability to draw. That’s absolutely true, but perhaps the really interesting thing isn’t that Bacon didn’t draw, but that he is a rare phenomenon – a painter who didn’t feel the need to draw at any stage in his creative process – apart from rough notes that are more like ideas for paintings than studies. In taking the formidable critic David Sylvester to task for defending Bacon, what Richardson may be forgetting is that when Sylvester became the artist’s champion in the late 1940s, Bacon needed every defender he could get. As often happens when a critic has been writing about the work of a particular artist for many years, Sylvester was certainly too kind and definitely included paintings in his Bacon exhibitions that should never have seen the light of day. As this volley from John Richardson suggests, the inevitable reappraisal has already begun.
Francis Bacon nearly lost an eye after being thrown through a glass window by his "psychopathic" lover Peter Lacy, a biographer has recounted.
But the acclaimed painter was so stimulated by sadomasochism that he "loved Lacy even more" after the assault and criticised friends who tried to intervene.
The art historian John Richardson has disclosed new details of his friend Bacon's tempestuous relationship with Lacy in an article arguing that the painter's creative impulses were rooted in sexual pain and humiliation.
Richardson, who has written a multi-volume biography of Bacon, also claims that the painter pushed his more well-known lover George Dyer to suicide by goading him "into a state of psychic meltdown".
Dyer took his own life in a Paris hotel bathroom in 1971 – a tragedy that Bacon memorialised in Triptych, May-June 1973, which is considered one of his finest works.
In the article Richardson claims that Lacy and Dyer were crucial to Bacon's style because they provoked his sadomasochistic desires.
"Unfortunately, drink released a fiendish, sadistic streak in Lacy that bordered on the psychopathic," he writes in the New York Review of Books.
"In a state of alcoholic dementia, he hurled Bacon through a plate glass window. His face was so damaged that his right eye had to be sewn back into place.
"Bacon loved Lacy even more. For weeks he would not forgive Lucian Freud for remonstrating with his torturer. Mercifully, Lacy moved to Tangier."
Richardson also describes spending evenings with Bacon and Dyer in the 1960s during which the artist would taunt and bully his fragile partner.
"Bacon would goad George into a state of psychic meltdown and then, in the early hours of the morning – his favourite time to work – he would exorcise his guilt and rage and remorse in images of Dyer aimed, as he said, at the nervous system," he writes.
Richardson argues that the quality of Bacon's work declined after Dyer's death when he started a new, more stable relationship "seemingly free of sadomasochistic overtones" with a younger man called John Edwards.
While praising Bacon's more tortured works, Richardson contends that he had little artistic ability and struggled to draw complex objects such as hands. He dismisses some of his most renowned paintings – including his series of Popes – as "magnificent flukes".
Bacon, who died in 1992, is considered one of the greatest British painters of the 20th Century.
During his lifetime he earned a reputation as a dissolute libertine, heading a coterie of hard-drinking cronies including fellow painter Lucian Freud and journalist Jeffrey Bernard.
Old queens, Krays and champagne
John Richardson, The Observer, Sunday 22 November 2009
"In 1950, Bacon's studio would become the focus of attention for a three-day celebration that, in retrospect, was the coming-out party for a new variety of bohemia. In its excess it could also be seen as Bacon's debut as a star. The occasion was the wedding of his close friend Ann Dunn … Francis painted the chandeliers red to match his maquillage; an old queen belted out campy versions of popular songs. A woman known as 'Sod' (real name Edomy), who lived on a bus, helped to welcome the guests: these included members of parliament and fellows of All Souls, as well as 'rough trade,' slutty debutantes, cross-dressers, and the evil Kray brothers. The consumption of hundreds of cases of champagne would have left Francis broke had he not had the support of a rich and indulgent lover."
Extract from John Richardson's forthcoming piece in the New York Review of Books
Art historian John Richardson's revelations on the troubled artist he knew as a young man
Charlotte Higgins, The Observer, 22 November, 2009
Francis Bacon’s was a life lived to extravagant extremes. His drunken excesses in the Colony Room Club in Soho; his carnivalesque, ruinous generosity; the formative occasion on which, as a teenager, his father found him wearing his mother's underwear and beat the living daylights out of him – all this is almost as celebrated as his riotously tortured paintings.
But now the art historian John Richardson, whose multi-volume life of Picasso has been called the best artist's biography ever written, and who knew Bacon from the 1940s, has argued that the best of Bacon's art stemmed precisely from his sadomasochistic sexual relationships at their most intense, which also led directly to the death of at least one of his lovers.
It was that early beating by his father to which Bacon attributed his taste for masochism – desires that were played out in adulthood with his lover Peter Lacy.
Richardson describes Lacy's "most heinous assault": "In a state of alcoholic dementia, he hurled Bacon through a plate glass window. His face was so damaged that his right eye had to be sewn back into place. Bacon loved Lacy even more. For weeks he would not forgive Lucian Freud for remonstrating with his torturer. Mercifully, Lacy moved to Tangier."
Writing in the forthcoming issue of the New York Review of Books, Richardson calls Lacy "a dashing 30-year-old … He owned an infamous cottage in the Thames valley, where Francis would spend much of his time – often, according to him, in bondage".
Richardson adds: "Unfortunately, drink released a fiendish, sadistic streak in Lacy that bordered on the psychopathic. Besides taking his rage out on Bacon, he took it out on his canvases. To his credit, however, he inspired some of his lover's most memorable works, among them, the Man in Blue paintings: a menacing, dark-suited Lacy set off against vertical draperies."
The best-known of Bacon's lovers is George Dyer – partly because Bacon immortalised in paintings Dyer's 1971 suicide in a hotel bedroom lavatory, on the eve of the artist's retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris.
Richardson describes the directness of the relationship between Bacon's desires and his artistic output. "Bacon would goad George into a state of psychic meltdown and then, in the early hours of the morning – his favourite time to work – he would exorcise his guilt and rage and remorse in images of Dyer aimed, as he said, at the nervous system." Richardson argues that these are among his best works.
Richardson describes the evening he spent in New York with the pair in 1968. After a lunch during which Bacon called Jackson Pollock an "old lace-maker" they went out drinking. Dyer left, after an argument, and in the early hours Richardson received a call from Bacon who had found his lover passed out on the floor of their room in the Algonquin hotel, "unconscious from having washed down a handful of his sleeping pills with a bottle of scotch".
According to Richardson: "The goading worsened, the imagery intensified," and finally, after another unsuccessful suicide attempt in Greece, Dyer killed himself in Paris.
Richardson argues that Bacon's art went rapidly downhill when, after Dyer's death, he entered a relationship with John Edwards, which was "seemingly free of sadomasochistic overtones. This may explain why Bacon's work lost its sting and failed to thrill. Paintings inspired by Edwards, as well as a Formula 1 driver and a famous cricketer the artist fancied (fetishism survives in the batting pads), reveal that in old age Bacon managed to banish his demons and move on to beefcake. His headless hunks of erectile tissue buffed to perfection have an angst-free, soft-porn glow".
Richardson is an unusually stern critic of Bacon – who was the subject of a Tate retrospective last year and is revered by such artists as Damien Hirst. The problem, argues Richardson, is that Bacon simply could not draw. " Painting after painting would be marred by his inability to articulate a figure or its space." The critic David Sylvester – who helped cement Bacon's reputation – let him off too lightly for this "fatal flaw", he argues. "His celebrated variants on Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X are either magnificent flukes or near-total disasters. In the earliest of this 10-year series, Bacon famously portrays the pope screaming. He's good at screams but hopeless at hands, so he amputates, conceals, or otherwise fudges them."
Richardson describes his first visit to Bacon's studio in the late 1940s. "Bacon struck me as being exhilaratingly funny … Everything about his vast, vaulted studio was over the top: martinis served in huge Waterford tumblers; a paint-stained garter belt kicked under a sofa … The ramshackle theatricality that permeated the studio also permeated the three iconic mastershockers – scrotum-bellied humanoids screaming out at us from the base of a crucifixion – that were about to make the artist famous."
The sight of Bacon's blind old nanny, Jessie Lightfoot, knitting in a corner "came as a surprise". She slept on the kitchen table, and "provided cover for Francis's shoplifting sprees (groceries, cosmetics, and Kiwi shoe polish for his hair)". She also helped provide an unusual source of income for Bacon: when the artist held illicit roulette parties, she would extort huge tips from visitors desperate to go to the loo. According to Richardson: "I remember Francis echoing his nanny: 'They should bring back hanging for buggery.' He was certainly not the only gay Englishman for whom guilt was intrinsic to sex."
Senior art historian John Richardson has now laid down his views and recollections of the artist
Charlotte Higgins, The Observer, Sunday, 22 November 2009
Francis Bacon had his right eye sewn back in place after he was thrown through a window by lover Peter Lacy. Photograph: Jane Bown
The territories of Francis Bacon’s soul have been explored widely; they have been the subject of a film, books and endless speculation. But the senior art historian John Richardson – who, at 85, is working on the last volume of his acclaimed biography of Picasso, and who knew Bacon from his 20s – has now laid down his views and recollections of Bacon, amounting to a reappraisal of his life and work.
Writing in the forthcoming issue of the New York Review of Books, Richardson argues that Bacon's sado-masochistic relationships lay at the heart of his best work, but with terrible consequences for his lover George Dyer, whose fragile mental state Richardson attributes to Bacon's endless "goading".
Having provoked Dyer into "a state of psychic meltdown" he "would exorcise his guilt and rage and remorse in images of Dyer aimed, as he said, at the nervous system". This "goading" resulted in Dyer's suicide, writes Richardson.
An earlier relationship, with Peter Lacy, was violent to the extent that "he hurled Bacon through a plate glass window. His face was so damaged that his right eye had to be sewn back into place".
Bacon's art went rapidly downhill when sado-masochism ceased to be a part of his life, argues Richardson, who describes the "angst-free, soft-porn glow" of his later work.
Richardson, who has hitherto held back from revealing his full memories of Bacon since the artist's death in 1992, also pours scorn on critics, such as the late David Sylvester, who attempted to defend the self-taught Bacon's "inability to draw". He calls the celebrated Screaming Popes series "either magnificent flukes or near-total disasters" and refers to Bacon's failure to convey "subjects that call for graphic skill, subjects, for instance, that include hands". Richardson also refers to Bacon's early adventures as a rent boy; his shoplifting, using his elderly nanny as an accomplice; and the vividly bohemian life around him, including a three-day party in 1950, whose guests "included members of parliament and fellows of All Souls, as well as 'rough trade', slutty debutantes, cross-dressers, and the notoriously evil Kray brothers".
Curated by Edward Lucie-Smith
As everyone interested in Bacon’s work knows, Bacon many times, and often vehemently, denied that he made any use of drawing. This is contradicted however by an early interview with the critic David Sylvester (Bacon’s most frequent interlocutor), which is preserved on film. In it, Bacon admits that he does draw, but coyly says that puts his drawings aside and doesn’t look at them, when the moment comes to paint a picture.
Yet, since Bacon’s lonely death in Madrid in 1992, a mass of evidence has emerged to show that he not only did draw, but drew prolifically. When he died, for example, a canvas he had just begun was found in his Reece Mews studio in London. On it was a masterly full-scale drawing for the composition he intended to paint. Numerous scraps of paper with drawings on them, some mere scribbles it is true, were found when the Reece Mews studio was disassembled, to be afterwards reconstructed in Dublin.
An even greater mass of material of this type turned up in the possession of Barry Joule, who had evolved from being Bacon’s neighbour into being his odd-job man and general Mr Fixit. Joule’s account was that Bacon, shortly before his death, had handed him the drawings, with the words “You know what to do with these, don’t you?” Some people, knowing of Bacon’s frequent denials that he drew, might have understood this as an instruction to destroy them, but Joule chose to think otherwise.
While it is true that much of the Joule material is of disappointing quality artistically – a lot of it consists of rough drawings made on top of photographs torn from books and magazines, with others on top of photos, such as portraits of Bacon’s old nanny, also for a time his housekeeper, that were very personal to Bacon himself – there are powerful reasons for accepting it as genuine. One series of drawings in the Joule archive – made on top of illustrations ripped from boxing magazines dating from the late 1940s – has a direct link to a series of drawings purchased as genuine by the Tate shortly before the Joule archive emerged. These drawings, also made on top of illustrations ripped from boxing magazines, belonged to Paul Danquah, a friend with whom Bacon shared a flat in the early 1950s. Danquah, who later emigrated to Tangier, seems to have given them to Bacon when they were co-habiting.
The Joule material appears to cover a long period, and to be closely linked to a number of well-known paintings by Bacon. The artist closely guarded access to his studio and it is hard to imagine him allowing anyone, even a boy friend, to sit there in a corner, manufacturing Bacon related drawings. The two chief consorts of the middle and later years of his career, George Dyer, an ex-burglar of notable incompetence, who committed suicide in 1971, on the eve of Bacon’s first major retrospective in Paris; and John Edwards, who though shrewd and loyal, was uneducated, dyslexic and illiterate, seem particularly unlikely candidates.
The Joule material – and other drawings related to it – have been a permanent embarrassment to a part of the British art establishment ever since they first made their way into the public gaze.
If the material that emerged from Bacon’s studio after his death is problematic because of its lack of real artistic quality, the same cannot be said of the drawings exhibited in this new exhibition. These are ambitious works, signed and on a large scale, clearly made as independent works of art. They in many ways seem to sum up the essence of what Bacon tried to do. Why were they made, and why have they remained at least half-hidden for so long?
The evidence is that Bacon, at the end of his career, found his celebrity increasingly oppressive. His solution was to slip away to places where he was little known or not known at all, where he could stroll from bar to bar and from restaurant to restaurant, and amuse himself as he wished. One of his favourite places for escapes of this kind was Italy. A constant companion in his Italian adventures was a young and handsome American-Italian called Cristiano Lovatelli Ravarino. There is plenty of evidence that they were often seen together, in locations as different from one another as Bologna and Cortina d’Ampezzo. The drawings shown are presentation drawings, resembling in this the drawings that the ageing Michelangelo made for the young Tommaso Cavallieri.
