Francis Bacon News

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                                                                                                                                                            October 28, 1909, Dublin - April 28, 1992, Madrid

 

Obituaries

Denis Wirth-Miller: Bohemian artist who enjoyed a close association with Francis Bacon

 

By David Buckman, The Independent, 22 October 2011

 

      

                                         Denis Wirth-Miller and Francis Bacon

 

Denis Wirth-Miller was one of a group of artists who for many years injected the spirit of bohemia into the life of Wivenhoe, a small shipbuilding and repairing town on the Essex coast. The jollifications of Wirth-Miller, his partner, the James Bond illustrator Richard "Dickie" Chopping, and the painter Francis Bacon remain the stuff of local legend.

Such stories, true or untrue – among the latter is one that after Bacon's death his former Wivenhoe house was kept as a shrine by Denis and Dickie – have tended to overshadow Wirth-Miller's achievements as a painter. One recognition of this will be a forthcoming small retrospective at the Minories Art Gallery, Colchester.

Also undermining Wirth-Miller's reputation was the fact that from the early 1970s sight problems hindered him and that latterly he suffered from dementia. All this must have been hard for a man who had shown in London's leading galleries and had work in the collections of the Queen, the Arts Council and Contemporary Art Society.

 Wirth-Miller was born in Folkestone, Kent, in 1915, where his Bavarian father Johann Wirthmiller (Denis later Anglicised his name) ran a busy hotel. Wirth-Miller's mother moved him to Bamburgh in her home county of Northumberland, where he was raised by his grandmother.

After school, he joined Tootal Broadhurst Lee, the textile manufacturers in Manchester, where innate talent prompted his appointment as a designer. After arriving in London early in 1937 he met Dickie Chopping, who moved into one of the painter Walter Sickert's former studios in north London, where Denis was living. Thus began a lifelong relationship; in December 2005 they became the first in Colchester to make a civil partnership.

It was not without disagreements, even how about they first met – according to Chopping at a Regent's Park charity garden party, according to Wirth-Miller at the Café Royal, a celebrated meeting point for gay men. A friend was concerned about the vulnerability of the Sickert flat to bomb damage and advised them to leave London, lending them the dilapidated Felix Hall in Kelvedon, Essex. There, they scraped a living gardening and other jobs.

Then, importantly, they met the painters Cedric Morris and Arthur Lett-Haines, who had established the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing, first at Dedham and, when that was destroyed by fire, at Benton End. The artist Mollie Russell-Smith recalled how, as a student lacking an easel, with trepidation she knocked on the door at Benton End and it was "flung open by three young men" – Chopping, Wirth-Miller and Lucian Freud. "They bundled me in, assuming that I had come to be a student, and Dickie showed me all over the house with great enthusiasm and charm. I was enchanted."

Benton End was an artistic Eden. Wirth-Miller must have absorbed much from Morris, artistically and as a plantsman. Later, in Wivenhoe, Wirth-Miller tended a walled garden producing magnificent vegetables. Their house on Wivenhoe Quay, then used as a sail storehouse, was bought in 1944, but wartime restrictions prevented their moving in until 1945, when they began converting it back to its original role as a merchant's house.

By the late 1940s Bacon was visiting Wirth-Miller and Chopping. The friendship between Bacon and Wirth-Miller had been instigated earlier in the decade by the two Scots painters Robert Colquhoun and Robert MacBryde, whom Wirth-Miller had known in his Soho days. For years, Bacon had a home and studio in Wivenhoe which eventually Wirth-Miller bought from him.

Wirth-Miller, Chopping and Bacon were close, holidaying abroad. "Denis had a deep intellectual friendshipwith Francis," says Daniel Chapman, a close friend for many years. "Their interests in literature, philosophy, art, gambling and life in general were coincidental and were live and vibrant up to each of their dying days." For most of the last 20 years Wirth-Miller and Bacon would hold extensive telephone conversations daily.

Wivenhoe’s artistic social life was boosted in when the journalist and local resident George Gale invited the politician Edward Heath to open a Wivenhoe Arts Club, which attracted painters and writers and had its own gallery. It was not so significant in the lives of Wirth-Miller and Chopping, insists Chapman, as Denis’s assisting others such as the primitive painter Ernie Turner to develop his talent.

Known as “Wivenhoe’s Alfred|Wallis” – after the St Ives Cornish primitive – Turner began painting in 1964 when he retired as a shipwright. Wirth-Miller helped him with technical advice, encouraged him to experiment and fostered his sales in London and to overseas clients. Turner became so popular that clients had to order paintings.

Cultivating his friendships at home and abroad and partying hard were strong Wirth-Miller traits. A former near-neighbour of Bacon's cottage and studio in Wivenhoe remembers the "outrageous" reputation he, Wirth-Miller and Chopping had. "They frequented local pubs and restaurants, sometimes to the owners' dismay. At one time I lived above and worked in the restaurant the trio frequented.

"On those occasions the proprietor used to hide the bottles of champagne so there would not be all-night sessions. I heard tales of Wirth-Miller and Bacon having drunken painting sessions, painting on each others' canvases."

In contrast, Chapman recalls Wirth-Miller as a serious worker. When materials were in short supply during the war, like others he would resort to house paint and enamels.

After the war years his work was in oil on a large scale. "Early works were portraits, figures and still life," Chapman said, "later a series of very large dog paintings – hounds on the move, mastiffs, great danes in motion in the act of turning or hunting or disappearing into the mist. Later works were East Anglian or Dartmoor landscapes. He was always drawing in secret, often hands and feet."

Denis Wirth-Miller, artist: born Folkestone, Kent 27 November 1915; died Colchester, Essex 27 October 2010

 

 

Pop Goes the Art Market

 

By KELLY CROW,  THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, NOVEMBER 10, 2010

 

Never underestimate the power of suggestion: On Tuesday, Sotheby's hired waiters with silver trays to offer up tiny glass bottles of soda pop to collectors arriving for its major evening sale of contemporary art. Half an hour later, eight bidders fought over the sale's priciest offering - Andy Warhol's 1962 soda bottle, Coca-Cola [4] [Large Coca-Cola]. A telephone bidder won it for $35.3 million, over its $25 million high estimate.

But the sale relied heavily on faraway collectors to pick up its priciest pieces, including examples by boom-era favourites Mark Rothko and Francis Bacon. An Asian telephone bidder paid $22.4 million for a lemony, untitled Rothko from 1955 that was being sold by architect Graham Gund. Sotheby's London-based expert Oliver Barker also fielded the $14 million winning telephone bid for Bacon's orange-and-blue Figure in Movement, which was priced to sell for up to $10 million with fees. (Sale prices include the auction house's commission, which estimate prices omit.)

 

 

Eager Collectors Snap Up Pop Art at Sotheby’s Auction

 

By CAROL VOGEL, The New York Times,  November 9, 2010

 

It was to have been Warhol’s night. Waiters in black served Coca-Cola in old-fashioned green-glass bottles to the throngs of collectors and dealers who packed Sotheby’s salesroom on Tuesday night, an homage to a 1962 Coke bottle painting by the artist that was on offer.

There has been far less work by Francis Bacon to come on the market this season than in years past, but Figure in Movement, a 1985 painting of one of the artist’s anguished figures, this one wearing knee pads and boxed in by sky-blue bars against a black background, was a present from Bacon to his doctor, Paul Brass, who had decided it was time to sell and was watching the sale from a skybox. Four people fought over the painting, which was estimated to bring $7 million to $10 million, and sold for $14 million.

 

 

 

ART UNCOVERED: THE PUBLIC'S ARTWORK DENIED AN AUDIENCE

 

 

IN THE current tough climate of arts cuts, Jane Clinton reports on the treasures that are costing taxpayers thousands of pounds to store but which remain hidden from view for much of the time.

 

By Jane Clinton, Sunday Express, Sunday November 7, 2010

 

 

 

THEY are the art treasures that are often away from view and include works by Francis Bacon and Damien Hirst. 

 

News that the Arts Council England (ACE) has two thirds  of its 7,500-strong collection in storage has drawn criticism from some quarters but it has hit back insisting theirs is the hardest-working collection in the country. 

 

“We are like a gallery without walls,” says a spokeswoman. “We have a third of our collection on show whereas some museums have less than 10 per cent of theirs on display.”

 

Among those not on loan are Francis Bacon’s Head VI, 1949, Lucian Freud’s Girl In A Green Dress, 1954 and Damien Hirst’s He Tried To Internalise Everything, 1992-1994.

 

The Arts Council England is facing budget cuts of £100million and last week announced it will have to cut funding for more than 100 organisations by 2015.

 

It has also launched a new process whereby organisations will have to reapply for their grants. Despite the cuts, however, it insists the loans collection will not be sold off and is not under threat. “Selling off the collection would mean these world-class works would be lost to the British people for ever,” says Arts Council England chief executive Alan Davey.

 

“I’ve not heard anyone suggesting that we should sell off any of our other great national collections to pay off the national debt.

 

“A modest amount is invested on behalf of the public, supporting artists at the very beginning of their careers, many of whom have gone on to become key figures in the history of art. Francis Bacon’s Head VI was bought for £60 in 1952 and is now worth an estimated £12million. This means that these important works, a world-class collection of post-war British art, belong to, and can be seen by, the British people for ever.”

 

There are, however, plans to review the amount spent on new acquisitions. The Arts Council England collection is funded through its development fund, the budget of which has been cut by 64 per cent. “We are now evaluating priority projects which are supported from our development fund and hope to be in a position to confirm some funding soon,” adds a spokeswoman.

 

However, leading art critic Brian Sewell believes the Arts Council should sell off the collection to free up funds and save on the expense of storage and conservation. “I see no purpose in the collection at all,” he says. “The Arts Council is in many ways just duplicating what is done by the Tate and other collectors and collecting bodies. There is a great mass of material being accumulated by the museums and galleries that no one ever sees and the Arts Council simply joined in. 

 

It has very little out on loan. The collection should be spread into galleries. The Tate Gallery, as the heritage body in contemporary art, should be encouraged to go through the collection and select what it doesn’t have. Then that should automatically pass to the Tate. “The rest of it could easily be sold and even if it doesn’t make a substantial amount of money you will immediately save the costs of storage, conservation, maintenance security and curatorial staff. It would be a neat solution to the budget cuts.”

 

·                        

 

Kundera, unmoved, turns the canon on itself

 

MILAN Kundera is a great essayist, and yet his best essays are reserved for his fiction.

 

Encounter: Essays By Milan Kundera Faber & Faber, 178pp, $24.95

 

Geordie Williamson, The Australian, October 30, 2010 

 

It is in the novel, that zone of total imaginative freedom, where the Czech author's genius for melding pure idea to character and narrative is most apparent.

Taking in the four volumes of essays made available in English since The Art of the Novel in 1986, we might say Kundera's nonfiction operates as a series of retrospective explanations and genealogical justifications for the louche, playful and incorrigibly metaphysical content of his imaginative work.

Nonetheless, there is much that is fresh here, not least because the writer's attention is thrown outward, towards other creative figures (hence the title). The collection opens, for example, with an essay on Francis Bacon that aims straight at the heart of that magnificent and brutal artist's program:

Bacon's portraits are an interrogation on the limits of the self. Up to what degree of distortion does an individual still remain himself? To what degree of distortion does a beloved person still remain a beloved person? . . . Where is the border beyond which a self ceases to be a self?

What impresses Kundera about Bacon is not only his quest for an originality that does not sever modernism from earlier painterly traditions, but also his willingness to search, "in a time when the 'self' has everywhere begun to take cover", for (in Bacon's words) "that treasure, that gold nugget, that hidden diamond" that is "the face of the self".

And so Bacon serves as a template for what the creative figure should possess: "a clear-sighted, sorrowing, thoughtful gaze trying to penetrate to the essential". writing unique: "

Geordie Williamson is The Australian's chief literary critic.

 

 

An encounter on familiar turf

 

Franco-Czech writer Milan Kundera revisits favourite themes in collection of unrelated essays

 

By Jose Teodoro, Edmonton Journal, October 24, 2010

 

 

 

In The Painter's Brutal Gesture: On Francis Bacon, the piece that opens Encounter, Milan Kundera evokes that singular horror that characterizes Bacon's painting by aligning its effect on him to a personal experience.

 

He recalls meeting with a woman in a Prague suburb in 1972. The woman had been mercilessly interrogated by police about Kundera only days before, and remained so traumatized by the incident that she had yet to recover control of her bowels and had to repeatedly adjourn to the toilet. Like "a great knife," Kundera writes, "fear had laid her open. She was gaping wide before me like the split carcass of a heifer hanging from a meat hook."

 

Kundera was suddenly seized by the desire to rape her, a desire "uncalled for and unconscionable" - and, I hasten to note, not acted upon - yet nonetheless real. This desire is summoned back into memory when Kundera surveys Bacon's triptych of portraits of Henrietta Moraes, in which "the painter's gaze comes down on the face like a brutal hand trying to seize hold of her essence."

 

By confessing to such unsavoury urges, Kundera illuminates Bacon's portraits as "an interrogation of the limits of the self."

 

Jose Teodoro is a former Edmonton playwright now based in Toronto.

 


Encounter Milan Kundera, translated from the French by Linda Asher, HarperCollins 178 pp, $26.99 

 

 

Sotheby’s

CONTEMPORARY ART EVENING SALE

Session 1: Tue, 9 Nov 10, 7:00 PM

 

 

 

             

                                          Figure in Movement 1985 Francis Bacon

 

 

LOT SOLD Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium:  14,082,500 USD

LOT NO. 31

FRANCIS BACON

FIGURE IN MOVEMENT

ESTIMATE

7,000,00 - 10,000,000

PROVENANCE

A gift from the artist to the present owner in 1985

EXHIBITED

London, Marlborough Fine Art, Ltd., Francis Bacon: Paintings, May - July 1985, cat. no. 17, p. 39, illustrated in colour

Oxford, Museum of Modern Art, Current Affairs: British Painting and Sculpture in the 1980s, March 1987, cat. no. 2, illustrated in colour

Moscow, Maison Centrale Des Artistes, Nouvelle Galerie Tretyakov, Francis Bacon, September - November 1988, cat. no. 17, p. 61, illustrated in colour (organized by the British Council)

Glasgow, McLellan Galleries, Glasgow's Great British Art Exhibition, March - May 1990, p. 37, illustrated in colour

Paris, Centre national d'art et de culture Georges Pompidou, Francis Bacon, June - October 1996, cat. no. 81, p. 217, illustrated in colour

London, Hayward Gallery, Francis Bacon: The Human Body, February - April 1998, cat. no. 22, n.p., illustrated in colour

The Hague, Gemeentemuseum, Francis Bacon, January - May 2001, p. 111, illustrated in colour

London, Tate Britain; Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado; New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Francis Bacon, September 2008 - August 2009, p. 243, illustrated in colour

London, Tate Gallery, 2000 - 2010 (extended loan)

LITERATURE

Hugh Davies and Sally Yard, Modern Masters: Francis Bacon, New York, London and Paris, 1986, no. 102, p. 107, illustrated and illustrated in colour on the back cover

Michel Leiris, Francis Bacon, Paris, 1987, no. 149, n.p., illustrated in colour

CATALOGUE NOTE

In the catalogue to the spectacular retrospective at the Tate Gallery in 1985, the museum's renowned director Alan Bowness described the art of Francis Bacon thus: "His own work sets the standard for our time, for he is surely the greatest living painter; no artist in our century has presented the human predicament with such insight and feeling....for Bacon, the virtues of truth and honesty transcend the tasteful. They give to his paintings a terrible beauty that has placed them among the most memorable images in the entire history of art" (Exh. Cat., London, Tate Gallery, Francis Bacon, 1985, p. 7). Executed in this very year, Figure in Movement represents physical testament to this acclamation. Exhibiting the most striking composition, a magnificent array of brushwork and a supremely arresting palette, this is a formidable portrayal of the human animal that epitomises the full gamut of Bacon's artistic genius. Indeed, the inimitable traits of his method, specifically the intense combination of brilliant cadmium orange with depthless black, directly compare with the masterpieces Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, 1944 (Tate Britain, London) and Three Studies for a Crucifixion, 1962 (Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York).

Gifted by the artist to his physician Dr. Paul Brass, who followed his father Dr. Stanley Brass as Bacon's personal doctor and with whom Bacon maintained a close bond until his death in 1992, Figure in Movement possesses an exceptional provenance. The terms of its ownership vividly reflect its importance to Bacon: not only was Dr. Brass a most trusted friend, but when he was first offered a choice of painting and initially suggested another work, the artist instead recommended Figure in Movement, assuring his doctor that it was a superior painting. Eminently regarded through its distinguished exhibition history in major shows in Moscow, Paris, London and The Hague, as well as its long-term loan to the Tate; this marks the historic occasion of its first appearance to market.

Foremost among Bacon's innermost clique in 1985 was John Edwards, a handsome East-Ender and the artist's closest companion at this time. Edwards wrote, "it was a perfect relationship. I was never Francis' lover, but I loved him as the best friend a man could have. He was fond of me like a son" (Exh. Cat., New York, Tony Shafrazi Gallery, Francis Bacon, 1998, p. 7) and Dr. Brass has also stated: "I never heard Francis say a bad word about John. He said to me...'I think of John like a son. He's a son to me really'" (interviewed for Bacon's Arena, directed by Adam Low, produced by Anthony Wall, BBC Arena and The Estate of Francis Bacon, 2005). The parity between Edwards and the present physiognomy is clear: the long jaw-line, the geometries of the eye, nose and mouth and the jet-black hairline. However, Bacon never painted his friend from life and the naked torso of this body is adapted from photos of other models, notably the infamous shots of George Dyer in his underwear taken 20 years earlier. Thus, Figure in Movement conflates two of the most important figures in the artist's life. Significantly, Bacon inserts this being, an amalgamation of that which he held most dear, onto an exposed dais that is a crucible of existential isolation: the natural environment of his extraordinary artistic and philosophical innovation.

While the figure twists and writhes as if to struggle free of the canvas, it is contained within indications of rigid cricket pads. The sport was a subject of fascination for the artist's later career. A photograph of source material littering his studio floor reveals the intriguing arrangement of a copy of Physique Pictorial lying on top of England cricketer David Gower's book With Time to Spare, so that the legs of a brooding male bodybuilder join up with the cricket pads of a batsman underneath. This fusion of diametrically opposed images is archetypal of Bacon's ability to meld starkly eclectic themes to portray the chaos of human existence, and provides apt parallel with Figure in Movement. Bacon draws on his knowledge of art historical precedent, such as the incomparable figural studies of Michelangelo. He accelerates the effects of light and shadow, plunging form in and out of darkness so that several passages of light flow in simultaneous chorus. Chiaroscuro rhythms of anatomic gesture negotiate between material and void, while the figure's left leg dissolves in the black ether of the platform.

More than any other artist of the 20th Century, Bacon held a mirror to the nature of the Human Condition, and Figure in Movement provides the perfect reflection of what he saw. He was fascinated by the postwar works of the French existentialists Sartre, Camus and de Beauvoir, and their themes of alienation, imprisonment and the absurd. The most important actors of Bacon's canon, typified by this figure, crystallise this entire philosophical enquiry, as they let go of the sureties of the past and stand on the threshold of an unknowable future.

An interview between Sotheby's Michael Macaulay and Martin Harrison, editor of the Francis Bacon catalogue raisonné in preparation for publication.

MM: Could you share your opinion of Bacon's late work of the 1980s and explain how Figure in Movement from 1985 fits into this important period?

MH: Bacon's project in the 1980s can be summed up as refining to their essence the themes that preoccupied him most of his career – the human body, gesture and movement. In eliminating superfluous detail, he could be described as a figurative minimalist. Figure in Movement is a quintessential exemplar of this process. It is a compelling variation of a concept he had first essayed in 1982, in which a naked form wearing cricket pads was raised on a dais. In the 1982 paintings, the 'figure' is an abstracted semi-torso, as in the panel Study from the Human Body, 1982–84, from the diptych in the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D. C. and in Study of the Human Body, 1982 (Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris). Evidently, in Figure in Movement, 1985, Bacon set himself the challenge of representing a more complete human body.

MM: How does Bacon's symbolic content, in this case the gladiatorial inference of the inclusion of the cricket pads, relate to the isolation of his figures?

MH: The reference to cricket is deliberately ambiguous: the figure, isolated in an artificial arena, is simultaneously vulnerable and aggressive. Bacon's figures are radically decontextualised into a  kind of existential vacuum: cricket is an outdoor sport, but Bacon's visual field is neither exterior nor interior. Figure in Movement is one of a select group of works made in the last decade of his life that feature a dominant, bright cadmium orange ground, Bacon's favourite colour. In its positive and vibrant aspects it intensifies the confinement of the abject yet heroic figures.     

MM: The cricket pads invoke Bacon's appropriation of found imagery as cues for composition. How had the artist's treatment of found imagery altered by this stage in his career?

MH: Bacon collected images of cricketers in the 1980s, and four books on cricket that remained in his Reece Mews studio at the time of his death are now in the collection of Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane: Patrick Eagar and John Arlott, An Eye for Cricket, (1979); David Gower and Alan Lee, With Time to Spare (1980); Mike Brearley, Phoenix from the Ashes: The Story of the England – Australia Series 1981, (1982); Patrick Eagar and Graeme Wright, Test Decade 1972–1982 (1982).  He was familiar with cricket through his relationship with Eric Hall from the 1930s to the 1950s; Hall was an aficionado of the sport and on intimate terms with many of the leading players. Bacon greatly admired David Gower, one of England's leading batsmen renowned for his good looks, and David Sylvester identified Gower as a specific spur for the paintings. [Interviews, p. 180] However, even in the last painting to reference cricket, the central panel of Triptych 1987, the head is unequivocally that of John Edwards whose representations were based on photographs: therefore, Bacon's modus operandi in terms of appropriated imagery remained the same as it had since the 1940s, when he first adapted reproductions of Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X and Eadweard Muybridge's Animal Locomotion.

MM: This work was executed seven years before Bacon's death. Do you perceive a growing sense of his own mortality, and what does Figure in Movement say about the artist's self-perception in this final period?

MH: Crucial to Bacon's anti-narrative strategy, he located the elements of Figure in Movement in a zone of ambiguity. The protagonist is non-specific, adopting neither an offensive or defensive attitude. The figure also defies spatial logic, occupying an abstract field both behind and in front of the pale blue and black backdrop. The padded left leg dissolves into a smoky shadow on the floor of the elevated dais, the dissociated 'field of play' that acts as a cipher for the confrontation between batsman and bowler on the cricket field. It is too facile to relate the dissolving of forms to his consciousness of mortality, although the black backdrops – opaque voids that resemble tombstones – tend to support such an interpretation, as would the collapsing of the head into the negative space.

This intense and deceptively simple painting transforms the role of the viewer from a passive to an active state: Bacon's fragmented forms and anatomical diversions – the tilt of the body and the violent diagonal sweep of the sketchy arms and hand – insist on a creative interaction. Our gaze is drawn through the converging perspective of the wicket/pedestal and we become both observer and participant.

 

 

£94 million of art sold at Frieze auctions

 

Last week’s auctions fetched more than double the amount achieved last year.

 

By Colin Gleadell, The Daily Telegraph, 18 Oct 2010

 

 

       

                            Study for a Dog  Francis Bacon

 

No one, it seems, was bold enough to bid at Christie’s fund-raiser for the Royal College of Art for the chance to have their portrait painted by Jake and Dinos Chapman. Nor was anyone prepared to bid on a scrappy painting of a dog by Francis Bacon that the artist chucked in a skip. The painting was rescued by an electrician, Mac Robertson, who sold it at an auction in Surrey three years ago, when it fetched £30,000 from a New York gallery against a £1,000 estimate. Last week it was presented by Christie’s with a £120,000 estimate, but with no mention of its history in the catalogue.

 

 

Howzat? Francis Bacon’s cricketing portrait to fetch £6m

 

A Francis Bacon portrait which the artist gave as a gift to his doctor is expected to fetch over £6 million at auction.

 

 

By Anita Singh, Arts Correspondent

The Daily Telegraph, 12 October 2010

 

 

 

 

 

Francis Bacon's Figure in Movement is estimated to fetch over £6 million at auction.

 

 

 

The 1985 painting, Figure In Movement, is being sold by Dr Paul Brass, the artist's friend and personal physician. It depicts a figure wearing cricketer's kneepads - Bacon had a lifelong passion for the sport.

 

Bacon, who died in 1992, was the perfect patient, Dr Brass said. "He was always 15 minutes early for every appointment." The portrait has been on loan to Tate Britain for the past decade and will be sold at Sotheby's in New York on November 9.

 

 

Francis Bacon painting of cricketer to be auctioned in New York

 

 

Figure in Movement, a gift to the artist's friend and GP, expected to fetch at least £4m in Sotheby's sale

 

 

 

Mark Brown, arts correspondent

The Guardian, Monday 11 October 2010

 

 

 

 

                  Francis Bacon’s Figure In Movement

 

 

 

A Francis Bacon painting of a tortured cricketer twisting and writhing is to be sold at auction after hanging in Tate Britain for much of the last decade, Sotheby's announced today.

 

The painting is being sold by Bacon's friend and personal doctor, Paul Brass, who was given the portrait in 1985, the year it was completed.

After loaning it to the Tate, Brass has decided to sell and an estimate of $7m-$10m (£4.4m-£6.3m) has been placed on it ahead of the auction in New York on 9 November.

Figure in Movement, featuring a typically agonised figure, common in Bacon's work, this time in cricket pads and against a black and bright orange background with blue cage-like struts, also featured in the major 2008 Bacon retrospective at Tate Britain, which toured New York and Madrid.

Brass took over the role of being Bacon's personal physician from his father, Dr Stanley Brass, and was offered a choice between two paintings – the cricketer and one of a jet of water.

In an interview with the New York Times, Brass said: "I was tempted to opt for the jet of water, but when I told that to Francis, he said no, that painting happened by mistake when he spilled white paint on the canvas. He told me, 'If I were you, I would choose the cricketer'."

Bacon died in 1992 and his works attract some of the biggest prices for any 20th century artist although no one expects the painting to get anywhere near the record, set in 2008 when Bacon's Triptych 1976 was bought by Roman Abramovich for $86m, reportedly to hang on the walls of his London home.

There have been disagreements about what is going on in Figure In Movement and who it is based on. The figure seems to resemble John Edwards, the man Bacon found solace in after the suicide of his lover George Dyer in 1971, but there have also been suggestions Bacon based it on David Gower, captain of the England cricket team in the mid-1980s.

 

 

 Denis Wirth Miller and Francis Bacon

A Bacon Cricketer With a Back Story

 

By CAROL VOGEL
The New York Times, October 8, 2010

 

The Francis Bacon that Dr. Paul Brass knew was altogether different from the raucous, hard-drinking artist whose canvases depict distorted figures screaming to be freed from their frames.

Dr. Brass, an internist, knew Bacon as a friend and as a patient of his father’s. “The first time I met him I must have been 16,” Dr. Brass recalled, sipping tea in a conference room at Sotheby’s in London recently. He added later, “I would occasionally treat him when my father was on holiday.”

When the senior Dr. Brass retired, his son took over the practice. “I never liked to send fees” — that is, bills — “to friends and family,” he said. “And one day I received a letter from Francis saying that if I didn’t send him a bill for the last two years he would have to find another doctor.”

Not only did Bacon, who died in 1992, pay by “return post,” as Dr. Brass put it, but he also “was always 15 minutes early for every appointment.”

Over the years, as their friendship grew, Dr. Brass would make a point of going to Bacon’s exhibitions. At a show at the Marlborough Gallery in London, Valerie Beston, a director of the gallery at the time, told Dr. Brass that Bacon wanted to give him a painting and that he was to choose from two in the show: one of a jet of water, the other a figure of a cricketer.

“I was tempted to opt for the jet of water, but when I told that to Francis, he said no, that painting happened by mistake when he spilled white paint on the canvas,” Dr. Brass said. “He told me, ‘If I were you, I would choose the cricketer.’ ”

So he did. But Dr. Brass has decided to sell this 1985 painting, Figure in Movement, which features one of Bacon’s anguished figures, this one wearing knee pads and boxed against a black background within a sky-blue frame that is much like a cage. It will go on the block on Nov. 9 at Sotheby’s  in New York, where it is expected to bring $7 million to $10 million.

For the past decade the painting has been on loan to Tate Britain. It has also been included in many major Bacon exhibitions, most recently a retrospective at the Tate that travelled to the Prado in Madrid and then the Metropolitan Museum of Art last year.

Cricket fascinated Bacon, and beginning in the 1950s he would attend matches. Over the years the subject crept into several of his paintings. In Figure in Movement, however, the man’s jaw line, eyes, nose, mouth and hair are unmistakably those of John Edwards, Bacon’s closest companion from the mid-1970s until his death.

But the body was adapted from 20-year-old photographs of George Dyer in his underwear. Mr. Dyer was Bacon’s companion until Mr. Dyer committed suicide in 1971. “Dyer and Edwards were both patients,” Dr. Brass noted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Il compito dell'artista? Svelare qualcosa di me

 

 

La mostra milanese di Maurizio Cattelan fa riaccendere il dibattito sul ruolo dell'arte: ha una missione sociale o la sua responsabilità è di altro tipo? Per capirlo, proviamo a fare i conti con «due giganti del Novecento»

 

 

di Giuseppe Frangi, Tracce, Italy, 28/09/10

 

 

 

 

 

         

 

           Francis Bacon Autoritratto.

 

 

 

 

Complice (anche) la mostra milanese di Maurizio Cattelan, sui giornali è riaffiorata una domanda che tendiamo a dare un po’ per scontata, quando si parla di artisti contemporanei. Esiste una responsabilità sociale dell’arte? Insomma, l’artista ha dei doveri, un compito, in qualche modo “una missione da assolvere” nei confronti della società a cui si rivolge? Rispondo provocatoriamente dicendo di no. L’arte ha un’altra responsabilità: quella di “rispondere” alle domande che riguardano la radice dell’essere. 


Faccio un esempio, per rendere più chiara l’idea. I due artisti che più passa il tempo e più si affermano come i due giganti del secondo Novecento, Francis Bacon e Alberto Giacometti, non si sono mai fatti nessun problema sulla ricaduta sociale delle loro opere. Semplicemente sono stati fedeli a loro stessi e al bisogno vertiginoso di cogliere il mistero dell’essere dentro una società che chiudeva tutti gli spazi al Mistero. Bacon e Giacometti però, così facendo, sono stati artisti di enorme rilevanza sociale, perché per primi e senza timori hanno colto il dramma di quella «Chernobyl antropologica» che avrebbe investito l’uomo di fine millennio. Le immagini che hanno prodotto hanno portato allo scoperto una condizione (Bacon) e un’attesa (Giacometti). Hanno svelato il meccanismo che aveva investito e svuotato l’uomo. Come dice don Giussani: «L’organismo strutturalmente è come prima, ma dinamicamente non è più lo stesso. Vi è come un plagio fisiologico operato dalla cultura dominante». 


Bacon e Giacometti sono stati due grandi solitari, scontrosi e spesso asociali nei loro atteggiamenti. Non hanno risposto a nessuna delle chiamate civili o culturali che la società lanciava. Eppure, andando al fondo alla verità di se stessi, alla fine hanno restituito un messaggio di vera rilevanza sociale. Hanno messo l’uomo davanti alla sua condizione. Hanno rilanciato in modo drammatico e tranchant la domanda che sta poi alla base di ogni possibile consesso sociale: quella sul destino. Il loro modo di essere “sociali” è quello di essere stati testimoni fedeli della propria inquietudine e della propria ansia di verità.


Oggi, con il nuovo Millennio, l’arte tende a scansare questa grande sfida lanciata da Bacon e Giacometti. Magari siamo davanti ad un’arte “socialmente corretta”, ma è un’arte svuotata dalla sua capacità di rischiare, di esporsi per comunicare all’uomo la tensione di una condizione o di un’attesa. 


Se poi si vuole parlare nello specifico di Cattelan, dirò - consapevole di trovare poco consenso - che questo artista, in fondo, è molto più serio di quanto la vulgata mediatica non voglia fare apparire. La sua rappresentazione del Papa colpito dal meteorite, solo, nell’immenso spazio delle Cariatidi, abbarbicato al pastorale con la Croce, è un’immagine dirompente del dramma della Chiesa in rapporto al mondo aggredito dalla Chernobyl antropologica. Come sempre il suggerimento è di non fermarsi agli stereotipi, ma giudicare dopo aver visto e toccato con mano..

 

 

 

 

Francis Bacon Painting Shown Alongside Artist's Favourite Work

 

         Art Daily, Tuesday, September 28, 2010

 

 

         

                          Untitled (Crouching Figures), c.1952 Francis Bacon

 

 

 The Estate of Francis Bacon has generously placed an important painting by the artist on loan to The Courtauld Gallery. Untitled (Crouching Figures), c.1952, went on display from yesterday and will initially be presented alongside Honoré Daumier’s Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, c.1870, in recognition of Bacon’s admiration for Daumier’s masterpiece. 

When James Thrall Soby, curator at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, was researching his book on Francis Bacon he contacted Harry Fischer, director of Marlborough Fine Art, the artist’s dealer. Fischer was able to give him some fresh insight into Bacon’s artistic taste and favourite works, noting: “He considers Daumier’s Don Quixote and Sancho Panza and El Greco’s View of Toledo to be amongst the greatest paintings in the world...”. Bacon knew Daumier’s masterpiece from his visits to The Courtauld Gallery, where it forms part of the Gallery’s celebrated collection of 19th century French paintings. 

Untitled (Crouching Figures) is one of Bacon’s most important works from the early 1950s, a period when he was emerging as the leading British painter of his generation. It is one of a group of works in which nude figures are paired in sexually charged homoerotic compositions. In the post-war world of the 1950s, Bacon’s revelation through his paintings of the potentially destructive potential of human desire resonated particularly strongly. 

Miguel de Cervantes’s great 17th century novel tells the story of the farcical Don Quixote who sets out on a series of illusory chivalrous quests, mounted on his emaciated horse Rocinante and accompanied by the witness squire Sancho Panza. Bacon scholar Martin Harrison, who first recognised the importance of Fischer’s correspondence with Soby, has written of Daumier’s Don Quixote: “To gaze at this great painting is comparable to experiencing a slightly scaled-down Bacon of the 1950s”, pointing out how the subdued palette and loose brushwork of Daumier’s painting is echoed in Bacon’s work. Bacon may have also have felt an affinity for Daumier’s bleak representation of the tragicomic figures from Cervantes’s novel.

 

 

 

 

  Bacon forever

 

      Le Figaro 14/09/2010

 

 

 

    

        Black and white photograph of Francis Bacon, 1967. John Deakin

 

 

 

 

L'endroit est incroyable. Au cœur de la même Galerie municipale d'art moderne, l'atelier du peintre irlandais Francis Bacon apparaît dans une salle tel qu'il fut au 7, Reece Mews (South Kensington) à Londres. Il aura fallu le travail de 40 archéologues durant un an pour démonter et remonter à l'identique ce fabuleux trésor. Tout est en place : murs, fenêtres, sol jonché de papier journal et bouteilles de champagne vides. Des photographies du peintre, de ses proches et de son repaire londonien encerclent l'atelier, ainsi que quelques toiles. Devant le refus de La Tate Modern de recevoir cet espace, John Edwards, légataire universel de Bacon, s'était tourné vers Dublin, où naquit le peintre en 1909. Une initiative successful.

 

The Hugh Lane, Parnel Square. Jusqu'au 31 oct. 2010.

 

 

 

Brian Clarke: rock star of stained glass

 

Paul McCartney and David Bailey are fans and friends; Francis Bacon chose him to look after his estate; and later this month the Pope will bless his work. Meet Brian Clarke, the world's grooviest stained-glass artist.

 

By David Jenkins, The Daily Telegraph, 08 September 2010

 

 

 

 

     Pyramid of Peace, Kazakhstan Photo: Brian Clarke  

 

 

 

 

There’s a stained-glass window in one corner of the former ballroom that occupies the first floor of Brian Clarke’s west London house, and it’s a marvel of smoky blues, glowing reds and trenchant whites.

 

It’s by Clarke and, as the 57 year-old talks about it, his rich Lancashire accent throbbing with enthusiasm, he sings a hymn to the glory of light and of stained glass as a medium: how the blue becomes transparent, the red goes on fire and the white becomes incandescent at 6pm each day, just 30 summer days a year. It’s how ‘stained glass is always kinetic’ that he adores, the ‘liquid element’ of glass that he loves, the ‘transillumination’ he reveres.

 

Beneath the glass is an ice-blue, geometric, double-sided sofa designed for him by his old friend Zaha Hadid to complement the window, a window she calls ‘fluid and stunning’; on the other walls are a huge lead on sheet lead representation of his even older friend Paul McCartney’s hands – ‘I was drawing his face for a record cover or something and he started playing air guitar, and I drew that, so it’s a sort of portrait of Paul’; a Warhol of Jackie Kennedy – ‘you felt, when you were with Andy, that you were with an artist. He was Narcissus looking into the pool and telling us our reflection was all right’; and a Francis Bacon – ‘I said to Francis once: “You know Francis, some of the things you’re doing could translate into stained glass in a tremendously interesting way, and you’d have the benefit of transmitted colour rather than reflected colour. Have you ever thought of doing any stained glass?” And Francis said [Clarke adopts a camp and bitchy voice]: “No, dear – and I’ve not done any macramé either.”’

 

Clarke honks with laughter, his broad, large-eared face creased with amusement and shakes his head. ‘He was such a b-----d.’ (Clarke is chairman of the Bacon Estate; so, he says, ‘a lot of people in the art world are, you know, very, very keen to be my friend’).

 

For all his famous friends and success as a painter, it’s for his stained glass that Clarke is best known. He has, he says, done ‘more stained glass than anyone, probably ever’, and it’s found in settings as diverse as the Pyramid of Peace in Kazakhstan, the Pfizer building in New York, the Holocaust memorial in Darmstadt and the lobby of the Apax Group in Jermyn Street – the last a shimmering mix of deep blues, greens and carnation reds that is, Hadid says, like a ‘window to the outside world, very controlled, very strong’.

 

Right now, though, Clarke is having an ecclesiastical moment, having fled the overpowering shadow of church architecture 25 years ago: last weekend, in Linköping Cathedral, Sweden, three of his windows are being unveiled in a medieval church that has never before had stained glass in it (‘They went on a tour of Europe, the bishop and his mates and advisers from Swedish Heritage, to look at contemporary stained glass. And they saw a Cistercian Convent I’d done in Switzerland and commissioned me’). And in 12 days’ time the Pope will be blessing a stained-glass window, suffused in ultramarines and ruby reds, which Clarke has done for the Papal Nunciature in Wimbledon.

 

‘I’d said it wasn’t really my bag: I’m definitely not holy. But the Papal Nuncio is a genuinely cool guy, he really is; he’s everything you want in an archbishop. It’s a small work, but I’m very, very pleased with it – it’s a winner.’

 

As he tells me this we’re sitting in the kitchen of his house, eating chicken wrapped in bacon, couscous and salad. He’s wearing a pink shirt, khaki-coloured jeans and no shoes; glinting in his right earlobe is a gold cross. The house has been home to many artists from the late Victorian era onward, though Clarke bought it from the singer Leo Sayer (‘we found one of his clown outfits in the attic’) after his then dealer – the ultra-hip and very dangerous Robert Fraser – found it and told him: ‘If you don’t buy it, I’ll regard it as a personal insult.’

 

Ever ready with an anecdote and dauntingly erudite, Clarke is very affable company. ‘He’s good fun,’ cackles David Bailey, another good friend, ‘though not as funny as me – he hasn’t got my vicious cockney tongue.’ And it’s true: there’s a Lancastrian warmth to Clarke that helps explain why he’s so liked by so many.

 

The son of working-class parents, Clarke was born in the cotton-spinning town of Oldham. At ‘11 or 12’, a school trip to York Minster was a ‘very powerful juvenile experience. It’s a very warm stone, and I remember the light coming through the stained glass and the choir was practising. In my head, I say I could smell incense, but I suspect… But that was a definite moment, and in a way I’m always trying to recapture it.’

 

At 12, he won a scholarship to the Oldham School of Arts and Crafts and moved on, via Burnley School of Art and North Devon College of Art and Design, to be awarded a Churchill Memorial Travelling Scholarship. He was already working with stained glass, as well as painting. Teachers thought him: ‘Nuts. Most people were just worried I wouldn’t earn a living.’ Still, by 23, he was already the subject of a BBC arts documentary and living in an old vicarage in Derbyshire with his then wife, Liz.

 

It was, he says, an idyllic existence, but the capital beckoned and in 1978 he moved to London. ‘There was no possibility of me realising the grandiose ambitions I had for stained glass if I’d stayed.’ And there was his frisky character to take into account.

 

Clarke was, John McEwen wrote in the Spectator, ‘the most Sixties character to have emerged in the London art scene since the Sixties’, and, Clarke says, his Finsbury Square studio became ‘a hub of activity and of what today, I suppose, is called glamour’. Bailey became a friend (‘I learnt a lot about light from Bailey’), and Bacon’s lover, John Edwards, and then the McCartneys.

 

An electrifying period, then? ‘Oh yeah. I was the kid, I was the young one. And if I’d thought about it long enough, I couldn’t possibly have dealt with Francis, for example, because I would have been in awe. But I wasn’t, because I thought I was as good as he was: I was full of the arrogance of inexperience. And I wasn’t impressed, you know – by then I’d become friends with Paul [McCartney], close friends with Paul and Linda, and after Paul and Linda it’s difficult to be impressed, really.

 

‘They took it all so easily, so matter-of-factly – they were so unimpressed themselves. They were very supportive: they bought paintings from me, commissioned me to do stained glass projects for their home, stage sets. Paul really gets art: he gets it very quick, very sharp. And I was working ferociously.’

 

As McEwen put it when a show of Clarke’s paintings reopened Fraser’s gallery in 1983: ‘A year for Clarke is an age for most of us. His energy is both undeniable and commendably against the English grain.’

 

But there’s something very English in the singer and actor Richard Strange’s memory of that opening: Clarke’s mother was the guest of honour at an event littered with stars. And, Strange says, Mrs Clarke saw a familiar face across the room and said: ‘“Ooh Brian, you’ve got to introduce me.” So Brian took her across the room, saying: “Excuse me, Andy, excuse me, Mick, I’ve got to introduce my mum to someone.” And they come up to Paul McCartney and Brian says: “Now, mum, I’d like to introduce you to…’ and she interrupts him and says, “Oh Brian, Derek Nimmo needs no introduction.’”

 

Another important friend made at this time was Norman Foster, with whom Clarke later worked extensively. ‘We shared enthusiasms,’ Clarke says. ‘One of them is light. And the early period of our friendship – by which I mean the first 15 years or so – was just ricocheting from one thrilling moment to another. We’d see each other three or four times a day – breakfast, lunch and dinner, with telephone calls in between. It was all about discovery, new things; we developed new technologies.’

 

Clarke developed techniques that involve the bonding of glazed colours to architectural ‘float’ glass, often doing this in multiple layers that create an oscillating visual effect; a method that allows colour to be applied to large areas of glass without the familiar dividing lead strap work. Colour, in Clarke’s case, that’s radiantly life affirming.

 

Many of Clarke’s best friends are architects – Hadid, Foster, Peter Cook, the late Jan Kaplicky – and it is, Hadid says, ‘very rare to have someone who’s an artist who knows about architecture’.

 

Still, Clarke says: ‘I’ve done things I consider among my best work and they’re in buildings I think should be pulled down, quite frankly. But I can’t do that any more, because it’s lipstick on a gorilla. I can only really do my best when it’s in harmonious tandem.’

 

That harmony is what he enjoys about working with architects. ‘Artists work on the principle that they have a direct line to God. Well, very often that direct line has bad reception. And what was so thrilling about Norman, and architectural culture, was the inclusiveness of it, the collaboration,’ Clarke says. The downside being, of course, that people introduce him as ‘some kind of architect, or designer. And I’m not. I’m an artist – I’m a poet, not an organiser of imagery.’

 

It was that savage poet of violence, Francis Bacon who threw a spanner in Clarke’s works. ‘Francis quite liked talking about dying and how he was leaving everything to John – he kind of boasted about it. And John would say: “I don’t know what I’m going to do, Francis; I don’t know how I’ll manage all this.” And Francis would say: “Oh, Brian’ll help you.”

