Pop Goes the Art Market
By KELLY CROW,
THE WALL STREET
JOURNAL, NOVEMBER 10, 2010
Never underestimate the
power of suggestion: On Tuesday, Sotheby's hired waiters with silver trays to
offer up tiny glass bottles of soda pop to collectors arriving for its major
evening sale of contemporary art. Half an hour later, eight bidders fought
over the sale's priciest offering - Andy Warhol's 1962 soda bottle,
Coca-Cola  [Large Coca-Cola]. A telephone bidder won it for
$35.3 million, over its $25 million high estimate.
But the sale relied heavily
on faraway collectors to pick up its priciest pieces, including examples by
boom-era favourites Mark Rothko and Francis Bacon. An Asian telephone bidder
paid $22.4 million for a lemony, untitled Rothko from 1955 that was being
sold by architect Graham Gund. Sotheby's London-based expert Oliver Barker
also fielded the $14 million winning telephone bid for Bacon's
orange-and-blue Figure in Movement, which was priced to sell for up to
$10 million with fees. (Sale prices include the auction house's commission,
which estimate prices omit.)
Collectors Snap Up Pop Art at Sotheby’s Auction
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
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
are the art treasures that are often away from view and include works by
Francis Bacon and Damien Hirst.
News that the Arts
(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
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
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
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
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.”
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
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
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.
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
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".
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
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
He recalls meeting with a woman in a
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.
Kundera, translated from the French by Linda Asher, HarperCollins 178 pp,
ART EVENING SALE
1: Tue, 9 Nov 10, 7:00 PM
Figure in Movement 1985
LOT SOLD Hammer Price with Buyer's
Premium: 14,082,500 USD
LOT NO. 31
FIGURE IN MOVEMENT
7,000,00 - 10,000,000
A gift from the artist
to the present owner in 1985
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)
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
Gemeentemuseum, Francis Bacon, January - May 2001, p. 111, illustrated
London, Tate Britain;
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado; New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Francis
Bacon, September 2008 - August 2009, p. 243, illustrated in colour
London, Tate Gallery,
2000 - 2010 (extended loan)
Hugh Davies and Sally
Yard, Modern Masters: Francis Bacon, New York, London and Paris, 1986,
no. 102, p. 107, illustrated and illustrated in colour on the back cover
Michel Leiris, Francis
Bacon, Paris, 1987, no. 149, n.p., illustrated in colour
In the catalogue to the
spectacular retrospective at the Tate Gallery in 1985, the museum's renowned
director Alan Bowness described the art of Francis Bacon thus: "His own
work sets the standard for our time, for he is surely the greatest living
painter; no artist in our century has presented the human predicament with
such insight and feeling....for Bacon, the virtues of truth and honesty
transcend the tasteful. They give to his paintings a terrible beauty that has
placed them among the most memorable images in the entire history of
art" (Exh. Cat., London,
Tate Gallery, Francis Bacon, 1985, p. 7). Executed in this very year, Figure
in Movement represents physical testament to this acclamation. Exhibiting
the most striking composition, a magnificent array of brushwork and a supremely
arresting palette, this is a formidable portrayal of the human animal that
epitomises the full gamut of Bacon's artistic genius. Indeed, the inimitable
traits of his method, specifically the intense combination of brilliant
cadmium orange with depthless black, directly compare with the masterpieces Three
Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, 1944 (Tate Britain,
London) and Three Studies for a Crucifixion, 1962 (Solomon R.
Guggenheim Museum, New York).
Gifted by the artist to
his physician Dr. Paul Brass, who followed his father Dr. Stanley Brass as
Bacon's personal doctor and with whom Bacon maintained a close bond until his
death in 1992, Figure in Movement possesses an exceptional provenance.
The terms of its ownership vividly reflect its importance to Bacon: not only
was Dr. Brass a most trusted friend, but when he was first offered a choice
of painting and initially suggested another work, the artist instead
recommended Figure in Movement, assuring his doctor that it was a
superior painting. Eminently regarded through its distinguished exhibition
history in major shows in Moscow, Paris, London and The Hague, as well as its
long-term loan to the Tate; this marks the historic occasion of its first
appearance to market.