There seem to have been several motivations for making them, apart from Bacon’s desire to commemorate a friendship. One was simply restlessness. Though happy to get away from the confines of his studio, Bacon still wanted to make art – but art of a light and portable kind (though not all of the drawings were made in Italy, some appear to have been done in London). At the end of his life, he wanted to try a new medium, one that had clearly always daunted him. He also seems to have wanted to correct mistakes made in the past. One striking feature of this series of drawings is that they recapitulate themes from work made much earlier in his career. Though the drawings belong to the last decade of Bacon’s artistic activity, their subjects are those that Bacon became associated with in the 1950s – the Popes after Velazquez and the portraits of businessmen. The Pope images are expanded into a series of portraits of ecclesiastics, perhaps inspired by what Bacon saw in the streets of Italian towns. There are also portraits of friends and images of the Crucifixion, a subject that preoccupied the artist throughout his life. Bacon frequently expressed dissatisfaction with the early works that had made his reputation, and these are an attempt to do better.
Bacon regarded his relationship to Ravarino as unofficial, in the sense that he could never get his friend to commit himself to something fully public – Ravarino worried what his family would say. He seems to have thought of the drawings as being essentially unofficial as well. He went to considerable trouble to keep their existence secret from his commercial representatives, the powerful Marlborough Gallery, who wished to preserve his shamanic persona even more than he did.One fascinating aspect of these drawings in that they are the work of a Laocoon, a man struggling hard to escape from the entwining serpents of his own myth, and to return to the pleasure of making art for its own sake – no other reason than that.
A catalogue with images of 50 drawings and an introduction by Edward Lucie-Smith will be released on the opening day.
Damien Hirst says anyone can be like Rembrandt.
But does art world agree?
Peter Walker & Simon Hattenstone, The Guardian, Saturday 14 November 2009
Few critics would have expected their near-unanimous mauling of Damien Hirst’s recent collection of paintings to make a notable dent in the millionaire artist's famously robust ego, but even they probably never expected this reaction: give me a bit more time and I'll be as good as Rembrandt.
In an interview in today's Guardian, the 44-year-old mainstay of the Young British Artists scene, whose show at the Wallace Collection in London was variously dismissed as "an embarrassment" and "shockingly bad", has responded by rejecting the notion of innate artistic genius as the route to greatness. Instead, Hirst insists, application is the key.
"Anyone can be like Rembrandt," he said. "I don't think a painter like Rembrandt is a genius. It's about freedom and guts. It's about looking. It can be learnt. That's the great thing about art. Anybody can do it if you just believe. With practice you can make great paintings."
He accepted, nonetheless, that he had plenty of hours to put in to compete with the 17th century Dutch master.
Hirst capped years of commercial and – to a lesser extent – critical success involving his trademark dead animals in formaldehyde and mass-produced spots and butterflies with an auction 14 months ago which brought in £111m. By then he had already begun a period of two years shut away in his garden shed in Devon, a process which resulted in the 25 oil paintings which went on show last month.
He has another collection of paintings opening at London's White Cube gallery this month, and says he his deadly serious about the pursuit: "I definitely think it's early days for me painting. I don't think I've arrived. I don't think I'm as great as they are. It's a long road, and these are the first paintings I'm satisfied with."
The question of inspiration versus sheer perspiration has been around for as long as people have painted, noted Dr Julian Stallabrass from the Courtauld Institute of Art, and history showed that results arrive more quickly for some than others.
"You have some people who were particularly slow learners. Cézanne, for instance, worked for decades obsessively developing his skills and his style, and was still working on his style when he died. But then you have people like Raphael or Picasso, to whom it seems to come very easily. If you see an exhibition of Dalí's early works you can see someone just playing around with other styles with a lot of ease."
However, not everyone can lock themselves away in a garret with the presumption of turning into a Cézanne, Stallabrass warned. "If you spend a lot of time drawing you will certainly improve. But that does not necessarily mean you'll succeed. There have always been many more artists than famous artists, and this is true all the more these days. There are a lot of art students working very hard, but not many of them will became well known."
Angus Stewart, president of the International Association of Art Critics, drew comparison with Francis Bacon.
"Francis Bacon would have agreed that it is about looking, and he certainly believed it could be learned, and he learned it – to a certain extent. But Bacon himself would not have claimed to be technically the equivalent of Rembrandt, though he would say of course that in his understanding of the human experience he could be rated with him."
Perhaps more unexpectedly, a similar line was taken by Jeremy Deller, the 2004 Turner Prize winner who is best known for non-painterly works such as brass bands playing acid house tunes and a recreation of the 1984 clash between miners and police at Orgreave in South Yorkshire.
"Not everyone can paint like Rembrandt, however hard you try," he said. "It's like saying anyone can be Velázquez, or anyone can be Beethoven. It's not about hard work, it's about something else, which is what genius is, I suppose. It's about that sheer quality."
Hirst had been driven to make the comments because he had "failed so publicly" with his paintings, Deller surmised.
"The thing about Damien Hirst is that he did work very hard, but he worked very hard at doing one thing, which is repeating and marketing himself. But he didn't work very hard at being a decent artist for some years. For about 10 years he's done very little, he's just replicated himself because he knows he can make money out of it."
By Ella Ide, Reuters, Thursday November 12, 2009
Three Studies of Lucien Freud 1968/69 at the Galleria Borghese in Rome November 11, 2009.
ROME (Reuters) - Portraits by Italian master Caravaggio and Irish-born 20th-century painter Francis Bacon stand side-by-side in new exhibition connecting their tormented views of humanity despite contrasting approaches to realism.
The show at Rome's Galleria Borghese marks 400 years since Caravaggio's death and 100 years since Bacon's birth and at its heart lies their shared fascination with the human form and their predilection for the expressive portrait.
Both were radical for their times: against the distorted idealism of high mannerism, Caravaggio was driven by obsessive attention to the real, while Bacon was derided for his refusal to relinquish the human figure in favour of abstraction.
"Bacon can be compared to Caravaggio above all in terms of intensity," said art historian Michael Peppiatt, co-curator of the exhibition and Bacon's close friend and biographer.
Both painters have been seen as icons of gay, tormented genius and their tragic natures and lives marked by violence - Bacon's lover committed suicide and Caravaggio was condemned to death after killing a man - are echoed in their works.
"They were both conscious of the shortness of life and of the fragility of humanity, and each powerfully conveys this consciousness through his art," said Peppiatt in a statement.
Seventeen works by Bacon are featured alongside 14 paintings by Caravaggio, six of which, including the Madonna with the Serpent and the Sick Bacchus, belong to the Borghese's permanent collection.
Many of the works by Bacon, including Head VI, the result of his studies of Velazquez's portrait of Pope Innocent X, are on loan from London's Tate Gallery.
The lavish entrance to the Galleria Borghese is devoted to Bacon's triptychs, painted after the suicide of his lover George Dyer, with chilling scenes of distorted, semi-naked male figures whose life oozes from them to form flesh-coloured puddles.
The show runs until January 24, 2010 and has already attracted well over 67,000 visitors, with the record numbers forcing the Borghese to extend its open hours and increase the number of tickets available for the daily tours by 30 per cent.
A man walks next to a Francis Bacon painting and a Caravaggio painting during an exhibition at the Galleria Borghese in Rome November 11, 2009.
Roma, Galleria Borghese, fino al 24 gennaio 2010
Caravaggio e Francis Bacon a confronto. L’insolita mostra, curata da Anna Coliva e Michael Peppiatt, prende spunto in occasione del IV centenario della morte del maestro lombardo (1571 – 1610) e dal centenario della nascita dell’artista inglese (1909-1992). L’esposizione, realizzata nell’ambito delle dieci grande mostre organizzate dalla Galleria Borghese, la cui collezione possiede sei fra i Caravaggio più importanti, propone un appassionante confronto fra le opere dei due maestri. Essa intende accostare due grandi protagonisti della storia della pittura, che sono tra gli interpreti più profondi e innovativi della rappresentazione della figura umana nella storia dell’arte occidentale.
Sia chiaro, questa mostra non vuole teorizzare dipendenze di Bacon da Caravaggio ma, al contrario, provocare suggestioni visive, evocando corrispondenze spontanee risultanti da accostamenti formali. “Gli accostamenti -precisa il Professor Maurizio Calvesi, uno dei massimi esperti di Caravaggio, autore del catalogo e storico dell’arte di chiara fama- sono sempre azzardati, perché ogni artista è diverso dall’altro. Però l’accoppiamento di queste due figure distanti nel tempo ma in qualche modo accomunate da un certo travaglio, da un realismo, che con Bacon poi diventa esasperato, è secondo me un’idea molto felice, un’ idea bellissima. Bacon non ha nulla di Caravaggio, non si è ispirato a Caravaggio, però se c’è un artista del nostro tempo che può essere equiparato a Caravaggio è proprio lui”.
Entrambi infatti sono personalità estreme, che hanno espresso nella pittura il tormento dell’esistenza con pari intensità e genialità inventiva. Nelle diversità delle loro poetiche, hanno penetrato la tragedia dell’esistenza non come drammaticità di una condizione astratta o come accidentalità di accadimenti in quanto personali o storici ma come sentimento interiore e imprescindibile dell’esistere, individuale ed intimo. Caravaggio esprime con la sua pittura l’ansia per la salvazione spirituale dell’uomo mentre Bacon il terrore verso l’ignoto che alberga dentro l’individuo: entrambi gli artisti infatti si sono calati nelle profondità psichiche che rendono sconosciute e misteriose le condizioni dell’esistenza umana.
Three Studies of Lucien Freud 1968/69 Francis Bacon
Ma questa mostra offre anche la possibilità di riconsiderare, finalmente, idee errate riguardo la biografia del Merisi. “Francis Bacon è realmente un artista maledetto, quello di Caravaggio pittore maledetto- spiega Calvesi- è più che altro un clichè che gli è stato attribuito in età moderna. Le cose scritte sul conto di Caravaggio, come il fatto che fosse iroso, assassino e miscredente, sono state scritte dai suoi biografi dell’epoca, ma se si pensa che il biografo di Caravaggio è il Baglione, suo nemico personale, si capisce il perché del malinteso. Questo senza dubbio nella nostra epoca funziona, ed ha contribuito al suo successo popolare mentre all’epoca di Caravaggio era motivo di condanna. Anche la sua presunta omosessualità è un mito- prosegue Calvesi- però nessuno mai cancellerà questa idea dalla testa dei registi e degli scrittori, perché è molto più affascinante parlare di lui in questi termini che non nei termini reali di uomo che aveva una tormentata religiosità borromaica, che a Roma gli costò una sorta di persecuzione. Quella di Caravaggio era un’epoca in cui c’era una fede religiosa viva, unanimemente condivisa dal pittore stesso. Caravaggio non era né ateo, né miscredente, era semplicemente un adepto della linea borromaica della controriforma cattolica, portata avanti prima da Carlo poi da Federico Borromeo”.
Caravaggio è intimamente legato alla storia della Galleria Borghese, luogo privilegiato per celebrare il quarto centenario dalla sua morte. A Scipione Borghese, infatti, erano destinati i due dipinti che recava con sé al momento della morte, ed è con il Cardinale che egli ebbe il rapporto più intenso e storicamente più ricco di conseguenze. La Galleria Borghese mantiene vive le tracce di questo rapporto attraverso sei capolavori, il Fanciullo con canestro di frutta, Bacchino malato, Madonna dei Palafrenieri, Davide con la testa di Golia, San Gerolamo scrivente e San Giovanni Battista, tramite i quali è possibile illustrare l’intero arco della sua vita.
Per questa occasione la collezione permanente della Galleria è arricchita da opere chiave della sua produzione come la Negazione di Pietro dal Metropolitan di New York, il Martirio di Sant’Orsola l’ultimo Caravaggio da Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano di Napoli, il Ritratto di Antonio Martelli, Cavaliere di Malta da Palazzo Pitti o la Resurrezione di Lazzaro dal Museo Regionale di Messina.
Alle opere di Caravaggio verranno quindi affiancati diciassette capolavori di Francis Bacon: i grandi trittici come Triptych August 1972 dalla Tate Gallery di Londra e Triptych inspired by the Orestia of Aeschylus dall’Astrup Fearnley Museum di Oslo, le sue immagini di papa Innocenzo X di Velazquez come Head VI dalla Arts Council Collection di Londra, i ritratti come Study for a portrait of George Dyer, Portrait of Isabel Rawsthorne 1966 dalla Tate Gallery o Three studies of Lucian Freud.
Un esperimento ben riuscito, una mostra che ci consente di contemplare quanto di più interiore, sconvolgente e aberrante il pennello di questi artisti abbia incontrato nell’indagine profonda dell’animo umano.
INFO: Caravaggio-Bacon Roma, Galleria Borghese, Piazzale Scipione Borghese 5, dal 2 ottobre 2009 al 24 gennaio 2010. Orari: lunedì, dalle ore 13 alle 19; dal martedì al sabato, dalle ore 9 alle 21; domenica, dalle 9 alle 19. Ingresso: interi € 13,50 per mostra e Galleria Borghese, più diritto di prevendita la prenotazione è obbligatoria. Prenotazioni: tel. 06 32810 – www.ticketeria.it. Catalogo: 24 ORE Motta Cultura con marchio Federico Motta Editore
Život, Dnes je Streda, 4.11. 2009, meniny má Karol
Svoj mladistvý výzor pripisoval rodinnej genetike. Nikdy totiž nebol striedmy.
Hoci sa narodil len pred sto rokmi, vo Veľkej Británii bol rešpektovaným pojmom už počas svojho života. Margaret Thatcherová ho raz opísala ako „muža, čo maľuje tie hnusné obrazy“. Hovorila o FRANCISOVI BACONOVI.
Anglický kapitán vo výslužbe
Anthony Edward Mortimer Bacon sa do Írska presťahoval, lebo tam boli
lepšie podmienky na chov a trénovanie koní, ktorým sa venoval. Francis, ktorý
sa narodil 28. októbra 1909 v Dubline, bol druhý v poradí z jeho piatich
Kapitán Bacon bol výbušný, agresívny typ a tak sa správal aj k synovi. Malý Francis chorý na chronickú astmu bol v jeho očiach nula. Ani jeho školské vzdelávanie nebolo úplne tradičné. Do školy ho poslali až v pätnástich. „Nemal som ju rád, preto som z nej pravidelne utekal. Nakoniec ma z nej rodičia odhlásili a strávil som tam iba rok,“ vysvetľoval neskôr. Navyše Francisa priťahovali muži. „Otca som nemal rád, ale keď som bol mladý, sexuálne ma priťahoval,“ spomínal neskôr Bacon otvorene. Ako tínedžer mal aférky s pomocníkmi v stajniach, a keď otec zistil, že je homosexuál, a pristihol ho, ako si skúša matkinu spodnú bielizeň, vyhodil ho v roku 1926 z domu.