 

‘It was like that. And then it became that; I’d made a solemn promise I would. And John was as close a friend as I’ve ever had – he had great intuition; he could spot a phoney across a crowded pub. And Francis had been dead about three years and John came for help; he said to me: “I don’t understand these papers.”’

 

Clarke was, he says, in the middle of ‘an incredibly productive and exciting period of my life’. Still, at Edwards’s request, the High Court made Clarke sole executor of the Bacon Estate and he took up legal cudgels against Bacon’s old gallery, the Marlborough.

 

He assumed the matter would be over in months; six years later, litigation was still going on – at one stage, Clarke had 20 lawyers working for him. ‘It was horrible. It nearly killed me. If I could rewind the clock, that would be something I would definitely not want to be involved with.’

 

While the case was going on, ‘we moved Francis’s studio [from Reece Mews, Kensington] to Dublin and that helped me, because it showed some good could come out of this s---, as well as angst and anger and money – the money got bigger and bigger’. No surprise, really: as Clarke notes: ‘Francis used to say: “What people like about my paintings are the noughts.”’

 

Edwards died before the case was over, leaving Clarke his sole executor. He is chairman of the Bacon Trust, but he’s keen to resign. Meanwhile, a catalogue raisonné is in preparation, works are loaned and gifted, grants given. And ‘there’s one big pay off: I’ve been so close to Francis’s work now, at such an intimate level, with access to great masterpieces on a daily basis’.

 

Bacon’s studio was famously squalid and chaotic. Clarke’s – on an industrial estate in north-west London – is more ordered, despite the presence of his son’s drum kit. Classical music plays; there’s a view of the ‘lumpen’ Wembley arch; seven people work there.

 

Over here are the stairs down which Dennis Hopper fell on a visit to the studio; over there an oil on canvas study for a portrait of Andy Warhol. Here are drawings Clarke is making of paint tubes and of chocolate caramel sweet wrappers – ‘I’ve eaten thousands of them.’ Here’s the Fleur de Lys glass he did for Linda McCartney. Here’s multiple evidence of the ‘great hand’ and ‘fine line’ both Hadid and Doris Saatchi Lockhart praise. Here are the skulls that preoccupy him.

 

And here’s a large-scale proposal he’s preparing for a stained-glass installation at Stratford International, ‘where you get off the train from Paris and Brussels and for the Olympics’. It’s to be 300ft long and 20ft high, his first big work in London, green and yellow and flickering, punctuated with bands of swirling blue. ‘It’s such a quintessentially English thing,’ he says, ‘light coming through oak leaves.’

 

He pauses. ‘Stained glass – I’m more excited about it than I’ve ever been. It can transform the way you feel when you enter a building in the way nothing else can.’

 

 

Encounter: Essays by Milan Kundera

 

 

Milan Kundera's exhumed essays cast a spell with their insights into creativity, writes Geoff Dyer

 

 

Geoff Dyer, The Observer, Sunday 2 August 2010

 

 

 

Milan Kundera, Czech born writer who has lived in exile in France since 1975. Portrait taken in Paris in 1981

 

 

It is a tribute to Kundera's ability to weave his essayistic spell that my interest was undiminished by the fact that I am either wholly ignorant of many of the composers and writers discussed (Iannis Xenakis, Marek Bienczyk, Gudbergur Bergsson) correct or am familiar with them only through Kundera's earlier books. In any case, Kundera's subjects are mirrors, offering variously distorted reflections on his own work and situation. As he says with reference to a remark by Francis Bacon about Beckett: "When one artist is talking about another, he is always talking (indirectly, in a roundabout way) of himself, and that is what's valuable in his judgment."

The book kicks off with a particularly outrageous example as he reflects on and reprints a piece from the 1970s. In 1972, in an apartment in Prague, he met a demure young woman he knew well who had been interrogated for several days by the authorities. The trauma had upset her bowels so badly that every few minutes she had to rush off to the lavatory. "The noise of the water refilling the toilet tank practically never let up and I suddenly had the urge to rape her."

"Unconscionable" though this desire was, Kundera cannot disavow it; it forms the basis of his understanding of "the brutal gesture" – the "hand movement that roughs up another person's face in hopes of finding, in it and behind it, something that is hidden there" – of Francis Bacon's art. This may not be art history as understood by Kenneth Clark but it shoves us into a horrible confrontation with Bacon's art. The standard art-critical habit is to comment on the horror without conveying it so that we look and listen quite comfortably.

 

 

 

Milan Kundera's Encounter is an excellent essay collection 

 

Book review: In Encounter (Faber, £12.99) Milan Kundera reflects on the artists and aesthetic tenets he holds dear.

 

 

Metro (UK), Alan Chadwick - 17th August, 2010

 

 


Memory and forgetting, exile, identity and the power of art as a safeguard against the erosion of history and our own humanity: these are the themes that dominate this excellent collection of essays in which Milan Kundera reflects on the artists and aesthetic tenets he holds dear. 

 

Writing about the art of Francis Bacon, Kundera praises Bacon’s ‘clearsighted, sorrowful gaze trying to penetrate to the essential’. 

 

Yet that description could just as easily apply to Kundera’s own writing here, whether he is celebrating the music of Janácek or delighting in the comic marker laid down by Rabelais. 

 

At one point, Kundera bemoans the demands of contemporary fashion (cultural ‘blacklists’) in a world where the importance of art is becoming diminished. 

 

 

 

 

 

Book review: ‘Encounter’ by Milan Kundera

 

Compelling essays by someone who writes of authors, composers and artists from whom he continues to learn.

Encounter Essays  Milan Kundera, translated from the French by Linda Asher Harper: 192 pp., $23.99

 

By Michael S. Roth, Special to the Los Angeles Times, August 15, 2010



"Up to what degree of distortion does an individual still remain himself?"

Milan Kundera asks this question in writing about the painter Francis Bacon, one of many cultural figures he addresses in his commanding, compelling new collection of essays, "Encounter." It's a question that resonates throughout the book. To what degree can we be distorted by violence and fear — in short, by history — and still be ourselves? Kundera sees this distortion everywhere, a distortion that art engages. As the author looks at contemporary culture, his skepticism curdles into pessimism. In a world increasingly disinterested in art, when do we cross the border and forget what art has taught us about being human? Would we even realize that we crossed that border?

 

 

 

      “Bacons Finsternis”: Immer dem Maler nach

 

 

           von Florian Asamer, Die Presse, 31.07.2010

 

 

 

 

              

 

 

 

 

Im Kunstgeschichte-Krimi "Bacons Finsternis" sucht und findet ein verlassener Ehemann Trost und jede Menge Abenteuer in den Bildern des Leinwandapokalyptikers Francis Bacon.

Auch dieser Griechenland-Urlaub endet, wie Griechenland-Urlaube eben enden: bei Meerblick und Wein in der Taverne. Zum Nachtisch erfährt Arthur Valentin von seiner geliebten Frau Isabel allerdings, dass mit dem Urlaub auch ihre Ehe vorbei sein wird.

Zurück in Wien stürzt Arthur, der ein Antiquariat betreibt, nach dem Auszug von Isabel ins Bodenlose. Er verlässt die ehemals gemeinsame Wohnung kaum mehr, überlässt die Arbeit im Antiquariat zur Gänze seiner Partnerin Maia und hängt rosaroten Erinnerungen an seine Ehejahre nach.

Nach Monaten der Verzweiflung führt ihn eine Laune ins Kunsthistorische Museum. Dort in eine Ausstellung von Francis Bacon. Die Bilder rütteln Arthur auf, sie spiegeln seine verborgensten Ängste wider und geben ihm gleichzeitig neue Lebensenergie. Wie in Trance besucht Arthur immer wieder die Ausstellung und beschließt schließlich, den Bildern des irischen Malers quer durch Europa nachzureisen. In der Schweiz begegnet er dann erstmals auf einer Leinwand Bacons Muse Isabel Rawsthorne. Und zieht prompt Parallelen zu seiner Isabel.

Fesselnde Bacon-Interpretationen. Inzwischen ist Arthur eine Art Bacon-Spezialist geworden. Er liest sich quer durch die Arbeiten zu dem Jahrhundertmaler und versinkt in vielen biografischen Details und Zitaten des homosexuellen Künstlers (der ideale Liebhaber?, „der Nietzsche des Football-Teams“). So bringt Wilfried Steiner dem Leser auch die Geschichte der Beziehung zu George Dyer, die Rolle der Isabel Rawsthorne und vor allem Bacons Freundschaft zu Malerkollegen Lucian Freud, dem Enkel von Sigmund Freud, näher.

Dabei glänzt das Buch mit detaillierten Schilderungen – nein, fesselnden Interpretationen vieler Bacon-Gemälde, die dazu einladen, sie gleich noch einmal zu lesen, diesmal mit einem Bacon-Katalog in der Hand. Vor allem mit der seitenlangen Beschreibung des Triptychons „Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion“ gelingt es Steiner, den Leser in tiefe Beunruhigung zu versetzen.

In der Tate Modern in London bekommt die Handlung eine völlig neue Wendung. Während Arthur wieder einmal einen Tag im Museum verbringt, bemerkt er „seine“ Isabel, die mit einem älteren Mann Bilder betrachtet. Er belauscht die beiden unbemerkt, schnappt Gesprächsfetzen auf, die darauf hindeuten, dass eine Exfrau mit ihrem Begleiter einen Kunstraub planen könnte. Als er seiner Geschäftspartnerin Maia von dieser Entdeckung erzählt, und Maia den Mann als einen ihrer an Kunstkatalogen interessierten Kunden wiedererkennt, der auch bei Scotland Yard kein unbeschriebenes Blatt ist, scheint die Sache klar. Arthur und Maia versuchen, den vermeintlichen Kunstdieben in Hamburg auf die Schliche zu kommen.

Wilfried Steiner, der als künstlerischer Leiter am Linzer Posthof arbeitet, verbindet in seinem Roman drei Stränge: eine anschauliche kunstgeschichtliche Reise durch das Leben von Francis Bacon, die tragisch-ironische Schilderungen eines gebrochenen Verlassenen, der über die Trennung von seiner großen Liebe nicht hinwegkommen will, und schließlich einen Kunstdiebstahl in Rififi-Manier. „Bacons Finsternis“ verdankt seinen unbestreitbaren Reiz wohl gerade dem Kontrast zwischen der in jeder Hinsicht schweren Bacon-Kost und einer etwas leicht geratenen Krimihandlung.

Wilfried Steiner, Bacons Finsternis, Deuticke Verlag, 286 Seiten, 20,50 Euro.

 

 

 

Bacons Finsternis

 

Wilfried Steiners zweiter Roman

Ruth Halle, ORF, o6/08/2010

 

 

Ist es ein Krimi, eine intelligente Kunstgeschichte rund um den Maler Francis Bacon oder ein Liebesroman? Wilfried Steiners soeben erschienenes Buch "Bacons Finsternis" ist von allem etwas und lässt sich dennoch nur schwer kategorisieren.

Der Linzer Schriftsteller stellt in seinem bei Deuticke publizierten Buch die faszinierende Figur des radikalen Francis Bacon in den Mittelpunkt und umkreist den irischen Maler mit einer sehr komplexen und auch humorvollen fiktiven Handlung.

Trost von Francis Bacon

Ein Ehepaar verbringt einen harmonischen Urlaub auf Kreta und genießt den letzten Abend auf der griechischen Insel in einer Taverne. Für Steiners Protagonisten Arthur Valentin nimmt der Abend allerdings eine völlig unerwartete Wendung. Beinahe nebenbei erfährt Arthur Valentin nach 15-jähriger Beziehung von seiner Ehefrau, dass dies der letzte gemeinsame Urlaub gewesen sein soll.

Selbtmitleidig vergräbt sich Arthur in seinen Schmerz und überlässt seiner Geschäftspartnerin die Führung seines Antiquariats. Es sollte ausgerechnet der irische Maler Farncis Bacon werden, der Arthur Trost spenden wird. Der 1992 verstorbene Maler warf gleichsam Kreaturen ohne Sinn und Aussicht auf Erlösung auf die Leinwand.

Steiners linkischer Protagonist, den er überzeugend zeichnet und mit erquickender Selbstironie ausstattet, besucht eine Bacon-Ausstellung und ist von der Kraft und Energie Bacons begeistert - eine Begeisterung die Romanfigur und Autor teilen.

Temporeich erzählt

Doch die Faszination für Francis Bacon erweist sich in Steiners Roman keineswegs als probate Beziehungstherapie: Während Arthur der Beschaulichkeit und Innigkeit seiner Ehe nachtrauert, setzen sich die Ereignisse temporeich und von Steiner stakkato-artig erzählt in Gang.

Arthur reist den Bildern Bacons quer durch Europa nach, und vermeint aus den Gesprächsfetzen zwischen seiner Exfrau und einem Kunden die Ankündigung eines Kunstraubs herauszuhören.

Grenzen ausloten

"Bacons Finsternis", den zweiten Roman des Linzer Autors Wilfried Steiner, einordnen zu wollen, erscheint schwierig: Er ist sowohl eine teils humoristisch erzählte Liebesgeschichte, ein rasant und klug erzählter Krimi, als auch eine aufschlussreiche, gut recherchierte Abhandlung über das Leben und Werk Bacons. 

Der 50-jährige Linzer Autor Wilfrid Steiner hat mit "Bacons Finsternis" sein siebentes Buch und zugleich seinen zweiten Roman vorgelegt. Sieben Jahre hat der künstlerische Leiter des Linzer Posthofs an diesem Buch geschrieben.

Wie auch schon in seinem ersten Roman "Der Weg nach Xanadu", in dessen Mittelpunkt der englische Romantiker Samuel Taylor Coleridge stand, fasziniert ihn auch hier wieder das Ausloten der vorstellbaren Grenzen, die Faszination des Denkbaren. 

Textfassung: Ruth Halle

 

 

 

Trauma, Tragedy, Therapy

 

The Arts and Human Suffering
by Stephen K. Levine
Jessica Kingsley, 2009

 

Review by Marko Zlomislic, Ph.D.
Metapsycholog, Volume 14, Issue 32, Aug 10th 2010

 

 

Levine would have us "embrace our own chaos". However, what does this exactly mean? He writes, "Since we are chaotic, we can face the chaos of trauma without feeling that we must expel it from our being". Is it not the other way around? Since we are not chaotic, we have such difficulty with trauma. If chaos were the essence of our Heideggerian ground, then there would be no problem in dealing with trauma. Trauma would be just another form of chaos that we already are. The experience of trauma says otherwise.

Levine asks, "What kind of art is adequate to the experience of trauma? To me, the answer is the art of the terrible, the grotesque, and the ugly". Here Levine cites the paintings of Francis Bacon. Bacon's work had a huge impact on me. I thought, yes, this is it. I must take his work further into ugliness and darkness. Therefore, I painted a la Bacon and then I had an epiphany. 

What I was painting was only giving strength to death, darkness and chaos. I then began to paint landscapes and I think this is when I began to heal. Ten years after my traumatic event, I realize that art cannot save us from anything. Art is not salvific. It is not a salve or ointment. Returning to life is the grace that saves.

 

 

 

 

Master thatcher advises fire crews

 

Wokingham Times - 3 Aug 2010

 

 


Thatching work on a cottage once occupied by painter Francis Bacon led to a lesson in fighting thatch fires.

Wokingham fire crews passing Long Cottage in Davis Street, Hurst, took the opportunity to quiz master thatcher James McCormack on how thatch roofs are constructed so they would have a better idea of how to fight a future thatch blaze.

Mr McCormack, of Country Thatching based in Wokingham, told firefighters about the types of reed and straw used in thatching and explained how twisted hazel spares are used to fix bundles of wheat reed to the original thatch.

The impromptu lesson proved so popular a further five teams from fire stations around Wokingham went along to quiz Mr McCormack, who has been a thatcher for 21 years.

He is currently working on Long Cottage which is believed to date back to 1629 and has featured in a BBC film about 20th century painter Mr Bacon.

The owners of the cottage would like to hear from anyone with details about the history of the cottage.

 

 

 

 

Crossing the Channel

 

Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud and Alberto Giacometti

 

Friendships and Connections in Paris and London 1946-1965

Gagosian gallery,

17-19 Davies Street
London W1K 3DE


June 2 - July 31, 2010   



Gagosian Gallery is pleased to present the exhibition Crossing the Channel: Friendships and Connections in London and Paris 1946-1965, which examines the vibrant exchange of ideas and influences between Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud and Alberto Giacometti in Paris and London during the postwar years.

This exhibition spans the period from 1946-the year that the international borders reopened--to 1965, when the Tate Gallery presented Giacometti's retrospective. During this time, the web of friendships and alliances between artists, patrons and collectors from London and Paris proved to be enormously influential. It was Peter Watson - the important British collector and patron of the arts as well as a founder of the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London - who connected Bacon, Freud and Giacometti as well as collecting their works, providing stipends and organising exhibitions, including retrospectives for Giacometti and Bacon with the Arts Council of Great Britain in 1955. In Portrait of Peter Watson (1954), Giacometti paid homage to this dynamic and instrumental patron.

The eldest of the three artists, Giacometti was, to some extent, the trio's imaginative lynchpin. With Watson's assistance, Freud travelled to Paris in the mid-forties, where he met Giacometti and sat for two portraits. Giacometti first visited London in 1955, where he witnessed the still-devastating effects of the War. Although he did not meet Bacon until the early sixties, his influence on the younger artist is evident in works such as Miss Muriel Belcher (1959), whose sculpted facial features and dark, abstracted background recall devices that Giacometti used in paintings and sculptures of Annette and Diego.

Bacon and Freud became close friends around 1943. Each chose to paint only their most intimate friends, although Bacon worked exclusively from photographs while Freud painted from live models. Freud's portrait of his future wife Lady Caroline Blackwood, Girl in Bed (1952) was one of the many paintings that travelled with him between Paris and London. In John Deakin (1963-64), Freud portrayed the renowned photographer whose images of Muriel Belcher, Isabel Rawsthorne, George Dyer and others became the basis for many of Bacon's paintings. Bacon also painted a series of portraits of Freud from Deakin's photographs as counterparts to Freud's portraits of Bacon.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with an essay by Pilar Ordovás.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Master Painters Side by Side for the First Time in the Frans Hals Museum

 

 

Art Daily, Saturday, July 10, 2010

 

 

HAARLEM.- The Frans Hals Museum is presenting a work by the British artist Francis Bacon flanked by two monumental paintings by Cornelis van Haarlem. What links these artists is their admiration for Michelangelo. This Italian painter, sculptor, architect and poet was a great source of inspiration for them both. The exhibition Conversation Piece II is on view from 3 July to 10 October 2010.

With the series ‘Conversation Piece’, the Frans Hals Museum wants to encourage visitors to take a fresh look at the 16th and 17th-century collection of paintings. By juxtaposing these works with modern and contemporary art, surprising links are laid between highly varied styles and periods in the history of art. The museum demonstrates that even though certain perceptions and opinions have a long history they are nevertheless still valid today and continue to be revisited and explored.

Francis Bacon (1909 – 1992) was extremely indebted to tradition; as he formulated it himself: ‘in the long run art cannot cut loose from its tradition, but only renew it in a way which will be compelling to a contemporary sensibility.’ In this connection, he also repeatedly acknowledged having a strong affinity with Michelangelo. Bacon particularly admired the Italian master’s nudes: ‘the fleshy figure, coiled around his own axis as if he were about to hurl a discus.’ This description could equally apply to the two works by Cornelis van Haarlem.

Tension and drama


In the painting From Muybridge The Human Figure in Motion: Woman Emptying a Bowl of Water / Paralytic Child Walking on All Fours (1965; on loan from the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam) the contorted, misshapen figures infuse the composition with enormous tension and drama. The way in which the paint twists and turns gives the painting a sense of plasticity and movement. The human body has a fleshy fullness and assumes an expressive pose that lend it a distinct sculptural quality. This is also seen in the work of Cornelis van Haarlem.

Voluptuous flesh


The influence of Michelangelo (1475 – 1564) is also evident in the paintings The Massacre of the Innocents (1591) and The Wedding of Peleus and Thetis (1592/1593) by Cornelis van Haarlem (1562 – 1638). His nudes exhibit a comparable interest in exaggerated poses and a voluptuous rendering of ‘flesh’. They are bravura pieces, action-packed and dynamic with an unprecedented drama and vivacity, and with extreme foreshortening and torsion. The poses are immensely complex and the bodies are recreated in innumerable contorted attitudes. The paintings demonstrate Van Haarlem’s artistic virtuosity, and testify to his thorough command of the human figure.

‘Conversation Piece I’ took place in the Frans Hals Museum in 2008 and juxtaposed the German artist Thomas Eggerer (born 1963) to the 17th-century painters Pieter Saenredam (1597 – 1665) and Jacob van Ruisdael (1628 – 1682). The common thread then was the clear organisation and definition of space in combination with a precise positioning of the figures. Composition, colour and the effects of light are finely attuned to one another and crafted into a harmonious entity in the work of these three artists.

 

 

Bacon en Buenos Aires

 

Los polémicos dibujos de Francis Bacon llegan a Buenos Aires.

 

Joan Faus/EFE Buenos Aires, Argentina 08/07/2010

 

 

A lo largo de toda su carrera el pintor irlandés Francis Bacon negó haber realizado estos dibujos, unas polémicas obras de arte que no vieron la luz hasta la muerte del artista en 1992 y que ahora se exhiben en Buenos Aires. Una selección de 40 dibujos en papel, realizados por Bacon (1909-1992) durante los viajes que efectuó a Italia durante sus últimos años, componen la exposición La Punta del Iceberg.

Los dibujos de Bacon fueron durante años motivo de una larga controversia sobre su verdadera autoría, que concluyó en 2004 cuando un tribunal italiano verificó definitivamente su autenticidad, explicó a Efe el comisario de la muestra, Massimo Scaringella. Pese al fallo judicial, los miles de dibujos que trazó Bacon aún siguen envueltos en una polémica "que parece trascender la vida del artista", añadió Scaringella.

Para el comisario de la muestra, los dibujos del pintor irlandés reflejan sus "principales temáticas artísticas", como sus emblemáticas escenas de Papas -inspiradas en su "admirado" retrato de Inocencio X del español Diego Velázquez (1599-1660)- y de la Crucifixión, así como retratos y autorretratos.

"Se trata de dibujos que no fueron elaborados para ser exhibidos durante su vida, por lo que ofrecen una reflexión sobre las obras que realizó Bacon al principio de su carrera", agregó el especialista. La muestra acoge una selección de los denominados "dibujos italianos" de Bacon que esbozó en sus viajes al norte de Italia entre comienzos de los años ochenta hasta su muerte en 1992.

El pintor irlandés dibujaba sin ninguna finalidad comercial y fue regalando sus obras a sus amigos, que mantuvieron en secreto su faceta de dibujante, explicó el crítico de arte británico Edward Lucie-Smith, que fue amigo de Bacon. El periodista italiano Cristiano Ravarino fue quien recibió el mayor número de ilustraciones, del mismo modo, apuntó Lucie-Smith, que el italiano Miguel Ángel (1475-1564) dibujaba para complacer al joven Tommaso Cavalieri.

Las obras que se exponen en Buenos Aires son obras realizadas a lápiz sobre papel, en los que Bacon retrata escenas individuales mediante composiciones de líneas sencillas. La mayoría de los dibujos muestra a personas sentadas o de medio cuerpo con figuras deformadas que parecen fundirse con el espacio.

Bacon utilizaba trazos rectos y definidos para perfilar contornos de fondos, como puertas o ventanas, "que contrastan con las líneas desordenadas que insinuan los cuerpos humanos, cuyos rostros aparecen deformados bajo una profunda capa oscura", apuntó Scaringella. A juicio del comisario de la muestra, Bacon oscurecía los rostros de sus modelos porque quería "negarles la cara y entrar en la intimidad de la persona que evocaba". "La negación de la imagen parte de su idea de negar la intimidad del hombre. Quiere comunicar el concepto de que él se sitúa en el interior de la persona", añadió.

La muestra de Bacon, que se podrá visitar hasta el 19 de agosto en el Centro Cultural Borges, es una selección de los bocetos exhibidos en la Bienal de Venecia en 2009.

 

 

 

Francis Bacon’s ‘The Tip of the Iceberg’ Drawings Displayed in Buenos Aires

 

 

Art Knowledge News, 6 July 2010

 

 

 

BUENOS AIRES.- The exhibition was organized on occasion of the 53rd Venice Biennale but it is a unique event with an extraordinary character; Centro Cultural Borges in Buenos Aires, hosts an exhibition of drawings by Francis Bacon titled The Tip of the Iceberg. Drawings by Francis Bacon. The exhibition – curated by the famous English art critic Edward Lucie-Smith and by Alberto Agazzani - shows a ‘corpus’ of about 20 drawings on paper of various sizes, authentically signed by Francis Bacon which portray a gallery of monstrous human characters, typical iconography of the famous Irish painter who died in 1992.

 

 

The 40 black and white drawings attributed to Francis Bacon, which have already been exhibited in the context of the Venice Biennale 2009 and recently in Milan's Durini Foundation. The exhibition runs 30 June to 19 August 2010.

Few years ago (2003-2004) these drawings - and many others - were the subject of a trial to definitively determine their nature - true or fake? Until then, it was universally believed that Bacon did not use to draw, and if he did, it was believed that he immediately destroyed his drawings. Such statement was not entirely true and these drawings seemed to be only a part of the artistic world of Francis Bacon, ‘the tip of an iceberg’, as it was defined by David Sylvester, a Baconian art critic.

Many witnesses and experts were involved in the trial – both against or in favour of the authenticity of the drawings; in 2004 the court closed the investigation and cleared the owner of all charges, Cristiano Lovatelli Ravarino - Francis Bacon’s close friend - from whom he claimed to have received the huge package of drawings. The court asserted that part of the drawings are really signed by Francis Bacon and, therefore, can not be regarded as fake.

Those authentic drawings are exhibited in Buenos Aires, but this time they will be subject to a different type of judgment: they will be judged by passionate and curious public and by those who have studied the painter and his work, by critics, art historians and collectors who have made Bacon the object of their passion.

“The strength of an image can be measured by its capacity to penetrate the eye and thereby insinuate itself into the soul of the person viewing it. - commented Alberto Agazzani, curator of the exhibition - It is like a virus that attacks a human being through his sight, softening his soul, causing an unrest for which there exists no cure. Bacon has been a major ruthless spreader of the Twentieth Century, giving visible form to monsters, to the anxieties, the monstrousness and disturbances not only of an entire era, but also of all humanity and amplifying the power to defile the mind, the infectivity through painting.”

It is very likely that the doubts on the authenticity or not of the drawings from the Lovatelli Ravarino collection will not be soothed with this exhibition, indeed. Quite the contrary, this is supposed to be an open, free and straightforward confrontation.

“While it may not lead to a certain, ironclad answer - says Professor Agazzani - it will enrich an enthralling mystery with a Venetian episode that is expected to be dense with suspense.”

 

 

 

Los polémicos dibujos de Francis Bacon llegan a Buenos Aires

 

EFE, July 3, 2010

 

Buenos Aires, 3 jul (EFE).- A lo largo de toda su carrera el pintor irlandés Francis Bacon negó haber realizado dibujos, unas polémicas obras de arte que no vieron la luz hasta la muerte del artista en 1992 y que ahora se exhiben en Buenos Aires.

Una selección de 40 dibujos en papel, realizados por Bacon (1909-1992) durante los viajes que efectuó a Italia durante sus últimos años, componen la exposición La Punta del Iceberg.

Los dibujos de Bacon fueron durante años motivo de una larga controversia sobre su verdadera autoría, que concluyó en 2004 cuando un tribunal italiano verificó definitivamente su autenticidad, explicó hoy a Efe el comisario de la muestra, Massimo Scaringella.

Pese al fallo judicial, los miles de dibujos que trazó Bacon aún siguen envueltos en una polémica "que parece trascender la vida del artista", añadió Scaringella.

Para el comisario de la muestra, los dibujos del pintor irlandés reflejan sus "principales temáticas artísticas", como sus emblemáticas escenas de Papas -inspiradas en su "admirado" retrato de Inocencio X del español Diego Velázquez (1599-1660)- y de la Crucifixión, así como retratos y autorretratos.

"Se trata de dibujos que no fueron elaborados para ser exhibidos durante su vida, por lo que ofrecen una reflexión sobre las obras que realizó Bacon al principio de su carrera", agregó el especialista.

La muestra acoge una selección de los denominados "dibujos italianos" de Bacon que esbozó en sus viajes al norte de Italia entre comienzos de los años ochenta hasta su muerte en 1992.

El pintor irlandés dibujaba sin ninguna finalidad comercial y fue regalando sus obras a sus amigos, que mantuvieron en secreto su faceta de dibujante, explicó el crítico de arte británico Edward Lucie-Smith, que fue amigo de Bacon.

El periodista italiano Cristiano Ravarino fue quien recibió el mayor número de ilustraciones, del mismo modo, apuntó Lucie-Smith, que el italiano Miguel Ángel (1475-1564) dibujaba para complacer al joven Tommaso Cavalieri.

Las obras que se exponen en Buenos Aires son obras realizadas a lápiz sobre papel, en los que Bacon retrata escenas individuales mediante composiciones de líneas sencillas.

La mayoría de los dibujos muestra a personas sentadas o de medio cuerpo con figuras deformadas que parecen fundirse con el espacio.

Bacon utilizaba trazos rectos y definidos para perfilar contornos de fondos, como puertas o ventanas, "que contrastan con las líneas desordenadas que insinuan los cuerpos humanos, cuyos rostros aparecen deformados bajo una profunda capa oscura", apuntó Scaringella.

A juicio del comisario de la muestra, Bacon oscurecía los rostros de sus modelos porque quería "negarles la cara y entrar en la intimidad de la persona que evocaba".

"La negación de la imagen parte de su idea de negar la intimidad del hombre. Quiere comunicar el concepto de que él se sitúa en el interior de la persona", añadió.

La muestra de Bacon, que se podrá visitar hasta el 19 de agosto en el Centro Cultural Borges, es una selección de los bocetos exhibidos en la Bienal de Venecia en 2009.

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, 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".

Su carácter le llevó a destruir, a los 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.

 

 

 

DIBUJOS ITALIANOS DE FRANCIS BACON, PRIMERA VEZ EN MUESTRA

 

 

Ansa Latina 01/07/2010

 

 

 

 

Por Gisela Antonuccio BUENOS AIRES, 1 (ANSA) - Los "dibujos italianos" de Francis Bacon, uno de los artistas contemporáneos más cotizados, son expuestos en Buenos Aires por primera vez fuera de Italia, como testimonio del "método de trabajo" del pintor irlandés, que refuta además la aseveración de que "nunca dibujaba".


    Se trata de los dibujos que Bacon (1909-1992) realizó en Italia durante sus reiteradas visitas, que integran la muestra La punta del iceberg, que se exhibe en el Centro Cultural Borges, en la ciudad de Buenos Aires, hasta el 15 de septiembre.


    A raíz de una huelga del organismo de sanidad Senasa que controla los arribos en la Aduana, la inauguración, el miércoles por la noche, tuvo algo del destino accidentado que envolvió a las piezas en la última década: el público llegó a la sala antes que las obras, que terminaron de montarse a última hora.


    Es que los dibujos son los mismos que fueron objeto de una controversia judicial en Italia durante casi una década, que terminó en 2004, cuando un tribunal "no pudo determinar que no se trataban de Bacon", precisó a ANSA uno de los curadores de la muestra, Massimo Scaringella.


    Algunos fueron sólo exhibidos en la Bienal de Venecia de 2009. Otros, recientemente en la Fundación Durini de Milán.


    Los que integran la exhibición son una serie de 40 dibujos -sobre un total de 300- que Bacon obsequió a su amigo Cristiano Lovatelli Ravarino a lo largo de sus frecuentes visitas entre 1980 y 1992, año de la muerte del pintor expresionista.


    Otra serie será exhibida a partir de julio en Lisboa. "Aunque es impropio decirles dibujos. Son más bien una obra completa, piezas acabadas en sí mismas. Más aun porque algunos son de un metro por dos de dimensión", opinó Scarigella.


    El curador italiano precisó que "la comparación de la firma de Bacon llevó a determinar su autenticidad, así como la veracidad de su vínculo con Ravarino".


    Para Edward Lucie-Smith, el otro curador de la muestra, se puede observar en ellos "el método de trabajo de Bacon", pues en ellos se capta "la habilidad para llegar al esqueleto de la imagen" que tenía el artista.


    Ello, a pesar de que Bacon insistía en que nunca dibujaba. Pero la razón de esa afirmación, dijo Lucie-Smith, se relaciona con el método de trabajo que empleaba, que muchas veces se servía de instrumentos o plantillas geométricas, del que surgía una forma predeterminada, y de ahí pasaba a la elaboración.


    Las piezas pertenecientes a la colección privada de Ravarino son los que confirman por primera vez con una exhibición que en cambio Bacon era prolífico también en el dibujo. Con Ravarino se ponía en contacto cada vez que viajaba en Calderino, cerca de Bologna, en Venecia o en Cortina d'Ampezzo. Tras la muerte del pintor irlandés -también de ciudadanía inglesa-, Ravarino vendió algunos de ellos. Pero enseguida fue demandado por sus compradores, descreídos de la autenticidad de la firma.


    El proceso para establecer la autenticidad de los dibujos llevó casi una década, y es narrado en el libro "La punta del témpano" (Maretti Editore), de Umberto Guerini, el abogado que defendió a Ravarino, tras reunir documentos originales y testimonios de allegados a Bacon, para respaldar su defensa.


    "Bacon dibujaba y pintaba abiertamente en Italia", cuenta Guerini. "Regalaba despreocupadamente sus dibujos", en especial a Ravarino, afirmó su abogado, aún cuando era y es uno de los artistas más costosos.


ACZ

 

DIBUJOS ITALIANOS DE FRANCIS BACON, PRIMERA VEZ EN MUESTRA

 

Están pendientes de recibir los trámites administrativos de control virológico

 

El Mundo, Efe | Buenos Aires || 01/07/2010

 

Los 40 dibujos del pintor irlandés Francis Bacon, que debían exponerse a partir de este miercoles en Buenos Aires, están retenidos desde el pasado viernes en la aduana del aeropuerto internacional de la capital argentina, según informó un portavoz de la organización de la muestra.

La retención se debe a que las cajas de madera en las que se almacenaron los dibujos están pendientes de recibir los trámites administrativos de control virológico, añadió el portavoz de la muestra, cuya inauguración estaba prevista para el 30 de junio en el Centro Cultural Borges de Buenos Aires.

Los responsables del centro se muestran confiados en que el bloqueo de los dibujos, que procedían de Italia, se resuelva de forma inminente para poder inaugurar la exposición lo antes posible. Los controles virológicos de productos en las aduanas argentinas suelen efectuarse en un plazo de entre uno y dos días, señaló el portavoz.

Una huelga de dos días por parte de algunos empleados del Servicio Nacional de Sanidad y Calidad Agroalimentaria podría ser la causa de la retención de los dibujos, apuntaron portavoces del organismo estatal.

Un total de 40 dibujos del reconocido pintor Francis Bacon (1909-1992) componen la muestra La Punta del Iceberg que expondrá las obras hasta el próximo 19 de agosto.

 

 

En el Centro Borges / Primera exhibición del pintor en América latina

 

Dibujos con historia en una muestra de Bacon

 

 

Se exhiben 40 obras que fueron parte de un largo litigio judicial

 

 

 

Laura Casanovas, |LA NACION | Viernes 02.07.2010

 

 

 

 

El pintor irlandés Francis Bacon decía que no dibujaba y así lo sostenía el mundo del arte. Hasta que empezaron a salir a la luz sus dibujos e, incluso, el dueño de 300 de ellos ganó hace algunos años un juicio en Italia que confirmó que esas obras eran del artista.

 

Es una historia atrapante a la que el público argentino tendrá el privilegio de acercarse desde mañana con la muestra de 40 de los dibujos que formaron parte del juicio en el Centro Cultural Borges (Viamonte y San Martín) y que, en su mayoría, se exhibieron en la Bienal de Venecia de 2009. La inauguración de la muestra estaba prevista para hoy, pero un paro en el Senasa retuvo las obras más de lo previsto. La intención de los organizadores es acelerar el montaje para cumplir con los tiempos para la apertura, hoy, a las 19, y prometen que sí estará abierta al público mañana.

 

Será la primera vez que llegue a América latina una muestra de Bacon, que falleció en 1992. Uno de los curadores es el renombrado crítico e historiador Edward Lucie-Smith, experto en los dibujos de Bacon. El otro es Massimo Scaringella.

 

En los tribunales

 

"Durante mucho tiempo se sostuvo que Bacon no dibujaba. Pero hizo muchos dibujos, y distintos. Hay varios grupos, entre ellos el de la Tate Gallery, los que se encontraron en el estudio de Bacon luego de su muerte, y los de Cristiano Lovatelli Ravarino", contó Lucie-Smith a LA NACION ayer, en un diálogo en el que analizó los dibujos, los comparó, y explayó todo su conocimiento y pasión por su tarea artística.

 

 

Ravarino y Bacon tuvieron una larga y estrecha amistad y Bacon le dejó los dibujos. Sin embargo, alguien le inició un juicio penal a Ravarino al alegar que eran falsos.

 

Es entonces cuando llega a esta historia el abogado italiano penalista Umberto Guerin, que también está en Buenos Aires acompañando la muestra. Ravarino era periodista y algunas veces había contactado a Guerin para tener información de algún caso. Pero esta vez le pidió que lo defendiera en el juicio para probar la autenticidad de los dibujos.

 

 

La querella tuvo lugar entre 1996 y 2004. "Se probó que Cristiano y Bacon se conocían. Luego se probó que los dibujos eran parte de la relación entre ambos. Y los peritajes también examinaron la firma del artista en los dibujos, el papel y el diseño, comparándolos sobre todo con sus pinturas", contó a LA NACION Guerin, quien escribió un libro, La punta del iceberg , que da cuenta de todo el proceso judicial. Y comentó que estos dibujos cuestan hoy entre 100.000 y 500.000 euros cada uno.

 

Para Lucie-Smith, los dibujos de este grupo son "los más interesantes y los más ambiciosos" de la producción de Bacon porque, por ejemplo, no son bocetos, sino dibujos finales. El conjunto que se verá en nuestro país incluye dibujos de 70 x 100 cm, están hechos con lápiz entre los años 80 y su muerte, y presentan figuras humanas con esa línea deformada y esa expresividad entre grotesca y de inquietud que caracterizan su figuración. La muestra, titulada La punta del iceberg, se podrá ver hasta el 19 de agosto.

 

 

Abre una muestra con las obras “malditas” del gran Francis Bacon

 

Son dibujos que le regaló a un amante y cuya autenticidad fue muy cuestionada.

 

 

Por Mercedes Pérez Bergliaffa - ESPECIAL PARA CLARIN

 

Sociedad, Cultura, Clarin, 30/06/10

 

 

 

Amo la palabra “caos”. Mi vida es una serie de riesgos”, decía el genial Francis Bacon 30 años atrás. Su comentario viene como anillo al dedo para explicar sus obras y la historia casi maldita que arrastran.


La punta del iceberg se titula la muestra en la que 40 dibujos de Bacon estarán expuestos en Argentina desde hoy, si todo sale como estaba previsto.
Es la primera vez que se exhibe un conjunto de obras de Bacon, uno de los pintores más grandes del Siglo XX, en nuestro país.


Las obras que se verán aquí tienen una historia extraña: pertenecen a la colección de quien era uno de los amantes ilegales de Bacon: su amante italiano Cristiano Lovatelli Ravarino. Bacon le regaló los dibujos que hacía durante sus estadías en Italia, adonde viajaba escapando de la “corte de mediocres aduladores” de Londres, como el pintor llamaba a sus seguidores.


Cuenta Ravarino que Bacon dibujaba todo el tiempo y regalaba estos dibujos a gente que no tenía nada que ver con el arte: vecinos que ni sabían quien era el pintor, ladrones, borrachos, malvivientes, gangsters.


También le dio a Ravarino algunos centenares de dibujos. Aquí comienza el nudo de la historia, la punta del iceberg que da título a la muestra: cuando su amante anunció que tenía más de 300 dibujos, la galería con la que Bacon tenía contrato exclusivo (una de las más importantes del mundo, la Marlborough, de Nueva York) dijo que eso no era posible, que Bacon no dibujaba. Que esos dibujos eran falsos. Comenzaron entonces 20 años de juicios, análisis de historiadores del arte y críticos y rejunte de testimonios.


Debido a que la mayoría de los dibujos tiene la firma del artista, los jueces sentenciaron en 2004 que las obras son verdaderas. Y la galería tuvo que aceptarlo. Muestras como esta buscan que todo el mundo sepa que son legítimos.


Pero no dejemos que esta historia nos impida contemplar las obras: lo que se expondrá en el Borges son dibujos de Bacon, no pinturas. Esto significa que, si bien son fuertes, oscuros, dramáticos, no tienen el impacto ni la intensidad extrema que producen sus grandes pinturas. Pero sí tienen rasgos formales distintivos del artista, y mantienen su oscuridad.


Como explicó en exclusiva a Clarín el historiador inglés Edward Lucie-Smith, especialista en la obra de Bacon que viajó a Argentina como co-curador de la muestra: “Hay que fijarse en la torsión que existe en estos trabajos, en las señas que Bacon repite aquí y en sus pinturas, en cómo estos cuerpos y rostros se retuercen.”


Señas de una crueldad sórdida que Bacon hizo presente en su pintura y en su vida, esta exposición es un iceberg que tiene dos puntas: el valor estético de las obras, y también su valor económico. No en vano el abogado que llevó adelante toda la batalla, Umberto Guerini (dueño de algunos dibujos) también viajó a Buenos Aires para la inauguración.

 

 

Viaggio con Francis Bacon

 

 

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«La prima volta che vidi un quadro di Bacon dal vivo fu a Palazzo Reale, in una grande mostra sul ritratto curata da Flavio Caroli. Stavo nella sala guardando un bellissimo ritratto di Alberto Donghi, un pittore che trovo affascinante e soprattutto inquietante per induzione, come sono affascinanti in tale modo certe belle donne che però non vogliono particolarmente colpirti col loro charme.

«Conoscono il valore della loro bellezza, e perciò, saggiamente, non ne abusano.»

Nel 2008, quando era scoccato il sedicesimo anniversario della scomparsa dell’artista americano, Luigi Ficacci pubblica uno splendido lavoro dal titolo “Francis Bacon e l’ossessione di Michelangelo” per i tipi di Mondadori Electa. Un’attenta indagine su un aspetto della poetica di questo grande protagonista della storia dell’arte internazionale: il profondo rapporto con Michelangelo che lega i due grandi maestri circa la percezione del flusso della profondità umana nello Spirito del Mondo.  Ed ora a distanza di due anni, esclusa qualche altra brillante monografia sull’argomento, per i tipi di Zona editrice, esce un lavoro eccellente dal titolo  “Un viaggio con Francis Bacon” di Franz Krauspenhaar.

L’autore rivela da subito in un gioco polisemico di rimandi e riferimenti, quanto Bacon possa diventare un’ossessione per uno scrittore: una patologia dovuto al suo essere oscillante tra un’incredibile potenza carismatica, una sensualità oscura, schiacciata da un terribile senso di tragedia irreversibile, il suo percepire la grevezza del meccanismo del peccato e della condanna, il suo rendere esteticamente la vulnerabilità dell’uomo, che può comunque con un estremo atto di forza e violenza elevarsi oltre i limiti. Per Krauspenhaar, Bacon è un mattatore della Fine, come categoria ultima prima del riscatto dell’uomo, che vive tra miasmi di putrefazione e morte. La Fine come incitamento alla Cattiveria, perché non si venga definitivamente eliminati dall’implacabilità di altri soggetti più “evoluti” e veloci magari programmati geneticamente meglio alla sopravvivenza. Non so bene definire questo prodotto editoriale, perché l’autore sembra provarci gusto nel non dare esplicite coordinate ermeneutiche sul suo lavoro dal momento che meticcia narrazioni, stili e grammatiche. Possiamo solo dire che la sua scrittura acidula e tagliente ci porta lungo un viaggio pop, pure troppo, su una delle figure più emblematiche della storia dell’arte.

Cinema, Arte, Letteratura in un mix che h come protagonista il sublime e morboso Francis Bacon I fan della Deriva nella Storia dell’Arte contemporanea non rimarranno delusi da un autore come Franz Krauspenhaar in grado come sempre di stupire!

