Francis Bacon News

 

                                                                                                                                             

                                                                                                                                               


HQ Visits... The Bacon Report

 

By Sue Conley, Herald Ireland, Thursday October 29 2009

 

 

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 hired 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  

   

 

 

Artist's anniversary marked

 

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.  

 

 


Malerei

Die Schönheit des Schreckens

 

Gewalt und Leidenschaft, Rausch und Reflexion: zum 100. Geburtstag des Malers Francis Bacon

 

             Francis Bacon in Soho, London, 1970 by James Jackson

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Francis Bacon – Suff, Sadomaso und Kreuzigungen

 

Von Tim Ackermann, Welt Online, 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

Im Namen des Fleisches

 

 

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.

Bilder wie Monster aus der Tiefe

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.

Das schmerzvolle Anderssein des Francis Bacon

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.

Malen, was ihn erregt: Gewalt

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.

 

 

 

Der Maler der Deformation

 

Vor 100 Jahren wurde Francis Bacon geboren

 

Von Anette Schneider, Deutschland Radio, 20.09.2009

 

 

           Der britische Maler Francis Bacon.             

  

 

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."

Der Mittelteil:

"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 erklärte er:

"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."

 

 

 

El cuerpo y la sangre del siglo

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Francis Bacon

Die Schönheit des Schreckens

 

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

 

 

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.

Bacon Picasso. Das Leben der Bilder. Hrsg. Anne Baldassari, Musée Picasso. Éditions Flammarion (Vertrieb Prestel Verlag), Paris 2009. 240 Seiten, 49, 90 €.

Francis Bacon. Ein Malerleben in Texten und Interviews. Hg. von Dino Heicker. Par- thas Verlag, Berlin 2009. 335 Seiten, 24 €.

(Erschienen im gedruckten Tagesspiegel vom 28.10.2009)

 

 

All dieses Fleisch, all diese Dramen

 

 

Von Georg Imdahl, Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger 28.10.09

 

 

 

 

Vor hundert Jahren wurde der Maler Francis Bacon geboren. Aus diesem Anlass eine Bildbetrachtung seines Kölner Painting 1946, das in seiner zweiten Version im Museum Ludwig hängt.

 

 

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.

 

 

Bacon, recordado a 100 años de su nacimiento

 

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.

 

 

Un homenajeado y cotizado Bacon cumpliría mañana cien años

 

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

 

 

          AIDAN DUNNE, The Irish Times, Saturday, October 24, 2009

 

             

            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.

 

 

                                    Half-length 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 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.  

 

Francis Bacon: A Terrible Beauty is at the Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane, from October 28th to March 7th, 2010. 

Tel. 01-2225550

 

 


   International Art Festival debuts in Tel Aviv

 

    By David Brinn, The Jerusalem Post, 

 

    

 

 

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

 

 

MARIO VIRGILIO MONTAÑEZ, SUR, Andalucía, 23.10.09

 

 

            

                        Francis Bacon  1973  by 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.

 

Londres, 1926

 

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.

 

Obsesiones 

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.

 

Huidizo y austero

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.

 

 

 

 

 

British art's biggest names reveal the work that set them on the road to fame

 

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 LandscapeStudy of a DogFigures 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

 

 

                                Francis Bacon by John Deakin

 


Francis Bacon: A Terrible Beauty
 celebrates the centenary of Francis Bacon's birth in 63, Lower Baggot Street, Dublin. This exhibition comprising paintings, drawings, photographs, unfinished works and slashed canvases will offer the viewer an astonishing new look at Francis Bacon, the great figurative painter of the 20th century. It will provide an opportunity to reappraise his oeuvre through the selected paintings, several of which haven’t been on public exhibition for many years. The mastery of Francis Bacon is revealed through these works and will be fully supported by an extensive and previously unseen selection of items from Bacon’s Studio.

Following on the donation of the Studio to the Hugh Lane by John Edwards in 1998, the 7,000 plus items retrieved from the studio were archived by The Hugh Lane. Francis Bacon’s Studio has been on permanent exhibition at Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane since 2001. It is acknowledged as one of the most pioneering and successful realisations of preserving and displaying an artist’s studio and contents. The database is unprecedented, documenting every item retrieved, thus providing fascinating insights into Bacon’s working processes.

The exhibition is co-curated by Barbara Dawson and Martin Harrison. It is accompanied by a richly illustrated catalogue that presents important new research on the artist.

Francis Bacon: A Terrible Beauty is one of the major European cultural events of 2009. The exhibition will tour to Compton Verney, Warwickshire, England, in 2010.

Admission is free.


Sunday 25 October 2009, 1.30pm
 

Lecture & Film Screening: Francis Bacon and David Cronenberg. The Inner Beauty and other aspects.

Curated by Katharina Günther, Bacon Scholar

 

Film criticism suggests a connection between the paintings of the Irish artist Francis Bacon and the films of the Canadian director David Cronenberg, well known for movies like Scanners (1979), The Fly (1986) or Dead Ringers (1988). Those comments are mostly based on the fact that both oeuvres are often characterized as controversial, shocking or horrific, but very few research has been done on their actual similarities. In an interdisciplinary approach, this screening will explore both artist's imagery, regarding common motives and concepts.


After discussing selected paintings and film scenes, David Cronenberg's The Fly (95 mins) will be shown in full length.

Public Lecture - A Game of Chance
15 November 2009

Sunday 15th November 2009, 1.30pm

Public Lecture: A Game of Chance: The Media and Techniques of Francis Bacon

Lecturer: Head of Conservation, Joanna Shepard

 

Francis Bacon was a self-taught painter who created a range of astonishing effects with his materials. He created a personal mystique centring on claims that his paintings came about almost entirely by chance.  Head of Conservation, Joanna Shepard, presents important new research that contradicts these claims and reveals some remarkable discoveries about Bacon’s practice.


Part of a series of vibrant lectures that will illuminate this extraordinary exhibition and will give the opportunity to debate and explore issues raised by the exhibition and the accompanying catalogue.

Francis Bacon: A Terrible Beauty

28 October 2009

Published by Steidl on the occasion of the exhibition, Francis Bacon: A Terrible Beauty, Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane, 28 October 2009 - 7 March 2010. Includes essays by the co-curators, Barbara Dawson and Martin Harrison, along with texts by Rebecca Daniels, Marcel Finke, Jessica O'Donnell, Joanna Shepard, and Logan Sisley.  

 

 

 


A contest between Bacon and Caravaggio

 

By Rachel Spence, The Financial Times, October 16 2009

 

 

 

       

 

                                        Francis Bacon’s Study of George Dyer (1969)

 

 

 

There has been a vogue recently for encounters between past and present masters. In Madrid, Paris and London, Picasso has been set in the context of influences such as Velázquez, Delacroix and Manet. Less successfully, Jan Fabre, the Belgian contemporary artist was let loose in the Richelieu wing of the Louvre: displayed alongside Rembrandt and Rubens, Fabre’s flimsy installations were grist to the mill of traditionalists who swear no contemporary artist can match up to the old masters.

 

The decision to confront Francis Bacon with Caravaggio is also fraught with risk. As the curators acknowledge, the 17th-century master exerted no direct influence on the Irish-born modernist. (Indeed, Bacon, who revered Velázquez, Rembrandt and Picasso, was influenced by Poussin, one of Caravaggio’s harshest critics.) What the pair do share is a revolutionary approach to the human figure, a fascination with anatomy, and a vision that is simultaneously sacred and profane. Both have been tagged as icons of gay, tormented genius whose decadent and violent lives – Bacon’s lover committed suicide; Caravaggio killed a man and wounded several others – fuelled the anguish in their canvases.

 

Yet it is the differences between them that make this show compelling. Caravaggio was a Catholic; Bacon an avowed atheist. Caravaggio was the flag-bearer of the Counter-Reformation, charged with seducing the faithful away from Lutheran temptation. In Bacon’s age, secularity was yesterday’s news and artists painted to please themselves. Bacon’s refusal to relinquish the human figure while artists all around him turned to abstraction looked quasi-reactionary. Surrounded by the distorted idealism of high mannerism, Caravaggio’s fidelity to the real – he transcribed every wrinkle, every hair, every frantic gesture – saw him pilloried as a radical.

 

At first, the encounter jars. Built around the ancient-to-baroque art collection amassed by the 17th-century Roman cardinal Scipione Borghese, the Galleria Borghese is one of the finest small museums in the world. But Bacon’s triptychs, August (1972) and Triptych inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus (1981), are eclipsed by the combination of two mighty Caravaggio canvases, The Conversion on the Road to Damascus (1601) and The Resurrection of Lazarus (1609), and the jaw-dropping lavishness of the entrance hall, with its frescoes, statues and mosaic floors.


The display is partly to blame. Mounting the triptychs with their colour-field backgrounds against temporary panels in a pink that tones not only with Bacon’s own colours but also the ceiling fresco is a perilous reminder of Bacon’s original trade as an interior decorator.

 

But the real problem is the temporal leap demanded of the eye. Plunging a 20th-century artist with a predilection for deconstructing the human figure into a room devoted to classical beauty is an optical challenge. Painted in oil devoid of the sensuous impasto and tenebrous chiaroscuro that make premodern art so seductive, Bacon’s figures look like cartoons: cheeky, graphic teases cocking a snook at the grand old patriarch whose transcendent beauty puts him beyond threat.

 

After a few minutes, however, these visual hurdles recede and one becomes aware that a gripping dialogue across centuries and belief systems is taking place. What is at stake here is faith. Although he had a complex relationship with religion, repeatedly painting crucifixions, Popes, and triptychs, the imagery of Augusttells us that Bacon’s world was a redemption-free zone.

 

One of a cycle of “black triptychs” painted after the suicide of his lover George Dyer in a Paris hotel room, the work depicts two semi-naked male figures, leaking out their life force into sinister flesh-pink puddles. Flanked by this pair, a nebulous spillage in mauve, grey and white is Bacon’s chilly vision of a sexual coupling. These abject scenes are framed by a trio of black portals whose matt, merciless, impenetrable surfaces suggest nothing lies on the other side.

 

Caravaggio’s painting of Lazarus makes a powerful case for the alternative. As a divine glow plays across the scene – the nude torso of the beggar, Christ’s omnipotent, out-stretched arm – the cavern’s tawny-lit, deliquescent darkness truly seems the territory of miracles.

 

Other than Piero della Francesca, no artist knew better than Caravaggio that light was the Catholic painter’s greatest ally. In the Conversion of St Paul, a breathtaking image of Paul prone beneath the raised hoof of a piebald horse, he floods a dynamic, diaphanous glow on to the horse’s silky hide, making the animal the hero of the painting and reminding us that we are all equal under the eyes of God.

 

The contest is more equal in the room devoted to portraits. Here, two early Caravaggio canvases, Young Man with a Basket of Fruit (1593-1595) and Self-portrait as Bacchus (1593-1595), show Caravaggio developing the style that would ensure his lasting fame. Although often presented as “the first modern painter” for his refusal to idealise nature, the Lombard-born artist was steeped in the lessons of classical antiquity. Thus he renders every bloom, vein and blemish on his fruit basket in Flemish-style detail yet the boy who holds it, with his purple-shadowed throat and parted, rosy lips, possesses the sculpted perfection of a Michelangelo.

 

Bacon’s contribution is anchored by Head VI (1949),  one of more than 50 paintings based on Velázquez’s portrait of Pope Innocent X. Bacon was no draughtsman but Velázquez’s outline bestows a steely gravitas that is the perfect counterpoint to Bacon’s disfigurement. By dragging paint across an untreated canvas and adding that fathomless, shrieking mouth, Bacon creates an expression of such archetypal horror you sense all his demons – death, faith, masculinity, patriarchal authority – distilled into that single image.

 

Of course, these were Caravaggio’s demons too. In the the show’s finale, a clutch of marvellous works by the Italian – Madonna di Loreto (1604-1605), St Jerome (1605-1606), Madonna dei Palafrenieri (1605-1606) – include his David with the Head of Goliath (1610). One of Caravaggio’s final paintings, it’s said that the Philistine’s bloodless, open-mouthed visage is a self-portrait of the artist at the end of his life, when he was tortured by guilt and by the thought of his own mortality.

 

Bacon, who once described his crucifixion scenes as self-portraits, would have understood. A weakness of this show is that it barely contains any of the canvases – the Guggenheim’s Three Studies for a Crucifixion (1962), for example – where the Irishman explodes the human body into viscous, blood-hued rubbles of flesh. Only one, Study from Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1953), the Pope’s face dissolving into a garnet-red froth to match his robe, hints at the profound sense of revulsion – for death, self, the human condition – that animates his most powerful work.

 

Ultimately, the absence of a few masterpieces doesn’t matter. Although the curator Anna Coliva writes that the show is “not an exhibition of history”, that’s exactly what it is. But the lesson is made thrilling by the aesthetic power of the works.

 

Leaving Caravaggio and Bacon aside, the museum offers a whistle-stop tour from ancient art to Rubens, by way of Bellini, Raphael and Correggio. In this company, we see how Caravaggio’s determination to paint the poor, the old and the ugly heralded the slow disintegration of classical ideals of beauty. With modernity came the revelation that man was no longer “the measure of all things”. Bacon’s sorry, disfigured souls mark the final act of the tragedy. Perhaps he was lucky. If he had been born 50 years later he might, like Jan Fabre, be making art out of beetles.

 

Caravaggio Bacon, Galleria Borghese, Rome, until January 24 2010

 

 

 

 

Caravaggio e Bacon: un gioco di riflessi

 

 

 

Nessun rapporto diretto, ma la stessa potenza nell'indagare dolorosamente la condizione umana

 

 

Anna Mallamo, Gazzetta del Sud, 05/10/2009

 

 

 

E cosa mai avrebbero da dirsi, oggi, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610) e Francis Bacon (1909-1992)? Potrebbero passeggiare assieme tra i dipinti e i marmi della splendente Galleria Borghese, senza guardarsi ma sotto lo sguardo degli infiniti capolavori antichi che popolano quelle sale, le fughe di statue, le cornici dorate. Guardando l'uno l'autoritratto dell'altro, cercandone la verità, una verità malata, colpevole, reaconfessa e febbrile nel caso di Caravaggio (è sua la testa mozzata di Golia che pende dalla mano di Davide nel dipinto del 1606: dopo la condanna alla decapitazione, che lo costrinse a fuggire da Roma, fu ossessionato da quel tema, che coincide col tema sempiterno della perdizione e della salvezza); una verità che sa di sfacelo e de-scomposizione, che evoca tavoli anatomici e illustrazioni cliniche, che non ha volto o meglio ha un volto disfatto, ricomposto e nuovamente disfatto nel caso di Bacon (in mostra ci sono i Tre studi per un autoritratto del 1980).

 

Guardando i dipinti l'uno dell'altro (14 per Caravaggio, 16 per Bacon), riuniti da un'idea singolare e provocatoria – dal momento che nessuna dipendenza, filiazione o diretta ispirazione collega i due artisti – quella della mostra Caravaggio - Bacon, curata da Anna Coliva, direttrice della Galleria Borghese, e Michael Peppiat, intimo amico e biografo di Bacon, apertasi venerdì (e in corso fino al 24 gennaio) nella romana Galleria Borghese, il cui spazio scenico moltiplica a dismisura la suggestione dell'accostamento, col suo tessuto di capolavori che fanno da trama ulteriore, da supporto e contesto all'incontro tra i due Grandi, così vicini, così dissimili.

 

Caravaggio si specchierebbe nei dipinti di Bacon: non solo perché l'arte è tutta uno specchio e quella di Bacon risulta specchio concavo e impietoso della condizione umana, ma anche perché una precisa volontà di Bacon è che i suoi dipinti siano protetti da vetro. «Mi piace – diceva Bacon – la distanza che il vetro instaura tra ciò che è stato fatto e l'osservatore... ed è esatto dire che per molti aspetti sono più difficili da vedere, ma si può sempre guardarci dentro». Ecco, quel "guardar dentro" che è operazione indispensabile per chi volesse visitare la mostra, incontrando Caravaggio e Bacon, assieme e al di là dei codici consueti della storia dell'arte, della critica, della filologia. In un incontro poetico, certamente perturbante, strettamente individuale, come e più d'un setting psicanalitico.

 

Venendo fatalmente coinvolti nel gioco di echi e rimandi e – sì – riflessi che questa mostra, più di altre, mette in gioco: «A determinare la protezione (del vetro) molto probabilmente – scrive Anna Coliva nel catalogo – era la curiosità per l'effetto che, quasi letterariamente, la vita nel senso più superficialmente concreto e nella sua casualità vi trascorresse sopra, per riflesso, che il riflesso si frapponesse tra lo spettatore e l'opera, che lo spettatore vedesse sé e l'esistenza intorno riflettersi sopra». Ecco che Caravaggio, il suo volto cupo, segnato dalla malaria e dall'inquietudine (benché la moderna storiografia abbia fatto giustizia del cliché dell'artista maledetto), si riflette sulla superficie lucida – come carta fotografica intonsa – dei ritratti di Bacon, delle sue figure attorte: «La figura è azione, carne in disfacimento... la figura è sempre la forma in cui avviene la lotta pittorica» scrive Luigi Ficacci, esperto di Bacon e tra gli autori del catalogo.

 

Le figure di Bacon e lo spazio di Caravaggio, i colori di Bacon e la luce-oscurità di Caravaggio, la qualità perturbante e persino, talora, spiacevole della loro pittura. «Creare qualcosa è una sorta di eco tra un creatore e l'altro» ha detto Bacon. La potenza di questa mostra è in quell'eco, che ciascuno di noi saprà ritrovare nel gioco di rimandi, tra gli sguardi delle opere che si guardano tra loro, e riflettono le nostre sempiterne domande.

 

In esposizione

Alla Galleria Borghese, in piazzale Scipione Borghese, la mostra resterà aperta fino al prossimo 24 gennaio tutti i giorni, escluso il lunedì, dalle 9 alle 19. La prenotazione è obbligatoria.

 

Sono esposte14 opere di Caravaggio e 16 di Bacon. In particolare, per il primo è presente, oltre alle sei che appartengono alla collezione della Galleria, anche la Resurrezione di Lazzaro, del 1609, in prestito dal Museo regionale di Messina.

 

Di Baconfigurano i Trittici (in particolare quello ispirato all'Orestiade di Eschilo, del 1981), gli studi per i ritratti di Lucian Freud e George Dyer.

 

 


Caravaggio incontra Francis Bacon alla Galleria Borghese di Roma 

 

Dal 1 ottobre al 24 gennaio 2010 quarto appuntamento del ciclo 10 grandi mostre. Alla Galleria Borghese l’inedito incontro fra Caravaggio e Bacon

 

Rome Today, sabato, 3 ottobre 2009

 


 

Dal 1° ottobre 2009 al 24 gennaio 2010 la Galleria Borghese celebra Caravaggio, in occasione del IV centenario dalla morte, affiancando ai suoi capolavori venti dipinti di uno dei grandi artisti della seconda metà del XX secolo, Francis Bacon, di cui ricorre, invece, il centenario dalla nascita. Due personalità estreme, entrate nell’immaginario collettivo come artisti “maledetti”, che hanno espresso nella pittura il tormento dell’esistenza con pari intensità e genialità inventiva.

La mostra alla Galleria Borghese offre un accostamento tra i dipinti di Caravaggio e quelli di Bacon, proponendo allo spettatore di aderire all’eccezionale esperienza estetica che ne consegue, piuttosto che seguire una consueta ricostruzione storico critica.

 

Non vuole quindi teorizzare dipendenze di Bacon da Caravaggio, ma provocare le suggestioni visive, evocare corrispondenze spontanee risultanti da accostamenti formali. Bacon non ha nulla di Caravaggio e non si è ispirato a lui, ma se c’è un artista del nostro tempo che può essere equiparato a Caravaggio è proprio Bacon.

Il vero protagonista della mostra è lo spettatore, messo all’interno della scenografia della Galleria Borghese. Il museo è uno spazio della contemplazione, necessariamente impone le proprie condizioni alle opere degli artisti che avevano previsto, nel caso di Caravaggio, condizioni originarie diverse, ad esempio quelle dell'altare o della raccolta privata. Le opere assumono nel contesto ambientale del Museo un’esistenza autonoma.

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.

 

La collezione permanente della Galleria Borghese verrà arricchita da opere chiave della sua produzione come la Negazione di Pietro dal Metropolitan di New York, la Caduta di Saulo da Santa Maria del Popolo a Roma, il Martirio di Sant’Orsola l’ultimo Caravaggio da Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano di Napoli o il Ritratto di Antonio Martelli, Cavaliere di Malta da Palazzo Pitti.

A queste verranno affiancate le tele di Francis Bacon provenienti dai maggiori musei del mondo, eccezionalmente concesse alla Galleria Borghese dopo la monografica organizzata dalla Tate Modern assieme al Prado e al Metropolitan. Opere in cui l’artista inglese, con maggiore intensità, ha voluto indagare il mistero dell’anima attraverso la rappresentazione ideale del corpo, un corpo che ci appare sconvolto e deformato ma, soprattutto, sofferente.

 

 

 

Due Grandi che si completano: Caravaggio liquida il mito e ricrea ogni volta l'evento, Bacon infligge il colpo mortale all'illustrazione

 

Pittura della "presenza", con un inaudito potere d'urto

 

 

Alessandro Notarstefano, Gazzetta del Sud, 03/10/2009

 

 

 

Quel che vedi sulla tela sta accadendo. È la grande rivoluzione attuata da Caravaggio, la sua bruciante scoperta, è l'unico possibile approdo per Francis Bacon, il ritorno del reale – messo a nudo e per questo poco riconoscibile – dopo aver fatto a pezzi ogni apparenza.

 

Non serve "saper leggere", basterà guardare le Figure. Caravaggio liquida il mito e in ogni dipinto ricrea l'evento – ce lo offre con intense evidenze da primizia –, Bacon infligge il colpo mortale all'illustrazione (anche a quella sovvertitrice degli astrattisti): innanzi a noi, quando guardiamo i suoi quadri, non estranee figurazioni ma la nostra carne viva.

 

Una pittura, quella di Caravaggio e Bacon, della presenza, una pittura che ha perciò un inaudito potere d'urto. Questo dà senso all'accostamento, ardito, di opere distanti: la "loro affinità" può esser forse nell'affinità tra le nostre sensazioni, di qua delle tele: non spettatori – attenzione – ma testimoni.

 

Caravaggio, facendo un uso apparentemente manicheo della luce, ci impone spesso un'ulteriore cornice che restringe la scena: il tempo è incredibilmente contratto e ciò accresce l'effetto di realtà. Operazione assolutamente moderna.

 

Anche Bacon ha inaspettatamente cura delle scenografie: le Figure al centro del suo interesse sono recluse quasi sempre in camere anonime (di struttura "tradizionale": rigorosamente salva – tra lavabi, interruttori di corrente e utensili – la prospettiva). Esemplari campiture che fanno da seconda cornice: imprigionano quanto accade "dentro" (nessun "movimento temporale": le teste e i corpi penetrati da Bacon sono scossi da uno smottamento interno che "avviene in diretta").

 

L'intimo non può darsi – e ciò è insieme scacco e obbligato lancio di dadi – se non in un'esteriorità. Questo è "il reale": da Caravaggio e Bacon nessuna solenne rivelazione ma il vivo vibrare che è in ogni attualità. Il primo, tra il XVI e l'inizio del XVII secolo, archivia il rassicurante tempo della leggenda; il secondo, alla metà del Novecento, congela con la sua pittura la condizione umana: sorpresi tutti noi – deformati e sofferenti – tra le ardue, spesso ostili, faglie del quotidiano.

 

Il corpo – ha scritto Nietzsche – è una "grande ragione". Caravaggio pesa forme e volumi (tra ombre incalzanti e i calibrati indietreggiamenti della luce), preserva l'intensità dei volti, la profondità d'ogni espressione (vi si legge la carne e il suo venir meno, c'è la debolezza che è in ogni stupore e la forza che è in ogni attesa), dubita del passato (tutto è presente, e la salvezza, la fiducia in Dio, la fede sono non nel ristare celebrativo delle certezze religiose di ieri ma nelle titubanze d'ogni vacillante adesso). Bacon, instancabilmente, perimetra corpi e teste – imperfette appendici, queste ultime, d'un Tutto ormai ammalato, dilaniato, imploso (non volti ma teste: non può esservi sguardo là dove l'inconscio è all'osso: l'"espressione" è nell'adesso schiaffeggiato e vilipeso, nel "falso movimento" che è in ogni attuale angoscia).

 

Caravaggio è obbligato al pudore. Moralità e ansia di salvezza: ogni Figura dovrà conservare una postura in qualche modo attonita, complice di un Disegno ma insieme "sottomessa", hic et nunc conquistati ma non ancora redenti. Nelle opere di Bacon nessuna moralità né messaggio: invenzione, colore e acrobazia raccontano di corpi "scorticati", ovvero della vulnerabilità dei nostri tempi squassati e malcerti. Opere che l'artista voleva fossero mostrate sotto vetro perché ne fosse accresciuta la cifra "vischiosa" di (però arricchenti) rimandi.

 

Riflessi (il mare è forse meno mare quando è schiuma?) e accostamenti: parole ambigue che noi testimoni mastichiamo sentendone i sapori oltremoderni. Non soltanto controllate e incontrollate corrispondenze di qua della tela ma pure – "fatalità" vana – echi flessuosi che non saranno mai uditi. Come nelle "Baigneuses" di Cézanne, non c'è mai (né può esserci) alcuna vera storia: non può essere altrimenti per chi – in perenne deriva – è, tra illusori "intervalli", contenuto dentro la morte.

 

 

 

Caravaggio e Bacon, fratelli ribelli
un confronto alla Galleria Borghese

 

Due artisti lontani ma affini scavano nel mistero della vita. Entrambi «maledetti»: amavano il gioco d'azzardo e il nero sulle tele

 

Lauretta Colonnelli,,Corriere della Sera, dal 2 ottobre 2009

 

 

  

                       David con la testa di Golia di Caravaggio

 

L'idea di accostare quattordici opere di Caravaggio a sedici tele di Francis Bacon nasce dal proposito di of­frire allo spettatore «un’espe­rienza estetica più che didatti­ca », come racconta Anna Coli­va, che dirige la Galleria Bor­ghese dove insieme a Michael Peppiatt ha curato la mostra Caravaggio-Bacon, visibile fino al 24 gennaio.

 «L’esposizione - precisa Coli­va - non vuole studiare filolo­gicamente i due artisti per ipo­tizzare qualche discendenza di Bacon da Caravaggio. Ma vi sono corrispondenze che emergono da sole alla sensibi­lità dello spettatore e non so­no imposte dalla teoria del cu­ratore ».

La pittura di Francis Bacon, infatti, non fa mai riferimen­to a Caravaggio, se non per l’ipotesi che la figura del «Nar­ciso » alla Galleria Barberini, ancora attribuito da alcuni studiosi a Michelangelo Meri­si, abbia fornito la traccia mnemonica per il Triptyc- Studies of the Human Body, dipinto dall’artista ingle­se nel 1970. Tuttavia, se c’è un artista del nostro tempo che può essere equiparato a Caravaggio è proprio Bacon, come rileva Maurizio Calvesi, che appare tra gli autori del ca­talogo.

Entrambi artisti tor­mentati e «maledetti», passa­vano il tempo a giocare d’az­zardo — Caravaggio nelle osterie romane tra gli ultimi anni del Cinquecento e i pri­mi del Seicento, Bacon a Mon­tecarlo — e poi creavano in fretta e furia i loro quadri, spesso distruggendoli per ri­cominciare daccapo. Entram­bi usano molto il nero per cre­are il contrasto di luci ed om­bre, scelgono il ritratto come elemento centrale della loro opera e trasformano la figura umana in un concentrato di emozioni. «Entrambi gli artisti — no­ta Luigi Ficacci, soprintenden­te per il patrimonio artistico di Bologna e tra i massimi esperti di Bacon in Italia — hanno un approccio molto profondo e traumatico verso la verità dell’esistenza, privo di barriere e di ripari. Entram­bi con la loro pittura pongo­no interrogativi radicali sul mistero dell’esistenza.

È co­me se si incontrassero su affi­nità profonde che si basano proprio su abissali differenze, che sono poi differenze di epo­ca e di sistema culturale». Ma oltre al confronto tra i due artisti, c’è un altro moti­vo che invoglia a visitare la mostra. Lo suggerisce Micha­el Peppiatt, che fu biografo e amico intimo di Bacon: «In primo luogo, l’impatto di Ca­ravaggio e Bacon fra i grandi artisti della Galleria Borghe­se. In secondo luogo, l’emo­zione di vedere un nuovo arri­vato competere con l’ordine antico con le sue grida isteri­che e blasfeme, le sue forme contorte e i colori violenti. Lo scontro dell’ansia allo stato puro del ventesimo secolo con le certezze del passato».

I visitatori noteranno che tutte le tele di Bacon sono sot­to vetro. È stato Bacon a im­porre il vetro ai suoi dipinti, senza preoccuparsi che i rifles­si potessero disturbarne la vi­sione o contrastare la possibi­lità di entrare in contatto con la carnalità esistenziale espressa dalla stesura pittori­ca e dalla sua materia. L’effet­to è straniante e molti critici si sono chiesti il perché di questa scelta. Bacon diceva: «Mi piace la distanza che il ve­tro instaura fra ciò che è stato fatto e l’osservatore. Mi piace, per così dire, che l’oggetto sia posto quanto più lontano pos­sibile. È curioso, ma persino i Rembrandt mi piacciono sot­to vetro. È esatto dire che per molti aspetti sono più difficili da vedere, ma si può sempre guardarci dentro».

Lauretta Colonnelli
02 ottobre 2009

 

 

 

La fragilità dell'uomo nell'arte di Caravaggio e Bacon

 

di Emanuele Bigi, Il Sole 24 Ore, 2/10/ 2009

 

 


Un incontro inusuale tra due giganti dell'arte: Caravaggio e Francis Bacon. Ad accoglierli sono le sale della Galleria Borghese a Roma che conosce bene i capolavori di Michelangelo Merisi, ma non quelli dell'artista novecentesco, o meglio di qualsiasi artista moderno. Come afferma Michael Peppiatt, curatore della mostra Caravaggio-Bacon insieme ad Anna Coliva, "siamo di fronte a un momento storico, qui per la prima volta le opere di Bacon creano un ponte tra l'arte classica e quella moderna e nello stesso tempo provocano una scossa elettrica". L'intento dell'esposizione non è forzare confronti stilistici e formali tra i due artisti, ma invitare il visitatore a compiere un'esperienza estetica.

Tra i due infatti non c'è stata alcuna influenza diretta, "l'unico punto di contatto – sottolinea la Coliva – è sul piano del contenuto", entrambi lavorano sulla rappresentazione della fragilità dell'essere umano consci della labilità della vita. Il viaggio è alla scoperta della figura umana drammaticamente sconvolta dall'esistenza. Ecco allora che le opere di quattrocento anni fa si riflettono in quelle di stampo novecentesco, un riflesso accentuato dai vetri che coprono i lavori di Bacon (come li voleva lui), rendendo quelle figure liquide ancor più sfatte. E in quei riflessi non solo si incontra il microcosmo circostante, le sale della Galleria, i dipinti del Caravaggio e della collezione Borghese (Tiziano, Raffaello, Canova ecc.), ma anche il ritratto del visitatore che diventa parte integrante della mostra.

A dare il là delle trenta opere esposte provenienti soprattutto dall'Europa sono gli oli su tela della Conversione di San Paolo e della Resurrezione di Lazzaro che giganteggiano all'ingresso, ai lati si estendono invece i due trittici di Bacon, disturbanti, inquietanti: le figure umane rappresentate si dileguano, i volti sembrano quasi cancellati, lasciano spazio al caos provocato dal dolore. I suoi ritratti affiancati a quelli del Merisi condensano questo aspetto: evocare l'identità interiore. Ciò che più colpisce sono le opere dell'artista inglese che nel 2010 avrebbe compiuto cento anni, un'occasione rara per vederle a Roma. Di Caravaggio è esposta per lo più la collezione Borghese, dal Giovane con canestro di frutta al San Girolamo, dall'Autoritratto in veste di Bacco, al Davide con la testa di Golia.

I diciassette quadri di Bacon trafiggono come quella freccia scoccata nel Martirio di Sant'Orsola del Merisi, lasciano a bocca aperta come la Testa VI dello stesso Bacon che così definisce la sua arte: "Ciò che voglio fare è distorcere le cose molto al di là dell'apparenza, ma nella distorsione stessa riportarla a una registrazione dell'apparenza. Chi oggi è riuscito a registrare qualcosa che venga recepito come realtà senza aver compiuto un grave scempio dell'immagine?". Anche quando ritrae Papa Innocenzo X, rifacendosi a Diego Velázquez, lo priva delle carni e lo rende quasi fluttuante. Questa è la realtà di Bacon.