Šestnásťročný Francis odišiel do Londýna. Žil zo dňa na deň zo štedrého vreckového od matky, privyrábal si drobnosťami a starší muži mu platili za sex. Cudzie mu neboli ani malé krádeže. Otec ho poslal na jar 1927 s jedným zo svojich prísnych známych do Berlína, aby sa z neho stal naozajstný chlap. Ibaže ten to využil na pomer s chlapcom. V Berlíne sa Francis zamotal do sexuálnych výstrelkov, gamblerstva a zaplietal sa s pochybnými existenciami. Umelcom sa rozhodol stať po tom, ako v roku 1927 videl výstavu Picassových kresieb. Začal kresbami a akvarelmi ako samouk, krátko žil v Paríži, potom opäť v Londýne, kde sa venoval interiérovému dizajnu. Učil sa maľovať olejom a prvýkrát vystavoval v roku 1930. K jeho podporovateľom vtedy patril vážený občan Eric Hall, ženatý muž, ktorý mal s Francisom intímny pomer viac ako 15 rokov.
Prvú naozaj originálnu prácu
Ukrižovanie namaľoval Francis, keď mal dvadsaťtri, a dokonca
mala hneď kupca. Nasledujúce roky sa mu až tak nedarilo, jeho práce sa
nepredávali. Veľa sa ich nezachovalo, lebo veci, ktoré sa mu
nepáčili, zničil. Robil to až do konca života.
Európu zasiahla druhá svetová vojna, ale Francis pre astmu na front nemohol ísť. Skúšal to aspoň v domobrane, ale jeho chorobu to zhoršilo. Presťahoval sa preto spolu s Ericom Hallom na vidiek. V tomto období veľa nemaľoval, ale ak, tak to stálo za to. Prelomom v jeho živote bol triptych Tri štúdie figúr pri základe ukrižovania (1944), ktorý vystavil v Londýne v apríli 1945. Okamžite pritiahol pozornosť kritikov i verejnosti. Kúpil ho jeho milenec Eric a neskôr ho venoval Tate Gallery v Londýne, kde visí dodnes.
Francisov ľúbostný život nebol
jednoduchý. Po roku 1950 už s Ericom, ktorý opustil manželku, nežil. Niekedy
pred rokom 1952 sa dal dokopy s bývalým stíhacím a testovacím pilotom Petrom
Lacym. Ich vzťah bol plný deštrukcie a Bacon ostal v zajatí Petrovho
neurotického sadizmu viac ako desaťročie. Keď sa jeho milenec
presťahoval do Tangeru, Bacon ho nasledoval a žil medzi Marokom a
Londýnom. Nakoniec sa rozišli, lebo Peter čoraz viac prepadal alkoholu.
Francisova umelecká reputácia medzitým rástla. Ďalším jeho prelomovým dielom bol veľkoformátový triptych Tri štúdie ukrižovania z roku 1962. Zrodil sa v ateliéri, ktorý vyzeral ako chaotické smetisko, ale inde maľovať nedokázal. „Namaľoval som ho asi za dva týždne, keď som mal mizernú pijanskú náladu a všetko bolo zahalené v opare alkoholu a neskutočnej opice. Niekoľkokrát som ani nevedel, čo vlastne robím. Je to však jediný obraz, ktorý som takto namaľoval. Možno práve to, že som nebol triezvy, mi pomohlo oslobodiť sa. Nikdy viac som to nezopakoval,“ priznal v jednom z rozhovorov.
V máji 1962 mu v londýnskej Tate Gallery urobili obrovskú retrospektívnu výstavu. V deň vernisáže dostal telegram, že jeho vtedy už bývalý partner Peter Lacy v Tangeri zomrel. Hlboko ho to zasiahlo.
Koncom nasledujúceho roka do jeho života vstúpil ďalší muž. George Dyer bol elegán z východného Londýna, mal na konte drobné prehrešky proti zákonu a navonok pôsobil tvrdo, čím ukrýval svoju depresívnu a neistú povahu. Stal sa námetom mnohých Baconových obrazov. Alkoholizmus, pokusy o samovraždu a nebezpečné fyzické potýčky s Francisom vzťahu nepridávali. V roku 1970 dokonca žiarlivý George ukryl v maliarovom ateliéri 2,1 gramu marihuany a udal ho.
O rok neskôr Bacona čakala ďalšia veľká retrospektíva, tentoraz v Paríži. História sa kruto zopakovala. Dva dni pred jej otvorením Dyera našli mŕtveho. Zomrel na predávkovanie liekmi v kombinácii s alkoholom. Francis prijal túto správu so zvláštnym pokojom. Až séria obrazov, ktoré namaľoval v priebehu nasledujúcich rokov, ukázala, aký hlboký bol jeho smútok.
V polovici sedemdesiatych rokov
stretol ďalšieho muža z East Endu – Johna Edwardsa. Zoznámili sa v
maliarovom obľúbenom bare Colony Room v Soho, kam chodil viac ako
štyridsať rokov. Edwards mal dvadsaťšesť, Bacon o
štyridsať rokov viac. Klebety o tom, že títo dvaja muži boli nielen
priateľmi, ale aj milencami, sa nikdy nepotvrdili. Skôr bol medzi nimi
podobný vzťah ako medzi otcom a synom a maliar tvrdil, že John je
„jediný skutočný priateľ, ktorého kedy mal“. Edwards bol
skutočne charizmatický. Aj napriek tomu, že bol ťažký dyslektik a
len veľmi ťažko dokázal čítať či písať. Spolu
cestovali na dovolenky či na výstavy, chodili po reštauráciách, kasínach
a do barov a John často pomáhal Francisovi zo situácií, do ktorých sa
dostal, keď si vypil. Vtedy vedel byť inak veľkodušný muž
veľmi prchký a vzťahovačný.
Nasledujúcich pätnásť rokov mal maliar výstavy po celom svete. V roku 1985 mu londýnska Tate Gallery urobila ďalšiu retrospektívu a označila ho za „najväčšieho žijúceho maliara“.
Francis síce nebol Johnov milenec, ale vášne a sexu sa ani v pokročilom veku a pri zhoršenom zdraví nevzdal. V roku 1989 mu vyoperovali obličku napadnutú rakovinou, ale aj tak udržiaval vzťah s mladým Španielom. Napriek radám svojho lekára za ním v apríli 1992 odcestoval do Madridu, kde ho krátko po príchode museli hospitalizovať. Dvadsiateho ôsmeho apríla dostal infarkt a zomrel. Podľa želania ho bez obradu spopolnili ešte v Španielsku a jeho popol potom pri súkromnom obrade rozprášili v Anglicku. Za univerzálneho dediča ustanovil svojho najlepšieho priateľa - Johna Edwardsa. Ten v roku 1998 daroval galérii v Dubline Baconov ateliér, kde tvoril viac ako tridsať rokov, a po rekonštrukcii ho pre verejnosť otvorili v máji 2001.
V Baconovom ateliéri neboli na stenách žiadne obrazy, iba pár fotografií. „Nemôžem žiť s obrazmi,“ vravieval. Steny používal ako skúšobnú paletu a jeho ateliér bol skutočným smetiskom. Zaschnuté tuby farieb, koberce, handry, staré štetce a kopa prachu. „Raz som si kúpil skvelý ateliér, s perfektným svetlom, a tak nádherne som ho všetkým vybavil, že som tam nedokázal pracovať. Bol som v tom priestore úplne vykastrovaný,“ tvrdil maliar. Hoci sú mnohé jeho obrazy netradičnými portrétmi, nikdy nemaľoval podľa živého modelu. V ateliéri bol najradšej sám a inšpiroval sa hlavne fotografiami. Svet fotografie ho fascinoval. Ako dobre predávaný autor mohol žiť kdekoľvek v Londýne, a aj si kúpil krásne bývanie pri Temži, ale nedokázal tam existovať. Preto žil v starom byte a bizarnom ateliéri.
Priatelia ho poznali hlavne ako veľmi štedrého, inteligentného a zraniteľného človeka. Aj napriek veľmi znepokojujúcim obrazom bol Bacon príjemný človek a skutočný džentlmen. Veľmi nerád analyzoval vlastné diela. „Ak o tom dokážete hovoriť, prečo to potom maľovať?“ bola jedna z jeho obľúbených odpovedí. „Nemôžete byť horší a šokujúcejší než sám život,“ rád hovoril, hoci jeho obrazy ľudí väčšinou odpudzovali. Práve preto si ich súkromní zberatelia veľmi nekupovali a končili skôr v zbierkach galérií. Jeden z jeho priateľov, básnik Stephen Spender, to vystihol veľmi jasne: „Chcel som si kúpiť jeho obraz, ale nikto z mojej rodiny u nás doma žiadny vidieť nechcel.“ Bacon rád tvrdil, že maľuje sám pre seba: „Neverím, že moje maľby sú pre ľudí. Môžem maľovať iba pre seba,“ a dodával: „Keby som myslel na to, čo povedia kritici, nemaľoval by som.“
TEXT: ZUZANA MEZENCEVOVÁ
FOTO: PROFIMEDIA.SK, ISIFA.COM,
Sharmishta Koushik, The Times of India, 2 November 2009
BACON'S MAN WITH FIGURE OF PARAPLEGIC CHILD BACON'S MAN WITH THE FIGURE OF THE PRIEST
Size 5' x 5' (2 parts) Acrylic and Oil on Canvas, 2005, Yusuf Arakkal
BANGALORE: Francis Bacon is considered one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, alongside Pablo Picasso. And in his centenary year, a group of Bangalore artists pay homage to him with an art exhibition The Open Cage, Curated by Giridhar Khasniss, it features works by artists Yusuf Arakkal, C F John, B Devaraj and M S Prakash Babu.
"He's an iconic figure of the 20th century. I was
researching him for an article early this year. It's also his birth centenary
year. That interested me. As I went along, I thought, why not have a group of
Indian artists from Bangalore pay homage to him through their works. I
broached this idea to Yusuf Arakkal. He warmed to it, and also agreed to lend
his work,'' says Khasnis.
The painting in question is a diptych - Bacon's Man and Child and Bacon's Man and Priest, which incidentally, won the gold medal at the Florence International Biennale in 2005.
As for the other artists, Khasnis wanted a small group of just four. The figures in Bacon's works are characterized by a sense of despair and loneliness. And Khasnis developed a vision for the show. "I felt the paintings shouldn't copy Bacon's works, but rather inspire artists to render them in an Indian way,'' says Khasnis. That brought up his first challenge of choosing artists who could draw from this vision. Eventually, he zeroed in on B Devaraj, C F John and M S Prakash Babu, in addition to Yusuf Arakkal.
"Devaraj's works have stark images, but are also meditative. His figures are calm, collected, but the environment around is harsh and violent. Prakash Babu is also a film-maker, and Bacon wanted to be one too. He was inspired by the film Battleship Potamkin by Sergei Eisenstein, and one of his paintings was inspired by a particular scene on the Odessa steps, of a wounded nurse. Yusuf Arakkal's paintings are also stark, but have a humanist quality to them,'' he says. To counterbalance these sensibilities, he wanted a gentle rendering of struggle.
"C F John came to mind for his works are gentle and, yet, as powerful as Devaraj's paintings,'' he says.
Six months of discussions led to 27 paintings that comprise The Open Cage. The cage is a Baconian concept. It connotes a sense of being enclosed and crumpled. But Khasnis wanted to bring in a positive element. And hence, The Open Cage. "It's a paradox. Although it's a cage, there is a sense of something opening up, that there is a possibility of freedom,'' he says.
The works depict not just different approaches, but are also of different sizes. There are some diptychs and triptychs, which, says Khasnis, are also part of the Baconian process.
The exhibition opens tomorrow at Galerie Sara Arakkal, and is on till November 14 from 11 am to 6 pm.
Tribute to Bacon
Considered to be among the most powerful artists of the 20th century, Francis Bacon (1909-1992), the Irish-born British painter, became a legend in his own lifetime.
Deccan Herald, Monday 2 November 2009
prolific output included many compelling, mysterious and violent paintings.
Shockingly and chillingly distorting the human body and placing it in
mysteriously seductive cots, brutal chairs, or boxlike enclosures, Bacon
created a unique visual universe where human emotions and passions were
embedded within the harsh realities of the flesh.
The Open Cage curated by art writer Giridhar Khasnis and featuring four Bangalore-based artists Yusuf Arakkal, C F John, B Devaraj and M S Prakash Babu, who pay homage to the art and life of Francis Bacon, by revisiting his paintings and interpreting them.
Yusuf Arakkal’s award-winning painting Bacon’s Man, Priest and Boy which received the Gold Medal at the prestigious Florence International Biennale 2005, is a five-feet-by-ten-feet diptych rendered principally in monochromatic hues and takes a cue from Bacon’s well-known painting, Self-Portrait (1973) showing a man seated on a chair.
John, who studied philosophy before
opting to take up a career as an artist, comes up with a body of softly
coloured paintings; his paintings lyrically render poignant moments of a
dancer’s life in a Baconian cage.
In contrast, Devaraj’s paintings are powerful allegories with sturdy characters located in somewhat harsh environs. The protagonists are often surrounded by squealing and squeaking Baconian half-human, half-animal creatures; yet they remain calm and contemplative.
Prakash Babu shows his characteristic inspiration derived from the cinematic idiom where elements of suspense and intrigue are interestingly intertwined. The artist locates Bacon himself in several pictures, but deliberately moves the frames, cuts and chops the edges, and dramatically alters the perspective. The Open Cage will be on display at Galerie Sara Arakkal, Bangalore, from November 3 to 14.
On the 30th anniversary of his most famous creation, the artist behind the creature is still annoyed at how he was treated by Hollywood
Wolfgang Dios, Weekend Post, Friday, October 30, 2009
Three decades ago, a loathsome, worm-like parasite burst from the chest of a hapless spaceship crew member - an electrifying moment that made cinematic history, as well as the reputations of pretty well everyone concerned. Sigourney Weaver, playing beleaguered Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley, had previously best been known for a minor role in Woody Allen's Annie Hall, and director Ridley Scott for his work in British television commercials.