«L’altro ieri scopro un quadro attribuito a Bacon dopo la morte. È il retro di un paesaggio non particolarmente brutto, di un certo Denis Wirth-Miller, artista semisconosciuto, dipinto nel ‘58; raffigura un campo di pannocchie, un cielo blu piatto, in lontananza una campagna inglese che avrebbe potuto pennellare Ennio Morlotti in vacanza dalla Brianza gaddiana del Maradagal dei suoi informali viaggi pittorici nella macchia lombarda. E dietro, di Bacon, c’è un cane; simile ad altri cani, piccoli, tozzi e presumibilmente famelici e cattivi, dipinti dal pittore inglese negli anni cinquanta».

Franz Krauspenhaar ha scritto Avanzi di balera (Addictions), Le cose come stanno e Cattivo sangue (Baldini Castoldi Dalai), Era mio padre (Fazi), Franzwolf. Un’autobiografia in versi (Manifattura Torino Poesia) e L’inquieto vivere segreto (Transeuropa). È stato redattore di «Nazione indiana». È uno dei principali animatori dei dibattiti culturali in Rete.

 

 

Michael Wojas: Proprietor, barman, counsellor...

 

 

The man who ran the notorious Colony Room Club has died, aged 53. Jerome Taylor looks back at the Soho establishment that for decades attracted London's literary and artistic elite

 

The Independent, Wednesday, 9 June 2010

 

 

Michael Wojas was characteristically sanguine when he was asked five years ago to describe what it had been like running one of London's most notorious private clubs. "I'm the proprietor, the bar manager, lavatory attendant, psychiatric counsellor, odd-job man and accountant," he beamed in a self-penned article for The Independent. "There certainly isn't anything I haven't done."

Wojas, who died on Sunday from cancer at the age of 53, was musing over the 21 years he had spent as a barman, and later proprietor, of the Colony Room Club, a debauched drinking establishment frequented by artists, dandies, thinkers, wits, pimps and whores which came to symbolise both the heart – and the eventual demise – of London's Soho.

Until its closure in 2008, when Wojas suddenly announced to the surprise of his patrons that he had sold the club's lease, the one-room members only bar had served some of the capital's thirstiest, rowdiest and most outspoken wits.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s it became Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud's favourite drinking hole, a place where the two artistic titans could row, lunge, battle and then embrace in the comfort of an establishment that adored eccentricity and eschewed the mundane.

A literate fly on the club's nicotine-stained walls could have published the sort of no-holds-barred memoir of London's literary elite that would have had scandal-lovers and publishers alike foaming at the mouth in anticipation.

One only had to glance upon those frighteningly green walls to get an understanding of the type of clientele that came to call 41 Dean Street their home. Behind the bar stood an enormous mural painted by Michael Andrews depicting a typical night in the rooms. At the centre was the bar's founder Muriel Belcher, surrounded by scions of Soho such as great wit Jeffrey Bernard, Henrietta Moraes – a Bacon muse – and flamboyant aristocrat Lady Rose McClaren.

A Birmingham-born Jew and proud lesbian, Belcher discovered that the best way to keep her clientele interesting was to hire Bacon, through the medium of a healthy tab, to invite his friends. He acted as a sort of Pied Piper of unusual drinking companions attracting, as Wojas later remarked, "a mixture of people from Lord and Lady Muck to the barrow boys from the market where Muriel bought her vegetables".

Belcher opened her club in 1948 and was rarely seen without a cigarette and glass in hand. She was famed for referring to all her clients in the female form. At a time when pubs were forced to close in the afternoon, the Colony Room offered its parched guests a place to drink until the sun went down, and then some more.

Journalist and writer Geoffrey Wheatcroft spent many afternoons at the club in the Seventies. "Its heyday was probably just before I arrived but even in the 1970s it was an extraordinary place," he said. On one particularly debauched evening Bacon ripped his shirt open. "That wasn't anger or lust," he recalled. "Simply ... he couldn't quite stand upright and was trying to break his fall."

At first glance, Polish-born Wojas might have seemed an unlikely character to take over such a gregarious venue. Quiet, slim and almost luminescently pale, he studied chemistry at Nottingham University arriving in London two years after Belcher's death in 1979. Ownership of the club had passed to Ian Board, an even louder – and brasher – version of Belcher who was renowned for getting drunk, hiding the night's takings and then forgetting where he had put them the following day. Wojas would spend the first few hours of the morning looking for buried treasure. "I thought I'd work for a couple of months before I figured out exactly what I want to do – that was 24 years ago," he once recalled in 2005. "I didn't realise at first that I'd found my home."

The club nearly disappeared into the annals of Soho history during the 1980s, as yuppie culture stamped its mark on the capital. But the following decade a new breed of artistic clientele – forever dubbed the Young British Artists – led the Colony Rooms through a prolonged and heady renaissance.

"It was a mad and eccentric place," recalled Tracey Emin, who spent much of the 1990s quaffing the club's notoriously poor wine alongside fellow Young British Artists Damien Hirst and Sarah Lucas. "There were so many extraordinary funny occasions and nights there, but they all blend into one big night at the Colony Room."

Sebastian Horsley, one of London's most delightfully dysfunctional and outspoken wits, was known to spend weeks at a time propping up the bar at the Colony Room. "I first visited it when I was 20 because I'd read that that was where Francis Bacon used to hang out," he said. "I ran up the narrow stairs and was promptly told to 'fuck off' by Ian Board. I knew all about rudeness masquerading as honesty." A decade later he returned and was allowed in by Wojas. "The Club reminded me of an alcoholic tardis," he recalled. "It was minute on the outside but huge on the inside and you went there for love, which they served by the glassful."

But love was in short supply during the gruesome decline of the Colony Room, which, in many ways, came to symbolise the purification of Soho, once London's seedy, beating heart. By the mid-2000s the club and Wojas were in deep financial trouble.

Artists of all different hues pitched in to save their favourite drinking den by donating their work. But the mood soon turned sour with accusations that the club's proprietor had begun treating the paintings as gifts, sold off for his own personal gain, rather than for the greater good of the favourite venue.

Wojas sold the lease for the Colony back to the building's landlord and took a backstage role in the Soho scene. The camaraderie that once bound the club together was shattered as Wojas's detractors and defenders went to war, even in the courts. Horsley, who was initially a firm friend of Wojas but later fell out publicly with him over a campaign to save the club, said the Colony's closure represented the wider demise of Soho tradition.

"Soho has gone down hill immeasurably," he said. "Ten years ago, on a good night here, you could get your throat cut. The air used to be clean and the sex used to be dirty. Now it is the other way round. Now it's full of boutiques, 'weave-your-own-yoghurt' establishments, wall-to-wall coffee shops and gay hairdressers. There is even a health club. A health club in Soho, for Satan's sake! Can you imagine? That's like having a brothel in a church."

But others say Wojas did the best he could to sail against prevailing winds and remember the club before rancour took over. "He was a very special man who, following the death of Ian Board, turned the club on its head and revolutionised a little piece of Soho as we knew it then," recalls singer Lisa Stansfield, who knew Wojas for more than 20 years. "When no one else would listen, he embraced the young British and brought live music to the Club."

Above all, Stansfield remembers the way the Colony's last owner would call out last orders at the end of the night with the words "rush-up, dash-up, spend-up and fuck off."

"He was a punk at heart," she said. "He will probably be appalled if he finds that heaven actually exists."

 

 

Obituary: Michael Wojas

 

Michael Wojas, who has died aged 53, was the third and last proprietor of the Colony Room Club in Soho, the drinking club known for its bohemian ways and members such as Francis Bacon and Jeffrey Bernard.

 

The Daily Telegraph, 07 June 2010

 

 

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             Michael Wojas, Tom Baker, Francis Bacon, Ian Board, John Edwards

 

 

The Colony, fundamentally an afternoon drinking club, in the days of restricted pub hours, formed, from 1948, a notable part of the real-life, comic-tragic soap opera of Soho. Wojas, an English Pole with a nasal London accent and a long chiv-mark down one pale cheek, arrived as a barman in 1981 and took over on the death of Ian Board in 1994.

Board, who called himself Ida after his supposititious initials, was a monster: hoarse-voiced, swollen-nosed and foul-mouthed, he fell into uncontrollable rages. He was also very funny. While the club's founder, Muriel Belcher, had taken to using as an affectionate diminutive a four-letter word with the letter -y tacked on, Board's speciality was a torrent of obscenities artfully studded with demoralising terms such as "dreary".

For 13 years under Board, Wojas served quietly behind the bar in the upstairs room with its dark-green walls covered with photographs and its carpet like asphalt. He dried up glasses, all the while clocking the peculiarities of the customers: Bacon, alternately hilarious and stiletto-tongued; Daniel Farson, who would suddenly turn from affability into strangulated tirades of abuse; Graham Mason, a former television journalist known for his stupendous intake of alcohol, once going for nine days without eating. Wojas knew too the habits of the solicitor who often fell backwards off his barstool, or of the old woman known as Mumsy whose son had died. At his best, Wojas was a therapist.

In his first two years at the club, each day would begin with a hunt to find the previous day's takings, which a suspicious Ian Board had hidden behind a mirror or inside the piano before passing out and forgetting the spot.

Some members grew tired of being insulted, and Wojas attempted after Board's death to prevent the club from turning into a museum by encouraging its use by a generation of young British artists such as Damien Hirst, Sarah Lucas and Tracey Emin.

Wojas would sit on the high stool at the end of the bar near the door, taking note of who should be repelled. He also decided who could become a member. On top of the fridge by the window a bust of Ian Board, in which his ashes had been inserted, sullenly eyed proceedings. Opposite, a smoke-darkened mural by Michael Andrews covered the wall behind the piano that was seldom played.

But Wojas initiated music nights in the one small room, attracting names such as The Magic Numbers, Alabama 3, Billy Bragg and Paul Weller. Suggs, from Madness, whose mother had long visited the club, presented a music series for ITV from there.

Wojas also came up with the wheeze of holding a series of art exhibitions by members. Behind the bar, above a caption "Not worth a fucking penny", hung a spot-painting by Damien Hirst, who bucked the general trend by giving up drink and moving to the country.

Like most stories associated with the Colony, Wojas's ended in tragedy, with the closure of the club at the end of 2008, and a tangled series of lawsuits over his right to artworks he had offered for sale.

Michael Wojas was born in London on August 9 1956. After Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School, he studied Chemistry at Nottingham University. The rest of his life he gave to Soho.

Habitués of the Colony were used to the florid symptoms of decay of fellow-drinkers; observing them was said to be Ian Board's pastime. In the last decade of his life Wojas, who died of cancer, could sleep only by leaving on the radio and rocking backwards and forwards. The rocking and shaking increasingly invaded his daytime life.

He did not marry, but had a succession of more or less long-term girlfriends.

 

 

Obituary: Michael Wojas

 

Final proprietor of the bohemian Soho drinking club where generations of London’s artistic set met to drink and exchange scandal

 

The Times, 8 June, 2010

 

 

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If the walls of the Colony Room Club in Soho could speak, polite society would blush. It had been the archetypal louche drinking den for artistic bohemians for the past 60 years or so, with only three proprietors, the last of whom was Michael Wojas.

He did not cut a prepossessing figure. Pale, diminutive and hunched, he tended to slink through the streets of Soho in dark glasses, hugging the walls, as if trying to look inconspicuous. He had a serious vodka habit and the characteristic etiolated look of one for whom daylight was anathema. One acquaintance described him as looking like a blade of grass growing under a bucket. In his latter years he said little but would sit on a chair quietly rocking. He never seemed to eat. Or, at least, that’s what some saw. To others, he was quite the opposite: talkative, amusing, sensitive and with a great capacity to listen and dispense sympathetic advice — “our twisted shepherd”, as one friend described him. He was also an enthusiastic cook.

Some 18 months ago he incurred the wrath of some of the club’s stalwarts by giving up the unequal struggle to make ends meet and handing the premises back to the landlord, thus bringing down the shutters not only on their favourite watering hole and meeting place but also on a little piece of Soho history.

Over the years the tiny first-floor club in Dean Street, with its bilious green walls and battered carpet with countless cigarette burns, had beceome celebrated for its unbridled conversation and excess. It had gained notoriety in the 1950s as the place where the painters Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud let rip in heroic drinking bouts under the baleful eye of its then chatelaine Muriel Belcher, a Portuguese-Jewish lesbian with an acid tongue who referred to everyone as “she”. Bacon mixed generosity with tartness. “Champagne for my real friends and real pain for my sham friends,” he would say.

The Labour MP and journalist Tom Driberg (later Lord Bradwell) was a regular, sometimes with a young man on his arm. The jazz singer George Melly was a habitue; the artists Patrick Caulfield and Frank Auerbach were members, as was Colin MacInnes whose novel about London life in the 1950s, Absolute Beginners, has more than a whiff of the Colony Room Club about it.

Tennessee Williams, Noël Coward, E. M. Forster, David Bowie, Dennis Hopper, even, it was said, Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon — all had made the pilgrimage to the bohemian shrine and crossed the tattered threshold to savour its disreputable atmosphere. In recent yearsy, the club had been colonised by the Britart pack of Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Marc Quinn, Gavin Turk and Sarah Lucas.

Michael Wojas was born in Edgware, North London, in 1956 and was educated at Haberdashers’ Aske’s School and then Nottingham University where he read chemistry. On graduating he came to London where he got a job as a barman at the Colony Room in 1981. His girlfriend’s mother was a friend of Muriel Belcher who had set up the club in 1948. Belcher had died a year before he arrived and her place had been taken by the even more foul-mouthed Ian Board.

“I thought I would work there for a couple of months before I figured out exactly what I wanted to do,” Wojas said. “I didn’t realise at first that I had found my home. I spend more time here than I do in my flat.

“I had led quite a sheltered upbringing, coming from a scientific background,” Wojas said, “and I was fascinated by the range of crazy extroverts here; Ian perhaps being the maddest. The first couple of years Ian would hide the takings from the till every night, when he was drunk. The next day we would spend an hour trying to find them. He thought I was going to nick the money. It took him two years before he realised I was going to stay, and he started to trust me. He drove a lot of people away.”

Board died in 1995 and left the business to Wojas. “I’m the proprietor, the bar manager, lavatory attendant, psychiatric counsellor, odd job man and accountant. There certainly isn’t anything I haven’t done,” he said.

Latterly, Wojas had suffered from depression and the vodka had taken its toll on his liver. He is survived by his long-term partner, the actress Amanda Harris.

Michael Wojas, proprietor of the Colony Room Club, was born on August 9, 1956. He died of cancer on June 6, 2010, aged 53

 

 

Bacon on the menu at Gorbachev gala

 

By Arifa Akbar, The Independent, Friday, 4 June 2010

 

 

An original, signed Francis Bacon triptych is one of the remarkable items up for auction at the Raisa Gorbachev Foundation Annual Gala, which raises money for cancer care in Russia and Marie Curie in Britain. The work was kept by the late artist in his private collection at his 7 Reece Mews studio in London and, after his death, treasured by his lover, John Edwards, who died in 2003.

The foundation's patron, Mikhail Gorbachev, whose late wife it is named after, and chair, Evgeny Lebedev, who is also chairman of Independent Print Ltd, publishers of The Independent, are hoping money raised in the fifth annual gala will exceed the £1.1m generated last year at a star-studded event in the grounds of Stud House in Hampton Court Park. Other lots under the hammer include a pair of tickets to the 2011 FA Cup final at Wembley, lunch with the actor Kevin Spacey, and a dinner cooked by the model-turned-chef Sophie Dahl, with musical accompaniment by Jamie Cullum. Those of a frothier disposition can bid for a jelly wrestle with Lara Stone, refereed by David Walliams.

 

 

Confissões e disputas motivam bate-papos

 

Conversas entre escritores fogem do trivial e buscam aprofundar questões

 

Estadão, Brasil, 01 de junho de 2010

 

 

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Ateliê. Francis Bacon, diante de seu estúdio em Londres: pintor fala sobre infância, álcool e influências como Picasso  

 

 

Luis Fernando Verissimo comenta a morte do pai, Erico; o pintor Francis Bacon relembra as crises de asma que sofria na infância; já o escritor americano Paul Auster jura policiar a emoção de seus textos a fim de a linguagem chegar mais limpa ao leitor ? confissões, ainda que inocentes, surgem apenas quando o clima é favorável, o interlocutor porta-se como cúmplice, o respeito impera. É justamente esse momento especial que marca uma série de livros que chegam agora ao mercado, todos com uma característica comum: a de eternizar conversas previamente preparadas e nas quais assuntos são aprofundados.

É o caso, por exemplo, de Conversa sobre o Tempo (Agir), fruto do encontro entre Luis Fernando Verissimo e Zuenir Ventura durante cinco dias, no ano passado. Com a mediação do jornalista Arthur Dapieve, a dupla se isolou em um sítio no interior do Rio de Janeiro no ano passado para falar sobre amizade, morte, política, descobertas da adolescência e choque de gerações. "Tanto Verissimo quanto Zuenir logo perceberam que, pelos temas propostos, as sessões constituiriam uma variante literária da psicanálise que nenhum dos dois nunca fez", observa Dapieve, no prefácio.

De fato, apesar das brincadeiras (Verissimo diz que tem, há anos, só 16 fios de cabelo), temas delicados não são evitados. Como a morte de entes queridos. Zuenir diz que, mesmo preparado por conta da idade do pai (97 anos), ficou chocado quando foi informado de seu falecimento. E Verissimo ainda guarda com dor e nitidez os momentos finais de Erico Verissimo. O autor de O Tempo e o Vento acabara de telefonar para o amigo Jorge Amado quando sentiu uma tontura. "Aí ele se sentou em uma cadeira e eu vi os olhos dele ficarem vazios. O olhar dele ficou vazio. Ele tinha morrido."

As relações familiares, no entanto, nem sempre são amistosas. O pintor Francis Bacon (1909-1992), cujas telas são um retrato do pesadelo, não esconde um desprezo que beira o ódio pelos pais. A história é contada no pequeno mas maravilhoso Conversas com Francis Bacon (Zahar Editores), uma série de conversas comandadas pelo jornalista e crítico de arte Franck Maubert que, depois de conquistar a confiança de Bacon, conseguiu arrancar declarações reveladoras em seu estúdio.

"A fotografia me dá uma ajuda, me serve de apoio, me suscita e provoca imagens", conta o pintor, em meio ao lixo espalhado em seu local de trabalho. "A fotografia me permite arrancar, depois eu risco, subtraio, apago. No fim, não resta mais muita coisa da fotografia original." Em seguida, ele revela a chave sobre uma obra que expõe como nenhuma outra a miséria e o desespero do homem moderno: "A fotografia me liberta da necessidade de exatidão."

Inconsciente. A atividade profissional, aliás, é constantemente tratada pelos artistas. Em Conversas Sobre Escritores (Arte & Letra), reunião de 21 bate-papos entre autores, é justamente a troca de informações sobre o fazer literário que mais parece interessá-los. Paul Auster, por exemplo, confessa a tendência de se imaginar como um escritor altamente emocional. "Tudo vem dos sentimentos mais profundos, dos sonhos, do inconsciente", diz ele para Jonathan Lethem. "Apesar disso, nas minhas narrativas, estou sempre me empenhando em ser claro. Para que, de forma ideal, a escrita se torne tão transparente que o leitor esqueça que o meio de comunicação é a linguagem."

Felizmente, a divergência também alimenta os encontros. O Cristianismo É Bom Para o Mundo? (Garimpo Editorial) reúne o apologista cristão Douglas Wilson e o "neoateísta" Christopher Hitchens em um estimulante debate ? o livro, aliás, é dividido em rounds, como em uma luta de boxe, e não em capítulos.

Em meio a brilhantes tiradas (Hitchens afirma que a vigilância sem fim de Deus impõe um Big Brother celestial insuportável para os homens), o livro é um embate semelhante às mesas-redondas de futebol: todos têm razão e nada é conclusivo.

 

 

Evgeny Lebedev: a very Russian revolution

 

Evgeny Lebedev is determined not just to be a collector of modern art, discovers Colin Gleadell.

 

By Colin Gleadell, The Daily Telegraph, 31 May 2010

 

 

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                                          Evgeny Lebedev

 

 

If you think all rich Russian art collectors are in it just for the money and the status, think again. Thirty-year-old Evgeny Lebedev is the chairman of Independent Print Ltd, which owns the London Evening Standard and the Independent newspapers, bought since the beginning of last year by his billionaire father, Alexander Lebedev. As one of the most eligible bachelors in the UK, he has been dating the actress Joely Richardson, though film and theatre come second to paintings and sculpture, which are his real passion.

But he’s not happy with the status quo. He thinks the contemporary art market is overburdened with brand products, that Damien Hirst is a better businessman than an artist, and that it is time for a more individual and spiritual art to emerge.

Lebedev, who was brought up looking at art and studied art history on a Christie’s Education course, is particularly excited by a lithograph of a triptych by Francis Bacon that was in his studio until he died. Bacon is great artist, he says, because “he had a take on the events of his time, anticipating the horrific effects of war”.

He doesn’t own a Bacon painting, but you sense he would like to. His fledgling collection includes works by the fantastical Canadian artist Marcel Dzama, the former musician and transvestite DJ Paul Fryer, the American master of staged photography Gregory Crewdson, and Damien Hirst. He was disappointed in Hirst’s recent paintings, though, feeling they borrowed too heavily from Bacon.

 

 

All The Rage

 

The Image staff muses on the culture of keeping up appearances

 

Q&A: Geren Lockhart dishes on her Francis Bacon-inspired fall collection

 

The Los Angeles Times, May 26, 2010 

 

 

Geren Lockhart, designer for L.A. contemporary brand Geren Ford, always turns out chic, body-friendly looks. But for her fall 2010 collection, she also amped up the sex appeal — creating va-va-voom pieces such as metallic leather minis, body-clinging maxi skirts and silk cropped pants in rich jewel tones that slouch in all the right places. The overall effect: retro slink.

We caught up with the downtown-based designer to chat about how the streamlined collection came to be:

What was your key inspiration for fall?

Francis Bacon's Met exhibit last year, and the research I ended up doing on his life after seeing it. I walked into the exhibit the day before leaving to head back to L.A., which was also the last day of the exhibit. A friend was set to meet me there and ended up getting stuck on a conference call. So like the nerd that I can be, I got the audio guide, and while I've always been a fan of Mr. Bacon, I had never heard the story behind the work. I was mesmerized by his restraint and the delicate way that he delivers gore and violence. It's poetic.

At the end of the exhibit I practically dove into the bookstore and purchased every book I could on his life rather than his work. His studio 7 Reece Mews provided the inspiration for the prints in the collection; one modeled after the pock marks on an amazing antique mirror in his space, another by the shapes that his brushes made when he tested his paints on the walls and doors of one room rather than using a pallet. Another is inspired by the shaded and somewhat subtle idea of fingers pulling paint down a canvas, as in his Pope series. Mr. Bacon also informed the colour pallet — colour-blocked but not intense.

How did the design process start for you?

When I design it's a cumulative process of a constant “eyes open” state of mind — for what I like or have a reaction to, from colour to texture to vintage. At the same time, we work on a schedule so there is always a time frame that's slated for the process being put to paper. I was already into this process when I attended the Francis Bacon exhibit, and it all just came together as I was walking around and then digesting the books about his life and work.

You worked with so many different materials on this collection — what were your favorite to work with?

Metallic lamb, a floaty, soft stretch charmeuse  and a crafted open-weave silk linen blend. And, as always, zippers, rivets — our own signature [zippers] modeled after man-hole covers — and grosgrain ribbon.

What type of woman do you see loving these pieces?

Four words need to describe every garment we make: chic, effortless, sophisticated and sexy. That said, the same can be said of our core customer base. They're amazing adventurers — whether that be an around-the-world adventure or a local one.

- Emili Vesilind

 

 

A very unlikely encounter with Profumo girl Keeler

 

 

Over 60 years, historian and writer Paul Johnson came to know everyone who mattered.

 

In this second extract from his brilliantly indiscreet memoirs, he recounts encounters with autocrats, scoundrels, lechers and boozers...

 

Paul Johnson, The Daily Mail, 24th May 2010

 

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      Scandalous: Christine Keeler discredited a government and locked Francis Bacon out of the bathroom

 

 

In the London of the Fifties, one of the places I liked to drink in the afternoon was the Colony Room in Soho.

Muriel Belcher, its owner-manager, would sit for hours on a stool, just inside the door, and when it opened would stretch out a claw-like arm, draw in the person entering, inspect him and decide whether he could stay.

She was fat and horrible to look at, but not disagreeable if you were in her good books. Muriel would allow the artist Francis Bacon unlimited credit, and at one time his champagne bill stood at more than £2,000, an immense sum in those days.

The Colony Room was unique in that ravenous queers, ferocious lesbians and perfectly normal sex maniacs mixed in friendly promiscuity.

She had a talent for creating an atmosphere in which gifted and famous, but lonely, people could be happy.

The place had only one loo, used by both men and women, and I remember around the time of the Profumo scandal finding it locked when I tried the door. A female voice within said prissily: 'It's occupied.' So I waited.

Francis Bacon, drunk and bursting, arrived. I said: 'There's a woman inside.' And he shouted: 'Come out of there, you bitch!' Then he began to kick the door. Eventually, the door opened and a beautiful woman emerged, nose in the air.

It was the ravishingly beautiful Christine Keeler, the call girl responsible for Profumo's downfall.

She did not look at us, but strode back to the bar. All she said was: 'Men!' A lifetime of experience went with that one contemptuous word. 

 

An abridged extract from Brief Lives: An Intimate And Very Personal Portrait Of The 20th Century, by Paul Johnson, to be published by Hutchinson on June 3 at £20, @ 2010, Paul Johnson.

To order a copy for £15.99 (p&p free), call 0845 155 0720.

 

Francis Bacon's bits in Camera

 

By Brian Sewell, London Evening Standard, 13.05.10

 

Francis Bacon, the greatest and most ambitious figurative painter of the later 20th century, was born in Ireland in 1909. The centenary of that event was most thoroughly celebrated in Dublin — Ireland thus laying claim to him as heroic successor to Brian Boru, Oscar Wilde and Roger Casement — and only a pedant might grumble that as in 1909 what is now Eire was then as much part of the United Kingdom as Ulster is still, Francis was as British as anyone born within the sound of Bow Bells. For those who knew him during the long years of his life in London  before and after the Second World War, there was indeed nothing about him to suggest an Irish origin — Guinness played no part in his heavy drinking habits, the once ubiquitous record of Count John McCormack singing Ave Maria was never heard in his cottage in Reece Mews, and though Brompton Oratory was within very easy walking distance, he never set foot within its Catholic walls.

I must argue further that Francis did not even spring from the centuries-old Protestant Anglo-Irish gentry that made Dublin something of a European capital of culture in the 18th century, and that being the son of an ex-Army officer born in Australia and an heiress mother born in Northumberland gave him neither jottle nor tit of Celtic-Hibernian ancestry. That he was a direct descendant of that other Francis Bacon, the philosopher-statesman and political Iago who encouraged the suppression of Hugh Tyrone’s Irish rebellion in 1596, does much to prove his Englishness.

Francis died in 1992. His affairs were not quite in the simple order that he thought and when the time eventually came to decide on what should be done with the contents of his studio, we English (that is, Tate Britain, which might have been expected to become the enthusiastic owners of the studio) had exhausted our emotional involvement and moved on to other things.

Besides, health and safety regulations meant that the cottage could never be made into a museum; thus we let what was left in it pass to the Dublin City Gallery, and there the studio has been reconstructed in the perfect image of the room in which he had worked since the autumn of 1961.

This was no ordinary task. Francis discarded a great deal in his lifetime, but then accumulated more — more tubes and tins of paint that lost their labels, more brushes, more books and illustrations torn from books, more photographs and tearings from newspapers and magazines, all piled high, leaving no space on the floor on which to plant his easel or his feet (for these he had to kick clear a square foot or two if and when he wished to paint).

 

 

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Rough stuff: a portrait of Bacon’s lover, John Edwards, in 1988, probably inspired by a photograph folded to reduce the height of the torso and the back of the chair

 

As for paintings, these stood face-in propped against a wall at angles increasingly perilous. I have seen photographs of Francis posed painting at an easel in this clutter, but never, over 30 years or so, did I see the man himself at work, nor did I ever see a space in which the vast triptychs of his later years could have been assembled. In a studio measuring only four by eight metres it would not have been easy, even in the neatest circumstances, for Francis to have viewed comfortably three related canvases with an overall measurement of two by five metres; knee-deep, thigh-deep even, in squalor and detritus, it must have been impossible. In addition to unfinished canvases to which he might return, a hundred more had been savagely slashed as a preliminary to their total destruction. And I must remind all concerned for Bacon’s reputation that over the past decade or so, many more slashed canvases with large areas lost beyond recovery or reinvention have come onto the peripheral art market, consigned by butchers, bakers and candlestick-makers with improbable explanations of their ownership.

It could be argued that reconstructing Bacon’s studio is itself a work of art, an installation in the manner of Edward Kienholz, with the same obsessive attention to detail. Dublin’s argument is that it is an act of archaeological deconstruction-reconstruction essential for the preservation of what must be the most significant archive of Bacon’s work and life, and that in this act of piety an irreplaceably rich hoard of source material survives to be examined and re-examined by art historians who, sooner or later and from time to time, will identify an odd scrap of paper with a scribbled or disrupted image as the springboard for a well-known painting. Alas, there are too few paintings for there ever to be a match with the thousands of photographs and pieces of printed paper that were removed to Dublin (there were some 7,500 objects altogether).

To Francis all this would have seemed madness. He was always dismissive of any attempt by critics to uncover the why and how of what he did. I believe that he had a pretty clear idea in his mind’s eye before he began a painting and that this came about from several concurrent sources or stimuli, often unrelated and very different and primarily from printed images and photographs. These suffered in his hands. For the photograph as a work of art he had not the slightest respect — it was merely paper that he could maul, crush, crumple, fold and tear until the image was as fractured as a reflection in a shattered mirror, frayed, abraded, scoured, torn in pieces and reconstructed to make hideous what had formerly been ordinary. This he was even capable of doing to reproductions or his own paintings.

 

 

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Nifty knifework: study for a portrait, 1986, the most important section removed by Bacon himself with a Stanley knife

 

I have wondered if he knew André Breton’s philosophical treatise, Crise de l’Objet of 1936, in which the notion of the tortured object is discussed — he was certainly capable of reading it. One tortured image informed another and the first clarification of their union was a bold brush drawing on the canvas perhaps supported by the presence of a model. From then on, the development was an impulsive conversation with the canvas. Francis painted, paused, stepped back and considered what he had done; what he saw on the canvas then told him whether it was right or wrong, and he responded by surrendering to another impulse. We now know that we can rely on hardly a word or statement attributed to him by his famous but inventive interviewers, but the paintings — finished, unfinished and partly destroyed — speak for themselves and they support the notion of impulse superimposed on impulse, with the occasional acceptable accident thrown in. No wonder that the pigment occasionally clogged.

All this is made clear by Francis Bacon: In Camera, an exhibition at Compton Verney, six miles short of  Stratford-upon-Avon. It is, however, a thoroughly worthy and didactic examination of his working processes, and the pity is that it is not in London where far the largest audience for such instruction is. What a pity, too, that no one thought of combining it with a season of Titus Andronicus at Stratford’s Royal Shakespeare Theatre. A handful of earlier paintings, remarkable for the passionate intensity of which he was capable in his forties, establish the marvellous and mystifying Bacon before so much of him evaporated in expanded triptychs and tedious self-reference. A handful of later paintings in various states of unfinish reveal all the processes from vigorous initial drawing to the overworked and clogged pigment that clouded his imagined images and balked their further development. Slashed canvases demonstrate how determined Francis was that unsatisfactory paintings should not survive. And a mass of material from the studio floor offers incontrovertible evidence of his dependence on the photographic and found image.

 

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Before the end: study for a portrait of John Edwards, begun in 1989 and left unfinished at Bacon’s death three years later

 

Two important issues are raised by the preservation of Bacon’s studio and the survival of paintings that he clearly wished to be utterly destroyed. There is now a widespread assumption that the artist’s studio embodies something of his aesthetic and imaginative potency and in doing so offers us insight and understanding.

This may well be so in some degree — the contrasting studios of Anna and Michael Ancher in Skagen, Jutland, make the point most strongly, but what we may reasonably preserve in a holiday destination on the northern tip of Denmark is an unreasonable demand in a great and growing city like London. There is no sane argument for preserving the rooms in which every briefly celebrated artist worked (and if artists, why not poets, playwrights and philosophers, composers and choreographers too?), and we should not, in perpetuity, remove from the currency of studio accommodation every space once used to create their work by Hirst, Emin, Gormley, Kapoor, Hockney, Freud, Gilbert and George, the Chapman Brothers, Doig, Ofili and the thousand others who revel in the support of the Arts Council, the various Tates and the Royal Academy. To do so is to go too far with veneration and to venture into the realms of superstition, fetish and belief in relics. That a paint brush once held in Bacon’s thaumaturgical fingers should be, in Dublin’s reconstruction of his studio, within fractions of a millimetre in the same relationship with this jam jar and that pot of paint as it was in Reece Mews is to accord these trifles the same reverent awe as the medieval peasant rendered to fragments of the True Cross and the thousand teeth of John the Baptist.

As for the slashed canvases, enough bad Bacons to do serious mischief to his reputation were “abducted” from his studio for sale by his dealers, without the absurdity of keeping in the public eye those whose destruction he had begun with a Stanley knife. It is unfair to Francis to interrupt that process and we should respect this evidence of his profound self-criticism. The survival of a hundred of these wrecks should appal all who care for his renown.

I am one of those who see Francis as the perfect mirror of his age, the utterly selfish painter self-concerned, not an astute commentator employing metaphor in place of observation. In the wilderness of later 20th-century painting he was a towering giant, but he was not a Titian, not a Michelangelo, not a Velázquez, not a Picasso capable of Guernica, and we should not make more of him than he was. The cottage industry of the multitude of critics and curators whose raw material he has become risks doing him a grave disservice.

 

Francis Bacon: In Camera is at Compton Verney Warwickshire, (comptonverney.org.uk) until June 20. Open 11am-5pm, Tuesday-Sunday; admission £8 (concessions available).

 

 

 

Bacon e la terza via Calarsi all'infimo a vedere il sublime

 

 

ARTE. La rilettura critica di Deleuze sul Caravaggio del nostro tempo
Oltre l'astrattismo di pura evasione e la pittura senza figure. Il grande irlandese trovò la sua ardua strada tormentando l'immagine umana

 

 

Gian Luigi Verzellesi, La Arena.it, 07/05/2010

 

 

 

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                       Il pittore irlandese Francis Bacon

 

 

 

L'ombra cupa, che s'allunga dietro la figura di Francis Bacon (1909-1992), ricompare sulla scena dell'arte contemporanea come un'intermittente apparizione che inquieta.


Nel 2008, a un secolo dalla nascita del pittore, si aprì a Londra una grande mostra antologica (di 60 opere), trasferita poi a Madrid e quindi in America. Nel 2009, la romana Galleria Borghese ha organizzato una rassegna mozzafiato, in cui erano a confronto — certamente provocatorio — 13 opere di Caravaggio con 17 di Bacon. E ieri, la vicenda tormentata del pittore di Dublino è stata rievocata da Barbara Briganti: con precisi riferimenti ai provini fotografici di cui Bacon si valeva come figurazioni stimolanti fatte di immagini di lottatori infuriati, che preannunciano i conturbanti sviluppi pittorici eseguiti dal pittore travolto dalla foga espressionistica: «Quasi in trance, anzi molto spesso in trance etilica» (Briganti).


Il suo intento primario era rivolto a tormentare la figura umana fino a farle conseguire un'imprevedibile presenza orrenda: talmente deformata da colpire l'osservatore con il complesso delle sue irregolarità squadernate e fermentanti.


Per intendere questo processo di desublimazione, coltivato come un'esigenza irrecusabile, giova rammentare che Bacon «percepiva la vita come una corsa inarrestabile verso il baratro» (Diez). Una lunga avventura malata di inguaribile estetismo, sempre e unicamente impegnato nel compito di scovare e dare evidenza visiva alla condizione umana stravolta e derelitta: così come ha fatto — secondo il gusto dei tempi — la pittura prenovecentesca delle varie tradizioni, studiata e ristudiata da Bacon con quel suo terribile occhio indagatore. Simile a una lama di luce gelida, che spregia ogni specie d'astrazione, rifugge da artisti come Matisse e si crogiola in Van Gogh, in Picasso e in quelle zone d'ombra tragica che, sia negli antichi che nei moderni, s'addensa come una caligine spesso inavvertita da osservatori poco attenti.


PROTAGONISTA I pareri, le predilizioni e i rifiuti netti di Bacon risultano raccolti nel libro che Gilles Deleuze ha dedicato alla Logica della sensazione (Quodlibet edizioni): un testo critico rigoroso che consente al lettore intelligente di mettere a fuoco non solo la figura di Bacon protagonista, ricercatore instancabile di fermenti pittorici carichi d'angoscia, ma anche quella delle varie tendenze artistiche novecentesche, sottoposte da Bacon a una lucida revisione correttiva.


Secondo Deleuze, l'espressionismo astratto, come arte informale, al contrario dell'astrattismo evasivo, «cerca l'abisso e il caos». Con Pollock, non si compie «una trasformazione della forma, ma una scomposizione della materia». Per l'autore del saggio, a Bacon spetta il merito di aver proceduto lungo la terza via: aldilà dell'ottica d'evasione della pittura astratta, e dell'appiattimento manuale, senza figure, tipico della Pittura azione.


Di fronte a non pochi suoi dipinti aggressivi, si potrà arretrare perplessi, quasi fustigati dalla feroce carica espressionistica che emanano. ma non si può negare che in essi la ricerca pittorica, così tormentata e complessa, risulta sorretta da un'energia che le consente di uscire dalla catastrofe invece di lasciarsene travolgere morendo nell'indeterminatezza soltanto suggestiva.


In parole povere, la figurazione non si estingue: mantiene tratti del motivo figurale prescelto, che cresce aldilà della rappresentazione solo imitativa. E «rappresenta ancora qualcuno, un uomo che grida»; un viluppo di corpi animalesco, talora ridotto a «carne macellata che urla e racconta ancora qualcosa» (Deleuze), con quella sua speciale presenza condensata, simile a una reliquia di sofferenze irriducibili. Guardate il Ritratto di Isabel Rawsthorne, del 1966: quasi un ritratto di Courbet, incapsulato in una sequenza di curvature provenienti dal Boccioni più spavaldo.


Gian Luigi Verzellesi

 

 

 

 

Great works: Sand dune (1983), Francis Bacon

 

Fondation Beyeler, Riehen, Basel

 

 

 

By Tom Lubbock, The Independent, Friday, 30 April 2010

 

 

 

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                           Sand Dune 1983  Francis Bacon            

 

 

 

W H Auden's lines make a clear announcement. "To me Art's subject is the human clay/ And landscape but a background to a torso". It's a manifesto. Humanity, he wants to say, is the primary thing in Art. Everything else takes second place. Or so it seems.

But the words he chooses are not so sure. The human clay? They could let our imaginations run, taking us into stranger regions of flesh and matter and flux. Auden envisages a little moulding, a little baking, producing a safe and separate figure, and that's all.

Clay, though, is a very malleable and transformative medium. It is wet. It squashes. It has no limits. It comes from the earth and can be pressed back into the earth. And so the distinction that Auden strictly draws between a torso and a landscape is only relative. Body and ground can easily merge.

Look at paintings. Landscapes and nudes often lie down together. The rolling hills and the curving limbs can join in harmony, or fuse into something even closer. There is view of a coast by Degas, for example, where the shapes of the grassy terrain are also clearly the emerging forms of a naked woman on her back. And this Degas is probably an inspiration to a painting made almost a century later. Here the medium is a different stuff: human sand.

Francis Bacon's Sand Dune isn't exactly landscape. It is a heap and a slide of sand, an extract of the outside, perhaps from the seaside, perhaps from a builder's site, but now it's been taken inside, and put on stage. The scene has various stagey devices often used by the artist: a glass chamber, a hanging light bulb, a pointing arrow, a disc of blue spotlight on the floor, a dark suggestion of a shadow or a leak.

On this stage, the volume of sand has a weird physical presence. It is partly contained within the tank, and partly spilling out and through the sides of the tank, and most of it seems to be viewed as if in a 3D magnifying case, so when it appears outside (at the right) it visually shrinks. The bright blue screen at the back is sky, another extract of outdoors, or a screen projection.

But the sand dune itself is obviously the protagonist. You could call it a thing. You could call it stuff. It's certainly the subject. And unlike many of Bacon's subjects, bodies or heads, this one retains its integrity. Its form is not radically distorted or disrupted or dematerialised. This dune is a solid, continuous mass.

It is sand; but of course not only sand. It is also flesh, a pure flesh. This flesh has no rigidity, no internal structure, no tension, no action. It is simply a contour of skin, containing soft blob. It lies, lolls in itself, it has sinkings and swellings, it rolls in indolence, melding into a single flow. It might be the fattest person in the world, who has lost all parts.

Or rather, not quite. It is like pure flesh but it also has hints of a creature within it too. An anatomy exists, just about. There are buttocks rising, a bending left knee sticks out at the front, a right thigh is stretched out, even a shoulder and an elbow become visible. As you look more closely, this figure appears, face down, stirring like mounds from the sand, like somebody covered in sand, or made loosely from sand.

Ambiguities arise. This mass is uncertain between anatomy and sheer flesh, uncertain between flesh and various other substances, which could be powder or liquid or pulp. Sand itself is well-chosen and imagined. It's an intermediate stuff that can be dry and pulverised, or a running, pourable fluid, or a quite compacted, malleable paste, like clay.

Sand Dune is in metamorphosis, in a calm hysteria. It's an entity that can come half alive, and enjoy feelings. It can be picked up by the shovelful. It can be stroked and smoothed. It can cascade. It can be dispersed and lose all sense of limits. At different points around the dune, these different sensations come to the fore. There are even moments when it seems like dust in air.

And then at the crest of the dune there is something like a tuft of rough grass, or a crop of hair. It comes to the vestigial beginning of a head – a final intimation of the human about to break the surface.

About the artist

Francis Bacon (1909-92) used to be a nightmare visionary. His Screaming Popes and Crucifixions were horror shows. But this Soho bohemian was also a performer. His colours are gorgeous. His paintings look less blood-curdling – and more sumptuous, energetic, graceful, playful, even jolly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Francis Bacon painting returned to heirs

 

A museum in southern France must return a Francis Bacon painting to his heirs, a court has ordered.

 

BBC News, Friday, 23 April 2010

 

 

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      The museum has continued to display the painting throughout proceedings

 

It was loaned to the museum of the Van Gogh Foundation in Arles a year before Bacon's death in 1992. In an earlier court case, it was ruled that his Homage To Van Gogh piece could stay with the museum, which said it was a permanent gift from Bacon. The appeals court ruled the work must be given back to the heirs of Bacon's friend John Edwards, who died in 2003.

Mr Edwards, a long-time companion of the painter, was Bacon's main heir. "The painting was not given as a gift, nor was there any promise of a gift," the court in Aix-en-Provence, north of Marseilles, said in its ruling. "The association must therefore give back the painting without delay."

 

Artist's record

The Van Gogh Foundation, which had said it had evidence proving that Bacon had gifted the painting, said it was "in shock" at the ruling, but that it would now "bury the hatchet" with the heirs. Lawyer Bernard Jouanneau said the foundation may appeal but that it would give the painting back in the meantime.

  The work was Bacon's homage to Van Gogh's The Painter On The Road To Tarascon, a self-portrait painted near Arles in 1888. Irish-born Bacon was one of the 20th Century's most successful artists, earning about £14m before his death, aged 82. In May 2008, a Bacon masterpiece broke the artist's record at auction after selling for $86.3m (£56.1m) in New York.

 

 

 

£13 million Francis Bacon painting to be returned to heirs 

 

 

A £13 million painting by Francis Bacon is to be returned to the late Irish painter's heirs after a French court quashed claims that he wanted it to stay in France.

 

 

By Henry Samuel in Paris, The Daily Telegraph, 22nd April, 2010

 

 

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             Homage to Van Gogh, Arles, 1985

 

 

The court in Aix-en-Provence ruled that Homage to Van Gogh, Arles, which Bacon painted in 1985, should be handed over to the Estate of Francis Bacon as it had only ever been on loan.