Caravaggio-Bacon

Galleria Borghese, Roma
Fino al 24 gennaio 2010
Orari: lun 13-19; mar-sab 9-21; dom 9-19
Ingresso: intero 13,50 € mostra + galleria

 

 

 

Bacon e Caravaggio a confrontoB

 

 

Valeria Arnaldi, il Giornale (Italy), venerdì 02 ottobre 2009

 

 

«Penso che l’arte sia un’ossessione per la vita e, dato che siamo esseri umani, la nostra più grande ossessione è quella per noi stessi». È racchiuso in questa frase di Francis Bacon il senso dell’incontro, mai confronto, oggetto della mostra Caravaggio-Bacon, ospitata alla Galleria Borghese fino al 24 gennaio, che, in occasione delle celebrazioni per i quattrocento anni dalla morte di Caravaggio ed i cento dalla nascita di Bacon, porta per la prima volta nelle sale della Galleria le opere di un contemporaneo, accostando i due artisti in un ideale e complesso dialogo. Dalla Negazione di Pietro di Caravaggio al Tryptych August 1972 di Bacon, attraverso trenta opere provenienti da musei di tutto il mondo, è l’uomo a essere rappresentato e indagato, con la sua sensuale carnalità di peccatore e la miseria della carne, organica prigione di ambizioni più alte costrette dal limite della pelle.

 

Se in Caravaggio, infatti, l’uomo è impegnato nella lotta per salvarsi da se stesso, nelle opere di Bacon questa battaglia è persa e la carne diventa peso e simbolo del dramma di un divenire che, in realtà, è non-divenire, dove la nascita è il momento più alto di un viaggio verso la distruzione. Tra la luce del primo e l’oscurità del secondo, tra il colpevole compiacimento delle forme che non sa rinunciare alla contemplazione della bellezza e la triste condanna della vanità che preclude ogni piacere, tra la fede come possibilità di salvezza e la disperazione di una costante dissolvenza, si snoda il percorso espositivo, che ha come linea guida l’emozione estetica.

 

L’osservatore, simbolo dell’essere umano, è chiamato a fare da trait d'union tra le opere in un gioco di rimandi e contrasti, che vede la vita specchiarsi nella morte e viceversa, a ribadire futilità - e rapidità - dell’esistenza. «Non è una mostra di storia dell’arte - dice Anna Coliva, direttrice della Galleria Borghese, che ha curato l’esposizione insieme a Michael Peppiatt, massimo esperto di Bacon e suo amico - perché i due artisti non possono essere paragonabili per motivi stilistici o formali. Sono vicini però nei contenuti, in quanto entrambi vedono nella figura umana il campo di battaglia di un dramma che non ha possibilità di andare a buon fine». Che sia implorando perdono o accettando il proprio destino nell’impossibilità di cambiarlo, l’uomo è costretto a prendere coscienza di sé, guardandosi alla distanza nello «specchio» dell’arte. Ad assolvere questa funzione riflettente e riflessiva è Bacon: l’artista, infatti, voleva che i suoi lavori fossero sempre esposti sotto pesanti vetri per favorire il distacco dell’osservatore dal soggetto e far sì che i suoi movimenti lasciassero un’«ombra» sulle opere.

 

Qui, posti l’uno di fronte all’altro, in riflessi più o meno accentuati, tra vetro e colore, grandi opere e ritratti, Caravaggio si specchia in Bacon, «schiacciando» l’osservatore nel cuore della storia, a ribadire ancora una volta il suo essere un infinitesimale, e non indispensabile, tassello dell’eternità. La carnalità si scompone e diventa carne che, a sua volta, si decompone fino a scomparire e l’emozione spirituale suscitata dal dramma caravaggesco diventa pulsazione materica nella dispersione baconiana, in cui neppure i lineamenti possono mantenere fissità. In occasione dell’esposizione, la Galleria Borghese cambia orari, prolungando la visita fino alle 21 da martedì a sabato e aprendo straordinariamente il lunedì.

 

 

 

 

No one wants to take home the Bacon at art show

 

Tara Loader Wilkinson, Wealth Bulletin, 14 October 2009

 

A painting by Francis Bacon valued at $9m on sale at the Pavillion of Art & Design in London this week, could be a bellwether for the art market in a post credit crisis world.

The Monday night opening of the fair was attended by thousands of wealthy collectors and clients of the Pavilion's sponsor, Swiss private bank EFG International. Cheaper and mid-market works were the biggest sellers. While the pricier works of art were less popular.

 

Gerard Faggionato, a director of the Faggionato Fine Arts gallery, which was selling the Bacon, and also works by super-artists Andy Warhol and Gilbert & George, said he had sold little.

 

 

 


Pintura

Francis Bacon: dicta y contradicta

 

Por María Minera, Letras Libres, Octubre de 2009  

 

                             Francis Bacon photographed by John Deakin, 1952

 


A punto de cumplirse el centenario del nacimiento de Francis Bacon, que tuvo lugar en Dublín, en 1909, la Tate Britain decidió dedicarle, por tercera ocasión,1 una gran retrospectiva, que viajaría después al Museo del Prado (el museo predilecto del pintor, ubicado en la ciudad donde, por cierto, murió en 1992: Madrid) y al Museo Metropolitano de Nueva York. Como era de esperarse, la muestra abrió en Londres con bombo y platillo (por primera vez en la historia la bbc transmitió en vivo los pormenores de la inauguración); durante los cuatro meses de la exposición, la gente (entre la que se podía contar a todos los artistas del Reino Unido, que veneran a Bacon bastante unánimemente) abarrotó las salas, y los críticos se dieron vuelo al componer grandes alabanzas: “Nadie puede negar que después de la guerra, este país no ha dado un pintor más abiertamente talentoso que él” (The Daily Telegraph); “Francis Bacon es simplemente el más extraordinario, poderoso y convincente de los pintores. Y no necesitas estudiar las complejidades de la historia ni ahondar en elevadas filosofías para saber por qué” (The Times); “Después de Matisse y Picasso, no hay nadie en el siglo xx que pinte mejor que él. Y eso es pecar de modestia: Bacon invita a una comparación directa con los grandes maestros, de la cual, además, sale perfectamente airoso” (The Guardian).

La exposición pasó después por Madrid, sin demasiados aspavientos (fuera del pintoresco episodio en que Félix de Azúa, “irritado por la importancia que daban los medios de comunicación a la santidad del artista como ‘explicación’ de su obra”, se inventó una biografía del pintor como un hombre ordinario: “Felizmente casado, dos hijos, votante del Partido Conservador, empleado de seguros y turista en la Costa Brava”). Y, finalmente, en mayo de este año, la retrospectiva llegó a Nueva York.

Hay que decir que la crítica estadounidense nunca ha mostrado un particular entusiasmo por el trabajo de Francis Bacon; de hecho, a lo largo de los años ha dedicado varias páginas a objetar puntualmente ciertos vericuetos, ciertas derivas de su pintura. Nunca, sin embargo, le había cabido la duda acerca de si estaba, o no, frente a una obra seria e importante. Hasta el mismísimo Clement Greenberg, defensor a ultranza del arte abstracto, reconocía en la figuración de Bacon algo de “la manera grandiosa, la terribilità” propia de los mejores pintores ingleses, como Turner. Esa certidumbre se mantuvo así, más o menos intacta, hasta el centenario: cuando los críticos –como si de golpe hubieran entrado en razón después de un largo ofuscamiento– pasaron de la admiración moderada al más completo repudio. El crítico de The New Yorker, Peter Schjeldahl, por ejemplo, arrancó su nota de junio pasado con esta confesión: “Desde hace mucho tiempo Francis Bacon es, de los grandes pintores del siglo pasado, el que menos me gusta.” Y él se quedó corto; Jed Perl, de The New Republic, no se molestó en templar su desagrado en lo más mínimo:2 “Lo que Bacon produjo no son pinturas, al menos, no en sentido estricto. Son poco más que rectángulos de tela pintarrajeados con grafitis dizque oscuros: angst para tontos. Bacon convirtió su astuto afán de citar a los maestros, antiguos o modernos, en la más grande tomada de pelo del siglo xx.”

¿Cómo puede existir tan honda discrepancia a un lado y al otro del Atlántico? ¿Será que a los ingleses –cegados por el amor al terruño– se les escapa lo que a otros, a la distancia, les es por completo evidente; por ejemplo, que Bacon, como sugirió Michael Kimmelman en The New York Times: “en las últimas décadas no hacía a ratos otra cosa que parodiarse a sí mismo”? O, al contrario, ¿acaso estarán más habilitados para percibir las sutilezas de un arte que a simple vista puede parecer no tener ninguna (tan agitado se lo ve, tan sin pulir)? Y a los estadounidenses, ¿no será que les disgusta que la de Bacon sea una pintura que muy difícilmente se habría producido en su país? Veamos. ¿Qué es exactamente lo que ahora le reprochan?

Después de recordarnos que Bacon se opuso al expresionismo abstracto “americano”, “mofándose del ‘encaje viejo’ de Jackson Pollock y de ‘las lúgubres variaciones de color’ de Mark Rothko”, Schjeldahl anota: “me gusta creer que en la carrera de la mitad del siglo por lograr un arte occidental radicalmente nuevo y pertinente, mis compatriotas jugaron limpio, y Bacon hizo trampa. Ellos desarrollaron estilos integrales que les permitieron asimilar y trascender el impresionismo y el cubismo; estilos envolventes que no sólo se dirigían a la mirada”, como, suponemos, lo hace el estilo de Bacon. Por su parte, Perl reconoce que al salir de la exposición sintió como si en realidad hubiera asistido “a un matadero, con cada una de las pinturas colgadas como carne en canal”. De lo que somos ahí testigos, advierte, “es del grotesco espectáculo de un artista en el proceso de eviscerar a la pintura”, que, como ya antes nos había advertido, ha de servir, por ejemplo, “para construir un rostro al detalle, antes de desarrollar ciertas distorsiones expresivas, basadas en el estudio concienzudo, hora tras hora, día tras día, de una persona real”. Pero claro, nos dice, “para qué tomarse tantas molestias cuando puedes simplemente usar una fotografía y desfigurarla con unos cuantos brochazos para dar la pinta de un Picasso de tercera”.

¿No será que en el fondo les disgusta este pintor de origen irlandés por lo que tiene de inglés (que es bastante; después de todo, pasó la práctica totalidad de su vida en Londres)? En efecto, Bacon rechazó desde el inicio la vía de la abstracción –que era la que tomaron los compatriotas de Schjeldahl– por encontrarla frívola, incapaz de actuar directamente sobre “el sistema nervioso”, como le gustaba decir. (Curiosamente, en el otro país es a él a quien acusan de liviandad.) Él estaba convencido de que a una pintura abstracta “sólo le interesa la belleza de su diseño o de sus formas”, y él buscaba una pintura que, sobre todo, se interesara por la vida; no lo vital, se entiende, sino el mero accidente. Y, de hecho, Perl no andaba tan lejos: para Bacon no había hecho más brutal que “ir a la carnicería y comprobar, con asombrado alivio, que uno no está ahí, en el lugar del animal”, cuando muy bien podría estarlo: si en realidad no se es nada más que carne, viva, pero carne al fin. Por eso su pintura parece la demostración constante, y a veces excesivamente gráfica, de que “somos esqueletos en potencia”. Bacon siempre se empeñó en negar que su trabajo era un reflejo de su tiempo (la turbulenta mitad del siglo xx); temía como pocas cosas caer en la mera ilustración, en la caricatura. En su obra no cabían la guerra y sus horrores, las masacres, las dictaduras, el fracaso de la democracia. Bacon nunca habría pintado el Guernica. Y, sin embargo, es imposible imaginar su trabajo sin todo eso como telón de fondo. Él insistía en que lo suyo eran las fuerzas violentas y destructivas que amenazan al hombre moderno, pero desde dentro. La realidad, no obstante, es que a ningún americano se le ocurrió pintar como Bacon, antes de Bacon. Tampoco es fácil imaginar en el Londres de los años cuarenta el surgimiento de un artista como Mark Rothko.

Nadie lo puede explicar mejor que George Orwell: “Casi cualquier europeo entre 1890 y 1930 vivía en la creencia tácita de que la civilización duraría por siempre. [...] En esa atmósfera, el desapego intelectual, e incluso el diletantismo, eran posibles. [...] Sin embargo, desde 1930 ese sentimiento de seguridad no existe más. Hitler y la depresión se encargaron de destruirlo. [...] En circunstancias semejantes el desapego es inviable. No puedes tener un interés puramente estético en una enfermedad de la que tú mismo estás muriendo.” Una idea, esta última, que Bacon compartía, y por la cual no dudó en desechar el expresionismo abstracto: “una cosa enteramente estética, que no puede transmitir sentimientos en el sentido más amplio” (lo cual abre una discusión que no cabe sostener aquí). Bacon, en ese Londres, no podía ser más que el que fue: un pintor “teatral” (como lo llama Schjeldahl, y por eso entiende: falso; como si no lo fueran también los limones más realistas de Zurbarán, ¿o acaso esos sí se pueden tocar?), al que le gustaba, nos dice Perl, “tomar material autobiográfico y jugar con él, haciendo de los signos y los símbolos su propio revoltijo, produciendo enigmas y misterios” (como uno piensa que hacen en general los artistas). Pero quizá todo ello resulte, en un país acostumbrado al arte abstracto, demasiado confesional, demasiado narrativo. Quizá. Bacon, de cualquier modo, habría cumplido cien años el 28 de este mes. ~

 

1. La Tate ya acogió antes, en su edificio del Milbank, dos amplias exposiciones de Bacon, una en 1985 y la otra en 1962.

2. Como sí lo hizo Schjeldahl: “Mis notas de la visita a su nueva retrospectiva bullen de una indignación que procuraré modular. No tiene caso mantener el encono, cuando se trata de un artista cuya estatura canónica [...] no ha hecho sino aumentar desde el día de su muerte.”

 

 

 

 

 

   Frieze Week to Lure Billionaires With $9 Million Bacon Nude

 

      Preview by Scott Reyburn, Bloomberg, 8 October, 2009

 

 

     

A 1988 Francis Bacon painting titled Study from the Human Body after Muybridge. 

The work will be priced at $9 million at Faggionato Fine Art's booth at the Frieze Art Fair, London U.K. The fair previews on the evening of Oct. 13.

 

Oct. 8 (Bloomberg) - London’s contemporary-art traders are aiming to defy the recession in their biggest week of the year by offering works including a $9 million Francis Bacon painting.

The Frieze Art Fair previews on Oct. 14, with 165 galleries bidding to win business from billionaire collectors. That’s up from 151 last year. Frieze found new exhibitors as 28 galleries pulled out. Other satellite events have shrunk or closed.

Frieze is still Europe’s biggest fair exclusively devoted to original works by contemporary and living artists. Demand for these works contracted during the financial crisis that followed the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in September 2008. Volumes of auction sales shrank between 70 percent and 80 percent, and prices of some artists more than halved, said the London-based research company ArtTactic in an e-mail last month.

London-based dealer Gerard Faggionato will be offering Bacon’s 1988 painting of a male nude, Study from the Human Body after Muybridge, with a price of $9 million at the satellite Pavillion Art & Design fair. The painting is from the estate of the artist, which Faggionato represents.

“There’s been a change from galleries asking who they want to sell to, to collectors asking who they want to buy from,” Faggionato said in an interview. “People will wake up next week. Everybody’s waiting to see what will happen.”

 

 

Lucian Freud se 'reúne' con Francis Bacon en el Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao

 

S. L. Bilbao -  El País (España), 07/10/2009

 

Lucian Freud, uno de los artistas vivos más importantes del expresionismo figurativo británico y Francis Bacon, quien le influyó de forma definitiva como pintor y con quien mantuvo una gran amistad volverán a estar juntos -de alguna manera- en Bilbao. La obra de Lucian Freud (Berlín, 1922) Reflejo con dos niños (autorretrato) se expone desde ayer y hasta el 10 de enero próximo en el Bellas Artes junto al cuadro Figura recostada ante un espejo, de Bacon (Dublín, 1909-Madrid, 1992). La intención de la pinacoteca bilbaína al colocar un cuadro al lado del otro es generar un "diálogo" entre dos pintores de la misma corriente artística y que comparten un gran interés por la representación de la figura humana, señaló ayer Jaime Viar, director del Bellas Artes.

Además, las dos pinturas comparten el recurso de la visión especular, que refleja y, al mismo tiempo, deforma la realidad. "Freud se autorretrata utilizando para ello un espejo que coloca a sus pies, de lo que resulta un intenso contrapicado y que la lámpara que hay sobre su cabeza parezca una figura abstracta", según explicó la conservadora de la pinacoteca, Ana Sánchez Lasa. En el ángulo inferior izquierdo aparecen los hijos del artista, Rose y Ali. El lienzo, pintado en 1965 es uno de los más representativos de la carrera de Lucian Freud, nieto del creador del psicoanálisis, Sigmund Freud, cuya familia se trasladó a Londres poco antes de que estallara la segunda guerra mundial.

Las obras de Freud y Bacon que ahora coinciden en el Bellas Artes fueron realizadas con apenas seis años de diferencia y ambas, según Viar y Sánchez Lasa, evocan la soledad de la existencia contemporánea. El reflejo de Lucian Freud pertenece al Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza de Madrid y llega a Bilbao gracias al programa La obra invitada, financiado por la fundación del Banco Santander, que se viene desarrollando desde hace cinco años.

 

 


  


Freud y Francis Bacon, reunión de amigos

 

 

El Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao muestra la relación personal y artística entre ambos pintores británicos

        

IÑAKI ESTEBAN | BILBAO |  El Correo Digital (Vizcaya) 07.10.09.

 

Dos viejos amigos se vuelven a ver en el Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao. Sus nombres, Lucien Freud y Francis Bacon, ambos pintores británicos, de los más importantes del siglo XX, y con la misma inquietud por la deformación del cuerpo dentro de un concepto de arte como autobiografía.

 

El encuentro se produce gracias al cuadro de Freud Reflejo con dos niños (Autorretrato), que llega a la pinacoteca vasca procedente del Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza de Madrid como La obra invitada, un programa patrocinado por el Banco Santander. El otro lienzo, Figura tumbada en espejo, firmado por Bacon, pertenece al museo de Bilbao y acompaña al de Freud bajo la mirada de un tercero, una escultura de Jacques Lipchitz titulada El rapto de Europa, que comparte con los dos cuadros una misma distorsión de la figura humana. Las tres obras se expondrán en el mismo espacio hasta el 10 de enero de 2010.

 

Hay otro punto en común entre las dos pinturas: el espejo. El nieto de Sigmund Freud, fundador del psicoanálisis, lo pone a ras de suelo y consigue que todo su autorretrato de cuerpo entero tome otra perspectiva, muy amenazadora, mientras que Bacon lo coloca de lado para resaltar las curvas de sus modelos. Las dos obras se pintaron sólo con seis años de diferencia, la de Freud en 1965 y la de Bacon en 1971. No eran buenos tiempos para la figuración expresionista, pero ambos se mantuvieron en su empeño de recrear el dramatismo existencial del ser humano con los contornos retorcidos de su materia corporal.

 

Brochazos amplios

 

Durante la presentación de 'La obra invitada', la conservadora del museo Ana Sánchez-Lassa se fijó en los dos niños que aparecen en la parte inferior de la pintura de Freud, sus hijos Rose y Ali, que subrayan su contenido autobiográfico. La experta dirigió también su atención hacia el rostro, perfilado con «brochazos amplios y valientes, cargados de pasta, luminosos y en contraste con el fondo grisáceo», y relató la afición delos dos amigos a retratarse el uno al otro.

 

La inclusión de la escultura de Lipchitz está justificada, según el director del museo, Javier Viar, por su realización en la misma época -1960-70, en este caso- y por un parecida deformación del cuerpo. «Incluso el primer Oteiza estaría cerca de estas imágenes», resaltó Viar.

 

 

 

A rare glimpse into the artist's studio

 

From the knee-deep litter of Francis Bacon to the artful order of Lucian Freud, a new exhibition explores how artists' workspaces reveal more than their occupants expect

 

 

Maev Kennedy, The Guardian, Monday 28 September, 2009

 

    Laid out to impress: Peter Tillemans's sumptuously portrayed studio, painted in 1716. 

 

Between them the beautiful boy huddled over a small fire in his icy garret, and the beautiful naked girl stooping in front of window overlooking a tumble of Parisian rooftops, combine almost every popular cliché about what artists get up to behind the closed doors of their studios.

One is a little painting from 1845, by the otherwise almost entirely forgotten 19th-century artist Octave Tassaert, and the other Christopher Nevinson's 1926 A Studio in Montparnasse. They hang among centuries of artists' studios captured in paint, film and photographs, in a unique exhibition opening this week at Compton Verney, the country mansion gallery in Warwickshire. Both show us wonderfully plausible lies: the viewer assumes immediately that the poverty and romance of one studio, the glamour and hint of exotic pleasures in the other, must relate to the artists' own lives. Which just proves how dangerous it is to take what artists say about themselves as the truth.

The Nevinson, for instance, doesn't show his own studio but one borrowed from a friend – who was outraged by the painting and the suggestion that his handsome room was the kind of place you might find a naked woman hanging around the window seat.

Over a century ago the Strand magazine nailed the voyeuristic seduction of such images: "The sacred place ... a laboratory in which ideas are melted down and boiled up and turned out on canvas by magic." Art historian, curator and deviser of the exhibition Giles Waterfield feels the seductive power of many of the images, but warns that the exhibition throws up more questions than it answers.

"For centuries people have taken the studio as a faithful reflection of the soul of the artist, but my question is – and it is one which this exhibition finally cannot answer: is it really?" Artists, after all, are by definition creatures of artifice, and they are exhibitionists. Many of these interiors are as carefully constructed as stage sets.

Waterfield and his co-curator Antonia Harrison spoke to Lucian Freud, whose studio is represented not only by his own paintings but in dazzling photographs by his assistant David Dawson, and by Bruce Bernard. Freud insisted there was nothing interesting or revelatory about his studio; it was just the place where he worked – but everything in the photographs suggests otherwise: a meticulously constructed space with almost surreal features including walls layered in impasto where he wiped his brushes. The paint is an inch thick in places – it must surely be easier to wipe a brush on a rag than risk damaging the voluptuous sculptural effect.

 

                       Portrait of George Dyer Riding a Bicycle (1966) Francis Bacon

 

 

Another photograph by Perry Ogden shows the legendary litter of Francis Bacon's studio at 7 Reece Mews, precisely matching the image of a haunted genius, which has now been reconstructed like the shrine of a saint in a Dublin gallery. It is shown beside the site drawing by the team of archaeologists who were sent in to record the stratigraphy of each individual object, before the move began. But there are also two more images of Bacon studios, which suggest the great man may have been playing to the cameras as he shuffled through the drifts of paper and rags; one dates from the period when he was still designing furniture, and it is as obsessively neat as a showroom window. Another little sketch by Michael Clark, from 1982, only two years before Ogden's photograph, shows a cluttered interior – but with a perfectly clear working space in the centre.

Many of the earlier paintings in the show, such as Peter Tillemans's handsome interior of 1716, depict not tormented souls starving, but elegantly dressed gentlemen entertaining more gentlemen, connoisseurs and potential clients, in interiors groaning with oriental carpets, leatherbound volumes and classical statues; these are artists marketing themselves as clubbable equals rather than social outcasts. Women artists, on the other hand, have their own very small section of the show, and if they're not quite working on a corner of the kitchen table, very few have managed a room of their own – artist Gwen John has one but it's as bare as a nun's cell, and clearly no society clients will be calling.

A century later, and the fashion has changed. For a society in thrall to the romance of La Bohème and Trilby, it was more marketable to be suffering in a garret. Edward Burne-Jones, in letters to his patron the Earl of Carlisle, sketches himself as a shivering skeletal figure, and writes that his stacked canvases are so cold and damp they could be used for growing mushrooms.

It may be that the only truly honest images in the show – and that includes the immaculate working studio constructed in a corner of a beautiful Georgian room overlooking a lake, for the artist Sigrid Holmwood – are from Turner prize-winner Jeremy Deller and the self-destructive 18th-century painter George Morland. Deller ruefully admits that the "studio" – no jugs of brushes, no turpentine-steeped rags, just a room where he works hunched over a laptop – is really quite boring. Morland's little painting, meanwhile, shows him at work on an idyllic landscape in a truly grim room. There are no swags of velvet drapery or classical busts here: it is almost bare of furniture, with sketches scribbled on the fireplace wall, presumably because all the paper has already gone up the chimney. His assistant is cooking four sausages in a pan over the fire – and there are two men and two hopeful-looking large dogs, so there won't be much lunch for anyone. There's an empty gin bottle on the floor, and presumably, one suspects, a half-full one nearby. Morland has fatally discovered that pub landlords would trade him drink for a new inn sign. He would be dead within two years of the painting, at the age of 39.

As for the beautiful boy painter starving in his garret, the artist Tassaert was 45 when he painted it. But if he was never quite so picturesquely young and poor, his own fate was tragic enough for the libretto of any opera. The painting is owned by the Louvre, and the image is now a bestseller worldwide on prints, greeting cards and even fridge magnets, but in life Tassaert was bitterly disappointed that he never achieved the success or recognition he felt he deserved. He became an alcoholic, sold everything left in his studio to a dealer at a knockdown price and gave up painting, and died in 1874 by gassing himself.

The show ended up much larger than the curators originally expected: there are hundreds of images, spanning more than three centuries. Some of the painters, including A-list celebrities of their day such as William Powell The Derby Day Frith, were rich and famous. While the view of one of the studios of GF Watts, a giant of his Victorian heyday whose reputation went into freefall after his death, shows that he worked in a space as luxurious as the lounge of a grand hotel. Others, like poor Morland, were barely scraping a living. Still, surprising similarities show up across the years: from Tillemans in 1716 to the spaces of Damien Hirst and Tom Phillips that have been photographed in the last 10 years, there's usually a skull around somewhere, and often the artist is not working in splendid isolation but with a rabble of assistants, women, children, cats and dogs hanging about. Time after time, although the feeling of trespassing in a sacred space endures, we as visitors are clearly expected: there's usually an artful still life in the foreground, or drawings, maps, bits of costumes and props – laid out to impress.

It's the Morland I'd take home with me, for its shabby frankness, and as a spur to work harder myself. I'm pretty sure he'd have swapped it for an extra sausage all round for the men and the dogs.

 

 

From decorator to painter – Francis Bacon's interior designs go on show

 

Rare rugs and paintings which Francis Bacon completed when he was working as an interior designer are to go on display for the first time.

 

By Roya Nikkhah, Arts Correspondent, The Sunday Telegraph, 27 September 2009

 

 

 

            British painter Francis Bacon by Arnold Newman 1975

 

 

Hidden in private collections for decades, they escaped the artist's attempts to destroy his early artworks which he believed were inferior to his later masterpieces.

Experts claim the pieces give a vital insight into how his interior design work influenced his more famous works.

To mark the centenary of Bacon's birth on October 28, Francis Bacon: Early Work at Tate Britain will include three rugs and a painted screen dating from 1929 when the then 20-year-old Bacon was decorating homes in London.

On loan from a private collection, they will be shown alongside some of his earliest surviving paintings, including Composition 1933, which echoes patterns in his rug designs, and his 1944 breakthrough work, Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion.

From 1928 to 1930, Bacon worked in London, Paris and Berlin, designing entire interior schemes together with individual pieces of furniture. He began to incorporate some of his interiors work into his first paintings, such as Watercolour (1929), his earliest surviving painting which appears to have evolved from his carpet designs.

Aged 19, his studio in South Kensington was featured in an interiors magazine in a piece entitled The 1930 Look in British Decoration.

His clients included the Australian painter Roy de Maistre, who later became his mentor, and Sydney Butler, the daughter of the art collector Samuel Courthauld, for whom he designed a dining table and set of stools for her London home.

Matthew Gale, the curator of Modern Art and Head of Displays at Tate Modern, said that the new display which opens on October 26 would come as a "tremendous surprise to a lot of people."

He said: "Seeing where an artist comes from is always an incredibly intriguing and revealing thing. Not many people know that Bacon started out in interior design because he didn't make a big thing about it in later life.

"He tended to enforce the sense that the Three Studies... was where his career as the great British painter all began, but his design work was also a crucial moment.

"These works show him linked to a European modernist tradition, with a debt to Picasso and building on cubism as he made the shift from decorator to painter."

 

 

Writer Peppiatt revisits Francis Bacon

 

By Kenneth Baker, San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday, June 21, 2009

 

       

                      Michael Peppiatt, author of Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma 

 

British writer Michael Peppiatt first published his widely appreciated biography of painter Francis Bacon in 1997. Since then, he has kept abreast of everything he could find, published and unpublished, concerning his notorious subject, who died at 82 in 1992.

Beginning in the 1930s, the largely self-taught Bacon made a reputation - underground at first, then increasingly public - as a gay sexual adventurer, in times and cities that then still treated homosexuality as a crime. What he saw on the down-low, and many other sources, informed the grotesque vision of his art.

Apprised well in advance of the internationally touring Bacon retrospective currently at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, Peppiatt produced an even more absorbing revised version of his book, Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma (Skyehorse; 456 pages; $16.95).

He discussed it with me by phone from his home in London.

Q: Was it an advantage or a disadvantage to have known Bacon while you were writing about him?

A: For me, it was essential. I'm not a biographer as such. ... It came out of my fascination with the man and it was done partly to explain that fascination to myself. ... I've met lots and lots of interesting people but never anyone as compelling as Bacon. ... It was a terrific stroke of luck to meet somebody like that when I was 19. I come from a kind of conventional background and I'd never met someone so free and daring and outrageous and inventive. I was at Cambridge studying art history at the time... He sort of excited me about life in way I had never been before. He did all kinds of things I had never done and had no interest in doing but he impressed me by the way he lived and the way he painted.

Q: How did the book originate?

A: I'd met a literary agent, and when Bacon died, she was on the phone with me immediately. ... He'd told me all these things over the years and I'd noted them down. I did do a sort of ghastly literary portrait early on - never published, thank God - and I showed him bits of that and he thought then that it was too indiscreet. But I had that whole manuscript to draw on.

Q: Should readers expect to recognize the new material for what it is?

A: Well, there's a new introduction and a postscript which takes the story up to now in the Bacon world. But all the way through I've threaded in things that I've thought of since, or that have come to the surface, some very minor, some very important. I've sort of unstitched and restitched the whole thing.

I went through and introduced many things, such as his relationship with and debt to Picasso's work, because I've gotten more interested in Picasso recently.

Also, a lot of people who were in Bacon's world are now dead, and I couldn't speak freely about them before - Valerie Beston, for example, who looked after his business affairs and really managed his whole personal life for years, and (critic) David Sylvester.

There were people who were a bit tongue-tied before Bacon's death who became looser after. I talked to his doctor quite a bit, something I didn't feel I could do while he was alive. ... Dr. Brass said some very interesting things about Bacon.

Also, I'm no longer in awe of Bacon, and he's no longer here to keep me in awe.

Q: Did Bacon and Picasso ever meet?

A: No, though they sort of knew each other through their common friendship with Michel Leiris.

Bacon met Giacometti, though, and they struck up quite a lively friendship.

Q: Some years ago, Bacon's London studio was dismantled and reconstructed in Dublin. Did you learn anything through that process?

A: That made no sense to me, just because he happened to be born there. His home is in London or Paris, not Dublin. ... But I consulted on it a bit and was able to see some of the excavated material - notes to himself, descriptions of dreams, photographs.

Q: Was the Bacon enigma in any sense a failure of self-knowledge on his part?

A: I did a show a couple of years ago called Bacon in the 1950s - before he knew he was Bacon, you might say. They're the roughest, clumsiest pictures but there is the extraordinary feeling in them of someone not knowing what he's doing ... as though he was tapping into something he didn't understand himself. ... So in a sense lack of self-knowledge was an advantage at that point.

The content of the painting, the pain and suffering of it, remain an enigma for me. Bacon was a very robust, energetic, life-loving person. He could have black moods, usually brought on by a sort of waterfall of drink. But I find going through the current exhibition that the sense of pain and loneliness is so strong. He used to say, "I'm optimistic, but about nothing."

Q:Have you made any discoveries since the book went to print?

A: There's always something bubbling up. In Venice last week somebody presented me an invitation to a show of supposed Bacon drawings. ... I walked for a long, long time and couldn't find it. But I know if I had, that I would have had serious misgivings about what I saw.

I know that there are letters that will one day surface and give more information.

We need a good film about him. ... There is a fascinating attempt called Love Is the Devil. The actors were brilliant, but it just didn't capture the feel of the man.

Q: Would you consider taking part in such a project?

A: Oh yes, it's one of the most fascinating lives of the 20th century. 

 

 

Francis Bacon

 

Tate Britain, London.
11 September 2008–4 January 2009.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid
3 February–19 April 2009

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
18 May–16 August 2009

Janet McKenzie, Studio International, 30/12/08

 

Francis Bacon (1909-1992) at Tate Britain heralds the artist’s centenary in 2009. It is the first retrospective since 1985, enabling a re-assessment of his work, although the exhibitions in Edinburgh, Francis Bacon: Portraits and Heads (2005) and Norwich, Francis Bacon in the 1950s (2006) at the Sainsbury Centre have been significant. The present exhibition is informed by the revelation, following Bacon’s death in 1992, of the contents of his studio. His working methods were revealed, especially his reliance on photographs.