The creature was designed by Swiss artist H.R. Giger based on the nightmarish creature that had appeared in his then just-published art book, Necronomicon (Masks Of The Dead), which director Scott had seen. Together the two conferred on what the parasite should look like when it erupted from its human host's body. Giger readily admits he was influenced by another artist. ‘It was Francis Bacon's work that gave me the inspiration,’ Giger said, ‘Of how this thing would come tearing out of the man's flesh with its gaping mouth, grasping and with an explosion of teeth ... it's pure Bacon.’
Francis Bacon / Diego Velázquez / “Alien”
REF. Museum of References, October 10, 2009
What does a 17th century pope an the “Alien” film series have in common?
In 1650, Spanish court painter Diego Velázquez made a portrait of then pope, Innocent X. The painting is considered by many art critics as one, if not the, best portrait ever made. Apparently, Irish painter Francis Bacon, shared this view. Between the mid 1950’s and early 1960’s he created dozens of variations of the portrait (Study After Velázquez). Bacon’s unique style transformed Velázquez already intense portrait into an horrific, nightmarish image.
26 years later, designer and artist H.R. Giger, heavily influenced by Bacon’s paintings, created the famous “Alien” monster. Bacon himself was also influenced by Sergei Einstein’s scene of an elderly woman being shot during Battleship Potemkin. Innocent X’s dark portrait, combined with Eisenstein’s masterpiece, turned into Bacon’s disturbing screaming pope, which led to a movie franchise and an Academy Award for visual effects.
It's the centenary of Francis Bacon's birth, and one feels obliged to write about it. But when one looks - or I look, if you're going to be casual about it - at a body of work only to go, "Ugh" ... well, one wonders what the hell one is going to come up with.
If you write about a certain subject for a living, you can't always like everything that you write about - but there is something so unappealing about Bacon's work that it created quite a dilemma. He is deemed too important by the powers-that-be to fob off with a mention at the bottom of the arts pages. So, what's a girl reporter to do?
She can start with the truth: I don't like the work of Francis Bacon. It is revolting, violent, not only grotesque but gross; it is frightening and nightmarish. It's emotional terrorism, like being forced to watch torture, as the bulk of his imagery is either all screaming popes or carcasses of cows, or distortions of the human figure so subtle that it takes a while to figure out what is so disturbing.
However ... there's got to be something fairly powerful going on to provoke such a reaction. So, rather than just react all over the place and settle into my off-put opinion, I decided to let someone try to convince me otherwise. I hied myself to the Hugh Lane Gallery, which has mounted A Terrible Beauty, marking Bacon's 100th birthday with a presentation of objects and research materials from the gallery's extensive Bacon archive; once there, I just about dared one of the curators, Padraic Moore, to convince me of the merits of an artist whose work I disliked so thoroughly.
To his great credit, he didn't blink an eye when I told him of my aversion. "When you approach the later paintings," he agreed, "they have all the qualities that you were talking about, this visceral, aggressive, violent, even frightening energy. And they're not necessarily aesthetically pleasing." Ha! I knew I was right!
Moore continues: "But they have a function, and I think that function is to provoke. It's important to contextualise where he was coming from."
The context is illuminating. Born in Dublin to a British military family, Bacon Senior was horsey, and it was his equine capabilities that brought the family to Ireland. They returned to London during the First World War, and then moved back to Ireland for our own Civil War. Not restful times in which to grow up.
Bacon Junior was asthmatic, and arty; at 16 he was ejected from the family home when Dad found him dressed up in Mum's clothes. He went to London and, with some education here and there, and no formal art training at all, took up life as an artist.
What a time to have lived. Two world wars, the atomic age ... "I think he was really only reflecting what he was bombarded with," says Moore, and I have to agree. I'm starting to understand something about the psyche of Francis.
Then there's how his lover, George Dyer, died of an overdose the night before the opening of Bacon's first retrospective in the Grand Palais in Paris. The gallery's archive yields several photographs of Bacon attending the showing despite his grief, although in one image clearly shows the devastation Dyer's death has wrought.
Oh, dear. He's becoming human. "The work is very human," Moore insists. "And humanity is violent, and it is sexual, and it is about suffering and vulnerability and isolation."
Oh. Yes. That's true. It's not all water lilies and Madonnas and child and dogs playing poker, is it?
Now I begin to question what it is I look for in an artwork. Am I happy enough with impressionistic light upon the water, or am I up for a challenge? Moore takes me for a tour of the exhibition, and he points out some of the things that he values in the paintings: the formal structure, the palette of luscious colours, the recurring body language of the figures.
There's a portrait of Francis' last lover, John Edwards, from 1988: the figure sits on a cane chair in his underpants, against a black and olive background. It's simple, it's direct, and it echoes, painfully, mournfully, many of the portraits that Bacon did of Dyer. "Something that's left out of the reading of his work is love, and affection, and the suffering that this causes," says Moore.
"If you are the sort of person who is attached to people, as soon as you make the decision to attach yourself to another human being, you are instantly vulnerable, and there's the potential for suffering."
I feel my heart creak open, just a crack, to allow in comprehension of the sadness of the artist. And then I get freaked out by the shadow of Edwards that Bacon has painted in the foreground: it is flesh coloured.
I have no idea why that freaks me out, but it does - all the way. It is just plain nasty. And yet I've learned a lot about the man, and I've allowed myself to take in his work, so I'm not totally repulsed.
Bacon may not make my lifetime hit parade of favourite artists, but getting glimpse of his work process, through the gallery's presentation of its archival materials, has humanised him. I don't hate his work any more, and I can appreciate its power to push buttons and evoke tumultuous emotions.
It is, after all, only paint on canvas - but in the right hands, paint on fabric becomes explosive, and disconcerting, which says everything about the power of art. And the most powerful art is often the least lovely. But don't ask me to appreciate that Italian dude who put his own excrement in tins and sold it for buckets of money. I've got to draw the line somewhere. HQ
Francis Bacon: A Terrible Beauty, runs 'til March 2010 at the Hugh Lane Gallery, see www.hughlane.ie for more information
- Sue Conley
AN EXHIBITION marking the 100th anniversary of artist Francis Bacon’s birth opened at the Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane, yesterday evening, writes AIDAN DUNNE
Aidan Dunne, The Irish Times, Thursday, October 29, 2009
Hugh Delap, from Clontarf, and Jenny Fitzgibbon, from Rathmines, with Study for Portrait (John Edwards) by Francis Bacon, at the opening of A Terrible Beauty yesterday. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh
Francis Bacon: A Terrible Beauty puts on display many of the contents of Francis Bacon’s studio, which the gallery received in 1998.
Opening the exhibition, President McAleese paid tribute to Hugh Lane director Barbara Dawson, her staff and Brian Clarke, the executor of the artist’s estate.
“They deserve a big thank you for bringing this man home,” she said, describing Bacon as “the defining figure in Irish visual art generally and one of the greatest of the 20th century”.
Commenting on the famous messiness of Bacon’s studio, the President said he was lucky he had never had to receive a presidential visit there because, as her daughter had told her after an official visit to her school: “A visit from the President is like having your mother visit your bedroom, so a visit to Bacon’s studio would clearly have been a disaster for everyone concerned.”
Brian Clarke also commented on the studio’s state of disorder. He first visited it late at night, when the artist was still alive and without his knowledge. “It was,” he said, “both exhilarating and repulsive.”
Clarke and the late John Edwards, Bacon’s heir, gave the studio to the Hugh Lane, who sent in an archaeological team to survey and catalogue it. It inventoried more than 7,000 items, all of which were shipped to Dublin. The recreated studio can be seen in the Hugh Lane now.
Also on view is a selection of Bacon’s paintings, many of them only rarely exhibited in public before, including a picture from Damien Hirst’s personal collection. The studio contents, including unfinished and partially destroyed canvases, sketches, photographic prints and photographic reproductions in books and magazine, has been a treasure trove for scholars of the artist’s work.
Joanna Shepard, Head of Conservation: Francis Bacon : A Terrible Beauty
AN RTE radio presenter issued an on-air apology yesterday after a guest referred to Africans as "reproducing like rats".
The Today with Pat Kenny show received complaints from listeners after the comment was made during a discussion with photographer Peter Beard on an exhibition celebrating the works of artist Francis Bacon.
Presenter Myles Dungan, standing in for Mr Kenny, later apologised as he read out remarks from disgruntled listeners. Mr. Dungan said the comment was "something that should not have been said".
Mr Beard, a friend of Bacon, was discussing the problems of overpopulation in Africa when the comment was made.
"You get this kind of crop damage because Africans are reproducing like rats and going right up to the border," said the photographer, who lives for part of the year in Kenya.
A spokeswoman for the Immigrant Council of Ireland described the comment as both "offensive and inappropriate".
Gewalt und Leidenschaft, Rausch und Reflexion: zum 100. Geburtstag des Malers Francis Bacon
Zeit Online, 28. Oktober 2009
Francis Bacon in London, 1970
Was die Kunst seit allen Zeiten am meisten mit der Realität und dem Leben verbindet, ist ausgerechnet ihr fantastischer Sinn für das Grausige und Grausame. Kriege, Verbrechen, blutige Leidenschaften sind ihr Höchstes und bezeugen zugleich etwas zutiefst Menschliches. Das gilt von der Ilias, den antiken Tragödien, den Tempelreliefs der Mayas oder den Märtyrer-Folterbildern, den Kreuzigungen der christlichen Kunstgeschichte – bis hin zu zwei jüngsten filmischen Meisterwerken, Quentin Tarantinos Inglorious Basterds und Michael Hanekes Das weiße Band.
Das Böse ist allemal faszinierender als das Brave und Gute, nur der Konflikt ist dramatisch, nicht die reine Harmonie. Die "Ästhetik des Schreckens", die immer neu fingierte Schönheit des Fürchterlichen freilich unterscheidet die Kunst auch vom Leben: weil die leibhaftige Qual, weil das wirkliche Leidantun vor allem dumpf, brutal und widerlich sind.
Eben dieses Paradoxon der Kunst und des Kunstgenusses (die Lust am Bild des Schreckens) hat wohl kein anderer Artist der Moderne in seinen Werken so unerbittlich und unwiderstehlich verkörpert wie der heute vor 100 Jahren in Dublin geborene und 1992 in Madrid gestorbene englische Maler Francis Bacon. Wenn Pablo Picasso das Bildgenie des 20. Jahrhunderts war, dann muss man ihm in der zweiten Jahrhunderthälfte Francis Bacon zur Seite stellen.
Der Maler des aufgerissenen Fleisches und der zerfetzten Körper, der auch im Bild des Selbstmords bereits die Explosionen der heutigen Selbstmordattentäter vorausgesehen zu haben schien, er ist heute mit seinen Großwerken im Kunsthandel ein 100-Millionen-Dollar-Fall. Und immer hat er auf die ästhetische Form höchsten Wert gelegt, bis zum Äußersten und (vermeintlich nur) Äußerlichen: Seine Szenerien von Blut und Glut sind absichtlich hinter kühles Glas gesetzt, wie sonst nur viel ältere, unersetzliche Meisterwerke, zudem hat er sie in vergoldete Rahmen gehängt. Bacon war sich der hiermit gesteigerten und zugleich kontrollierten Wirkung seines Oeuvres immer bewusst. Er suchte die Schönheit, nicht den Ekel, auch wenn seine bühnenhaften Tableaux oft grausigen Tatorten gleichen. Wobei Täter, Opfer und Zuschauer auch zu Detektiven werden: auf der eigenen Spur.
Schon als Kind erfährt der 1909 geborene Francis, mit seiner (britischen) Familie zwischen Irland und England wechselnd, Weltkrieg und Bürgerkrieg, seine Brüder sterben früh, und der Vater ist ein Pferdetrainer und roher Mann. Mit 18 Jahren geht der Schulabbrecher von London nach Berlin zu einem obskuren Onkel – und erlebt 1927 als frühreifer Streuner jenes Berlin der katzengoldenen, schrillen Roaring Twenties: voller Gewalt und Leidenschaften, Elend und Glitter, Halbwelt und Dekadenz. Es ist das politisch, sexuell, kulturell abgründige Cabaret -Berlin, das sein Landsmann Christopher Isherwood beschrieben hat.
Noch im selben Jahr 1927 reist Bacon aber weiter nach Paris und begegnet dort in der Galerie des Kunsthändlers Paul Rosenberg erstmals Bildern von Pablo Picasso. Es sind kubistisch aufgespaltene, vieldeutige Gesichter und Gestalten, die auf die nackte bizarre Form von Knochen, durchbrochenem Gestein oder magischen Strünken reduziert und verdichtet wirken. Für Francis Bacon, den alsbald bekennenden Trinker, Spieler, Homosexuellen und Gelegenheitsarbeiter wird das zum lebensentscheidenden Schock. Wird zur Erweckung seines schier unheimlichen und später als völliger Autodidakt ausgebildeten Talents.
Wissen ist Macht. Francis Bacon, der Philosoph und Shakespeare-Zeitgenosse, hat den berühmten Satz geprägt. Und sein gleichnamiger familiärer Nachfahre hat zumindest von der Macht des Bösen so viel gewusst, dass er davon sein visionäres Zeugnis ablegen sollte.
Um zu überleben, entwirft Bacon zunächst Teppiche und Möbel, er malt nebenher und ab 1933 stellt er in London erste Bilder aus, fast ohne Resonanz. Exzessiv und zugleich extrem kritisch, wie er war, hat Bacon 1943 fast sein gesamtes Frühwerk vernichtet. Nur 15 Bilder sind aus jener Zeit erhalten, und als sein Debüt galt ihm selbst das Triptychon Drei Studien für Figuren am Fuß einer Kreuzigung von 1944.
Drei Öltafeln gleich einem weltlichen Altar, doch ohne fortlaufenden erzählerischen Kontext, sondern in gegenseitiger motivischer Spannung: das wird Bacons Spezialität. Schon die ersten drei "Figuren" sind, auf blutorangenem Grund, in einem von geometrischen Linien bezeichneten Raum verkrümmte, arm-, bein- und augenlose Menschenwesen mit hündischen Köpfen, beherrscht vom aufgerissenen Gebiss und einem kreatürlichen Schrei.