Foremost among Bacon's
innermost clique in 1985 was John Edwards, a handsome East-Ender and the
artist's closest companion at this time. Edwards wrote, "it was a
perfect relationship. I was never Francis' lover, but I loved him as the best
friend a man could have. He was fond of me like a son" (Exh. Cat., New York, Tony
Shafrazi Gallery, Francis Bacon, 1998, p. 7) and Dr. Brass has also
stated: "I never heard Francis say a bad word about John. He said to
me...'I think of John like a son. He's a son to me really'" (interviewed
for Bacon's Arena, directed by Adam Low, produced by Anthony Wall, BBC
Arena and The Estate of Francis Bacon, 2005). The parity between Edwards and
the present physiognomy is clear: the long jaw-line, the geometries of the
eye, nose and mouth and the jet-black hairline. However, Bacon never painted
his friend from life and the naked torso of this body is adapted from photos
of other models, notably the infamous shots of George Dyer in his underwear
taken 20 years earlier. Thus, Figure in Movement conflates two of the
most important figures in the artist's life. Significantly, Bacon inserts
this being, an amalgamation of that which he held most dear, onto an exposed
dais that is a crucible of existential isolation: the natural environment of
his extraordinary artistic and philosophical innovation.
While the figure twists
and writhes as if to struggle free of the canvas, it is contained within
indications of rigid cricket pads. The sport was a subject of fascination for
the artist's later career. A photograph of source material littering his
studio floor reveals the intriguing arrangement of a copy of Physique
Pictorial lying on top of England cricketer David Gower's book With
Time to Spare, so that the legs of a brooding male bodybuilder join up
with the cricket pads of a batsman underneath. This fusion of diametrically
opposed images is archetypal of Bacon's ability to meld starkly eclectic
themes to portray the chaos of human existence, and provides apt parallel
with Figure in Movement. Bacon draws on his knowledge of art
historical precedent, such as the incomparable figural studies of
Michelangelo. He accelerates the effects of light and shadow, plunging form
in and out of darkness so that several passages of light flow in simultaneous
chorus. Chiaroscuro rhythms of anatomic gesture negotiate between material
and void, while the figure's left leg dissolves in the black ether of the
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
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
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
£94 million of art sold at Frieze auctions
Last week’s auctions fetched more than double the
amount achieved last year.
Colin Gleadell, The Daily Telegraph, 18 Oct 2010
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
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
Bacon's Figure in Movement is estimated to fetch over £6 million at
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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'."
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.
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
cricket team in the mid-1980s.
Denis Wirth Miller and Francis Bacon
Bacon Cricketer With a Back Story
By CAROL VOGEL
The New York Times, October 8, 2010
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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,
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
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
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
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
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.
Le Figaro 14/09/2010
Black and white photograph of Francis Bacon, 1967. John
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
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
Peace, Kazakhstan Photo:
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
exhumed essays cast a spell with their insights into creativity, writes 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
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."
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."
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
Milan Kundera's Encounter is an excellent essay
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,
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
Book review: ‘Encounter’ by Milan Kundera
Compelling essays by someone who writes of authors,
composers and artists from whom he continues to learn.
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.
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.
in Wien stürzt Arthur, der ein Antiquariat betreibt, nach dem Auszug von
Isabel ins Bodenlose. Er verlässt die ehemals gemeinsame Wohnung kaum mehr,
überlässt die Arbeit im Antiquariat zur Gänze seiner Partnerin Maia und hängt
rosaroten Erinnerungen an seine Ehejahre nach.
Monaten der Verzweiflung führt ihn eine Laune ins Kunsthistorische Museum.
Dort in eine Ausstellung von Francis Bacon.
Die Bilder rütteln Arthur auf, sie spiegeln seine verborgensten Ängste wider
und geben ihm gleichzeitig neue Lebensenergie. Wie in Trance besucht Arthur
immer wieder die Ausstellung und beschließt schließlich, den Bildern des
irischen Malers quer durch Europa nachzureisen. In der Schweiz begegnet er
dann erstmals auf einer Leinwand Bacons Muse Isabel Rawsthorne. Und zieht
prompt Parallelen zu seiner Isabel.