In interviews, Francis Bacon insisted that he never drew, and that his compositions were intuitive. These claims were refuted by the posthumous revelation of figure studies from the 1950s. Bacon usually commenced painting a figure on to the blank canvas. In 1962 he claimed that the genesis of his paintings came whilst daydreaming. In fact his methods were often more orthodox. The works on paper and lists that came to light after his death indicate that he collected a wide range of material to use as points of reference. The present exhibition, which makes a powerful impact on the viewer, comprises 65 paintings and 13 major triptychs. It is the most comprehensive exhibition to date, which examines the artist’s sources, processes and thoughts. It is accompanied by an excellent, scholarly catalogue; edited by Matthew Gale and Chris Stephens; with essays by Martin Harrison, David Alan Mellor, Simon Ofield, Gary Tinterow and Victoria Walsh.1

Widely regarded as one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century, Francis Bacon can also be seen as one of the most powerful and searing commentators of the human condition in Britain since the Second World War, expressing unflinching images of sexuality, violence and isolation. The exhibition is profound, haunting and iconic. Bacon’s philosophy as an atheist is explored: man in a godless world is presented as simply another animal, subject to the same natural urges of violence, lust and fear. In this Bacon personified the age. The loss of faith in humanity in the late 1940s was such that the human image in art became increasingly difficult to portray. The existential despair expressed by Jean-Paul Sartre in Nausea (1938), found a visual counterpart in the images of despair and alienation of Francis Bacon, the expressionism of Oskar Kokoschka and the apocalyptic visions of Arthur Boyd. For the most part, abstraction in the visual arts dominated because, after the horrors of Auschwitz, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, artists found images of humanity impossible to create.

John Berger, formerly a harsh critic of Bacon, recently wrote:
“He repeatedly painted the human body, in discomfort or agony or want. Sometimes the pain involved looks as if it has been inflicted; more often it seems to originate from within, from the guts of the body itself, from the misfortune of being physical”.2 In spite of the hellish drama expressed, Bacon’s work is inspiring in the very dedication to the craft of painting, and the intellectual dialogue created. This is a profound exhibition, at once challenging and awesome. In spite of the bewilderment that can so often be experienced in confrontation with his painting, there is an unexpected affirmation in the choice of formal language and the precision and care applied to the act of painting: the placement of each head, each brush stroke, every subtle hue, the manner in which the figure inhabits the space, the form within the picture plane. A quiet authority is established by the artist amid the shrieking pain, due in large part to the dialogue he has with art from the past.

Bacon’s sources have been divided by various commentators now, to include ‘high art’ sources and ‘low art’ sources. Bacon chose only the most remarkable artists to aspire to: Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Velasquez and Picasso. He also chose inspiration from the modern world: men in suits, modern furniture, dangling light bulbs, gay comic books. He depicted a low-life from gangster boyfriends, heavy drinking and sexually dissipated Colony Room artists and intellectuals, a collision of high and low culture, survival and destruction.  Chance played an important role in Bacon’s work – spontaneity was of key importance in a Post-Surrealist context. Although he retained the human figure in his work, he embraced the Abstract Expressionists’ love of chance in art as in life. A primordial energy is central to many works, the Bullfight paintings in 1969 being perfect examples of how Bacon infused the image on canvas with a reckless, fatal movement. Describing the collision of illustration of facts and an expression of the very deepest feelings, Bacon noted: “one wants a thing to be as factual as possible and at the same time as deeply suggestive or deeply unlocking of areas of sensation other than simple illustration of the object that you set out to do. Isn’t that what it’s all about?”3 Bacon had the highest ambition from a young age, claiming that his work should either be in the National Gallery or the dustbin, with nothing in between. His ambition as a painter was to define his existential, atheistic stance in a post-photography world. Bacon was a habitual destroyer of paintings; in 1962 he remarked that over-working was a form of destruction, of clogging. Spontaneity was a vital quality, which Bacon sought to capture.

Francis Bacon was born in Dublin, in 1909. He spent most of his life in London, working as a self-taught painter from the 1930s. The human figure was central to his work throughout his long and productive career. He died suddenly in Madrid in 1992. Time has played an important part in the appraisal of Bacon’s work; his unflinching approach to violence and the human condition is more poignant than ever. In 1973 he attributed his preoccupation with violence and war to the times in which he grew up, interwar Germany and the rise of Sinn Fein in Ireland:

I grew up in an atmosphere of threat for a long time…And then I was in Berlin at the beginning of the Nazi thing, my whole life had been lived through a time of stress, and then World War Two, anyone who lived through the European wars was affected by them, they affected one’s whole psyche to that extent, to live continuously under an atmosphere of tension and threat.4

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue, in which the most scholarly essays, explore the lasting significance of his work for the present day. Images of the abyss, of loneliness and the inescapable suffering of human existence dominate the exhibition.

Francis Bacon at Tate Britain is broadly chronological. Room One, Animal, examines Bacon’s early work from the 1940s where his attitude to humanity is already evident. His bestial depiction of the human figure combined personal feelings of anxiety with broader references to the Second World War. He used reproductions from books, catalogues and magazines. The male figure is used repeatedly in Bacon’s long career; he often includes a scream or shout to reveal the internal repressed and violent anxieties. The open mouth represents the tension that exists between the individual and the broader context of time and place.

Room Two, Zone, examines Bacon’s work of the 1950s where he carried out complex experiments with pictorial space. He described the processes, in 1952, as ‘an attempt to lift the image outside of its natural environment’. This work established his easily recognisable images with boxed figures in cage-like structures. Hexagonal ground planes establish tense psychological zones; the use of shuttering, the vertical lines of paint merge the foreground and background. This is the period in which Bacon came of age as a painter. Yet his personal circumstances were extremely difficult: homeless, in debt and in a tempestuous relationship with Peter Lacy. During this time he searched for and found appropriate subject -matter with which to express his deepest anxiety. In the 1950s Bacon used the painting by Velazquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X, (c.1650), as his starting point to explore the insecurities of the powerful. For Bacon, the choice of the portrait of a Pope had nothing to do with religion; as a non-believer he was concerned with the way man behaves to each other. For Bacon the portrait by Velazquez was one of the greatest portraits ever painted for it opened up feelings and prompted the imagination, beyond any real individual or other art work. The colour is magnificent, prompting Bacon to give his own images a sense of tragic grandeur, a sense of authority in painterly terms. The Pope as a unique figure in the world suited Bacon’s ambition to create a powerful image in which power is stripped of its essence.

Room Three, Apprehension, explores the pervading anxiety in all of Bacon’s work. The Cold War anxiety that limited movement and personal freedom was combined in Bacon’s case with the illegality at the time of homosexuality. His sometimes, violent relationship, with Peter Lacy, is captured in the Man in Blue series, which concentrates on a single anonymous figure in a dark suit. Although inspired by the greatest artists from history, Bacon powerful images are achieved by combining the authority of the history of art, with contemporary life. The figure is portrayed in isolation, sitting at a table or at a bar. Like many artists in the twentieth century, including the Italian Futurists, who worked with the figure, Bacon drew from the photographic work of Edweard Muybridge’s, The Human Figure in Motion, (1887) sequential photographs of animals and humans, which Bacon described as ‘a dictionary’ of the body in motion.

Room Four at Tate Britain is devoted to one of Bacon’s most famous and iconic series, of the Crucifixion. He made works throughout his career at pivotal moments. As an atheist Bacon saw the Crucifixion as a particularly poignant act of man’s violence. Brutality and fear are developed in a particularly cruel evocation of the famous religious scene. The ritual of sacrifice is given a new dimension, the brutality emphasised with extreme abandon. Meat carcasses are used by Bacon to diminish the human notion of superiority in the wider scheme of life according to Christianity. In an early interview Bacon describes how existing images breed others. He chose the Crucifixion by Cimabue as a starting point, but readily admits that without all the paintings that have been done on the subject, his could not have produced his own. Often under the influence of alcohol, and prone to drug abuse, and frequently suffering acute exhaustion, Bacon would create Crucifixion images of profound despair. He also juxtaposes fragments of films, such as those of Eisenstein, and isolated stills allowing accident to play a major part in the creative process. Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, (c.1944) is a key work and one that paved the way for his use of the triptych format, and numerous later themes and compositions. The bestial depiction of the human figure was central to Bacon’s oeuvre. Displacing the traditional saints in Crucifixion paintings, Bacon later referred to them as Furies from Greek mythology. In interview with David Sylvester in 1966, he was asked about the use of meat carcasses in these and other works. He stated, “Well, of course, we are meat, we are potential carcasses”.5 Being human in Bacon’s world was utterly debased. Bacon took works from the history of art that were created within a spiritual context and slashed them to bits. In this he felt completely justified, for the Vatican never openly condemned Nazism. This was Bacon’s vendetta for the hypocrisy played out in the name of God. Where artists such as Hieronymous Bosch created devastating images of humanity in works such as his Judgement Day paintings, Bacon chose the traditionally edifying form of portraiture, which entails a degree of trust between painter and sitter, and destroyed it. His disturbing papal images are like the burning of an effigy, leaving the viewer with a sense of physical revulsion.

Room Five Crisis, focuses on the period 1956-1961. Bacon travelled widely in Monaco, France and Africa, mostly with Peter Lacy. He used new methods of painting, choosing thicker paint, strong colour, often violently applied. Using a self-portrait, The Painter on the Road to Tarascon (1888) by Vincent Van Gogh, as his source and inspiration, Bacon painted works that were criticised for their ‘reckless energy’. With hindsight the energy and drama in these works was necessary in introducing chance into the painting process itself.

Room Six is the Archive in the Tate’s exhibition, based on the revelations made by scholars after Bacon’s death. The source material found in Bacon’s studio revealed his reliance on photography and other sources that had not been fully examined during Bacon’s lifetime. There were photographs of athletes, film stills and reproductions of works of art. Further, his practice of commissioning photographs of his friends by John Deakin was fully realised, and formed an important component of the exhibition in Edinburgh, Francis Bacon: Portraits and Heads, (2005). Bacon also took many photographs himself, preferring to draw from photographs, for they were already two-dimensional images. In his studio there were also lists of potential subjects and preparatory drawings, which Bacon had denied making, preferring to emphasise the spontaneous nature of the act of painting directly onto canvas.

Room Seven Portrait, is important given the findings in Bacon’s studio. In descriptions in interviews, most famously those with David Sylvester, Bacon describes his intention to reinvent portraiture. He drew upon the works he admired of Velazquez and Van Gogh. His abiding concern was how a painter should create portraits in an age dominated by photography. He distorted the sitter’s appearance in order to extract a greater, more complete likeness, informed by internal issues of personality and mood. George Dyer his lover is depicted with a mixture of affection and contempt. Three Figures in Room, (1964) expresses a range of human characteristics including absurdity, pathos, and isolation.

Room Eight Memorial, is dedicated to George Dyer, Bacon’s closest companion and model from the autumn of 1963. Two days before the opening of Bacon’s exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris in 1971, Dyer committed suicide. The void created by Dyer’s death, under such tragic circumstances prompted Bacon to produce a number of works in his memory. The large-scale triptych suited the grand nature of Bacon’s statements, enabling him to isolate and juxtapose simultaneously. The energy in these works is overwhelming. The depths of despair experienced in the loss of his lover, are expressed with consummate skill and heartfelt anguish. Bacon told Sylvester shortly after Dyer’s death: “You don’t stop thinking about them; time doesn’t heal” He referred to his repeated depiction of homosexual copulation as a form of exorcism. Although he regretted its ‘sensational nature’, he was compelled to paint, Triptych, May-June, 1973, “to get it out of his system”. As well as repeated posthumous images of Dyer, he also made numerous self-portraits.6

Room Nine, Epic, examines the work Bacon produced in response to poetry and literature, particularly the work of T.S Eliot. Bacon was emphatic in wanting to make works that evoked the meaning and mood of the written word. They were not illustrations.

For me realism is an attempt to capture the appearance with the cluster of sensations that the appearance arouses in me. As for my latest triptych and a few other canvases painted after I read Aeschylus. I tried to create images of the episodes created inside me. I could not paint Agamemnon. Clytemnestra or Cassandra, as that would have been merely another kind of historical painting when all is said and done. Therefore, I tried to create an image of the effect that was produced inside me. Perhaps realism is always subjective when it is most profoundly expressed.7

Bacon felt a great affinity for poetry, perhaps more so than contemporary art. He appreciated a wide range of poetry ranging from the work of Aeschylus, W.B Yeats, Federico Garcia Lorca, Ezra Pound, William Shakespeare and especially T.S. Eliot. From Aeschylus’ Oresteia Bacon found an evocative image: “the reek of human blood smiles out at me”.8 In turn Bacon admired T.S. Eliot’s recasting of Greek tragedy, seeing in it an appropriate model for modern society. Bacon appreciated Eliot’s preoccupation with, ‘mortality, the pathetic futility and solitude of life’, and the manner in which he located ‘those existential conditions within a specific set of modern circumstances’.9

Bacon’s description of the tightrope between abstraction and figuration can also be used for poetry. “You have to abbreviate into intensity”, he remarked, also an apt description for Eliot’s poetry. Bacon chose painting to assuage the futility of life as he saw it. “I think that man now realises that he is an accident, that he is a completely futile being, that he has to play out the game within reason... You can be optimistic and totally without hope”. Later, he said, “I think of life as meaningless; but we give it meaning during our existence”.10 By contrast, Eliot had a Christian faith and belief in an afterlife.

The use of triptych, Bacon insisted was its resistance to narrative: “it breaks the series up and prevents it having a story, that’s why the three panels are always framed separately”. Yet the sequence created by three canvases side by side could equally create a story through the interrelatedness of the three images and specific references within each. Specific intended meaning is always speculative in Bacon’s work. The triptych emphasises Bacon’s fascination with theatrical devices to observe the human condition. Likewise Eliot’s Wasteland, ‘describes specific scenes and events but does not tie them to a single story’.11

Room Ten Late, examines the last decade of Bacon’s life. The confrontation with mortality was an abiding theme in his work, having lost key figures in his life already. In 1993 he stated: “Life and death go hand in hand …Death is like the shadow of life. When you’re dead, you’re dead, but while you’re alive, the idea of death pursues you”.12 The very black paintings made in the 1970s which confronted the death of George Dyer, gave way to more contemplative works, with a palpable restraint and composure. In several paintings he draws on his admiration for the work of the nineteenth-century French painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Numerous reproductions of Ingres’ work were found in his studio, which he combined with incongruous images from sporting figures. Bacon also employed a controlled element of chance by throwing paint at the canvas. The aftermath of violence, blood gushing from a victim onto the pavement, for example, Bacon found exhilarating. Blood on Pavement, (c1988) is presented with the artist’s extraordinary detachment. “Things are not shocking if they haven’t been put into a memorable form. Otherwise, it’s just blood splattered against a wall.”13 The theme of detachment from violence and suffering is achieved throughout Bacon’s oeuvre, from an early Wound for a Crucifixion (c.1934) to the Bullfight works in the 1960s to Oedipus and the Sphinx after Ingres, (1983). The last paintings are the antithesis of Bacon’s early frenzied works, and have been criticised for being formulaic and lacking in tension. They have a monumentality and order, yet returning to the same themes that had occupied him for forty years. His last triptych of 1991 returns to the issue of sexual struggle, which permeates much of his life’s work. His most private feelings are laid bare, and to which he referred in 1971/3,  “I’m just trying to make images as accurately off my nervous system as I can. I don’t even know what half of them mean. I’m not trying to say anything”.14

 

1. Matthew Gale and Chris Stephens, Francis Bacon, Tate Publishing, London, 2008.
2. John Berger, Prophet in a pitiless world,
The Guardian 29 May 2004.
3. Gale and Stephens, On the Margin of the Impossible, op.cit., p.26.
4. Quoted by Stephens, Epic, op.cit., p.218.
5. Quoted by Matthew Gale, Crucifixion, ibid, p.137.
6. Chris Stephens, Epic, ibid, p.214.
7. Ibid, p.216.
8. Gale and Stephens, op.cit., p.26.
9. Ibid, p.26.
10. Ibid, p.26.
11.
Epic, op.cit., p. 213.
12. Rachel Tant, Late, p.233.
13. Ibid, p.233.
14. Ibid, p.237.

 

  Desperately seeking Daddy

 

    Lewis Jones is fascinated and appalled by details of the demons that drove Francis Bacon

 

   The Daily Telegraph Saturday, December 20, 2008

 

      

                          In search of a cruel father: Francis Bacon

 

Michael Peppiatt knew Francis Bacon for nearly 30 years, and in 1997 published an authoritative biography, Anatomy of an Enigma. The 14 essays and interviews collected in Studies for a Portrait necessarily cover much of the same ground, but offer fresh perspectives.

In Bacon’s Eyes, for example, he publishes extracts from a discarded memoir he wrote as a Cambridge undergraduate, when he drank with Bacon in the bars and clubs of Soho. This is brave of him, as the passages selected are embarrassingly self-conscious and derivative – his publisher remarked that they would sound better in French. Still, they catch something of the artist: “Gargoyle face jutting out on nightairs, with a bone structure from a butcher’s. Under barlight, pinkchopped, the smooth skin glistening over the powerful mandibles.”

Bacon was all of a piece, and his talk – recorded here in interviews laid out in the reverential French style – could be as brilliantly perverse as his paintings. “I always think of friendship,” he said, “as where two people can really tear each other to bits.” Such friendships are a staple of his work.

In the essays, Peppiatt writes perceptively about Bacon’s endlessly contradictory nature, his generosity and cruelty, his violence and tenderness, his dandyism and love of squalor, his spectacular dissipation and iron self-discipline, and what he called his “exhilarated despair”. There is a contradiction, too, in the biographer’s approach to his subject. On the one hand, he accepts the artist’s assertion that his paintings are inexplicable, signifying nothing, while on the other he naturally does his best to explain their significance. He is excellent on Bacon’s literary influences, particularly Aeschylus and TS Eliot, and quotes some lines from The Family Reunion (where the two meet) which perfectly describe the paintings:

In and out, in an endless drift

Of shrieking forms in a circular desert

Weaving with contagion of putrescent

embraces

On dissolving bone.

His main source of explanation, though, is the painter’s life, particularly his tortured adolescence. Bacon’s sexual feelings were first aroused by his father, a brutal military man turned unsuccessful horse trainer, who may have had his asthmatic son horsewhipped by the stud farm grooms – a possible inspiration for all the primal screams of the paintings (“the moment of truth, where all pretence and deceit fall away”). In 1927, when Francis was 16, Captain Bacon expelled him from home when he discovered him trying on his mother’s underwear. The boy was entrusted to a suitably manly uncle, who took him from the wilds of County Kildare to Berlin and to his bed, then left him to fend for himself on the streets.

Peppiatt argues persuasively that Bacon spent the rest of his life in search of a “cruel father”, a quest dramatised in his obsessive depiction of demented authority figures, whether subfusc businessmen or empurpled popes (“the ultimate Papa”).

He recreated his Berlin experiences in London, amid the depravity of post-war Soho, where he helped create the Colony Room, a seedy drinking club (still standing, just) whose bilious green décor provides the background for some of his paintings. In his novel England, Half English, Colin MacInnes captures the atmosphere in the club, which he calls Mabel’s: “To sit in Mabel’s, with the curtains drawn at 4pm on a sunny afternoon, sipping expensive poison and gossiping one’s life away, has the futile fascination of forbidden fruit: the heady intoxication of a bogus Baudelairian evil.”

It was there that Bacon met Peter Lacy, his perfect “cruel father”, a former Spitfire pilot who drank three bottles of spirits a day and had an extensive collection of rhino whips, with which he belaboured the painter and his paintings. The couple spent time in Tangiers, where Bacon was repeatedly found wandering the streets at night in an appalling state. A concerned British consul alerted the chief of police, who reported, “Pardon, mais il n’y a rien à faire. Monsieur Bacon aime ça.”

Bacon painted his voluptuous abattoir visions – screaming monkey men, snarling cripples, twisted, hacked and smeared – with the exquisite skill that Van Gogh brought to his sunflowers. A few are lavishly reproduced in Studies for a Portrait. Most of his masterpieces are to be found in full coffee-table format in Peppiatt’s Francis Bacon in the 1950s, first published two years ago as the catalogue for an exhibition of the same name at the Sainsbury Centre at the University of East Anglia. 

 

 

                                  

 

El Estado asegura en 1.252 millones las obras de Bacon que irán al Prado

 

El Estado asegurará en un total de 1.252.110.772 euros 86 obras que se mostrarán en la exposición que el Museo del Prado dedicará al pintor británico Francis Bacon entre febrero y abril del próximo año.

 

bacon-exposicion  Terra España, 19-12-2008


El Consejo de Ministros ha aprobado hoy para esta exposición el importe de la garantía pública estatal, un sistema a través del que el Estado asume el compromiso de asegurar las obras de relevante interés cultural que se presten para exposiciones celebradas en museos de titularidad estatal frente a la posible destrucción, pérdida, sustracción o daño que aquéllas puedan sufrir entre el acuerdo del préstamo y la devolución de la obra.

El otorgamiento no tiene, por tanto, un coste inmediato, sino un compromiso del Estado, como asegurador, para hacer frente a un pago si alguno de los bienes culturales resultase dañado, según explica el Gobierno.

El Museo del Prado tiene previsto inaugurar el próximo 3 de febrero Francis Bacon, una retrospectiva del pintor británico (1909-1992) que actualmente se muestra en la Tate Britain de Londres.

La exposición, que podrá visitarse en el Prado hasta el 19 de abril próximo, comprende obras que abarcan casi medio siglo de creación continua, una actividad que se vio interrumpida por el fatal ataque cardiaco que el artista sufrió en Madrid.

Para el director del Museo del Prado, Miguel Zugaza, 'es una gran oportunidad que esta exposición internacional, posiblemente la más importante que se va a hacer en décadas sobre Bacon, se pueda mostrar en Madrid y muy cerca de las colecciones que él visitó tanto'.

La muestra forma parte de la estrategia de la pinacoteca de abrirse a una relación con el mundo del arte más contemporáneo.


Según afirmó Zugaza hace un año al anunciar el proyecto de esta exposición, 'después de Picasso, Bacon es el más indicado' de ese período para visitar el Prado.


 

Francis Bacon: A Centenary Retrospective

 

Huliq News, Thursday, December 18 2008

 

The first major New York exhibition in 20 years devoted to Francis Bacon (British, 1909–1992)—one of the most important painters of the 20th century—will be presented at The Metropolitan Museum of Art from May 20 through August 16, 2009. Marking the 100th anniversary of the artist's birth,

Francis Bacon: A Centenary Retrospective will bring together the most significant works from each period of the artist's extraordinary career. Drawn from public and private collections around the world, this landmark exhibition will consist of some 70 paintings, complemented by never-before-seen works and archival material from the Francis Bacon Estate, which will shed new light on the artist's career and working practices. The Metropolitan Museum is the sole U.S. venue of the exhibition tour.

The exhibition is made possible in part by The Daniel and Estrellita Brodsky Foundation.

It was organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and Tate Britain, London, in partnership with the Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid.

"Bacon is more compelling than ever: Despite the passage of time, his paintings remain fresh, urgent, and mysterious. Never before has this work been more relevant to young artists," noted Gary Tinterow, Engelhard Curator in Charge of the Metropolitan Museum's Department of Nineteenth-Century, Modern, and Contemporary Art. "For these reasons, we are very pleased to be able to present a retrospective spanning his entire career to our viewing public."

Entirely self-taught, Francis Bacon emerged in 1945 as a major force in postwar art. He rose to prominence over the subsequent 45 years, securing his reputation as one of the seminal artists of his generation. With a predilection for shocking imagery, Bacon's oeuvre was dominated by emotionally charged depictions of the human body that are among the most powerful images in the history of art.

The exhibition's loosely chronological structure will trace critical themes in Bacon's work and explore his philosophy about mankind and the modern condition with visually arresting examples. The earliest group of works, from the 1940s and '50s, focuses on the animalistic qualities of man, including: paintings of heads with snarling mouths (Head I, 1947–1948, The Metropolitan Museum of Art); images of men as pathetic and alone (Study for a Portrait, 1953, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Germany); and the human figure portrayed as base and bestial (Figures in a Landscape, 1956, Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery, England). The exhibition also features numerous versions of Bacon's iconic studies (1949–1953) after Diego Velazquez's Portrait of Innocent X (1650). Mortality is addressed directly in his last works (Triptych, 1991, The Museum of Modern Art, New York).

In the 1960s, working in his classic style of much looser, colorful, and expressive painting, Bacon showed the human body exposed and violated as in, for example, Lying Figure, 1969 (Foundation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, Switzerland). In the following decade he increasingly used narrative, autobiography, and myth to mediate ideas about violence and emotion, as in the 1971 painting In Memory of George Dyer (Foundation Beyeler) and Triptych Inspired by the Orestia of Aeschylus, 1981 (Astrup Fearnley Collection, Oslo, Norway).

A number of important works by Bacon will only be presented at the Metropolitan Museum, including Study for Portrait I, 1953 (Denise and Andrew Saul); Painting, 1946 (The Museum of Modern Art, New York); and Self Portrait, 1973 (private collection, courtesy Richard Nagy, London).

Central to an understanding of the artist's working methods are the large caches of archival materials that have only become available since Bacon's death, especially the contents of the artist's famously cluttered London studio. A rich selection of 75 items from the artist's studio, his estate, and other archives will be included in the exhibition. The objects include pages the artist tore from books and magazines, photographs, and sketches—all of which are source materials for the finished paintings on view in the exhibition.

Francis Bacon: A Centenary Retrospective is organized by Matthew Gale, Head of Displays, Tate Modern, Chris Stephens, Head of Displays, Tate Britain, and Gary Tinterow. The presentation of the exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum is organized by Gary Tinterow and Anne L. Strauss, Associate Curator, assisted by Ian Alteveer, Research Associate, all in the Department of Nineteenth-Century, Modern, and Contemporary Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with essays by Martin Harrison, David Mellor, Simon Ofield, Rachel Tant, Gary Tinterow, and Victoria Walsh. The catalogue is published by Tate Publishing and will be available in the Museum's book shops.

The Metropolitan Museum will offer an array of education programs in conjunction with Francis Bacon, including a symposium; gallery talks; documentary films on the artist; and (on request) verbal imaging tours for people with visual impairments.

 

 

Soho's bohemian Colony Room Club faces extinction 

 

The Colony Room Club, London's fabled drinking den beloved of artists from Francis Bacon to Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst, is set to close in Soho. 

 

By Neil Tweedie, The Daily Telegraph 15 December 2008

 

 

     

                                 Muriel Belcher with Francis Bacon

 

THE denizens of the Colony Room Club should have been gathering last night for a joyous, or at least well lubricated, occasion. London's fabled drinking den celebrated its diamond jubilee yesterday – 60 years of uninterrupted, heroic carousing.

If one place still captures the seedy glamour of post-war Soho it is the Colony, hidden up a dark flight of stairs on Soho's Dean Street. The peep shows may have been overtaken by trendy, overpriced bars, but the one-room dive remains, a bohemian reproach to modern, money-driven conformity. That, at least, is how its membership – once a roll call of the great and the bad in British art and which still includes the likes of Emin and Hirst (who once served naked behind the bar) – like to see it.

Vodkas all around, then. Except that this week could be the last in the club's history. The Colony is facing extinction at the hands of the man into whose care it was entrusted.

Such is the uncertainty over the club's future that it was unclear last night if any celebration would be permitted. Its fate has for months now been the subject of mistrust and rancour. Will the Colony survive? And should it be missed?

A brief history: it was in December 1948 that Muriel Belcher, a combative, foul-mouthed but enterprising lesbian, opened the Soho establishment as an intended meeting place for writers, painters and amusing hard drinkers. The room – it is a small place – was initially decorated in 'colonial' bamboo and leopard skin, in deference to Muriel's Jamaican squeeze, Carmel.

Thus began six decades of bad behaviour, involving some of the best names in the business. Dylan Thomas threw up there, Tom Driberg propositioned there and Jeffrey Bernard advanced towards literal leglessness in its smoky confines, decorated in industrial green from the Fifties onwards.

Painters in particular liked it, including Bacon (a lifelong regular who as a young man was paid by Muriel to bring in interesting types), Freud and the doomed John Milton. Bacon described it as: "A place to go where one feels free and easy."

Under the stewardship of Belcher and that of her protégé Ian Board (equally foul-mouthed and possessed of an enormous nose swollen and purpled by brandy), the Colony grew into and remained an institution. Its eclectic membership was bonded by a supposed capacity for dazzling wit and a definite capacity for enormous amounts of alcohol. Customers at its little bar wallowed in the agreeable air of seediness, their imbibing overlooked by sometimes fine works of art donated by the insolvent artists in settlement of bar bills.

Muriel, who liked to call her members "cunty", was mistress of the put-down, while Board punished the unwary with sudden, violent eruptions of invective. All forms of human frailty were indulged in the Colony, except one: dullness.

Following Board's death in 1994, the club was taken over by Michael Wojas, who had worked under Board. Things continued as before, but the club inevitably lost some of its lustre as its greatest characters drank themselves one by one to death.

The problems started a few years ago when the club's finances began to fall into disrepair. Accounts were not properly prepared and tax and rent went unpaid. The club is housed on the first floor of a Georgian house and its lease was secure, so long as the rent was paid. With a membership of 200-plus paying annual fees of £150 and expensive bar prices, the club should have been able to pay the £12,500 rent easily. But earlier this year, Wojas, citing financial pressures, announced he would not be renewing the lease and the club would have to close. He auctioned off some of the better artworks, which he claimed were his by virtue of Board's will. The sale raised £40,000.

His announcement sparked a rebellion among members who claimed he had no right to close a club which belonged not to him but to them. They succeeded in freezing the proceeds of the auction and securing a High Court ruling in favour of a formal meeting. Last week, a new governing committee was elected amid acrimonious exchanges between the pro and anti Wojas factions. The new body believes it can renegotiate the lease, secure a listing for the club from English Heritage and ensure its future. Wojas, though, still holds the keys to the bar.

Speaking yesterday, Michael Beckett, chairman of the committee, said: "It still is a great place; all the members love it.

"It's the last bit of old Soho. I always meet interesting people when I go in there. Everyone speaks to each other – it's not some dull pub. It's homely – it's a front room rather than a bar."

There will be those who argue that, like empires, clubs rise and fall. That, over time, what was once fresh and genuine becomes hackneyed and artificial, the hollow replaying of bygone glories.

Critics of the Colony would argue that nowadays there are rather more art students than great artists among its members; more aspiring bohemians and hell-raisers than real ones. But its members love it and that should be reason enough for its survival.

What would the formidable Muriel says about it all? There would be a few colourful phrases in there, for certain.

 

 

No buyers for Bacon at major Paris art auction

 

AFP  11 December 2008

PARIS (AFP) — Francis Bacon's Two Figures failed to find a buyer when it went under the hammer at the first major auction of contemporary art in Paris since the global financial crisis erupted.

 

The 1961 oil-and-sand painting by the late Irish-born English painter - depicting two naked, contorted bodies - had been valued at five million to seven million euros (6.68 million to 9.36 million dollars) by Sotheby's.

 

Featured at several Bacon exhibitions, most recently at the Palazzo Reale in Milan earlier this year, it was regarded by art experts as the top lot at the two-day auction that ended Thursday.

 

Overall, the auction - with an estimated 12 million to 17 million euros worth of art - raked in only 6.2 million euros, Sotheby's said, reflecting a softening in the global art market.

 

Bacon - the subject of an ongoing major retrospective at the Tate Britain in London - set a Paris record in 2007 when Sotheby's sold another of his works for 13.7 million euros. 

 

 

 

 

 

True-Crime Temptresses, Bacon’s Rubbish Fill Holiday Art Books

 

Review by Martin Gayford, Bloomberg, December 11, 2008

 

Dec. 11 (Bloomberg) - Ripped photographs and newspaper clippings spattered with paint: This isn’t what you expect in one of the year’s most intriguing art books.

Francis Bacon: Incunabula by Martin Harrison and Rebecca Daniels (Thames & Hudson, 224 pages, $75, 39.95 pounds) is devoted to sweepings from the floor of the world’s most expensive contemporary artist at auction.

Bacon often remarked that he drew his inspiration from an atmosphere of chaos. After his death in 1992, his London studio and its contents were moved to Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin, where they were sifted and studied like the detritus of an Egyptian tomb. This book presents some of the results.

Though these photos, clips and book illustrations were the raw material of Bacon’s art, you can’t help wondering how accidental those markings really are. Perhaps some of these altered images count as artworks themselves. 

 

 

 

 

Фотография мертвого Фрэнсиса Бэкона стала частью коллажа

 


Британская фотохудожница Катерина Шекспир Лэйн для создания своего триптиха «Дань уважения Фрэнсису Бэкону» использовала фотографию мертвого художника.

 

СЕГОДНЯ, Ukraine, 9 December 2008

 

 

Фрагмент работыКатерины Шекспир Лэйн

 

В центре триптиха помещена перевернутая фотография тела английского художника-экспрессиониста Фрэнсиса Бэкона, сделанная в испанском морге через несколько часов после его смерти. Тело лежит на каталке, помещенное в прозрачный пластиковый пакет. Это изображение обрамляют различные фотографии внутренностей.

На двух оставшихся частях триптиха помещен Сальвадор Дали, стоящий у распятия. При этом изображение центральной части вызывает ассоциации с известной картиной Дали «Христос святого Хуана де ля Круус».

Свой коллаж Катерины Лэйн, лично знавшая Бэкона, объясняет отношением самого художника к смерти. По ее утверждению, художник заявлял: «Все мы потенциальные трупы. Когда я захожу к мяснику, мне всегда удивительно представить на прилавке себя, а не животных».

По одному из свидетельств, Фрэнсис Бэкон также говорил о желании, чтобы его тело после смерти положили в пластиковый пакет и выбросили в придорожную канаву.

Триптих будет экспонироваться в одном из лондонских баров в Сохо.