The disputed work, based on Van Gogh's 1888 self-portrait, The Painter On The Road To Tarascon, has been hanging in Arles, southwestern France, since 1991. Bacon had painted it at the behest of Yolande Clergue, a curator who wanted to create a foundation to exhibit works inspired by Van Gogh for the 100th anniversary of his two-year stay in Arles

She had claimed he had expressed his desire to leave it to her Van Gogh foundation in letters and in person.

The foundation first borrowed it for an exhibition from July 1988 to May 1989, when Bacon asked for it back. It borrowed it a second time in May 1991, and a contract showed it was due to be returned in July 1996.

The Arles foundation had kept it from then on, but the appeals court ruled that "Francis Bacon never implied that he was giving this painting away." "There is neither donation of the painting nor any promise of donating this painting" and no proof he intended it to stay in Arles indefinitely, it ruled.

Besides, under French law, it went on, "there is no such thing as a permanent loan which the lender can never put an end to".

Bacon died in 1992 and his partner John Edwards inherited his estate. When Mr Edwards died in 2003, it was handed over to a four-person trust based on the Channel island of Jersey.

This trust had been demanding the return of the painting since 2006.

Currently on display, it must be taken down in the next ten days, and the foundation faces a fine of 1,000 euros (£866) for each day its return is delayed.

 

 

 

Court orders French museum to return Francis Bacon painting

 

 

RFI, Thursday 22nd March 2010

 

A court has ordered a French museum to return a Francis Bacon painting to the painter’s heirs. On Thursday an appeals court in Aix-en-Provence ordered the Van Gogh Foundation in Arles to return Homage to Van Gogh to the heirs of John Edwards, Bacon’s friend and main heir who died in 2003.

The Irish-born painter’s picture was a tribute to an earlier self-portrait by Vincent Van Gogh and had been loaned to the museum in southern France in 1991, just before Bacon’s death.

However it was never returned and this latest ruling overturns an earlier decision which stated that the painting could stay with the museum, which claimed Bacon meant to give it as a work to keep.

“The painting was not given as a gift, nor was there any promise of a gift,” the court said in its ruling.

“We will now bury the hatched,” said the foundation’s director Mary Gruber. She said she was in a state of “shock”, and while the foundation’s lawyer said a further appeal was possible, it would, for the moment, give the painting back.

Bacon, who died in 1992, cited Vincent Van Gogh as one of his great influences, and a “Homage to Van Gogh” was a version of the Expressionist’s The Painter on the Road to Tarascon which was originally painted near Arles in 1888.

 

 

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             The Painter on the Road to Tarascon, Arles 1888 van Gogh

 

 

Van Gogh tribute must be returned to Bacon’s estate

 

 


       Terry Kirby, London Evening Standard, 22.04,10

 


1      0http://www.alexalienart.com/PipeVanGoghBacon600.jpg

                                                Legal battle: Homage to Van Gogh

 

A £13 million Francis Bacon painting of his idol Vincent Van Gogh, which has been at the centre of a bitter ownership dispute, must be handed back to the London artist's estate, a court in the south of France ruled today.

The judgment in Aix-en-Provence, means that the Vincent Van Gogh Foundation, a body dedicated to the memory of the Dutch master, must return the painting to the Bacon trustees within the next 10 days. Homage to Van Gogh, Arles, was painted by Bacon in 1985 as a tribute to the artist whom he constantly cited as his inspiration.

It was painted at the request of a curator, Yolande Clergue, who wanted to create a collection inspired by the Dutch's artist's two-year stay in Arles a century earlier. It has been held by the foundation since then and has been on public display. The dispute centred on whether the painting was merely on loan to the foundation or supposed to stay in Arles long-term. 

Michel Pitron, the lawyer for the Bacon estate, said: “I am very pleased with the judgment, which recognises that a loan is simply that and it is at the discretion of the owners.”

 

 

 

Van Gogh's 'heirs' battle against attempt to bring home the Bacon

 

 

By Henry Samuel in Paris, The Daily Telegraph, 22nd April, 2010  

 

 

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     Bacon's homage to Van Gogh, now the subject of a court dispute. It is said to be worth £13 million.

 

 

IN LIFE, Francis Bacon regarded Van Gogh as a kindred spirit and would constantly pay tribute to the genius of the Dutch master.  

He quoted his letters as inspiration saying it was the artist's job to create "lies that are truer than the literal truth".

But the late Irish painter's eagerness to do all he could to celebrate his hero has left behind a bitter dispute between the estates of the two men.

The heirs of Francis Bacon and The Vincent Van Gogh Foundation are embroiled in a legal battle for a £13 million Bacon painting that both claim is theirs.

A court will rule today on whether Homage to Van Gogh, Arles, painted in 1985, should be handed back to the Bacon estate or remain in Arles, in southwestern France, where the Dutch master spent two years.

The row centres on a claim that Bacon promised the work to the foundation a few years before his death in 1992.

He painted the disputed work at the behest of Yolande Clergue, a curator who wanted to create a foundation to exhibit works inspired by Van Gogh for the 100th anniversary of his stay in Arles.  

 

 

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                                                Bacon's 1960 homage to Van Gogh and the Dutch master's self-portrait

 

 

The tableau was based on Van Gogh's 1888 self-portrait, The Painter On The Road To Tarascon, showing the artist in straw hat, carrying his easel and paints, and casting an ominous shadow.

Bacon never saw Van Gogh's original – destroyed when Dresden was firebombed in 1945 – and had to make do with photographs of the "haunting' work, from which he produced as series of paintings. His 1985 work shows the painter from waist down, blending into his shadow.

Bacon's estate was left to his partner John Edwards when he died in 2003, it was handed over to a four-person trust based on the Channel island of Jersey.

Bacon's paintings fetch astronomical sums, with his nightmarish Triptych, 1976, sold to Roman Abramovich in 2008 for £56 million – a record for an auctioned work of contemporary art at the time.

His "heirs" are now demanding the Van Gogh Foundation hand over the painting, which they argue has merely been on a long-term loan.

The foundation has refused, arguing that Bacon had implied in letters that he wanted the painting to stay in Arles. A photographer friend, Pierre Richard, also swore that he was present at a meeting in London in May 1985 between Mrs Clergue and Bacon in which he said his "dearest wish" was for the work to stay in Arles.

Bernard Jouanno, the Van Gogh foundation's lawyer, said the painting itself – the circular sandy form referring to Arles bullfighting ring and the red the torreador's cape – was enough evidence it was destined to stay in the town, he said.

The "sudden" interest by John Edward's "friends" for the work may have had something to do with its "sudden rise in market value – between 12 and 18 million euros," he added.

"These so-called heirs are nothing of the sort. A trust in Jersey is an Anglo-Saxon institution not recognised by French law," he added.

However, Michel Pitron, the lawyer for the Estate of Francis Bacon, dismissed the claims.

"Our argument is simple: there was a loan contract, which came to an end; I am asking for the painting back, full stop!" he said. "There is no such thing as an indefinite loan in French law."

Both parties can take today's appeal ruling at a court in Aix-en-Provence to the supreme court.

 

 

 

Too poor to buy paint: how Francis Bacon starved for his art

 

Lost letters reveal millionaire artist's early struggle

 

 

Dalya Alberge, The Observer, Sunday 18 April 2010

 

 

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            Francis Bacon at the Tate, 1985. Photograph: Ray Roberts

 

 

He is one of the 20th century's greatest artists, whose paintings change hands for more than £40m, but Francis Bacon’s early struggle to sell his paintings became so desperate that he threatened to become a cook or a valet, according to unpublished letters that have just come to light.

Bacon, a self-taught artist, was 40 before he gained proper recognition. The letters, dating from the 1940s, reveal that he was frequently reduced to begging for handouts from his dealer, his debts no doubt aggravated by his addiction to gambling.

"Is it possible to make me a small advance?" he implores in one. "I am quite broke, and canvas and paints are terribly expensive."

In another he laments: "If I can't sell anything or haven't anything to sell, I will get a job as a valet or cook."

The correspondence, contained in the archives of the Lefevre Gallery in London, is between Bacon and Duncan Macdonald, then its director. It is certain to deepen future biographers' understanding of the artist's struggle to launch his career. Barry Joule, the artist's friend who is now writing a Bacon memoir, said: "I haven't seen these letters before. They're a revelation. I've read everything on him inside out. The struggle is not covered in the biographies and is perhaps overlooked because of the prices paid for his paintings later in his life."

In one letter, Bacon reveals his battle to afford basic art tools: "If you know of anyone who will take the risk and supply me with paints, canvas, and the minimum of vittles, think of me. I might make them money."

Bacon, who died in 1992, believed his pictures deserved either the National Gallery or the dustbin, and he often dumped or slashed his own works.

Study for Man with Microphones in 1946 was among paintings that no one wanted to buy. Bacon painted over it. The letters also list numerous other works which no longer exist.

Many of the letters convey his desperation to exhibit his work. In one passage the artist wrote: "I shall have a group of 3 large paintings… Is there any chance of your having an exhibition in the autumn…? They want to be hung together in a series as they are a sort of Crucifixion… I think they are the most formal things I have done and the colour is a sort of intense blue violet. I think they are better than what I have done up to now…

"If you think there is a chance of your being able to show them, as I really need the money desperately … I want £750 for the set. It is not a quarter of what is has cost me with gambling etc; if you think you can get more, it would be tremendously welcome."

The paintings are thought not to have survived.

Richard Shone, editor of The Burlington Magazine, which will publish the letters in May, said: "One day a really comprehensive biography of Bacon will be written and these letters will be indispensable."

 

 

 

Maggie O'Farrell interview

 

Maggie O’Farrell tells Alastair Sooke about the photographs that inspired her latest novel, The Hand that First Held Mine

 

By Alastair Sooke, The Daily Telegraph, 17 April 2010

 

 

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        Francis Bacon on the Orient Express, 1965   John Deakin

 

 

‘He could be vicious,” says Maggie O’Farrell, her eyes glinting with anarchic glee. “I would love to have witnessed it.”

The bestselling British novelist is sitting in a corner of the French House in Soho. She is talking about one of the bar’s most infamous regulars during the Fifties and Sixties: the witty photographer John Deakin, once described by the jazz singer George Melly as “a vicious little drunk of such inventive malice and implacable bitchiness that it’s surprising he didn’t choke on his own venom”.

In the early Sixties, Francis Bacon commissioned Deakin to take photographs of his friends and lovers, which the artist then used as aides-mémoires for his paintings. Deakin’s close-cropped mug shot of Bacon, taken in August 1952, has become the quintessential portrait of the artist, who died in 1992. A talented but devious and unreliable photographer, who loved gossip and pink gin and was twice fired from Vogue magazine, Deakin documented many of his acquaintances among post-war Soho’s barflies and bohemians.

His pictures from this period, many of which were haphazardly stored in cardboard boxes under his bed and only discovered after his death in 1972, have inspired O’Farrell’s fifth novel, The Hand That First Held Mine, which will be published later this month.

“The starting point was an exhibition of Deakin’s photographs that I saw in Edinburgh,” O’Farrell tells me, while turning the pages of the catalogue that accompanied the show, which opened at the Dean Gallery in 2002. “I didn’t know much about the art scene in Soho in the Fifties, but I was really struck by it, and the atmosphere of the novel fell into place.”

Decorating the bar behind her are scores of black-and-white photographs depicting some of the frequently inebriated figures who knew Deakin, including Bacon who wears a belted black leather jacket.

What did she like about Deakin’s photographs? “Portraiture today can be so constructed,” she says. “Think of [the American portrait photographer] Annie Leibovitz, whose work is imaginative and exciting, but so theatrical, with the clothes, the make-up, the airbrushing. Deakin was the opposite. There’s nothing constructed about his photographs. They look like he couldn’t be bothered to think them through. That’s mesmerising.”

The characters whom Deakin captured with his camera fascinated O’Farrell, who returned several times to the exhibition and bought lots of postcards, which she put up around her study. Slowly the structure of her novel crystallised: The Hand That First Held Mine weaves together two stories, one set in the present day, the other in post-war London.

The heroine of the latter strand is a headstrong young woman called Alexandra, who is desperate for her life “to turn from blurred monochrome into glorious Technicolor”. One summer in the mid-Fifties, after meeting a hedonistic art critic with whom she later falls in love, Alexandra runs away from her childhood home in Devon and heads to London, where she calls herself “Lexie” and works for a magazine in Soho.

She spends her evenings in the French House, then a dissolute pub called the York Minster, as well as Bacon’s favourite haunt, the Colony Room, a riotously uninhibited drinking club run by a dragonish landlady called Muriel Belcher. “I started reading about this bohemian scene in Soho and imagining what it would have been like to arrive there and meet these interesting people who defied convention,” O’Farrell says. “An artistic world burned very brightly in this grid of streets for a decade or so. But now it has vanished. The Colony Room has gone. The only place that’s really left is the French House.”

Even this, though, has changed. As we talk, the “hordes of whores and sailors” who throng its “fetid interior” in O’Farrell’s novel are nowhere to be seen. “I still hope the sailors might come around the corner,” O’Farrell says, with a laugh. “I suppose I’m drawn to the romance of things that have vanished. That’s what fascinates me about living in cities. Everywhere you go, you’re constantly bumping into the past.”

While O’Farrell was inspired by post-war London, she wanted to avoid writing about the past in a nostalgic manner. “I don’t think that everything in the past was great and that modern life is awful – not at all,” she says. “In the Fifties, children were dying of diphtheria and polio. Yes, there was less traffic on the streets, but it was quite normal to beat your child with a leather belt. There are laws against that now. Life moves on, doesn’t it?”

But what about Deakin? Now the book is finished, will O’Farrell move on from her obsession with his work? She shakes her head. “I’m not going to take down my Deakin pictures – not yet, anyway.”

To pay tribute to him, O’Farrell gave Deakin a walk-on part in her new novel. At one point the photographer appears in the Colony Room, where an acquaintance asks if he might spare “a bob or two” to buy her a drink. Deakin turns and curls his lip:

“‘Fuck off,’ he drawled. ‘Buy your own.’”

“One of my editors was worried that this insulted Deakin’s memory,” O’Farrell says. “But I honestly think that’s what he would have said.”

Alastair Sooke is a commissioning editor on the Telegraph Arts pages

The Hand That First Held Mine is published by Headline Review on April 29 (£16.99)

 

 

 

Francis Bacon: New Studies

 

Centenary Essay Edited by Martin Harrison. 

 
Text by Darren Ambrose, Rebecca Daniels, Hugh M. Davies, Marcel Finke, Martin Harrison, Andrew R. Lee, Brenda Marshall, David Alan Mellor, Joanna Russell, Brian Singer.

Published by Steidl Photography International




 


The paintings of Francis Bacon are so confrontationally wordless in their articulations of the human plight that they seem—almost as a result—to attract continual commentary and meditation (not least from Bacon himself). Since Bacon's studio and its contents were moved to Dublin, and those contents at last documented and examined, a wealth of information has come to light about the artist's processes, his working habits, his readings and his source material. Benefiting from these new resources for Bacon studies, and marking the centenary of the artist's birth, this collection of nine essays from leading scholars worldwide is edited by the leading Bacon scholar Michael Harrison, and is full of fascinating new takes on the work. Contributors to these new perspectives on Bacon are Darren Ambrose, Rebecca Daniels, Hugh M. Davies, Marcel Finke, Martin Harrison, Andrew R. Lee, Brenda Marshall, David Alan Mellor, Joanna Russell and Brian Singer.

272 pages, 260 colour plates  ISBN: 978-3-86521-946-6   Price UK £35.00 US $58.00 EC €39.00

 

   

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Francis Bacon: In Camera, Compton Verney, Warwickshire

 

 

A show that promises discovery of the private artist finds a man simply in thrall to the photograph

 

 

 

 

Reviewed by Ossian Ward , The Independent on Sunday, 4 April 2010

 

 

Thankfully, this country-house exhibition is not Francis Bacon on Camera – yet another show of black-and-white headshots of the troubled painter – although there are a handful of him on holiday in Athens, in front of a photographer's shop in Soho, or posing in his leather jacket, as was his wont.

No, this is Francis Bacon: In Camera, which translates from the Latin as "in chamber" or "in private". Of course, we already know much of what the notoriously boozy bohemian did behind closed doors, precisely because there was invariably a camera lens pointing at him, recording his every mood and love.

Over and above his friends, models and relationships, photography was Bacon's primary painterly muse. Indeed, so many newspaper scraps, crumpled photos and magazine cuttings have been excavated from the mounds of detritus left on the floor of his old Kensington studio, that scholars have been piecing together, almost frame by frame, the specific photographic references for each painting.

In many ways, the studio was his "camera" – a private chamber of experimentation – where he allowed no one to observe or document him while painting (not even his sitters were allowed to watch after the 1963 triple portrait of Henrietta Moraes, included in this display). Yet Bacon's famously cluttered workspace in Reece Mews is now also his most public bequest, left to us not only in imagery – more of those posed portraits by Cecil Beaton, Henri Cartier-Bresson and others – but in the physical remnants of the studio, now installed permanently at the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin, from where much of this show's fascinatingly decrepit stuff has come.

What, then, is this exhibition about? Francis Bacon and his Chamber of Secrets, or Bacon the Photo-copier? In Dublin, this show was titled A Terrible Beauty, which gets us no nearer the truth. It's hard to be clear-eyed about an artist who was so full of his own myth. Better to dive headlong into the material and see which Bacon emerges.

Among the 1,500 photos found in the hoard of paint pots, slashed canvases, postcards and records, a key source was always going to be the early motion-capture stills of Eadweard Muybridge, whom Bacon rated on a par with Michelangelo for his treatment of the human body.

It's never a bad time to look at Muybridge (he'll be getting the full museum treatment later this year at Tate Britain) and the pages ripped from his book, The Human Figure in Motion, were pored over obsessively by Bacon, who spattered them with paint as he placed these wrestling, shadowboxing or exercising nudes centre-stage in his paintings. The sweeping leg in one unfinished work, (Figure with Raised Arm, 1949) suggests that Bacon might have been searching for something in-between Muybridge's sequential snaps that not even the Victorian's rapid shutter could catch: an image, not of motion, but in perpetual motion.

Previously I'd assumed that Bacon's smeared, mangled faces, with their sliding jaws and torqued cheeks, were his approximations of a photographic blur – reproducing the moment when a head swivels or waggles too vigorously to be stilled. Yet these disfigurements (seen in portraits of Moraes, as well as Bacon's lovers John Edwards and Peter Lacy) seem to follow almost precisely the creases, crops, folds and crumples that Bacon, perhaps accidentally, perhaps not, inflicted on his photos, often underfoot on the studio floor.

There's still more of the man and his myth to contend with in the scores of macho bullfighting, footballing and wildlife shots that made their way into other paintings. But even if no fresh view of Bacon surfaces from this soup of influence, then at least he is gradually being seen in a less dazzling, more illuminating light than before. His skewed vision had to come from somewhere – it wasn't an accident of his subconscious as he often claimed. In fact, Bacon eventually began to cannibalise his own images, deconstructing his face from photos, and repainting versions of previous works once they'd been photographed. He, like the child or tribesman who first sees the fixative settle their image for ever, was simply in thrall to the photograph. That was his dirty little secret.

Compton Verney, Warwickshire, to 20 June (01926 645500)

 

 

 

Francis Bacon’s photographic sources

 

 

By Robin Blake, The Financial Times, April 3 2010 

 

 

"I believe in a deeply ordered chaos,” Francis Bacon once said in a television interview, making an apparently mischievous remark about his own studio, in which he was standing. Visitors to the reconstructed studio at the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin, with the encroaching heaps of detritus that accumulated over half the artist’s lifetime, will readily appreciate Bacon’s affinity for deep chaos. But what, if anything, might “ordered chaos” mean as a description of his work? Francis Bacon: In Camera, an exhibition that has transferred from the Hugh Lane to Compton Verney, Warwickshire’s beautiful country house art gallery, throws a few shafts of light on the question.

The exhibition curated by Martin Harrison and Antonia Harrison reveals Bacon’s creative starting-points by showing a selection from the vast number of photographs that he collected. Many were taken by photographer friends – notably John Deakin, his fellow denizen of Soho’s Colony Club, and the wildlife photographer Peter Beard – but he also culled a huge number from published sources.

These relics have been sifted from the confused mess of papers, rags, painting detritus, books, newspapers and magazines found in the studio, and carefully themed, mounted and framed in serried collections. Such careful, even artful presentation is as different as can be from the conditions under which Bacon himself kept the items. Their creased, yellowed, fragmentary and paint-stained state makes them look more like archeological finds. The Hugh Lane Gallery’s archive is really not Bacon’s, but a posthumous invention.

Yet it is a useful one because the “ordered chaos” of Bacon’s actual painting demands more serious attention, and a study of his photographic sources is a part of that effort. Bacon used them directly – often cut, torn through, folded or amalgamated – as models. He rarely made preparatory studies, and he neither drew nor painted from life. If he wanted to make a self-portrait, or a portrait of his boyfriend George Dyer or friend Isabel Rawsthorne, he would start from a photograph Deakin had taken, often at Bacon’s request.

At other times he used news photographs, advertisements, film stills and fine art reproductions. None of his many versions of the portrait of Pope Innocent X were from studies he made from Velázquez’s painting; all were sourced from photographs in books. Of the nine volumes on Velázquez found at the studio after Bacon’s death in 1992, illustrations of the seated pope had been ripped from eight of them. Some are on display here, as is the source of the papal mouth in mid-scream, a close-up that Bacon found in a book of stills from Eisenstein’s film Battleship Potemkin.

There are no “screaming pope” paintings in this exhibition, but it does give a few opportunities to look from a source to a particular canvas. One room exemplifies Bacon’s reliance on reproductions of Michel­angelo’s drawings, and on the sequential photographs made by the Victorian Edweard Muybridge to illustrate human and animal movement. A large canvas, untitled and unfinished, is shown of a nude male in a throwing attitude. The adjoining walls are hung with figure drawings by Michelangelo, torn by Bacon from fine art books, and with scores of Muybridge sequences of nude men and women walking, running, turning, reaching, bending. Eventually, we locate the particular one of these that is related to the painting, from a sequence entitled Man Heaving a 75lb Rock. But we can also easily see the other element, the similarity of the half-finished form to isolated Michelangelesque sketches of limbs and torsos.

The critic Norbert Lynton once floated the idea that Bacon might be seen as a modernist Vermeer depicting ordinary human activity behind the closed doors of the home. If this is true of some of his work, it is a simple step to see how it relates to the history of photography in Bacon’s lifetime. The box camera turned photography into the most accessible form of image-making. Photographs were a news medium but they were even more an art of the familiar and the mundane, and a handy means of ordering memory. Deakin was a Vogue photographer but his style was a refinement of the domestic snapper – which is why he was of such use to Bacon. It may be surprising to discover how domestic photography could inspire an artist celebrated for his distortion of figures and forms, but not when you look more deeply.

The deformity of his figures are of a kind that, in nature, might result from random mutations in the genetic pattern. Bacon was not interested in representing people with actual deformities, like Velázquez’s dwarves or the freaks photographed by Diane Arbus. His business, I think, was to visualise the mutations in all of us, the ways in which the randomness of experience tugs and rubs and twists our perfection out of shape. Bacon seeks to convey, too, the uncontrollable manipulations of the unconscious mind and the existential disruption that results from irrational choices – all of which are brought about by the distorting action of chaos on ordered patterns. And meanwhile, around these displays of distorted Baconian imagery are the most carefully ordered compositions. Order and chaos always either contend or blend in Bacon: his remark in that television interview was less flippant than it seemed.

Francis Bacon: In Camera, Compton Verney, Warwickshire, until June 20. www.comptonverney.org.uk

 

 

 

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   Bacon double exposure

 

A new exhibition shows just how crucial photographs were to the artist, says Richard Dormant

 

Exhibition Francis Bacon in Camera 

By Richard Dorment, The Daily Telegraph, 29 March 2010

 

 

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               John Deakin's photograph of Francis Bacon

 

 

Though he was primarily a painter of the human figure, Francis Bacon never drew from the nude, rarely worked from life, and painted directly onto the canvas without first making preliminary studies or using preparatory drawings. But however strange the ectoplsamic and ambiguously gendered creatures in his paintings appear to be, they don’t look wholly imaginary — at least not in the way that those in Symbolist and Surrealist paintings often do. This is because Bacon’s starting point for any new canvas was usually a photograph or a detail of a photograph he’d found in a book or magazine.

Once he selected an image, he’d refer back to the photo as he worked, using it as a spur to his imagination - or perhaps more accurately, as a means to access his unconscious. Francis Bacon: In Camera shows photos, film stills, magazines, and books found in Bacon’s studio after his death side by side with Bacon’s paintings to demonstrate the fundamental role photography played in his working method. The show, at Compton Verney in Warwickshire, isn’t large, but what it has to say poses a new set of questions about how Bacon worked and how that affect’s the viewer’s response to his pictures.

From 1949, the year of his first London exhibition, Bacon was using Eadweard Muybridge’s sequential photographs of human and animal figures in motion as a primary visual source for his paintings. In this he was hardly original, since the influence of the stop-action photos Muybridge took in the 1870s and '80s is detectable in the work of Degas, Picasso and Duchamp. But Bacon’s engagement with the Muybridge photos was visceral in a way that is true of no other artist. Since he had not studied anatomy and had never drawn from the live model, he pored over them, scrutinising them intently and isolating certain details by 'framing’ or circling them with crayon.

This is immediately apparent in the appalling condition of the ones we see in this show, where virtually every photo is mutilated, torn, folded, and spattered with paint.

Bacon’s unfinished Figure with Raised Arm (1949) is based on Muybridge’s photo of a nude athlete seen in profile. Sketchily painted in grisaille over raw canvas, the figure raises one arm as he strides across an empty stage against a drawn curtain. We might be looking at a Greek Kouras figure, except that the transparent right leg and the dragged striations of paint are used to create a blurred effect not unlike a doubly-exposed photograph. 

 

 

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                  Figure with Raised Arm 1949

 

What Bacon adds to the original pose (and the classical sculpture it reminded him of) is a splatter of paint that gushes from the head like the spume of blood or spittle after a blow to the head. Here is an early example of how in Bacon’s work a single passage of smeared paint indicating extreme physical violence becomes the entire source of a picture’s visual power.

Then, too, the photos of young men wrestling certainly had a voyeuristic charge for Bacon. In those picture in which he shows two figures it is hard to make out what is happening because the implicit violence of the wrestling hold is elided with a sexual act. An example in this show is an untitled canvas of 1989 in which two indistinct figures inspired by Muybridge’s photo are so entwined that they appear to be copulating.

A triptych with three heads of Isabel Rawsthorne was painted not from life but from John Deakin’s photos of the sitter that have been torn, creased, folded and crumpled. Seeing the photos and the pictures side by side we realise that no matter how he distorts a face, Bacon was able to capture remarkable likenesses of his subjects. Usually critics attribute the otherwise inexplicable folds, cuts and mutilations in these faces to Bacon’s study of photos soldiers hideously mutilated during the First World War.

But the portraits in this show make us realise that such distortions may also reflect the physical state of the photos on which they are based.

And sometimes the level of violence to which a photo has been subjected can only be described as pathological. One, which shows the head of Bacon’s lover George Dyer, has been ripped to shreds, crumpled and crushed by hand, then repaired with adhesive tape, and attached to a large brown envelope with a safety pin through Dyer’s cheek so that end result looks like a cubist collage. It isn’t Dyer in the flesh Bacon was painting, but his mutilated photo. By constant reference back to it Bacon was able to maintain some crucial connection to the anger and violence that (I can only conjecture) fuelled his creative process.

Bacon’s sadism took many forms. He based several of his best known pictures on a photograph of Dyer wearing only his underpants, seated on a chair with one leg crossed over the other. After Dyer’s suicide Bacon continued to use the pose, simply substituting the face of his new lover John Edward for Dyer’s — as though the two men were interchangeable. The effect is like looking at a double exposure in which one figure is superimposed over another without entirely obliterating the first.

Having made his point about photography’s importance for Bacon, the curator Martin Harrison doesn’t belabour it. The second half of the show is filled with works by Bacon including some particularly good early pictures like the wonderful Half Length Figure in Sea of 1957. But by the time we come to these paintings, we’ve learned too much about Bacon’s working methods to see them as mere imaginings. Even when we don’t know the visual source for the image, we can be sure that it can be found is a photo, and that Bacon had engaged with at such a profound emotional level it had become part of his consciousness, a piece of who he was.

 

 

 

Francis Bacon: A Terrible Beauty

 
Foreword by Barbara Dawson. Published by Steidl



No artist's studio rivals Francis Bacon's in terms of sheer iconic pungency. The artist's furious hurricanes of creativity were writ large upon its walls, scattered across its floors in a sea of paint pots, brushes, discarded canvases and much-abused source and reference materials, all of which seemed to bespeak Bacon's chaotically rigorous processes: bodybuilding snaps, reproductions of Muybridge time-lapse sequences, photo-booth self-portraits, magazine cuttings, tattered monographs, medical textbooks with images of unusual and often horrific wounds and diseases, and countless photos of friends such as Lucian Freud, John Deakin, Isabel Rawsthorne, Muriel Belcher and George Dyer, from which the artist built his portraits of them. Bacon's exceptional eloquence on the subject of his painting process, taken in combination with the iconicity and visual impact of his studio (now preserved at the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery at the Dublin City Gallery), enables his admirers to envisage something of how his paintings were made. In celebration of the centenary of Bacon's birth, and chiming with an exhibition at the Dublin City Gallery, A Terrible Beauty excavates Bacon's studio to reveal the methods, materials and processes through which Bacon arrived at his paintings. Drawing on the Hugh Lane's vast archive of materials, it gathers new scholarship and insights from Rebecca Daniels, Barbara Dawson, Marcel Fincke, Martin Harrison, Jessica O'Donnell, Joanna Shepard and Logan Sisley, and is a major publication for Bacon fans and scholars alike.

Irish-born English painter Francis Bacon (1909-1992) created work that remains unmatched in raw force and vitality, and he is widely considered one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century. Critic Ronald Jones has described his themes as the howling subjects with which Bacon struggled - Existentialism, Abstract Expressionism and the primal drama of a world newly acquainted with the Bomb. Bacon was preoccupied with probing the isolation and terror of the human condition, which he chiefly conveyed through a laboured distortion of the human body. As Sam Hunter - who penned one of the first major essays on Bacon in 1950 - writes in his introductory essay to this volume, what has become increasingly clear with the test of time...is the clarity, durability and powerful authority of his visual discourse. This concise monograph presents an in-depth survey of Bacon's entire oeuvre.

British artist Francis Bacon is one of the greatest painters of the twentieth century. His canvases of the 1940s bore witness to the traumatized psychology of the time and bestowed upon him a prominence that did not diminish in the course of his 50-year career. Recent auction sales have confirmed his works as some of the most sought-after of the Modern era.

ISBN: 9783869300276  Pages: 208  Publisher: Steidl Publishing

 

 

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Beneath the layers of Bacon

 

A new exhibition seeks to shed new light on Francis Bacon's working practises and expose the fallacy of the artist's own myth. Matilda Battersby reports. 

 

The Independent, Wednesday, 24 March 2010  

 

 

 

 

 

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      John Deakin, Photograph of George Dyer, Collection: Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane.

 

 

“I can dream all day long and ideas for paintings just fall into my mind like slides,” Francis Bacon once said. The self-promulgated idea that the Irish-born figurative artist’s wonderfully twisted and subversive imagery appeared fully formed in his mind, not demanding high levels of planning, drawing and experimentation, provides an interesting mythical basis for Bacon’s genius.

But a new exhibition of torn papers and photographs, manipulated film and other archival material harvested from Bacon’s studio, seeks to some way dispel this myth, by revealing the practise-runs, thought processes and scrawlings behind some of Bacon’s best work.

Co-curators Martin Harrison and Antonia Harrison have placed the scavenged studio artefacts alongside well known Bacon oil paintings, including five works never shown before in the UK, to demonstrate the root of some of his ideas, exhibited at the Compton Verney gallery in Warwickshire from this Saturday.

“No one ever saw Bacon work. But our research reveals a very different man from the public persona, which demands we unlearn what we think we know about him,” Martin Harrison said.

The notion that Bacon was only a spontaneous creative whose work emerged effortlessly and straight into paint, is rendered “unsafe” by the exhibition, the researchers claim. Bacon’s “collusion” in such ideas has been well documented, as is his devotion to other artists who often bypassed the drawing process, such as Picasso and Chaim Soutine.

Bacon said of himself that he “never knew what to paint,” yet pages of lists from a notebook taken from his studio in Reece Mews, South Kensington stand testament to his careful planning. As do the influences of other artists, particularly Velazquez, and even filmmakers like Buñuel and Resnais, according to the Harrisons.

“There’s a real risk that the myth of Bacon – albeit one in which the artist colluded- is all we will hand on to future generations. Yet the paintings are still by far the most important thing – it is only by reaching into those that we will ask the right questions and do justice to Bacon’s real genius,” Martin Harrison said.

Francis Bacon: In Camera is at Compton Verney gallery from 27 March until 20 June 2010. Admission is £8 Adults, £6 Concessions, £2 Children, £18 Family.

 

 

 

Francis Bacon: In Cinema.

 

Mary Miers, Country Life, Tuesday, 23 March 2010

 

Francis Bacon: In Cinema. This exhibition will focus on Bacon's source material and working methods, and will examine Bacon's work in relation to film and photography. It includes oil paintings, film footage, stills and archival material from Bacon's studio. From 27th March - 20th June. At Compton Verney, Warwickshire CV35 9HZ.  01926 645 500

 

 

              http://www.alexalienart.com/HeadInGrey1955.jpg

                                                     Head in Grey 1955 Francis Bacon 

 

   

     Exhibition

   Francis Bacon: In Cinema


     
Compton Verney  27 March - 20 June 2010 

 

 

      http://www.alexalienart.com/BaconBlueLagoon625.jpg

                            The Blue Lagoon 1952 Francis Bacon 

 

 

        “I can dream all day long and ideas for paintings just fall into my mind like slides"  Francis Bacon

 

Francis Bacon is acknowledged as one of the most important painters of the twentieth century. Visceral and compellingly raw, his paintings generate powerful emotional responses which continue to fascinate and demand our attention.

This exhibition will for the first time focus on Bacon's source material and working methods. Besides significant oil paintings from 1944 to 1989, it will include archival material from Bacon's studio, now in Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane and film footage and stills which shed new light on the visual references to film and photography in his work and his transformation of these images in fluid oil paint. Photographs by Muybridge and John Deakin will be displayed alongside the paintings they informed - in particular, his reconfigurations of the human body.

 

 

The South Bank Show: final cut

 

For decades Melvyn Bragg has persuaded key artistic figures of the age to talk with extraordinary candour: Here he considers the influence of The South Bank Show, and relives his encounters with Paul McCartney, Alan Bennett, Martin Amis, Tracey Emin and Eric Clapton

 

By Melvyn Bragg, The Daily Telegraph, 20 March 2010

 

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The first programme was in January 1978. I led with Paul McCartney because I wanted to show that I was serious. My aim on The South Bank Show was to include the “popular” arts and make them an accepted part of the arts world. There were critics who thought that by doing this we had fatally undermined any claim to be an arts programme – even though in that first season I also included Harold Pinter, Ingmar Bergman, the RSC, David Hockney, the ballet Mayerling.

The show brought together two aspects of my own life. The working-class background, which at that time had little access to ballet, opera, great galleries and classical concerts; and the traditional arts, to which I had access later at Oxford University. The arts establishment in 1978 had little truck with popular culture and even less inclination to treasure it. That’s changed substantially over the past 30 years and The South Bank Show has been part of that changing.

The process of selection was often little more than a stab in the dark. There are insights into the instincts, thoughts and craft of artists of immense and perhaps enduring talent – even, in a few cases, touching genius. These are spots in a time of their lives, like painted portraits — a few sittings. The honesty and the seriousness with which they talk about their work is, I think, impressive, often exhilarating.

Though far from all the South Bank shows were interview-based, many were. I think that a good way to discover what artists are up to is to ask them. A “talking head” can be the best of television. If there’s trust and if the preparation and research have been good, the results can reveal truths. What matters is not the personality of the interviewer nor the questions, much, but the quality of the reply. There are many ways to interview people, but for the sort of programmes our team set out to do, collaboration was the key. Now and then they were nervous. The objective was to help make the meeting a place where they felt they could talk to the best of themselves.

I began in television as a researcher, then a director, and thought then and now that in any portrait of an artist the interviewer’s job is to help gather material. I did not want to be a critic. There are plenty of those in print. Our job was to put together a portrait. I would be part of it but, as far as possible, outside it.

My conviction was and is that the viewers can make up their own minds about the subject. Our job is to provide the fullest evidence we can for them to come to their decision.

Francis Bacon

When Francis Bacon and I appeared on The South Bank Show and for a few minutes we were caught in a state of naked inebriation it provided, I think, a true insight into Francis as a man and as a painter.

We were at Mario’s in Kensington after a long lunch, alone except for a film crew which dissolved before our blurry eyes as bottle succeeded bottle. Michelangelo, Francis proclaimed, had made the greatest drawings of nude flesh that existed. "Michelangelo gave the greatest male voluptuousness to the body." The way he expressed the word ‘voluptuous’ warmed by much strong red Italian wine was vintage.

"It’s a great word," I said, through the haze, "voluptuousness – we ought to live in a state of voluptuousness."

"Yes," said Francis, and repeated the word once more and then I suggested he was not interested in fantasy.

"Fantasy? No, I’m not interested. I’m interested in reality." He glared at me, his face afire. "There you are," he said, "Melvyn Bragg. Real. How do you render that in another art?"

"Why do you want to?" Off-camera, my voice seemed to call up from an open tomb."

"I want to be able" – each word perfectly clear despite the alcoholic breath on it – "to make in another medium the reality of an image that excites me."

Once more from afar, my voice. "But why do you want to, Francis, why do you want to?’

At which he got to his feet, a redoubtable effort, picked up the bottle and steadily filled my glass once again. "Because I want to. 'Cos I happen to be a painter. That’s all." The wine almost reached the brim. "Cheerio,’ he said and did not waste a drop.

Francis was born in Dublin of English parents in 1909. His father was a breeder and trainer of horses. Tales from the stables of violent equine beasts and randy stable boys have been called up as the making of the man. In 1914 his father moved to London to work in the War Office and early life was split between the two cities. Francis was asthmatic and had no regular schooling. He went on to become a designer and his work first hit print in the early thirties. He painted and in 1933 his first Crucifixion was included in Herbert Read’s Art Now. His first exhibition failed and he took to gambling, which became a lifelong habit, at times an addiction. In the early forties he destroyed most of his paintings and there was no reason for anyone to think this young decorator would ever make his mark.

But in 1944 he produced his Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion. The snarling, distorted bodies of almost mythical beasts struck a post-war nerve and both reflected and helped to form the zeitgeist. In one bound he was launched and although it took time to build his great reputation, there seemed to be an inevitability. When we did this film in 1985 he could be called ‘the greatest living painter in the world’.

We filmed in a vast empty storeroom of the Tate in which we had set up a screen, brought in a projector and invited Francis to comment on his own and others’ work.

We showed him one of his paintings of a distorted female body splayed on a bed and nailed to the ground with a syringe. "You've said that you de-form and re-form reality in your paintings," I said.

"I would say there was some de-formation there, wouldn’t you?" he laid on, a touch heavily. "I don’t think you’ve seen a human body quite like that. They said, 'Why a hypodermic syringe? Is she supposed to be a drug addict?' I just wanted to impale her on the bed. I couldn’t use a nail."

At times Francis talked as if he were nervous, almost hesitant, but always, when he wanted to say what mattered emotionally to him, he would pause, physically steady himself, look directly at me and be emphatically clear. "I try to make concentrations of images."

Van Gogh’s The Night Café. I read from van Gogh’s notes: "The café is a place where one can ruin oneself, go mad or commit a crime." He wrote: "There’s a bar, a billiard table, lights, chairs, one or two figures, violent colours. It’s one of the ugliest paintings I've done."

"I love it," said Francis. "One of the inventions is the way he’s done the lights." Around each bare light bulb are concentric circles of yellow. "He’s made the light turn around the bulb. Without that the painting wouldn’t have that extreme intensity."

"He called the painting ugly. Some people have called your paintings ugly."

"I’m genuinely pleased those sort of people don’t like them. If they really hate them it means there might be something there."

A couple of days earlier, we had filmed in the mews flat in which Francis lived. We stood. There were no chairs.

"When you come to a blank canvas, do you have any idea in your head of what you want to do before you start?"

Often, when talking, Francis fidgeted with things, or looked away – slyly? Nervously? Seeking a way to pull together his concentration. But then he would plant his feet, stare and carefully deliver.

"I have an overall idea. It’s in the working that it develops. It’s a very difficult problem. I’m a figurative painter. You can’t any longer make illustrations better than a camera.’ He begins to stumble in his sentences. ‘I thought you might ask me that. I thought about it very clearly this morning and wrote it down. Now I can’t remember. Can I use it?"

Blushing a little, he unzips a pocket and takes out a scrap of paper and reads. "Not illustration of reality but to create images which are a concentration of reality and a shorthand for sensation." He smiles. He tucks the note away.

"Any drawings beforehand?"

"No. If I drew it I’d just be making an illustration of the drawing."

"You like to let your unconscious take over?"

"I like to think so. There’s this deep sea of unconsciousness and I do think I can draw from it."

"At the same time you like to see things deeply ordered?"

"Yes. I believe in a deeply ordered chaos in my work. I work very quickly."

"How do you do it?"

"Until the images come through you’re not in control. When they come up you have to control them."

"So you come up with an overall image which you don’t want to define except by working towards it?"

"Yes . . . no . . . yes, that’s exactly how it is."

And then we went for lunch around the corner, to Mario’s. A corner table by the window.

"Some people say your paintings are too full of horror."

"What horror could I make that would compete with what goes on every single day? If you read the newspapers or look at the television, what could I do to compete with that except that I’ve tried to re-create it?"

"So you paint the real world?"

"Yes! Between birth and death has always been the violence of life. I paint images of sensation. What is life but sensation?"

"Do you think anything exists outside 'the moment'?"

"No. I believe in nothing. We are born and we die and there’s nothing else."

And after that, in that late afternoon, we heaved over to the Colony Room Club (Members Only) in Soho. There were occasional overheard sentences. "They’ve been giving him a really bad time. He likes being given a really bad time. There’s a lot of men like that."

His £50 notes crossed the bar and bottles of champagne were shuttled back.

"People come in here and lose their inhibitions," he said, a little superfluously as a crimson-faced old friend yelled out, "Can I have a £50 note or two, Francis? No? Oh. I thought you and I were doing a bit of whooooring together."

Somehow he found the space to stand in front of a mirror and comb his hair. Then I heard him, loudly, "I never use make-up! Keep your make-up for yourself, you old cow!" He came across. "I am not one of those made-up poofs. It’s very old-fashioned, you know."

The roar of the Colony was growing in my ears like a mighty tide, rising and crashing with a powerful but queasy rhythm.

"Are you surprised at your success?"

"Yes. I never thought I’d sell at all. I always thought I’d have to take some other job. That’s luck."

Yet again he raised his glass. Yet again I did likewise. But whereas he would go on to Charlie Chester’s Casino, with John, to play roulette – "they say it’s the silliest game," he said, "but when you win . . ." – I managed, who knows how, to navigate a passage back to north London, contentedly, and slept. 

  • The South Bank Show: Final Cut is published next month by Hodder at £20.
  • T £18 (plus £1.25 p&p) 0844 871 1515 or from Telegraph Books

       The South Bank Show Revisited, a season of classic interviews, starts next Sunday March 28 on ITV1

 

 

 

Les lutteurs qui ont inspiré Francis Bacon en vedettes de la section photographie

 

Le Monde | 15.03.10

 

 

   http://www.alexalienart.com/HoppenBacon.jpg

 

 

La Tefaf (The European Fine Art Fair), comme se nomme la foire de Maastricht, est passée de 239 exposants, en 2009, à 263 cette année. Cette augmentation du nombre de participants s'explique par la création d'une nouvelle section, Tefaf on Paper, tout spécialement dédiée aux dessins, aux estampes, aux livres et manuscrits anciens, aux aquarelles et aux photographies.

Parmi les dix-neuf marchands de cette nouvelle section, installée à l'étage, un peu à l'écart de la foire, le Londonien Michael Hoppen. Ce spécialiste de la photographie présente sous le titre Men Wrestling, New York un ensemble curieux, à la fois familier et déroutant. Ce sont de grandes planches-contacts. L'auteur en est inconnu, et elles valent essentiellement par leur commanditaire, le peintre anglais Francis Bacon (1909-1992). Elles ont été achetées par Michael Hoppen, non pas à un marchand, mais à un électricien ! Un nommé Robertson qui travaillait parfois pour Bacon, et auquel l'artiste, dont la générosité était proverbiale, a offert de nombreux objets.