Solche Bilder machen bald Furore. Gegen den Trend zur allgemeinen Abstraktion hält Bacon am letzten, existentiellen Ausdruck des Figürlichen, des Menschen-Bilds fest. Nach 1945 ist er der Künstler, der – ohne politische Botschaft und stärker selbst als Picasso mit Guernica – ins Bewusstsein rückt, dass selbst Auschwitz menschenmöglich war. Als er schon berühmt ist, nennt er die abstrakte Malerei eine schier formale Kunst, ohne innere Spannung und Dramatik, bestenfalls bediene sie "lyrische Empfindungen". Inzwischen ist Bacon, dessen mit dem Farbschwamm virtuos verwischten Gesichter und Gesichte weder naiv naturalistische noch dekorativ surrealistische Sehnsüchte stillen, zum Heros fast aller gegenständlichen Kunst geworden, nicht zuletzt auch der Maler um Neo Rauch und der Leipziger Schule.
Am Abend oder Vorabend großer Retrospektiven sind Bacons engste Freunde (und Modelle) an Drogen oder durch Selbstmord gestorben. Das ist ebenso beschrieben worden wie Bacons Verhältnis zu Velázquez, dessen Porträt von Papst Innozenz X. zum Vorbild des vielfach variierten Schreienden Papstes wurde.
Aus Anlass des 100. Geburtstages liegt jetzt auch zur weniger beleuchteten Verbindung von Picasso und Bacon der materialreiche Katalogband des Pariser Musée Picasso auf Deutsch vor. Und der Berliner Parthas Verlag erhellt Bacon in einem kleinen, empfehlenswerten Buch, das neben berühmten Essays etwa von Arnold Gehlen, Gilles Deleuze oder Michel Leiris (den Bacon porträtierte) ein fabelhaftes, hier erstmals übersetztes Interview der Schriftstellerin Marguerite Duras mit dem Maler aus dem Jahr 1971 enthält. Wie sonst nur in seinen früher schon publizierten Gesprächen mit dem Kritiker und Vertrauten David Sylvester beschreibt Bacon darin fast neurologisch präzise das Geheimnis künstlerisch reflektierter Spontaneität.
28. Oktober 2009
Er war Masochist, Chaot, Spieler, und mit seinen Lebensgefährten führte er zerstörerische Beziehungen. Dennoch hat kaum ein Künstler in den vergangenen Jahrzehnten den Kunstmarkt so dominiert wie Francis Bacon (1909-1992). Seine Werke kosten Millionen, und sein Einfluss ist noch immer enorm.
"Die Menschen sterben um mich herum, wie die Fliegen", sagte Francis Bacon 1975. "Es ist niemand mehr übrig geblieben, den ich malen könnte, außer mir selbst." Fünf Jahre später porträtierte sich der Maler mit einer Physiognomie wie durchgekneteter Hefeteig.
Die Farbe strich er teilweise mit Bürsten oder Lappen auf die Leinwand. Die Gesichtszüge sind dadurch ins leicht Abstrakte verrutscht. Es hat ein wenig den Anschein, als habe sich der Künstler bei den Tafeln von Three Studies for a Self Portrait in sein eigenes Antlitz hineingegraben. Ganz so, als habe er gehofft, dort zwischen den Knochen etwas Wichtiges zu finden.
Francis Bacon, der Maler der seelischen Pein und des Schmerzes, wäre jetzt 100 Jahre alt geworden. Neben William Turner gehört er heute zu den bekanntesten britischen Künstlern. Seine großen Triptychen werden - auch durch ein gesteigertes Interesse am Auktionsmarkt in den vergangenen Jahren - zu hohen zweistelligen Millionenpreisen versteigert.
Für die zeitgenössische Kunst scheint er so relevant wie nie zuvor. Bacon selbst hätte es wohl besonders gefallen, mitzuerleben, wie er beim Publikum populärer wurde als sein Landsmann und Erzfeind David Hockney. Gegenüber der Sorglosigkeit von Hockneys Pop-Art empfand der Maler stets einen erklärten Abscheu.
"Jedes Mal wenn ich Hockney erwähnte, ging Francis fast mit Fäusten auf mich los", sagt der Bacon-Biograf Michael Peppiatt. Kein Wunder: Schließlich drehte sich seine eigene Kunst ganz um das Gefühl des Verlustes.
100 Jahre Francis Bacon
Religion, sagt Francis Bacon, ist für ihn kein Thema. Schwer zu glauben angesichts all der Päpste, Kreuzigungen und Höllenvisionen in seinem Werk. Bacon ist anders. Sein Vater verzeiht ihm das nicht, er selbst noch weniger. Ein Trauma, dem wir einige der verstörendsten Bilder des 20. Jahrhunderts verdanken.
Von Susanne Lorenz
BR online, Bayerischer Rundfunk, 28.10.09
Francis Bacon 1972 in seinem Atelier
In Bacons Bildern kauern Menschen wie Klumpen rohen Fleisches am Boden oder auf Betten, gehäutet und blutig. Oder sie hängen wie Rinderhälften in bizarren Kreuzigungsposen in einem Zimmer. Wesen, die weder Mensch noch Tier ähneln, reißen ihre Mäuler auf und entblößen zu viele Zähne. Er malt schreiende Päpste, verzerrt die Gesichter seiner Freunde und setzt seine Figuren in beengte Räume und Käfige.
Viele seiner Bildideen verdankt Bacon den Surrealisten. Sein Unterbewusstsein nennt er einen "Pool", aus dem die Bilder wie Tiefseemonster auftauchen. Eines dieser Monster ist der Papst - für Bacon ein Symbol der Tyrannei, das er immer wieder demontiert. Wobei es Bacon weniger um den Papst als Stellvertreter Christi geht als vielmehr um die Vaterfigur, die "Il Papa" verkörpert. Bacon ist Atheist; der Papst spielt als solcher in seinem Leben keine Rolle. Wohl aber sein eigener Vater, ein prügelnder Tyrann, der seine Kindheit und Jugend stärker prägt als Bacon später zugeben will.
Bacons Vater trainiert in Irland Rennpferde, strotzt vor Männlichkeit und bevorzugt Bacons Bruder Edward. Nach Edwards frühem Tod soll Francis in dessen Rolle schlüpfen. Der Vater setzt ihn aufs Pferd, obwohl der asthmakranke Junge wegen der Tierhaare fast erstickt und sie die Ausritte jedes Mal abbrechen müssen. Enttäuscht von seinem schwächlichen Sohn, lässt er ihn von den Stallburschen auspeitschen. Da sich Bacon zu den Männern körperlich hingezogen fühlt, beschämt ihn diese Bestrafung noch mehr. Der Teenager weiß, dass er "anders" ist. Er spürt auch, dass es "falsch" ist, den eigenen Vater erotisch anziehend zu finden. Zum Eklat kommt es aber erst, als der Vater den Sohn in der Unterwäsche der Mutter erwischt. Er will Bacon nicht mehr sehen. Der 16-Jährige geht nach London.
Zeitlebens besteht Bacon darauf, dass die Verzerrungen in seinen Gemälden völlig natürlich seien. Er sagt, dass seine Bilder keine Geschichten erzählen. Er male lediglich, was ihn errege. Das stimmt auch: Gewalt erregt ihn mehr als alles andere. Seine Vorliebe für sadomasochistische Praktiken ist kein Geheimnis. Bacon sucht sich Partner, die ihm körperlich überlegen sind, ihn grün und blau schlagen. Oft humpelt er mit blutiger Nase durch das nächtliche London auf der Suche nach einer offenen Bar. Auch wenn sich Bacons Bilder nicht in jedem Detail erklären lassen, erzählen sie sehr wohl vom komplexen Gefühlsleben des Künstlers, der sich lebenslang für seine Homosexualität schämt, sich schuldig fühlt und nach Strafe verlangt.
Seine Bilder hängen in allen großen Museen, auf Auktionen erreichen sie Rekordsummen: Francis Bacon gilt als einer der wichtigsten Maler seit 1945 - auch, wenn manche Kritiker in seinen deformierten Darstellungen Monstergestalten erkennen wollen und sie als brutal brandmarken.
"Rot; drei Leinwände rot. Blutrot die obere Bildhälfte,
orangerot die untere."
Drei Studien zu einer Kreuzigung, ein Triptychon, entstanden 1962. Jedes Bild misst knapp zweimal eineinhalb Meter. Auf der linken Tafel:
"Zwei schemenhafte Männerfiguren. Im Vordergrund geschlachtete Tierhälften."
"Ein eisernes Bettgestell mit Matratze und verrutschtem Laken. Darauf ein zerschlagener menschlicher Körper."
Die rechte Tafel.
"Eine gewaltige ausgeweidete Tierhälfte: Rippen, Fleisch, Fett. Im Vordergrund der bedrohliche Schatten eines Menschen."
Als das Triptychon 1962 in der ersten Bacon-Retrospektive in London gezeigt wurde, reagierten Kritiker und Öffentlichkeit schockiert. So titelte die Daily Mail:
"Es ist die schrecklichste Ausstellung, die Großbritannien je erlebt hat! Wer zimperlich ist oder angst vor Albträumen hat, sollte nicht hingehen!"
Auf die immer wiederkehrenden Vorwürfe, seine Bilder seien so brutal, reagierte Bacon stets mit dem Hinweis, er würde das Leben nicht brutaler zeigen, als es ist. Das, so der Maler in einem BBC-Interview, sei gar nicht möglich.
"I don't make life more extraordinary than it is. Just look what life is like. Just think about it for a moment. Would you say that my things have exaggerated what happens all over the world or to you or here? I certainly never been or try to make it more violent than it is. One couldn't."
Anfang der 1970er-Jahre erklärten Kritiker Francis Bacon zum
wichtigsten Maler seiner Zeit. Seitdem erreichen seine Bilder Rekordsummen.
Doch sein Werk ist nach wie vor umstritten. Geboren am 28. Oktober 1909 in
Dublin war Bacon gerade 16 Jahre alt, als sein Vater, ein Pferdezüchter, ihn
aus dem Elternhaus warf. Er hatte entdeckt, dass sein Sohn homosexuell war.
Bacon ging nach London, schlug sich mit Gelegenheitsjobs durch und reiste
nach Berlin und Paris, wo er die Malerei entdeckte. Kurz vor seinem Tod, im
Jahr 1992, blickte Bacon auf diese Zeit zurück. In einem BBC-Interview
"Ich erlebte den Ersten Weltkrieg und all die Dinge, die zwischen ihm, der Russischen Revolution und dem Zweiten Weltkrieg geschahen. Wenn man so will: eine von chaotischen Verhältnissen geprägte Zeit. Und ich denke, das beeinflusst die eigene Wahrnehmung der Dinge."
Der lebenshungrige Künstler, der nie eine Akademie besuchte, und den ein Kritiker bezeichnete als ...
"Maler von Homosexualität, Sadismus und Erbrochenem!"
... dieser Künstler rang zeitlebens um Möglichkeiten, von Wirklichkeit zu erzählen, doch nicht abbildhaft oder illustrativ. Das, so betonte Bacon, könnten Fotografie und Film besser.
"Was will man da als Künstler anderes machen, als zum anderen Extrem zu gelangen, wo man Wirklichkeit nicht als simple Tatsache aufzeichnet, sondern auf vielen Ebenen. Wo man Empfindungszonen erschließen kann, die zu einem tieferen Gefühl für die Wirklichkeit des Bildes führen, wo man versucht, eine Konstruktion zu finden, durch die das Wesentliche roh und lebendig eingefangen wird und so bleibt und schließlich, man kann sagen, versteinert - da ist es."
"Auf den glattem ein- und zweifarbigen Hintergründen: einsame schmerzhaft verdrehte und verrenkte Körper. Verzerrte, deformierte Gesichter. Gemalt in heftig-bewegtem Farbauftrag, der das Innerste nach Außen zu heben scheint."
Auf die blutigen Triptychen der 60er-Jahre, große Gleichnisse eines gewalttätigen 20. Jahrhunderts, folgten in den 70er- und 80er-Jahren Porträts und Triptychen von Freunden. Durch Bacons unverwechselbare Methode der Deformation und Isolation seiner Figuren werden auch diese Bilder zu Chiffren. Exemplarisch erzählen sie von unserem Dasein: von der Zurückgeworfenheit auf uns selbst, von Unsicherheit und Angst, von Verhältnissen, die uns einengen und deformieren. Sie sind Blicke in einen Spiegel, vor denen viele zurückschrecken.
"Ich denke manchmal, wenn Leute sagen, mein Werk wirke gewalttätig, könnte es mir vielleicht gelungen sein, ab und zu einen oder zwei der Schleier oder Schutzschirme wegzunehmen. Denn wenn man jemandem etwas ganz unverblümt sagt, ist er manchmal beleidigt, auch wenn es tatsächlich so ist. Leute neigen dazu, sich von Tatsachen beleidigt zu fühlen, von dem, was man gewöhnlich die Wahrheit nennt."
Hoy se celebra el centenario del nacimiento de Francis Bacon, el pintor que mejor continuó la línea abierta por Picasso sobre la representación de la anatomía humana y que hizo de la muerte en vida su tema esencial
Pablo Bujalance / Málaga Hoy | Actualizado | 28.10.2009
En una escena de la obra teatral de Albert Camus Calígula, el atormentado emperador
afirma lo siguiente: "Creía que en la desesperación se resentía el alma,
pero no: es el cuerpo el que sufre". La sentencia recoge con certera
precisión la esencia de la obra de Francis Bacon (Dublín, 1909 - Madrid,
1992), de cuyo nacimiento se cumplen hoy cien años. Consagrado como una
verdadera estrella en el
cambiante mundo de las cotizaciones, donde sus cuadros alcanzan cifras
astronómicas (el Desnudo tumbado
que puede verse actualmente en el Museo Reina Sofía de Madrid está valorado
en 25 millones de euros, mientras que el magnate ruso Román Abramóvich pagó
recientemente 54,5 millones de euros por el Tríptico 1976; la exposición que acogió el Museo
del Prado entre febrero y abril de este año, que previamente se había
exhibido en el Tate Modern de Londres con la colaboración del Metropolitan de
Nueva York, estaba asegurada por el Estado en 1.252 millones de euros),
conviene sin embargo al abrigo del aniversario reparar en el Francis Bacon
hombre y artista, el mismo que continuó con toda la crudeza que fue capaz de
albergar la línea que inició Picasso para la representación del cuerpo
humano. Sus pinturas mantienen intacta la capacidad de conmocionar al que
mira, como una acusación de culpabilidad: Margaret Tatcher se refirió a ellas
como "asquerosos trozos de carne", y Alicia Koplowitz, según la
leyenda, tiró por la borda un negocio redondo al deshacerse de uno de los
cuadros de Bacon que había comprado, ya que verlo a diario en su casa le
producía una perturbación demasiado aguda. De cualquier forma, esta
producción dura y enigmática constituye una inestimable carta de presentación
para el sangriento y doloroso siglo XX.