Британский художник Фрэнсис Бэкон умер в Мадриде в 1992 году от сердечного приступа.

 

The first dark image of Bacon's death

 

The Observer, Sunday December 7 2008

 

  

  A detail from Catherine Shakespeare' Lane's Francis Bacon Homage Triptych work. Photograph: Catherine Shakespeare Lane 

 

 It was a suitably macabre request from one of Britain's greatest and darkest 20th-century painters. 'When I'm dead, put me in a plastic bag and throw me in the gutter,'  Francis Bacon told the barman at the infamous Soho drinking club, the Colony Room Club.

Sixteen years after the colourful artist's death, one of Bacon's circle of friends has gone a long way to try to make his wish come true. A photograph taken in a Spanish morgue hours after his death and never seen before in public reveals that the artist had been placed in a transparent body bag. The shocking image now forms the centrepiece of a new work of art created by Bacon's friend, the photographer Catherine Shakespeare Lane. 

 

The photograph is mounted on a background of offal and framed by two images of Salvador Dalí standing by a crucifix. The bleakly humorous tribute to Bacon and to the Spanish surrealist Dalí will go on display for the first time this week at the famous London watering hole in London's Dean Street, which is under threat of closing down. 

 

Lane believes her triptych is an appropriate homage to her late friend. Bacon, she points out, once famously said: 'We are potential carcasses. If I go into a butcher's shop I always think it's surprising that I wasn't there instead of the animal.' 

 

A lifetime honorary member of the club, Lane hopes the hanging of the image will serve as a fitting farewell to both the great painter and to a venue which, since the Sixties, has been the haunt of many of the leading creative names in the country, including Lucien Freud, Dylan Thomas, the actors Peter O'Toole and John Hurt and the writer Jeffrey Barnard. 

 

'I'm very sad that if the club closes at the end of the month,' said Lane. 'I sincerely hope it does not die and can survive.'

 

A last minute High Court order obtained by the so-called Shadow Committee of club members preventing its closure before an annual general meeting could yet save the day. 

 

In recent years controversial leading artists such as Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and Sarah Lucas and Sam Taylor Wood have all been habitues of the club, with the model Kate Moss even tending the bar one evening. The singer Lisa Stansfield and the film distributor Hamish McAlpine are also regulars and have both tried to save the club by paying off some of its debts.

 

Lane defends the treatment of Bacon's dead body as in keeping with the way that the artist saw the world. 'People always think of Francis as gloomy and tortured because that is what they see in his work,' said Lane. 'But he got all that out in his painting and when he was out with us it was not like that. He was out to play.'

 

 

No bed for Francis Bacon

 

Discipline and chaos, suffering and human meat, as seen in the works of an unusually articulate artist

 

Alan Jenkins, The Times Literary Supplement, December 3, 2008

 

 

When Francis Bacon said “The only really interesting thing is what happens between two people in a room”, he did not mean what happens between an artist and his model – or if so, only indirectly. Bacon’s portraits of himself, his friends and (male) lovers are among the most enthusiastically acclaimed of all his pictures, but they were done almost without exception from photographs and memory, not from life. From a handful of paintings, early and late, it is clear that for Bacon some of the most interesting things happened before, during or after copulation – “or buggery, however you want to put it”, as he himself put it in the late 1960s, with an insouciance that could have been dangerous at any time before then.

Yet, as John Russell pointed out nearly thirty years ago, “perhaps the most persistent of Bacon’s preoccupations is the problem of what a man is to do when he is alone in a room”, and with only a very few exceptions, his pictures until the later 1960s more often than not featured single figures: human males, animals, especially apes, heads or heads-and-shoulders, isolated in indeterminate spaces, framed or confined in a kind of geometric canopy or glass box, seen through strips of (shower?) curtain, paint cascading down the interiors or, in the few landscapes, deft strokes rendering wild grasses with Oriental precision. True, it is not always clear from its posture and mass whether the pictured form is human or ape; nor if in fact there is more than one of them pictured. Bacon would sometimes, to achieve the desired “thickness”, model his single figure on a sequence of photographs from Eadweard Muybridge’s The Human Body in Motion that showed two men wrestling – though at a glance, they could be having sex. (“I very often think of people’s bodies that I’ve known, the contours of those bodies that have particularly affected me, but then they’re grafted on to Muybridge bodies”, Bacon explained.) Then, once he had begun to show two or more people, the coupling – as in those earlier exceptions – becomes explicit.

And, in his later vision, coupling is murder. In panel after panel of the large-scale triptychs which were Bacon’s preferred format from the 1960s on, the human carcass – mangled, butchered and bloodied, studded with entry- and exit-wounds, spilling muscle tissue and entrails, or intact but warped into terrible knots of tension, straining in climax or death agony – is pinioned on carpets or sprawled on stained mattress-ticking, like a police photograph at the scene of a sex crime. And indeed other panels actually show spectators or recorders – one holds a cinecamera – of the main event, be it coupling or crucifixion, which has left its protagonist eviscerated.

Bacon disavowed any moral or philosophical intention behind these images of human suffering and detachment, and still more emphatically denied trying to make a historical point – notwithstanding his brief flirtation with the idea of publishing a pictorial “History of Europe in [his] lifetime” (he was born in 1909). One of the most articulate of painters, with a strong sense both for drama and self-presentation, from the moment he became a succès de scandale Bacon was a tireless subject of interviews (with Russell and David Sylvester, preeminently): occasions he seized to rehearse a repertoire of anecdotes and apophthegms, some haughty and whimsical, some purposefully discomfiting in their frankness, but almost all prompted by the contradictory urges to elevate his calling to a higher mystery or deflate its pretensions with a rude reminder of fleshly limitation.

In this he was both disingenuous and provocative, refusing, for example, to allow in his own crucifixions the significance granted to the image by the entire Western tradition – it was an example of human behaviour, no more and no less. Behaviour, furthermore, that aroused in Bacon a sense of his own wounded or tortured nature: a crucifixion, he said, was almost a self-portrait. Almost from the beginning – in Painting, 1946, now too fragile to have made the trip from MoMA to the current exhibition at Tate Britain – the painter evinced a fascination with sides of meat, a motif that recurs in his later crucifixions and couplings. When asked about its preponderance in his imagination he was ready with a dual response. “Every time I go into a butcher’s”, he said, “I’m surprised that it’s not me hanging there”; yet the meat was simultaneously a purely aesthetic stimulus, its colours “absolutely beautiful”. Questioned about his more Grand Guignol scenes he would shrug, affect complete ignorance of their import, personal or otherwise, and insist on his overriding desire to make “beautiful paintings”.

From the very small number of canvases that survived Bacon’s apprentice years it is far from obvious that this was his ambition when he started (if it was, his idea of beauty was as convulsive as any Surrealist’s). The big, bold canvases in the grand manner of his gilded middle age, exposing lavish, ritualistic cruelties, are indeed very beautiful, and only a handful of pictures on show here, from the later 1950s, seem unsure in technique or faltering in composition. In the room titled “Crucifixion” (the Tate’s hang is a compromise between a chronological and a thematic arrangement), the body, whatever else it is being subjected to, mostly retains recognizable limbs and a torso. Not so in the first room, “Animal”, where a distended eye, mouth, teeth and phallic appendages dominate: to these organs of appetite and aggression, in some of Bacon’s early works, the human and the nightmarishly non-human alike are reduced. Assisted by Bacon himself, commentators have established an impeccably modern pedigree for these seemingly sui generis images: in Picasso’s “biomorphic” beach scenes, 1930s photojournalism and the films of Sergei Eisenstein and Luis Buñuel. (Lessons in form and handling were learnt from Graham Sutherland and the Australian Roy de Maistre, too, though Bacon was less prompt to acknowledge them in later years.) In her catalogue essay Victoria Walsh cites Foundations of Modern Art by Amédée Ozenfant (1931) as having perhaps fertilized the insatiably curious young painter’s imagination in ways that would lie dormant for years: “The search for intensity dominates the whole of modern painting. There can be no intensity without simplification, and to some degree, no intensity without distortion . . . of what is seen naturally”.

In 1931, Bacon was twenty-two, had made his way as, more or less, a rent boy in Weimar Berlin, had learnt French living in Chantilly and was working in London as an interior decorator and designer of Bauhaus-derived furniture for clients who included the editor of Vogue and the novelist Patrick White. But almost as soon as he began to paint in earnest (in oil on canvas, from which he rarely deviated for forty-odd years), the beauty was there as well, and was there till the end, in paintings that proclaim him one of the great colourists of the last century: from the startling orange ground against which the first three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (1944) writhe and shriek, to the sumptuous deep reds of its grander, more imposing and artistically pointless second version (1988). Orange flames out at us again from the Figure Studies, 1945–6, while Figure Study II is the work in which another of Bacon’s motifs – or obsessions – unequivocally makes an entrance: the gaping mouth, open in a scream of terror, a snarl of hatred or a howl of impotent rage. Indelibly fixed in Bacon’s imaginary by Picture Post shots of Goebbels and Mussolini haranguing the crowds, Poussin’s Massacre of the Innocents and the nurse’s silent scream in The Battleship Potemkin, in Figure Study II, where it is appended to a crouched or kneeling half-clothed form, the mouth powerfully subverts those reliable signifiers of bourgeois respectability, umbrella, herringbone tweed and potted plants.

In the late 1940s (with a series of Heads) and the early 50s (Study for Nude, 1951; Study of a Figure in a Landscape and Study for Crouching Nude, both 1952) Bacon’s pictures posit an extra-historical continuity between the human at its noblest, as in Michelangelo’s drawings and sculpture, and the simian – almost to the point of conflating them. Head VI (1949), though, returns us, whatever Bacon thought or said, to the human in historical time, combining the motifs of toothed, gaping mouth and wildly staring eye with the vestments of a little brief authority: the highest authority on earth, indeed, for many, though in Bacon the vestments are imperial purple rather than rich pontifical red, as in his master-image, the Portrait of Pope Innocent X by Velázquez. Bacon’s remarkable travesty inaugurated a new series of studies “after” the great original, though his fixation was inspired, in fact, by a reproduction. (Even when he visited Rome, Bacon avoided seeing the Velázquez in the Doria Pamphilj, a diffidence in which embarrassment perhaps played a part. Much later he dismissed most of his repeated assaults on it as “silly”, and it is hard to disagree, despite or because of the presence in the current Tate show of two of his strongest and least familiar Popes, as well as Head VI: one, once thought lost, from 1950, the other from 1965 – this last looking as if he has been shot in the head at close range, or as if the rage or terror that animated his predecessors had finally exploded his face from within.)

That so many of Bacon’s motifs derived, in complex, vigilant ways from photography and film is entirely consistent with his acute awareness that these new art forms had rendered representation in painting obsolete, and with his horror of mere “illustration”. This was not to say that painting should not deal in “fact”: just that fact comprehended more than what is “seen naturally”. “One wants a thing to be as factual as possible and at the same time as deeply suggestive or deeply unlocking of areas of sensation other than simple illustration of the object”, as Bacon put it to David Sylvester. He was also one of the most literary of painters, an admirer of Ulysses, an avid reader of poetry and drama who saw that the Oresteia and T. S. Eliot’s Sweeney Agonistes were blood relations, who liked to quote lines from both yet who repeatedly and sometimes fiercely repudiated attempts to read “a story” into his own work.

But he insisted too much. At one level, his habit of working in triptychs, and at a deeper one the suggestiveness he often in fact achieved, not just in triptychs but in single paintings, militates against that very insistence. It is hard to look at such works as the Crucifixions of 1962 and 65, Lying Figure (1969), Triptych, Studies from the Human Body (1970) or Triptych March 1974 without a sense of prelude, climax and aftermath – though not necessarily in that order. Some such adumbrated narrative, an intimate human drama about to be embarked on, concluded or aborted also haunts the restrained and very beautiful portrait studies of a suited Man in Blue, his face and hands bright-lit on a deep blue ground, that are at once the most “readable” of all Bacon’s male figures, and the most ambiguous.

What is common to all these images, early, late and middle, is the overwhelming presence or threat (or promise) of violence. Bacon’s obsession with the figure drove him repeatedly to disfigure it – to all but dismantle the heads and bodies he painted on his canvases, and destroy the canvases themselves, when he judged them to be failures. Working from photographs, so the artist said, enabled him to do the necessary violence to his subjects – the better to “distort them into appearance”; and that could not happen if the subject was actually present. (This showed an untypical délicatesse. Bacon’s definition of friendship was two people “pulling each other apart”, and in sex his pursuit of the roughest of rough trade bordered on the suicidal.) But he also spoke repeatedly of his desire to make paintings that would “return [the viewer] more violently to life”, by which he meant, as I understand it, shock that viewer out of habitual or self-protective ignorance and into awareness of his own physical reality. “An attempt to bring the figurative thing up onto the nervous system more violently and poignantly” was how he described his own work. “There is an area of the nervous system”, Bacon believed, “to which the texture of [oil] paint communicates more violently than anything else.”

Paintings (some paintings anyway) could mysteriously “unlock the valves of sensation” or of “intuition and perception about the human situation”; could, by seemingly subliminal means, evoke a memory trace of raw, unmediated existence. Somewhere behind this lay Baudelaire and Proust, with their different ideas of involuntary memory. But for Bacon (who also liked to cite Paul Valéry: “modern man wants the sensation without the boredom of its conveyance”), to unlock the valves of his own subconscious was to bring up onto the canvas and “onto the [viewer’s] nervous system” an apprehension of life or “being-aliveness” as violent, primordial struggle, redeemed only by an instinctive grace, or a stroke of luck.

For Bacon, a chronic asthmatic, the struggle began early: it was the struggle for breath itself. The second son of a bad-tempered military man-turned-horse breeder and the heiress to a Sheffield steel fortune, he was brought up in Ireland and England in a succession of big houses where the omnipresence of dogs and horses was a perpetual challenge to his well-documented will to live. Bacon senior made no secret of his disappointment in his sickly, sensitive son, whose party piece was to appear at family gatherings in full drag. Michael Peppiatt is one among many writers on Bacon to make the connection, in his absorbing biography Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an enigma (1995, now revised, updated and reissued by Constable in paperback), between the father’s screaming rages, the child’s gasping for air and the importance of the gaping mouth in the work of the mature artist. The killings and house-burnings of the Irish uprising and Civil War (“Violence upon the roads; violence of horses”, in Yeats’s words) formed the backdrop to Bacon’s childhood, further enlivened by the attentions of the grooms who were encouraged to take horsewhips to the young master to punish him for the attentions he was over-fond of paying them.

Three of his four siblings died premature deaths, but Francis would enjoy long life, vigorous appetites and legendary resilience, physical and psychological. Ejected from the family at sixteen, he soon discovered the resourcefulness and the hunger for risk that would sustain him both as a homosexual adventurer and a painter, along with his preferred modus vivendi: to lurch between opulence and squalor, between a punishing creative routine and an equally punitive, if delighted (and delightful), dissipation. In later life the prices commanded by his paintings made him rich, but he had established his careless mastery over money much earlier, in the casinos of Berlin and Monte Carlo. The centrality to both gambling and painting of chance, risk, instinct – in painting Bacon subsumed these under what he called “accident”, the way one mark might suggest another, or perhaps an entirely new image, without the apparent intervention of the will or conscious direction – made them more than analogous: they were two sides of the same life force, the same compulsion to live at the maximum pitch of intensity, for the same high stakes and correspondingly high rewards.

In some sense all Bacon’s paintings represent another throw of the dice, a record not of how he “saw the world” but of the only way he, human meat and a carcass-in-waiting as he was, could yet feel himself to be truly alive. Peppiatt, Sylvester and other witnesses have made clear that this life-and-death struggle issued as often as not in despair and self-disgust; but of course for the artist there was no choice. The paradox – and it strikes with greater force in the final two large rooms of the Tate exhibition, showing works from the last fifteen years of Bacon’s very productive life – is that intensity itself could become a habit; that so many of these later works look as mannered and fussy, in their beautiful, wearyingly nasty way, as anything from the Academic schools of the nineteenth century, in theirs.

The great exceptions are the paintings shown here in a room titled “Memorial”. Bacon’s companion, George Dyer, committed suicide in their hotel room on the eve of the artist’s retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris in 1971; three extraordinary triptychs from 1971–3 recall Dyer’s living presence, and imagine his last hours, with monumental and moving factuality. Bacon often remarked on the “awfulness” of his personal life – another of his lovers, Peter Lacey, had steadily drunk himself to death in the 1950s – and while no one would wish he had known more unhappiness of this kind, we can regret that he did not always achieve, or desire, the direct appeal to human emotion these pictures make, while surrendering nothing of painterly value: they have a stunning aura in which grandeur, indignity and grief are all present, and inseparable.

As with Eliot in poetry, Bacon’s art sinks deep roots into the whole psycho-physical life and attempts a reinvention of tradition (“the figurative thing”), rather than the Freud-sponsored violation of the natural order to which Surrealism aspired. To that extent, the confusion of the Times reviewer, faced with Bacon’s very first solo show in 1934, was understandable: “The difficulty . . . is to know how far his paintings and drawings . . . may be regarded as artistic expression and how far as the mere unloading on canvas and paper of what used to be called the subconscious mind”. (Cited in “Bacon and his Critics”, by Gary Tinterow, in the Tate catalogue.) Mere! We like to think we have come a long way since then, but Bacon and the best of his commentators are part of the long way we have come. The catalogue contains a useful chronology, but none of its seven essayists adds substantially to what has already been written by Russell, Lawrence Gowing, Michel Leiris and Gilles Deleuze. Michael Peppiatt’s new book, Francis Bacon: Studies for a portrait, contains interviews with and recollections of the artist from the 1960s almost until his death: that is, either the raw materials of Peppiatt’s biography or bits of the biography distilled into essays and articles. For completists only, it does include the full, fascinating text of Bacon’s answers when he was interviewed for the first time by his future biographer, in 1963, before celebrity began to overtake some of his responses.

Much recent scholarly interest in Bacon has focused on the “drawings” controversy: whether the many preparatory sketches and studies found in the artist’s studio and elsewhere after his death – studies which, while he was alive, he insisted he never produced – could be genuine. (It seems pretty obvious that some are, and some aren’t.) A room at the Tate (“Archive”) is devoted to some genuine-looking sketches, over-painted photographs and “doctored” images, while Francis Bacon: Incunabula by Martin Harrison and Rebecca Daniels is a spellbinding pictorial record of the most significant of Bacon’s visual sources. The entire fantastic compost of rags, paints, brushes, magazines, torn-out pages and tattered reproductions laid down over decades in Bacon’s South Kensington mews has been reconstructed entire at the Dublin City Gallery, the Hugh Lane. While the artist’s living space was almost monastic in its austerity, his workroom was a materialization of the rich, sedimented strangeness of his inner world. To him, both discipline and chaos seem to have been indispensable.



FRANCIS BACON
(Tate Britain, until January 4, 2009)

Matthew Gale and Chris Stephens, editors
FRANCIS BACON
288pp. Tate Publishing. £24.99.
978 1 85437 738 8

Michael Peppiatt
FRANCIS BACON
Studies for a portrait
272pp. Yale University Press. £18.99 (US $35).
978 0 300 14255 6

Martin Harrison and Rebecca Daniels
FRANCIS BACON
Incunabula
256pp. Thames and Hudson. £39.95 (US $75).

978 0 500 09343 3



Alan Jenkins is Deputy Editor of the TLS. Drunken Boats, his translation of Arthur Rimbaud’s Le Bateau ivre, was published last year.

 

 

 

Bacon's theatre of the absurd

 

On Francis Bacon at the Tate Britain, London.

 

By David Yezzi, The New Criterion, December 2008

 

High-priced meat-under-glass has been a staple of British art for the better part of a century, long before Damien Hirst’s fashionable sharks and calves appeared on the scene. Witness the current career retrospective of paintings by Francis Bacon (surely the ultimate nom de charcuterie), timed in accordance with the artist’s centenary in 2009. [1] Bacon’s take on the human condition was simple: “We are meat,” he liked to say. His paintings of sixty years, from Crucifixion (1933) to Triptych (1991) in the Tate show, rarely stray off message, recapitulating his dark matter in image after traumatic image. (From the mid-1960s on, Bacon displayed most of his sanguinary subjects behind glass, placed in gilded frames.) It is worth noting that the exhibition originates at Tate Britain, not at Tate Modern, as I initially assumed—a far better venue for staking Bacon’s claim as the greatest British painter since Turner (and, in the eyes of many, as one Tate press release has it, Britain’s greatest painter period!). But Bacon’s ubiquity and collectability, abetted by his famously theatrical subjects and bravura technique, mainly confirm his star status, not his mastery.

Certainly, anyone possessed of a glancing acquaintance with modern art knows what a Bacon looks like: arrays of distended viscera, steaming sides of beef, screaming Popes in “space-frames,” crucifixions, menacing dogs, swirled faces, contorted nudes decomposing on divans, Muybridge-esque figures recast in blurs of paint. Brutal, bloody stuff. It’s also attention-grabbing stuff, both pictorially and commercially. Even those who couldn’t give a fig for art will have noticed Bacon’s recent record-breaking outing in the marketplace: Triptych (1976) sold in May at Sotheby’s for over $86 million, the highest price ever paid at auction for a contemporary art work. Last month, Study for Self-Portrait (1964), estimated at $40 million, sat on the block at Christie’s without a bid, but one assumes this was due more to our economy’s recent resemblance to a Bacon painting than to any decline in Bacon’s blue-chip stock.

Only Bacon’s friend Lucian Freud, among the London School painters, comes close to rivaling his celebrity and mystique. Bacon worried that his biography would over-weight viewers’ interpretations of his work, and not without reason; his was a colorful life tinged with tragedy. One needn’t scratch the surface very deeply before biographical details emerge, particularly in the portraits and late paintings. Bacon’s reputed drinking, gambling, and masochism (he fled one severe beating clothed only in fishnet stockings) fueled his image as a peintre maudit. His greatest subject was ultimately Francis Bacon.

A darling of the bohemian intelligentsia, Bacon spent his bad-boy early years in London commuting “between the gutter and the Ritz” (as he put it): dodging rents, committing petty crimes, and living off of patrons and friends. He took pride in the fact that he never received formal training as a painter. Born in Ireland to English parents, he fled a violent homelife in which his horse-trainer father oversaw regular whippings of his son by the grooms. In 1927, Bacon traveled to Germany with Cecil Harcourt-Smith, a family friend (with whom he wound up in bed). He found Berlin in the Twenties much as Auden described it at that time—“a bugger’s daydream.” It was seeing Picasso’s work in Paris, where he traveled after Berlin, that set him on the road to becoming a painter.

Bacon’s earliest painting in the Tate exhibition is his spindly, Picasso-inflected Crucifixion (1933). Crucifixions became a signature motif for the artist. Among his most well-known images are Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (1944), his first major triptych, and Painting (1946), a splayed cow carcass and bloody-mouthed figure arranged as an abattoir-altarpiece, which Alfred Barr acquired for the Museum of Modern Art. Bacon followed these with a series of Popes, beginning with Head VI (1949) and culminating in the streaked and gilded bombast of Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1953). The Popes were one of a number of motifs Bacon would come back to later in his career with diminishing returns. (Bacon was extremely self-critical and destroyed a great deal of work, but by the time he came to repent the Popes presumably it was too late to get his hands on them.)

Bacon often equivocated when asked questions about his influences and the significance of his work, but certain things were repeated often enough to be believed: 1) that he was an Nietzschean atheist, 2) that Picasso had meant a great deal to him, 3) that he intended no religious meaning with his crosses and Popes, and 4) that his greatest guiding principle as a painter was the Surrealist notion of chance. According to Michael Peppiatt in his recently updated biography, [2] what Bacon most wanted was to “excite” himself, to stir emotion ruthlessly, to “remove veils” from experience, to provide direct access to the valves of feeling. His means: bloody mouths, bones, flesh, screaming heads. Peppiatt once claimed, in the September 1984 issue of Connoisseur, that “even his detractors would agree that there is nothing of the easy chair about the work of Francis Bacon. Far from ease, it offers extreme disquiet.” I can’t say that I’m convinced. A kind of bathos dogs Bacon’s work, arising from the fact that his disquiet is, so to speak, always in an “easy chair,” swathed in gorgeous magenta and crimson and served up with a Sargent-like facility of the brush.

Bacon’s seductive paint handling is the first thing that viewers notice after the carnage. His methods of applying paint were as idiosyncratic as they were versatile. Hugh Davies and Sally Yard describe his everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach, in which his materials ranged from

Brillo pads to cashmere sweaters, as brushes are joined by rags, cotton wool, sponges, scrub brushes, garbage-can lids, paint-tube caps, the artist’s hands, and whatever else he can find in the studio for the application and shaping of painterly passages… . Thick impasto coexists with thinned washes of pigment and raw canvas, sand and dust are occasionally used to give texture to the paint. A few works of the 1980s are veiled in the haze produced by applying paint with an aerosol spray.

Reviewing Bacon’s show at the Malborough-Gerson gallery in 1968, Hilton Kramer found him “one of the most dazzling pictorial technicians on the current scene.” Why, then, he asks, does the work “strike me as being clever rather than profound—brilliant rather than authentic?” Kramer ends with a recognition of “exactly how safe an artist Mr. Bacon really is.”

 

Safe and also stagey. Bacon’s characteristic space is theatrical, suggesting operating theaters, thrust stages, wrestling rings, circus rings, bull rings, throne rooms, closets, altars—all playing areas in Bacon’s theater of the absurd. Beckett is a name that tends to come up when considering Bacon’s vision, but it’s closer to Genet (whose plays he recommended to friends). Think of the bishop in Le Balcon, who is in fact a man in costume acting out a ritualistic sexual fantasy in a brothel that the madame calls a “house of illusions.” In the critic Martin Esslin’s description, absurdist theater portrays “a world that functions mysteriously outside our conscious control… . It no longer has religious or historical purpose; it has ceased to make sense.” This is Bacon’s world, in which the artist rejects both narrative and didactic purpose and attempts to confront, in Esslin’s phrase, “the spectator with the harsh facts of a cruel world and his own isolation.”

 

This sense of chance and of confrontation is a key element of Bacon’s most touted images, such as Painting (1946), with its absurdist illogic and raw imagery. Yet the “safety” that Kramer perceived in the late Sixties already exists here in the picture’s pink and mauve symmetrical background. Bacon’s paint handling is so delicious, it’s like a mountain of crème Chantilly—far from horrified by it, you want to eat it with a spoon. Bacon is continually betrayed by his beginnings as an interior designer, no where more so in Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion. As Peppiatt notes of the background colour of Studies, “It is worth recalling that cadmium orange, which had become the fashionable colour in avant-garde interior design in the 1930s, remained Bacon’s favourite colour.” Bacon’s fashion colours and mod furniture come off as frivolously elegant.

 

Frivolity is, of course, the last thing most people associate with Bacon’s work. As Bacon’s Soho crony and (unauthorized) biographer Daniel Farson writes: “To appreciate Bacon’s work, it helps to see him as a deeply moral artist.” This strikes me as exactly what Bacon is not, so much so that I wonder if Farson could really believe it himself. Elsewhere he says that Bacon repeatedly told him that he believed in “nothing.” John Richardson, the biographer of Picasso, repeats the error: “By holding a mirror up to our degenerate times Bacon proves himself to be one of the most moral artists of the day. Far from titillating us, he castigates us.” But Bacon does no such thing. Firstly, he is not concerned with our “times” in any historical sense, except in so far as he personally embodies them. For Bacon, images from news photographs and films—the screaming nurse on the Odessa steps in Potemkin or a Nazi armband, for example—have little to say about “our degenerate times” and volumes to say about Bacon’s roiling inner life. When a television commentator suggested that Bacon’s work was a condemnation of man’s inhumanity to man, Bacon retorted: “That’s the last thing I think of.”

 

It is not Bacon’s stark subject matter that disqualifies him as a “moral artist”; it is his aestheticization of the horror depicted. As the critic Yvor Winters explains, the moral artist does not shy from exploring the extremes of human experience, but he portrays evil as evil and makes us know it as evil. This is not the case with Bacon, either in his professed world view or in his practice:

In all the motor accidents I’ve seen, people strewn across the road, the first thing you think of is the strange beauty—the vision of it, before you think of trying to do anything… .

There’s no one more unnatural than myself, and, after all, I’ve worked on myself to be as unnatural as I can. I can’t really talk about painting because I only work for myself and just by chance it happens that for some reason I’ve been lucky enough to be able to live by something that obsesses me, but I haven’t got any morals to preach… . I just work as closely to my nerves as I can.

One leaves the Bacon show at the Tate feeling beaten up by images of the dying George Dyer (Bacon’s tragic lover) vomiting into a sink, the gaping wounds, the twisted flesh. Bacon sought to transmit emotion as immediately as possible, which in a sense he did, but it’s not emotion he transmits so much as sensation. Shock lends Bacon’s work its edge, but it diminishes it as well. The paintings register like a trauma on the spinal column, without ever reaching the more complex centers of the brain. Later in Bacon’s career, when shock gave way to chic, the game was lost. Second Version of Triptych 1944, his reworking of Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, replaces the brushy energy of the earlier work with a spray-painted softness that makes Bacon’s phallic Furies look like tchotchkas in a Madison Avenue boutique. His Innocent X of 1965 replaces the pontiff’s rictus with the taffy-pull features of the later portraits. Bacon became convinced that he could have done the Popes better than he had, but this is no proof. Nor is the reworking of Painting from the 1960s (not included in the Tate show), which dresses the macabre scene up with a sunny yellow background and what look like paper garlands—a travesty of Gauguin’s Yellow Christ (1889). Bacon detested illustration, but in the end he failed to escape it, and the portraits moved him even further in this direction.

 

The Peppiatt book contains a revealing quotation: “When I was young, I needed extreme subject matter for my paintings… . Then as I grew older I began to find my subject matter in my own life. During the 1960s the Furies, the dictators and screaming Popes, the anonymous figures trapped in darkened rooms gave way to portraits of living identified beings.” And here is the disconnect: Bacon reviled abstraction because for him it was all design, empty aesthetics. Bacon relied on his figures to ground his work in reality, to lend his paintings the force and horror of the real world. But the triptychs and portraits of the Sixties and later marinate in the very aesthetic stew he had hoped to avoid. Bacon’s contortions of angst become so pretty, so tasteful. The large squares of pink and orange (orange is the new pink, or is it the other way around?), the natty black suits, the distinctive chaises and tables make the lot seem very “safe” indeed.

 

The selection of works for the exhibition is judicious, suggesting more variety in the work than is really there. After the monotony of the Bacon treatment—floating central figures against disconnected flat colors—sets in, the decline is steady: the final paintings are his least interesting. As David Sylvester prophesied in 1955, “many of the things that make [Bacon] exciting today may render him laughable for future generations.” The colored arrows pointing to newspapers and wounds and bodies on toilets; the globs of thrown white paint; the increased staginess—all seem like precious, empty gestures. The Tate retrospective carefully elucidates Bacon’s photographic sources; it includes BBC footage of Bacon in conversation with David Sylvester that highlights his considerable charm, but the work itself seems no different that it did at the MOMA retrospective in 1990—except that it has grown a little more tired with the passage of time.

 

Bacon’s paintings, ostensibly transmitting high-pitched emotion, are cut off from emotion. He never flinched from working on a grand scale, from putting his feet up against the masters—Grünewald, Titian, Vélazquez—but in the end his almost mechanical serialism and cool shocks bring him closer to Warhol, whose films Bacon admired even as he turned his nose up at the paintings. Rather than being the greatest British painter since Turner, Bacon may better be seen as the great precursor to the soullessness of Damien Hirst, whose shark is currently on view at the Met. When Francis Bacon arrives in New York next summer, viewers will have a chance to consider the two artists under one roof.

 

Notes

 

1. Francis Bacon opened at Tate Britain, London, on September 11, 2008 and remains on view through January 4, 2009. The exhibition will travel to the Museo National del Prado, Madrid (February 3–April 19, 2009) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (May 18–August 19, 2009). A catalogue edited by Matthew Gale and Chris Stephens, with essays by Martin Harrison, David Alan Mellor, Simon Ofield, Gary Tinterow, and Victoria Walsh, has been printed by Tate Publishing (288 pages, £24.99 paper).

 

 

2. Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma, by Michael Peppiatt; Constable, 456 pages, £12.99 paper.

David Yezzi is the Executive Editor of The New Criterion.

 

 

 

Leading 20th Century Artists Present at Sotheby's Contemporary Art Sale in Paris

 

Art Daily, Tuesday, December 2, 2008

 

PARIS.- Sotheby’s two-session sale of contemporary art, to be held in Paris on December 10/11, has an overall estimate of €12-17 million and features 142 important works by leading 20th century artists. Several represent landmarks in their artists' careers or number among the handful of works by the artist still in private hands.

The top lot at the evening sale is expected to be Francis Bacon's Two Figures (1961), featuring two sturdy, naked figures shown contorted and convulsed, their faces wracked in pain (lot 11, estimate €5,000,000-7,000,000). This sort of subject recurred in Bacon's work for many years, but this painting is particularly important as it marks a watershed in his figurative approach. By placing the Two Figures in an abstract setting, Bacon underlines both their solitude and captive condition – they are imprisoned, as it were, within a dull field of faded pink and dirty grey, where space and time are frozen.

Sotheby’s Paris has now offered major works by Francis Bacon on three occasions, including Seated Woman (a portrait of Muriel Belcher), which holds the record price for contemporary art in France at €13.7m.