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
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.
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.
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.
Steiner, Bacons Finsternis, Deuticke Verlag, 286 Seiten, 20,50 Euro.
Wilfried Steiners zweiter Roman
Ruth Halle, ORF,
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
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
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.
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
"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
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.
Arts and Human Suffering
by Stephen K. Levine
Jessica Kingsley, 2009
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.
"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
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
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
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
Bacon, Lucien Freud and Alberto Giacometti
and Connections in Paris and London 1946-1965
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
"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
Knowledge News, 6 July 2010
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.”
dibujos de Francis Bacon llegan a Buenos Aires
EFE, July 3,
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",
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
"La negación de la imagen parte de su idea de negar la
hombre. Quiere comunicar el concepto de que él se sitúa en el interior de la
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
siglo XX y en calidad de autodidacta no asistió nunca a ninguna escuela de
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.
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,
Algunos fueron sólo exhibidos en la
Bienal de Venecia de 2009. Otros, recientemente en la Fundación Durini de
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.
El Mundo, Efe | Buenos Aires
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
la primera vez que se exhibe un conjunto de obras de Bacon, uno de los
pintores más grandes del Siglo XX, en nuestro país.
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.
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.
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
arte y críticos y rejunte de testimonios.
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.
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.
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.”
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
Viaggio con Francis Bacon
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
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
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
«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
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
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
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
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
"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."
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
"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
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
"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.
Daily Telegraph, 07 June 2010
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
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
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
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,”
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
By Arifa Akbar, The
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
entre escritores fogem do trivial e buscam aprofundar questões
Estadão, Brasil, 01 de
junho de 2010
Ateliê. Francis Bacon, diante de seu estúdio em
Londres: pintor fala sobre infância, álcool e influências como Picasso
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.
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.
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."
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.
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
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
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."
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
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
By Colin Gleadell, The Daily Telegraph, 31 May 2010
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
Lockhart dishes on her Francis Bacon-inspired fall collection
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
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
What type of woman do you see loving these
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
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
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
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
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).
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
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
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
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
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.
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
Gian Luigi Verzellesi, La Arena.it, 07/05/2010
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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
(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
Bacon painting returned to heirs
A museum in
must return a Francis Bacon painting to his heirs, a court has ordered.
BBC News, Friday, 23 April 2010
The museum has continued to display the painting throughout
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.
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."
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
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
The disputed work, based on Van Gogh's 1888 self-portrait, The Painter
On The Road To Tarascon, has been hanging in Arles,
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.
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
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
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
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
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
“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
on the Road to Tarascon, Arles 1888 van Gogh
Van Gogh tribute must be returned to
Terry Kirby, London Evening
Legal battle: Homage to
£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.
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.
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.
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
to Van Gogh, now the subject of a court dispute. It is said to be worth £13
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
The paintings are thought not to
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
Francis Bacon on the Orient Express, 1965
‘He could be vicious,” says
Maggie O’Farrell, her eyes glinting with anarchic glee. “I would love to have
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
“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
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
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
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
“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
Francis Bacon: New Studies
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
John Deakin's photograph of Francis Bacon
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Figure with Raised Arm 1949
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Wednesday, 24 March 2010
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
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
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.
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
Head in Grey 1955 Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon: In Cinema
Compton Verney 27 March - 20 June 2010
Lagoon 1952 Francis
“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:
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
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,
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
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.
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
"Yes," said Francis,
and repeated the word once more and then I suggested he was not interested in
"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
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
"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
"When you come to a blank
canvas, do you have any idea in your head of what you want to do before you
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
"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.
"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
"So you come up with an
overall image which you don’t want to define except by working towards
"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
"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
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
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
"Yes. I never thought I’d
sell at all. I always thought I’d have to take some other job. That’s
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
- The South Bank Show: Final Cut
is published next month by Hodder at £20.
£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
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.
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.
Dream is at the Courtauld Gallery, London WC2
(020 7848 2526) until 16 May.