A la demande de Bacon, le photographe anonyme a multiplié les clichés de deux hommes en maillot luttant, "probablement dans un gymnase new-yorkais, vers 1975. Des grands costauds, comme des chauffeurs routiers, et je suis persuadé que Bacon les a choisis pour cela, coiffés avec des bonnets de bain", commente M. Hoppen. "Bacon a utilisé ces clichés comme base de certaines de ses peintures", ajoute-t-il en comparant certains d'entre eux avec des reproductions d'oeuvres du peintre et en montrant les traces de stylo-feutre signalant les choix de l'artiste.

Les moeurs du peintre

Les choix, et le début d'un processus créatif, puisque Bacon a visiblement commencé à esquisser ses compositions directement sur les photos. "Ces hommes ne jouent pas, ils se battent vraiment. Je suis fasciné par ce qu'elles révèlent de l'esprit de Bacon, la violence, l'amour, la passion, le talent, la torture dans laquelle il vivait. Il faut se souvenir que dans les années 1960, en Angleterre, l'homosexualité était un crime. Les moeurs de Bacon pouvaient le conduire en prison. Ce que disent ses peintures, et aussi ces photos, c'est la passion qu'il portait au côté viscéral de la vie."

Par leur succession sur la planche, dans l'ordre exact où ils ont été pris, les clichés rappellent un peu les Chronophotographies, de Muybridge, dont Bacon s'est aussi inspiré. "Le photographe n'était qu'un outil pour Francis. Je n'y vois rien d'artistique, c'est simplement l'enregistrement d'un événement. Ce qui m'intéresse, c'est que c'est Bacon qui le dirige."

Michael Hoppen, qui rafla lors de la vente André Breton en 2003 tous les portraits des surréalistes (Dali, Buñuel, Ernst, Tanguy) réalisés dans un Photomaton, se dit fasciné par cet anonymat, ces clichés en rafale, comme réalisés par une machine. "Je les ai achetés pour la même raison que ces photos de Bacon. C'est narratif, c'est réel, et l'identité du photographe n'a pas d'importance. C'est une question qui me passionne. Comme en musique : qui est l'artiste ? L'interprète qui joue le morceau, ou l'auteur qui l'a composé ?"

Mais, Maastricht oblige, l'anonymat n'est pas toujours de règle, y compris chez Michael Hoppen, qui présente aussi d'autres photographies en relation avec Bacon, comme ce portrait du peintre pris en 1984 par Bruce Bernard, qui travaillait pour le Sunday Times, ou John Deakin, qui fut un des grands photographes de Vogue.

Harry Bellet

 

Michelangelo and the mastery of drawing

 

Michelangelo's astonishing 'presentation drawings', lessons in art technique for a young aristocrat he adored, tell pagan stories about men and love. The exhibition at the Courtauld is the most important ever devoted to them, writes James Hall

 

 

James Hall, The Guardian, Saturday 6 March 2010

 

One of the most common complaints made about today's artists is their apparent inability to draw. In matters of art, no question is more decisive, more majestically final, than: "But can he/she draw?" In a melodramatic hatchet job on Francis Bacon, Picasso biographer John Richardson recently claimed that Bacon's "graphic ineptitude" was his Achilles heel: "Tragically, he failed to teach himself to draw."

Yet Michelangelo's attack on Venetian painting points to a serious flaw in the argument. One can compile an extremely impressive list of great (and mostly unliterary) artists who got by nicely without bothering unduly with drawing. They displayed not so much graphic ineptitude as indifference. Giorgione, Titian, Caravaggio, Hals, Velázquez and Vermeer seem to have painted directly on to the canvas, just incising or brushing in a few outlines. Indeed, drawing as a major artform has been in spasmodic but continuous decline since the 17th century: most drawings by great artists after about 1850, including Manet, Cézanne, Picasso and Matisse, are barely worth exhibiting and are of interest only to specialist scholars. Bacon represents the rule rather than the exception.

Michelangelo's Dream is at the Courtauld Gallery, London WC2 (020 7848 2526) until 16 May.

 

 

Gallery: Two slices of Bacon in Kirklees

 

THERE are now two places in which to view one of the most prized images in the Kirklees Permanent Collection.

Figure Study II, by Francis Bacon, the most valuable painting in the collection, was originally a gift to the old Batley Town Council from the Contemporary Art Society back in 1952.

Lately, there has been a minor campaign from Batley to have the painting shown there, with those involved including Mike Wood, MP, Allan Thompson and Clr Mary Harkin.

But Robert Hall, senior curator for visual arts in Kirklees, had to explain that the security and environmental conditions needed for the painting meant it could not be seen there.

So, a photographic replica – just over half-size – has been made and this is now displayed in Batley Library (not in the art gallery there, which has changing exhibitions).

Mr Hall said the original painting, currently on show at Huddersfield, was a strong image and much in demand.

Last year was Bacon’s centenary and the painting was shown at the Tate, Milan, Madrid and New York. Figure Study II, painted during the 1940s, is a colourful, dramatic, but strange painting.

Daniel Farson, in his book Gallery, calling it the most spectacular painting in Huddersfield, says: “The flatness of the title conceals an act of mysterious violence.

“An apparently naked figure, loosely-draped by a herringbone overcoat, mounted by an umbrella, leans over a palm, his mouth wide-open with a scream. The background is the colour of blood. What has happened? There is no telling.”

Though spectacular and acclaimed by critics, the gift of the painting, was not appreciated by all the people in Batley.

To quote Daniel Farson again “Apparently, the painting was so disliked locally (so the artist himself has told me) that motions were put forward to the council to sell it.

“These were defeated at the time by the Director of Batley Art Gallery, Ronald Gelsthorpe, who believed in the painting’s importance, and thanks to his perseverance, it now hangs to greater advantage in Huddersfield.”

So what will the present population of Batley think of the photographic replica they have got now?

Time will tell, of course, but bearing in mind its history, there’s a touch of irony about.

 

Ref: Daniel Farson - Gallery: A Personal Guide to British Galleries and Their Unexpected Treasure, Bloomsbury, 1990.

 

 

 

1,6 millones para el Bacon más caro de Arco

 

El Economista, Eco Diario, L. R. G. | 19/02/2010 

 

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     Un visitante de ARCO, observando el autorretrato de Francis Bacon en un 'stand' de la Feria.

 

Hay tendencias de todo tipo, desde las vanguardias más representativas del siglo XX hasta las obras más rupturistas distribuidas a lo largo de las 218 galerías que exponen desde el pasado miércoles las obras de alrededor de 3.000 artistas en los stands de Arco 2010, la feria de arte contemporáneo que acoge Ifema (Madrid). Se trata de una variedad que cubrirá las expectativas de pequeños y grandes inversores y, especialmente, de las instituciones, fondos de inversión y corporaciones.

Contemporáneo y de vanguardia

El programa general de galerías es el lugar perfecto para encontrar obras maestras del arte contemporáneo y de vanguardia. Pero, por encima de todas las obras expuestas hay tres que destacan especialmente, en lo que al capítulo de cotizaciones se refiere. La que cuelga la etiqueta con el precio más alto es un autorretrato de Francis Bacon que el pintor irlandés realizó en 1987. Está a la venta por 1,6millones de euros, lo que la convierte en la obra más cara de cuantas se pueden contemplar en la feria.

 

 

 

 

 

Problematisk hyllning av Bacon

 

SVD, Svenska Dagbladet, 19 februari 2010

 

 

Förra året skulle Francis Bacon ha fyllt hundra år och Dublin hyllar fram till den 7 mars sin son med en utställning där inget dammkorn lämnats åt slumpen. I motsats till sin förebild Picasso var Bacon inte beroende av levande modeller. Mellan honom och världen låg i stället ett filter av fotografier, filmer och reproduktioner av målningar ur konsthistorieböcker: Poussin, Velázquez och Goya.

Bilden av Bacon som oberoende av flyktiga intryck från massmedier och populärkultur avlivades redan 1952 av Sam Hunter i en essä om Francis Bacon och skräckens anatomi, men få var beredda att lyssna. Action painting och abstrakt expressionism dominerade scenen och publiken ville ha en konstnär som öste ur sitt inre. Bacon bidrog knappast själv till att kasta ljus över sitt arbete. Brutal utlevelse var ledstjärnan och vaksamt lade han ut dimridåer för att dölja att han likt vilken dödlig konstnär som helst fuskade genom att använda teckningar som förlagor.

I Francis Bacon: A Terrible Beauty på Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane presenteras ett rikt arbetsmaterial och ett antal sällan visade men inte särskilt märkvärdiga målningar. Men någonstans på vägen tappar galleriet fokus i sin redovisningsiver och vilja att kartlägga Bacons oeuvre. Riktigt problematiskt blir det i en sal där sönderskurna målningar presenteras – dukar som Bacon själv mönstrat ut, men som här inger känslan av en medveten konstnärlig handling.

Det är ett tveksamt förhållningssätt att lyfta upp kasserade målningar och ofärdiga alster till verkshöjd. Inte minst mot bakgrund av att Bacon var mycket självkritisk och knappt släppte någon över tröskeln till ateljén. Det tycks som om de förstörda dukarna är tänkta att kompensera bristen på riktigt bra verk i utställningen.

Som ett besynnerligt akvarium framstår rekonstruktionen av den legendariska Londonateljén på 7 Reece Mews. Genom tjockt skyddsglas möter jag en tät djungel av intorkade penslar, tidskrifter, mattor, böcker och målartrasor.

Efter Bacons död hoppades många att Tate Britains egensinnige chef Nicholas Serota skulle inse värdet av att bevara ateljén i sin ursprungliga miljö. Officiellt heter det att museet aldrig fick någon förfrågan. Troligare är att Serota vid denna tid var fullt upptagen med sitt imperiebygge. Avknoppningen av Tate pågick som bäst och Tate Modern med inriktning på samtidskonst invigdes 1998, samma år som Bacons ateljé med 7500 skrubbade och katalogiserade föremål flyttade till Irland.

Även om Bacon föddes i Dublin så var det i London han hörde hemma och utvecklades som konstnär. Flytten av ateljén är säregen, men ändå blir jag alltmer övertygad om att det var ett korrekt beslut. Mytbildningen var nära att överskugga Bacons verk redan under hans livstid. När ateljén så rycktes loss ur sin ursprungliga omgivning kapades de sentimentala banden. Ateljén i Dublin blir aldrig en kultplats.

 

 

 

Francis Bacon reproduction painting beats security fears to go on show in Huddersfield

 

              http://www.alexalienart.com/BaconFigureStudy21945-6.jpg

                                              Figure Study II 1945 - 1946  Francis Bacon

 

 

 

A PAINTING by Francis Bacon has been copied – so it can go on show in Kirklees. The original of Figure Study II is considered too valuable to be put on public show.

 

It remains locked in secure storage by Kirklees Council’s cultural staff who will not say how much it is worth. But now a reproduction of the work has been commissioned and it will go on show later this week.

 

The painting, Figure Study II by Bacon, one of the 20th century's most influential artists, was presented to Batley Art Gallery by the Contemporary Art Society in 1952. Over the years the issue of displaying the important work in Batley has surfaced from time to time.

 

The reasons the painting has not been able to be displayed are numerous but primarily related to security and the impact on insurance, due to the painting’s value. There are also fears about possible damage when it is being moved and transported.

 

Whenever Kirklees Galleries lend the work, and it is often in demand, they need to be sure that the borrowers can meet certain security, insurance, transport and environmental conditions.

 

Now the work has been copied and the resulting reproduction will be formally unveiled at Batley Art Gallery on Friday at 10.30 am in front of Spen Valley MP Mike Wood and local dignitaries.

 

Art experts claim the work is an important early painting by Bacon, as he destroyed much of his work from the period of 1935 to 1944.

It shows a coat motif, from which a deformed, screaming figure – perhaps lurking under the coat – emerges.

 

 

Grappling with Francis Bacon

 

 

Previously unseen images of wrestlers made in Bacon's studio demonstrate the artist's love of the visceral, writes Peter Conrad

 

The Observer, Sunday 14 February 2010

 

http://www.alexalienart.com/wrestlers-006.jpg

"Who were the flabby butchers in the stained, straining pants?" 

The wrestling session commissioned by Francis Bacon. Michael Hoppen Gallery

 

Two bodies in a bare, drab room, experimentally trying all the things they can do to each other, from grappling, groping sex to choke holds and karate chops: here is a privileged, confidential glimpse of Francis secret theatre, never seen before. It comes from a pile of contact sheets given by Bacon to an electrician who worked in his south Kensington studio; the collection was acquired by the dealer Michael Hoppen, who will be showing it at the art fair in Maastricht next month.

Nothing is known about this long session of polymorphous play. Who were the flabby butchers in the stained, straining pants, obliged to wear swimming caps that make them look like medical orderlies kitted out for surgery? Where was the room, which might be called clinical if only the sheet on the floor were cleaner and smoother? And who gave the orders, sitting behind the anonymous photographer and directing the two men as they showed off wrestling holds? That presumably was Bacon: he commissioned the photographs, and used a felt pen to mark the images he fancied, sketching a red cage around the hired thugs.

Bacon admired photographer Eadweard Muybridge's studies of bodies in motion, which treat the physique as an apparatus with elegantly calibrated, agile parts. But his own version of those athletic displays is perverse, an exercise in abstracting the body by force. Picasso would have appreciated the frames in which the two men, wrestling or perhaps sexually coupling, merge into a monstrous quadruped with a pair of arses, one trailing dislocated arm, and no head.

They have come together to cause each other pain: a wrestling bout is the spectacle of physical agony, accompanied by grunts, groans, cries of excruciation. Unlike boxing, wrestling has no neatly aimed knock-out blows, no strict sporting etiquette. Here the coup de grâce is delivered with an elbow or the back of a hand, after which one man shoulders the other and carts him off like dead meat. Bacon was a connoisseur of abattoirs, and all that's missing in these photographs is blood, although the scrap of tape on the corner looks like the trace of some intimate, dried-up fluid. Or does this stand for the imprint of Bacon's thumb, gripping the page and depositing an equivalent to the smudges left on the floorcloth by the soles of the wrestlers' dirty feet?

Like Greek tragedy, it is all a performance, as the men demonstrate when they forget their feud and start to jump and skip or dive into a non-existent pool. Opposed moods chase each other across the page like black and white, the two extremes of the photographic spectrum. Brutality at the top left changes to friskiness at the bottom right. But the change happens imperceptibly: sex often looks, and almost always sounds, like murder.

The detail that intrigues me most is the light socket halfway up the wall. It seems quaintly foreign, which suggests that the photographs may have been taken in Paris or New York, where Bacon spent time in the 1970s. Apart from any clue it might give about time and place, it functions, like every object in a Bacon painting, as a memento mori. In this impromptu gymnasium, energetic life goes through its paces, and soon enough confronts death; the light that floods the scene is raw and harsh, but the current can be turned off in an instant. Then perhaps an image will materialise in that dark, empty square at the centre. Some photographs – the nastiest, the most cruelly truthful – have to be looked at with your eyes closed.

The contact sheets will be shown for the first time at the European Fine Art Fair, Maastricht, Friday 12 March to Sunday 21 March

 

 

 

Billionaire Whistle Blower Loses $730 Million Alleging Fraud

  

 

By Vernon Silver and Anabela Reis, Bloomberg, February 04, 2010

 

 

                          http://www.alexalienart.com/oedipussphinxbacon1983.JPG

                                     Francis Bacon’s 1983 Oedipus and the Sphinx, after Ingres

 

 

Feb. 4 (Bloomberg) - On a December afternoon in 2007, billionaire Jose Berardo walked into the attorney general’s 18th-century headquarters in Lisbon to rat out executives at the Portuguese bank on which he had staked his fortune.

Sylvester Stallone

In a sun-filled gallery, Berardo examines the 1808 painting Oedipus and the Sphinx by French master Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres that’s on loan from the Louvre in Paris. The painting is being installed next to the work that it inspired, Francis Bacon’s 1983 Oedipus and the Sphinx, after Ingres. Berardo owns the Bacon painting.

“You know who used to own this one? Stallone!” Berardo shouts, referring to actor Sylvester Stallone. Berardo recounts how he ran into Stallone and told him, “I’ve got your Bacon!”

The museum is located in a state-owned cultural complex - the result of a deal Berardo cut with the Ministry of Culture in 2006. The government agreed to house part of his collection and took a 10-year option to buy 862 paintings and sculptures for 316 million euros, based on a Christie’s valuation in 2006.

 

 

 

A show to Bragg about: The South Bank Show frontman Melvyn recalls his most memorable moments

 

After 32 years and 800 episodes, Melvyn Bragg's The South Bank Show has come to an end. Here he talks about the good, the bad and the not-always-sober moments behind the scenes.

 

By John Mcentee, Daily Mail, 29th January 2010

 

    http://www.alexalienart.com/BraggBaconSouthBankShow.JPG

 

 

Making a programme with the artist Francis Bacon involved another day's drinking. 'I'd known Francis for more than 20 years. In 1985, I spent a day with him for a programme and it turned into a pub crawl.

'This was an alcoholic waterfall. Francis and I pretended to have lunch and did the interview. We ate nothing, but we drank on.


 'We got very drunk. It showed. We slurred. Once or twice we all but stopped. We went in to a gambling club next to some blurred drinking hellhole.

At some time I found my way home, my liver leaping up to my ribs like a salmon swimming against the stream.'

At this week's final South Bank Show award lunch, Melvyn was touched by a filmed tribute from the Prince of Wales in which he described the 'more or less' sober questioning of a drunken Francis Bacon while the production team guffawed.

Bragg may yet take his show to a different channel if another broadcaster can afford to bankroll it.

'I'm proud of the show because it changed the nation's view of what constitutes art. Once, the arts were opera, ballet, classical music and everything else deemed highbrow.

'It was my idea for high culture and popular culture to be treated equally.

'There is some brilliant pop music and some very poor classical music. And why shouldn't comedy be treated as seriously as drama?

'But it is all art and we are all in this together, and through The South Bank Show people have come to realise this.'

The South Bank Show Awards is on ITV1 on Sunday at 10.15pm.

 

 

 

Francis Bacon; valid retrospective or academic voyeurism?

 

 

The most recent exhibition of Francis Bacon’s work features his rejected pieces, and is presented as much as an insight to the man as an artistic endeavour.

 

 

Trinity News, 27 January 2010 

 

The hundredth anniversary of Francis Bacon’s birth was celebrated last year. By all accounts he displays the virtues recommended to tortured artists. His highly prized angst is considered a prerequisite for depicting the so-called ‘modern condition’. Whatever the catalyst was for his art, the results are clear. Bacon was one of the highest selling painters of his time. Born in Dublin at 63 Lower Baggot Street, his life was all cliché. His father, a military man, disapproved of his son’s foray into art, leading to a predictably strained relationship. Such friction lead Bacon to Europe where he could ply his intended trade free from the untoward influences of convention. Or so say the critics. There are two schools of art criticism, one is interesting while the other is not. The first method attempts to find value in the art work while assessing the technical merits (if any) of the piece. The second method aims at an unnecessary archaeology of the artist’s life and thought. The artists are usually dead, before these critics feel free to extrapolate wildly and attribute significance as they please.


A Terrible beauty is the title of the Francis Bacon exhibit currently in the Hugh Lane gallery. The exhibit is an exercise in exploitation. Everything ranging from rejected works to refuse is on display if Bacon so much as touched it. His library, paints and studio are displayed so that each voyeur may garner a sufficient degree of empathy for the man, and his interests. The Egyptians buried their dead with much fanfare, but no one could say that they profited for it. Civilisation has marched on somewhat since then, we still have fanfare, but now we’re also willing to profit from our famous dead. Walking through the Hugh Lane you gain a considerable education, but it’s an odd process somewhat like tearing through your sister’s diary. What you find is of no particular use. Bacon was well known for masochistic tendencies, with highly destructive and violent relationships with his partners and muses for his disturbing works.


His revulsion at his own homosexuality, something he was open about all his life is equally well known. One of his defining relationships was with a George Dyer, thirty years his junior, who he claimed to have met when he had burgled his apartment, Dyer, a colourful personality himself, committed suicide just before Bacon’s biggest retrospective in Paris, just one instance of tragedy in his life.


Bacon’s exhibition is the visual narration of a plausible life story. Scrap books, photos and random notes are interspersed between a collection of sketches, paintings and slashed paintings. The main themes to note are progression and influence. Seeds of the final results can be seen in earlier endeavours. The ‘slashed paintings’ are failures by another name. They usually evince the same sparse background of the complete works with a hole where the central image was supposed to reside. The desecration of all the paintings displays a violent and brutal editorial hand. So the decision to display them seems counter-intuitive. This posthumous abuse is no better than the gratuitous airing of dirty laundry. But for all the flaws to be found in the exhibit there are some positive points - namely, the paintings.  


Bacon paints his scenes in a strangely figurative style on un-primed canvas. This method enforces a difficult constraint upon the painter, by which mistakes become difficult to alter, and so must be incorporated in the image. This engenders some strange effects. There is an obvious disconnect between his images and reality but at the same time, he paints hugely evocative expressions of the human form. Contorted at bizarre angles or at rest, there is always a degree of isolation to the figures depicted. As a result, one cannot look on with indifference, and what strikes one as figurative nonetheless communicates a literal truth.


It is by this principle of empathy that Bacon’s paintings communicate the sense of the situation depicted. The miserable and wretched examples of humanity in Bacon’s painting serve a cathartic effect. The appreciation of such paintings follows primarily from the knowledge that such is not my lot. The miserable nudity of the human body seems so defenceless and brittle under Bacon’s brush that the survival of our species strikes one anew as an amazing miracle. The recognition of the suffering or loneliness seems to be instinctive, such that I do not feel able to dismiss such scenes of misery as melodramatic extensions of the existentialist ‘epiphany’.


The clear emotive success achieved by Bacon’s stark depictions makes the trip to the Hugh Lane worth it, but bear in mind that while it may give a degree of insight into what was, as with many a creative mind, a troubled existence, however, as with much of todays art criticism, it should be taken with a pinch (or four) of salt.

 

 

 

La Fábrica publica por primera vez el conjunto de recortes que inundaba el estudio del artista

 

Reúne libro el archivo disperso que inspiraba a Francis Bacon

 

Archivos privados contiene 160 fotografías, armazón sobre el que construyó su vocabulario pictórico

Tras su muerte, el experto Brian Clarke tuvo acceso al material y logró recopilarlo

 

 

Armando G. Tejeda, Corresponsal, Periódico La Jornada, México, Domingo 24 de enero de 2010

 

 

Madrid, 23 de enero. Francis Bacon, el pintor irlandés de autocrítica severa y desesperanzada, el artista que reflexionó sobre su tiempo con varias y profundas heridas a cuestas, tenía en su estudio miles, quizá decenas de miles de hojas, restos de hojas o material orgánico que formaban, en su conjunto, su principal fuente de inspiración.

Quienes conocieron el estudio de Bacon en Londres –muy pocas personas– confirmaron lo que se sabía en los mentideros artísticos de la época sobre la ingente cantidad de recortes y más recortes que inundaban su sala. Esas imágenes las fue recolectando a lo largo de su vida y se convirtieron en sus compañeras, en sus fuentes de inspiración, en objetos tocados por su mano singular e inspirada que, fruto de la alquimia de los artistas, se convertían en otra cosa. En imágenes con vida propia.

A la muerte de Bacon, en Madrid en 1992, su heredero y compañero sentimental John Edwards abrió el archivo personal a un experto en la obra del artista, Brian Clarke, quien descubrió un universo de imágenes que explicaban a su vez no sólo la evolución estética del propio Bacon, sino también el origen de muchos de sus cuadros más célebres y de su empeño infranqueable ante el último día de su vida de crear el cuadro perfecto.

Ese material se publica por primera vez en el libro Francis Bacon: archivos privados, de la editorial La Fábrica, y que supone el primer trabajo de recopilación exhaustiva con los documentos, papeles, imágenes y recortes que formaron parte de ese archivo disperso en su estudio. De ese caos, que al visitante neófito posiblemente le hacía pensar que Bacon, además de genio y de ser una de las personalidades más atormentadas de su época, sufría el síndrome de Diógenes.

El libro contiene 160 fotografías en los que se hace un repaso de los temas centrales de su pintura; el cuerpo humano; los trabajos con animales; los paisajes; los cuadros de artistas que marcaron su estética, como Diego de Velázquez, y su postura al límite de lo caricaturesco. Es, en definitiva, el armazón sobre el que trabajaba este artista para confeccionar su propio método y vocabulario pictórico.

 

 

            http://www.alexalienart.com/Bernard700.JPG

Para el visitante neófito posiblemente el caos del estudio de Bacon le hace pensar en que, además de ser un genio, sufría el síndrome de Diógenes. En la imagen, el artista en su estudio en 1984.  Foto Bruce Bernard

 

Las intervenciones de Bacon convertían un vulgar o anodino anuncio publicitario en pieza satírica o doliente sobre sus obsesiones, como la muerte, el paso del tiempo, siempre implacable y severo, los rostros deformados por el trasluz de su verdadera naturaleza, el misterio del proceso creativo y su desgaste hasta el límite de la resistencia en algunos artistas, como él mismo.

“Imperio del collage

El propio Bacon reflexionaba así sobre los collages o la manipulación de las imágenes: “El Imperio del collage se extiende mucho más allá de las artes plásticas. Es aquí donde empieza el verdadero efecto del collage: su misterio, su poder… su dimensión en el campo conceptual”. Acercarse, en definitiva, al lado sensorial de los objetos. Pero también del movimiento de los animales y de los hombres, que fueron fuente de inspiración y de afirmación. En este sentido, Bacon ahondó en el carácter primitivo de las cosas y de los animales, a la manera de una de sus máximas de cabecera, en este caso de Bataille: “Si… esa matemática verdad militar se contrasta con el orificio excremental del simio… el universo que parecía amenazado por el esplendor humano en forma lamentablemente imperativa no recibe otra respuesta que la descarga ininteligible de una carcajada”.

Bárbara Dawson, directora de la galería municipal de Dublín The Hugh Lane, donde se resguarda el archivo personal de Bacon, señaló sobre el carácter de algunos materiales. Su transformación en un ser frágil y anciano, y su camino hacia la decrepitud trajo otros significados. Este proceso de mutación fue importante para Bacon. Los significados se hacen así más misteriosos cuando se convierten en el sedimento fértil de su práctica pictórica. Es decir, sus obras cambian constantemente, como las figuras de un mazo de cartas que se baraja. Esta conexión surrealista, a lo cadáver exquisito, produjo en Bacon una fascinación imperecedera, pero en todo el material que se revela ahora continúa constituyendo un misterio y una fascinación visceral.

 

 

 

Une lettre de Michel Leiris à Francis Bacon

 

Media Part, 10 Janvier 2010

 

"Paris, le 1er décembre 1981 

 

Cher Francis, 

 

Merci d'avoir précisé à mon intention - via Eddy Batache - la façon dont vous concevez le réalisme. Pour moi aussi, il est évident que c'est à travers notre subjectivité que nous saisissons le réel et qu'il résulte de cela que non seulement nous ne pouvons jamais être tout à fait "objectifs" mais que - ce qui va plus loin - il serait d'autant plus absurde de nous efforcer de l'être que le fait qu'il y a lieu de transcrire est la perception que nous avons de la chose et non la chose elle-même. 

 

Quant à l'expressionnisme, ce qu'il y a en lui d'irritant, c'est son côté caricatural : accentuer superficiellement certains traits de la chose pour aboutir à un "effet", au lieu d'essayer - propos plus difficile - d'essayer (raturé) d'en donner, en profondeur, une traduction aussi vivante que possible. 

 

Quant à la possibilité d'être réaliste en traitant un thème tragique ou mythologique, je crois que nous pouvons l'être en rendant pleinement compte de notre réaction à ce thème sans chercher à en établir l'illustration. Toutefois, j'avoue que ce point-là en particulier reste pour moi très obscur! 

 

Bien que tout cela soit abominablement compliqué, j'espère parvenir à m'en sortir en prenant pour fil conducteur une réflexion approfondie sur vos oeuvres et sur ce que vous dites de votre travail. 

 

Affectueusement à vous, et à bientôt, je le souhaite. 

 

Michel Leiris 

Excusez mon écriture pas très bonne, ainsi que mes ratures... Mais ce que je vous dis là me tient trop à coeur pour que je puisse vous le dire avec calme !" 

Michel Leiris, Francis Bacon ou la brutalité du fait, suivi de cinq lettres inédites de Michel Leiris à Francis Bacon sur le réalisme, L'école des lettres, Seuil, 1995. 

 

 

 

 

A terrible beauty, saturated in pain

 

CULTURE SHOCK: The Francis Bacon ‘slashed paintings’ exhibit at the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin puts the artist’s turmoil directly in our view, writes FINTAN O'TOOLE 

 

 

The Irish Times - Saturday, January 9, 2010

 

 

 

 

WHEN YOU put them up on a gallery wall, objects acquire meaning. This is certainly true of the slashed paintings, destroyed by their creator Francis Bacon, and now on display as part of the Hugh Lane Gallery’s intriguing A Terrible Beauty exhibition. In themselves, the torn canvasses may be no more significant than the contents of a writer’s waste-paper basket. They are the detritus of the creative process, efforts that failed to meet the artist’s standards. Yet placed in the context both of his more achieved works and of the contents of his studio, the violence with which some of the canvasses have been attacked becomes highly suggestive.

 

Bacon, as the art historian John Richardson suggests in the current issue of the New York Review of Books, has strong impulses towards both sadism and masochism. During his childhood in Ireland, he turned up at a fancy dress party hosted by his parents at Cannycourt dressed as a flapper. When his father discovered him wearing his mother’s underclothes, he delivered a violent beating.

 

Subsequently, Bacon came to associate sexual pleasure with cruelty, even with extreme violence. One of his lovers, Peter Lacy, who appears in the Hugh Lane exhibition both in Bacon’s awestruck portrait and in photographs of a suave, handsome man in early middle-age, inspired some of Bacon’s most important works. He also, according to Richardson, “hurled Bacon through a plate glass window. His face was so damaged that his right eye had to be sewn back into place. Bacon loved Lacy even more”.

 

Conversely, another of Bacon’s most important muses, George Dyer, was subjected to psychological torment and goading. On the day of Bacon’s ascension into the firmament of modern art greatness, with the opening of his exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris in 1971, Dyer’s third attempt to take his own life proved to be fatal.

 

If all of this places Bacon closer to the casebook of Sigmund Freud than to the studio of his own friend and contemporary Lucien Freud, it is not necessary to be a brilliant psychoanalyst to get some sense of what was going on. The need to punish or be punished was clearly rooted in shame. Tellingly, Bacon, openly gay throughout his life, had no interest in the gay rights movement. Richardson recalls him remarking, a propos of moves to decriminalise homosexuality in England, that “they should bring back hanging for buggery”. Guilt – and the consequent connection to violence – was too strongly intertwined with sex to be dispensed with.

 

Richardson sees these cruel relationships as central to Bacon’s work, to the point of arguing that there is a direct link between them and the quality of his art. When Bacon settled with John Edwards in a relationship “less fraught for being platonic, seemingly free of sadomasochistic overtones”, his work, Richardson claims, “lost its sting and failed to thrill”.

 

It is hard not be uneasy about all of this. From an aesthetic point of view, it is unpleasantly reductive to make such direct connections between the work and the life. As Richardson himself points out, there is a danger of making Bacon “a kind of Michael Jackson of art – an anomalous weirdo of divine power”. From a moral standpoint, there is an obvious discomfort in the notion that Bacon’s art was better when he was involved in violent relationships than when he was not. And yet, even without necessarily going all the way with Richardson, it is hard to gainsay the obvious ways in which his best paintings are indeed related to his sadomasochistic desires.

 

Paradoxically perhaps, it is pain that humanises Bacon’s art. There is a studied coldness to his images of the naked body isolated in a space that Richardson memorably calls “a photographer’s studio in Hell”. The studio materials that are now on view at the Hugh Lane give us the sense of a lurid, almost voyeuristic interest in violence, death and disease. The sources he used include deliberately sensational and explicit depictions of terrible brutality, such as the French propaganda publication The True Aspects of the Algerian Revolution, showing the aftermaths of murders. He does not seem to have been greatly interested in the people shown in these images, merely in the strange dispositions of their bodies.

 

And yet when he places his formalised versions of these images within the abstract spaces of his canvasses, something truly strange happens. Instead of becoming more distant, more removed from their sources in the real horrors of the 20th century, they become almost unbearably real. They are saturated with pain itself – not a metaphysical angst but a visceral bodily agony. They almost literally scream out from the frame.

 

And just as the paintings become the bearers of pain, they also seem to inflict it. Bacon brings into painting what Antonin Artaud had brought into drama – a theatre of cruelty. What Artaud meant by that phrase was not, of course, physical violence, but the psychic shock that he felt the audience needed. He imagined theatre as a ritual power aimed at shattering the facade of daily illusions and stripping reality down to its essence.

 

Even if Bacon’s art has its roots in an actual, rather than a metaphysical cruelty, the important thing about it is that it transcends those origins.

 

It reaches for a shock value that has nothing to do with the lurid sadism that may hover around it. It is the shock of the human body from whose depiction all trace of both classical ideals and romantic heroism has been stripped. Contorted in an agony or an ecstasy that are indistinguishable from each other, it becomes again shockingly beautiful. In the complicity that great art enforces we, too, end up deriving pleasure from this pain.

 

 

 

ES MI MUNDO  

 

En carne viva

 

 

Por Ariel Alvarez, Página, SOY,  Sábado, 26 de diciembre de 2009

 

Su padre no podía ni verlo: cuando estaba cerca, lo corría a latigazos. Le gustaba vestirse de mujer, y tuvo una institutriz que, para “corregirlo”, lo encerraba en un cajón. Fue artista y prostituto, amante y sádico, jugador compulsivo y enfermo asmático. Pintó a su novio ladrón y suicida, invocó el crimen, derramó carnicerías y reprodujo crucifixiones. A cien años de su nacimiento, Francis Bacon sigue siendo el peor de todos.

”Ese hombre horrible que pinta asquerosos trozos de carne.” Así etiquetaba Margaret Thatcher a Francis Bacon, uno de los más geniales artistas del siglo XX. Ningún otro pintor ha representado la figura humana con tanto sentimiento: la carne desgarrada, la deformidad de los cuerpos desnudos, masculinos y poderosos, retorcidos de maneras que llevan a la anatomía a un límite entre lo animal y lo humano. Una pintura carnal y, por qué no, libidinosa, que como él mismo definía “va directo al sistema nervioso”. Una obra que permanece, cruda y desolada tanto como su biografía, ambas marcadas por heridas violentas: “Yo y la vida que he vivido acabamos inspirando más curiosidad que mi obra. A veces, cuando pienso en ello, preferiría que todo lo que se sabe de mí explotase y desapareciera al morir”, decía Bacon en 1965.

L’enfant terrible

Francis Bacon nació en Dublín el 28 de octubre de 1909 en el seno de una familia puritana e inglesa. Su padre fue un riguroso ex mayor del ejército británico que se había trasladado a Irlanda para convertirse en preparador de caballos de carrera. Su infancia fue muy complicada, padecía de asma crónica y a raíz de los fuertes ataques comenzaron a suministrarle morfina a los 5 años. Debido a su enfermedad duraba poco en los colegios. El niño Francis no tenía amigos. En 1914, cuando estallaba la Primera Guerra Mundial, su padre era nombrado en el Ministerio de Guerra. Hasta 1925 pasó sus días viajando con su familia entre Inglaterra e Irlanda.

 

El pequeño Francis comenzaba a tomar conciencia del peligro y la violencia, no sólo por lo que ocurría en el mundo, sino por los maltratos a los que lo sometía su padre. El asma no era el único “defecto”. Francis Bacon era homosexual y su padre estaba decidido a “enderezarlo” a base de castigos físicos. Fue prácticamente entregado a una severa institutriz gótica, toda una malvada de cuentos llamada Jessie Lightfoot, que tenía por costumbre encerrarlo en un baúl. “Ese cajón fue mi origen”, recordaría años más tarde.

 

Era adolescente cuando el mayor Bacon ya ni siquiera soportaba tenerlo cerca, salvo para azotarlo con una fusta. De allí vendrá la fascinación del artista por pintar esos gritos, más bien aullidos que plasman no el terror sino el grito en sí. A los 16 años su padre lo expulsa del hogar cuando lo encuentra vestido con la ropa interior de su madre y durmiendo con uno de los mozos del establo. Fracasados todos los intentos correctivos, el mayor Bacon le pide a su amigo Harcourt-Smith que se lleve al joven a Berlín. Fue allí en el año 1926 donde Bacon, quien siempre tuvo una gran pasión por estudiar el movimiento del cuerpo humano, entró en contacto con el cine. Metrópolis y El Acorazado Potemkin, entre otras películas, fueron sus primeras inspiraciones. No pasó mucho tiempo hasta que el amigo de la familia metió al adolescente en su cama para luego abandonarlo a su suerte en una ciudad “violenta y sin ley”, como la definiría el propio Bacon. El joven de 17 años permaneció en Berlín, donde se entregó por completo a su gusto por los “hombres rudos”.

Desgarrar la carne

En 1927 se traslada a París y comienza a trabajar como decorador de interiores. Una visita a una exposición de Picasso lo decidió a ser artista: “Aquellos pierrots, desnudos, paisajes y escenarios me impresionaron mucho, y después pensé que quizá yo también podría pintar”. Instalado definitivamente en Londres, en 1928 comienza a pintar de forma autodidacta, pero sus cuadros no se vendían. De pronto se encontró viviendo con sólo tres libras por semana. En medio de esta situación descubre que resultaba atractivo a los hombres y comienza a ofrecer sus servicios como acompañante.

 

En 1933 pinta la primera de sus Crucifixiones y al año siguiente realiza su primera exposición junto a uno de sus amantes, el pintor cubista Roy de Maistre. La muestra no tuvo éxito. Sumido en una crisis, destruyó las imágenes del fracaso y abandonó la pintura para retomarla durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Esto era parte del genio iracundo de Bacon, ese hombre que trabajaba obsesivamente, para luego ir a los bares a beber y a provocar alguna pelea producto de su lengua filosa. Era el artista que llevaba una vida austera, vestido con ropas sencillas, que perdía grandes sumas de dinero en el casino y se entregaba a los romances con tipos peligrosos. Su amigo íntimo, el escritor francés Michel Leiris, le sugirió que “el masoquismo, el sadismo y casi todos los vicios, en realidad, son tan sólo maneras de sentirse más humano”. Y Bacon hizo de esta frase una ley personal.

 

 

 

      http://www.alexalienart.com/BaconKiss300New.JPG

             Izquierda, Bacon besándose con John Edwards. 

 

 

El pintor, el ladrón, el sádico y su amante

A mediados de los años ’40, Francis Bacon y su estilo único eran aclamados por la crítica. Su inspiración provenía de muchas fuentes: el Retrato del papa Inocencio X de Velázquez (que se convertiría en una obsesión), el mundo decadente de la posguerra y, por supuesto, sus romances.

 

Bacon era un personaje recurrente de los bares londinenses, en especial del Colony Room, un club de mala muerte, donde pasaba las tardes bebiendo en medio de esas paredes de color verde que más tarde serían la decoración de muchas de sus pinturas. Fue allí, en 1952, donde conoció a Peter Lacy, un ex piloto de combate que tenía una amplia colección de látigos que destrozaron la espalda del pintor y muchos de sus cuadros. “Yo nunca me había enamorado de nadie hasta entonces”, comentó Bacon más adelante. “Por supuesto, fue el desastre más total desde el comienzo.” Los dos hombres llevaron al S & M hasta el extremo. Ya habían pasado algunos años de su separación cuando Bacon se encontraba preparando una retrospectiva de su obra que se inauguró en la Tate Gallery de Londres en 1962. En ese momento se enteró de que su ex amante había sido encontrado muerto por una intoxicación de alcohol. Su cuadro Dos figuras (1953) es el testimonio más real de su relación con Lacy: un abrazo erótico y violento que muestra la oscuridad de esos dos desconocidos que se funden brutalmente.

 

 

 

 

 

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                            Derecha, con George Dyer.

 

 

 

 

Dos años más tarde, en 1964, un delincuente llamado George Dyer es sorprendido por Bacon mientras intenta robar en su casa. Esa misma noche terminaron en la cama y siguieron juntos durante siete años. Pero la historia volvió a repetirse. Bacon se convirtió en un bebedor que tenía que hacer frente a las crisis de su novio, la mayoría de las cuales terminaban en intentos de suicidio. La relación terminó en 1971 cuando Dyer murió de una sobredosis de alcohol y pastillas. Al momento de su muerte, Bacon, de 61 años, se encontraba terminando de preparar su muestra, que tendría lugar en el Grand Palais de París. Los sentimientos de culpa persiguieron al artista por el resto de su vida: “Si yo me hubiera quedado con él en lugar de preocuparme por ver la exposición, él estaría aquí ahora”, diría más tarde. Francis Bacon había pintado muchos retratos de su gran amor en el pasado, destaca entre ellos George Dyer en un espejo (1968), y siguió haciéndolo después de su muerte, era su manera de recordarlo. Esta historia de amor terrible fue llevada al cine en 1998 por el director John Maybury, en la película El amor es el demonio, un título que no precisa mayores explicaciones.

El heredero

Ya en la década del ’60, Bacon era un pintor de fama internacional, sus pinturas habían llegado a Nueva York y centenares de críticos y morbosos concurrían a ver esos cuadros de hombres deformes que parecían transmitir el calor de la carne. Su personalidad también apasionaba a sus seguidores. Su taller en la calle Reece Mews en Londres era famoso por el desorden: centenares de fotos, libros de anatomía, radiografías y muchos cuadros que uno pisaba al entrar. Este estudio en su totalidad fue donado a la Hugh Lane Gallery de Dublín por John Edwards, su último compañero y heredero de todos sus bienes (11 millones de libras). Con él entabló la relación más estable de su vida. Bacon había conocido a Edwards –un fotógrafo aficionado cuarenta años menor que él– en Londres en 1974 y estuvieron juntos hasta la muerte del pintor: “Es el único amigo verdadero que he tenido”, declaró en 1985. Francis Bacon murió en Madrid el 28 de abril de 1992 de un ataque cardíaco. Recordando a la institutriz de su infancia, había manifestado no querer volver nunca más a estar dentro de un cajón. Siguiendo con sus deseos, sus restos fueron incinerados y sus cenizas se esparcieron en Inglaterra.

 

 

 

 

REPORTAJE: ARTE - Las mejores exposiciones del año

 

De Bacon a Rodin

 

El arte sigue convocando multitudes a través de las grandes exposiciones de artistas consagrados. Entre las muestras estrella de este año han brillado las de Bacon, Sorolla, Juan Muñoz o La sombra

 

FRANCISCO CALVO SERRALLER, El País (España) 26/12/2009

 

 

Siguiendo el orden cronológico en el que se fueron inaugurando a lo largo del ya casi extinto 2009, hay que empezar el recuento valorativo por la exposición retrospectiva de Francis Bacon, que se exhibió en el Museo del Prado entre enero y abril, tras haberlo hecho en la Tate Britain de Londres y antes de que se exhibiera en el Metropolitan Museum de Nueva York. La alianza entre estos tres grandes acorazados museísticos para llevar a cabo esta empresa ya nos revelaba no sólo el interés del artista británico, sino la importancia de volver sobre quien, todavía en vida, había sido objeto de dos retrospectivas en 1962 y 1985. 

El interés de esta última, póstuma, no se ciñó sólo a que fuera la más completa, sino, en efecto, a que reveló otra mirada crítica fraguada con el beneficio de la perspectiva que da el paso del tiempo. Ahora no se celebraba al artista descubierto en medio del fragor de la innovación polémica, ni tampoco al maestro consagrado, sino su anclaje en la historia. Desde este punto de vista, su paso por el Prado tuvo una especial significación, porque Bacon mantuvo un intenso diálogo, sobre todo, con Velázquez y Picasso, pero también con otros pintores españoles. 