 

 

Sotheby's

Contemporary Art 

 

Sale: PF8020  |  Location: Paris
Auction Dates: Session 1: Wed, 10 Dec 08 7:00 PM

 


Lot 11 Francis Bacon 1909-1992  TWO FIGURES
 
5,000,000—7,000,000 EUR:  Unsold

 

 

                       Two Figures 1961 Francis Bacon

 

 

MEASUREMENTS

198 x 142 cm; 77 7/8 x 55 7/8 in.

 

DESCRIPTION

huile et sable sur toile

Exécuté en 1961.

Cette oeuvre sera incluse dans le Catalogue Raisonné de l'oeuvre de Francis Bacon actuellement en préparation par Martin Harrison.


PROVENANCE

Marlborough Fine Art, Londres
McCrory Corporation, New York
McKee Gallery, New York
Edward R. Broida, Los Angeles


EXHIBITED

Londres, Tate Gallery, Francis Bacon, 1962, illustré no.87
Mannheim, Kunsthalle, Francis Bacon, 1962, illustré no.76
Turin, Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna, Francis Bacon, 1962, illustré, no.81
Zurich, Kunsthaus, Francis Bacon, 1962, no.75
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Francis Bacon, 1963, illustré, no. 66
New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum et exposition itinérante à Chicago, Art Institute, Francis Bacon, 1963-1964, illustré pp. 29 et 53, no. 53
Orlando, Museum of Art, The Edward R. Broida Collection: A Selection of Works, 1998, illustré p. 34
Milan, Palazzo Reale, Bacon, 2008, no. 30, illustré p. 122


LITERATURE AND REFERENCES

Stephen Spender, Quandrum XI, décembre 1961, illustré p. 53
John Rothenstein, Ronald Alley, Francis Bacon, édition Thames and Hudson Londres, 1964, no. 184, illustré p. 137


CATALOGUE NOTE

oil and sand on canvas. Executed in 1961.


« ... De ma prison, je vois tout. Dans ma cabine en verre isolant, on m'observe. Seuls mes pieds solubles s'échappent sur les soupiraux de l'inconnu, chiens perdus des rois déchus. Je chante, je hurle, je ricane, j'insulte, je sanglote. Alors explosion. Il tombe des flocons de chair qui s'accumulent et se transforment en paysages, en sphinx. De la terre, de mon corps, en fouillant, j'extrais les vestiges de leurs secrets. Les fantômes n'ont pas d'âge ; sous leurs travestis, ils sont humains. ... ».
Roland Penrose (in Francis Bacon, galerie Rive Droite, Paris, 1957)


« Bacon, à Paris, devrait faire l'effet d'une bombe. ».
(Cimaise, Michel Ragon, janvier 1963, compte rendu de la rétrospective Bacon à la Tate Gallery à Londres ouverte en mai 1962 dans laquelle Two Figures était exposée)


« Bacon, à Paris, devrait faire l'effet d'une bombe. ».

En écrivant ces lignes, extraites de la revue d'art française Cimaise parue au mois de janvier 1963, Michel Ragon rapporte l'actualité artistique anglaise. Il évoque en particulier l'événement survenu au mois de mai 1962, à la Tate Gallery à Londres. La respectable institution a offert à Francis Bacon une grande rétrospective composée de 90 œuvres de l'artiste, parmi lesquelles Two Figures était incluse. Cette exposition majeure ensuite itinérante et présentée, jusqu'en 1963, à Mannheim, Turin, Zurich et Amsterdam, marque aussi la prééminence de l'artiste parmi les peintres anglais qui lui sont contemporains.

Si Francis Bacon jouit en Grande-Bretagne, et cela depuis fort longtemps, d'une cote considérable, son succès s'illustre aussi en 1960 à Londres à la Marlborough Gallery où il réalise sa première exposition en collaboration avec cette galerie prestigieuse. Cette-dernière constitue à l'époque l'un des plus grands et des plus beaux locaux de Londres ou de Paris. Elle compte dans son programme le plus grand sculpteur anglais vivant, Henri Moore, et ne se limitant pas à l'art contemporain, elle organise aussi des expositions des œuvres de Vincent Van Gogh, de Degas, de Monet ou de Renoir.

Quand Two Figures est peint en 1961, Francis Bacon a 52 ans. Le corps et le visage de l'homme sont pour lui des leitmotivs depuis longtemps. Ils deviennent avec la représentation du mouvement des thèmes incontournables dans l'œuvre de l'artiste, aussi bien qu'un tableau intitulé Turning Figure apparaît en 1962. Il qualifie à l'évidence un mouvement de torsion de la figure sur elle-même, tout en conservant cette impression que le corps est comprimé nerveusement. Les prémices de Turning Figure s'observent précisément dans Two Figures qui est réalisé l'année précédente. Two Figures apparaît dès lors comme une œuvre essentielle, infléchissant l'ensemble du système figuratif que Francis Bacon mettra désormais en place. Ainsi coupée des formes conventionnelles de la figuration, l'œuvre de Francis Bacon témoigne de l'inutilité des anciens mythes et de l'impossibilité de raconter tout récit à partir de son œuvre.

«Vous avez compris que ce n'est pas pour les autres que je peins. C'est pour moi. Je n'ai personne à séduire, à tromper, à orienter.».
(Entretien avec Pierre Descargues, Marseille 1976, in L'Art est vivant, p. 311).

Pour atteindre ce moment crucial dans l'évolution de sa peinture, Francis Bacon est captivé: « Michel-Ange et Muybridge se mêlent dans mon esprit, ainsi je pourrais peut-être apprendre des positions de Muybridge et apprendre de l'ampleur, de la grandeur des formes de Michel-Ange. ...Comme la plupart de mes modèles sont des nus masculins, je suis sûr que j'ai été influencé par Michel-Ange qui a réalisé les nus masculins les plus voluptueux des arts plastiques.». Les fragments harmonieux des sculptures grecques, les dessins parfaits de Michel-Ange se confondent dans son souvenir des corps aimés et des photographies d'Eadweard Muybridge, pour enfin se concrétiser dans la pulsion du geste de peindre. Si les photographies d'Eadweard Muybridge (1830-1904) oscillent entre la science et l'art et sont célèbres pour leurs décompositions du mouvement, les modèles qu'elles représentent rejoignent le maniérisme caractéristique des sculptures de Michel-Ange (1474-1564). Ce dernier inspire, notamment dans l'aspect «inachevé» de ses Esclaves du musée de l'Académie à Florence, l'ouverture vers l'infini, traduisant la lutte de l'esprit cherchant à se libérer de la matière.

La figure se trouve dans l'alternance de sa présence et de son absence. Sortie dans un vide, ou plutôt dans un plein, elle semble sortir d'un miroir où les deux chairs se confondent. Two Figures sculpte les modèles dans le tableau. En évoquant le double mouvement de l'inscription et de l'effacement des corps dans l'espace, une telle tension renvoie vers l'œuvre d'Alberto Giacometti, avec qui Francis Bacon se nouera d'ailleurs d'amitié ; dans les sculptures de ce-dernier le corps de l'homme est souvent représenté, en rendant justement un peu plus indistincte la frontière entre l'absence et la présence de la matière. Les tourments du vide sont aussi évoqués dans Two Figures avec la présence de l'ombre noire, habillant le personnage qui est situé au premier plan de l'oeuvre. Le titre en anglais de celle-ci, dénombrant deux modèles, devient dès lors très ambigü. La lecture de deux personnage dans le tableau est assez difficile et renvoit directement au rapport que Francis Bacon entretient avec la mort: "La mort est comme l'ombre de la vie. Quand on est mort, on est mort, mais tant qu'on est en vie, l'idée de la mort vous poursuit... ." (Francis Bacon, Entretiens avec Michel Archimbaud, 1991-1992, 1996 Gallimard, Folio Essais p.126).

" On ne sait jamais d'ailleurs ce qu'une image produit en vous. Elles entrent dans le cerveau, et puis après on ne sait pas comment c'est assimilé, digéré. Elles sont transformées, mais on ne sait pas comment. " (Francis Bacon, Entretiens avec Michel Archimbaud, op. cité, p.18). Comme l'artiste donne à le comprendre, l'image se transforme souvent au cours du travail et la relation avec le sujet s'établit dans le mouvement même de la peinture. Ce que Francis Bacon cherche à créer sur la toile, c'est de donner au modèle la place centrale, en le situant au milieu des énergies tournoyantes créées par la tension intérieure des corps en mouvement. Dans Two Figures l'artiste réussit avec virtuosité ce tour de force esthétique et transmet ces énergies à travers l'ardeur des traces de sa main qui maintient le pinceau.

Se libérer de la matière pour mieux concevoir la beauté d'un être, c'est aussi le savoir disparaître dans l'ardeur d'une intolérable combustion. Les corps les plus robustes de Two Figures se tordent dans un mouvement apparemment brutal, convulsif, renforcé par l'impersonnalité croissante du visage grimaçant devenu presque illisible. Le modèle, pivotant dans un mouvement maniériste, superposant les attitudes comme il le ferait dans une construction cubiste, se contractant dans une position délibérément faussée, désaxée, est soumis à une volonté paradoxale consistant à le défigurer pour rendre sa figuration plus forte, directe et saisissante.

En plaçant Two Figures dans un décor abstrait, la solitude des modèles nus augmente, l'un d'entre eux n'ayant pour défense apparente que ses dents sorties avec rage. La captivité des personnages dans la couleur sourde du vieux rose et du blanc mêlé de gris composant le fond du tableau fige en outre l'espace et le temps. Temps voluptueux rendu visible, dont les personnages semblent vouloir briser le cours. En surgissant dans une pièce réduite à l'essentiel pour exister à la frange de l'abstrait, les modèles donnent l'impression de vouloir franchir les lignes de démarcations du tableau et en détruire la vitre. Quoique figés, ce que les modèles rendent paradoxalement explicite, c'est encore la vitesse du pinceau et des brosses. Vitesse d'ailleurs volontaire à la recherche de l'accident. Dans cette démarche, Francis Bacon rappelle également celle poursuivie par Cy Twombly dans une représentation purement abstraite: introduire le déséquilibre, l'erreur, la rature, et constituer un univers par le renversement des valeurs essentielles traditionnelles.

La tension intérieure de Two Figures démontre avec maestria le style puissant de Francis Bacon. L'artiste affirme aussi, en recherchant obstinément la vérité devant le sujet, que l'avenir de l'homme est dans l'homme: pensée peut-être la plus ouverte et la plus généreuse que l'on appelle l'humanisme.

Fig.1-2. Francis Bacon, 1984. - © Hans Namuth.


Fig.3. Michel-Ange Buonarroti, Male Nude, circa 1504. - © Albertina.


Fig.4. Michel-Ange Buonarroti, Esclave, Académie Florence. - © Brogi.


Fig.5. Michel-Ange Buonarroti, La Furie. Palais de Windsor - © Braun.


Fig.6. Turning Figure, 1962, huile sur toile, 198,2 x 144,7 cm. Gilbert de Botton, Family trust. - © The Estate of Francis Bacon/ADAGP, Paris, 2008

 

 

 

Art: Bacon with trimmings

Charles Darwent recommends spending Boxing Day with Kandinsky's colours or on Francis's studio floor

 

 

The Independent on Sunday, 30 November 2008

 

Freud's friend and nemesis, Francis Bacon, slyly affected never to draw, although this was a lie. Bacon, incredibly, would have been 100 next October, which explains the sudden outbreak of Baconia in art publishing. Among the best of the resultant books is Francis Bacon: Studies for a Portrait (Yale £18.99) by the late artist's friend and chronicler, Michael Peppiatt, a collection of essays and interviews that offer a uniquely intimate glimpse into the life of a notoriously unintimate artist.

Martin Harrison can't match Peppiatt in the Boswell stakes, but his encyclopaedic knowledge of Bacon minutiae and connections to the artist's estate make him a pretty good runner-up. His earlier In Camera explored Bacon's debt to photography. Now, Francis Bacon: Incunabula (Thames & Hudson £39.95) picks through the sweepings on Bacon's studio floor. Scraps torn from medical books, reproductions of Velázquez portraits, Muybridge stills, over-worked shots of massacres from newspapers – all were grist to Bacon's satanic mill. Harrison presents this trove without intervening text, as though we were truffling through the detritus on the floor at 7 Reece Mews ourselves. It's a good way of approaching Bacon; also of whiling away a wet Christmas afternoon.

 

 

The Sunday Times books of the year: Art

 

The Sunday Times, November 30, 2008

 

It was, of course, an image inspired by the Bolshevik revolution - the bloodied face of the nurse from Eisenstein's film The Battleship Potemkin (1925, and therefore too late for Bowlt to mention) - on which Francis Bacon based the heads of his screaming popes. He habitually painted from photographs, most torn from magazines and books, wilfully folded, daubed with paint and discarded feet-deep on the floor of his studio. Francis Bacon: Incunabula by Martin Harrison (Thames & Hudson £39.95) illustrates some 200 of these ephemeral images (everything from gay porn and pictures of skin diseases to, yes, stills from Potemkin), all furnished with brief explanatory notes. If you're a Bacon fanatic with an insatiable appetite for information about his guarded working methods you'll like this book. You'll also be drawn to Michael Peppiatt's Francis Bacon: Studies for a Portrait (Yale £18.99), an anthology of interviews and essays, several unpublished, a few repetitive, all relevant. Peppiatt writes about Bacon with refreshing and sometimes revealing candour.

Bacon appears in several places (in one, seemingly pulling his trousers down) in Lucian Freud's impressive On Paper (Cape £50). With an introduction by Sebastian Smee and an essay by Richard Calvocoressi, this is an extravagantly illustrated, satisfyingly fat volume about Freud's drawings in every medium. It spans his entire career from juvenilia signed in old German script to recent, densely worked etchings. Some of it looks clumsy, but more is mesmerising in its clairvoyant intensity. All of it suggests that Freud's most considerable achievements are the result of his abiding desire to reconcile drawing and painting. The texts are helpful, too, though this isn't chiefly a book to be read.

 

 

Lucian Freud’s early obsessions

 

Lucian Freud’s early works speak volumes about the shy artist’s sensuality — and the combination of intensity and detachment that women find irresistible. Waldemar Januszczak looks at the formative relationships of a master in the making

 The Sunday Times, November 30, 2008

 

It was also around this time that Freud met Francis Bacon. They were introduced by Graham Sutherland and met at Victoria station while setting off for a Sutherland weekend. Bacon seems to have freed Freud of any remaining guilt he may have harboured. “His work impressed me, but his personality affected me.” Bacon, who talked fondly of “the sensuality of treachery”, showed Freud “how to wing it through life, how to court risk, tempt accident and scorn the norm”. When Freud drew him one evening, Bacon pointedly unbuttoned his trousers.

“I think you ought to use these,” he said, sliding them down to reveal his hips. How strange that the only signs of unmistakable eroticism in Freud’s drawings should be supplied by a man.

 

 

Art: From canvas to cameras

By Michael Glover , The Independent, Friday, 28 November 2008

 

It's been a good year for lovers of the energising, sado-masochistic gloom of Francis Bacon. The catalogue of his Tate Britain show does him proud (Tate Publishing £24.99), and two other books thicken the tortured plot of his life. Incunabula (Thames & Hudson, £39.95) shows us images of the photographs and visual documents which fed into the wild frenzy of his painting. His friend and official biographer Michael Peppiatt has assembled Studies for a Portrait (Yale, £18.99), a marvellously absorbing book of essays and interviews.

 

 

 

 

                                   

 

 

 

 

 

Rare works of Bacon defy art auction gloom

 

ABC News Australia, 25 November 2008

 

Two paintings of Francis Bacon, by an Australian artist believed to have been his lover, were sold for well over their pre-auction price last night.

The works by Roy de Maistre - Francis Bacon's Studio and Portrait Of Francis Bacon - were sold for $180,000 and $96,000 respectively at Sotheby's sale of modern Australian art in Melbourne.

The two paintings, among a collection of six de Maistre works, had not been seen by the public for nearly 50 years.

"I think both works illustrate very well that even in the present climate, works of exceptional provenance which carry conservative estimates are strongly competed for by enthusiastic collectors," Georgina Pemberton, head of Sotheby's Australian paintings, told Reuters.

"All of de Maistre's paintings sold tonight."

The de Maistre star lots, which depict one of Bacon's many studios and a portrait of the young artist with carefully drawn eyebrows and bright red lips, had been estimated by Sotheby's at between $37,600-$50,000 and $5,000-$7,500.

Sotheby's paintings specialist David Hansen said they had been painted in the 1930s, when the two artists were "associating."

"They were certainly closely associated both personally and professionally. Close, but exactly how close is not known," Mr Hansen said of the two artists.

De Maistre, who died in 1968, was considered a leading exponent of early modernism in Australia.

Bacon, who died in 1992, is believed to have made de Maistre's acquaintance when he was about 20-years-old, possibly in France or London.  

 

 

Francis Bacon: Studies for a Portrait 

 

Michael Peppiatt. Yale Univ., $35 (208p) ISBN 978-0-300-14255-6

 

Publishers Weekly, 11/24/2008

 

Peppiatt, having already written Bacon's biography (Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma), now submits a collection of essays and interviews spanning his career of writing on the artist. Some of the pieces, updated with material originally omitted because Bacon (1909–1992) was still living, take on new life. They also echo each other, as when, in an essay for Art International, Peppiatt writes that “comparatively few artists were admitted into Bacon's pantheon, and even they tended to be pared down to one or other aspect of their oeuvre”—Degas was one, as Bacon says in one interview: “Degas is complete in himself. I like his pastels enormously.” 

Each piece describes a different period in Bacon's life, a theme in the work, influences or significant companions. As each topic is inscribed with the biographical essentials, the motifs stand out in relief from the background details. The book gains a certain rhythm as the portrait is made simultaneously more simple and more complex. The effect, cast in Peppiatt's intimate reportage, works well, and the book will enrich the library of any Bacon enthusiast. 16 pages of colour and 35 b&w illus. (Jan.)

 

     

 

 

 

   Rare works about Francis Bacon defy art auction gloom

 

       Reuters, Monday November 24, 2008

 

        

        Portrait of Francis Bacon Roy de Maistre

 

 

MELBOURNE (Reuters Life!) - Two rare artworks by Australian painter Roy de Maistre, which feature artist Francis Bacon who was believed to be his lover, will be auctioned by Sotheby's on Monday among a collection of Australian modern art.

Of the six de Maistre paintings, the two works - Francis Bacon's Studio and Portrait of Francis Bacon - have not been seen by the public for nearly 50 years.

"All six of the de Maistre's works on offer were painted in London in the 1930s when the two artists were associating," David Hansen, senior researcher and paintings' specialist at Sotheby's, told Reuters.

Francis Bacon's Studio, with a pre-sale estimate of between A$60,000-A$80,000 ($37,600-$50,000), depicts one of Bacon's many studios while Portrait of Francis Bacon, with a pre-sale estimate of between A$8,000-A$12,000 ($5,000-$7,500), shows a young Bacon, with carefully drawn eyebrows and bright red lips.

"The young Bacon was well known amongst members of London's gay subculture for his cosmetic display," Hansen said.

"They were certainly closely associated both personally and professionally - close but exactly how close is not known," he said of the two artists. "It was often said that de Maistre taught Bacon how to paint, though both artists denied it."

Sotheby's said the auction, which also includes works by Australian artists John Perceval and Brett Whiteley, had generated substantial interest with potential buyers from Britain and Australia.

The works on offer have a collective pre-sale estimate of A$3.3 million-A$4.4 million ($2.1 million-$2.75 million).

De Maistre, who died in 1968, was considered a leading exponent of early Modernism in Australia. Bacon, who died in 1992, is believed to have made de Maistre's acquaintance when he was about 20 years old, possibly in France or London.

(Reporting by Pauline Askin, Editing by Miral Fahmy)

 

 

 

Sotheby’s

Important Australian Art

 

Sale: AU0724  |  Location: Melbourne
Auction Dates: Session 1: Mon, 24 Nov 08 6:30 PM

 

      

        Portrait of Francis Bacon  Roy de Maistre 1935

 

 

LOT 7
 
ROY DE MAISTRE, AUSTRALIAN, 1894-1968
PORTRAIT OF FRANCIS BACON


 
8,000—12,000 AUD
Lot Sold.  Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium:  96,000 AUD

 

MEASUREMENTS

66 by 43.6m

 

DESCRIPTION

Signed lower right

Oil on board

Painted in 1935


PROVENANCE

Dimitri Mitrinoviæ
Trustees of the New Atlantis Foundation
Glady MacDermot; thence by descent
Private collection, Switzerland


EXHIBITED

Roy de Maistre: A restrospective exhibition of paintings and drawings 1917-1960, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, May-June 1960, cat. 40


LITERATURE AND REFERENCES

Neville Wallis, 'In the Humanist Tradition', The Observer, 15 May 1960, p. 20 (illus.)
Daniel Farson, The Gilded Gutter Life of Francis Bacon, Century, London, 1993, p. 28 and illus.
Heather Johnson, Roy de Maistre: The English Years 1930-1968, Craftsman House, Sydney, 1995, p. 26


CATALOGUE NOTE

Soon after moving to London in 1930, de Maistre began a relationship with Francis Bacon. Possibly a lover but certainly a good friend and benevolent father figure, de Maistre provided the technical advice and support which enabled bacon to make the transition from interior decorator to painter.

He was also a social and professional mentor; at de Maistre's Eccleston Street studio salon Bacon met people like the artists Henry Moore and Graham Sutherland, the young writer Patrick White and the expatriate Australian collector and art dealer Douglas Cooper, as well as patrons such as R.A. Butler and Gladys MacDermot, who commissioned Bacon to entirely redesign her Bloomsbury apartment.

De Maistre painted his young friend's portrait in 1930, and included the work in the three-man exhibtion – de Maistre paintings, Bacon pictures and rugs and pastels by Jean Shepeard – held in Bacon's studio in 1930. The present work is dated to some years later and shows Bacon in his mid 20s, looking, as de Maistre put it, 'like a somewhat dubious choirboy'.

It is indeed a strange, tense, enigmatic portrait of the young artist. Posed in three quarter profile in a strongly lit, shallow space in front of a blood-red curtain, Bacon's oddly unexpressive, even doll-like face is at once abstracted and alert, while his clasped hands seem to convey both formality and anxiety. In addition to the familiar cowlick quiff and the piercing blue eyes, the painting also shows carefully-drawn eyebrows and bright red lips. The young Bacon was well known amongst members of London's gay subculture for his cosmetic display. Michael Peppiat records that 'shortly after he had gained some recognition as an artist, he walked into a London bar where a well known homosexual wit was sitting. When their gazes met, the wit said loudly: "as for her, when I knew her, she was more famous for the paint that she put on her face than the paint she put on canvas"' Later, Patrick White was to recall Bacon's 'beautiful pansy-shaped face, sometimes with too much lipstick on it,' while 'a young relative of de Maistre remembers meeting Francis and wondering whether she should tell him he must have sucked his paintbrush and got red paint all over his mouth.'

Portrait of Francis Bacon is an affectionate and revealing image of the celebrated British artist at the start of his career, and an important memento of his constructive relationship with the older and wiser Australian.

1. Daniel Farson, The Gilded Gutter Life of Francis Bacon, Century, London, 1993, p. 28
2. Michael Peppiatt, Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1996, p. 56
3. Patrick White, Flaws in the Glass: a self-portrait, Jonathan Cape, London, 1983, p. 62
4. Peppiatt, op. cit., p. 56

We are most grateful to Heather Johnson, Andrew Brighton and Elizabeth Gertsakis for their assistance in cataloguing this work.

 

Sotheby’s

Important Australian Art

 

Sale: AU0724  |  Location: Melbourne
Auction Dates: Session 1: Mon, 24 Nov 08 6:30 PM

 

     

                        Francis Bacon's Studio  Roy de Maistre 1932

 

 

LOT 69
 

ROY DE MAISTRE, AUSTRALIAN, 1894-1968
FRANCIS BACON'S STUDIO



60,000—80,000 AUD
Lot Sold.  Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium:  180,000 AUD

MEASUREMENTS

91 by 76cm



DESCRIPTION

Signed lower right; dated 1932 on the reverse

Oil on canvas

 

PROVENANCE

Dimitri Mitrinoviæ
Trustees of the New Atlantis Foundation
Glady MacDermot; thence by descent
Private collection, Switzerland


EXHIBITED

(possibly) Roy de Maistre, Mayor Gallery, London, October-November 1934 (Mayor Gallery label on stretcher bar on reverse)
Roy de Maistre: A retrospective exhibition of paintings and drawings 1917 - 1960, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, May - June 1960, cat. 21
Francis Bacon, Tate Gallery, London, 24 May-1 July 1962, cat. 93 (as Francis Bacon's Studio, 1932, lent by Roy de Maistre). Partial Tate Gallery exhibition label attached to reverse.


LITERATURE AND REFERENCES

John Rothenstein and Ronald Alley, Francis Bacon, Thames & Hudson, London, 1964, p. 10
Mary Eagle, Australian Modern Painting Between the Wars 1914-1939, Bay Books, Sydney, 1989, p. 50 (illus.)
John Russell, Francis Bacon, Thames & Hudson, London, 1993, pp. 16-17
Andrew Sinclair, Francis Bacon: His Life and Violent Times, Crown Publishers, New York, 1993, p. 64
Heather Johnson, Roy de Maistre: The English Years 1930-1968, Craftsman House, Sydney, 1995, pp. 24, 77, 234


CATALOGUE NOTE

When Roy de Maistre and Francis Bacon met, the 21 year old Bacon had begun to establish himself as a fashionable furniture designer, producing severe glass and tubular-steel tables and chairs and synthetic-cubist screens and woven floor rugs. This art deco aesthetic chimed with de Maistre's own taste for geometric flat pattern, and he responded with strikingly moderne but 'topographically precise' views of Bacon's studio: Francis Bacon's Queensbury Mews Studio (1930, collection of the late Francis Elek) and Interior (1930, Manchester City Art Gallery).

They were the first of some ten pictures of Bacon's work spaces that de Maistre would produce during the early 1930s. In addition to these two and to Still Life (1933, National Gallery of Australia) and Mr Francis Bacon's Studio, Royal Hospital Road (1934, private collection), there are no fewer than six related paintings of one of these rooms, a whitewashed attic prism with open door and pictures leaning against the walls.

The precise location depicted is uncertain. John Rothenstein maintains that these works, too, depict the studio at 71 Royal Hospital Road, Chelsea , but Heather Johnson notes that 'sketches for the work were thought to have been made circa 1932, in which case the studio represented could have been one of the many Bacon occupied after leaving his Queensbury Mews studio in 1931 and before he moved into the Royal Hospital Road studio...Bacon had studios in Fulham Road, Cromwell Place and Glebe Place during this time.'

For those with an interest in the early Bacon, the picture's key interest lies in the two curious, Picassoesque works 'carefully, irreplaceably recorded by de Maistre'. 'Against bare boards and angular white surfaces, canvases are stacked, two turned towards the painter's brush, one of a skeletal and feathered bird, another of the quartered outline of a horse or dragon – the start of a movement from geonometric abstraction towards a more organic image... these are works of transition, those of an embryo trying to flesh itself.'

The picture also has a special importance for de Maistre scholars. The original version was purchased by Gladys MacDermot, de Maistre's great supporter both in Australia and in England, and attracted the particular interest of another of MacDermot's protégés, Dmitri Mitrinovic, political and aesthetic visionary and polemicist, and founder of the journals New Britain and New Atlantis. While MacDermot's painting was destroyed during the London Blitz, Johnson records that 'Mitrinovic commissioned a version...for himself, New Atlantis... almost identical to the original work' and that 'several other versions and variations of the work were also produced: a third, smaller work done for Mitrinovic and given to a follower, Jack Murphy... a fourth work also done for Mitrinovic and presently in a private collection associated with the New Atlantis Foundation...(the present work) and a sixth work, White Figure, Art Gallery of Western Australia. All the extant works are believed to have been done circa 1933 developed from sketches de Maistre made in Bacon's studio in 1932.'

1. Michael Peppiatt, Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1996, p. 51
2. John Rothenstein and Ronald Alley, Francis Bacon, Thames & Hudson, London, 1964, p. 10
3. Heather Johnson, Roy de Maistre: The English Years 1930-1968, Craftsman House, Sydney, 1995, p. 77
4. John Russell, Francis Bacon, Thames & Hudson, London, 1993, p. 16
5. Andrew Sinclair, Francis Bacon: His Life and Violent Times, Crown Publishers, New York, 1993, p. 64
6. Heather Johnson, Roy de Maistre: The English Years 1930-1968, Craftsman House, Sydney, 1995, p. 77

We are most grateful to Heather Johnson, Andrew Brighton and Elizabeth Gertsakis for their assistance in cataloguing this work.

 

 

 

Francis Bacon: gesto y agonía de la figura humana

 

CARLOS M. LUIS, ARTES Y LETRAS Especial/El Nuevo Herald

El Nuevo Herald, Miami, 23 de Noviembre del 2008

 

Como parte de la celebración del centenario en el 2009 del nacimiento de Francis Bacon, la Tate Gallery de Londres ha inaugurado una retrospectiva de este pintor. Entre los meses de febrero y agosto la muestra viajará a los museos del Prado y al Metropolitan de Nueva York. Los 60 cuadros que serán expuestos permiten indagar sobre la vida y la obra de uno de los grandes pintores de todas las épocas. Pocos como Bacon - quizás ninguno - ha llevado tan lejos el tratamiento de la figura humana en la forma que este pintor lo ha hecho.

Habría que remontarse a las representaciones que los artistas medievales hacían de los condenados para acercarnos a las suyas. O podemos acudir a Goya como un antecedente. Para situarnos en el siglo XX, las mujeres de De Kooning, el ''Grito'' de Edward Munch, o ciertas obras de Chaim Soutine, de Van Gogh o los autorretratos de Artaud entre otros, pueden ubicarse a su lado. Pero nadie como Bacon realizó una visión tan escatológica del ser humano, abriéndole al mismo tiempo, un espacio para ser representado en la soledad y el sufrimiento. En su caso no podemos acusarlo de que lo hizo tomando la figura humana como un simple tema pictórico. Su vida de alcohólico y de homosexual sadomasoquista lo situó dentro de una realidad que él experimentó hasta la saciedad de los excesos, pues para Bacon los extremos se tocaban para desgarrarse entre sí.

Estamos prisioneros en nuestra piel dijo Wittgenstein en sus diarios. En el caso de Bacon podemos decir que éste encerró a la humanidad dentro de la piel de los cuerpos que él pintó. Ese permanente contacto suyo con las fuerzas elementales que emanan de la anatomía humana y animal lo convirtió de paso en un filósofo visual sin quererlo. Podemos a partir de sus cuadros especular toda una teoría acerca de la condición humana, partiendo de una ''lógica de la sensación'' como lo hiciera Gilles Deleuze en su libro sobre el pintor. En el mismo el pensador francés exploró las resonancias que pueden existir entre la filosofía y las artes visuales. Tomando ese concepto como punto de vista, Deleuze discute tres aspectos fundamentales de la pintura de Bacon: la figura, los espacios de color que la rodean y las estructuras que los separan. Esos tres aspectos aparecen claramente configurados en Bacon como parte de su dinámica pictórica. Veamos los tres por separado.

La figura: la atracción que posee el cuerpo humano para Bacon le brinda la ocasión para interpretarlo, de acuerdo con su visión de la existencia, como un acto límite. Es por eso que sus cuerpos van sufriendo toda suerte de distorsiones hasta llegar a ser irreconocibles. Bacon entonces actúa sobre los mismos como representando una especie de ritual frenético, cuyo sadismo hace palidecer a las coreografías sexuales del Marqués. Bacon se sintió influido por los experimentos fotográficos de Eadweard Muybridge, quien a finales del siglo XIX, realizara una serie de fotos de personas y animales sorprendidos en diversas posturas. Posiblemente pudo también sentirse atraído por los dibujos anatómicos del renacentista Andreas Vesalius. Por otra parte Velázquez le sirvió de modelo para interpretar sus retratos. La versión que el maestro español hiciera del papa Inocencio X fue objeto de una de las obras más emblemáticas de Bacon.

El color: contrario al tratamiento del color propio de los expresionistas, Bacon utilizó el suyo en forma plana, realzando su brillantez. El contraste que esto provoca con sus figuras retorcidas es notable. El color se extiende por el espacio de sus cuadros, creando zonas de intensas gamas, sin componer un contrapunto - como lo hacen muchos expresionistas - con el dramatismo de las figuras. De ese modo el color queda, sobre todo en los cuadros de su última época, como una especie de trasfondo donde podemos observar, si eliminamos las figuras de los mismos, una distribución constructivista del espacio.

La estructura: Bacon compone sus cuadros partiendo de un sentido espacial muy preciso. De esa forma coloca sus figuras dentro de compartimentos, semejantes muchos de ellos a grandes cajas de cristal. Esa manera suya de encerrar a sus personajes nos recuerda el juicio de Eichmann en Jerusalén, donde el famoso nazi permaneció dentro de un cubículo durante todo el proceso. También nos puede traer a la memoria la secuencia del filme Silence of the Lambs, seguramente inspirada en Bacon, cuando Hannibal Lecter tuvo que ser enjaulado en una gran cárcel de cristal en medio de un salón. Ambas escenas muestran una teatralidad que su pintura nos comunica a través de la gestualidad de muchas de sus mejores obras. Por otra parte y a la manera de los pintores medievales, Bacon gustaba de pintar trípticos como grandes retablos que reproducen variaciones sobre un tema determinado. Uno de éstos, basado en la crucifixión, llevó hasta el paroxismo de lo grotesco la representación de ese acontecimiento central de la cultura cristiana.