Gallery: Two slices of
Bacon in Kirklees
by Sarah Bull, Huddersfield Daily Examiner, February 26, 2010
THERE are now two places
in which to view one of the most prized images in the Kirklees Permanent
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
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
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
“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
Time will tell, of
course, but bearing in mind its history, there’s a touch of irony about.
Daniel Farson - Gallery: A Personal Guide to British Galleries and Their
Unexpected Treasure, Bloomsbury, 1990.
para el Bacon más caro de Arco
Economista, Eco Diario, L. R. G. | 19/02/2010
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.
hyllning av Bacon
SVD, Svenska Dagbladet, 19 februari
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
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
Huddersfield Daily Examiner,
February 16, 2010
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.
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
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
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
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
"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
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.
sheets will be shown for the first time at the European Fine Art Fair,
Maastricht, Friday 12 March to Sunday 21 March
Blower Loses $730 Million Alleging Fraud
By Vernon Silver
and Anabela Reis, Bloomberg, February
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.
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
“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.
to Bragg about: The South Bank Show frontman Melvyn recalls his most
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
By John Mcentee, Daily Mail, 29th January 2010
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
'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.
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
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
privados contiene 160 fotografías, armazón sobre el que construyó su
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.
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
lettre de Michel Leiris à Francis Bacon
Media Part, 10 Janvier 2010
"Paris, le 1er
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.
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.
vous, et à bientôt, je le souhaite.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
Izquierda, Bacon besándose con John Edwards.
El pintor, el ladrón, el sádico y su
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.
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.
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
REPORTAJE: ARTE - Las mejores exposiciones del año
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
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
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.
Study for Portrait of John Edwards By Francis Bacon
A Parnell Square, le Dublin Writers Museum célèbre les plus grands écrivains.
A deux pas, pour le centenaire de la naissance de Francis Bacon (à Dublin le
28 octobre 1909), la Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane, lui consacre une exposition exceptionnelle,
Francis Bacon : a terrible beauty, titre extrait de Easter 1916, du poète W.B. Yeats, qui
symbolise parfaitement la vie et l'oeuvre du peintre. John Edwards, compagnon
et héritier de l'artiste, fit don de l'atelier de Bacon (qui se trouvait à
Londres) à la Hugh Lane Gallery, qui, après en avoir exhumé près de 7 500
pièces (photos, livres, notes, dessins, toiles...), l'a reconstitué à
l'identique. Ces archives et une sélection de toiles (1944-1989) permettent
d'appréhender l'univers, les méthodes de travail du peintre qui disait : « Si vous n'avez pas un sujet qui vous habite,
vous ronge intérieurement, vous tombez dans la décoration...
Photograph of George Dyer by John Deakin
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
By John Richardson, The New York Review of Books, Volume 56, Number 20 ·
December 17, 2009
Francis Bacon: Three Studies
for Portraits Including Self-Portrait,
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
As a longtime fan of
Bacon, I have strong feelings about these matters. My admiration dates back
to World War II, when, like many another art student, I was captivated by an illustration
of a 1933 painting entitled Crucifixion in a popular book called Art
Now, by Britain's token modernist, Herbert Read (first published in 1933,
and frequently reprinted). Read's text was dim and theoretical, but his
ragbag of black-and-white illustrations—by the giants of modernism, as well
as the chauvinistic author's pets—was the only corpus of plates then
available. This Crucifixion—a cruciform gush of sperm against a night
sky, prescient of searchlights in the blitz—was irresistibly eye-catching.
But who Bacon was, nobody seemed to know.