La infancia de Bacon resultó decisiva en la conformación de su obra. La mayor parte de la misma se desarrolló en Dublín, en el seno de una familia inglesa que decidió trasladarse a Londres en 1914, tras el estallido de la Primera Guerra Mundial. Su condición enfermiza (padecía un asma crónica, tratada con morfina, que le condenó a pasar largas temporadas en casa, sin asistir a la escuela) contribuyó a forjar la personalidad solitaria, esquiva y austera que le acompañó hasta su muerte. La revelación de su homosexualidad fue del todo traumática, ya que su padre lo expulsó de casa cuando comenzó a manifestar esta inclinación, a los 16 años. En 1927, mientras trabajaba como decorador de interiores entre París y Berlín, comenzó a pintar sus primeros cuadros.
La adscripción estética de Francis Bacon ha suscitado todo tipo de debates aún no resueltos. Buena parte de los críticos interpretan su obra en clave surrealista, mientras que otros apuntan una evolución de ésta al expresionismo. No faltan quienes prefieren vincularla al racionalismo, ni quienes consideran a su autor precursor e inspirador de los young british artists, como los hermanos Chapman y Damien Hirst, confeso admirador. El mismo Bacon se consideraba un pintor realista. En realidad, toda esta confusión obedece a la formación autodidacta que siguió el pintor, que únicamente recibió unas cuantas clases de dibujo en la St. Martin School of Arts de Londres en 1926. Su figuración es asombrosamente singular y personal, mientras que sus maestros auténticos le dieron las mejores lecciones en los museos: fue a raíz de la visita a una exposición de Picasso en París cuando decidió consagrarse a la pintura. Poussin, Munch y Velázquez (su serie inspirada en el Retrato de Inocencio X es uno de los emblemas del irlandés) acrecentaron esta vocación. Cuando se convirtió en una figura consagrada, visitaba a menudo el Museo del Prado (a menudo en largas sesiones privadas, con las instalaciones cerradas al público) para beber directamente de las musas. Pero el camino no fue fácil. El éxito y el reconocimiento tardaron en llegar y a los 35 años un airado Francis Bacon destrozó todos los cuadros que había pintado hasta entonces. La presentación del tríptico Tres estudios de figuras junto a una crucifixión en 1944 supuso un radical punto de inflexión, hasta el punto de que ya entonces fue considerado una de las obras de arte más originales del siglo.
La vida cotidiana de Bacon, sumida en el desorden de su estudio y sin apenas presencia pública, con una apariencia de apacible rutina a pesar de que las cotizaciones de sus cuadros no dejaban de crecer, contrastó con su huracán sentimental: su gran amor, George Dyer, se suicidó en 1971 por una ingesta de barbitúricos. Mantuvo después una relación más estable con John Edwards, heredero de su legado artístico y económico, aunque no le faltaron aventuras como las propiciadas por un amante español llamado José que complementaban las visitas al Museo del Prado. Su corazón fue a menudo un infierno. Hasta que dejó de latir, como en una eucaristía de carne y hueso.
Wenn Pablo Picasso das Bildgenie des 20. Jahrhunderts war, dann muss ihm in der zweiten Jahrhunderthälfte Francis Bacon zur Seite gestellt werden. Zum 100.
Geburtstag des englischen Malers.
Von Peter von Becker, Tagesspiegel, 28.10.2009
Von Georg Imdahl, Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger 28.10.09
Francis Bacon hielt sein Bild mit dem schlichten Titel Painting selbst für eine der wichtigsten Arbeiten seines gesamten Oeuvres. 1946, kurz nach dem Krieg, hatte er die groteske Schlachtung in Szene gesetzt - mit einer kaum erkennbaren, monströsen Figur im Schlagschatten eines aufgespannten Regenschirms, kauernd vor einem ebenfalls aufgespannten Rind. Bacon platzierte dies alles in einem seltsamen Interieur, das er mit einem bunten Teppich vor einem magentafarbenen Hintergrund ausstattete; damit schuf er eine massige Komposition, die perspektivisch drangvoll nach innen fluchtet. Die bizarre Szenerie ist überreich an Deutungsmöglichkeiten und gerade deshalb im Kern so rätselhaft - vielleicht überzeugte sie den Museumsmann Alfred Barr aus diesem Grund so sehr, dass er das ungewöhnliche Bild drei Jahre nach seiner Entstehung für das Museum of Modern Art ankaufte. Barr begründete so den frühen Ruhm Bacons.
Bedroht, geopfert, geschlachtet
Ein Vierteljahrhundert später schuf Bacon jenes Gemälde noch einmal: Painting 1946 (Second Version), heute im Museum Ludwig. Mag sich der geschlachtete Ochse auch mühelos auf das Vorbild Rembrandts zurückführen lassen, er bleibt in der Kombination mit dem Mann unterm Schirm vor dem Rind hermetisch und unergründlich - eben programmatisch für den heute vor hundert Jahren geborenen Existenzialisten unter den Malern des 20. Jahrhunderts: Painting ist Sinnbild eines katastrophischen Säkulums. Jene 25 Jahre, die zwischen den Fassungen liegen, bekunden sich bereitwillig in der jüngeren: Die Flächen sind geklärt und schneiden sich nun scharfkantig in den Raum, sind von der Farbfeldmalerei und Pop aufgehellt, schnittig dynamisieren sie die Komposition. Je älter er werde, desto formaler arbeite er, bemerkte Bacon gegenüber dem Kunsthistoriker David Sylvester.
In der Tat wirkt das Kölner Bild aufgeräumter, gelassener, kühler als die New Yorker Urfassung, erscheint der männliche Protagonist weniger dämonisch, und doch ist auch dieses Gemälde noch beherrscht vom Dreiklang aus Bedrohung, Schlachtung, Opferung, den Bacon wie kein anderer mit Leben und Schicksal erfüllt hat.
Geboren 1909 als Sohn eines Pferdezüchters in Dublin, hatte der Vater dem 16-Jährigen die Tür gewiesen, als er dessen Homosexualität erkannte. Dieser selbst setzte sich ab, später auch nach Berlin, wo er, nach eigenem Bekunden, sein „erotisches Gymnasium“ besuchte. Der Autodidakt malt zeit seines Lebens nach kunsthistorischen Vorbildern, allen voran nach Velazquez; niemand in seiner Zeit hat aber auch Picasso und den Kubismus so konsequent weitergedacht und das Prinzip der Deformation so gnadenlos auf das (eigene) Dasein übertragen. In diesem Frühjahr widmete der Prado ihm in Madrid eine nicht einmal überwältigend umfangreiche, aber famos bestückte Retrospektive, die sich im Wesentlichen auf die Triptychen konzentrierte - es war Bacons erste große Ausstellung in Spanien. Kurz nach einem Besuch der Velazquez-Ausstellung im Prado war Bacon 1992 einem Herzschlag erlegen. Was expressiv bedeutet, lässt sich an diesem Oeuvre, dem malträtierten Fleisch, der ganzen Gewalt des Faktischen und dem entstellten Antlitz des Jahrhunderts authentisch studieren.
Bajo el título Francis Bacon: A Centenary Retrospective
La muestra Francis Bacon: A Centenary Retrospective recorrió Londres, Madrid y Nueva York para celebrar el natalicio del destacado pintor irlandés
El Informador, Martes, 27 de Octubre de 2009
El pintor fue uno de los artistas figuristas más relevantes del siglo XX
MADRID, ESPAÑA.- El pintor irlandés Francis Bacon (1909-1992) cumpliría mañana
cien años, una efeméride por la que el artista, cuyas obras han batido
récords en las casas de subastas de los últimos años, fue homenajeado este
año con una retrospectiva que recorrió Londres, Madrid y Nueva York.
Bajo el título Francis Bacon: A Centenary Retrospective (Francis Bacon: Una retrospectiva centenaria) recorrió estas tres capitales y permaneció expuesta con material inédito en la ciudad de los rascacielos hasta el pasado 16 de agosto.
La primera muestra de esa retrospectiva, que reúne alrededor de 70 de sus obras que datan de varias etapas de su carrera, tuvo lugar en el museo Tate Britain de Londres a finales de 2008, lo que supuso que fuera la primera que se dedicase en el Reino Unido a Bacon desde 1985.
Seguidamente la retrospectiva viajó al Museo del Prado de Madrid, donde permaneció expuesta del 3 de febrero al pasado 19 de abril, y atrajo la atención de miles de visitantes.
Esta exposición, que fue asegurada por el Estado español en mil 252 millones de euros, incluía piezas que abarcaban casi medio siglo de creación continua, una actividad que se vio interrumpida por el mortal ataque cardíaco que el artista sufrió en la capital española y falleció el 28 de abril de 1992.
Admirador de la pinacoteca madrileña y de los grandes maestros españoles, especialmente de Diego Velázquez y Francisco de Goya, Bacon entró por la puerta grande del museo con 78 obras.
Entre esas piezas se hallaban dieciséis de sus trípticos más importantes, uno de ellos que data de 1984 sólo pudo ser visto en Madrid y no fue mostrado en Londres ni tampoco en Nueva York.
Tras El Prado, la retrospectiva comisariada en memoria del centenario del natalicio del pintor, concluyó su periplo en el Metropolitan de Nueva York, donde también se aportó material inédito y documentos sobre la trayectoria profesional del artista.
Francis Bacon fue uno de los artistas figuristas más relevantes del siglo XX y en calidad de autodidacta no asistió nunca a ninguna escuela de arte.
Sus inicios en la pintura están marcados por el surrealismo como muestra la obra Crucifixión (1933), pero progresivamente derivó al expresionismo, dentro del cual es considerado como máximo exponente de la escuela inglesa.
El artista plasmó en su obra el dolor, la angustia, la muerte y el sexo, ya que, como expresara en cierta ocasión: "Cuando se es fiel a la vida, se es inevitablemente macabro porque finalmente se nace para morir".
Nacido en Dublín en el seno de una familia inglesa, el artista no tuvo una infancia fácil. Padecía de asma crónica y con 16 años fue expulsado de casa por su padre tras haberle confesado sus inclinaciones homosexuales.
Su carácter le llevó a destruir, a la edad de 35 años y cuando todavía no había logrado el reconocimiento de su obra, la mayoría de sus cuadros, y fue en 1944, al acabar Tres estudios de figuras junto a una crucifixión, cuando le llegó la aceptación de la crítica.
El pintor irlandés Francis Bacon (1909-1992) cumpliría mañana, 28 de octubre, cien años, una efeméride por la que el artista, cuyas obras se cotizan al alza, es homenajeado con exposiciones en distintos países.
TeleCinco | Agencia EFE | 27.10.09
El pintor irlandés Francis Bacon (1909-1992) habría cumplido mañana, 28 de octubre, cien años, una efeméride por la que el artista es homenajeado con exposiciones en distintos países. En la imagen de archivo (Madrid, 30/01/09) tríptico de 1962 Tres estudios para una Crucifixión, que formó parte de una retrospectiva sobre el pintor organizada por el Museo del Prado.
Con motivo del centenario de su nacimiento, la galería Tate Britain de Londres dedicó a finales de 2008 una gran retrospectiva -la primera dedicada a Bacon en el Reino Unido desde 1985- con 70 obras suyas realizadas en distintas etapas de su trayectoria.
Francis Bacon, reconocido como uno de los grandes pintores de figuras humanas del siglo XX, fue autodidacta al no asistir nunca a ninguna escuela de arte.
Sus inicios en la pintura fueron surrealistas, como muestra la obra Crucifixión (1933), pero progresivamente derivó al expresionismo, dentro del cual es considerado como máximo exponente de la escuela inglesa, y supo captar de forma visceral y desgarrada aspectos de la vida humana como la sexualidad o la violencia.
Bacon, que falleció en Madrid el 28 de abril de 1992, recurrió a elementos como el dolor, la angustia, la muerte y el sexo para realizar su obra, si bien él mismo se declaraba realista, y no tanto expresionista, y manifestó en cierta ocasión: "Cuando se es fiel a la vida, se es inevitablemente macabro porque finalmente se nace para morir".
La muestra de la Tate Britain viajó al Museo del Prado, la pinacoteca madrileña que guarda la obra de los dos artistas más admirados por el artista: Velázquez y Goya, donde permaneció entre el 3 de febrero y el pasado 19 de abril, y donde fue visitada por miles de personas al coincidir con las vacaciones de Semana Santa.
Esta exposición, asegurada por el Estado en 1.252 millones de euros, incluía obras que abarcaban casi medio siglo de creación continua, una actividad que se vio interrumpida por el fatal ataque cardíaco que el artista sufrió en Madrid.
Admirador del Prado y de los grandes maestros españoles, especialmente Velázquez y Goya, Bacon entró por la puerta grande del museo con 78 obras entre las que se encontraban dieciséis de sus trípticos más importantes, uno de ellos realizado en 1984 que no había viajado a Londres ni tampoco lo hizo posteriormente a Nueva York.
La muestra de homenaje al centenario de Bacon concluyó su itinerario el pasado verano en el Metropolitan de Nueva York, donde los cuadros se completaron con material inédito y documentos sobre la trayectoria profesional del artista.
Francis Bacon, nacido en Dublín en el seno de una familia inglesa, no tuvo una infancia fácil. Padecía asma crónica, y con 16 años fue expulsado de casa por su padre tras haberle confesado sus inclinaciones homosexuales.
Su carácter imposible le llevó a destruir, a la edad de 35 años y cuando todavía no había logrado el reconocimiento de su obra, la mayoría de sus cuadros, y fue en 1944, al acabar Tres estudios de figuras junto a una crucifixión, cuando le llegó la aceptación de la crítica.