Baudelaire afirmó que el Romanticismo no consistía tanto en la verdad exacta como en la manera de sentir esa verdad. Bacon, que en el fondo pertenece a la tradición romántica, está interesado en capturar una verdad que le sirva para expresar un sentimiento ''agónico''. Cada uno de sus modelos que tuvieron en un momento dado existencia propia fueron sometidos a una interpretación delirante de la verdad que encarnaban. Fue de esa forma que Bacon logró crear imágenes que quedarán grabadas indeleblemente en la historia del arte.  

 

 

Francis Bacon: Space and Surface, symposium organised by Brian Hatton

 

Symposium 22/11/08 - 10.00 Architectural Association, 36 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3ES

 

 

                      

                   Speakers at the symposium included: Andrew Brighton, James Cahill, Nigel Coates, Martin Hammer, John Maybury, Bob Maxwell & Brian Hatton.

 

 

To complement the Francis Bacon exhibition at Tate Britain, this symposium considers spatial and architectural aspects in Bacon's art. Bacon composed his pictures by risking spontaneous acts and chance effects of painting within carefully designed and projected spatial frameworks, often deploying traces of his early work in furniture and interior decoration. This double aspect of Bacon's work has interested not only painters but also architects and filmmakers. Presentations will be made by: Andrew Brighton, James Cahill, Nigel Coates, Mark Cousins, Martin Hammer, Brian Hatton and John Maybury. The symposium will conclude with a roundtable discussion.

All welcome
No advance booking required

Please note: The AA Bar (1st Floor) will be open between 11.00 and 6.00 providing regular bar services.

 

   

            

 

Joel Cadbury seeks a Colony

 

It is the drinking den whose patrons have included such artists as Francis Bacon and Tracey Emin, but the Colony Room in Soho may be about to have a surprising new owner.

 

Richard Eden The Daily Telegraph 15 Nov 2008

 

 

 

Mandrake can disclose that Joel Cadbury, whose chocolate-producing ancestors were abstemious Quakers, is lining up a bid for the louche private members' club. "Joel has been approached about taking it over and is seriously considering it," says a friend of the 36-year-old son of Peter "the Cad" Cadbury. 

 

Joel, who is married to Divia Lalvani, the daughter of an Indian electronics tycoon, is a non-executive director the Groucho Club, the haunt of media and theatre professionals, which is next door to the Colony Room. 

 

Last year, Cadbury sold his Soho health and fitness club, The Third Space, to a management buyout team backed by private equity for £22 million. The deal came just over a year after he sold the Groucho to the same private-equity group, Graphite Capital, for £20 million.

The Colony Room was established 60 years ago to provide a refuge for members when the pubs closed. Earlier this year, Michael Wojas, the club secretary and chief barman, said he would close it when he retires in March because of the impact of the smoking ban, an expiring lease and a general downturn.

 

 

Art boom over as auctions fail to bring home Bacon

 

November 14, 2008

   

When a Francis Bacon triptych became the most expensive contemporary artwork sold at auction earlier this year it fuelled hopes that the art market might be credit-crunch proof.

Six months later the failure of another important Bacon work to attract a single bid at auction in New York has underlined what the leading auction houses have long feared and recently suspected: the art boom is over and it will not be back any time soon.

A sobering fortnight of big sales in New York ends this afternoon with little prospect of transactions totalling $1 billion (£676 million).

That might seem like an obscene sum of money to lavish on art in the midst of an economic crisis but it is well short of the auction houses’ own combined minimum estimate for the sales of $1.7 billion.

The fortnight included four star-studded evening sales of Impressionist and Modern and Contemporary and PostWar art, which traditionally set the tone for the art market over the next six months.

This year, despite the presence of John McEnroe, the tennis player, Salma Hayek and Steve Martin, the actors, Valentino, the fashion designer and various billionaire art collectors in the auction rooms, the four sales at Christie’s and Sotheby’s pulled in only $608.5 million, against a low estimate of $1.007 billion.

About a third of the works on offer failed to sell at all, including pieces by Picasso, Rothko, Manet, Monet, Modigliani, Matisse, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Warhol, Lichtenstein and Hirst, while many of those that did went for substantially less than the asking price.

Some records were set, brightening the gloom for the auction houses. Suprematist Composition by Kazimir Malevich, the Russian abstract pioneer, sold for $60 million and there were record prices for works by Munch and Degas among others.

Attention, however, was inevitably focused on the failures, notably the Bacon.

In May it was revealed that Roman Abramovich, the billionaire owner of Chelsea Football Club, was the mystery buyer of an $86.2 million Bacon triptych. Days earlier he paid $33.6 million for Benefits Supervisor Sleeping by Bacon’s old friend Lucian Freud.

This double splurge was seized on as evidence that the art market would weather the economic downturn thanks to stupendously wealthy collectors from Russia, China, India and the Middle East.

But those buyers were notably absent on Wednesday night when a 1964 self-portrait by Bacon, estimated by Christie’s at $40 million, failed to sell.

There were gasps in the hall when it was withdrawn from the sale.

The differing fortunes of the two Bacons reflect the seismic shifts in the global financial markets in the past two months, a connection summed up by the presence in Wednesday’s sale of 16 works, belonging to the family of Richard S. Fuld Jr, a former chief executive of Lehman Brothers, that Christie’s had guaranteed at $20 millon. The price estimates for these sales were set before the markets went into meltdown in September and European buyers were handicapped by the strengthening of the dollar.

As a result dealers, sellers, collectors and auctioneers emerged from the New York sales looking for the bottom of the market whereas not long ago they were trying to spot the peak. Ian Peck, chief executive of Art Capital Group, a merchant bank specialising in art world affairs, said: “It’s like the aftermath of a rugby match with everybody limping off the field. It’s a different universe compared to where we were six months ago.”

Marc Porter, president of Christie’s North and South America, said after the Wednesday evening sale: “The market is adjusting down.”

The New York sales followed a pattern set in significant recent auctions in London and Hong Kong.

The auction houses are the most obvious victims of the downturn. Christie’s and Sotheby’s both spent tens of millions buying lots whose prices they had guaranteed but which failed to sell. Sotheby’s share price has collapsed from more than $40 a year ago to just over $8 yesterday.

Robert Read, group fine art underwriter for Hiscox, the insurer, said that the auctions could have been much worse. “It’s no longer a champagne market,” he said. “Its more of a modest chablis, but it is still drinkable, still functioning.”

 

 

Upper East Side: Linger (Quietly) for a While

 

By KAREN ROSENBERG, The New York Times, November 13, 2008

 

 

Works by Francis Bacon, left, and Giacometti at the Gagosian Gallery show Isabel and Other Intimate Strangers.

 

 

Chelsea has been the undisputed center of the art market for the last decade, and the young and the new are concentrated below 14th Street. The Upper East Side will always have Museum Mile, but what do the galleries in this staid enclave have to offer?

Simply put, the Upper East Side is a quieter, more idiosyncratic art neighbourhood. Particularly in the cloistered townhouse galleries off Madison Avenue, you have the sense of walking into someone’s living room. Chelsea can make you feel rushed, herded from one concrete-floored box to the next; uptown the atmosphere is much more conducive to lingering. You will often be the only visitor in the gallery, even on a Saturday.

At the ever-expanding Gagosian, as at Acquavella, the artist-muse relationship inspires an exhibition worthy of the Museum of Modern Art. Isabel and Other Intimate Strangers: Portraits by Alberto Giacometti and Francis Bacon inaugurates the gallery’s new fourth-floor exhibition space. The show was organized by Véronique Wiesinger, the director of the Giacometti Foundation in Paris, and Martin Harrison, who is overseeing Bacon’s catalogue raisonné.

The woman singled out in the title is the model Isabel Rawsthorne, whose chiseled cheekbones inspired several paintings by Bacon and sculptures by Giacometti. Other captivating figures in the exhibition include Lucien Freud, in Bacon’s portraits, and Giacometti’s wife and mistress (in separate, and markedly different, paintings)

 

 

Francis Bacon portrait pulled from sale after failing to attract bids 

 

A Francis Bacon self-portrait was withdrawn half way though a Christie's auction in New York after bidding failed to take off. 

By Tom Leonard in New York  The Daily Telegraph 13 Nov 2008

 

 

  

Study for Self Portrait 1964 Francis Bacon

 

 

Study for Self Portrait, painted in 1964, was billed as the highlight of the contemporary art sale with an estimate of $40 million (£27 million).

However, when bidding dried up at $27.4 million, the sale was abruptly halted, prompting gasps of surprise in the auction room.

A Bacon triptych fetched $86 million – a record for the painter – at an auction in New York in May.

But the self portrait was among almost a third of works in the 75-lot sale that failed to find buyers. The auction brought in $113.6 million – half the pre-sale low estimate.

In keeping with other recent sales, the lots that did sell went for less than their estimate.

At Christie's, a collection of 16 drawings sold by Kathy and Richard Fuld, the controversial former chief executive of Lehman Brothers, brought in $13.5 million after being expected to fetch $20 million.

However, Christie's had promised the Fulds had an undisclosed sum regardless of the outcome of the sale. Mrs Fuld is a keen collector and the couple have kept most of their works.

The Christie's sale came a day after a similarly underwhelming New York auction at Sotheby's.

Prices at both sales were set earlier in the year before the financial crisis and are now considered far too high.

 

 

Art market in shock as Christies calls halt to Francis Bacon sale

 

Anne Barrowclough, The Times, November 13, 2008

 

       

       Francis Bacon's self portrait failed to sell at a Christie's auction last night   

 

 

A Francis Bacon self-portrait failed to sell at auction in New York last night, in a significant sign that the global financial tsunami is beginning to sweep over the international art market.

Bacon's 1964 Study for Self Portrait - billed as a highlight of Christie's contemporary art auction - was estimated to take in around $US40 million (£26.2 million). A Bacon triptych went under the hammer in New York last May for $86.2 million (£56.4 million), a record for the British painter and it was expected that the self portrait would fetch a similarly high price.

But when bidding reached $27.4 million (£179.3 million) the auction house dramatically halted the proceedings, to a chorus of gasps from a stunned audience.

Seventy-five contemporary works were on sale on Wednesday. Among the most important lots was a Jean-Michel Basquiat painter of a boxer, owned by Metallica co-founder and drummer Lars Ulrich, which fetched just over $13.5 million but short of the record $14.6 million for a Basquiat.

A chill had already entered the art market last month, when a rare portrait of Francis Bacon by Lucien Freud sold for £1.6 million less than expected, and the autumn season of art sales, which began on November 3, was being closely watched.

However in the fortnight since the autumn season began, there has been a big drop off of sales of impressionist, modern and contemporary works of art.

The number of unsold works has often exceeded 30 or 40 per cent of lots since November 3, and barring a few notable exceptions the sales prices are lower than the estimates for the majority of pieces.

Art sales were still high in the spring sale season earlier this year, with records set at Sotheby's and Christies' for works by Monet, whose Le Pont du chemin de fer a Argenteuil went for a record $41.4 million (£27.1 million) and Munch, whose Girls on a Bridge sold for $30.8 million (£20.2 million), a record for the artist.

The record sales were seen as a sign that the art market was protected from the deepening economic gloom.

At the time David Norman, chairman of Sotheby's impressionist and modern department, said the sales had displayed the "underpinnings of a really strong market that we believe is going to continue as long as we keep the estimates appealing to the consignors and choose the right property."

He added: "There is still so much liquidity and so many buyers from everywhere."

Such optimism has evaporated recently, and last night's sale will cast a further pall over the international market. Some experts say the fall in sales is due to the disappearance of hedge fund managers and Russian oligarchs from auction rooms.

But some of Francis Bacon's work still seem popular - at least within a certain market. His paintings of popes - of which there are just 40 in the world - are seen as a trophy by some collectors, according to Sarah Thornton, the author of Seven Days in the Art World.

"These paintings are of a very powerful man in purgatory, in like a free-fall into Hell," she told National Public Radio (NPR) in the US on Tuesday. "The popes look terrified. I think, oh my God, that must be what it's like to be a hedge fund manager right now."

 

 

No buyer for a Bacon as New York art sale ends

 

By Christopher Michaud, Reuters, Thursday 13 November 2008

 

NEW YORK, Nov 13 (Reuters) - The fall New York art sales limped to a close on Wednesday, leaving a market bruised and bloodied but still standing.

Christie's post-war and contemporary auction took in $113.6 million, half a low pre-sale estimate of $227 million, with 68 percent of the lots on offer finding buyers.

The spotty sale was consistent with Impressionist, modern and contemporary art auctions at Christie's and rival over the past two weeks.

The result was "about as expected going in," said Amy Cappellazzo, international co-head of contemporary and post-war art at Christie's, given the turmoil gripping world financial markets for the past two months.

Despite high points including a nearly $15 million Richter, a $13.5 million Basquiat and new records for Joseph Cornell and Yayoi Kusama, the evening's star lot failed to sell.

Francis Bacon's Study for Self-Portrait had been estimated to go for $40 million or more, but no bid approached even $30 million. Bacons have seen huge price spikes in recent seasons, including a record $86 million.

"The market is continuing, but clearly at a different price level," Christie's president Marc Porter said.

"There's no panic in the market, but there is an adjustment," he told Reuters, contrasting that to the volatility gripping other markets such as oil or real estate.

"While it had declined, you've seen it find a stable level, with a lot of support."

Baird Ryan, managing director of the art-related financial services firm Art Capital Group, agreed with auction officials' contention that the two weeks of sales, while falling about one-third shy of estimates set before the financial crisis, showed there continues to be demand for fine art.

'A CORRECTION'

But Ryan noted that other markets had seen a fall-off of about 20 to 40 percent, "and that's what you're seeing here. There is a correction going on." He said auction houses will have to edit sales to offer "a selected group of works with cautious estimates."

Still it was impressive that "in such a period of remarkable financial stress you can sell over $100 million worth of art in an evening," Ryan added. "People are focused, and active."

Art expert and author Sarah Thornton, who chronicled several years spent infiltrating the art world for the book Seven Days in the Art World, said the sales "could have gone much worse."

"Given the state of the financial world, it's remarkable to see a group of people spending money the way they are," she said. "There are obviously some people who still have a lot of money to spend." (Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

   

 

Mixed Results for Contemporary Art Sale at Christie’s

 

By Carol Vogel, The New York Times, November 12, 2008

 

In a bumpy sale of contemporary art at Christie’s on Wednesday, some paintings, drawings and sculptures were eagerly sought, but there were also big disappointments as the art market struggled to adjust to today’s financial climate.

What was expected to be the star — a 1964 self-portrait by Francis Baon that was estimated at $40 million — went unsold without so much as a bid. But other works brought prices that surprised even Christie’s executives.

“In the beginning we thought we were witnessing a gravity-defying auction,” Edward Dolman, Christie’s chief executive, said after the sale. “But it was disappointing not to sell the Bacon. There were some good prices, but it’s inconsistent.”

The evening, dominated by American buyers, brought $113.6 million, well below its low estimate of $227 million. Of the 75 works on the block, nearly one-third failed to sell.

Some works that were considered overpriced sold — but for what buyers wanted to pay, not what the house had envisioned.

After the sale, dealers and collectors milled about trying to make sense of the results. “The auction house may not have done well,” said Allan Schwartzman, an art adviser, “but some collectors did.”

 

 

Abbreviate into intensity

 

Francis Bacon


Tate Britain (sponsored by Bank of America), until 4 January 2009

 

Andrew Lambirth, Spectator, Wednesday, 10th September 2008

 

 

        Francis Bacon in Soho 1970  James Jackson

 

At Tate Britain is a glorious centenary show of paintings by one of our greatest modern painters, Francis Bacon. It’s more than 20 years since the last Bacon retrospective at the Tate, but the Bacon industry has been chugging steadily away in the interim. His studio — which the Tate declined, astonishingly — was transported to Dublin, and opened there with much fanfare over the vast archaeological operation of decoding the layers of source material and detritus which comprise the studio floor. Then there was the revelation of the cache of Bacon drawings (shown at the Tate in 1999) after the artist himself and the leading Bacon expert David Sylvester had spent their lives insisting that Bacon never drew. Other exhibitions have taken place — most recently Bacon in the 1950s at the Sainsbury Centre in Norwich (2006) — and various books have appeared.

The Bacon industry, then, is booming, and represents big business. Since the artist’s death in 1992, the management of his estate (reputedly worth hundreds of millions of pounds) has been transferred away from Marlborough Fine Art, Bacon’s dealers since 1958, to Faggionato Fine Art in London and Tony Shafrazi in New York, in a manoeuvre that cost some £10 million in lawyers’ fees. One man caught in the crossfire was Michael Peppiatt, the leading authority on Francis Bacon, and his official biographer. (Peppiatt’s biography, Anatomy of an Enigma, was first published in 1996 and now appears in a revised and updated version from Constable, priced £12.99.) Although Peppiatt knew Bacon well for nearly 30 years, and thus takes on the mantle of David Sylvester as chief Bacon interpreter, he has been oddly marginalised by the estate. The massive task of producing a three-volume catalogue raisonné has been assigned elsewhere and even the accompanying catalogue to the Tate Britain show includes no contribution from Peppiatt. Thankfully, Yale are about to publish Peppiatt’s collected Bacon essays in a handsome volume entitled Francis Bacon: Studies for a Portrait (£18.99).

I was privileged to preview the Tate show with one of its curators, Chris Stephens, while paintings were still being unpacked and hung. Stephens is an enthusiastic and knowledgable man and clearly proud of the exhibition — quite rightly, for it gives the public the chance to see an excellent selection of great paintings. After all the necessary work of organisation and research, Stephens emphasises his own enjoyment of simply looking at the paint surfaces and effects Bacon achieves. The artist would no doubt have approved: he employed all manner of diversionary tactics when it came to explaining the work. As he said: ‘I’m just trying to make images as accurately off my nervous system as I can. I don’t even know what half of them mean. I’m not trying to say anything.’

This show returns you to the paint in no uncertain terms. Stephens claims his conservatism of approach as a bonus: this exhibition presents the work largely chronologically, grouped in loosely connected themes, without trying to substantiate any particular theory. As Stephens says: ‘To make a point, you have often to show the less good works. We didn’t want to do that.’ Bacon was the great modern painter of the male figure, and his themes encompassed mortality, and the futility and solitude of life. There is less violence in the work than is often suggested by stories of the artist’s own rackety bohemian existence and taste for sadomasochistic sex.

Bacon is famous for using photographs as source material, in fact preferring good black-and-white photos to the actual person if he was painting a portrait. As Stephens notes: ‘One of the peculiar things about Bacon is how open he was from very early on about his subject matter.’ He made no effort to disguise his use of photography, as demonstrated here in an Archive room. Transforming into telling painted images the reduced information supplied by photos was Bacon’s speciality, and to this end he employed all manner of formal strategies and devices to re-enrich the image, such as different techniques of applying the paint and using the reverse of the canvas. His actions were actually very controlled and thought-through, and he was adept at texture, placing and drawing. He was in fact an exceptionally skilled painter producing grand images of the human condition, whose ambition was to make work for ‘either the National Gallery or the dustbin’.

At Tate Britain, the show starts with the paintings of 1945, and particularly Figure in a Landscape, full of unusually worked paint, scratched in places, loosely brushed in others, vivid and immediate in its effect. Bacon is not known for his thick paint, but look at the ribbed and pelleted facture of ‘Head II’ (1949). Then there is the series of men in suits, thinly stained blue canvases in which the faces are worked subtly in pink and white. Gradually the big familiar subjects emerge: the Pope, the Crucifixion, van Gogh, the nurse from the film Battleship Potemkin. Among these it is very good to find less well-known pictures. I had never before seen Figure in a Mountain Landscape (1956), from the Kunsthaus, Zurich, with its marvellous paintwork reminiscent of Soutine. But the strength of the show can perhaps best be seen in the room subtitled ‘Epic’, when Bacon sweeps the viewer through his own literary obsessions (T.S. Eliot, Aeschylus, Lorca) in passages of beautiful paint and disquieting imagery. In the last room, a canvas entitled Study from the Human Body (1981) features a figure disappearing into a void. It’s an immensely suitable note to end on, but also an efficient summation of Bacon’s peculiar mixture of exhilaration and despair.

Thankfully, it’s not a huge show. Bacon was the master of the triptych, and there are 13 triptychs here, each counting of course as a single work. So, there are 70 paintings plus a handful of drawings. A good size for an exhibition of such intense work (‘You have to abbreviate into intensity,’ Bacon said); there’s a lot to absorb. The exhibition will tour to the Prado in Madrid (3 February–19 April 2009), and then on to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (18 May–16 August).

For those who don’t like Bacon, I can recommend the display of Victor Pasmore’s work in Room 22 of Tate Britain (until 5 April 2009). Sometimes I yearn for a different ordering of the art world, in which important artists who are not — and may never be — brand names nevertheless receive the proper showing the quality of their work deserves. Victor Pasmore (1908–98) is a major figure in 20th-century British art, a superb and poetic realist painter (Whistler meets Seurat) who underwent a much-publicised conversion to abstraction in 1948. Thereafter he produced collages and contructions of radical geometric impulse and wonderful organic abstract paintings. A great draughtsman and subtle colourist, Pasmore is not at the height of fashion these days. His centenary is celebrated by a single room at Tate Britain, which, however good, is too meagre a representation. Interestingly, it’s also curated by Chris Stephens, and it comes garlanded with a revealing quote from David Sylvester, better known for his championship of Bacon. Of Pasmore he said: ‘No other British artist of the 20th century has produced such a quantity of beautiful work.’ That’s praise.

The Spectator, 22 Old Queen Street, London, SW1H 9HP. All Articles and Content Copyright ©2007 by The Spectator (1828) Ltd. All Rights Reserved

 

 

FRANCIS BACON: Studies for a Portrait

by Michael  Peppiatt

Yale University Press, 2008. 

ISBN:0300142552, hardcover, 35 black-&-white illustrations, 208 pages. Price: £ 18.99 Published: November 18 2008

 

                         

 

One of the most elusive and enigmatic creative geniuses of modern times, Francis Bacon was a man of endless contradictions and facets. In this invaluable book Michael Peppiatt, a major art critic and close friend of Bacon's, offers an entertaining and uniquely well-informed portrait of this complex artist. Peppiatt's collection of interviews and essays spans more than forty years - from 1963, when the two men met, to 2007, when Peppiatt wrote an essay explaining Bacon's passionate involvement with Van Gogh. The pieces in between include discussions of Bacon's working methods and techniques, his unlikely relationship with his London dealer, his attitude toward Christian belief and classical myth, and his defining friendship with the eminent French writer Michel Leiris. Peppiatt also provides fascinating anecdotes about the artist's early life, his intimate relationships, and his connections with the artists who were his contemporaries and friends. In addition, among the interviews reproduced for the book are new transcripts of two interviews presenting previously omitted material that brings out many little-known aspects of Bacon's presence and personality.

 

                                       

                    Yale University Press 2008                                                                                   Francis Bacon with Michael Peppiatt

 

 

It all began with Freud and Bacon...

 

She's made a bestselling career examining the mores of suburbia, but as Shena Mackay admits, her literary life started in the fleshpots of Soho

Rachel Cooke, The Observer, Sunday November 9 2008

 

Mackay was born in 1944. Her father did a series of jobs, from miner to ship's purser, and was often away; his marriage to Mackay's mother was mostly unhappy. She wanted to be a writer early on, a poet preferably. 'It was through reading, and loving words. I could read when I was three.'

Shortly before she left school - the family was living in Blackheath by this time and Mackay was attending Kidbrooke comprehensive, which she hated - she won a Daily Mirror poetry competition, judged by the likes of Kathleen Raine. The prize was £25. 'It was a huge amount of money, but because I was leaving school [she left with two O-levels], I had to buy these boring clothes for my job as an office junior; it had to be squandered on pleated skirts and cardigans.'

The job didn't work out but, soon after, she got another one, working in an antique shop in Chancery Lane. This turned out to be life-changing, in its way. The shop was owned by the parents of David Sylvester, the art critic, with whom she later had an affair (he was the father of her daughter, Cecily Brown, the artist). The Sylvesters' son-in-law, playwright Frank Marcus, who is probably best known for The Killing of Sister George, worked there with her. It was Marcus who encouraged her to keep at the novel she had begun writing. 'He found me an agent. He had it typed out for me.'

David Sylvester, meanwhile, introduced her to every painter you care to think of, from Frank Auerbach to Jasper Johns. She would visit the Colony Room Club in Soho with him, for nights out with Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud. 'Yes, I did meet them, but I was a young girl and they were middle-aged.' But she realised how famous they were? 'Oh, yeah. I mean, I met Giacometti. I certainly realised who he was. Sometimes, the impression is given that I used to hang out in the Colony Room. But I didn't really. They were David's friends, not mine.

'Francis could be scary. He could either be lovely or spiteful - though he was never spiteful to me. He liked me, so that was all right. It was a great time and I loved it, but at a certain point, that kind of life becomes quite sad. I realised it was much more glamorous actually to have a real life.'

 

 

Art world's after-hours haunt, the Colony Room, may be saved from closure

 

November 8, 2008

   

 

The impending closure of the Colony Room, the Soho drinking den patronised by louche figures from the art world including Francis Bacon and Tracey Emin, may be averted after an intervention by English Heritage.

The advisory body is rushing through an inspection to determine whether the club, which has witnessed 60 years of booze-soaked misbehaviour by some of Britain's most creative drunks, merits listed status.

The club is under threat after Michael Wojas, its secretary and chief barman, said that he would close it when he retires in March. He claims that the lease is up, but members who wish to preserve the club are concerned that he may have surrendered the lease without consulting them.

If English Heritage is impressed, it will recommend to the Government that the club be listed as culturally important. The final decision rests with Barbara Follett, the Culture Minister.

Artists who are campaigning to keep the Colony Room open believe that listed status will help them to come to an arrangement with the landlord because it would be harder to redevelop the premises.

The club, a single-room venue founded to provide a refuge for members when the pubs closed, has also received the support of Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, who wrote an open letter this week to Simon Thurley, the head of English Heritage. “I hope that you would agree that it is important for London to preserve venues and collections that bring inspiration and artistic pleasure to local, national and international visitors,” he wrote.

English Heritage told The Times that the building must have architectural and historical merit on a national scale. “We are aware that there are development pressures on the building,” a spokeswoman said. “The application has been pushed towards the top of the pile to be considered. We are aware of the enthusiasm about the cultural relevance of the building, and the people who are associated with it.”

She said that an inspection would take place within a fortnight.

Rosemarie MacQueen, head of planning for Westminster City Council, said that if listed status were granted it would be an important consideration if the landlord attempted to change the building. “The Colony Room is basically a room with a staircase,” she said. “The real interest is 20th-century culture. If it is listed, that is the thing you're trying to protect. Any application for change of use would have to take that into consideration.”

The club has been a regular haunt for artists and musicians including Lucian Freud, Peter O'Toole, John Hurt, Sir Peter Blake, George Melly and Damien Hirst.

Mr Wojas did not respond to inquiries yesterday.

 

 

 

Boris Johnson moves to save the Colony

 

The FIRST POST, Wednesday November 5, 2008

 

London mayor Boris Johnson is attempting to save one of the city's seediest cultural landmarks, the Colony Room Club in Soho, which is currently under threat of closure. In a letter to the chairman of English Heritage, Simon Thurley, Johnson pledges his unequivocal support for the preservation of the drinking dive, once the haunt of the painter Francis Bacon and in more recent times Damien Hirst and his YBA (Young British Artists) cronies, and calls for it to be listed.

"I write to you in support of the campaign to prevent the iconic Colony Room Club from possible closure," writes Boris. "The Colony is a unique and important place for the capital both in terms of cultural and architectural significance. It represents an important part of part of London's post-war cultural heritage... I hope that you would agree that it is important for London to preserve venues and collections that bring inspiration and artistic pleasure to local, national and international visitors."

So why does it need saving? As reported here, the club's secretary and head barman, Michael Wojas, announced he was closing the club in March. It later transpired that Wojas had neglected to pay the rent on the premises for several months and recently, to the astonishment of everyone trying to save the place, he surrendered the lease to the landlord, an act which effectively signed the 60-year-old club’s death warrant.

In reaction to this, the members who want the club to survive - the Save The Colony Room Campaign - are attempting to oust Wojas and the committee that supports him at an annual general meeting today, a move they see as regrettable but essential if they are to have any chance of saving their beloved club from extinction.

"It's a desperate situation," says a member of the campaign team. "Michael Wojas will probably win the vote at the AGM because he has been ringing old members who know nothing about what he's been up to.

"What's unbelievable is that he maintains he's representing the interests of the members. By closing the club? By handing over the lease? By not paying the rent and flogging off the art works? I don't think so."

Ah, the art works. In September, Wojas put up for sale many of the Colony's artworks, raising some £40,000. This was allegedly to be his "pension pot". But the Save the Colony Room Campaign said that many of these were gifts to the club and so not Wojas's to sell, a claim supported by many of the donors. As a result of intense legal activity, the campaign managed to have the proceeds from the auction, held by the London firm Lyon and Turnbull, placed in an escrow account until true title of ownership had been established.

 

 

Christie's

 

The Modern Age: The Collection of Alice Lawrence

5 - 6 November 2008
New York, Rockefeller Plaza

 

Lot 44/Sale 2255 Lucien Freud (b. 1922) Head of a Man

 

  

                Head of a Man 1966 Lucien Freud

 

Lot Description

Lucian Freud (b. 1922)
Head of a Man
signed and dated 'Lucian F 1966' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
18¼ x 15 3/8 in. (46.4 x 39.1 cm.)
Painted in 1966

Estimate

$1,800,000 - $2,500,000

Price Realized

$1,800,000 - $2,500,000

Pre-Lot Text

The Collection of Alice Lawrence

Provenance

Marlborough Gallery, London.
Mr. H. J. Renton, London
His sale; Sotheby's, London, 30 June 1988, lot 643.
Acquired at the above sale by the late owner.

Exhibited

London, Marlborough Gallery, Lucian Freud: Recent Work, 1968, no. 12 (titled George Dyer II).

Lot Notes

Painted in 1966, Head of a Man is one of only two oil portraits by Lucian Freud of George Dyer, the lover and companion of his friend and fellow artist Francis Bacon. The picture dates from a period when Freud and Bacon were seeing each other on an almost daily basis. Their friendship, which had been struck up during the 1940s following their introduction to each other by Graham Sutherland, was important to both men on a personal and an artistic level. Freud and Dyer featured in a great number of Bacon's paintings. However, Bacon and Dyer each appeared only in two of Freud's oils (his 1952 portrait of Bacon, formerly in the collection of the Tate, was stolen when on exhibition in London), making Head of a Man an extremely rare insight into their friendship.

Dyer has become one of the most legendary of Bacon's friends and companions; their relationship even inspired the 1998 film Love Is the Devil, starring Daniel Craig and Derek Jacobi. Bacon, himself an incorrigible spinner of exaggerated tales, claimed he had caught Dyer, a petty criminal, in the act when he attempted to break into the artist's home, and that this marked the beginning of their relationship. However, a more prosaic and more indicative explanation of their first meeting was included in Michael Peppiatt's biography of Bacon, who explained that in 1964:

I was drinking with John Deakin, who had just done some photographs for me, and lots of others. George was down the far end of the bar and he came over and said, You all seem to be having a good time. Can I buy you a drink?' And that's how I met him. I might never have noticed him otherwise (Bacon, quoted in M. Peppiatt, Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma, London, 1999, p. 211).

Dyer had been brought up in a family that had a history of petty crime, and it was in this vocation that he attempted to make his way. He was caught often enough that he spent time first in borstals as a young offender and then in prison. There was a physical presence to the man that implied strength and violence, and this, along with his crooked nose, has been captured in Freud's Head of a Man, where the sheer bulk of head and shoulders are emphasised. This serves to highlight the sensitivity of the eyes and facial expression which, according to memoirs, were often in stark contrast to the gangster image that he tried to project, mimicking the style of figures such as the Kray twins in his sharp suits and thin ties.

From the point of Dyer's first acquaintance with Bacon, he was seldom out of his company, and came to figure in many of his paintings too. Now Dyer, no longer actively embroiled in the criminal fraternity that had formerly provided his milieu, was in the company of a celebrated artist and bon vivant, a situation that meant that he and his friends seldom lacked for alcohol or company. Bacon's own recollections about Dyer provide some insight into the paradoxes and complexities of the man who tragically took his own life on the eve of the painter's 1971 retrospective in Paris:

His stealing at least gave him a raison d'être, even though he wasn't very successful at it and was always in and out of prison. But it gave him something to think about. When George was inside, he'd spend all his time planning what he would do when he came out. And so on. I thought I was helping him when I took him out of that life. I knew the next time he was caught he'd get a heavy sentence. And I thought, well, life's too short to spend half of it in prison. But I was wrong, of course. He'd have been in and out of prison, but at least he'd have been alive. He became totally impossible with drink. The rest of the time, when he was sober, he could be terribly engaging and gentle. He used to love being with children and animals. I think he was a nicer person than me. He was more compassionate. He was much too nice to be a crook. That was the trouble. He only went in for stealing because he had been born into it (Bacon, quoted in David Sylvester, Looking back at Francis Bacon, London, 2000, p. 135).