And then (circa 1946), craning my neck to get a look at a
large canvas carried by a youngish man with dyed hair on the doorsteps of a
neighbor's house, I realized that this had to be the mysterious Bacon. The
neighbour turned out to be the artist's cousin and patron. I arranged for a
mutual friend to take me to see him. Bacon struck me as being exhilaratingly
funny—very camp in his disdain for masculine pronouns. Everything about his
vast, vaulted studio was over the top: martinis served in huge Waterford
tumblers; a paint-stained garter belt kicked under a sofa. The place had
famously belonged to the pre-Raphaelite Sir John Everett Millais, but a later
owner had left more of a mark on it: Emil Otto Hoppé, the foremost
"court" photographer of his time. Hoppé's grungy hangings had
survived the blitz, and so had the great dais where, crouched under a black,
umbrella-like cloth (a feature of Bacon's earlier paintings), he had
photographed society beauties in aigrettes and pearls. The ramshackle
theatricality that permeated the studio also permeated the three iconic
mastershockers—scrotum-bellied humanoids screaming out at us from the base of
a crucifixion—that were about to make the artist famous.
Francis's blind old nanny, Jessie Lightfoot, knitting away at
the back of the studio, came as a surprise. Besides helping Francis cook—she
slept on the kitchen table—Nanny provided cover for Francis's shoplifting
sprees (groceries, cosmetics, and Kiwi shoe polish for his hair). Nanny also
helped him organize the illicit roulette parties that paid for the copious
drink and excellent food he served to his guests. The lavish tips she
extorted from gamblers desperate to use the one and only lavatory helped pay
off Francis's gambling debts. Supposedly she also vetted his lovers. When she
died in 1951, he took against the studio and sold it—a move he would always
regret. The space would linger on in his visual memory: many a triptych is
set in a photographer's studio in Hell.
Ultrasecretive about his artistic
provenance, Bacon was exhibitionistically frank about the traumatic
adolescent events that would define his role as an artist as well as a lover.
In the recently published revised edition of his excellent, refreshingly
unhagiological biography, Francis
Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma, Michael Peppiatt describes a fancy dress party given by
Francis's parents—the chilly, moneyed mother and the brutal, bluish-blooded
father—at Cannycourt, near Dublin, where Captain Eddy Bacon trained
racehorses that, according to Francis, very seldom won. Already adept at
seducing his father's grooms, sixteen-year-old Francis had gotten himself up
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
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
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?
profoundly an artist...one of the supreme masters of the written word. Yet
his artistry was of a very special kind.... His eye—a delicate, lively hazel
eye—"it was like the eye of a viper," said William Harvey—required
the perpetual refreshment of beautiful things.
Francis would also
have sympathized with his forebear's "exuberant temperament [that]
demanded the solace of material delights," expensive boyfriends, "half
servants and half companions," whom he had shod in Spanish leather
boots, since "the smell of ordinary leather was torture to him."
The twentieth-century Bacon would ironically mock the family's motto, Mediocria
firma ("moderation is best"), inscribed on the armorial dinner
plates he would inherit. His illustrious ancestry and his sense of it might
also account for his personal largesse as well as his desperate attempts at
grandiloquence, which undermine many of the later triptychs.
Bacon's earliest paintings were mostly pastiches of Picasso;
though attractive, they failed to sell. Since this driven, as yet unformed
artist had no desire to be perceived as a pasticheur, he destroyed most of
them. He continued sporadically to paint and decorate, but devoted most of
his energies to gambling. Successive stays at Monte Carlo—hence the glimpses
of Mediterranean vegetation in the early works—financed by a lover, enabled
him to become an expert roulette player as well as a canny croupier in
private games. He would approach painting in much the same way as he
approached gambling, risking everything on a single brushstroke.
Never having attended
an art school was a source of pride to Bacon. With the help of a meretricious
Australian painter, Roy de Maistre, he taught himself to paint, for which he
turned out to have a great flair; tragically, he failed to teach himself to
draw. Painting after painting would be marred by his inability to articulate
a figure or its space. Peppiatt recalls that, decades later, so embarrassed
was Bacon at being asked by a Parisian restaurateur to do a drawing in his livre
d'or that he doubled the tip and made for the exit.
After Bacon's death,
David Sylvester, the artist's Boswell-cum-Saatchi, attempted to turn this
deficiency into an advantage. In a chapter of his posthumous miscellany,
entitled Bacon's Secret Vice, he proposed an "alternative
view" of this fatal flaw: "His most articulate and helpful
'sketches' took the form of the written word."