En España son tres los museos que cuentan con obras de Bacon: el Thyssen-Bornemisza de Madrid (George Dayer en un espejo), el Reina Sofía de Madrid (Desnudo tumbado) y el Bellas Artes de Bilbao (Figura recostada ante un espejo).
Semanario: Bacon, el crucificado
Jesús R. Cedillo, Vanguardia (México), 26 Octubre 2009
El joven pintor que fue echado de su casa cuando su padre lo encontró, a los 16 años, modelando la ropa interior de su madre frente al espejo.
Vivió 83 años. Demasiados, creo yo, tomando en cuenta su frágil condición física, una emperrada asma que le persiguió toda su vida y su involucramiento desde la más temprana edad de adolescente, en cuestiones homosexuales que a la postre fueron su virtud y su condena, su leitmotiv para pintar y crear; pero también su desgarrada existencia cotidiana, que dejó plasmada en sus poderosos cuadros.
Su arte cruel, duro, sin concesiones, desgarrador la mayor parte del tiempo, le valió la siguiente crítica de Margaret Tachter, la ex primera Ministra británica: “(sus pinturas son) asquerosos trozos de carne.” Esos trozos asquerosos de carne, se cotizan en millones de euros al día de hoy y están en las más prestigiadas galerías del mundo y en manos de coleccionistas privados. Es el arte salido de la pluma, el pincel y los fantasmas de Francis Bacon (1909-1992), artista irlandés por nacimiento, pero de fuerte vena inglesa al formarse allí y no en otro lugar del mundo. En este 2009 se cumplen 100 años de su nacimiento.
Las fotografías lo muestran con un rostro como si fuese un muégano retorcido. Ese dulce mexicano que lo mismo adquiere formas de momia, que de charro, pasando por toda una suerte de personajes que la imaginación puede dar y moldear al ver esos trozos de caramelo, endurecidos contra sí mismos. Las fotografías lo retratan vestido sobriamente, siempre en el caos bien organizado de su estudio. En uno de estos retratos que tengo del pintor Francis Bacon, este viste una cazadora de piel ceñida a su cuerpo. Sentado y viendo de frente a la inquisidora cámara fotográfica, asoman sus botas perfectamente lustradas. Mirada fiera, de águila, mientras sus manos se encuentran y se protegen una a otra. No es extraño que sus pies estén pisando algunas de sus obras que ahora son impagables.
El taller de trabajo de Bacon era el caos y el desorden vivo. Se cuenta que el pintor solía desechar bastante de su trabajo previo o ya terminado, si este no le satisfacía. En cierta ocasión fue un electricista a realizar alguna reparación menor. Salió de la casa del pintor con un grueso legajo bajo el brazo con obras artísticas. Este se las había regalado por no mostrarse satisfecho con ellas. Décadas después, dichas piezas fueron subastadas alcanzando cifras estratosféricas.
Fue tan mítico el Taller del artista y su caos y desorden artísticos, que éste fue donado por su heredero y último amante, John Edwards, al Museo Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery de Dublin. El taller donde trabajaba cotidianamente el artista fue desmontado y trasladado tal cual a dicho museo.
Los que saben de escuelas y academias, han apuntado que la obra de Bacon goza de tres influencias identificables a largo de sus etapas como pintor: los trazos bien medidos del mejor Edvard Munch, los colores y tonalidades ya célebres de Vincent Van Gogh y la angustia asifixiante de Francisco de Goya. Asoma también Velázquez. Pero de todos es conocido que Bacon empezó una serie de dibujos y acuarelas (sus pinitos en serio) cuando visitó una exposición de Pablo Picasso.
Damas y caballeros, la vida del pintor siempre estuvo en el límite. Si Thatcher lo crucificó al enderezarle que sus pinturas eran sólo “asquerosos trozos de carne”, no menos laceraciones, dolor y flagelo sufrió Bacon, cuando George Dyer, su amante, se suicidó con barbitúricos en 1971. Este tenía una relación “estable” con el artista desde 1964, cuando lo “conoció” robando su taller. A su joven amante John Edwards le heredaría sus bienes valorados, según cifras conservadoras, en 11 millones de libras.
Pero, la tercera crucifixión ha quedado en la historia del arte: su tríptico Tres estudios de figuras junto a una crucifixión, es considerado uno de los cuadros más originales en la pintura del siglo XX. Otro tríptico pintado por él en 1976 fue pagado en 55 millones de euros. Y pensar que el joven pintor fue echado de su casa, cuando su padre lo encontró a los 16 años modelando la ropa interior de su madre frente al espejo. Bacon, el crucificado.
Unveiling the myths of Bacon
Setting the scene: preparations for Francis Bacon; A Terrible Beauty at the Hugh Lane Gallery.
His London studio has been in Dublin for some years, but a new centenary exhibition of paintings and archive material explores Francis Bacon's influences and tragedies, and helps re-evaluate the artist.
LATE IN OCTOBER 1971, just a few days short of his 62nd birthday, the painter Francis Bacon was in Paris, where the president, Georges Pompidou, had decided to personally open a retrospective of his work at the Grand Palais. The presidential imprimatur, the prestigious venue and the scale of the exhibition amounted to an extraordinary accolade for Bacon. And, although he habitually made light of just about everything, he was enormously pleased. Not least, the event finally put him on a par with the artist who, more than any other, he saw as the figure he had to measure himself against: Pablo Picasso. Picasso had been similarly feted in the Grand Palais a few years earlier.
Contemporary accounts note that Bacon was in ebullient form, and seemed to genuinely revel in the fuss and the attention. There was a lot of attention: the great and the good turned out in their droves to attend the opening. As the artist’s biographer Michael Peppiatt records, the evening was crowned with a banquet in the ornately decorated brasserie Le Train Bleu in the Gare de Lyon, organised – and indeed paid for – by Sonia Orwell, Zette Leiris and Marguerite Duras.
In the Hugh Lane Gallery’s exhibition Francis Bacon: A Terrible Beauty, opening next week, you can trace a surprisingly detailed account of that evening through photographs taken at the time. In one image, caught at a quiet moment, Bacon looks thoughtful, slightly withdrawn from the throng. We don’t know what was on his mind, but it’s reasonable to guess that he was thinking about his lover, George Dyer. The previous evening, while Bacon was out doing an interview about his exhibition, Dyer had killed himself in their room at the Hôtel des Saints-Pères.
News of Dyer’s death was not released immediately, but by the time of the banquet the next night, word had spread. The confluence of events was extraordinary and distressing in many ways. For one thing, on the opening day of his Tate Gallery retrospective almost 10 years earlier, Bacon had learned of the death of his ex-lover, Peter Lacy, in Morocco. He had been rejected by Lacy, and had been absolutely devastated by the news of his demise. At the same time, he seemed to think Lacy’s sad end was almost calculated to detract from his enjoyment of his own success.
Now, at perhaps the crowning moment of his career, in Paris, the same thing had happened with Dyer. Professional, public triumph was inextricably linked to, and symbolically eclipsed by, personal disaster. More, life was uncomfortably imitative of art. Commentators on Bacon’s retrospective at the Grand Palais could not help but note the work’s preoccupation with emotional and physical extremity. It depicted a world of personal cruelty, isolation and despair. At the same time, while the imagery, in its level of distortion and vehemence, its rawness, suggested something extreme and unusual, something beyond the comfort of familiarity, what lent Bacon’s work its exceptional power was the fact that his subject was in fact nothing more than ordinary, everyday life.
BY BACON’S OWN account, at the time of the Grand Palais exhibition he and Dyer were no longer even close. Their relationship, always acrimonious, had foundered some time previously. Yet, just as Lacy became an important, stubborn presence in Bacon’s work after his death, so Dyer too became a central preoccupation in a series of works that culminated in a chilling triptych, re-enacting the circumstances of his death. Bacon was clearly not without feelings, and there is immense affection as well as cruelty in the painting. But he could not have been a great artist without possessing a streak of utter ruthlessness that enabled him to take the most painful aspects of his own and others’ experience and lay them bare on canvas. It would be wrong to suppose, though, that his work was always as painfully autobiographical as were the pictures about Dyer’s suicide.
Francis Bacon: A Terrible Beauty goes some way to illuminating the links between the personal and the public in Bacon’s art and world.
The show could be subtitled “Unpacking the Studio” in that much of what is arranged on the walls and in vitrines forms part of the 7,000-plus items that came with Bacon’s studio when it was delivered to the Hugh Lane in 1998, having been comprehensively surveyed and recorded. Much of the archival material, and his Reece Mews home, has been superbly documented and explored in publications by Margarita Cappock, Martin Harrison (who co-curated the new exhibition with Hugh Lane director Barbara Dawson), photographer Perry Ogden and others.
The exhibition marks the centenary of Bacon’s birth and is the most extensive display derived from the archive since its acquisition. In effect, as in elaborating on the opening at the Grand Palais, it also sets up a dialogue between Bacon’s life, his work practices and the paintings he produced. From the moment it was announced that the Bacon studio was to come to Dublin, the implicit question has been whether actual paintings would follow in its wake. The studio, the undoubted wealth of its research material notwithstanding, is a bit like Hamlet without the prince in the absence of a representative collection of paintings by Bacon to set alongside it.
While it would certainly have been nice if the studio had come with such a stock of paintings in tow, that was never on the cards. Huge financial interests are involved. There are unfinished paintings, generally very unfinished in the sense that they look as if they were never destined to be finished. Several of these are on view. There are also many destroyed canvases. They have been described as “slashed canvases” which sounds quite dramatic, as if the artist set about them in a fit of rage. In fact, slashed canvases in that sense are very rare. Usually Bacon hacked out sections of an abandoned work, presumably to use them in another context. A whole room is given over to the display of canvases with excised sections. The effect is odd, because clearly it was never intended that they would be exhibited in this way. But it allows conservator Joanna Shepard a chance to investigate Bacon’s working methods in detail, and she provides an explanatory commentary.
Figure in Sea 1952 Francis Bacon
To make up for the paucity of Bacon paintings in Irish collections, reinforcements have been drafted in from several sources, including the artist’s estate, private collections, the Tate Gallery and the Ulster Museum. Many of these works are outstanding, and hardly any is an obvious choice. The strange, dark-lit Untitled (Half-length Figure in Sea) , for example, is credited to Damien Hirst’s personal Murderme collection: fascinating given its similarities to Hirst’s own recent paintings, now on view at the Wallace Collection in London. Head III and Head of a Woman, also from private collections, are classic portrait heads, as is Portrait of Henrietta Moraes, of late in a collection here in Ireland, now part of Christie’s stock. It’s a shame such a perfect little painting could not have stayed in the country permanently.
A whole room is given over to plates from Eadweard Muybridge’s The Human Figure in Motion, which Bacon – and, it must be said, countless other artists, used extensively as references. Harrison is an authority on art and photography, and his book In Camera is an exhaustive and informative account of Bacon’s use of a vast range of photographic sources, including original photographs of friends, lovers and acquaintances, often commissioned from John Deakin (a room in the exhibition is given over to them), as well as mechanically reproduced images from magazines, art history books, medical textbooks and just about anything that caught his eye.
WE ARE WELL into a re-evaluation of the myth of Francis Bacon, which tended to downplay the role of photography and simply deny the use of preparatory drawings. Around 40 of the latter turned up in the studio, but in a way they confirm Bacon’s protestations. The sketches are minimal and rudimentary, more notes or memory aids than drawings in the usual sense. But on the other hand you could say that photographs, both original and reproduced, were his preparatory drawings, and they were absolutely vital to what he did. He collected and consumed them voraciously; editing, tearing, shaping and distorting them to create his own images.
This is one conclusion that emerges unmistakably from A Terrible Beauty. There was a time when artists couldn’t admit to using photographs in this way but, as David Hockney observed in his book Hidden Knowledge, painters have generally used any and every available means to make their work, and now photography is widely used and accepted. The exhibition should also deepen awareness of the relationship between life and art, and it’s hard to emerge from it without getting some sense of Bacon’s personal difficulties and tragedies, as well as his extraordinary resourcefulness, industry and inventiveness as an artist.
Joanna Shepard, Head of Conservation: Francis Bacon : A Terrible Beauty
Francis Bacon: A Terrible Beauty is at the Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane, from October 28th to March 7th, 2010.
Tel. 01-2225550 or see hughlane.ie
International Art Festival debuts in Tel Aviv
By David Brinn, The Jerusalem Post,
Francis Bacon's Version No. 2 - Lying Figure with Hypodermic Syringe'
Any film festival that brings together homages to Francis Bacon and Merce Cunningham, hosts a descendant of Felix Mendelssohn and presents a master class by self-confessed art geek Ben Lewis deserves to be called eclectic - or EPOS, the first International Art Film Festival, which will take place October 29-31 at the Tel Aviv Cinemateque.
Festival directors Micky Laron and Gidi Avivi are presenting over 40 local and international documentary and feature films on music, dance, literature and poetry; art and theater. In addition, the festival will host special guests and present events, including an evening dedicated to Pina Bausch and Merce Cunningham, the great choreographers who passed away this year, and commemorations of the 200th anniversary of Mendelssohn's birth and the 100th anniversary of the British painter Bacon's birth.
Controversial American art critic and filmmaker Lewis, who prides himself on having been booted out of the famed Sotheby's auction house, will offer a master class entitled: Art Safari: The Tantrums, Tears and Traumas of making Art Documentaries, in which he will explain the inner workings of making cult documentary films on the subject of contemporary art, focusing on his own feature The Great Contemporary Art Bubble.
In collaboration with the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, on October 31 the festival will present an homage to Bacon's 100th birthday, featuring a lecture by Tal Lanir, Fragment of a Crucifixion - The Art of Francis Bacon, and a screening of the film Francis Bacon, which follows a day in the life of the painter. The event will take place at the museum.
Time will also be set aside at the festival on October 29 to focus on films made by students at films schools and art colleges around the country.