The strange tension between Dyer's criminality and his gentle, tender side is in evidence in Head of a Man.

In Head of a Man, even the brushwork owed its existence in part to the artistic relationship between Bacon and Freud. When they had first met, and indeed into the 1950s, Freud had painted in a meticulous style, usually seated at his easel, using extremely fine sable-hair brushes. It was with some justification that Herbert Read had referred to him as the "Ingres of Existentialism." However, in the early 1950s, in part through a feeling of the constraints of that style and influenced by Bacon's own handling of paint, Freud began to use larger brushes, standing behind his easel, allowing him more movement, more gesture, and therefore resulting in pictures that were more painterly, as is the case in Head of a Man. "His work impressed me but his personality affected me," Freud has explained of his relationship to Bacon.

It was through that and through talking to him a lot. He talked a great deal about the paint itself carrying the form, and imbuing the paint with a sort of life. He talked about packing a lot of things into one single brushstroke, which amused and excited me and I realized it was a million miles from anything I could ever do (Freud, quoted in W. Feaver, Lucian Freud, New York, 2007, p. 321).

Within a short time, Freud had developed the virtuoso painterly style for which he is so famed, and which is clear in the almost organic way that he has built up the sense of flesh in Dyer's features in Head of a Man. There is a pulsing impression of life, of vitality in the oils in this picture, that demonstrates his insistence that, "I would wish my portraits to be of the people, not like them. Not having a look of the sitter, being them. I didn't want to get just a likeness like a mimic, but to portray them, like an actor. As far as I am concerned the paint is the person. I want it to work for me just as flesh does" (Freud, quoted in L. Gowing, Lucian Freud, London, 1982, pp. 190-91). It is for this reason that Freud continues to focus, in his portraiture, on those people who form a part of his family or his circle, people whom he knows and who can relax in front of him, while being scrutinized by him, for long enough for the painting to be complete.

This sense of life, captured in oils, perhaps reveals some artistic cousinship between Freud and the seventeenth-century Dutch painter Frans Hals. Discussing Hals, Freud celebrated that vivid sense of life that he managed to capture in his laughing cavaliers, banqueters and revelers:

They still shock people very much. I remember Francis had a friend called George (Dyer) who had never looked at any painting in his life. He'd been a sort of lookout man, a very bad one, and he saw a book of Hals, he looked at it and his face absolutely lit up. He said what a marvelous idea making people look like that. He thought they were modern. That's right really. I mean they are all talking, eating, grinning - I think of Shakespeare a bit - done from a kind of detached (and not all that detached) wit and observation" (Freud, quoted in Feaver, op.cit., 2007, p. 322).

In Head of a Man, while Dyer may not be talking, eating or grinning, Freud has nonetheless captured a similarly vivid sense of his subject's life and character.

 

                                                

                                                                                                         Head of a Man 1966 Lucien Freud

 

 

 

Top 100 Treasures

 

Roberta Maneker, Art & Antiques, November 2008

 

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then where does value lie? Ask the child who tucks away a seashell as a souvenir of summer; or the flea market hunter-gatherer who pays a pittance for antique pottery others are ignoring; or the mutual fund manager who knows a stock’s worth can change by the hour; or the Russian billionaire who has just plunked down more than $80 million for a must-have trio of Francis Bacon’s exquisite, anguished-expressionist canvases. Value is in the eyes, hearts and minds of those who recognize and create it. While often measured in dollars or rubles or euro or yen, in the art market, at least, it’s this ineffable sense of the kind of appreciation certain objects deserve that helps transform price-tagged objects into inestimable, ever-more-desirable treasures.

 

2: Bringing Home the Bacon


The Francis Bacon market is exploding. In 2007 alone, Bacon works at auction brought more than $250 million. In May his monumental Triptych, 1976, painted in muted, if not lugubrious tones, became the most expensive work of contemporary art sold publicly, bringing $86.3 million. It might, however, be a bargain per square inch: Each panel measures approximately a staggering 6 by 5 feet. Sotheby’s announced a European private buyer, but other sources named London-based Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich. —
R.M.

 

 

 

FRANCIS BACON

 

Les sublimes tortures de Bacon

 

Les Échos, France, Lundi 3 Novembre 2008

 

Rendez-vous à Londres pour découvrir les aspects méconnus d'un peintre de génie et de tourments.

A la Tate Britain,

jusqu'au 4 janvier.

tél. : 00.44.207.887.88.88.

 

 

 

Faire sienne l'histoire de l'art pour être capable de créer une nouvelle peinture... Tout comme Picasso, Francis Bacon (1909-1992) puisa dans le répertoire classique de la peinture. Mais, contrairement à son aîné espagnol, l'Irlandais de Londres s'intéressait plutôt aux reproductions des oeuvres, comme s'il redoutait la puissance du contact avec la toile. Jusqu'au 4 janvier, la Tate Britain le montre sous un jour inédit. Une rétrospective magistrale qui met en exergue des toiles moins connues et les dernières recherches issues de l'étude de son lieu de travail.

 

Une des grandes obsessions de Bacon est une reproduction qu'il possédait en plusieurs exemplaires du pape Innocent X, peint par Vélasquez en 1650, aujourd'hui conservé à la galerie Doria Pamphilij de Rome. Selon l'ami du peintre et historien Michael Peppiatt, Bacon a peint pas moins de 45 Papes entre 1949 et 1971. Mais il n'a jamais cherché à voir la toile de Vélasquez, même lors de son passage à Rome.

Dévoreur de photographies

En homme du XXe siècle, il était un dévoreur de photographies. Les images jonchaient le sol de son atelier de Londres. C'est cette matière première assemblée par une sensibilité tourmentée, agrémentée d'un sens des couleurs hors du commun - il avait exercé dans sa jeunesse le métier de décorateur -, qui donne corps à l'oeuvre de Francis Bacon.

 

A la Tate Britain, l'espace a été divisé en thématiques pour ouvrir les yeux du spectateur sur des points clefs de son langage. La première abordée, celle de l'animal, est un leitmotiv dans sa création. Montrer l'aspect le plus sauvage de l'être humain, c'est produire des corps torturés et tordus, des visages déformés par des cris infinis. En 1944, il crée Trois études pour personnages de la crucifixion reconnues comme son premier chef-d'oeuvre. Sur un fond orange, un être surréaliste en gris dont émerge un cou tendu et une énorme bouche. Le catalogue de l'exposition explique que cette imagerie de l'homme bestial est puisée dans un fonds de photos qui est disposé dans le studio de l'artiste et qui mélange des reproductions de Vélasquez, Grünewald, Rodin et aussi des photos de leaders nazis comme Joseph Goebbels en train de discourir.

 

Une des caractéristiques fortes de la peinture de Bacon consiste aussi à circonscrire un champ de vision au sein de la toile. C'est au sujet de cette « zone » qu'est consacrée une partie de l'exposition. Etude de chien  de 1952 est une toile dépouillée au centre de laquelle figure l'animal. Il est dans un cercle délimité par une ligne verte, lui-même situé dans un polygone bordé de orange. Bacon explique qu'il a puisé l'idée de zone dans son expérience de décorateur et qu'elle permet d'extraire le sujet de son environnement naturel.

Etudes et soirs d'ivresse

Crucifixion : voilà un thème prisé par le peintre masochiste. De la viande, du sang, de la douleur... une véritable boucherie, comme dans les « Trois études pour une crucifixion » de 1962. L'ensemble est saturé de teintes fortes mises au service du drame. Le sol est orange, les murs rouges en contraste avec des formes géométriques noires. Les études faites autour de cette peinture, réalisée un soir de désespoir et d'ivresse, montrent l'influence des  Demoiselles d'Avignon, de Picasso, du crucifix de Cimabue à l'église Santa Croce de Florence, mais aussi d'une photo de Mussolini pendu par les pieds, prise après sa mort.

 

Une salle entière de la Tate Britain explique comment le peintre fait usage des images. L'étude du mouvement en photographie par Muybridge à la fin du XIXe siècle se retrouve dans sa peinture, tout comme un portrait photo d'Isabel Rawsthorne debout dans une rue de Soho dont le visage va être consciencieusement déformé et replacé au sein d'une sorte d'arène cerclée de bleu roi. En 1981, Bacon écrivait à l'écrivain français Michel Leiris : « Nous sommes forcés d'inventer des méthodes par lesquelles la réalité peut prendre le dessus sur notre système nerveux d'une manière nouvelle qui permette néanmoins de ne pas perdre la vision objective du modèle. »

JUDITH BENHAMOU-HUET
 

 

Own a Francis Bacon? We’ll Pay You $$!

 

Sotheby’s, lender of last resort.

 

Alexandra Peers, New York Magazine, November 2, 2008

 

One art-world business is booming: collectors looking to borrow against works they own, especially before the fall sales threaten to lower values. “We’ve been contacted by lots of people who are feeling some sort of margin call,” says Sotheby’s CEO, Bill Ruprecht. Other lenders have virtually stopped lending against art recently, but Ruprecht says Sotheby’s is still “very comfortable” doing so. (At 2007’s end, the auction house had $176.4 million loaned out; by the middle of this year, it was $212 million.) Tobias Meyer, who runs the contemporary-art department, says he’s also seeing more “consignment advances”—sellers agreeing to put their art on the block and getting some money up front. But he’s also finding owners disappointed by their holdings’ worth. “Just because we sold a great, rare $80 million Francis Bacon, everyone with a Bacon thinks theirs is worth $40 million,” he says. “It doesn’t work that way.”

 

 

Francis Bacon, Urbanist, at Tate Britain

 

Ken Livingstone, Joseph Rykwert and others discuss art and architecture.

Text by Ned Beauman | Dazed Digital, 31 October 2008

 

  Would Francis Bacon prefer the London of today to the London he actually grew up in? That was the question posed last week at the second of two Architecture Foundation panels at Tate Britain, this time featuring architects Nigel Coates and Denise Scott Brown, critics Joe Kerr and Joseph Rykwert, and former mayor Ken Livingstone.

Londoners, argued Coates in his opening keynote, often feel a great excitement about the fact that the city decays faster than it can be rebuilt, and Bacon’s attraction to the “entropic aspects” of cities comes through clearly in his paintings. So does his attraction to cramped, crowded places – pubs, butcher shops, boxing matches and back alleys - all of which anticipate the claustrophobic spaces he put down on canvas. Also influential were the possibility of impending doom that characterised much of the 1950s, and a certain disillusionment about the concrete sterility of what was being thrown up to repair the destruction of the Blitz.

In the clean, safe, prosperous modern London, of course, all that darkness is mostly gone, but the sterility is still here, simply transfigured from concrete into glass and steel. Kerr drew a parallel between the way that, in the Thatcher era, the city became predictable and therefore lost a certain complex, inscrutable eroticism, and the way that, after the passage of the Wolfenden Act that liberalised homosexuality, gay people were no longer driven into the small, dark, weird spaces that many of them came to relish. But is it dangerous to be nostalgic about a vanished London? Yes, said Rykwert: every generation thinks that London isn’t as good as it was.

Ken Livingstone, addressing this issue, described himself as an ‘urban chauvinist’, for whom cities are all that really matter. He argued that the post-war Abercrombie plan to reduce the population of London to five and a half million would have led to a horribly dull capital, and that, although today’s London may have lost some of its looseness, it is at least full of human diversity, which Bacon would have appreciated; and the real challenge for cities like Shanghai and Mumbai is to be open to population change, as well as population growth. Livingstone admitted, however, that there is one aspect of modern London that he’s glad he didn’t grow up with: “None of us had our own flat or our own car, so thank god there was no CCTV in alleys back then or we all would have been 25-year-old virgins.”
 

 

 

Bacon in close focus

 

Rebecca Daniels praises the curators' discriminating selection of works in Tate's impressive Bacon exhibition.

 

Rebecca Daniels, Apollo, 1st November, 2008

 

Despite claims that the Tate's Francis Bacon exhibition is the biggest retrospective of him ever staged, it is, in fact, substantially smaller than the gallery's 1985 show. However, the decision to be more selective has resulted in a very high-quality exhibition. It is really a celebration of Bacon's larger paintings and the few smaller works included, such as Study for Head of George Dyer (1967; private collection), tend to be over-shadowed. The focus on large-scale works is justified given the crowds likely to flock to this show and the paintings have been generously spaced, maximising the chances for an unimpaired view of them.

This is particularly apparent in the opening room, which is hung with only seven works, introducing the paintings that Bacon completed after Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (around 1944; Tate). The absence of that seminal work from Room 1 (it is included in a later room devoted to the Crucifixion) prevents the viewer from appreciating it as Bacon subsequently intended: he made clear that it was the painting that launched his career and anything he completed prior to it should be destroyed. Also missing, undoubtedly due to its fragile condition, is Painting 1946 (1946; Museum of Modern Art, New York), a work that held a lifelong importance for Bacon. These exclusions from Room I highlight the fact that this is the first exhibition held here since Bacon died and, without the control he exercised over the previous Tate show, the curators have had a new freedom in the presentation and reassessment of his art.

There are two principal thematic detours from what is a loosely chronological hang, and these provide the most dramatic and visually powerful displays in the exhibition. The first features Bacon's recurring preoccupation with the theme of the Crucifixion, the earliest version being the haunting Crucifixion (1933, Murderme, London), which Herbert Read illustrated in Art Now (1933), when Bacon was unknown. Bacon's art is often characterised as violent and brutal but, with a few exceptions, this does not hold up under analysis. However, the Crucifixion triptychs are indeed violent, as the exhibition's curator Chris Stephens noted in a BBC interview, and the decision by him and his co-curator, Matthew Gale, to hang Three Studies for a Crucifixion (1962; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York) and Crucifixion (1965; Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich; Fig. 2) facing each other, as if in gladiatorial combat, is inspired.

A source for the mutilated bodies that appear in both the 1962 and the 1965 Crucifixion paintings is probably, as Martin Harrison has observed in the catalogue that accompanies the exhibition, an illustration in a book Bacon owned, The True Aspects of the Algerian Revolution (1957). The prominence of carcasses in both triptychs was prompted by a feature on abattoirs in Paris Match in November 1961 (which was found in Bacon's studio). Furthermore, the controversial inclusion of a swastika in the 1965 Crucifixion was influenced by photographs of Hitler and his entourage. Therefore, the inspiration for the motifs in these important triptychs is drawn, as in so much of Bacon's art, from magazines, newspapers and books. Yet, despite the importance of this material, several reviewers have denounced the exhibitions inclusion of a room devoted to archival material as a distraction from the paintings. To me, the archive room enhances the experience of Bacon's work, as it adds to an understanding of Bacon's preparatory methods in the same way that Michelangelo's preliminary studies (incidentally a major source of inspiration to Bacon) enhance an understanding of his finished frescoes.

The second thematic room, 'Memorial', is devoted to triptychs of George Dyer, Bacon's lover and muse. The three large triptychs were all completed in the years following Dyer's death in October 1971. The first, Triptych - In memory of George Dyer (1971; Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel; Fig. 1) is unusual in Bacon's oeuvre as it appears to illustrate episodes in Dyer's life, while Triptych, May-June 1973 (1973; private collection, Switzerland) recalls events of his lonely suicide by graphically showing him vomiting in a sink in one panel and in another slumped on a toilet (where he was found dead). Despite Bacon's dislike of narrative interpretation, these triptychs seem to encourage a biographical reading, an approach that the curators have invited by collecting these works under the heading 'Memorial'.

While it is tempting to analyse these works solely as a sentimental and nostalgic pining for lost love
- and there is undoubtedly an element of that poignantly expressed in Bacon's diary on 24 October 1972 ('George died a year today') - it must also be remembered that shortly before his death Dyer had planted drugs in Bacon's studio, leading to Bacon's arrest and trial only four months before Dyer's suicide. It is perhaps because such complex personal emotions underlie these works that Bacon, unusually, has been unable to frustrate a narrative reading of his works.

Bacon's penchant for painting in themes is well represented and there is a good selection of popes, businessmen, crouching figures and animal paintings. The decision to hang the paintings at an extremely low level (often just above the skirting boards) enables the viewer to examine the variations in Bacon's application of paint. Nowhere is this more marked than in Head II (1949; Ulster Museum, Belfast; Fig. 3), where the top half of the canvas has paint so thick that it seems impenetrable (Bacon was trying to capture the effect of rhinoceros skin) but the lower left is just raw canvas (revealing also that Bacon painted on the unprimed side of the canvas). Subtle nuances in technique and colour can be appreciated with the low hang of the series works, particularly of the Popes, where the marked differences in such compositional elements as the 'space frames', curtains or 'shuttering' and the depiction of the throne are worthy of close attention.

The one problematic aspect of the hang is the decision to break up the series paintings, particularly the crouching figures, which are displayed over several different rooms and therefore offer no chance to view them comparatively. Nevertheless, in the case of the businessmen - which are all hung in one room - interspersing them with animal paintings forces one to view them independently of each other, and subtle differences appeared that I had not noticed before. The exhibition also has a wonderful range of Bacon's important late works, particularly a room filled predominantly with triptychs from the 1960s to 1980s, including Triptych (1976; private collection), which was recently sold in London for the highest price ever paid for a post-war work of art.

The quality and range of the works on display provide an opportunity to show Bacon at his best to a new generation too young to have seen the 1985 show. I left the exhibition feeling, as one should, visually exhausted but exhilarated.

Rebecca Daniels is a researcher on Francis Bacon: The Catalogue Raisonne.  

 

 

Bacon har en stillhet mitt i fasan

 

 

FRUSEN OBJEKTIVITET Trots skräcken och plågan hos figurerna är Francis Bacons penselskrift ömsint, delikat. Carl-Johan Malmberg har sett Tates tredje retrospektiv med den irländsk-brittiske målaren, och läst en bok som belyser det sakrala hos Bacon.

 

Francis Bacon. Studies for a Portrait

SVD Sweden, 31 Oktober 2008

 

Det sägs ibland att England bara haft två och en halv verkligt betydande målare: William Blake, William Turner – och så Francis Bacon (1909–1992); han räknas bara som en halv eftersom han var född på Irland.

Av 1900-talets engelska målare är Bacon hur som helst den enda som under seklet nådde utanför England, och det trots – eller kanske tack vare – att hans måleri ­redan vid debuten 1945 med triptyken Three studies for figures at the base of a crucifixion, ett måleriskt bombnedslag, gick stick i stäv med de rådande abstrakta strömningarna.

Vid den tiden förstod bara några få Bacons betydelse, bland dem de tongivande kritikerna Herbert Read och Kenneth Clark, liksom ledningen för Tate Gallery. Där tog man något motvilligt emot den skräckinjagande triptyken några år efter tillkomsten, som gåva av konstnärens dåvarande älskare, en förmögen affärsman.

I höst är Bacon aktuell med sin tredje retrospektiv på Tate (de tidigare var 1962 och 1985). Det är en storslagen utställning som ger en enastående överblick över livsverket. Triptyken är givetvis central, inte bara som startpunkten för konstnärskapet. Här finns mycket av det som under de kommande ­decennierna skulle komma att känneteckna Bacon, denne envist borrande mullvad: figurernas monstrositet, det klaustrofobiska och samtidigt gränslösa rummet, den kliniska ljussättningen, den relativt tunt pålagda, glanslösa färgen, och en underligt frusen objektivitet, en stillhet mitt i fasan – kanske det som Bacon själv, apropå Picasso, skulle kalla ”the brutality of fact”.

Bacon tillhör de konstnärer som kombinerar det radikalt främmande med något man ändå tycker sig känna igen; Freud döpte denna egenskap hos så mycket stor konst till das Unheimliche, det kusliga. En av hemligheterna med Bacon är legeringen av det gengångaraktiga med det aldrig tidigare skådade. Vi har varit här förr – och vi är här för första gången.

Han sökte aldrig sin stil, han fann den tidigt, eller rättare sagt, han trädde fram som målare först när han funnit den. När han gjorde triptyken var han 35 år. I Tate-retrospektiven samsas den med ett drygt sjuttiotal andra verk, flera av dem triptyker, men denna första ter sig nu nästan intim. Bacons favoritstorlek kom senare att bli betydligt större dukar som rymde människan i helformat, dukar om 2x1,5 meter, och utställningen visar hans besatthet av det formatet.

En viss monotoni står på spel; målningarna är vid första påseende mycket lika varandra: en enstaka eller ett par figurer, manieristiskt vridna, i ett rum med gåtfulla, liksom provisoriska, kanske mer för kroppen än för ögat förnimbara avspjälkningar.

Det likartade förstärks av att samtliga målningar är glasade och de flesta dessutom i tunga guldramar. Jag har alltid trott att detta var galleriernas och samlarnas påhitt, det gör Bacons säregna, spindelvävstunna måleriska textur svår att uppfatta med mindre än att man trycker näsan mot glaset.

Men Michael Peppiatt, den främste kännaren av Bacons person och konst sedan David Sylvester dog, skriver i sin nyutkomna essäsamling Francis Bacon. Studies for a Portrait: ”Bacon ville att hans bilder skulle bestå; och det var säkert det underliggande skälet till att han lät glasa dem i allt deras överdåd och förse dem med massiva guldramar, med den råa paradoxen och gåtfullheten intakt, precis som de inneslutna mästerverken runt om i världens kyrkor och museer.”

Peppiatt skriver detta i The Sacred and the Profane, bokens viktigaste essä och tveklöst bland det bästa som skrivits om honom. Han visar hur Bacon i sin våldsamma uppfattning av det sakrala går vid sidan av den kristna mytologi han hämtat så mycket visuell inspiration från (alla dessa korsfästelser), och liksom lösgör element, smärtan, det plågade skriket, offrandet av människo­kroppen, ur berättelserna till ett slags slagkraftiga punktfenomen. Den plågade, sargade kroppen blir vardagsmänniskans. Skriet, som finns redan i triptyken från 1945, blir till existentiell urbild. Vi är födda att dö och däremellan finns skriet.

Jag vet inte om någon har kopplat ihop Bacons återkommande skri – inte minst de skrikande påvarna, hans mest kända bilder – med Jesajas 40:e kapitel där det, i den engelska bibelöversättning som Bacon läste, heter: ”The voice said, Cry… All flesh is grass.” Här finns inte bara urskriket – Gud uppmanar Jesaja att skrika ut kroppens dödlighet. Här finns också en möjlig urcell för Bacons besatthet av kroppen, köttet.

I vår gamla bibelöversättning heter det ”Allt kött är hö.”

De orden är en god sammanfattning av Bacons måleri. Han förvandlar det av våld, av lust, av båda tillsammans, eller bara av att finnas till plågade mänskliga köttet till gräsliknande penselstråk. Hans penselskrift är trots skräcken och skriken hos figurerna ömsint, delikat. Det ser man vid närgranskning.

En vakt ber mig att inte gå så nära målningarna. Jag förklarar att jag gärna skulle gå in i dem helt och hållet. Men inte i deras händelser utan i deras stoff.

Carl-Johan Malmberg

 

Tapped Out?

 

By CAROL VOGEL | THE NEW YORK TIMES | OCTOBER 29, 2008

 

A $60 million painting by Kazimir Malevich. A $40 million self-portrait by Francis Bacon. It hardly seems the ideal moment to be selling such pricey art. As Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips de Pury brace for their big fall auctions in New York, starting with a sale of 71 Impressionist and Modern paintings, drawings and sculptures at Sotheby’s on Monday night, anxiety is the dominant mood.

Only 10 days ago, Sotheby’s reported a loss of $15 million in guarantees — the undisclosed amount that the houses promise to sellers regardless of the outcome of a sale — from recent auctions in Hong Kong and London.

Millions of dollars of art went unsold at those September and October sales, with many works going for well below their estimates. Since then auction house officials have been busy trying to get sellers to lower their expectations. Much of the art up for auction this week and next was secured early in the summer, when the world seemed a far different place. Now, with the net worth of so many buyers plummeting, auction houses have been trying to persuade sellers to lower their reserves, that is, the undisclosed minimum price that a bidder must meet for the art to be sold.

“Prices of all assets have fallen — stocks, gold, oil, real estate — and it would be unrealistic to expect works of art to be immune to the market’s pressures,” said Marc Porter, president of Christie’s in America. “We are actively encouraging consignors to set reasonable reserves.”

Minimizing risk is the message of the moment. While Sotheby’s has said that it has provided only half the number of guarantees it did a year ago, the company still has outstanding guarantees of $285.5 million.

Unlike Sotheby’s, Christie’s is not a public company, and is not obligated to release figures, but officials there acknowledge having a similar level of risk. As for buyers, the message is a little trickier. With them, Mr. Porter said, Christie’s is making the argument that the objects they desire “might not reappear on the market next season at an even lower price.”

The big question is who will be buying this expensive art. With hedge-fund traders, Russian oligarchs and wealthy Middle Easterners having taken a hit in the financial markets, the auction houses, whistling in the dark, are hoping for a return of old money.

“Americans who fled when prices began soaring will jump back into the market but at a different price level,” said Tobias Meyer, Sotheby’s head of contemporary art. Among the standouts in the fall lineup at Sotheby’s are paintings like Edvard Munch’s Vampire (1894), priced to bring more than $35 million, and an Yves Klein wall relief estimated at more than $25 million. Christie’s is offering a 1934 portrait of Picasso’s mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter estimated at $18 million to $25 million and a Basquiat painting at $12 million and $16 million. “I still hold the belief that the great works will find buyers,” said Guy Bennett, of Christie’s. But at what price remains to be seen.  

No Guarantee for This One

EARLY last summer a New York collector negotiated a hefty guarantee from Christie’s in consigning his 1964 Study for Self-Portrait  by Francis Bacon for the fall auctions. In the months it took to hammer out details of the contract, economic turmoil grew so worrisome that Christie’s got cold feet and withdrew the guarantee.

The auction house persuaded the seller to offer the Bacon anyway, and it is one of the highlights of Christie’s Nov. 12 sale. Experts say that the full-length portrait, in which the artist is shown sitting on a bed, his body twisted from head to toe, should sell for around $40 million.

Christie’s is obviously hoping to capitalize on the record prices paid for Bacon’s works recently. A 1976 Bacon triptych went for $86.3 million in May at Sotheby’s in New York, and a 1975 self-portrait brought $34.4 million at Christie’s in London in June. Those were among the highest prices ever paid for the British artist, who is the subject of a current exhibition at the Tate in London that travels to the Metropolitan Museum of Art  in New York in May.

Still, there is no getting around the fact that “the market has changed,” said Brett Gorvy, co-head of Christie’s postwar and contemporary art department.

  

 

   Architecture and Design in the Bacon Era: Texture

 

    Mark Cousins

     The Architecture Foundation, Tate Britain Auditorium, Wednesday 1 October 2008

 

 

    

 

I can’t remember now whether it was in the catalogue of the current exhibition of Bacon or whether on it was on one of those panels but at some point there was a quotation from Bacon saying “I suppose in the end we’re just meat” and I wanted to try and start off, as it were, some thoughts about both texture and also materiality by considering some of the problems, what we might call the aesthetic problems, of meat especially in that difficult area that we call ugliness or which other people call ugliness, I want to try and suggest this evening this is not how it’s normally portrayed and if properly handled is an extremely powerful and valuable artistic and architectural instrument.

Let me invite you first to engage in a thought experiment. You look at some ones face as we scan some ones face we look, as it were, for signs of expression, in some sense for the way in which the face is thought to be able to represent emotions or states of mind or whatever. As we do it invariably we have a fantasy that this expression does not simply belong to the surface but it has a depth and we frequently actually experience that as a depth but of course it has this peculiarity because the depth is not remotely localised.

If we say he looked sad we don’t say it looked about two centimetres deep in the sadness of it. Now nowhere I think is it more remarkable than if you add in to this picture of a face which you experience partly through the dimension of the depth of its expression then imagine suddenly in some process, the face suddenly manifests a wound and you suddenly see that underneath the infinitesimally thin layer of skin there’s blood and there’s flesh and there’s bone; normally people have a kind of visceral turning away from this experience. Now if you try to follow through this action of turning away, we might wonder: what is it that we’re turning away from?...

The appearance of the wound indicates suddenly the collapse – a collapse of what; I mean, I’m going to say representation but I don’t mean it in a representational way. It’s as if I can’t continue having a fantasy about the depth of your sadness or the extent of your pleasure; I can’t do it any longer because, as it were, it is disrupted by the appearance of a wound. Essentially unless your medically knowledgeable, what you’re seeing, and I think Bacon was correct to use it in a general sense, is what he calls meat. Let’s kind of make a formula in some sense as saying: what meat is at a kind of level of experience, is almost the collapse of representation or of signification…

This collapse of representation is I think part of what we might call the experience of ugliness, the turning away, at which point we might begin to hypothesise that this is not what I think it is, it is what I think people experience it as; an experience of the ugly in that sense is this: it is without signification it is without being a part of the a space of representation, it is stuff, it is meat… People’s experience of the ugly - again I’m not saying that’s what it is - is a defence against this moment - a moment which is too raw and is too, almost, unnerving; we might say that the popular experience of the ugly is: it’s that which is there but at the same time, is perceived as it shouldn’t be there - or sometimes it’s the same but the other way round: it’s that which is not there but should be.

In Leroux’s novel The Phantom of the Opera there’s a wonderful moment when the scene shifter describes to the girls of the corps de ballet that he has seen the ghost in box five; he describes the ghost to the girls and he says, in a way in which logic itself can’t tolerate, but clearly we know exactly what he means, he says: and the ghost has no nose and that no nose is a horrible thing to look at. It’s something that isn’t there but should be… I want to suggest that one dimension of the achievement of Bacon is in a sense to take this problem on board directly and, in a way that it is very difficult to describe in his achievement, but has the achievement of as it were, bringing back meat into our understanding, bringing back meat into a kind of poetics, that which is always, as it were, normally excluded; I was at the exhibition on Sunday and it’s not just a question obviously of meat, it is those strange puddles of existence which you see so clearly in the three triptychs in homage to George Dyer - it is, indeed, a sublime moment…

Now in a sense all I’ve said is an attempt to say that what people describe as being ugly we should consider it a defence and if you can undo this defence, if, like Bacon, you can propel the spectator into the midst of meat and find it not only human but essentially human, then, as it were, you remove some of the defences which so often kind of disable, I don’t mind putting it bluntly, disable public taste. It is a struggle. Now if something like this is the case, that I’m more than aware that I haven’t said directly anything about architecture and texture, then one of the ways we might consider the issues this evening is to think within the scope of Bacon’s adult career what also happens within architecture to be able to do that: at the level of a certain materiality and at the level of texture, that is to say, to undermine the public defence against the ugly and actually to propel it towards something new and powerful and human not in a humanistic way but human almost in a somewhat unnerving way. Thank you very much. 

   

 

   Art in the flesh

 

      The Daily’s Whitney Mallett gets a taste for meat as medium and muse  

 

         The McGill Daily | Monday, Oct 27 | Volume 98, Issue 16

 

 

          

                       Francis Bacon & Meat by Francis Giacobetti 1991

 

 

“Imagine you’re hanging from a meat hook.” A dance teacher made this analogy to me years ago, and I will never forget it. There is something eerily beautiful about the suspension of raw meat. Of course, this beauty is matched with the discomfort that comes from visualizing yourself as a hanging carcass. Painter Francis Bacon would have probably liked the idea. He once said, “Hams, pigs, tongues, sides of beef seen in the butcher’s window, all that death, I find it very beautiful. And it’s all for sale – how unbelievably surrealistic!”

 

Bacon often painted hanging meat. He was not the first artist to be seduced by the texture, colour, and marbling of raw flesh. Rembrandt painted his famous Carcass of Beef centuries before and, during Bacon’s own lifetime, Chaim Soutine rendered a more modern, bloodier version of Rembrandt’s suspended ox.

 

In the later part of the 20th century, meat made a transition from the subject of art works to the very fabric of them. In 1987, Canadian artist and Concordia graduate Jana Sterbak first showed her dress constructed of 50 pounds of salted flank steak in Montreal. Over the course of the exhibit, Vanitas: Flesh Dress for an Albino Anorectic transformed from raw to cured state, in some ways imitating the human aging process. Sterbak followed up her meaty success with another in 1996: Chair Apollinaire, a chair made from over 150 pounds of steak, also cured. The piece is a pun on the French word for flesh: chair

 

Fittingly, Sterbak strongly emphasizes that her works are not about meat, but about flesh. “And flesh is what we are!” she adds. A steak’s muscle, fat, and tissue, when juxtaposed against human flesh, encourage us to consider our own animality – something that usually escapes our consciousness. When meat’s typical function is perverted, and it is presented as flesh and not food, it becomes prime material for self-reflection. 

 

Chinese artist Zhang Huan donned a meat suit in his piece My New York to explore his complex relationship with his adopted city. The suit, made of raw steaks, was shaped to give Huan a brawny body-builder aesthetic, but its flayed surface contrasted strength with vulnerability. During the performance piece, Huan released doves, alluding to the Buddhist tradition amassing grace by freeing live animals.

 

Huan’s piece was an attempt to reconcile the culture he came from with a culture thrust upon him. He explains that although a body-builder slowly builds up muscle, he adopts the aesthetic overnight. Donning the meat suit parallels his forced adoption of American culture. The connotations of red meat as a conspicuous example of American society’s disproportionate consumption cannot be ignored in the piece. Meat is not just flesh used to explore mortality and self-reflection; for Huan, it is undoubtedly also a symbol of a culture whose habits of consumption differ drastically from the rest of the world.