The "precisely worded" examples that supposedly demonstrate the
linguistic origin of Bacon's paintings turn out to be a preposterous joke:
offhand notes scrawled on the endpapers of a book about monkeys: Figure
upside down on sofa; Two figures on sofa making love; Acrobat on
platform in middle of room; and so on. Sylvester's contention that this
shopping list constitutes "Bacon's most articulate and helpful
sketches" raises doubt about the rest of his sales pitch.
Bacon's own excuse
for his graphic ineptitude is more to the point: "[The painter] will
only catch the mystery of reality if [he] doesn't know how to do it"
is what he actually told Sylvester. This is fine, but only so long as the
artist avoids subjects that call for graphic skill, subjects, for instance,
that include hands. His celebrated variants on Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X are either
magnificent flukes or near-total disasters. In the earliest of this ten-year
series, Bacon famously portrays the Pope screaming. He's good at screams but
hopeless at hands, so he amputates, conceals, or otherwise fudges them. At
the age of eighty, Bacon apologized for this series to Michael Kimmelman:
"Actually, I hate those popes because I think the Velázquez is such a
superb image that it was silly of me to use it."
Infinitely more effective
are the versions that Bacon did around the same time of Eadweard Muybridge's
celebrated sequential photographs in The Human Figure in Motion, which
record successive stages of various physical activities. Muybridge's
photographs enormously facilitated Bacon's drawing, literally squaring up the
composition for him to transfer to canvas. The finest of them, Two Figures,
is based on pictographs of two athletes wrestling each other to the ground.
Known with some justice to Bacon's friends as The Buggers, this work
is the more subtle and hauntingly sexual for overtly depicting something
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
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.
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.
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
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
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."
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
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
However, wouldn't it
be more useful to measure Bacon against a predecessor of his own stature and
genre: for example, Henry Fuseli (1741–1825), someone he went out of his way
to denounce and disassociate himself from? ("Banal" was the epithet
Bacon used in the interviews with Sylvester; what he probably meant was
"illustrative.") Bacon was determined to prevent people realizing
how indebted he was to this Swiss-born Londoner. Fuseli was a somewhat
conventional manipulator of paint, but he was also one of the most
spectacular draftsmen of the second half of the eighteenth century. And in
many respects his neoclassical imagery was every bit as focused on the
subconscious, every bit as sadomasochistic and fetishistic as Bacon's. A
master of theatrical effects, Fuseli had the courage to use his perverse sexuality
to express a view of life that corresponds in certain respects to his virtual
twin, the Marquis de Sade. Fuseli's obsession differed from Bacon's in that
it involved women rather than men, but their exhibitionistic responses to the
imagery of their respective times was uncannily close.
After his death,
Victorian prudes saw to it that Fuseli's work was suppressed. A century would
pass before scholars rediscovered it. Following his centennial retrospective
in 1925, there would be successive shows in London in 1935 and 1950, at a
time when Bacon was formulating his style and moving in the intellectual
circles where Fuseli was revered. Another artist who suffered a similar fate
was the equally histrionic John "Mad" Martin (1789–1854), whose vast,
enormously popular canvasses such as The Seventh Plague of Egypt and The
Destruction of Sodom and
Gomorrah had been forgotten, only to be admired anew one hundred
years later. Like Halley's Comet, these exemplars of Romantic agony seem
doomed to flash in and out of the darkness of history. Might a similar
trajectory be in store for Bacon Agonistes?
Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma; 1997 (Skyhorse, 2009).
Looking Back at Francis Bacon (Thames and Hudson, 2000), p. 208.
Sylvester attributes this theory to Brian Clarke, a painter who
administers the Francis Bacon estate.
Interviews with Francis Bacon: 1962–1979 (Thames and Hudson, 1980), pp. 100–101.
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
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
A Fictional Organ With a Surface Anatomy of Four
By Will Self Bloomsbury. 277 pp. $26
McCann, The Washington Post, Tuesday, December 15,
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
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.
is the author, most recently, of Mother of Sorrows, a collection of linked stories. He teaches at American University.
ENTRETIENS. Parler amusait le peintre anglais.