La bravura expresionista de su pictoricismo, en el que se simultaneaba lo trágico, lo sensual y lo refinado, encontraba, desde luego, un buen acomodo en nuestro principal museo, que no se cansó de visitar Bacon a lo largo de su vida. Naturalmente bebió de otras muchas fuentes, entre las que la fotografía y el cine desempeñaron un papel muy destacado, pero lo acababa moliendo todo en la retorta de la pintura, de la que se puede considerar como uno de sus últimos representantes "puros".

 

 

 

Francis Bacon de retour à Dublin

 

Télérama France, Le 18 décembre 2009 à 17h00    -    Mis à jour le 18 décembre 2009 à 17h41

 

Le Fil Arts et Scenés – Des toiles, tailladées parfois, des dessins, et son atelier: la Hugh Lane Gallery, à Dublin, consacre une très belle exposition au peintre Francis Bacon dans la ville qui l'a vu naître il y a cent ans.

Mêlant architecture médiévale, géorgienne et moderne, Dublin la chaleureuse se découvre à pied. Plus de mille pubs, de nombreux restaurants et boutiques, sans oublier les musées, sont situés dans le centre. Trinity College et sa old bibliothèque (1712), avec l'extraordinaire Livre de Kells (copie en latin des quatre Evangiles), le National Museum, le National History Museum, la National Gallery et la National Library s'offrent aux nourritures de l'esprit.

 

 

 

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                Study for Portrait of John Edwards By Francis Bacon 

 


A Parnell Square, le Dublin Writers Museum célèbre les plus grands écrivains. A deux pas, pour le centenaire de la naissance de Francis Bacon (à Dublin le 28 octobre 1909), la Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane,  lui consacre une exposition exceptionnelle, Francis Bacon : a terrible beauty, titre extrait de Easter 1916, du poète W.B. Yeats, qui symbolise parfaitement la vie et l'oeuvre du peintre. John Edwards, compagnon et héritier de l'artiste, fit don de l'atelier de Bacon (qui se trouvait à Londres) à la Hugh Lane Gallery, qui, après en avoir exhumé près de 7 500 pièces (photos, livres, notes, dessins, toiles...), l'a reconstitué à l'identique. Ces archives et une sélection de toiles (1944-1989) permettent d'appréhender l'univers, les méthodes de travail du peintre qui disait : « Si vous n'avez pas un sujet qui vous habite, vous ronge intérieurement, vous tombez dans la décoration...

 

 

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                          Photograph of George Dyer by John Deakin

 

 

Plus de cent toiles tailladées ont également été retrouvées car, pendant dix ans, l'artiste irlandais détruisit tout son travail ; il continuait d'affirmer, peu avant sa mort: « Parfois, il m'arrive de penser que j'aurais dû continuer à tout détruire ! » Soixante-dix dessins remettent en cause l'idée qu'il ne faisait jamais de travaux préparatoires... Amateur de poésie, Bacon se disait hanté par cette phrase d'Eschyle : « L'odeur du sang humain ne me quitte pas des yeux. » Une exposition unique, qui permet de mieux comprendre l'oeuvre de celui que l'on considère comme l'un des peintres majeurs du XXe siècle... Quant à la récente polémique qui a opposé l'Irlande à la France, allez voir un match de football gaélique : on peut y jouer indifféremment au pied et à la main 

 

 

 

Bacon Agonistes

 

         By John Richardson, The New York Review of Books, Volume 56, Number 20 · December 17, 2009  

 

 

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             Francis Bacon: Three Studies for Portraits Including Self-Portrait, 1969

 

 

To celebrate Francis Bacon's centenary in 2009, Tate Britain mounted a retrospective exhibition that was subsequently shown at the Prado in Madrid and the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Bacon's theater of cruelty was an enormous popular success at all of its venues, but especially in New York, where he was hailed by fans as the greatest painter of the twentieth century. However, such clouds of hyperbole were already a touch toxic following the sale in 2008 of a flashy triptych for $86 million, and serious reviews of the Met show were anything but favourable. Also, those of us who care about the integrity of an artist's work were worried by the appearance on the market of paintings that, if indeed they are entirely by him, Bacon would never have allowed out of the studio.

 

As a longtime fan of Bacon, I have strong feelings about these matters. My admiration dates back to World War II, when, like many another art student, I was captivated by an illustration of a 1933 painting entitled Crucifixion in a popular book called Art Now, by Britain's token modernist, Herbert Read (first published in 1933, and frequently reprinted). Read's text was dim and theoretical, but his ragbag of black-and-white illustrations—by the giants of modernism, as well as the chauvinistic author's pets—was the only corpus of plates then available. This Crucifixion—a cruciform gush of sperm against a night sky, prescient of searchlights in the blitz—was irresistibly eye-catching. But who Bacon was, nobody seemed to know.

And then (circa 1946), craning my neck to get a look at a large canvas carried by a youngish man with dyed hair on the doorsteps of a neighbor's house, I realized that this had to be the mysterious Bacon. The neighbour turned out to be the artist's cousin and patron. I arranged for a mutual friend to take me to see him. Bacon struck me as being exhilaratingly funny—very camp in his disdain for masculine pronouns. Everything about his vast, vaulted studio was over the top: martinis served in huge Waterford tumblers; a paint-stained garter belt kicked under a sofa. The place had famously belonged to the pre-Raphaelite Sir John Everett Millais, but a later owner had left more of a mark on it: Emil Otto Hoppé, the foremost "court" photographer of his time. Hoppé's grungy hangings had survived the blitz, and so had the great dais where, crouched under a black, umbrella-like cloth (a feature of Bacon's earlier paintings), he had photographed society beauties in aigrettes and pearls. The ramshackle theatricality that permeated the studio also permeated the three iconic mastershockers—scrotum-bellied humanoids screaming out at us from the base of a crucifixion—that were about to make the artist famous.

Francis's blind old nanny, Jessie Lightfoot, knitting away at the back of the studio, came as a surprise. Besides helping Francis cook—she slept on the kitchen table—Nanny provided cover for Francis's shoplifting sprees (groceries, cosmetics, and Kiwi shoe polish for his hair). Nanny also helped him organize the illicit roulette parties that paid for the copious drink and excellent food he served to his guests. The lavish tips she extorted from gamblers desperate to use the one and only lavatory helped pay off Francis's gambling debts. Supposedly she also vetted his lovers. When she died in 1951, he took against the studio and sold it—a move he would always regret. The space would linger on in his visual memory: many a triptych is set in a photographer's studio in Hell.

Ultrasecretive about his artistic provenance, Bacon was exhibitionistically frank about the traumatic adolescent events that would define his role as an artist as well as a lover. In the recently published revised edition of his excellent, refreshingly unhagiological biography, Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma,[1] Michael Peppiatt describes a fancy dress party given by Francis's parents—the chilly, moneyed mother and the brutal, bluish-blooded father—at Cannycourt, near Dublin, where Captain Eddy Bacon trained racehorses that, according to Francis, very seldom won. Already adept at seducing his father's grooms, sixteen-year-old Francis had gotten himself up as

an Eton-cropped flapper, complete with backless dress, beads, and a cigarette holder so long it reached to the candles in the middle of the table. Dressed as a curate, his father stared uneasily and said nothing as Francis rolled his eyes [and] shook his earrings.

Unease turned to rage when Captain Eddy caught his son wearing his mother's underclothes and gave him a thrashing. As a result "I fell sexually in love with him," Francis said. Years later, he would still slip on his fishnets in the hope of a replay.

 

To "make a man" of Francis, his father turned him over to a supposedly—though not in the least—respectable cousin for a disciplinary two months in Berlin. To Bacon's delight, the cousin turned out to be bisexual and, he assured me, "one of the most vicious men I ever met." Two months in the German capital, at its most depraved, reinforced the boy's masochistic and fetishistic proclivities. Berlin did indeed make a man of Francis: "Tough as old boots, albeit camp as a row of tents," an old friend recalled. However, his next stop, Paris—he spent two months nearby at Chantilly—would make an artist of him. His visit coincided with an exhibition of Picasso's drawings at Paul Rosenberg's gallery. Ironically, the drawings were mostly classicistic ones set in an ancient Mediterranean world. Bacon would later condemn these works, but at the age of seventeen he was captivated. Picasso would be the only contemporary artist whose influence he would ever acknowledge.

 

Francis seldom mentioned it, but he was proud of being a collateral descendant of Elizabeth I's all-powerful chancellor, after whom he had been named. He was especially intrigued that this Renaissance genius—philosopher, cabalist, courtier, Rosicrucian, statesman, as well as a writer so sublime that he is sometimes credited with writing Shakespeare's plays—had been a flamboyant homosexual. Lytton Strachey had made much of this in his book Elizabeth and Essex, published to wide acclaim in 1928. Strachey's baroque characterization of his forebear had fascinated him, Francis told me. How could he not identify with Strachey's view of the Elizabethan Bacon?

 

Instinctively and profoundly an artist...one of the supreme masters of the written word. Yet his artistry was of a very special kind.... His eye—a delicate, lively hazel eye—"it was like the eye of a viper," said William Harvey—required the perpetual refreshment of beautiful things.

Francis would also have sympathized with his forebear's "exuberant temperament [that] demanded the solace of material delights," expensive boyfriends, "half servants and half companions," whom he had shod in Spanish leather boots, since "the smell of ordinary leather was torture to him." The twentieth-century Bacon would ironically mock the family's motto, Mediocria firma ("moderation is best"), inscribed on the armorial dinner plates he would inherit. His illustrious ancestry and his sense of it might also account for his personal largesse as well as his desperate attempts at grandiloquence, which undermine many of the later triptychs.

 

Bacon's earliest paintings were mostly pastiches of Picasso; though attractive, they failed to sell. Since this driven, as yet unformed artist had no desire to be perceived as a pasticheur, he destroyed most of them. He continued sporadically to paint and decorate, but devoted most of his energies to gambling. Successive stays at Monte Carlo—hence the glimpses of Mediterranean vegetation in the early works—financed by a lover, enabled him to become an expert roulette player as well as a canny croupier in private games. He would approach painting in much the same way as he approached gambling, risking everything on a single brushstroke.

 

Never having attended an art school was a source of pride to Bacon. With the help of a meretricious Australian painter, Roy de Maistre, he taught himself to paint, for which he turned out to have a great flair; tragically, he failed to teach himself to draw. Painting after painting would be marred by his inability to articulate a figure or its space. Peppiatt recalls that, decades later, so embarrassed was Bacon at being asked by a Parisian restaurateur to do a drawing in his livre d'or that he doubled the tip and made for the exit.

 

After Bacon's death, David Sylvester, the artist's Boswell-cum-Saatchi, attempted to turn this deficiency into an advantage. In a chapter of his posthumous miscellany, entitled Bacon's Secret Vice, he proposed an "alternative view" of this fatal flaw: "His most articulate and helpful 'sketches' took the form of the written word."[2] The "precisely worded" examples that supposedly demonstrate the linguistic origin of Bacon's paintings turn out to be a preposterous joke: offhand notes scrawled on the endpapers of a book about monkeys: Figure upside down on sofa; Two figures on sofa making love; Acrobat on platform in middle of room; and so on. Sylvester's contention that this shopping list constitutes "Bacon's most articulate and helpful sketches" raises doubt about the rest of his sales pitch.[3]

 

Bacon's own excuse for his graphic ineptitude is more to the point: "[The painter] will only catch the mystery of reality if [he] doesn't know how to do it"[4] is what he actually told Sylvester. This is fine, but only so long as the artist avoids subjects that call for graphic skill, subjects, for instance, that include hands. His celebrated variants on Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X are either magnificent flukes or near-total disasters. In the earliest of this ten-year series, Bacon famously portrays the Pope screaming. He's good at screams but hopeless at hands, so he amputates, conceals, or otherwise fudges them. At the age of eighty, Bacon apologized for this series to Michael Kimmelman: "Actually, I hate those popes because I think the Velázquez is such a superb image that it was silly of me to use it."

 

Infinitely more effective are the versions that Bacon did around the same time of Eadweard Muybridge's celebrated sequential photographs in The Human Figure in Motion, which record successive stages of various physical activities. Muybridge's photographs enormously facilitated Bacon's drawing, literally squaring up the composition for him to transfer to canvas. The finest of them, Two Figures, is based on pictographs of two athletes wrestling each other to the ground. Known with some justice to Bacon's friends as The Buggers, this work is the more subtle and hauntingly sexual for overtly depicting something supposedly innocent.

 

 

 

 

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                                                                                                               Two Figures  1953  Francis Bacon

 

 

 

Inability to draw might explain Bacon's initial decision to become a decorator. He had a real flair for interior design. His furniture was chic but brutal—too much for potential clients, and so he became a painter, and hustled on the side to pay the bills. Calling himself Francis Lightfoot (after his nanny), he advertised in the personal column of the London Times. An elderly client accused him of theft. "Probably true," he admitted later. Unluckily, the client was a relative of the vengeful Douglas Cooper, who had bought a major piece of Bacon's furniture and arranged for the publication of his Crucifixion in Art Now. Later, Cooper would bad-mouth Bacon in favour of his rival, Graham Sutherland, to the former's delight and gain.

 

Bacon's passion for belle peinture and his inventive handling of paint would usually but not always compensate for his inept draftsmanship. Though painterliness was a quality disdained by most modernists, Bacon realized this was the element that would enable him to tweak the onlooker's senses into accepting and indeed enjoying a painful visual shock. To enhance his paint surfaces he tried out additives—pastel and tempera—but in the end stuck to oil paint, which he manipulated with ever more gestural abandon. On an early visit to the studio, I watched Francis experiment. Ensconced in front of a mirror, he rehearsed on his own face the brushstrokes that he envisaged making on canvas. With a flourish of his wrist, he would apply great swoops of Max Factor "pancake" makeup in a gamut of flesh colours to the stubble on his chin.

 

The makeup adhered to the stubble much as the paint would adhere to the unprimed verso of the canvas that he used in preference to the smooth, white-primed recto. I told him that this effect evoked Rupert Brooke's line about "the rough male kiss of blankets." Besides setting his faces and figures spinning, gestural twists endow his portrait heads—to my mind far and away his most powerful and original works — with a dose of his own inner turmoil.

 

Bacon's attempts at a conventional likeness usually fail, but when he connects with what he calls "the pulsations of a person," he usually triumphs, particularly when that person is himself. Instead of working from a sitter, he would have his gay drinking companion, John Deakin, take nude photographs of the women he proposed to paint. Deakin, who on the side would sell the photographs to sailors for ten shillings each, enjoyed mortifying his "victims," as he called them. Bacon's favourites were Henrietta Moraes, a drunken Soho groupie who worshiped Bacon and his circle; Isabel Rawsthorne, a desperate allumeuse who had had affairs with Picasso, Derain, and above all Giacometti; and Muriel Belcher, the formidable foul-mouthed fag-hag of the Colony Room. These were women Bacon could empathize with. To that extent their portraits are self-portraits, as are the superb ones of his victim-to-be, George Dyer. Significantly, there is not a trace of self-identification in the twenty or so portraits of Lucian Freud. There was no question of victimizing him.

 

In 1950, Bacon's studio would become the focus of attention for a three-day celebration that, in retrospect, was the coming-out party for a new variety of bohemia. In its excess it could also be seen as Bacon's debut as a star. The occasion was the wedding of his close friend Ann Dunn, penniless daughter of a steel magnate, and Michael Wishart, son of the Communist Party's publisher. Both were painters, Dunn an exceedingly sensitive one. Two hundred guests were invited; two hundred more gate-crashed.

 

It was a totally new mix. Although the guests were mostly heterosexual, the ambience was decidedly gay. Francis had painted the chandeliers red to match his maquillage; at the piano an old queen belted out campy versions of popular songs. Same-sex couples embracing in dark corners were not necessarily the same colour. A woman known as "Sod" (real name Edomy) Johnson, who lived on the top of a bus, helped to welcome the guests: these included members of Parliament and fellows of All Souls, as well as "rough trade," slutty debutantes, cross-dressers, and the notoriously evil Kray brothers (gay gangsters Francis was proud of knowing). The bridegroom was a junkie, as were such guests as Sir Napoleon Dean Paul and his beautiful sister, who were both on the Home Office list and thus entitled to an official drug ration.

 

The consumption of hundreds of cases of champagne would have left Francis, who was as generous as he was extravagant, broke, had he not had the support of a rich and indulgent lover, a merchant banker called Eric Hall. Hall had ditched his wife and family to become a stand-in for the flagellant father Bacon desired and hated. After eight years, this relationship came to an end. A devotee of Proust, Bacon may have identified too closely with that writer's Baron de Charlus, who, in a memorable scene, complained to his pimp that the brute procured for him was insufficiently brutal.

 

Hall's replacement was a demonic lover out of the pages of another of Bacon's favourite writers, Georges Bataille. A former fighter pilot, Peter Lacy was a dashing thirty-year-old whom I remember playing Gershwin and Cole Porter on a white piano in a bar called the Music Box. He owned an infamous cottage in the Thames valley, where Francis would spend much of his time—often, according to him, in bondage. Alcohol was a major link between the two men. Unfortunately, drink released a fiendish, sadistic streak in Lacy that bordered on the psychopathic. Besides taking his rage out on Bacon, he took it out on his canvases. To his credit, however, he inspired some of his lover's most memorable works, among them, the Man in Blue paintings: a menacing, dark-suited Lacy set off against vertical draperies inspired by Emil Hoppé's, and some black rubber curtains Bacon had used as a decorator.  

 

 

 

 

 

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                                                                                           Landscape near Malabata, Tangier 1963 Francis Bacon  

 

 

 

 

 

A 1955 self-portrait with a bandaged head seemingly refers to Lacy's most heinous assault. In a state of alcoholic dementia, he hurled Bacon through a plate glass window. His face was so damaged that his right eye had to be sewn back into place. Bacon loved Lacy even more. For weeks he would not forgive Lucian Freud for remonstrating with his torturer. Mercifully, Lacy moved to Tangier, where he played the piano in Dean's famously raffish bar. Bacon would occasionally join him. He enjoyed Tangier's expatriate intelligentsia: Paul and Jane Bowles; Allen Ginsberg, who tried and failed to get him to paint his portrait; William Burroughs, whom he admired and stayed friends with; and the playwright Joe Orton, soon to be done in by his murderous boyfriend. He also enjoyed the torturers in the local brothels. Tangier finished Lacy off. "He was killing himself with drink," Bacon told Peppiatt, "like a suicide, and I think in the end his pancreas simply exploded.... He was the only man I ever loved." The artist's memorable Landscape near Malabata, Tangier depicts Lacy's place of burial: a threatening patch of ground with a dark humanoid serpent squirming out of it.

 

On May 22, 1962, when Bacon was fifty-two, his first retrospective opened at the Tate Gallery to an avalanche of praise never as yet accorded to a modern British artist. A triumph, it was also a tragedy: the day before, death had done away with Lacy, his principal source of sensation—mental and physical, but above all pictorial. Some of his friends saw this as retribution, others as a new dawn for British art. Sylvester was quick to grab Bacon's coattails. In the years to come he would help him transform himself into a superstar. Today Bacon has come to be seen in the blogosphere as a kind of Michael Jackson of art—an anomalous weirdo of divine power.

 

Those of us who had hoped that the organizers of the recent retrospective and contributors to the catalogue would help us to reevaluate this superstar were in for a disappointment. The badly needed deconstruction of the self-congratulatory interviews between Bacon and Sylvester was not forthcoming. True, in her essay "Real Imagination Is Technical Imagination," Victoria Walsh acknowledges "just how radical their reformatting and editing had been." In support of this she cites Sylvester's preface to the interviews. However, no contributor takes this matter any further. Nor was there any attempt to see Bacon in his rightful historical setting: as one of a trio of brilliant young British artists—Lucian Freud and Frank Auerbach being the other two—who felt that abstraction was done for and were out to explore new ways of reconciling paint and representationalism.

 

In an essay coyly entitled Comparative Strangers, Simon Ofield sees Bacon with respect to Keith Vaughn, a highly esteemed figurative painter, yet one far too artistically correct for Bacon's taste, on the grounds that they were both openly gay men in the 1950s. Because the two artists apparently perused "physique magazines" and happened to be working at a time when the Wolfenden Report—the document that led to the decriminalization of homosexual acts between consenting adults—was about to change Britain's social and sexual landscape, Ofield concludes that "the paintings of Francis Bacon and Keith Vaughn make sense in pretty close proximity to one another." Actually, Bacon, who was not entirely immune to the allure of Nazi kink, had little sympathy for gay rights—too politically correct. As for gay artists, the only ones Bacon had a kind word for were Michelangelo, Andy Warhol, and the pornographer known as Tom of Finland. About the Wolfenden Report, I remember Francis echoing his nanny: "They should bring back hanging for buggery." He was certainly not the only gay Englishman for whom guilt was intrinsic to sex.

 

Compared to Lacy, Bacon's next great love, George Dyer, was more victim than victimizer, a good-looking thirtyish petty thief from London's East End who appeared to be a great deal sharper than he actually was. Cockney sweetness and a slight speech impediment ("fink" for "think") endeared him to Bacon's friends. Although an alcoholic like Lacy, George was not a sadist. That would now become Bacon's role. In the course of an evening, his high-camp wit would sour into incoherent malice. Lucian Freud remembers driving a drunken Bacon home and being kept out of the studio because it was full of "victims of my tongue." Bacon would goad George into a state of psychic meltdown and then, in the early hours of the morning—his favourite time to work—he would exorcise his guilt and rage and remorse in images of Dyer aimed, as he said, at the nervous system. Such images, a woman admirer of Bacon told me, induced "a visceral shudder" in her.

 

The dynamics of Bacon's relationship with George were much in evidence in November 1968, when they arrived for the first time in New York to attend a show at the Marlborough- Gerson Gallery. The visit began pleasantly enough with a gallery lunch. Francis was seated next to a handsome young dealer. Averse as usual to the masculine pronoun, he hissed across the table, "Who's the gorgeous girl they've put next to me?" "Jackson Pollock's nephew," I hissed back. "You mean the niece of that old lace-maker?" he said, raising his voice. Egged on by the deafening silence, Francis proceeded to dismiss another prominent American artist as "a neat little sewer," and yet another as "what's-his-name who does women."

 

That evening, some friends and I took Francis and George out on the town. No equivalent of London's raffish Colony Room was to be found in Manhattan, so we ended up at a friendly, multiracial, multisexual bar around 100th Street. Childishly eager to play the host, George tried to buy us drinks. Francis wouldn't have it. "Don't listen to her. She's penniless," and he called imperiously for a magnum of champagne, whereupon the bartender suggested we go elsewhere. George stumbled off and the evening soon ended. Around 3 AM, Francis called me. "She's committed suicide!" He had found George on the floor of their room at the Algonquin, pockets stuffed with hundred-dollar bills, unconscious from having washed down a handful of his sleeping pills with a bottle of scotch. Vomiting saved him. The gallery had the two of them flown back to England first thing that morning.

 

Two years later, in a pitiful attempt to strike back, George concealed some marijuana in Bacon's studio and denounced him to the police. Since the artist was asthmatic and virtually never smoked, a jury found him innocent. Instead of ridding himself of George, Bacon took him back, thereby sealing his fate. The goading worsened, the imagery intensified, and there was a further suicide attempt in Greece.

 

Once again, a major retrospective would coincide with death. The day of Bacon's greatest triumph—the opening of his exhibition at the Grand Palais, Paris on October 25, 1971, the show that would bring him the international recognition he craved—George succeeded in his third attempt at suicide. As before, he chose to do so in a hotel bedroom in a foreign land and, as Bacon would paint it, on a toilet seat. After the hotel manager telephoned him at the Grand Palais, the dazed artist took President Georges Pompidou around his show and later attended a dinner for several hundred people organized by his distinguished admirer Michel Leiris. "Death can be life-enhancing," he later commented, and for the next few years would apply this thought to his last great bursts of heartfelt work, in which Dyer often figures.

 

The hosannas unleashed by the Paris retrospective climaxed in a Conaissance des Arts magazine poll that crowned Bacon the world's greatest living artist—ahead of Picasso and the members of the schools of Paris and New York. Whether or not he actually believed this claptrap, Bacon was vain enough and insecure enough to derive an enormous boost from the stardom and the huge hike in his prices. Always more Francophile than Anglophile in matters of art, he was elated by the esteem of the French public as well as the intelligentsia, so elated that he rented an apartment in the Marais where he would spend much of the 1970s.

 

Michel Leiris would be central to Bacon's life in Paris. This great writer, ethnographer, and hero of the Surrealist wars was the only littérateur left whose judgment Picasso could trust and, to that extent, a rather more prestigious mentor than Sylvester and the boozy habitués of the Colony Room. Although Bacon had no time for Leiris's communism, masochism and a gay streak constituted a link. Whether Leiris told Bacon that back in the 1920s he had asked a horrified Juan Gris to take a knife and carve a parting for his hair into his scalp we do not know. What we do know is that Bacon was very conscious of the fact that by virtue of being D.H. Kahnweiler's stepdaughter, Leiris's long-suffering wife Zette was dealer to Picasso, who was soon to die. Despite the Conaissance des Arts poll, there would be no question of Bacon stepping into the great man's shoes.

 

Now that Paris had crowned him king, Bacon's work developed a slight French accent. Freud, whose close friendship with Bacon had worn a bit thin, was amused at his new-found fondness for the concept of "accident," the idea that uncontrolled effects would change the character of a painting. Freud likened "accident" to a horse in Bacon's stable. "When necessary, Francis has 'Accident' saddled and takes him out for a canter." To judge by many of the paintings in the retrospective, there was another horse in Bacon's stable, its name "Contrivance."

 

"Accident" takes the form of semen-like white paint that Bacon claimed to "fling" out of the tube at some of his canvases. As for the small red arrows he added to his paintings, intended to draw one's attention to extraneous details, they strike me as little shrieks for help; likewise, the gimmicky bits of trompe l'oeil newspaper that fail to animate the inert foreground areas of his triptychs. Contrivance also takes the form of shadows that fail to generate light or space. They either look cartoonish (for instance, the Batman shadow exuded by the dying Dyer in the May–June 1973 triptych) or as if someone has spilled something.

 

Three years would pass before Bacon found a successor to George Dyer. The muscular young East Ender John Edwards was less damaged than his predecessor, and therefore less of a tragic muse. He never learned to read, but was very good at figures. Although homosexual, Edwards preferred adolescents, and his relationship with Bacon was all the less fraught for being platonic, seemingly free of sadomasochistic overtones. This may explain why Bacon's work lost its sting and failed to thrill. Paintings inspired by Edwards as well as a Formula 1 driver and a famous cricketer the artist fancied (fetishism survives in the batting pads) reveal that in old age Bacon managed to banish his demons and move on to beefcake. His headless hunks of erectile tissue buffed to perfection have an angst-free, soft-porn glow. It comes as a surprise to find that MoMA acquired a major example of these campy subjects to replace the superb early Dog painting they had deaccessioned.

 

By the late 1970s, as the Met retrospective made very clear, Bacon's work was becoming glib, trite, and colour-coordinated to a decorous degree. From boasting that he couldn't do it—that was the whole point—he let it be known that he could do it, indeed had always been able to do it. Freud believes that Bacon had also lost "the most precious thing a painter has: his memory," and forgotten that he had done it all better before. The elegance of the Met's installation, which worked so well in the earlier galleries, worked to the artist's disadvantage at the end. Few of the later triptychs pack as much of a punch as the explosive Jet of Water and Blood on Pavement (both 1988), which are refreshingly free of the artist's formulaic figures. As if to register the extent of Bacon's decline, the Met enabled us to contrast the artist's wonderful 1944 breakthrough, Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, in an earlier gallery with the garish, red carpet remake of it from 1988, which brought the show to a disheartening end.

 

This year the hundredth anniversary of Bacon's birth dovetails with the four-hundredth anniversary of Caravaggio's death next year, and the director of the Galleria Borghese in Rome is celebrating this double event by setting these two artists, who had both been canonized in recent years by gay filmmakers (Derek Jarman, Caravaggio; John Maybury, Love Is the Devil), against each other. The museum's six works by Caravaggio, plus a few loans, have been paired off with an equivalent group by his putative modern counterpart. These pairings are not confined to a specific space, but scattered throughout the museum's galleries. A handout defines the show's aim as "an exceptional aesthetic experience"—so much for art history. Bacon would have relished rubbing shoulders posthumously with the greatest of the great. He would also have relished the enormous controversy in the Italian press.

 

A few months earlier, the Florence Accademia had launched a similar show, entitled Perfection in Form, which pitted Robert Mapplethorpe's photographs against "iconic Renaissance masterpieces" by Michelangelo, etc. The show has been so successful that its run has been extended. Setting twentieth-century kinkmeisters against Renaissance masters has evidently paid off, and attracted a vast new public into museums they might not have otherwise visited.

 

However, wouldn't it be more useful to measure Bacon against a predecessor of his own stature and genre: for example, Henry Fuseli (1741–1825), someone he went out of his way to denounce and disassociate himself from? ("Banal" was the epithet Bacon used in the interviews with Sylvester; what he probably meant was "illustrative.") Bacon was determined to prevent people realizing how indebted he was to this Swiss-born Londoner. Fuseli was a somewhat conventional manipulator of paint, but he was also one of the most spectacular draftsmen of the second half of the eighteenth century. And in many respects his neoclassical imagery was every bit as focused on the subconscious, every bit as sadomasochistic and fetishistic as Bacon's. A master of theatrical effects, Fuseli had the courage to use his perverse sexuality to express a view of life that corresponds in certain respects to his virtual twin, the Marquis de Sade. Fuseli's obsession differed from Bacon's in that it involved women rather than men, but their exhibitionistic responses to the imagery of their respective times was uncannily close.

 

After his death, Victorian prudes saw to it that Fuseli's work was suppressed. A century would pass before scholars rediscovered it. Following his centennial retrospective in 1925, there would be successive shows in London in 1935 and 1950, at a time when Bacon was formulating his style and moving in the intellectual circles where Fuseli was revered. Another artist who suffered a similar fate was the equally histrionic John "Mad" Martin (1789–1854), whose vast, enormously popular canvasses such as The Seventh Plague of Egypt and The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah had been forgotten, only to be admired anew one hundred years later. Like Halley's Comet, these exemplars of Romantic agony seem doomed to flash in and out of the darkness of history. Might a similar trajectory be in store for Bacon Agonistes?

Notes

[1]Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma; 1997 (Skyhorse, 2009).

[2]Looking Back at Francis Bacon (Thames and Hudson, 2000), p. 208.

[3]Sylvester attributes this theory to Brian Clarke, a painter who administers the Francis Bacon estate.

[4]Interviews with Francis Bacon: 1962–1979 (Thames and Hudson, 1980), pp. 100–101.

 

Francis Bacon: A Centenary Exhibition
an exhibition at Tate Britain, London, September 11, 2008–January 4, 2009, the Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, February 3–April 19, 2009, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, May 20–August 16, 2009

Catalogue of the exhibition edited by Matthew Gale and Chris Stephens
Tate/Metropolitan Museum of Art, 288 pp., $60.00; $40.00 (paper)
 

 

 

 

 

The visceral tales of real hard livers

 

LIVER   

A Fictional Organ With a Surface Anatomy of Four Lobes 

 

By Will Self    Bloomsbury.  277 pp. $26 

 

By Richard McCann, The Washington Post, Tuesday, December 15, 2009

 

 

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The title of this quartet of new stories by British novelist and satirist Will Self is almost as charming as it is aggressive. There are doubtless thousands of stories and novels whose titles contain the word "heart," but only Self, with his passion for the grotesque, the comic and the fantastical, would name a collection of stories after the "noble organ" - as 17th-century British physician William Harvey termed the liver - that most Westerners probably now think of as little more than a sickening item in their grocer's meat display case, a glossy, shrink-wrapped slab of brownish viscera, bleeding out onto its foam tray.

Each of the four "lobes" in Self's Liver - a collection of vaguely linked "hepatofictions" - features one or more human livers. Most of them are cirrhotic or cancerous, and all of them are in wretched condition, as are their owners, whose dismal maladies serve as metaphors for toxic decay. Decay is so pervasive, in fact, that in Self's story Prometheus, it affects even the diseased "body" of London, host to the "tumour of the Swiss Re tower, the tapeworm of the Thames, the fatty deposits of Broadgate and the Barbican."

Decay also affects the Plantation Club, the private Soho drinking establishment that provides the setting for the collection's lead story, Foie Humain. The club's proprietor repeatedly spikes his barman/lover's lager with vodka, performing upon him a kind of human gavage, not unlike the force-feeding that goose farmers do in the Dordogne when making foie gras. In the end, however, it's the proprietor himself who loses his liver - to a most unlikely chef. But the story's brilliance lies not in its narrative, which feels at once too clotted and too saggy, "proceeding not with straightforward honesty," as the narrator himself describes it, "but waddling through needless digressions and lunging into grotesque interpolations." Rather, Self's brilliance lies in his acute rendering of the miasmal Plantation Club, "an aquarium filled with absinthe," which he models closely on the Colony Room in London's Soho, the private drinking club founded in 1948 by the famously rude and foul-mouthed Muriel Belcher. She adopted as her "daughter" one of the club's first members, the painter Francis Bacon, who appears in Self's story as a world-famous painter of "brachiating apes," "well-built nudes" and "neotenous golems, their heads part skull, part the melted plastic of dolls." It's there in the Plantation Club - "an establishment where stasis was the prevailing mode," with "a permanently fizzing rod of neon screwed to the nicotine ceiling, lending a mortuary ambience to the already deathly scene" - that Self's bohemians destroy themselves with alcohol and the cruelly lacerating remarks they regard as wit.

Thanks to its startling language and grim sense of humour, along with its almost ceaseless sense of claustrophobia, Foie Humain is arguably the collection's best story, along with the novella Leberknödel (liver dumplings), in which a widowed hospital administrator travels to Zurich, with "its reassuring orderliness, its stolid vitality," to be euthanized in a private clinic. Once there, however, she changes her mind, and soon afterward her disease goes into an inexplicable remission that the local Catholics who befriend her regard as a miracle. Although the novella's elements never fully cohere - its chapters, for instance, are named for the parts of the Mass, and it alludes repeatedly to Carol Reed's The Third Man, with Orson Welles and Trevor Howard – Leberknödel is the only work in this collection in which Self drops his ironic tone, particularly in his empathetic depiction of the protagonist's pained and aging body.

Still, these are largely what one might regard as high-concept stories, inspired and constructed more from the shrewdness of wit and intellect than from feeling. In Prometheus, for instance, a London advertising man allows a griffon vulture to feed on his liver in exchange for renewing his "genius at breathing fire into the most sodden products." In Birdy Num Num, which takes its title from a Peter Sellers routine in Blake Edwards's 1968 movie, The Party, the narrator is a hepatitis C virus, observing a chaotic gathering of infected human hosts.

Certainly, there are real and original pleasures to be had from these stories, particularly from Self's extravagant and startling sense of language, as well as from the imaginative extremity of his vision. But they are not warm or merciful. These are for those who like their stories brainy, cunning, hard-edged and diabolical.

McCann is the author, most recently, of Mother of Sorrows, a collection of linked stories. He teaches at American University.


 

 

Ces vers hantant Bacon 

ENTRETIENS. Parler amusait le peintre anglais. 

Franck Maubert publie leur longue conversation

 

 

Sud Ouest, Dimanche 06 Décembre 2009

 

 

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C'est un opuscule indispensable pour qui, un jour, fut saisi d'effarement par la peinture de Francis Bacon : entre répulsion pour ses corps de douleur et fascination hypnotique pour ses hommes sans visage, donc sans émotion, sans autre identité que celle de leurs cris. Sur cette oeuvre majeure et sa gestation, le livre de Franck Maubert se lit et se relit. Y est rapportée avec un souci du fait la longue conversation que ce journaliste d'art eut avec le peintre anglais pendant trois ans, dans les années 80.

Dans son logement nu jusqu'aux ampoules, dans son atelier que les ordures encroûtent de saleté, l'artiste se livre par bribes, aussi désespéré que vivant. D'une oeuvre de Poussin qui le traversa à 20 ans aux étals d'un boucher qui le bouleverse, le peintre raconte que seules les images extraordinaires et violentes aimantent son imaginaire : les rouges, les jaunes, les orange, le gras, la viande. Citant l'impensable vers d'Eschyle - « L'odeur du sang humain ne me quitte pas des yeux » - ou le tranchant « Macbeth » de Shakespeare, Bacon évoque Picasso, Velázquez ou Giacometti, son amour de la littérature, son amitié avec Duras, son absolue passion de la poésie.

Du thé qui le lave à l'aube, quand il rejoint l'atelier, à l'alcool qui accompagne ses déambulations de fins de journée, de son indifférence à l'argent qu'il gagna de son vivant : tout éclaire celui qui cherchait ce réalisme clinique et froid, sans émotion mais « capable paradoxalement de provoquer un grand sentiment ».

« L'odeur du sang humain ne me quitte pas des yeux », de Franck Maubert, éd. Mille et Une Nuits, 80 p., 12 ?.

Auteur : C. Debray

 

 

   

Frank Auerbach's solitary obsessional world

 

His work sells for millions, but the artist refuses to dwell on past traumas or move from his shabby north London studio

 

Deirdre Fernand, The Sunday Times, December 6, 2009

 

 

His coffee is getting horribly cold, but he doesn’t care. The afternoon light is fading and there’s important work to be done today. As there will be tomorrow and the day after. For the past 55 years, the artist Frank Auerbach has lived and worked in a modest studio down an alley in the London borough of Camden. Rising early and finishing late, he is totally absorbed and, at the age of 78, says there is nothing he would rather do. “I work all the time because I have always felt time is short,” he says. He never takes a holiday and rarely leaves London, let alone Britain. “I don’t recommend this way of working as a virtue; it suits me, it’s my temperament,” he says. “I do think that if I hadn’t been able to do this, I would have felt a deep sense of loss and waste with my life. The only way was to carry on painting.” Would he consider himself obsessional? “Oh yes, I hope so.”

Along with Lucian Freud and David Hockney, Auerbach is acknowledged to be one of the Grand Old Men of British painting. Together with the late Francis Bacon, who died in 1992, this group has dominated the British scene since the 1950s. And this particular Grand Old Man, notoriously private, rarely gives interviews. But he has made an exception for The Sunday Times on the occasion of his latest exhibition at the Courtauld Gallery in London. Gathering together his earliest works, it’s called London Building Sites 1952-1962, but it may as well be titled View From a Bus. It was riding around at the top of a double-decker, observing the bomb-damaged city, that gave him his earliest inspiration. These pictures of craters and pits, majestic in their beauty, have reminded the critics just how good he is. As one reviewer put it, “True art is kept safe in the strong hands of Auerbach.”

It was always safe in his hands. Long before today’s YBAs were born, Auerbach was a respected figure of the art world. Unlike them, however, he was never the object of sensational hype, merely of consistent praise. When the eminent art critic David Sylvester visited his first exhibition in 1955, he pronounced it “the most exciting and impressive first one-man show by an English painter since Francis Bacon in 1949”.

But if posing can be a chore, so can painting. “You do it and nothing happens and you do it again. But there’s always the possibility that you might do something marvellous and totally unpredictable and surprise yourself… Eventually it seems that the painting happens.” Later, he adds: “I think there’s an analogy in a woman bringing up a family. There’s a lot of work, then there’s an epiphany. For perhaps one and a half hours a week you are in touch with what it’s all for.” That’s the key to remaining engaged. Auerbach is always waiting to “clinch the image”, revealing “the buried truth” of his picture — what Bacon used to call “the lucky strike”.

Auerbach was born in 1931 in Berlin to German-Jewish parents who sent their precious only child, aged nearly eight, to England just before the outbreak of war. He never saw them again. They were killed in the death camps. He thinks they were sent to Auschwitz but has never bothered to find out. “What difference does it make which camp they were taken to?” he asks. “They died.”

He doesn’t drink in Soho any more. He remains close to Freud, but his friendship with Bacon ended long before the latter’s death. Bacon had dismissed his work saying: “I hate that kind of sloppy sort of Central European painting.” According to Freud, Bacon was jealous: “My feeling is when he became successful, Francis turned against him.”

Frank Auerbach: London Building Sites 1952-62 runs until January 17, 2010, at the Courtauld Gallery (www.courtauld.ac.uk). Frank Auerbach by William Feaver (Rizzoli, £100) is out now

   

 

Doom, gloom and Damien Hirst

Damien Hirst: Nothing Matters

White Cube At Mason's Yard
Mason's Yard, SW1Y 6BU

 

Ben Luke, London Evening Standard, 03.12.09

 

 

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            Hamfisted: Hirst’s triptychs, such as Insomnia, are confused and incoherent attempts to ape Francis Bacon

 

 

When Damien Hirst showed A Thousand Years, his vitrine featuring a cow’s head, maggots, flies and an insectocutor at the Saatchi in 1992, it attracted a particularly esteemed visitor. Francis Bacon, Hirst’s hero, praised the piece in a letter to a friend: “It really works,” he wrote.

Hirst had taken Bacon’s obsession with flesh and decay and his complex framed space and synthesised them with sculptural influences such as Jeff Koons and Donald Judd to create an original visual language.

Bacon’s recognition of Hirst’s achievement echoed through my thoughts as I viewed Hirst’s latest paintings at both branches of White Cube. The works’ debt to Bacon is enormous — there are numerous triptychs, his favourite format; they are set in weighty golden frames; and they contain expressively painted figures and objects set amid sketchy lines reminiscent of Bacon’s “space frames”.

But where Bacon counterbalanced his often tortured subject matter with a fluent and even graceful handling of paint, Hirst’s application is leaden and blunt. Where Bacon created spaces that were ambiguous and enticingly enigmatic, Hirst’s are confused and incoherent. Twenty years ago, Hirst was eloquently moving Bacon along. Now he hamfistedly apes him.

Both shows are divided into two discrete groups of paintings. Hoxton Square has three triptychs featuring crows shot in mid-flight, with trails of blood pouring from them, as well as several skull paintings. At Mason’s Yard, a series of works reflects Hirst’s response to the tragic suicide of the artist Angus Fairhurst last year, including five portraits of Fairhurst, while below are four triptychs depicting interiors packed with still lifes and figures.

The lexicon of forms in the paintings will be familiar to anyone who has seen Hirst’s paintings at the Wallace Collection — skulls, shark jawbones, skeletal and shadowy figures, roses and knives. The crows join this list of harbingers and symbols of death, as do the empty chairs that recur in the triptychs at Mason’s Yard and the Medusa figure who appears in two works.

Like his sculptures and installations over the past two decades, the paintings are dominated by macabre thoughts. But in those earlier works he was often able to create lucid and, I would argue, beautiful images reflecting this obsession. His painterly language remains inarticulate, especially in the cluttered triptychs at Mason’s Yard.

Even in the Fairhurst portraits, which are no doubt heartfelt, he struggles to turn his grief for his friend into fitting elegies, or to capture convincingly the anger he mentions in a catalogue interview; they are gloomy rather than poignant.

Unlike other commentators, I take no joy out of finding these works so unsuccessful. Like Bacon, I was impressed, in fact quite profoundly affected and excited when, as an art student, I saw A Thousand Years in the Saatchi Gallery. But his paintings so far feel like a gigantic backwards step. To use Bacon’s term, they really don’t work.

Until 30 January (020 7930 5373, www.whitecube.com). Tues–Sat, 10am–6pm, admission free.

 

 

 

How Alien burst forth, bloomed and mutated

 

 

It is 30 years since Ridley Scott made cinematic history by putting a woman centre-stage in a horror movie. Xan Brooks celebrates.

 

Sydney Morning Herald, December 5, 2009

 

 

 

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                                            Alien

 

 

It is 30 years since Ridley Scott's picture was unleashed on an unsuspecting public. Since then, its influence has bloomed and mutated. Alien was the film that set the visual template (grungy and industrial) for any director keen to shoot a picture about monsters in outer space. It was the film that contained a grisly, chest-bursting centrepiece that tapped into the fears of the age. Yet ultimately it all comes back to the character Ellen Ripley. In the figure of the resolute Sigourney Weaver, Alien may just be the film that overhauled the old, unreconstructed horror genre and dared to put a woman centre-stage.

This gave rise to Scott's joke that nothing actually happens for the first 45 minutes. In its opening sections, Alien rattles around a space freighter (the Nostromo) and introduces us to its bickering crew (John Hurt and Ian Holm among them). Then boom! The film bursts into hideous life with one of cinema's most notorious setpieces. Hurt's character, impregnated by an extraterrestrial, abruptly goes into labour at the breakfast table. His chest explodes and the beast is loosed.