 

In a 2005 interview with Jonas Storsve, Sterbak explained: “The two most evident connotations of flesh, but not necessarily of meat, are the sexual and the mortal.” The relationship between carnage and carnality is explored in some of the earliest recorded art using meat. Carol Schneeman’s 1964 performance Meat Joy – shown first in Paris and then again in New York City – was a Dionysian piece in which eight partially nude figures danced and played in raw fish and chicken, sausage, paint, and paper. It was meant to celebrate flesh as a material.

 

The same year, American performance artist Robert Delford Brown’s Meat Show also used meat to invoke sexuality. In the Washington Meat Market, he created brothel-like rooms out of tons of blood and raw meat strewn with yards and yards of sheer fabric suggestive of lingerie. Visitors walked through the decorated meat locker in white coats and were then fed sausages. Brown, notorious for invoking shock and scandal in his avant-garde art, located the viewers’ own consumption of meat while meat surrounded them. The show only lasted three days.

 

Meat goes bad fast. Meat art often has to be performed or captured on film because otherwise it will rot. Its impermanence reminds us of our own mortality – one day, we too, will rot. Sterbak cures steak to prevent her work from putrefying, but the piece’s transformation from fleshy and raw to its shrivelled, salted state recalls changes that take place in our bodies over time. “Art, when successful, comes close to resembling life; and life, as well as love, is ephemeral, perishable, and fleeting,” she professes.

 

Pinar Yolacan also uses meat to explore human decay. For Perishables, she photographed elderly women wearing garments constructed from poultry and tripe – each piece imitates the individual subject’s wrinkled face. The state of the aging women and their perishing garb is immortalized in the photographs. In an interview with The New York Times in 2004, Yolacan commented on her choice of material: “I’ve always been interested in the impermanence of things,” she said. 

 

While Sterbak and Yolacan prevented their pieces from going rancid, Jan Fabre exploits the rotting process in his installation piece, Temples of Meat. The project involved wrapping columns at Ghent University in Belgium with 200 pounds of decaying steak, bacon, and minced meat to make them “come alive” by attracting flies. Meat is essentially lifeless, but at once becomes a source of life, and a metaphor for life’s transient nature.

 

Meat’s expiration illustrates life’s impermanence, and its decomposition exemplifies the cyclical nature of life and death. Whether it’s rotting or not, meat can be disgusting. Meat evokes a visceral reaction: being confronted by a material representation of death can instinctively repel us. But most of us also depend on meat for survival. When it is presented before us as art, this complex relationship is explored. 

 

Meat exposes us to what is below the skin’s surface. We are often disconnected from our own insides; for whatever reason, we are revolted when confronted with a suggestion of the body turned inside-out. Viewers were repulsed by Chilean artist Gabriela Rivera’s 2005 film Efímero: she covered herself in raw meat strips to construct a metaphor for the relationship people have with their mirror image. Meat is intimately related to the body. It resembles our own flesh; it even becomes a part of us when we ingest it. Disguised in meat, Rivera’s flayed, Frankenstein-like figure provoked her audience members to examine their own body images. However, many people were just shocked and repulsed by the film.

 

McGill student Alex Cowan is also interested in meat as provocation. He strewed rotting scraps around public spaces in Montreal – what he thought would be a foolproof plan to invoke some sort of reaction. But only a congregation of seagulls and pigeons seemed to take notice. “Some people looked disgusted; most people were entirely indifferent. Most people tuned it right out of their consciousness,” he explains. 

 

 

Indifference toward this display of meat suggests society’s disconnect between ground-up meat in a Styrofoam container and the concept of a dead animal. Sterbak notes the linguistic dichotomy: “Consider that in many languages the name of the animal changes when it arrives on your plate. For example, cow becomes beef; pig becomes pork.” Meat is defined by our consumption of it. “In the abstract, idealized world that we live in most people don’t want to make the connection between meat and a pig. Humans create their own world. We have developed meat as a commodity because that’s what we think it ought to be,” says Cowan. 

 

The commodification of meat has reached the point that it has become a symbol of objectification. Ann Simonton wore a bologna dress to protest women being treated as meat. The phrase “treated as meat” connotes a complete lack of respect and devaluation. 

 

Art can provoke us to question the disconnection between the process and the product. The transition from dead animal to food, however, can itself be an art. Michelle Boubis, a butcher at Jean Talon Market, argues that butchery is an art form “because it ennobles the animal, giving value to what we eat.” Treating butchery as an art means treating the animal like a living thing, and not merely as objectified, consumer-defined, meat.

 

This type of processing is rare today. While Boubis receives animals whole, directly from the farm, most meat is packed in industrial factories. The meat hanging from butchers’ windows that Bacon found so beautiful is becoming less and less common. Instead, packaging appeases our conceptualized ideal of meat. “Many people, myself amongst them, have doubts about meat consumption, and, above all, the way our society takes care of its livestock intended for mass consumption…. This is why meat does not resemble itself in the effort to divorce it from any appearance that may recall our own flesh,” Sterbak stated in an interview with Storsve. 

 

These concerns are not new. In his 1924 silent film Kino-Glaz, Dzia Vertov critically examines industrial meat processing. He playfully presents the sequence of a cow’s slaughter in reverse, inspiring both delight and horror in the viewer. Life springs from the materiality of death lying on the slaughterhouse floor. A dead ox appears to be sewn back up by mechanical knives, leaps to its feet, and is driven backward to the pasture.  

 

The relationship between meat and art has manifested itself in different ways. A New York Times article from 1909 titled “Meat Packers and Art” describes meat as a currency to purchase treasured European art. The article reports fears that the art would be exchanged for $2-million “accumulated in meat packing.” Historic European works were said to be dangled before the “covetous, meat-packing eyes” of American millionaires, contrasting modern industrial society with established artistic tradition. Both art and meat were marketed as commodities then, just as they are now. The market was ascribing the two equivalent values for exchange before artists were using meat to draw metaphors in their art.  

 

Whether hanging in a butchers’ window or on display in art gallery, meat is for our consumption. As food, or as art, meat is a product – whether it ends up on our plate or not. It isn’t hard to engage critically with meat when it’s presented subversively as art. But hopefully we can begin to consume it as critically with our mouths as we do with our eyes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bacon makes a meal out of tragedy

 

 

The Daily Telegraph 25/10/2008

 

 

 

Steadily, since the Thirties, the painter Francis Bacon had established himself as one of the greatest figures of 20th century British art. And, as a heavy-drinking Soho low-lifer with a string of violent boyfriends, he thought he had seen it all. His first lover, Peter Lacy, an older man, would often tear up the young artist's paintings or beat him up and leave him on the street half-conscious. 

 

But in 1971, he was to suffer a grievous blow. George Dyer, an East End petty criminal Bacon had lived with since he caught him breaking into his home in 1964, committed suicide on the eve of a major retrospective in Paris.

 

The artist was devastated and started painting Triptych. An attempt to exorcise Bacon's pain and guilt, it is a portrait of Dyer before his death and has been called one of his "supreme achievements", more tragic and sensitive than any of his other works.

 

In 2008, Francis Bacon's Triptych 1976 became the most expensive work of contemporary art, fetching $86.3m.

 

   

                                      Francis Bacon

 

 

CHRISTIE’S

 

Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Sale


New York, Rockefeller Plaza  12 November 2008

 

Lot 27/Sale 2048  Francis Bacon (1909 - 1992) Study for Self-Portrait  

 

 

 

     

                       Study for Self-Portrait  1964  Francis Bacon  

 

Lot Description

Francis Bacon (1909-1992)
Study for Self-Portrait
titled and dated 'SELF PORTRAIT NO 1 1964' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
60 x 55 in. (152.4 x 140 cm.)
Painted in 1964.  

Estimate on request ($40 million to $60 million)  Unsold

Provenance

Marlborough Fine Art, London
Peter Stuyvesant Foundation, Amsterdam, 1965
Waddington Galleries, London, 1976
Mark Goodson, New York
Richard Nagy Ltd., London
Acquired from the above by the present owner

Literature

L. Ficacci, Francis Bacon: 1909-1992, New York, 2003, p. 95 (illustrated in color).

Exhibited

London, Marlborough Fine Art, Francis Bacon: Recent Paintings, July-August 1965, no. 3 (illustrated).
Hamburg, Kunsthalle; Stockholm, Moderna Museet and Dublin, Museum of Modern Art, Francis Bacon: Gemälde 1945-1964, January 1965-1966, n.p., no. 61 (illustrated).
Manchester, City Art Gallery, Francis Bacon, 1966-1967.
London, The Tate Gallery, Recent British Painting: Peter Stuyvesant Foundation Collection, November-December 1967, p. 48, no. 13 (illustrated in colour).
Adelaide, The Art Gallery of South Australia and Auckland City Art Gallery, Recent British Painting: Peter Stuyvesant Collection Foundation, 1970-1971, n.p., no. 11 (illustrated).
Tokyo, Le Musée National d'Art Occidental, English Portraits, October-December 1975, no. 72 (illustrated in colour; also illustrated on the cover).
Paris, Galerie de France, Peintres Anglais 1960-1980, December 1980.
New York, Pace Wildenstein, The Mark Goodson Collection: Modern Masters from the Collection of Mark Goodson, 1995.
New Haven, The Yale Center for British Art; The Minneapolis Institute of Arts; The Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco and The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Francis Bacon: A Retrospective, January-October 1999, pp. 132-133, no. 41 (illustrated in colour).

Lot Notes

Francis Bacon's intense and probing self-portraits are among his most important works, and are without a doubt part of the canon of great self-portraits in the history of art. A modern master of the human figure, Bacon naturally chose to paint his own image; as he explained, "after all, as we are human beings, our greatest obsession is with ourselves" (F. Bacon, quoted in D. Sylvester, The Brutality of Fact, Interviews with Francis Bacon, London, 1987, p. 116). A rare example of a full-length self-portrait, Study for Self-Portrait of 1964 emblematically represents the painter's complex character painter, a tour-de-force of his indelibly original style.


When Bacon executed Study for Self-Portrait, his public recognition had recently and dramatically shifted - metamorphosing from maverick to master in the worldwide audience's eyes. Just two years prior, he reached a new zenith in his career, receiving accolades for his monumental first retrospective at the Tate in London, followed by another triumphant exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 1963. A few years later, shows such as Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Masters celebrated him as one of the greatest British painters in history. The year he painted the present work, both a catalogue raisonné and a monograph by the esteemed historian John Russell critically praised his career. Such accolades seem to have fuelled deep introspection, as Bacon took stock of his relationship to painting - as a friend recalled, "I sensed that for once Francis was deeply content, possibly as satisfied with his work as he had ever been - yet overwhelmed, too, and possibly frightened" (D. Farson, The Gilded Gutter Life of Francis Bacon, New York, 1993, p. 158). Devastating news accompanied his success at the Tate: his lover Peter Lacy, with whom he had a tortured affair, had died in Tangiers. Nevertheless, Bacon continued experimenting and pushing his painterly powers further than ever before in the wake of this mixture of professional success and personal tragedy.


Bacon depicts himself unsparingly, offering an intimate view in the vulnerable position of sitting on a bed. Bacon grasps his hands together tightly on his lap, making palpable the tension simmering within. Swirling rhythms of paint move from his head to the tip of his toe suggesting the storm of his inner psyche. His startling facial convolutions - one of his most important signatures - only amplify the painting's powerfully expressive effect. This paradox, that distorting one's physiognomy could yield deeper insight and truth, is central to Bacon's artistic enterprise. As he described in an interview published the year he painted Study for Self-Portrait, "I have deliberately tried to twist myself, but I have not gone far enough. My paintings are, if you like, a record of this distortion. Photography has covered so much: in a painting that's even worth looking at, the image must be twisted if it is to make a renewed assault upon the nervous system. That is the peculiar difficulty of figurative painting now. I attempt to re-create a particular experience with greater poignancy in the desire to live through it again with a different kind of intensity" (F. Bacon, quoted in Cambridge Opinion, 1964). Despite his customary deformations, Bacon's subjects are always surprisingly recognizable - as in his self-portrait, where his distinctive forelock of dark hair emerges in the paint's twisting complexities. Bacon scrutinized himself not only in the mirror, but also in photographs of himself. He worked from memories of these sources, building up a complex matrix of shifting perspectives.


Bacon cast himself as heir to two of the greatest painters in the history of Western art, both famed for their self-portrait series, Rembrandt and Van Gogh. Bacon admired Rembrandt's haunting self-portraits, in which the play of light across his visage offers a poignant mediation on the painter's own mortality. Bacon claimed that, "I think the self-portraits are the greatest thing Rembrandt ever did because they were formally the most extraordinary paintings. He altered painting in a way by the method by which he dealt with himself, and perhaps he felt freer to deal with himself in this totally liberal way" (F. Bacon quoted in D. Sylvester, Looking back at Francis Bacon, London, 2000, p. 241). By extension, one can understand how Bacon must have keenly felt free to experiment in rendering his own image. His swirls of thick impasto recall not only the heavily encrusted surface of Rembrandt's portraits, but also the canvases of Van Gogh. Like Van Gogh's obsessive return to his own image in his wide-ranging series of self-portraits, Bacon used this format to come to terms with himself throughout his career. Bacon made a number of copies after self-portraits by Van Gogh in the late 1950s and early 1960s, including Self-portrait with Pipe in 1960. Indeed, Bacon's palette of high-keyed blue and green tones echoes Van Gogh's legendary coloration, just as Bacon's passages of juicy impasto share the acute expressiveness of Van Gogh's brushwork, where certain dabs of paint seem so alive as to be almost sensate. Another great master on whose legacy Bacon builds is of course Picasso. Indeed it was in 1927 at an exhibition of Picasso's work at Pierre Rosenberg's gallery in Paris that first inspired Bacon to become a painter. Picasso's biomorphic contortions of figures, especially in works from the late 1920s and early 1930s, particularly influenced Bacon. Yet Picasso never submitted his own image to such radical pictorial convolutions as Bacon, preferring instead to experiment upon his models.


Bacon's trenchant dedication to figural painting, and especially to portraiture, went against the grain of the avant-garde art world in the post-war era. Bacon continued to be fascinated by the endless expressive possibilities in depicting spatially isolated figures over the span of five decades. By the time he painted the present work in 1964, Pop art was at its apogee. Yet Bacon eschewed such meditations on the world of popular culture and mass reproduction in favour of his universe of intimate portraits, a world behind closed doors, populated for the most part with images of himself and his closest friends. Likewise, he repudiated the ability of the dominant modern form of painting, abstraction, to delve into the human condition - which he saw as his artistic goal - stating that "Man is haunted by the mystery of his existence and is therefore much more obsessed with the remaking and recording of his own image of his world than with the beautiful fun of even the best abstract art. Pop art is made for kicks. Great art gives kicks, too, but it also unlocks the valves of intuition and perception about the human situation at a deeper level" (F. Bacon, quoted in Cambridge Opinion, 1964).


Yet while Bacon's squarely emphasizes the figure, he nevertheless mastered the language of abstraction, from the virtual colour field painting that comprises the spare architectural setting for the figure, to the emphatic gestural splashes and slashes of his paint. This stems, at least in part, from the impact of a 1959 exhibition at the Tate called New American Painting, which featured the work of Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko among others. Yet his empathetic extemporaneous brushwork - only heightened in contrast to the background's smooth passages of flat fields of paint, and raw exposed canvas that peeks out intermittently - also reveals Bacon embracing of the seductive thrills of chance. Famously, he had long greatly loved gambling (even hosting an illegal gambling parlour in his own home), particularly roulette. By the time he painted the present work in 1964, he embraced in his paintings both elements of chance and an almost violent abandon to the action of painting. "I do," Bacon explained, "work very much more by chance now than I did when I was young. For instance, I throw an awful lot of paint onto things, and I don't know what is going to happen to it. I throw it with my hand. I just squeeze it into my hand and throw it on. I can't by my will push it further. I can only hope that the throwing of paint onto the already-made or half-made image will either re-form the image or that I will be able to manipulate this further into - anyway, for me - a greater intensity" (F. Bacon, quoted in D. Sylvester, Brutality of Fact, p. 90). The spray of black paint behind his head combines painterly abandon and aggression, made all the more potent as it radiates from the head, suggesting either psychic implosion or outright violence. In the present work the dark, ambiguous geometric form that frames the painter's head. As Bacon often favored painting smaller-scale self-portraits that featured his face isolated against a dark background, this passage of the painting can be seen as a mise-en-scène of one such work.


The present work was the sole self-portrait in Bacon's 1965 solo exhibition in London at the Marlborough gallery, part of a group of nine exceptionally strong works, including Crucifixion of 1965 (now in the collection of Staatsgalerie Moderner Kunst in Munich). The exhibition was timed to coincide with the Giacometti retrospective at the Tate. Giacometti and Bacon had struck up a friendship, and Giacometti even left an opening reception for his own show to visit Bacon's exhibition. Bacon and Giacometti were firmly established as two of the era's most important artists, capturing the despair of postwar existence by depicting isolated humanity. Bacon above all admired Giacometti's drawings, yet he was also prompted to consider creating sculpture due to his impact, an idea that, although soon abandoned, finds resonance in the emphatically sculptural quality of his head in the present self-portrait as well as other works.


Bacon titled this, and other finished works, "studies," to emphasize the fact that although the works were complete in themselves, they are part of an open-ended and ceaseless meditation on his subjects, and existence itself. Study for Self-portrait conveys in the most visceral way the artist's own subjectivity, and manages to be both sensual and terrifying, lushly painted but also underscored by a sense of violence. Above all, it truly succeeds in Bacon's avowed goal in portraiture: "The living quality is what you have to get. In painting a portrait the problem is to find a technique by which you can give over all the pulsations of a person" (F. Bacon, quoted in D. Sylvester, Looking Back, p. 98).
 

 

 

                  

                                                                         Detail from Study for Self-Portrait 1964  Francis Bacon  

 

 

 

Exceptional Work by Francis Bacon Leads Christie's New York Post-War & Contemporary Art Sale


Art Daily - The First Art Newspaper on the Net, Sunday, October 26, 2008

 

 

                

                                                               Detail from Francis Bacon’s Study for Self-Portrait, 1964



NEW YORK, NY.- Christie's is pleased to announce the sale of the Francis Bacon’s Study for Self Portrait, 1964, (estimate on request) in the New York Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale on 12 November 2008. A rare example of a full length self-portrait, this work is truly a consummate representation of the artist’s complex character, as well as a tour-de-force of his indelibly original style of painting.

According to Christie’s International Co-Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art, Brett Gorvy, “This crucial work by Francis Bacon is bound to attract international interest in the November Evening Sale. Study for Self-Portrait, is a rare and outstanding apogee in Bacon’s creative output.”

Study for Self Portrait is triumph of Bacon’s unapologetic metamorphosing of the human form. Grasping his hands while sitting on a bed, the subject is twisted from head to toe. The work affords the viewer a visceral awareness of the subjectivity within the artist, managing to achieve a sentiment that is both sensual and unsettling, lushly painted but underscored with a sense of violence. Study for Self-Portrait draws upon Rembrandt’s renowned self-portraits in its introspective depiction of Bacon’s inner struggle. Bacon depicts himself with a distorted twisting face so as to illustrate the complex matrix of perspectives that lie within, achieving a haunting effect that not only presents his physical person, but in fact reveals every pulsation existing within his being.

Bacon executed the present work in one of the most significant years of his career and life, experiencing the enormous satisfaction of critical acclamation in both a catalogue raisonné and a monograph by John Russell, and the unbearable anguish of the death of his lover, Peter Lacy. However, it was in this wake of professional success and personal tragedy that Bacon transitioned from a maverick to a master, a triumph which is evident within Study for Self-Portrait.

Today, Bacon’s self portraits are widely regarded as one of his most important bodies of work, and unquestionably part of the canon of great self-portraits in the history of art. This assessment became apparent last spring based on the tremendous demand for such works at Christie's Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sales when the intimate-scaled works Three Studies for Self-Portrait, 1976 realized $28,041,000/£14,380,000/€18,090,968 in New York, and Three Studies for Self-Portrait, 1975 led the June sale in London with £17,289,250/$34,457,475/€21,767,166.

 

 

 

ISABEL AND OTHER INTIMATE STRANGERS

 

Portraits by Alberto Giacometti and Francis Bacon
Gagosian Gallery, November 4 - December 13, 200

980 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10075 USA
Tel 212.744.2313 Fax 212.710.3825  Tue-Sat 10-6

 

 

                             

                                              Francis Bacon by Jorge Lewinsk                                                                         Giacometti by Ernst Scheidegger

 

"To make a head really lifelike is impossible, and the more you struggle to make it lifelike the less like life it becomes."
 -
Alberto Giacometti



Gagosian Gallery is pleased to announce Isabel and Other Intimate Strangers: Portraits by Alberto Giacometti and Francis Bacon. This exhibition brings together important loans and rarely seen works from international museums and private collections, including the Fondation Alberto et Annette Giacometti, The Metropolitan Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the Nasher Collection, the Detroit Institute of Arts, and the Sainsbury Collection. It explores the enduring fascination of Giacometti and Bacon with the existential challenges and ineffable mysteries of the human figure and psyche, explored throughout their careers in the portraits, or likenesses, that they produced of close friends and family.

One such subject was the model and muse Isabel Rawsthorne, a compelling figure of consuming vitality and recklessness. While Rawsthorne generally made an instant and overwhelming physical impression on people, over time her effect on Giacometti produced profound conflictual responses in him. Beyond the clearly identified bronze busts of her such as Tete d'Isabel I and II (1936 and 1937-38 respectively), his female standing figures, from Femme qui marche (1932-36) to the diminutive pedestal sculptures and the Amazonian Grandes Figures, are said to have been inspired by his vision of her standing some distance away from him on a street one night, distant and imperious. Isabel's relationship with Francis Bacon was quite different, that of kindred spirit and drinking companion rather than muse, yet her distinctive presence is one that haunts his work, like Giacometti before him. One of Bacon's finest pictures, Isabel Rawsthorne Standing in a Street in Soho (1967), is based on a fleeting memory of her, while in the high-keyed, viscerally rendered triptychs Three Studies for a head of Isabel Rawsthorne (1965 and 1965), Bacon's perennial struggle with experience and its depiction plays itself out in what he described as "shifting sequences where one picture reflects on the other continuously."

 

 

                               

                                      Bacon's 1954 David Sylvester Walking flanked by Giocametti's Striding Man and a Head



Giacometti's most enduring and remarkable relationship was with his younger brother Diego, the subject of his first sculpture, Testa di Diego, completed when he was just thirteen years old. Companion, consultant, and studio assistant, Diego became his brother's favourite model and male archetype. Giacometti's wife Annette, the subject of hundreds of paintings and sculptures, and his professional model and mistress Caroline would become similarly pervasive referents, inspiring more subjective variations on the feminine form, from the tiny yet shapely bronze Figurines (c. 1954-56) and seated sculptures (Femme Assise, 1956) to paintings such as Annette (1952) and Caroline dans sa robe rouge, 1965.

During the 1960s, Bacon, who had made very few named portraits in the first half of his career, concentrated increasingly on himself and a handful of close friends as his subjects - from his boyfriend, George Dyer, to Lucien Freud, Muriel Belcher (who ran The Colony Room, Bacon's favourite drinking club), and Henrietta Moraes. Bacon said that he thought of friendship as "two people pulling each other to bits" and, in his unsettling portraits, he vivisected his friends in no uncertain manner.

Isabel and Other Intimate Strangers will be accompanied by a full colour publication with essays by Véronique Wiesinger, director of the Fondation Alberto et Annette Giacometti in Paris who is also responsible for the catalogue raisonné of Alberto Giacometti; and Martin Harrison, director of the project for the catalogue raisonné of the work of Francis Bacon. The Fondation Alberto and Annette Giacometti has overseen the selection of Giacometti works for this exhibition.

The exhibition inaugurates Gagosian's fourth floor galleries at 980 Madison Avenue. It also coincides with the first major survey of Alberto Giacometti's work in Russia, opening at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow on September 16, and Tate Britain's historic exhibition marking Francis Bacon's centenary (September 8, 2008 – January 4, 2009)

 

 

Art market boom slows, but Lucian Freud's Francis Bacon makes 'astronomical' £5.4m

 

Only 58% of lots were sold at Sotheby's, and it's a similar story at Christie's

 

Charlotte Higgins, Chief Arts Writer, The Guardian, Tuesday October 21 2008

 

The contemporary art-market boom, which has brought wealth to auction houses and some artists over the past five years, is coming gently and quietly to an end.

Observers have been waiting for these few days where auction houses hold their high-profile contemporary art sales to take the temperature of the market. And, if it has not plummeted, then it is, finally, showing a dip.

Yesterday the day sale of contemporary art at Sotheby's saw only 58.6% of its lots sold. The auction raised £7.1m, well short of its pre-sale estimate of £10.9m to £15.3m. The day sales tend to auction work by younger, less established artists - it is the evening sales where the big guns come out, and the well-groomed clientele, not to mention the staff, are dressed as if for a night at the opera. But even there, while the numbers are big, they are on the slide. Sotheby's big contemporary and modern art evening sale made £22.8m - well short of its estimate of £30.6m. Fifteen of the 62 lots failed to sell. Two had been withdrawn from the auction before it began. It was a far cry from the feeding frenzy of 2007, when record after record came crashing down in the salerooms.

The auctioneer, the suave, assured Oliver Barker, conducted the sale as if there was nothing wrong: but when the star lot of the evening came up - a set of 10 skull paintings by Andy Warhol - a frisson went through the room as the bidding paused, stagnated and finally stuck altogether at £3.5m.

The final price, once the so-called buyer's premium was added, was £4.35m; the estimate had been £5m to £7m. The work sold, none the less - Sotheby's admitted having renegotiated lower reserve prices with the sellers (known as consigners). "We did it on a lot-by-lot basis," said Barker after the sale. "Most people gave us flexibility." He called the bidding on the sale "very rational and very considered".

Christie's Sunday evening sale told a similar story. The auction made a total of £31.97m, but of the 47 lots only 26 sold. Serious works of art - such as a Francis Bacon portrait of Henrietta Moraes, and Jean-Michel Basquiat's Desmond - failed to reach their reserves.

The star work of the night was Lucian Freud's portrait of Francis Bacon. It sold for £5.4m - inside its estimate of £5m to £7m - though "still astronomical money", according to Sarah Thornton, an art market observer.

After the sale the Christie's bosses put on a brave face. Chief executive Ed Dolman said: "The sale wasn't as successful as last season's [2007's equivalent made a record-breaking £33.9m] and we are perhaps seeing a correction from the past few seasons. But there is significant liquidity and a surprising amount of activity when a lot of people thought there would be no activity at all. The real message is one of cautious optimism. The turbulence hasn't hit our market as much as it has in other areas. There has been a surprising amount of cash moving round the market in the past few days, especially in terms of Chinese and Middle Eastern art. This gives us a belief that the new buyers who have emerged are here, and here to stay."

The new buyers propping up the market include super-wealthy Russian and Qatari collectors, relatively insulated from the turbulence caused by the banking crisis. "When the sub-prime problems kicked in last summer I noticed fewer bidders at auctions - but the Qataris and people like Roman Abramovich had joined the game," said Thornton, who believes that the art market peaked in the summer of last year. "People were shocked when it was revealed that Abramovich had bought the Bacons [two works, a portrait and a triptych, collectively worth £60m] earlier this year. But I do feel that May 2007 was the last time that eyes were really popping at prices."

Amy Cappellazzo, of Christie's, was upbeat. "I think this was a staggering result given the other financial markets. It's pretty amazing that people still want to turn up on a Sunday and kick out a million bucks." The key, she said, was that art gives the investor a tangible object. "If you bought something, you bought something real."

 

 

Portrait of Bacon sells for £5.4m but painting by Bacon fails to sell

 

CONOR LALLY, The Irish Times, Monday, October 20, 2008

 

                    Lucien Freud's unfinished portrait of Francis Bacon

 

AN UNFINISHED portrait of Francis Bacon by Lucian Freud, one of only two he ever painted of his friend and the only one whose whereabouts is known, sold for £5.4 million pounds (€6.96 million) in London yesterday.

However, a Francis Bacon painting which was expected to fetch up €10 million at Christie's in London was one of a number of works which failed to sell.

The Portrait of Henrietta Moraes had a presale low estimate of £5.5 million (€7.08 million).

Christie's International failed to sell 45 per cent of works on sale because of the depressed international art market. "Obviously we need to adjust our prices," said Ed Dolman, Christie's chief executive officer. "There isn't too much confidence out there."

The unsold Bacon work was bought by Guinness heir Garech Browne for his home at Luggala, Co Wicklow in 1970. At one stage it was the only Bacon painting in Ireland, despite the artist being born in Dublin. Browne, a 69-year-old who founded Claddagh Records, was a friend of Bacon and Moraes. He has long been a patron of the arts.

Moraes was a famous 1960s model and socialite who was one of Bacon's favourite subjects. The painting is one of his first portraits of her. It is signed on the back by Moraes: "For the first time a vision of me by my friend Francis Bacon, Henrietta Moraes."Mr Browne decided to sell the painting because it was too valuable to insure and keep at his estate.

He lent the painting to the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery in Dublin. He also secured the Francis Bacon studio for the gallery through his friendship with Bacon's former lover John Edwards.

© 2008 The Irish Times

 

 

 

Freud's intimate portrait of his friend Bacon sold for £5.4m

 

By Arifa Akbar, arts correspondent
The Independent, Monday, 20 October 2008 

 

 

 

 

                Lucian Freud's portrait of Bacon

 

A rarely seen oil portrait of the artist Francis Bacon, painted by his friend Lucian Freud, has been sold for £5.4m. The work, which offers an intimate glimpse into the collaborative friendship of two giants of post-war art, is one of only two oil portraits of Bacon painted by Freud and the last remaining: the second was stolen from an exhibition in Berlin in 1988.

The portrait, estimated to sell for between £5m to £7m at Christie's auction house in London, was painted in 1956 and shows the artist with a downward gaze. Bacon, who sat knee-to-knee with Freud while he worked on the painting, is said to have "grumbled but sat consistently" during the first six months of sitting, according to Christie's. It is thought Bacon left suddenly, most likely to pursue his lover, Peter Lacy, in Tangiers.

Although it remained unfinished, art critics agree it offers a snapshot into the working methods of the younger artist at a critical point of his development; Freud had begun to work in a more expansive way, using thicker brushstrokes, liberating the paint and creating a more worked complexion, more seasoned and full of life.

The portrait was part of Christie's sale of post-war and contemporary art. The auction may come to mark a turning point in the fortunes of the art market, which has until now defied the economic downturn. Of 47 lots, only 26 were sold and the sale made £32m, against pre-auction estimates of £57m to £75m.

By contrast, the record for a painting by Freud was set at Christie's in May, with his naked, large-scale work, Benefit Supervisor Sleeping, selling for £17.3m. The record for a Bacon work stands at £43m, for Triptych, created in 1976.

The Bacon portrait sold yesterday was acquired in 1972 by a private collector from a London gallery and had remained in the same hands since.

Graham Sutherland, a mutual friend and artist, introduced Freud to Bacon in 1945, inviting them to his house. They formed a close friendship and saw much of one another in the following years.

Bacon had a great influence on the younger Freud and is often credited with liberating his style and fuelling his desire to depict human life.

In the early 1950s, the artists sat for each other; Bacon's first portrait of Freud came in 1951, and many others followed. Freud painted Bacon just twice.

 

 

 

Growing signs of art slump as Freud's portrait of Bacon makes only £5.4m

John Russell: an appreciation

 

John Russell, art critic and author, born January 22, 1919. Died August 23, 2008

 

Richard Cork, The Times, October 16, 2008

 

  

   Russell was ever grateful to be allowed to "to conduct his education in public"

 

Looking back, I realise that John Russell had a formative and wholly beneficial influence on my growing involvement with art. In 1960, when I was thirteen years old, I wandered into the Wallace Collection and had an unforgettable epiphany. The paintings there by Rubens, Poussin, Velazquez and above all Rembrandt overwhelmed me. From then on, looking at art became my obsession, and every weekend John’s art column in The Sunday Times enriched my mind.

Trapped at a boarding school in Bath, I envied John his ability to roam around London, Paris, Venice and the rest of Europe visiting the best exhibitions on offer. His life struck me as idyllic, and the fact that he also wrote books and curated exhibitions sharply increased my admiration. John’s inspiring example made me realise that art critics need not confine themselves to penning a weekly review. They can also write at length, and in depth, about the art that matters most to them. John, a famously and enviably swift writer, became a prolific author. He also curated a succession of impressive exhibitions, surveying the achievements of Modigliani in 1964, Rouault in 1966 and Balthus in 1968.

Reading his regular criticism, I warmed to a writer whose reviews were always informed by a discerning awareness of history. But I particularly liked John’s growing engagement with the art of his own time. During the 1960s he was quick to champion young artists at the time of their emergence. Painters and sculptors as outstanding as David Hockney, Ron Kitaj, Howard Hodgkin and Anthony Caro all benefited from his enthusiastic response at crucial points in their careers. Hungry for adventurous new art myself, I was fascinated by John’s reviews of these and other artists in the 1960s.

At a time when so many British gallery-goers still waxed vehement in their scornful dismissal of innovative art, John stood out as an enlightened exception. He realised, increasingly, that the 1960s was an extraordinary period for contemporary art in Britain. And he refused to court popularity with his more philistine readers by dismissing the boldest experimenters out of hand. Far from