For a full schedule of films and events and to order tickets, go to http://www.filmart.co.il/?lat=en
Francis Bacon: La vida como obsesión
Francis Bacon 1973 Peter Stark
E N abril cerró sus puertas la exposición antológica, primera desde su muerte en 1992, que el Museo del Prado dedicó a Francis Bacon. Ahora se cumple el centenario del nacimiento del artista irlandés, y su figura alcanza ahora la categoría de ídolo de multitudes, de artista que nos refleja con el ensañamiento del espejo y la explicitud de la sangre. Como si el gusto común por Van Gogh se hubiera desplazado hacia Bacon, que en el Prado, un lugar que amó, recibió la visita de muchedumbres fascinadas por el espectáculo cruel de sus pinturas detrás de las cuales puede anidar tanto la rabia como la compasión. Cien años de Bacon. Cien años de horror, de poesía, de carne dolorida.
Nacido en Dublín el 28 de octubre de 1909, de madre irlandesa y padre australiano aunque de origen inglés que había luchado en la guerra de los Bóer y que se dedicaría a entrenar caballos de carreras. Que su nombre coincida con el de un filósofo y político inglés de los siglos XVI-XVII se explica también por el hecho de que su padre descendía de un hermano del personaje histórico. Por otra parte, su tatarabuela, lady Charlotte Harley, fue amiga de Lord Byron y a ella está dedicado su poema El peregrinaje de Childe Harold.
Aquejado desde la niñez por asma y una potente alergia hacia los perros y caballos (recuérdese el oficio del padre), la morfina fue una constante en su tratamiento y a la vez una adicción. La salud influyó en su irregular formación académica, plena de ausencias, que también se vería drásticamente afectada a los 16 años por la expulsión del hogar familiar, cuando ya vivían en Inglaterra tras la Primera Guerra Mundial, al quedar al descubierto su homosexualidad brutalmente rechazada por el padre. Detrás quedaba una infancia triste, marcada por las oscilaciones de la residencia entre Irlanda e Inglaterra, con la brújula detenida a partir de 1925 en Inglaterra y marcada por tutores y preceptores en vez de por la escuela.
1926 y Londres son el año y el lugar en que confluyen las circunstancias que determinarán al artista en que Bacon habrá de convertirse. Los apuros económicos que le llevaron a trabajar brevemente como criado y dependiente de tienda, su decisión de dejarse ayudar por un hombre mayor a cambio de favores sexuales, además de cometer pequeños hurtos para mantenerse, nos muestran a alguien que se va deslizando hacia el submundo londinense, pero a la vez es alguien que viaja a París y Berlín quedándose por largos periodos de aprendizaje y zozobra, que recibe clases de dibujo y se decanta por dedicarse a la decoración de interiores. En estos años cruciales de la década de 1920, nace el artista Bacon.
Según el propio Bacon, autodidacta en el uso del pincel pero no en el del lápiz, fue Picasso, con una exposición de dibujos visitada en París en 1927, el que le hizo intuir que él también podría ser artista. Las formas surrealistas de Picasso contempladas en un número de Cahiers d'Art en 1929 terminarán de afirmar su vocación. Más allá, y yendo a la manera de afrontar la creación, Bacon reconocía su filiación con Picasso, a través del que se comprenden mejor las distorsiones presentes en uno y otro: «Existe un dominio que Picasso ha abierto y que, en cierto sentido, no ha sido explotado: una forma orgánica que se acerca a la imagen humana, pero que está en completa distorsión».
Fuente de inspiración
En París recibe también, de forma insospechada, una de sus fuentes de inspiración más patentes: un libro sobre enfermedades de la piel le proporciona estímulos estéticos: «Me gusta el brillo y los colores de la boca y siempre he deseado pintar la boca de la misma manera que Monet pintaba las puestas de sol».
Tras haber sido saludado por Wyndham Lewis, padre de la vanguardia británica con palabras mayores («uno de los artistas más poderosos que hay hoy en Europa... en perfecta sintonía con su tiempo»), una primera exposición individual en 1934, recibida con notoria indiferencia, le llevará a desdeñar el arte, a aplacar su pasión hasta casi abandonar los pinceles. Autorretratos y apuntes de su tema obsesivo, la crucifixión, predominan en estos momentos iniciales. Pero poco se ha conservado de lo pintado por Bacon en sus primeros años: una crisis personal en 1944, cuando apenas era un autodidacta destinado al fracaso, destruyó cuanto conservaba. Es también el instante en que renace como creador: mientras pisa los cascotes de los bombardeos en Londres, prestando servicio en la Defensa Civil, siente el dolor y la rabia unidos a la fragilidad de la materia. No hay paso atrás: a partir de ese instante, Bacon será el retratista de la angustia, de la mortalidad.
En 1944 es su tríptico Tres estudios de figuras al pie de una crucifixión, hoy en la Tate Gallery, el que señala el nacimiento no del artista sino del genio. Las tres figuras torturadas y monstruosas, irreales pero habitadas de una desesperación y un dolor demasiado verdaderos sobre un fondo vacío y rojo anuncian las escenografías de las décadas posteriores, los espacios vacíos en los que la carne se consume en gestos cotidianos.
Bacon se entregará a la pintura con voracidad: las imágenes de su estudio mostrarán un maremágnum de tela y de papeles arrojados por todas partes, manchados de pintura, imágenes de caos y desorden, un estercolero en el que un hombre se enfrenta al lienzo para emerger con tesoros que los museos lucharán por cuidar. Entre la basura que pisa Bacon hay fotografías recortadas de periódicos y de revistas, de folletos y de libros de arte, que el artista ha usado como puntos de partida para sus pinturas y después ha arrojado, arrugados, esos recortes con indiferencia. La imagen banal o ilustre ha servido así para obrar una operación alquímica. Basta con una imagen vista en una película, el primer plano de la mujer gritando en 'El acorazado Potemkin', para que esos rasgos deformados por el dolor se multipliquen y recombinen de múltiples maneras en los cuadros de Bacon, abierto a múltiples influencias. Así, el retrato de Inocencio X por Velázquez le servirá para experimentar de forma obsesiva. El cuadro de Velázquez, que nunca querrá ver en persona por miedo a sentirse derrotado como pintor, será el punto de partida de incesantes exploraciones, contabilizándose más de 40 pinturas con este mismo tema.
Basándose en fotografías, Bacon sentirá que la pintura aporta el factor diferencial de la textura a la vez que un efecto más intenso y directo. Pero al igual que el Papa pintado por Velázquez, un autorretrato de Van Gogh caminando será también su inspiración obsesiva. Cualquier imagen tomada de la prensa o de un libro, por insignificante que parezca, será factible de ser dignificada y redimensionada por la pintura.
A la vez, Bacon gustaba de explicar su pintura a través de lo que llamaba «el accidente», momento crucial en la elaboración de sus obras: «En mi caso, todo cuadro -cada vez más, a medida que pasan los años- es un accidente. Así, lo preveo en mi mente, lo preveo y sin embargo casi nunca sale como lo he previsto. Se transforma con la pintura real. Utilizo pinceles muy grandes y, en la manera que trabajo, muchas veces no sé realmente qué hará la pintura, y hace muchas cosas que son mucho mejores de lo que yo podría hacer. ¿Es un accidente? Tal vez se podría decir que no es un accidente, porque se convierte en un proceso selectivo el hecho de que uno escoja conservar parte de este accidente. Se intenta, por supuesto, mantener la vitalidad del accidente y, sin embargo, conservar una continuidad».
Esta forma de pintar, en la que el proceso técnico se rige por la premeditación pero se ve alterado por los accidentes, lo que incluye el azar en la realización de la obra, es al fin y al cabo una metáfora de la vida, esa mezcla de planes y de eventualidades, lo que hace que la pintura de Bacon sea tan intensa, tan cierta, tan verdadera. Tan conmovedora.
Tal vez la mejor indicación para comprender la obra de Bacon sea la que él mismo, por otra parte tan abundante en declaraciones, dejó expresada: «Pienso que el arte es una obsesión con la vida y, después de todo, como somos seres humanos, nuestra principal obsesión es con nosotros mismos. A continuación, tal vez con los animales, y después con los paisajes».
'Estudio para el retrato de Inocencio X' se vendió en 2007 por 35 millones de euros, y por 31 millones su 'Segunda versión de estudio de toreo nº 1'. Un año después, la obra más cara expuesta en la feria de arte ARCO era también de Bacon: 'Hombre con palangana' costaba algo más de 23 millones de euros. El vendedor, la galería Marlborough, tradicionalmente la de nuestro pintor, algo tiene que ver con estos altos precios. Su cuidadoso control de la afluencia de obras de Bacon en el mercado, abriendo y cerrando el grifo según el momento, ha sido crucial para que el artista haya visto crecer su valor, su prestigio, su eco en los medios de comunicación que van recogiendo el nombre de Bacon y poniéndolo a un nivel de popularidad como sólo han alcanzado entre nosotros, y refiriéndonos tan sólo a artistas del siglo XX, Picasso, Dalí y Warhol.
En 1964, sorprenderá a un joven robando en su estudio. El resultado de este encuentro no será la comisaría sino el lecho. Y la inmortalidad de George Dyer, convertido en su amante y en su modelo hasta que se suicida en 1971. Una notable película de 1998, El amor es el demonio, refleja esta relación tormentosa y desgarrada, dando a Bacon maravillosamente los rasgos de Derek Jacobi y a George Dyer los de Daniel Craig. La muerte de Dyer, por ingestión de barbitúricos en la habitación de un hotel de París, se produjo dos días antes de la inauguración de la gran retrospectiva que el parisino Grand Palais dedicaba a Bacon. A Dyer lo sucedería como amante y modelo, y finalmente como heredero, John Edwards.
En 1971, la revista Connaissance des Arts, que cada año publica la lista de los diez mejores pintores del mundo, sitúa a Bacon a la cabeza de esta clasificación. Es en este momento también uno de los más cotizados. También es un hombre tímido, huidizo, austero, regido por horarios de trabajo intensivos y agotadores de los que no se zafa y que concluye con noches de relax y charla en voz baja en los pubs de Londres.
Tras haber superado un cáncer en 1989, en abril de 1992 Bacon, contra el consejo de su médico, viajó a Madrid para inaugurar una exposición suya en la Galería Marlborough y para intentar reconducir la relación con su joven amante español. Al poco de llegar se sintió indispuesto y fue ingresado en la clínica Ruber. Habitación 417. En la que murió Tyrone Power, en la que murió seis años antes Enrique Tierno Galván, a la que sería llevado tras su atentado José María Aznar. El 28 de abril morirá de la confluencia de un ataque de asma agudo y un ataque de corazón. A su lado, Sor Mercedes, una monja de la orden de los Siervos de María. No hubo reconciliación con la fe de sus mayores y de la que había renegado. La niñera de sus días irlandeses solía castigarlo encerrándolo en un cajón. Había jurado que eso nunca volvería a suceder. Sus cenizas fueron llevadas a Inglaterra y esparcidas en una ceremonia privada. En su estudio, sobre el caballete, quedó su último cuadro por terminar. Los rasgos combinaban los de Bacon con los de George Dyer.
Michael Glover looks at the earliest efforts of some of the world's greatest artists
Michael Glover, The Independent, Friday, 23 October 2009
The beginning. The middle. The end. It is always fascinating and instructive to observe the trajectory of an artist, any artist. Beginnings can be particularly instructive. Is he or she to the manor born? Or is this foray into art a sudden flight into unknown and uncharted territory, at which the family now raises its collective eyebrows in a mingling of horror and consternation?
Francis Bacon, like so many other painters, was self-taught. He worked as a furniture designer and interior decorator at first. It was, in part, Picasso's paintings of the early 1930s, those weird organic forms in which man seems part human and part animal, which caused Bacon to invent a language for himself as a painter. Picasso revealed to Bacon a particularly repulsive, bestial vision of humanity, and Bacon recognised it to be his own inner truth. He stuck to it, from first to last, never seriously deviating.
This question of truthfulness to some wholly compelling inner vision would have been quite alien to the great majority of the painters of the Renaissance and the pre-Renaissance. Painting was a skill to be acquired. Painters were artisans, not wilful visionaries. It was a question of emulation, of learning in the environment of the workshop, the gradual acquisition of essential skills. And then it would be a matter of pleasing the patron, which would, more often than not, have been the Church, and, if the patron were displeased, then doing something radically different.
$40 Million Bacon Star in French Art Fair
By Katya Kazakina, Bloomberg, October 20, 2009
Bacon's 1966 Portrait of George Dyer Talking
While London’s weeklong contemporary-art fairs trumpeted a $9 million Francis Bacon , this week Paris will serve up two Bacons with prices around $20 million and $40 million - plus Picasso, Leger, Mondrian, Warhol and other 20th-century heavyweights.
The Paris-based Foire Internationale d’Art Contemporain has added a new section, The Modern Project, which offers select dealers a sumptuous display booth and lower costs. The result is that for the first time FIAC has attracted major galleries and their high-end art.
The dealers are expected to offer a total of 25 museum- quality artworks with multimillion-dollar price tags during the fair, which runs Oct. 22-25 underneath the glass-domed Grand Palais and in the Louvre’s courtyard.
The priciest works will include Andy Warlol’s 1963 Green Disaster, created the same year as his Green Car Crash, which fetched $71.7 million at Christie’s New York in 2007; Bacon’s 1966 Portrait of George Dyer Talking, priced around $40 million; and a 1921 Fernand Leger Le Grand Dejeuner, priced between $20 million and $25 million (a larger version of the work is in the Museum of Modern Art in New York). Bacon’s Head III (1949) will be offered at about $20 million, and Pablo Picasso’s Maternity (1921) around $25 million.
“It will create fireworks,” said Paris-based dealer Daniel Malingue.
Take ‘an astonishing look at Francis Bacon’ in Dublin
Late Rooms, Monday 19th October, 2009
Those staying in hotels in Dublin
over the coming months can celebrate the life of Irish artist Francis Bacon
by attending an exciting new exhibition of his work.
Entitled Francis Bacon: A Terrible Beauty, the collection goes on show at the Dublin City Gallery from October 28th to Match 7th 2010 and is expected to attract art lovers from across Europe.
The exhibition features dozens of items, including photographs, drawings, paintings and previously unseen items from his studio.
According to the gallery,
visitors will be offered "an astonishing new look" at the artist.
Born on Lower Baggot Street in Dublin, Bacon is widely considered to be one
of the most important figurative painters of the 20th century.
Some of his most famous works include Figure in a Landscape, Study of a Dog, Figures in a Garden and Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, the last of which was painted in 1944 and is currently on display at the Tate in London.
Francis Bacon: A Terrible Beauty
Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane - 28 October to 7 March 2010