In Scott's film, the horror came garnished with sexual politics. Take another look at the creature that hatches from Hurt's chest. It was designed by the Swiss artist H.R. Giger, who borrowed freely from the images in Francis Bacon's 1944 painting Three Studies For Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, which in turn took its lead from the Greek myth of the Furies. Scott's film was initially pitched as ''Jaws in space'' and Giger's alien features the requisite razor-blade teeth and unreadable, implacable air. Sometimes it is limpid and wet, fashioned on the set out of oysters and clams brought in from a local fishmongers. Sometimes it is hard and blunt. Not to put too fine a point on it, the alien in Alien comes in two guises: vaginal and phallic.  

 

 

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                                                                      Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion 1944 

 

 

''Alien is a rape movie with male victims,'' explains David McIntee, the author of the Alien study Beautiful Monsters. ''And it also shows the consequences of that rape: the pregnancy and birth. It is a film that plays, very deliberately, with male fears of female reproduction.''

Does this make Alien a conservative film or a radical one? Over the years the debate has been teased out in either direction. In the opinion of the cultural critic Barbara Creed, Scott's film epitomised what she refers to as ''the monstrous feminine''. It trades in classic Freudian imagery (penis-shaped monsters; dark, womb-like interiors) and shudders at the bloody spectacle of childbirth. Here is a horror film made by men that exploits a particularly male fear of all that is female. Others beg to differ. Ripley, they argue, is the game-changer; the character who sends Alien (and its sequels) off in a bold new direction. ''Ripley is pretty revolutionary,'' insists McIntee. ''All of a sudden you have a horror film that has a younger female character who is a survivor and a heroine as opposed to a victim.''

 

 

 

Nothing Matters, White Cube, London

 

 

 

Britart's bad boy gets his paints out again, but the results are not exactly Bacon ... more like a dog's breakfast

 

 

 

Reviewed by Charles Darwent , Independent on Sunday, 29 November 2009

 

 

Lest you are newly back from Mars, something in the nature of a miracle has happened in British art: Damien Hirst has begun to paint. In Hirst's work, the artist's hand became a metonym of the flesh and the flesh of mortality. Rid art of the hand and, vampire-like, it might never die.

So the insistent hands-on-ness of Hirst's new work is historically significant, whether you like it or not. And frankly, I don't. Who could? Underlying this work is the belief that you can, in middle age, take up painting and have the results shown at the most important contemporary gallery in London as if by right. And guess what? If your name is Damien Hirst, you can. But, other than as historical curiosities, will paintings made under such an assumption ever be worth looking at? Can they in any sense be good?

Let me say that "good" here is not another word for polished or skilled: Bad Painting, done well, has a solid place in 20th-century art. But there is Bad Painting and bad painting, and Hirst's work is the second.

In the ground floor space at Mason's Yard are canvases done largely in blue. Hirst's Blue Period – he has been painting for nearly two years now – echoes not so much Picasso's as Francis Bacon's, particularly the Savile-Row-blue images Bacon made of his lover, Peter Lacy, when he, like Hirst, was 44. Downstairs are Bacon-ish triptychs in Bacon-ish frames surrounding such Bacon-ish things as anatomised bodies and empty staircases.

Of course, Hirst has also made anatomical figures, most famously the 20ft bronze doll, Hymn. I suppose the frame of his trademark shark-in-a-box might explain the sketchy white lines, apparently lifted from Bacon's pope-cages, that score the surface of Walk Away in Silence – the shark jaws in Insomnia and Time Will Tell certainly refer less to Bacon than to a Bacon-like tendency in Hirst. And then there are the smaller (and, to my mind, better) paintings of the object with which Hirst is most closely identified as an artist, namely the human skull.

All of which raises a great many questions, the most obvious of which is why? Hirst, with his vitrines of flyblown meat, has always been a Baconite. Why does he now feel the need to work like Bacon? A triptych called How Did We Lose Our Way? may suggest an answer. Bacon died mid-way between Freeze and Sensation, the two shows that made Hirst's name. Could the younger man's return to paint on canvas mark an admission that the Britart experiment has, in the end, been a failure? Seen like this, the dreadfulness of Hirst's painting might be excused as intentional, a sign that something has been lost in British art and that that loss is irreparable.

I certainly prefer this possibility to the other, which is that Damien Hirst feels he can paint by dint of being Damien Hirst. This, appallingly, is not the case. I went to White Cube determined not to fall into the British trap of thinking that artists can only do one thing well, that installationists and conceptualists can not also be painters. Look at Michelangelo. I left with a sense of sadness that a man whose pills and diamond-covered skull will remain icons of his time should have been laid so low.

White Cube, London N1 and W1 (020-7930 5373) to 30 Jan 2010

 

 

 

Realism meets surrealism in Rome’s painting exhibition

 

by Silvia Marchetti, China View, 27-11-2009

 

 

ROME, Nov. 26 (Xinhua) - The Galleria Borghese of Rome, one of the world's leading museums, is hosting till Jan. 14 the unique painting exhibition Caravaggio-Bacon.

    Caravaggio is one of most profound and revolutionary 16th century Italian painter, while English artist Francis Bacon is a 20th century Expressionist artist deeply influenced by Surrealism.

    The occasion for a joint exhibition of their works by the Galleria is the celebration of two concurrent dates: the quarter-centenary of Caravaggio's death and Francis Bacon's birth centenary which fall this year.

    The Caravaggio-Bacon exhibition is the fourth of a series of 10 that Rome's Galleria Borghese is staging. It follows ones of the great Renaissance artists Raffaello, Canova and Correggio.

    There are 13 works of Caravaggio on display and 17 of Bacon, most of which coming from the Tate Art Gallery of London. The curators of the exposition are Anna Coliva, director of the Galleria, and Michael Peppiatt, a biographer, intimate friend, and leading connoisseur of Francis Bacon.

    On Wednesday evening the gallery invited the foreign press to admire the exhibition. Italian Culture Minister Sandro Bondi and Undersecretary of State Paolo Bonaiuti attended the event.

    "The Galleria Borghese is one of the artistic temples of our country and Italian culture is one of the main reasons why Italy is admired worldwide," Bondi said.

    He added that the government was working hard to make Italy's cultural heritage become an instrument for civil, social, democratic growth and not only economic growth.

    Bonaiuti stressed the importance of culture as "the key to Italian tradition, society and way of being."

    Coliva said the event was an occasion to present the historic collections of the Galleria Borghese through an unusual artistic juxtaposition.

    "Caravaggio and Bacon are 400 years apart from one another but what links them is a spiritual relation based on a deep suffering for the human condition and an internal sense of devastation," Coliva told Xinhua.

    She explained how these two extreme figures have entered the collective imagination as "accused" artists, who expressed the torment of existence in their painting with equal intensity and creative brilliance.

    Coliva said that both are painters of truth. While Caravaggio distorts the artistic formal vision rooted in Humanism by dealing with human figures as objective facts, Bacon expresses the loss of centrality of vision by mixing the unconscious with reality.

    However, the goal of the joint exposition is not to theorize an influence of Caravaggio on Bacon. "There is nothing of Caravaggio in Bacon, who was not inspired by him, but if there is a contemporary artist who is comparable to Caravaggio it is indeed Bacon. Caravaggio and Bacon are among the deepest and most revolutionary interpreters of the representation of the human figure," added Coliva.

    Michael Peppiatt underlined how both artists were obsessed by the human body and by the uncertainty of life. "It's an emotional impact that links the two together, they're like mirrors," he told Xinhua.

    The exhibition is a meeting between these two extraordinary artists and you can nearly sense an electric current uniting them, he said, adding how both Caravaggio and Bacon "are very extreme in showing the fragility and vulnerability of human life."

    "For Francis Bacon, one of the most anguished 20th century artists, being received at the Galleria Borghese is of great importance," Peppiatt said. "Bacon's breakaway from tradition is healed today through his presence in this gallery."

    Bondi also said the original juxtaposition Caravaggio-Bacon helped to better understand art in all its different variations by "leading the public inside our museums to discover our great artists."

    Caravaggio (1571-1610) was active in Rome (where he painted for the Pope), Naples and Malta. He had a very tormented life and was accused of murder. His intensely emotional realism and dramatic use of lighting make him a founder of modern painting.

    Francis Bacon (1909-1992), just like Caravaggio, was an anguished painter. The subjects of his paintings scream in physical and psychic pain. He depicts contorted and corrupted human and animal forms. Many of Bacon's works appear as nightmares.

    The Galleria Borghese, a magnificent villa in the historical center of Rome, was completed in 1620 on Pope Paolo V Borghese's commission. It hosts some of humanity's greatest works of arts such as sculptures by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and paintings by Il Canaletto and Piero della Francesca.

Editor: Xiong Tong

 

 

 

Damien Hirst brings home the Bacon, but it’s just ham

 

After another set of derivative paintings, this time at the White Cube, it’s time for Damien Hirst to give it a rest

 

 

 

 

Damien Hirst is undaunted. It was only a few weeks ago that a show of his paintings opened at the Wallace Collection in London. The critics were like sharks swimming free of their pickling platitudes. They spotted their victim and ripped him to shreds.

Any less robust ego might well have given up. But Hirst didn’t get where he has done through listening to others. He kept his nerve and remained resolute. Just give him a bit more time and he would be painting as well as Rembrandt, he responded. And already he’s back.

Tomorrow, a new show of his work — titled, with a dash of bravura, Nothing Matters — opens at the White Cube. His gallery fires back at detractors with both barrels. It has dedicated both its London spaces to the works of its most important money-spinner. With prices ranging from £235,000 to £9.5 million, this exhibition looks set to be surefire commercial hit. Four of seven large-scale triptychs have, apparently, already been sold.

The visitor, however, cannot expect to see the works of a contemporary Rembrandt yet. These paintings have not moved on much from the Wallace pictures. They are ham-fisted melodramas. Here, in the Hoxton Square gallery, are huge triptychs of crows. The birds appear to have been caught up in a paint-balling splatter-fest. Black creatures explode in a splash of flung pigment and stuck-on feathers. Hirst has a boyish, B-movie fascination for their death.

His admiration for the work of Francis Bacon — for everything from his gilt frames to his flat planes of colour, his isolated figures and his eerie blue Insect-o-cutor-style glow — is obvious. There is even a figure screaming inside a cage of fragile lines.

So is this the end for Hirst? Has the pack leader, who led his Goldsmiths-trained, cocaine and vodka-fuelled gang in the now famous (though few went at the time) Freeze show in Docklands into the hallowed halls of the Royal Academy, finally run out of ideas?

I don’t think so. Hirst from his earliest beginnings was enthralled by the work of Bacon. His animals in formaldehyde, his finest and most famous pieces and the only ones so far that I think art history will remember him for, are basically transpositions of Bacon’s vision into sculpture. Instead of a screaming pope he has a shark’s gaping mouth. Instead of a painted cage, he has a metal-framed tank.

Hirst wades awkwardly through a medium that he has not yet learned how to manage towards a clearer vision. His first steps are predictably derivative. His greatest predecessors, Bacon not the least prominent among them, looted others’ ideas. But his mistake will be to continue to treat these early efforts as accomplished artworks.

Nothing Matters is at White Cube Hoxton Square, N1, and Mason’s Yard, SW1, from today to January 30 

 

 

 

 

 

Damien Hirst: A painter's progress

 

 

Barely a month since his first show of paintings was panned, Damien Hirst is back with two more. Is he trying too hard?

 

 

Adrian Searle, The Guardian, Tuesday 24 November 2009

 

 

With their triptych formats, hefty gold frames and glazed surfaces, Damien Hirst’s new paintings, which fill both White Cube galleries in London, once again recall Francis Bacon.

There are further nods to Bacon within the paintings: figures who turn and squirm, cigarette butts underfoot, linear space frames. There are also worryingly vacant chairs: are they meant for us? Has somebody died? Rather than Bacon's door handles, taps, blind-pulls and switches, Hirst gives us butcher's knives (recalling the jangling cutlery in certain Picassos, painted in the hungry years of the war), and his familiar ashtrays and fag packets; there is a glass of red wine that could have come from a later painting by Patrick Caulfield. Hirst no longer drinks or smokes.

While certain Bacon figures look on the verge of turning themselves inside-out, Hirst's already have. His viscerated meat-men and skeletons hang about, waiting for a death that's already happened: they just haven't noticed yet. There is almost nothing but death in Hirst's new show.

Where Bacon was grandly, sometimes campily theatrical (grand guignol is the phrase often used, to the point of cliché), Hirst is more often hammy. And while Bacon managed both restraint and libidinous assault in his best work – the restraint adding to the squeamishness and implied violence – Hirst has often appeared, since the late 1990s, less ambitious for his art than for his career and for fame.

Sobered up and serious, Hirst has turned to painting, and painting takes a long time to master – if one is ever to master it at all. One might see what he is doing as brave, in the sense that he unashamedly exposes his vulnerabilities and weaknesses as an artist. But ambitious though his paintings are, they appear to be trying to look like successful art, rather than actually being so. They are concoctions, confections, rather than unified or achieved paintings. Hirst acknowledges Rembrandt, Goya and El Greco among his heroes, all of whom are insurmountable in many ways. Bacon's mannerisms, meanwhile, are unapproachable: there is the particularity of his signature style, its artificiality, his marshalling of extreme contrasts of facture, premeditation and impetuosity. Even Bacon ended up parodying himself; you can't, I think, start off by parodying Bacon. Still, you fight your battles of influence and originality where you must.

Hirst's scenes of destruction and misery haven't undergone the reworkings or journeys they need to go on in order to arrive somewhere new. They are too artful, and his current shows are premature – however much he needed to go through the process of making the works themselves. In the end, what it comes down to is Hirst's touch, or lack of it. It lacks conviction. His paintings are filled with approximations. The paint goes down with a dead thunk, one that lacks life or individuality. You feel as much as see this living spark in a great painter's touch, however casual or offhand or anonymous that touch might appear to be. This, in part, is what makes one painter great and another mediocre. Some great painters are far from able or felicitous craftsmen, yet they turn difficulty to their advantage. Hirst still wants to make successful art and this, paradoxically, is his problem. You can smell failure almost as much as see it – in the same way that Heston Blumenthal has said you can taste fear in an ailing restaurant's cooking.

 

 

 

Bacon, le radici sadomaso del genio

 

Un saggio di John Richardson: senza i suoi eccessi sarebbe stato solo un pittore incapace di disegnare

 

 

LEA MATTARELLA, La Stampa, 24/11/2009

 

 

 

   http://www.alexalienart.com/baconselfportrait1973.jpg

              Francis Bacon in un autoritratto del 1973

 

 

 

L’arte è ossessione della vita» diceva Francis Bacon, il grande pittore scomparso nel 1992 e oggi considerato uno dei maestri del XX secolo. La sua tavolozza però si è nutrita anche di morte, di fantasmi, di sensi di colpa, di dolore inflitto e subìto. Anzi, secondo lo storico dell’arte John Richardson, è stato proprio il lato nero di una vera e propria nevrosi sadomasochista a generare le opere più interessanti e risolte di Bacon. Senza questi aspetti torbidi, senza un’esistenza di eccessi sessuali ad alta gradazione alcolica, l’artista sarebbe stato, magari, soltanto un pittore che «semplicemente non era capace di disegnare». Roma gli ha già aperto le porte della Galleria Borghese in un confronto con un altro pittore estremo come Caravaggio (fino al 20 gennaio).

Richardson ha conosciuto Bacon negli anni Quaranta e oggi, sul New York Review of Books, racconta alcuni aneddoti che aiutano a chiarire anche il suo modo di dipingere e di creare. Tutto comincia con l’episodio di papà Bacon che picchia selvaggiamente il sedicenne Francis dopo averlo trovato con indosso la biancheria intima della madre. Al capitano inglese in pensione che si era trasferito ad allevare e allenare cavalli da corsa a Dublino (dove il pittore nasce nel 1909), l’idea di avere un figlio omosessuale non piaceva per niente. Da qui l’eccesso di violenza cui segue la fuga del giovane che raggiunge Berlino e poi Parigi, dove resta folgorato da Pablo Picasso. Secondo Richardson (che prima di dedicarsi a Bacon ha scritto proprio una delle più apprezzate biografie dell’artista spagnolo), il trauma dello scontro fisico con il padre è all’origine di un vero e proprio disturbo erotico in cui desiderio e sopraffazione - fisica o psicologica - vanno a braccetto.

Così ecco entrare in scena il pilota di caccia Peter Lacy, definito da Richardson un soggetto quasi psicopatico, con cui Bacon ha una relazione tutta sesso e sangue. Tanto che un giorno, in uno «stato di demenza alcolica», il pilota lo fa volare contro una finestra ferendolo al volto. «Dopo - scrive Richardson - Bacon lo amava ancora di più». A quanto pare Lacy sfogava la sua rabbia non solo sull’artista ma anche sulle tele che trovava nello studio. E, per contro, Bacon ha lasciato dell’amante un memorabile ritratto in cui il suo volto sfuggente e deformato contrasta con le linee orizzontali dello sfondo.

«Ogni volta che vado dal macellaio - affermava intanto il pittore - penso che è straordinario che non sia io al posto dell’animale». Ma il passaggio da vittima a carnefice è breve. A farne le spese è la nuova passione di Bacon, George Dyer che si toglie la vita nel bagno di una camera d’albergo nel 1971. L’artista è a Parigi per inaugurare la grande mostra allestita al Grand Palais. Sembra che dopo, impassibile, abbia accompagnato il Presidente Pompidou a visitare l’esposizione e partecipato al pranzo organizzato in suo onore. Dyer aveva tentato il suicidio altre due volte: una in Grecia e l’altra a New York, dove lo stesso Richardson era stato testimone della lite finita con una dose di barbiturici e una bottiglia di scotch. «Bacon lo provocava - scrive lo studioso - fino a ottenere un vero e proprio collasso psicologico. Dopo, nelle prime ore del mattino, quelle che preferiva per lavorare, esorcizzava i suoi sensi di colpa, la sua rabbia e il suo rimorso realizzando immagini di Dyer che, come egli stesso amava dire, miravano a colpire il nostro sistema nervoso».

Il suo amante è inquadrato accovacciato, ferito, crocifisso, abita spazi indefinibili, scatole dell’incertezza, luoghi senz’aria dominati da una claustrofobia che rivela il drammatico stato di tutti gli esseri umani, prigionieri dell’esistenza. E, in effetti, anche dopo la tragica morte, il volto dolente e la carne sofferente di George, il piccolo ex ladruncolo amato ma umiliato e offeso, continua ad alimentare la pittura di Francis. Assieme a pontefici che gridano, carcasse, crocifissioni, ghigni, siringhe conficcate nelle braccia.

Bacon, dice sorprendentemente Richardson, non era capace di articolare la figura nello spazio. «Le sue celebri versioni di Papa Innocenzo X di Velázquez sono un magnifico colpo di fortuna oppure un disastro quasi totale. Era capace di fare un grido ma era senza speranza nel realizzare le mani, così le amputava, le nascondeva, le deformava». Ma lui voleva «dipingere il grido prima dell’orrore» o anche «dipingere come Velázquez ma con una materia pittorica che assomigliasse alla pelle di un ippopotamo». Si comportava come un voyeur a caccia di relitti umani in un disordinato sottosuolo. Un po’ sadomasochista anche lui, come l’antieroe di Dostoevskij, faceva dormire su un tavolo in cucina la sua governante cieca. E la mandava a distrarre i negozianti per poter liberamente rubare generi alimentari, cosmetici e, soprattutto, il lucido da scarpe per tingersi i capelli.

 

 

 

The sado-masochistic relationships that drove Bacon to create his best works

 

Ross Lydall, London Evening Standard, 23.11.09

 

 

 http://www.alexalienart.com/BaconMin.jpg

             “Intensified imagery”: Francis Bacon

 

 

Francis Bacon was once thrown through a plate-glass window by an enraged lover, damaging his face so badly that his right eye had to be sewn back into place, according to a biographer.

Art historian John Richardson also argues that Bacon's best work was inspired by sado-masochistic relationships - with his "goading" of one lover, George Dyer, eventually leading to the latter's death. The fatal end, in a hotel room lavatory, on the eve of a retrospective of the artist's paintings in Paris in 1971, was immortalised by Bacon in one of his most famous works.

Richardson, 85, who is completing the final volume of his biography of Picasso, uses an article in the forthcoming edition of the New York Review of Books to reveal secrets of Bacon's life - a man he knew since the Forties when the artist was in his early twenties.

Richardson recalls that Bacon, who died in 1992, revelled in a "most heinous assault" by an earlier lover, Peter Lacy.

He writes: "In a state of alcoholic dementia, he hurled Bacon through a plate glass window. His face was so damaged that his right eye had to be sewn back into place. Bacon loved Lacy even more. For weeks he would not forgive Lucien Freud for remonstrating with his torturer. Mercifully, Lacy moved to Tangier."

In the article, Richardson said there was a direct link between Bacon's desires and his artistic output.

"Bacon would goad George [Dyer] into a state of psychic meltdown and then, in the early hours of the morning - his favourite time to work - he would exorcise his guilt and rage and remorse in images of Dyer aimed, as he said, at the nervous system."

Richardson recalled spending a drunken evening with the pair in New York in 1968, after which Dyer was found by Bacon unconscious on the hotel room floor, having washed down sleeping pills with a bottle of whisky. "The goading worsened, the imagery intensified," Richardson said of Bacon's subsequent work.

Bacon's studio in the Forties was a place of "ramshackle theatricality" where martinis were served in huge Waterford tumblers and a paint-stained garter belt was kicked under a sofa.

Bacon enlisted his blind nanny's help in his shoplifting exploits, when he would steal groceries, cosmetics and Kiwi boot polish for his hair.

 

 

 

Americans don't 'get' Francis Bacon

 

John Richardson's article on Francis Bacon suggests the inevitable reappraisal of his work has begun.

 

The Daily Telegraph, 23 November 2009

 

 

   http://www.alexalienart.com/Richardsonbacon.jpg

          Possessed of extraordinary moral courage: Francis Bacon

 

 

The huge reputation of some artists in their own country is often baffling to art lovers in another. Which might explain why an article on Francis Bacon by John Richardson, the art critic and celebrated biographer of Picasso, has raised hackles over here.

Though Richardson is English by birth, he’s lived in New York so long it is not surprising that his forthcoming essay on Francis Bacon in the New York Review of Books reflects an American assessment of the painter’s stature, not the much more reverential attitude we have towards him in this country. Richardson was reviewing a show of Bacon’s work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that that received a mixed reception from New York critics who basically just don’t `get’ Bacon. (The same thing happened to Lucian Freud a few years ago). From across the Atlantic Bacon looks like an overrated neo romantic, a good colourist whose pictures of junkies and toilets amount to little more than a good old wallow in self pity.

Richardson is certainly right that much of the later work is weak, the notorious example being those risible paintings of a humanoid wearing only cricket pads, which are said to have been inspired by Bacon’s fantasies about a then-famous blonde hunk who captained England.

Richardson is a distinguished art historian and, just as he did in his magisterial biography of Picasso, he can speak about Bacon with authority because they were friends. But a lot of what he has written about the violent, sado-masochistic nature of Bacon’s relationships with his lovers Peter Lacy and George Dyer is already in the public domain. Richardson’s insight, that Bacon’s best work is fuelled by anger and pain, sounds right, but then even the Bacon biopic Love is the Devil connected his creativity to his penchant for violent sex.

I have only read the a filleted version of what may well be a much more balanced piece in the New York Review, but friends who knew Bacon tell me that the version I saw gives a distorted picture of a man who, when not being hurled through plate glass windows by his boyfriends, was courteous, cultured, highly educated and possessed of extraordinary moral courage. But that’s ok. Richardson is writing as a critic, not a biographer, and the official biography, which is in preparation, will give us a more rounded portrait of the man.

Richardson makes much of Bacon’s inability to draw. That’s absolutely true, but perhaps the really interesting thing isn’t that Bacon didn’t draw, but that he is a rare phenomenon – a painter who didn’t feel the need to draw at any stage in his creative process – apart from rough notes that are more like ideas for paintings than studies. In taking the formidable critic David Sylvester to task for defending Bacon, what Richardson may be forgetting is that when Sylvester became the artist’s champion in the late 1940s, Bacon needed every defender he could get. As often happens when a critic has been writing about the work of a particular artist for many years, Sylvester was certainly too kind and definitely included paintings in his Bacon exhibitions that should never have seen the light of day. As this volley from John Richardson suggests, the inevitable reappraisal has already begun.

 

 

 

Francis Bacon 'nearly lost eye in assault by psychopathic lover'

 

 

Matthew Moore, The Daily Telegraph, 23 November 2009

 

 

http://www.alexalienart.com/bacongetty.jpg

 

               Francis Bacon by Arnold Newman 1975

 

 

Francis Bacon nearly lost an eye after being thrown through a glass window by his "psychopathic" lover Peter Lacy, a biographer has recounted.

But the acclaimed painter was so stimulated by sadomasochism that he "loved Lacy even more" after the assault and criticised friends who tried to intervene.

The art historian John Richardson has disclosed new details of his friend Bacon's tempestuous relationship with Lacy in an article arguing that the painter's creative impulses were rooted in sexual pain and humiliation.

Richardson, who has written a multi-volume biography of Bacon, also claims that the painter pushed his more well-known lover George Dyer to suicide by goading him "into a state of psychic meltdown".

Dyer took his own life in a Paris hotel bathroom in 1971 – a tragedy that Bacon memorialised in Triptych, May-June 1973, which is considered one of his finest works.

In the article Richardson claims that Lacy and Dyer were crucial to Bacon's style because they provoked his sadomasochistic desires.

"Unfortunately, drink released a fiendish, sadistic streak in Lacy that bordered on the psychopathic," he writes in the New York Review of Books.

"In a state of alcoholic dementia, he hurled Bacon through a plate glass window. His face was so damaged that his right eye had to be sewn back into place.

"Bacon loved Lacy even more. For weeks he would not forgive Lucian Freud for remonstrating with his torturer. Mercifully, Lacy moved to Tangier."

Richardson also describes spending evenings with Bacon and Dyer in the 1960s during which the artist would taunt and bully his fragile partner.

"Bacon would goad George into a state of psychic meltdown and then, in the early hours of the morning – his favourite time to work – he would exorcise his guilt and rage and remorse in images of Dyer aimed, as he said, at the nervous system," he writes.

Richardson argues that the quality of Bacon's work declined after Dyer's death when he started a new, more stable relationship "seemingly free of sadomasochistic overtones" with a younger man called John Edwards.

While praising Bacon's more tortured works, Richardson contends that he had little artistic ability and struggled to draw complex objects such as hands. He dismisses some of his most renowned paintings – including his series of Popes – as "magnificent flukes".

Bacon, who died in 1992, is considered one of the greatest British painters of the 20th Century.

During his lifetime he earned a reputation as a dissolute libertine, heading a coterie of hard-drinking cronies including fellow painter Lucian Freud and journalist Jeffrey Bernard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old queens, Krays and champagne

 

 

 

John Richardson, The Observer, Sunday 22 November 2009

 

 

 

 

"In 1950, Bacon's studio would become the focus of attention for a three-day celebration that, in retrospect, was the coming-out party for a new variety of bohemia. In its excess it could also be seen as Bacon's debut as a star. The occasion was the wedding of his close friend Ann Dunn … Francis painted the chandeliers red to match his maquillage; an old queen belted out campy versions of popular songs. A woman known as 'Sod' (real name Edomy), who lived on a bus, helped to welcome the guests: these included members of parliament and fellows of All Souls, as well as 'rough trade,' slutty debutantes, cross-dressers, and the evil Kray brothers. The consumption of hundreds of cases of champagne would have left Francis broke had he not had the support of a rich and indulgent lover."

 

Extract from John Richardson's forthcoming piece in the New York Review of Books

 

 

 

Sado-masochism and stolen shoe polish: Bacon's legacy revisited

 

 

Art historian John Richardson's revelations on the troubled artist he knew as a young man

 

 

 

Charlotte Higgins, The Observer, 22 November, 2009

 

 

Francis Bacon’s was a life lived to extravagant extremes. His drunken excesses in the Colony Room Club in Soho; his carnivalesque, ruinous generosity; the formative occasion on which, as a teenager, his father found him wearing his mother's underwear and beat the living daylights out of him – all this is almost as celebrated as his riotously tortured paintings.

But now the art historian John Richardson, whose multi-volume life of Picasso has been called the best artist's biography ever written, and who knew Bacon from the 1940s, has argued that the best of Bacon's art stemmed precisely from his sadomasochistic sexual relationships at their most intense, which also led directly to the death of at least one of his lovers.

It was that early beating by his father to which Bacon attributed his taste for masochism – desires that were played out in adulthood with his lover Peter Lacy.

Richardson describes Lacy's "most heinous assault": "In a state of alcoholic dementia, he hurled Bacon through a plate glass window. His face was so damaged that his right eye had to be sewn back into place. Bacon loved Lacy even more. For weeks he would not forgive Lucian Freud for remonstrating with his torturer. Mercifully, Lacy moved to Tangier."

Writing in the forthcoming issue of the New York Review of Books, Richardson calls Lacy "a dashing 30-year-old … He owned an infamous cottage in the Thames valley, where Francis would spend much of his time – often, according to him, in bondage".

Richardson adds: "Unfortunately, drink released a fiendish, sadistic streak in Lacy that bordered on the psychopathic. Besides taking his rage out on Bacon, he took it out on his canvases. To his credit, however, he inspired some of his lover's most memorable works, among them, the Man in Blue paintings: a menacing, dark-suited Lacy set off against vertical draperies."

The best-known of Bacon's lovers is George Dyer – partly because Bacon immortalised in paintings Dyer's 1971 suicide in a hotel bedroom lavatory, on the eve of the artist's retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris.

Richardson describes the directness of the relationship between Bacon's desires and his artistic output. "Bacon would goad George into a state of psychic meltdown and then, in the early hours of the morning – his favourite time to work – he would exorcise his guilt and rage and remorse in images of Dyer aimed, as he said, at the nervous system." Richardson argues that these are among his best works.

Richardson describes the evening he spent in New York with the pair in 1968. After a lunch during which Bacon called Jackson Pollock an "old lace-maker" they went out drinking. Dyer left, after an argument, and in the early hours Richardson received a call from Bacon who had found his lover passed out on the floor of their room in the Algonquin hotel, "unconscious from having washed down a handful of his sleeping pills with a bottle of scotch".

According to Richardson: "The goading worsened, the imagery intensified," and finally, after another unsuccessful suicide attempt in Greece, Dyer killed himself in Paris.

Richardson argues that Bacon's art went rapidly downhill when, after Dyer's death, he entered a relationship with John Edwards, which was "seemingly free of sadomasochistic overtones. This may explain why Bacon's work lost its sting and failed to thrill. Paintings inspired by Edwards, as well as a Formula 1 driver and a famous cricketer the artist fancied (fetishism survives in the batting pads), reveal that in old age Bacon managed to banish his demons and move on to beefcake. His headless hunks of erectile tissue buffed to perfection have an angst-free, soft-porn glow".

Richardson is an unusually stern critic of Bacon – who was the subject of a Tate retrospective last year and is revered by such artists as Damien Hirst. The problem, argues Richardson, is that Bacon simply could not draw. " Painting after painting would be marred by his inability to articulate a figure or its space." The critic David Sylvester – who helped cement Bacon's reputation – let him off too lightly for this "fatal flaw", he argues. "His celebrated variants on Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X are either magnificent flukes or near-total disasters. In the earliest of this 10-year series, Bacon famously portrays the pope screaming. He's good at screams but hopeless at hands, so he amputates, conceals, or otherwise fudges them."

Richardson describes his first visit to Bacon's studio in the late 1940s. "Bacon struck me as being exhilaratingly funny … Everything about his vast, vaulted studio was over the top: martinis served in huge Waterford tumblers; a paint-stained garter belt kicked under a sofa … The ramshackle theatricality that permeated the studio also permeated the three iconic mastershockers – scrotum-bellied humanoids screaming out at us from the base of a crucifixion – that were about to make the artist famous."

The sight of Bacon's blind old nanny, Jessie Lightfoot, knitting in a corner "came as a surprise". She slept on the kitchen table, and "provided cover for Francis's shoplifting sprees (groceries, cosmetics, and Kiwi shoe polish for his hair)". She also helped provide an unusual source of income for Bacon: when the artist held illicit roulette parties, she would extort huge tips from visitors desperate to go to the loo. According to Richardson: "I remember Francis echoing his nanny: 'They should bring back hanging for buggery.' He was certainly not the only gay Englishman for whom guilt was intrinsic to sex."

 

 

 

Demons and beefcake 

the other side of Francis Bacon

 

 

Senior art historian John Richardson has now laid down his views and recollections of the artist

 

Charlotte Higgins, The Observer, Sunday, 22 November 2009

 

 

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Francis Bacon had his right eye sewn back in place after he was thrown through a window by lover Peter Lacy. Photograph: Jane Bown

 

 

The territories of  Francis Bacon’s soul have been explored widely; they have been the subject of a film, books and endless speculation. But the senior art historian John Richardson – who, at 85, is working on the last volume of his acclaimed biography of Picasso, and who knew Bacon from his 20s – has now laid down his views and recollections of Bacon, amounting to a reappraisal of his life and work.

Writing in the forthcoming issue of the New York Review of Books, Richardson argues that Bacon's sado-masochistic relationships lay at the heart of his best work, but with terrible consequences for his lover George Dyer, whose fragile mental state Richardson attributes to Bacon's endless "goading".

Having provoked Dyer into "a state of psychic meltdown" he "would exorcise his guilt and rage and remorse in images of Dyer aimed, as he said, at the nervous system". This "goading" resulted in Dyer's suicide, writes Richardson.

An earlier relationship, with Peter Lacy, was violent to the extent that "he hurled Bacon through a plate glass window. His face was so damaged that his right eye had to be sewn back into place".

Bacon's art went rapidly downhill when sado-masochism ceased to be a part of his life, argues Richardson, who describes the "angst-free, soft-porn glow" of his later work.

Richardson, who has hitherto held back from revealing his full memories of Bacon since the artist's death in 1992, also pours scorn on critics, such as the late David Sylvester, who attempted to defend the self-taught Bacon's "inability to draw". He calls the celebrated Screaming Popes series "either magnificent flukes or near-total disasters" and refers to Bacon's failure to convey "subjects that call for graphic skill, subjects, for instance, that include hands". Richardson also refers to Bacon's early adventures as a rent boy; his shoplifting, using his elderly nanny as an accomplice; and the vividly bohemian life around him, including a three-day party in 1950, whose guests "included members of parliament and fellows of All Souls, as well as 'rough trade', slutty debutantes, cross-dressers, and the notoriously evil Kray brothers".

 

 

 

 Drawings attributed to Francis Bacon

 

Galleria Nove  17.09 – 02.11.2010

 

Curated by Edward Lucie-Smith

 

 


As everyone interested in Bacon’s work knows, Bacon many times, and often vehemently, denied that he made any use of drawing. This is contradicted however by an early interview with the critic David Sylvester (Bacon’s most frequent interlocutor), which is preserved on film. In it, Bacon admits that he does draw, but coyly says that puts his drawings aside and doesn’t look at them, when the moment comes to paint a picture.

 

Yet, since Bacon’s lonely death in Madrid in 1992, a mass of evidence has emerged to show that he not only did draw, but drew prolifically. When he died, for example, a canvas he had just begun was found in his Reece Mews studio in London. On it was a masterly full-scale drawing for the composition he intended to paint. Numerous scraps of paper with drawings on them, some mere scribbles it is true, were found when the Reece Mews studio was disassembled, to be afterwards reconstructed in Dublin.

An even greater mass of material of this type turned up in the possession of Barry Joule, who had evolved from being Bacon’s neighbour into being his odd-job man and general Mr Fixit. Joule’s account was that Bacon, shortly before his death, had handed him the drawings, with the words “You know what to do with these, don’t you?” Some people, knowing of Bacon’s frequent denials that he drew, might have understood this as an instruction to destroy them, but Joule chose to think otherwise.

While it is true that much of the Joule material is of disappointing quality artistically – a lot of it consists of rough drawings made on top of photographs torn from books and magazines, with others on top of photos, such as portraits of Bacon’s old nanny, also for a time his housekeeper, that were very personal to Bacon himself – there are powerful reasons for accepting it as genuine. One series of drawings in the Joule archive – made on top of illustrations ripped from boxing magazines dating from the late 1940s – has a direct link to a series of drawings purchased as genuine by the Tate shortly before the Joule archive emerged. These drawings, also made on top of illustrations ripped from boxing magazines, belonged to Paul Danquah, a friend with whom Bacon shared a flat in the early 1950s. Danquah, who later emigrated to Tangier, seems to have given them to Bacon when they were co-habiting.

The Joule material appears to cover a long period, and to be closely linked to a number of well-known paintings by Bacon. The artist closely guarded access to his studio and it is hard to imagine him allowing anyone, even a boy friend, to sit there in a corner, manufacturing Bacon related drawings. The two chief consorts of the middle and later years of his career, George Dyer, an ex-burglar of notable incompetence, who committed suicide in 1971, on the eve of Bacon’s first major retrospective in Paris; and John Edwards, who though shrewd and loyal, was uneducated, dyslexic and illiterate, seem particularly unlikely candidates.

The Joule material – and other drawings related to it – have been a permanent embarrassment to a part of the British art establishment ever since they first made their way into the public gaze.

If the material that emerged from Bacon’s studio after his death is problematic because of its lack of real artistic quality, the same cannot be said of the drawings exhibited in this new exhibition. These are ambitious works, signed and on a large scale, clearly made as independent works of art. They in many ways seem to sum up the essence of what Bacon tried to do. Why were they made, and why have they remained at least half-hidden for so long?

The evidence is that Bacon, at the end of his career, found his celebrity increasingly oppressive. His solution was to slip away to places where he was little known or not known at all, where he could stroll from bar to bar and from restaurant to restaurant, and amuse himself as he wished. One of his favourite places for escapes of this kind was Italy. A constant companion in his Italian adventures was a young and handsome American-Italian called Cristiano Lovatelli Ravarino. There is plenty of evidence that they were often seen together, in locations as different from one another as Bologna and Cortina d’Ampezzo. The drawings shown are presentation drawings, resembling in this the drawings that the ageing Michelangelo made for the young Tommaso Cavallieri.

There seem to have been several motivations for making them, apart from Bacon’s desire to commemorate a friendship. One was simply restlessness. Though happy to get away from the confines of his studio, Bacon still wanted to make art – but art of a light and portable kind (though not all of the drawings were made in Italy, some appear to have been done in London). At the end of his life, he wanted to try a new medium, one that had clearly always daunted him. He also seems to have wanted to correct mistakes made in the past. One striking feature of this series of drawings is that they recapitulate themes from work made much earlier in his career. Though the drawings belong to the last decade of Bacon’s artistic activity, their subjects are those that Bacon became associated with in the 1950s – the Popes after Velazquez and the portraits of businessmen. The Pope images are expanded into a series of portraits of ecclesiastics, perhaps inspired by what Bacon saw in the streets of Italian towns. There are also portraits of friends and images of the Crucifixion, a subject that preoccupied the artist throughout his life. Bacon frequently expressed dissatisfaction with the early works that had made his reputation, and these are an attempt to do better.

Bacon regarded his relationship to Ravarino as unofficial, in the sense that he could never get his friend to commit himself to something fully public – Ravarino worried what his family would say. He seems to have thought of the drawings as being essentially unofficial as well. He went to considerable trouble to keep their existence secret from his commercial representatives, the powerful Marlborough Gallery, who wished to preserve his shamanic persona even more than he did.One fascinating aspect of these drawings in that they are the work of a Laocoon, a man struggling hard to escape from the entwining serpents of his own myth, and to return to the pleasure of making art for its own sake – no other reason than that.

Edward Lucie-Smith, August 2010

 

Opening of the Exhibitions: Friday 17th September at 8 pm in the presence of the curator.

A Busshuttlerservice between the galleries is provided

A catalogue with images of 50 drawings and an introduction by Edward Lucie-Smith will be released on the opening day.

 

 

 

Damien Hirst says anyone can be like Rembrandt. 

But does art world agree?

 

 

Peter Walker & Simon Hattenstone, The Guardian, Saturday 14 November 2009

 

 

Few critics would have expected their near-unanimous mauling of Damien Hirst’s recent collection of paintings to make a notable dent in the millionaire artist's famously robust ego, but even they probably never expected this reaction: give me a bit more time and I'll be as good as Rembrandt.

In an interview in today's Guardian, the 44-year-old mainstay of the Young British Artists scene, whose show at the Wallace Collection in London was variously dismissed as "an embarrassment" and "shockingly bad", has responded by rejecting the notion of innate artistic genius as the route to greatness. Instead, Hirst insists, application is the key.

"Anyone can be like Rembrandt," he said. "I don't think a painter like Rembrandt is a genius. It's about freedom and guts. It's about looking. It can be learnt. That's the great thing about art. Anybody can do it if you just believe. With practice you can make great paintings."

He accepted, nonetheless, that he had plenty of hours to put in to compete with the 17th century Dutch master.

Hirst capped years of commercial and – to a lesser extent – critical success involving his trademark dead animals in formaldehyde and mass-produced spots and butterflies with an auction 14 months ago which brought in £111m. By then he had already begun a period of two years shut away in his garden shed in Devon, a process which resulted in the 25 oil paintings which went on show last month.

He has another collection of paintings opening at London's White Cube gallery this month, and says he his deadly serious about the pursuit: "I definitely think it's early days for me painting. I don't think I've arrived. I don't think I'm as great as they are. It's a long road, and these are the first paintings I'm satisfied with."

The question of inspiration versus sheer perspiration has been around for as long as people have painted, noted Dr Julian Stallabrass from the Courtauld Institute of Art, and history showed that results arrive more quickly for some than others.

"You have some people who were particularly slow learners. Cézanne, for instance, worked for decades obsessively developing his skills and his style, and was still working on his style when he died. But then you have people like Raphael or Picasso, to whom it seems to come very easily. If you see an exhibition of Dalí's early works you can see someone just playing around with other styles with a lot of ease."

However, not everyone can lock themselves away in a garret with the presumption of turning into a Cézanne, Stallabrass warned. "If you spend a lot of time drawing you will certainly improve. But that does not necessarily mean you'll succeed. There have always been many more artists than famous artists, and this is true all the more these days. There are a lot of art students working very hard, but not many of them will became well known."

Angus Stewart, president of the International Association of Art Critics, drew comparison with Francis Bacon.

"Francis Bacon would have agreed that it is about looking, and he certainly believed it could be learned, and he learned it – to a certain extent. But Bacon himself would not have claimed to be technically the equivalent of Rembrandt, though he would say of course that in his understanding of the human experience he could be rated with him."

Perhaps more unexpectedly, a similar line was taken by Jeremy Deller, the 2004 Turner Prize winner who is best known for non-painterly works such as brass bands playing acid house tunes and a recreation of the 1984 clash between miners and police at Orgreave in South Yorkshire.

"Not everyone can paint like Rembrandt, however hard you try," he said. "It's like saying anyone can be Velázquez, or anyone can be Beethoven. It's not about hard work, it's about something else, which is what genius is, I suppose. It's about that sheer quality."

Hirst had been driven to make the comments because he had "failed so publicly" with his paintings, Deller surmised.

"The thing about Damien Hirst is that he did work very hard, but he worked very hard at doing one thing, which is repeating and marketing himself. But he didn't work very hard at being a decent artist for some years. For about 10 years he's done very little, he's just replicated himself because he knows he can make money out of it."

 

 

 

Tormented Caravaggio and Bacon connect in Rome show

 

 

By Ella Ide, Reuters, Thursday November 12, 2009

 

 

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 Three Studies of Lucien Freud 1968/69 at the Galleria Borghese in Rome November 11, 2009.

 

 

 

ROME (Reuters) - Portraits by Italian master Caravaggio and Irish-born 20th-century painter Francis Bacon stand side-by-side in new exhibition connecting their tormented views of humanity despite contrasting approaches to realism.

The show at Rome's Galleria Borghese marks 400 years since Caravaggio's death and 100 years since Bacon's birth and at its heart lies their shared fascination with the human form and their predilection for the expressive portrait.

Both were radical for their times: against the distorted idealism of high mannerism, Caravaggio was driven by obsessive attention to the real, while Bacon was derided for his refusal to relinquish the human figure in favour of abstraction.

"Bacon can be compared to Caravaggio above all in terms of intensity," said art historian Michael Peppiatt, co-curator of the exhibition and Bacon's close friend and biographer.

Both painters have been seen as icons of gay, tormented genius and their tragic natures and lives marked by violence - Bacon's lover committed suicide and Caravaggio was condemned to death after killing a man - are echoed in their works.

"They were both conscious of the shortness of life and of the fragility of humanity, and each powerfully conveys this consciousness through his art," said Peppiatt in a statement.

Seventeen works by Bacon are featured alongside 14 paintings by Caravaggio, six of which, including the Madonna with the Serpent and the Sick Bacchus, belong to the Borghese's permanent collection.

Many of the works by Bacon, including Head VI, the result of his studies of Velazquez's portrait of Pope Innocent X, are on loan from London's Tate Gallery.

The lavish entrance to the Galleria Borghese is devoted to Bacon's triptychs, painted after the suicide of his lover George Dyer, with chilling scenes of distorted, semi-naked male figures whose life oozes from them to form flesh-coloured puddles.

The show runs until January 24, 2010 and has already attracted well over 67,000 visitors, with the record numbers forcing the Borghese to extend its open hours and increase the number of tickets available for the daily tours by 30 per cent.

 

 

 

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A man walks next to a Francis Bacon painting and a Caravaggio painting during an exhibition at the Galleria Borghese in Rome November 11, 2009.

 

 

 

Roma, Galleria Borghese, fino al 24 gennaio 2010

Caravaggio–Bacon

 

di Francesca Mentella, Agora Magazine,  venerdì 6 novembre 2009

 

 

Caravaggio e Francis Bacon a confronto. L’insolita mostra, curata da Anna Coliva e Michael Peppiatt, prende spunto in occasione del IV centenario della morte del maestro lombardo (1571 – 1610) e dal centenario della nascita dell’artista inglese (1909-1992). L’esposizione, realizzata nell’ambito delle dieci grande mostre organizzate dalla Galleria Borghese, la cui collezione possiede sei fra i Caravaggio più importanti, propone un appassionante confronto fra le opere dei due maestri. Essa intende accostare due grandi protagonisti della storia della pittura, che sono tra gli interpreti più profondi e innovativi della rappresentazione della figura umana nella storia dell’arte occidentale.

Sia chiaro, questa mostra non vuole teorizzare dipendenze di Bacon da Caravaggio ma, al contrario, provocare suggestioni visive, evocando corrispondenze spontanee risultanti da accostamenti formali. “Gli accostamenti -precisa il Professor Maurizio Calvesi, uno dei massimi esperti di Caravaggio, autore del catalogo e storico dell’arte di chiara fama- sono sempre azzardati, perché ogni artista è diverso dall’altro. Però l’accoppiamento di queste due figure distanti nel tempo ma in qualche modo accomunate da un certo travaglio, da un realismo, che con Bacon poi diventa esasperato, è secondo me un’idea molto felice, un’ idea bellissima. Bacon non ha nulla di Caravaggio, non si è ispirato a Caravaggio, però se c’è un artista del nostro tempo che può essere equiparato a Caravaggio è proprio lui”.

Entrambi infatti sono personalità estreme, che hanno espresso nella pittura il tormento dell’esistenza con pari intensità e genialità inventiva. Nelle diversità delle loro poetiche, hanno penetrato la tragedia dell’esistenza non come drammaticità di una condizione astratta o come accidentalità di accadimenti in quanto personali o storici ma come sentimento interiore e imprescindibile dell’esistere, individuale ed intimo. Caravaggio esprime con la sua pittura l’ansia per la salvazione spirituale dell’uomo mentre Bacon il terrore verso l’ignoto che alberga dentro l’individuo: entrambi gli artisti infatti si sono calati nelle profondità psichiche che rendono sconosciute e misteriose le condizioni dell’esistenza umana.  

 

 

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                                                                                          Three Studies of Lucien Freud 1968/69  Francis Bacon 

 

 

Ma questa mostra offre anche la possibilità di riconsiderare, finalmente, idee errate riguardo la biografia del Merisi. “Francis Bacon è realmente un artista maledetto, quello di Caravaggio pittore maledetto- spiega Calvesi- è più che altro un clichè che gli è stato attribuito in età moderna. Le cose scritte sul conto di Caravaggio, come il fatto che fosse iroso, assassino e miscredente, sono state scritte dai suoi biografi dell’epoca, ma se si pensa che il biografo di Caravaggio è il Baglione, suo nemico personale, si capisce il perché del malinteso. Questo senza dubbio nella nostra epoca funziona, ed ha contribuito al suo successo popolare mentre all’epoca di Caravaggio era motivo di condanna. Anche la sua presunta omosessualità è un mito- prosegue Calvesi- però nessuno mai cancellerà questa idea dalla testa dei registi e degli scrittori, perché è molto più affascinante parlare di lui in questi termini che non nei termini reali di uomo che aveva una tormentata religiosità borromaica, che a Roma gli costò una sorta di persecuzione. Quella di Caravaggio era un’epoca in cui c’era una fede religiosa viva, unanimemente condivisa dal pittore stesso. Caravaggio non era né ateo, né miscredente, era semplicemente un adepto della linea borromaica della controriforma cattolica, portata avanti prima da Carlo poi da Federico Borromeo”.

Caravaggio è intimamente legato alla storia della Galleria Borghese, luogo privilegiato per celebrare il quarto centenario dalla sua morte. A Scipione Borghese, infatti, erano destinati i due dipinti che recava con sé al momento della morte, ed è con il Cardinale che egli ebbe il rapporto più intenso e storicamente più ricco di conseguenze. La Galleria Borghese mantiene vive le tracce di questo rapporto attraverso sei capolavori, il Fanciullo con canestro di frutta, Bacchino malato, Madonna dei Palafrenieri, Davide con la testa di Golia, San Gerolamo scrivente e San Giovanni Battista, tramite i quali è possibile illustrare l’intero arco della sua vita.

Per questa occasione la collezione permanente della Galleria è arricchita da opere chiave della sua produzione come la Negazione di Pietro dal Metropolitan di New York, il Martirio di Sant’Orsola l’ultimo Caravaggio da Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano di Napoli, il Ritratto di Antonio Martelli, Cavaliere di Malta da Palazzo Pitti o la Resurrezione di Lazzaro dal Museo Regionale di Messina.

Alle opere di Caravaggio verranno quindi affiancati diciassette capolavori di Francis Bacon: i grandi trittici come Triptych August 1972 dalla Tate Gallery di Londra e Triptych inspired by the Orestia of Aeschylus dall’Astrup Fearnley Museum di Oslo, le sue immagini di papa Innocenzo X di Velazquez come Head VI dalla Arts Council Collection di Londra, i ritratti come Study for a portrait of George Dyer, Portrait of Isabel Rawsthorne 1966 dalla Tate Gallery o Three studies of Lucian Freud.

Un esperimento ben riuscito, una mostra che ci consente di contemplare quanto di più interiore, sconvolgente e aberrante il pennello di questi artisti abbia incontrato nell’indagine profonda dell’animo umano.

 

 

 

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INFO: Caravaggio-Bacon Roma, Galleria Borghese, Piazzale Scipione Borghese 5, dal 2 ottobre 2009 al 24 gennaio 2010. Orari: lunedì, dalle ore 13 alle 19; dal martedì al sabato, dalle ore 9 alle 21; domenica, dalle 9 alle 19. Ingresso: interi € 13,50 per mostra e Galleria Borghese, più diritto di prevendita la prenotazione è obbligatoria. Prenotazioni: tel. 06 32810 – www.ticketeria.it. Catalogo: 24 ORE Motta Cultura con marchio Federico Motta Editore

 

 

 

Francis Bacon: Zaživa legendou

 

 

Život, Dnes je Streda, 4.11. 2009, meniny má Karol

 

 

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Svoj mladistvý výzor pripisoval rodinnej genetike. Nikdy totiž nebol striedmy.

 

 

Hoci sa narodil len pred sto rokmi, vo Veľkej Británii bol rešpektovaným pojmom už počas svojho života. Margaret Thatcherová ho raz opísala ako „muža, čo maľuje tie hnusné obrazy“. Hovorila o FRANCISOVI BACONOVI.

Anglický kapitán vo výslužbe Anthony Edward Mortimer Bacon sa do Írska presťahoval, lebo tam boli lepšie podmienky na chov a trénovanie koní, ktorým sa venoval. Francis, ktorý sa narodil 28. októbra 1909 v Dubline, bol druhý v poradí z jeho piatich detí.

Kapitán Bacon bol výbušný, agresívny typ a tak sa správal aj k synovi. Malý Francis chorý na chronickú astmu bol v jeho očiach nula. Ani jeho školské vzdelávanie nebolo úplne tradičné. Do školy ho poslali až v pätnástich. „Nemal som ju rád, preto som z nej pravidelne utekal. Nakoniec ma z nej rodičia odhlásili a strávil som tam iba rok,“ vysvetľoval neskôr. Navyše Francisa priťahovali muži. „Otca som nemal rád, ale keď som bol mladý, sexuálne ma priťahoval,“ spomínal neskôr Bacon otvorene. Ako tínedžer mal aférky s pomocníkmi v stajniach, a keď otec zistil, že je homosexuál, a pristihol ho, ako si skúša matkinu spodnú bielizeň, vyhodil ho v roku 1926 z domu.

Maliar samouk

Šestnásťročný Francis odišiel do Londýna. Žil zo dňa na deň zo štedrého vreckového od matky, privyrábal si drobnosťami a starší muži mu platili za sex. Cudzie mu neboli ani malé krádeže. Otec ho poslal na jar 1927 s jedným zo svojich prísnych známych do Berlína, aby sa z neho stal naozajstný chlap. Ibaže ten to využil na pomer s chlapcom. V Berlíne sa Francis zamotal do sexuálnych výstrelkov, gamblerstva a zaplietal sa s pochybnými existenciami. Umelcom sa rozhodol stať po tom, ako v roku 1927 videl výstavu Picassových kresieb. Začal kresbami a akvarelmi ako samouk, krátko žil v Paríži, potom opäť v Londýne, kde sa venoval interiérovému dizajnu. Učil sa maľovať olejom a prvýkrát vystavoval v roku 1930. K jeho podporovateľom vtedy patril vážený občan Eric Hall, ženatý muž, ktorý mal s Francisom intímny pomer viac ako 15 rokov.

Nepodarky ničil

Prvú naozaj originálnu prácu Ukrižovanie namaľoval Francis, keď mal dvadsaťtri, a dokonca mala hneď kupca. Nasledujúce roky sa mu až tak nedarilo, jeho práce sa nepredávali. Veľa sa ich nezachovalo, lebo veci, ktoré sa mu nepáčili, zničil. Robil to až do konca života.

Európu zasiahla druhá svetová vojna, ale Francis pre astmu na front nemohol ísť. Skúšal to aspoň v domobrane, ale jeho chorobu to zhoršilo. Presťahoval sa preto spolu s Ericom Hallom na vidiek. V tomto období veľa nemaľoval, ale ak, tak to stálo za to. Prelomom v jeho živote bol triptych Tri štúdie figúr pri základe ukrižovania (1944), ktorý vystavil v Londýne v apríli 1945. Okamžite pritiahol pozornosť kritikov i verejnosti. Kúpil ho jeho milenec Eric a neskôr ho venoval Tate Gallery v Londýne, kde visí dodnes.

Osudoví muži

Francisov ľúbostný život nebol jednoduchý. Po roku 1950 už s Ericom, ktorý opustil manželku, nežil. Niekedy pred rokom 1952 sa dal dokopy s bývalým stíhacím a testovacím pilotom Petrom Lacym. Ich vzťah bol plný deštrukcie a Bacon ostal v zajatí Petrovho neurotického sadizmu viac ako desaťročie. Keď sa jeho milenec presťahoval do Tangeru, Bacon ho nasledoval a žil medzi Marokom a Londýnom. Nakoniec sa rozišli, lebo Peter čoraz viac prepadal alkoholu.

Francisova umelecká reputácia medzitým rástla. Ďalším jeho prelomovým dielom bol veľkoformátový triptych Tri štúdie ukrižovania z roku 1962. Zrodil sa v ateliéri, ktorý vyzeral ako chaotické smetisko, ale inde maľovať nedokázal. „Namaľoval som ho asi za dva týždne, keď som mal mizernú pijanskú náladu a všetko bolo zahalené v opare alkoholu a neskutočnej opice. Niekoľkokrát som ani nevedel, čo vlastne robím. Je to však jediný obraz, ktorý som takto namaľoval. Možno práve to, že som nebol triezvy, mi pomohlo oslobodiť sa. Nikdy viac som to nezopakoval,“ priznal v jednom z rozhovorov.

V máji 1962 mu v londýnskej Tate Gallery urobili obrovskú retrospektívnu výstavu. V deň vernisáže dostal telegram, že jeho vtedy už bývalý partner Peter Lacy v Tangeri zomrel. Hlboko ho to zasiahlo.

Koncom nasledujúceho roka do jeho života vstúpil ďalší muž. George Dyer bol elegán z východného Londýna, mal na konte drobné prehrešky proti zákonu a navonok pôsobil tvrdo, čím ukrýval svoju depresívnu a neistú povahu. Stal sa námetom mnohých Baconových obrazov. Alkoholizmus, pokusy o samovraždu a nebezpečné fyzické potýčky s Francisom vzťahu nepridávali. V roku 1970 dokonca žiarlivý George ukryl v maliarovom ateliéri 2,1 gramu marihuany a udal ho.

O rok neskôr Bacona čakala ďalšia veľká retrospektíva, tentoraz v Paríži. História sa kruto zopakovala. Dva dni pred jej otvorením Dyera našli mŕtveho. Zomrel na predávkovanie liekmi v kombinácii s alkoholom. Francis prijal túto správu so zvláštnym pokojom. Až séria obrazov, ktoré namaľoval v priebehu nasledujúcich rokov, ukázala, aký hlboký bol jeho smútok.

Skutočný priateľ

V polovici sedemdesiatych rokov stretol ďalšieho muža z East Endu – Johna Edwardsa. Zoznámili sa v maliarovom obľúbenom bare Colony Room v Soho, kam chodil viac ako štyridsať rokov. Edwards mal dvadsaťšesť, Bacon o štyridsať rokov viac. Klebety o tom, že títo dvaja muži boli nielen priateľmi, ale aj milencami, sa nikdy nepotvrdili. Skôr bol medzi nimi podobný vzťah ako medzi otcom a synom a maliar tvrdil, že John je „jediný skutočný priateľ, ktorého kedy mal“. Edwards bol skutočne charizmatický. Aj napriek tomu, že bol ťažký dyslektik a len veľmi ťažko dokázal čítať či písať. Spolu cestovali na dovolenky či na výstavy, chodili po reštauráciách, kasínach a do barov a John často pomáhal Francisovi zo situácií, do ktorých sa dostal, keď si vypil. Vtedy vedel byť inak veľkodušný muž veľmi prchký a vzťahovačný.

Nasledujúcich pätnásť rokov mal maliar výstavy po celom svete. V roku 1985 mu londýnska Tate Gallery urobila ďalšiu retrospektívu a označila ho za „najväčšieho žijúceho maliara“.

Vášeň do posledného dychu

Francis síce nebol Johnov milenec, ale vášne a sexu sa ani v pokročilom veku a pri zhoršenom zdraví nevzdal. V roku 1989 mu vyoperovali obličku napadnutú rakovinou, ale aj tak udržiaval vzťah s mladým Španielom. Napriek radám svojho lekára za ním v apríli 1992 odcestoval do Madridu, kde ho krátko po príchode museli hospitalizovať. Dvadsiateho ôsmeho apríla dostal infarkt a zomrel. Podľa želania ho bez obradu spopolnili ešte v Španielsku a jeho popol potom pri súkromnom obrade rozprášili v Anglicku. Za univerzálneho dediča ustanovil svojho najlepšieho priateľa - Johna Edwardsa. Ten v roku 1998 daroval galérii v Dubline Baconov ateliér, kde tvoril viac ako tridsať rokov, a po rekonštrukcii ho pre verejnosť otvorili v máji 2001.

Ako tvoril

V Baconovom ateliéri neboli na stenách žiadne obrazy, iba pár fotografií. „Nemôžem žiť s obrazmi,“ vravieval. Steny používal ako skúšobnú paletu a jeho ateliér bol skutočným smetiskom. Zaschnuté tuby farieb, koberce, handry, staré štetce a kopa prachu. „Raz som si kúpil skvelý ateliér, s perfektným svetlom, a tak nádherne som ho všetkým vybavil, že som tam nedokázal pracovať. Bol som v tom priestore úplne vykastrovaný,“ tvrdil maliar. Hoci sú mnohé jeho obrazy netradičnými portrétmi, nikdy nemaľoval podľa živého modelu. V ateliéri bol najradšej sám a inšpiroval sa hlavne fotografiami. Svet fotografie ho fascinoval. Ako dobre predávaný autor mohol žiť kdekoľvek v Londýne, a aj si kúpil krásne bývanie pri Temži, ale nedokázal tam existovať. Preto žil v starom byte a bizarnom ateliéri.

Priatelia ho poznali hlavne ako veľmi štedrého, inteligentného a zraniteľného človeka. Aj napriek veľmi znepokojujúcim obrazom bol Bacon príjemný človek a skutočný džentlmen. Veľmi nerád analyzoval vlastné diela. „Ak o tom dokážete hovoriť, prečo to potom maľovať?“ bola jedna z jeho obľúbených odpovedí. „Nemôžete byť horší a šokujúcejší než sám život,“ rád hovoril, hoci jeho obrazy ľudí väčšinou odpudzovali. Práve preto si ich súkromní zberatelia veľmi nekupovali a končili skôr v zbierkach galérií. Jeden z jeho priateľov, básnik Stephen Spender, to vystihol veľmi jasne: „Chcel som si kúpiť jeho obraz, ale nikto z mojej rodiny u nás doma žiadny vidieť nechcel.“ Bacon rád tvrdil, že maľuje sám pre seba: „Neverím, že moje maľby sú pre ľudí. Môžem maľovať iba pre seba,“ a dodával: „Keby som myslel na to, čo povedia kritici, nemaľoval by som.“


TEXT: ZUZANA MEZENCEVOVÁ
FOTO: PROFIMEDIA.SK, ISIFA.COM,

Zdroj: Život

 

 

Bacon comes alive in an Indian setting

 

Sharmishta Koushik, The Times of India, 2 November 2009

 

 

 

                    http://www.alexalienart.com/baconsman.jpg

BACON'S MAN WITH FIGURE OF PARAPLEGIC CHILD         BACON'S MAN WITH THE FIGURE OF THE PRIEST

                                               Size 5' x 5' (2 parts) Acrylic and Oil on Canvas, 2005,  Yusuf Arakkal

 

 

 

BANGALORE: Francis Bacon is considered one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, alongside Pablo Picasso. And in his centenary year, a group of Bangalore artists pay homage to him with an art exhibition The Open Cage, Curated by Giridhar Khasniss, it features works by artists Yusuf Arakkal, C F John, B Devaraj and M S Prakash Babu.

"He's an iconic figure of the 20th century. I was researching him for an article early this year. It's also his birth centenary year. That interested me. As I went along, I thought, why not have a group of Indian artists from Bangalore pay homage to him through their works. I broached this idea to Yusuf Arakkal. He warmed to it, and also agreed to lend his work,'' says Khasnis.

The painting in question is a diptych - Bacon's Man and Child and Bacon's Man and Priest, which incidentally, won the gold medal at the Florence International Biennale in 2005.

As for the other artists, Khasnis wanted a small group of just four. The figures in Bacon's works are characterized by a sense of despair and loneliness. And Khasnis developed a vision for the show. "I felt the paintings shouldn't copy Bacon's works, but rather inspire artists to render them in an Indian way,'' says Khasnis. That brought up his first challenge of choosing artists who could draw from this vision. Eventually, he zeroed in on B Devaraj, C F John and M S Prakash Babu, in addition to Yusuf Arakkal.

"Devaraj's works have stark images, but are also meditative. His figures are calm, collected, but the environment around is harsh and violent. Prakash Babu is also a film-maker, and Bacon wanted to be one too. He was inspired by the film Battleship Potamkin by Sergei Eisenstein, and one of his paintings was inspired by a particular scene on the Odessa steps, of a wounded nurse. Yusuf Arakkal's paintings are also stark, but have a humanist quality to them,'' he says. To counterbalance these sensibilities, he wanted a gentle rendering of struggle.

"C F John came to mind for his works are gentle and, yet, as powerful as Devaraj's paintings,'' he says.

Six months of discussions led to 27 paintings that comprise The Open Cage. The cage is a Baconian concept. It connotes a sense of being enclosed and crumpled. But Khasnis wanted to bring in a positive element. And hence, The Open Cage. "It's a paradox. Although it's a cage, there is a sense of something opening up, that there is a possibility of freedom,'' he says.

The works depict not just different approaches, but are also of different sizes. There are some diptychs and triptychs, which, says Khasnis, are also part of the Baconian process.

The exhibition opens tomorrow at Galerie Sara Arakkal, and is on till November 14 from 11 am to 6 pm.

 

 

 

Tribute to Bacon

 


Considered to be among the most powerful artists of the 20th century, Francis Bacon (1909-1992), the Irish-born British painter, became a legend in his own lifetime.

 

 

Deccan Herald, Monday 2 November 2009

 

 

His prolific output included many compelling, mysterious and violent paintings. Shockingly and chillingly distorting the human body and placing it in mysteriously seductive cots, brutal chairs, or boxlike enclosures, Bacon created a unique visual universe where human emotions and passions were embedded within the harsh realities of the flesh.

The Open Cage curated by art writer Giridhar Khasnis and featuring four Bangalore-based artists Yusuf Arakkal, C F John, B Devaraj and M S Prakash Babu, who pay homage to the art and life of Francis Bacon, by revisiting his paintings and interpreting them.

Yusuf Arakkal’s award-winning painting Bacon’s Man, Priest and Boy which received the Gold Medal at the prestigious Florence International Biennale 2005, is a five-feet-by-ten-feet diptych rendered principally in monochromatic hues and takes a cue from Bacon’s well-known painting, Self-Portrait (1973) showing a man seated on a chair.

John, who studied philosophy before opting to take up a career as an artist, comes up with a body of softly coloured paintings; his paintings lyrically render poignant moments of a dancer’s life in a Baconian cage.

In contrast, Devaraj’s paintings are powerful allegories with sturdy characters located in somewhat harsh environs. The protagonists are often surrounded by squealing and squeaking Baconian half-human, half-animal creatures; yet they remain calm and contemplative.

Prakash Babu shows his characteristic inspiration derived from the cinematic idiom where elements of suspense and intrigue are interestingly intertwined. The artist locates Bacon himself in several pictures, but deliberately moves the frames, cuts and chops the edges, and dramatically alters the perspective. The Open Cage will be on display at Galerie Sara Arakkal, Bangalore, from November 3 to 14.

 

 

 

H.R. Giger: Father of the alien

 

On the 30th anniversary of his most famous creation, the artist behind the creature is still annoyed at how he was treated by Hollywood

 

Wolfgang Dios, Weekend Post, Friday, October 30, 2009

 

                        http://www.alexalienart.com/AlienBaconHurt.jpg

                                                                      Alien 1979

 

Three decades ago, a loathsome, worm-like parasite burst from the chest of a hapless spaceship crew member - an electrifying moment that made cinematic history, as well as the reputations of pretty well everyone concerned. Sigourney Weaver, playing beleaguered Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley, had previously best been known for a minor role in Woody Allen's Annie Hall, and director Ridley Scott for his work in British television commercials.

The creature was designed by Swiss artist H.R. Giger based on the nightmarish creature that had appeared in his then just-published art book, Necronomicon (Masks Of The Dead), which director Scott had seen. Together the two conferred on what the parasite should look like when it erupted from its human host's body. Giger readily admits he was influenced by another artist. ‘It was Francis Bacon's work that gave me the inspiration,’ Giger said, ‘Of how this thing would come tearing out of the man's flesh with its gaping mouth, grasping and with an explosion of teeth ... it's pure Bacon.’

 

 

Francis Bacon / Diego Velázquez /  “Alien”

 

REF. Museum of References, October 10, 2009

 

What does a 17th century pope an the “Alien” film series have in common?

In 1650, Spanish court painter Diego Velázquez made a portrait of then pope, Innocent X. The painting is considered by many art critics as one, if not the, best portrait ever made. Apparently, Irish painter Francis Bacon, shared this view. Between the mid 1950’s and early 1960’s he created dozens of variations of the portrait (Study After Velázquez). Bacon’s  unique style transformed Velázquez already intense portrait into an horrific, nightmarish image.

26 years later, designer and artist H.R. Giger, heavily influenced by Bacon’s  paintings, created the famous “Alien” monster. Bacon  himself was also influenced by Sergei Einstein’s scene of an elderly woman being shot during Battleship Potemkin. Innocent X’s dark portrait, combined with Eisenstein’s masterpiece, turned into Bacon’s disturbing screaming pope, which led to a movie franchise and an Academy Award for visual effects.

 

 

 

http://www.alexalienart.com/InnocentX1.jpg

 

 

 

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 hied myself to the Hugh Lane Gallery, which has mounted A Terrible Beauty, marking Bacon's 100th birthday with a presentation of objects and research materials from the gallery's extensive Bacon archive; once there, I just about dared one of the curators, Padraic Moore, to convince me of the merits of an artist whose work I disliked so thoroughly.

To his great credit, he didn't blink an eye when I told him of my aversion. "When you approach the later paintings," he agreed, "they have all the qualities that you were talking about, this visceral, aggressive, violent, even frightening energy. And they're not necessarily aesthetically pleasing." Ha! I knew I was right!

Moore continues: "But they have a function, and I think that function is to provoke. It's important to contextualise where he was coming from."

The context is illuminating. Born in Dublin to a British military family, Bacon Senior was horsey, and it was his equine capabilities that brought the family to Ireland. They returned to London during the First World War, and then moved back to Ireland for our own Civil War. Not restful times in which to grow up.

Bacon Junior was asthmatic, and arty; at 16 he was ejected from the family home when Dad found him dressed up in Mum's clothes. He went to London and, with some education here and there, and no formal art training at all, took up life as an artist.

What a time to have lived. Two world wars, the atomic age ... "I think he was really only reflecting what he was bombarded with," says Moore, and I have to agree. I'm starting to understand something about the psyche of Francis.

Then there's how his lover, George Dyer, died of an overdose the night before the opening of Bacon's first retrospective in the Grand Palais in Paris. The gallery's archive yields several photographs of Bacon attending the showing despite his grief, although in one image clearly shows the devastation Dyer's death has wrought.

Oh, dear. He's becoming human. "The work is very human," Moore insists. "And humanity is violent, and it is sexual, and it is about suffering and vulnerability and isolation."

Oh. Yes. That's true. It's not all water lilies and Madonnas and child and dogs playing poker, is it?

Now I begin to question what it is I look for in an artwork. Am I happy enough with impressionistic light upon the water, or am I up for a challenge? Moore takes me for a tour of the exhibition, and he points out some of the things that he values in the paintings: the formal structure, the palette of luscious colours, the recurring body language of the figures.

There's a portrait of Francis' last lover, John Edwards, from 1988: the figure sits on a cane chair in his underpants, against a black and olive background. It's simple, it's direct, and it echoes, painfully, mournfully, many of the portraits that Bacon did of Dyer. "Something that's left out of the reading of his work is love, and affection, and the suffering that this causes," says Moore.

"If you are the sort of person who is attached to people, as soon as you make the decision to attach yourself to another human being, you are instantly vulnerable, and there's the potential for suffering."

I feel my heart creak open, just a crack, to allow in comprehension of the sadness of the artist. And then I get freaked out by the shadow of Edwards that Bacon has painted in the foreground: it is flesh coloured.

I have no idea why that freaks me out, but it does - all the way. It is just plain nasty. And yet I've learned a lot about the man, and I've allowed myself to take in his work, so I'm not totally repulsed.

Bacon may not make my lifetime hit parade of favourite artists, but getting glimpse of his work process, through the gallery's presentation of its archival materials, has humanised him. I don't hate his work any more, and I can appreciate its power to push buttons and evoke tumultuous emotions.

It is, after all, only paint on canvas - but in the right hands, paint on fabric becomes explosive, and disconcerting, which says everything about the power of art. And the most powerful art is often the least lovely. But don't ask me to appreciate that Italian dude who put his own excrement in tins and sold it for buckets of money. I've got to draw the line somewhere. HQ

Francis Bacon: A Terrible Beauty, runs 'til March 2010 at the Hugh Lane Gallery, see www.hughlane.ie for more information

- Sue Conley  

   

 

 

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

 

 

http://www.alexalienart.com/EdwardsBaconStudy425.JPG

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.”  

 

 

                                                               http://www.alexalienart.com/terrible370.JPG

 

 

Brian Clarke also commented on the studio’s state of disorder. He first visited it late at night, when the artist was still alive and without his knowledge. “It was,” he said, “both exhilarating and repulsive.”

Clarke and the late John Edwards, Bacon’s heir, gave the studio to the Hugh Lane, who sent in an archaeological team to survey and catalogue it. It inventoried more than 7,000 items, all of which were shipped to Dublin. The recreated studio can be seen in the Hugh Lane now.

Also on view is a selection of Bacon’s paintings, many of them only rarely exhibited in public before, including a picture from Damien Hirst’s personal collection. The studio contents, including unfinished and partially destroyed canvases, sketches, photographic prints and photographic reproductions in books and magazine, has been a treasure trove for scholars of the artist’s work.  

Joanna Shepard, Head of Conservation: Francis Bacon : A Terrible Beauty

 

 

RTE star apologises for African 'rats' gaffe

 

 

By Louise Hoganm, Irish Independent, Wednesday October 28 2009

 

 

                http://www.alexalienart.com/BeardBaconMirror.jpg

                             Peter Beard  Self Portrait 1970s  Collection Hugh Lane 

 

AN RTE radio presenter issued an on-air apology yesterday after a guest referred to Africans as "reproducing like rats".

The Today with Pat Kenny show received complaints from listeners after the comment was made during a discussion with photographer Peter Beard on an exhibition celebrating the works of artist Francis Bacon.

Presenter Myles Dungan, standing in for Mr Kenny, later apologised as he read out remarks from disgruntled listeners. Mr. Dungan said the comment was "something that should not have been said".

Mr Beard, a friend of Bacon, was discussing the problems of overpopulation in Africa when the comment was made.

"You get this kind of crop damage because Africans are reproducing like rats and going right up to the border," said the photographer, who lives for part of the year in Kenya.

A spokeswoman for the Immigrant Council of Ireland described the comment as both "offensive and inappropriate".

 

 

Malerei

Die Schönheit des Schreckens

 

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

 

    http://www.alexalienart.com/BaconFuckingPistBadMood.jpg

                      Francis Bacon in London, 1970

 

 

 

Was die Kunst seit allen Zeiten am meisten mit der Realität und dem Leben verbindet, ist ausgerechnet ihr fantastischer Sinn für das Grausige und Grausame. Kriege, Verbrechen, blutige Leidenschaften sind ihr Höchstes und bezeugen zugleich etwas zutiefst Menschliches. Das gilt von der Ilias, den antiken Tragödien, den Tempelreliefs der Mayas oder den Märtyrer-Folterbildern, den Kreuzigungen der christlichen Kunstgeschichte – bis hin zu zwei jüngsten filmischen Meisterwerken, Quentin Tarantinos Inglorious Basterds und Michael Hanekes Das weiße Band.

 

Das Böse ist allemal faszinierender als das Brave und Gute, nur der Konflikt ist dramatisch, nicht die reine Harmonie. Die "Ästhetik des Schreckens", die immer neu fingierte Schönheit des Fürchterlichen freilich unterscheidet die Kunst auch vom Leben: weil die leibhaftige Qual, weil das wirkliche Leidantun vor allem dumpf, brutal und widerlich sind.

 

Eben dieses Paradoxon der Kunst und des Kunstgenusses (die Lust am Bild des Schreckens) hat wohl kein anderer Artist der Moderne in seinen Werken so unerbittlich und unwiderstehlich verkörpert wie der heute vor 100 Jahren in Dublin geborene und 1992 in Madrid gestorbene englische Maler Francis Bacon. Wenn Pablo Picasso das Bildgenie des 20. Jahrhunderts war, dann muss man ihm in der zweiten Jahrhunderthälfte Francis Bacon zur Seite stellen.

 

Der Maler des aufgerissenen Fleisches und der zerfetzten Körper, der auch im Bild des Selbstmords bereits die Explosionen der heutigen Selbstmordattentäter vorausgesehen zu haben schien, er ist heute mit seinen Großwerken im Kunsthandel ein 100-Millionen-Dollar-Fall. Und immer hat er auf die ästhetische Form höchsten Wert gelegt, bis zum Äußersten und (vermeintlich nur) Äußerlichen: Seine Szenerien von Blut und Glut sind absichtlich hinter kühles Glas gesetzt, wie sonst nur viel ältere, unersetzliche Meisterwerke, zudem hat er sie in vergoldete Rahmen gehängt. Bacon war sich der hiermit gesteigerten und zugleich kontrollierten Wirkung seines Oeuvres immer bewusst. Er suchte die Schönheit, nicht den Ekel, auch wenn seine bühnenhaften Tableaux oft grausigen Tatorten gleichen. Wobei Täter, Opfer und Zuschauer auch zu Detektiven werden: auf der eigenen Spur.

 

Schon als Kind erfährt der 1909 geborene Francis, mit seiner (britischen) Familie zwischen Irland und England wechselnd, Weltkrieg und Bürgerkrieg, seine Brüder sterben früh, und der Vater ist ein Pferdetrainer und roher Mann. Mit 18 Jahren geht der Schulabbrecher von London nach Berlin zu einem obskuren Onkel – und erlebt 1927 als frühreifer Streuner jenes Berlin der katzengoldenen, schrillen Roaring Twenties: voller Gewalt und Leidenschaften, Elend und Glitter, Halbwelt und Dekadenz. Es ist das politisch, sexuell, kulturell abgründige Cabaret -Berlin, das sein Landsmann Christopher Isherwood beschrieben hat.

 

Noch im selben Jahr 1927 reist Bacon aber weiter nach Paris und begegnet dort in der Galerie des Kunsthändlers Paul Rosenberg erstmals Bildern von Pablo Picasso. Es sind kubistisch aufgespaltene, vieldeutige Gesichter und Gestalten, die auf die nackte bizarre Form von Knochen, durchbrochenem Gestein oder magischen Strünken reduziert und verdichtet wirken. Für Francis Bacon, den alsbald bekennenden Trinker, Spieler, Homosexuellen und Gelegenheitsarbeiter wird das zum lebensentscheidenden Schock. Wird zur Erweckung seines schier unheimlichen und später als völliger Autodidakt ausgebildeten Talents.

 

Wissen ist Macht. Francis Bacon, der Philosoph und Shakespeare-Zeitgenosse, hat den berühmten Satz geprägt. Und sein gleichnamiger familiärer Nachfahre hat zumindest von der Macht des Bösen so viel gewusst, dass er davon sein visionäres Zeugnis ablegen sollte.

 

Um zu überleben, entwirft Bacon zunächst Teppiche und Möbel, er malt nebenher und ab 1933 stellt er in London erste Bilder aus, fast ohne Resonanz. Exzessiv und zugleich extrem kritisch, wie er war, hat Bacon 1943 fast sein gesamtes Frühwerk vernichtet. Nur 15 Bilder sind aus jener Zeit erhalten, und als sein Debüt galt ihm selbst das Triptychon Drei Studien für Figuren am Fuß einer Kreuzigung von 1944.

 

Drei Öltafeln gleich einem weltlichen Altar, doch ohne fortlaufenden erzählerischen Kontext, sondern in gegenseitiger motivischer Spannung: das wird Bacons Spezialität. Schon die ersten drei "Figuren" sind, auf blutorangenem Grund, in einem von geometrischen Linien bezeichneten Raum verkrümmte, arm-, bein- und augenlose Menschenwesen mit hündischen Köpfen, beherrscht vom aufgerissenen Gebiss und einem kreatürlichen Schrei.

 

Solche Bilder machen bald Furore. Gegen den Trend zur allgemeinen Abstraktion hält Bacon am letzten, existentiellen Ausdruck des Figürlichen, des Menschen-Bilds fest. Nach 1945 ist er der Künstler, der – ohne politische Botschaft und stärker selbst als Picasso mit Guernica – ins Bewusstsein rückt, dass selbst Auschwitz menschenmöglich war. Als er schon berühmt ist, nennt er die abstrakte Malerei eine schier formale Kunst, ohne innere Spannung und Dramatik, bestenfalls bediene sie "lyrische Empfindungen". Inzwischen ist Bacon, dessen mit dem Farbschwamm virtuos verwischten Gesichter und Gesichte weder naiv naturalistische noch dekorativ surrealistische Sehnsüchte stillen, zum Heros fast aller gegenständlichen Kunst geworden, nicht zuletzt auch der Maler um Neo Rauch und der Leipziger Schule.

 

Am Abend oder Vorabend großer Retrospektiven sind Bacons engste Freunde (und Modelle) an Drogen oder durch Selbstmord gestorben. Das ist ebenso beschrieben worden wie Bacons Verhältnis zu Velázquez, dessen Porträt von Papst Innozenz X. zum Vorbild des vielfach variierten Schreienden Papstes wurde.

 

Aus Anlass des 100. Geburtstages liegt jetzt auch zur weniger beleuchteten Verbindung von Picasso und Bacon der materialreiche Katalogband des Pariser Musée Picasso auf Deutsch vor. Und der Berliner Parthas Verlag erhellt Bacon in einem kleinen, empfehlenswerten Buch, das neben berühmten Essays etwa von Arnold Gehlen, Gilles Deleuze oder Michel Leiris (den Bacon porträtierte) ein fabelhaftes, hier erstmals übersetztes Interview der Schriftstellerin Marguerite Duras mit dem Maler aus dem Jahr 1971 enthält. Wie sonst nur in seinen früher schon publizierten Gesprächen mit dem Kritiker und Vertrauten David Sylvester beschreibt Bacon darin fast neurologisch präzise das Geheimnis künstlerisch reflektierter Spontaneität.

 

 

 

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

 

 

     http://www.alexalienart.com/BaconBavarianRadio.jpg

                                     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

 

 

          http://www.alexalienart.com/BaconRadio.jpg

                       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

 

 

 

 

 

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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

 

 

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     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 

 

 

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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

 

 

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            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.  

 

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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.  

 

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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.  

 

 

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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.

 

 

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                                                                                                               Figure in Sea 1952 Francis Bacon

 

 

To make up for the paucity of Bacon paintings in Irish collections, reinforcements have been drafted in from several sources, including the artist’s estate, private collections, the Tate Gallery and the Ulster Museum. Many of these works are outstanding, and hardly any is an obvious choice. The strange, dark-lit Untitled (Half-length Figure in Sea) , for example, is credited to Damien Hirst’s personal Murderme collection: fascinating given its similarities to Hirst’s own recent paintings, now on view at the Wallace Collection in London. Head III and Head of a Woman, also from private collections, are classic portrait heads, as is Portrait of Henrietta Moraes, of late in a collection here in Ireland, now part of Christie’s stock. It’s a shame such a perfect little painting could not have stayed in the country permanently.

A whole room is given over to plates from Eadweard Muybridge’s The Human Figure in Motion, which Bacon – and, it must be said, countless other artists, used extensively as references. Harrison is an authority on art and photography, and his book In Camera is an exhaustive and informative account of Bacon’s use of a vast range of photographic sources, including original photographs of friends, lovers and acquaintances, often commissioned from John Deakin (a room in the exhibition is given over to them), as well as mechanically reproduced images from magazines, art history books, medical textbooks and just about anything that caught his eye.

WE ARE WELL into a re-evaluation of the myth of Francis Bacon, which tended to downplay the role of photography and simply deny the use of preparatory drawings. Around 40 of the latter turned up in the studio, but in a way they confirm Bacon’s protestations. The sketches are minimal and rudimentary, more notes or memory aids than drawings in the usual sense. But on the other hand you could say that photographs, both original and reproduced, were his preparatory drawings, and they were absolutely vital to what he did. He collected and consumed them voraciously; editing, tearing, shaping and distorting them to create his own images.

This is one conclusion that emerges unmistakably from A Terrible Beauty. There was a time when artists couldn’t admit to using photographs in this way but, as David Hockney observed in his book Hidden Knowledge, painters have generally used any and every available means to make their work, and now photography is widely used and accepted. The exhibition should also deepen awareness of the relationship between life and art, and it’s hard to emerge from it without getting some sense of Bacon’s personal difficulties and tragedies, as well as his extraordinary resourcefulness, industry and inventiveness as an artist.  

 

Joanna Shepard, Head of Conservation: Francis Bacon : A Terrible Beauty

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

Tel. 01-2225550 or see hughlane.ie

 

 

 

International Art Festival debuts in Tel Aviv

 

    By David Brinn, The Jerusalem Post,

 

 

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      Francis Bacon's Version No. 2 - Lying Figure with Hypodermic Syringe'

 

Any film festival that brings together homages to Francis Bacon and Merce Cunningham, hosts a descendant of Felix Mendelssohn and presents a master class by self-confessed art geek Ben Lewis deserves to be called eclectic - or EPOS, the first International Art Film Festival, which will take place October 29-31 at the Tel Aviv Cinemateque.

Festival directors Micky Laron and Gidi Avivi are presenting over 40 local and international documentary and feature films on music, dance, literature and poetry; art and theater. In addition, the festival will host special guests and present events, including an evening dedicated to Pina Bausch and Merce Cunningham, the great choreographers who passed away this year, and commemorations of the 200th anniversary of Mendelssohn's birth and the 100th anniversary of the British painter Bacon's birth.

Controversial American art critic and filmmaker Lewis, who prides himself on having been booted out of the famed Sotheby's auction house, will offer a master class entitled: Art Safari: The Tantrums, Tears and Traumas of making Art Documentaries, in which he will explain the inner workings of making cult documentary films on the subject of contemporary art, focusing on his own feature The Great Contemporary Art Bubble.

In collaboration with the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, on October 31 the festival will present an homage to Bacon's 100th birthday, featuring a lecture by Tal Lanir, Fragment of a Crucifixion - The Art of Francis Bacon, and a screening of the film Francis Bacon, which follows a day in the life of the painter. The event will take place at the museum. 

Time will also be set aside at the festival on October 29 to focus on films made by students at films schools and art colleges around the country.

For a full schedule of films and events and to order tickets, go to http://www.filmart.co.il/?lat=en

 

 

 

Francis Bacon: La vida como obsesión

 

 

MARIO VIRGILIO MONTAÑEZ, SUR, Andalucía, 23.10.09

 

 

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                       Francis Bacon  1973   Peter Stark

 

 

E N abril cerró sus puertas la exposición antológica, primera desde su muerte en 1992, que el Museo del Prado dedicó a Francis Bacon. Ahora se cumple el centenario del nacimiento del artista irlandés, y su figura alcanza ahora la categoría de ídolo de multitudes, de artista que nos refleja con el ensañamiento del espejo y la explicitud de la sangre. Como si el gusto común por Van Gogh se hubiera desplazado hacia Bacon, que en el Prado, un lugar que amó, recibió la visita de muchedumbres fascinadas por el espectáculo cruel de sus pinturas detrás de las cuales puede anidar tanto la rabia como la compasión. Cien años de Bacon. Cien años de horror, de poesía, de carne dolorida.

 

Nacido en Dublín el 28 de octubre de 1909, de madre irlandesa y padre australiano aunque de origen inglés que había luchado en la guerra de los Bóer y que se dedicaría a entrenar caballos de carreras. Que su nombre coincida con el de un filósofo y político inglés de los siglos XVI-XVII se explica también por el hecho de que su padre descendía de un hermano del personaje histórico. Por otra parte, su tatarabuela, lady Charlotte Harley, fue amiga de Lord Byron y a ella está dedicado su poema El peregrinaje de Childe Harold.

 

Aquejado desde la niñez por asma y una potente alergia hacia los perros y caballos (recuérdese el oficio del padre), la morfina fue una constante en su tratamiento y a la vez una adicción. La salud influyó en su irregular formación académica, plena de ausencias, que también se vería drásticamente afectada a los 16 años por la expulsión del hogar familiar, cuando ya vivían en Inglaterra tras la Primera Guerra Mundial, al quedar al descubierto su homosexualidad brutalmente rechazada por el padre. Detrás quedaba una infancia triste, marcada por las oscilaciones de la residencia entre Irlanda e Inglaterra, con la brújula detenida a partir de 1925 en Inglaterra y marcada por tutores y preceptores en vez de por la escuela.

 

Londres, 1926

1926 y Londres son el año y el lugar en que c