Franck Maubert publie leur longue conversation
Sud Ouest, Dimanche 06 Décembre 2009
C'est un opuscule indispensable
pour qui, un jour, fut saisi d'effarement par la peinture de Francis Bacon :
entre répulsion pour ses corps de douleur et fascination hypnotique pour ses
hommes sans visage, donc sans émotion, sans autre identité que celle de leurs
cris. Sur cette oeuvre majeure et sa gestation, le livre de Franck Maubert se
lit et se relit. Y est rapportée avec un souci du fait la longue conversation
que ce journaliste d'art eut avec le peintre anglais pendant trois ans, dans
les années 80.
Dans son logement nu jusqu'aux ampoules, dans son atelier que
les ordures encroûtent de saleté, l'artiste se livre par bribes, aussi
désespéré que vivant. D'une oeuvre de Poussin qui le traversa à 20 ans aux
étals d'un boucher qui le bouleverse, le peintre raconte que seules les
images extraordinaires et violentes aimantent son imaginaire : les rouges,
les jaunes, les orange, le gras, la viande. Citant l'impensable vers
d'Eschyle - « L'odeur du sang humain ne me quitte pas des yeux » - ou le
tranchant « Macbeth » de Shakespeare, Bacon évoque Picasso, Velázquez ou
Giacometti, son amour de la littérature, son amitié avec Duras, son absolue
passion de la poésie.
Du thé qui le lave à l'aube, quand il rejoint l'atelier, à
l'alcool qui accompagne ses déambulations de fins de journée, de son
indifférence à l'argent qu'il gagna de son vivant : tout éclaire celui qui
cherchait ce réalisme clinique et froid, sans émotion mais « capable
paradoxalement de provoquer un grand sentiment ».
« L'odeur du sang humain ne me quitte pas des yeux », de
Franck Maubert, éd. Mille et Une Nuits, 80 p., 12 ?.
: C. Debray
Frank Auerbach's solitary
His work sells for
millions, but the artist refuses to dwell on past traumas or move from his
shabby north London studio
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
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
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
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
It is 30 years since Ridley Scott made
cinematic history by putting a woman centre-stage in a horror movie. Xan
Sydney Morning Herald, December 5, 2009
It is 30 years since Ridley Scott's picture was unleashed on
an unsuspecting public. Since then, its influence has bloomed and mutated. Alien was the film that set the
visual template (grungy and industrial) for any director keen to shoot a
picture about monsters in outer space. It was the film that contained a
grisly, chest-bursting centrepiece that tapped into the fears of the age. Yet
ultimately it all comes back to the character Ellen Ripley. In the figure of
the resolute Sigourney Weaver, Alien
may just be the film that overhauled the old, unreconstructed horror genre
and dared to put a woman centre-stage.
This gave rise to Scott's joke that nothing actually happens
for the first 45 minutes. In its opening sections, Alien rattles
around a space freighter (the Nostromo) and introduces us to its bickering
crew (John Hurt and Ian Holm among them). Then boom! The film bursts into
hideous life with one of cinema's most notorious setpieces. Hurt's character,
impregnated by an extraterrestrial, abruptly goes into labour at the
breakfast table. His chest explodes and the beast is loosed.
In Scott's film, the horror came garnished with sexual
politics. Take another look at the creature that hatches from Hurt's chest.
It was designed by the Swiss artist H.R. Giger, who borrowed freely from the
images in Francis Bacon's 1944 painting Three Studies For Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, which in turn took its lead from
the Greek myth of the Furies. Scott's film was initially pitched as ''Jaws in space'' and Giger's alien
features the requisite razor-blade teeth and unreadable, implacable air.
Sometimes it is limpid and wet, fashioned on the set out of oysters and clams
brought in from a local fishmongers. Sometimes it is hard and blunt. Not to
put too fine a point on it, the alien in Alien comes in two guises:
vaginal and phallic.
Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion 1944
''Alien is a rape movie with male victims,'' explains David
McIntee, the author of the Alien study Beautiful Monsters. ''And it also shows the consequences of that
rape: the pregnancy and birth. It is a film that plays, very deliberately,
with male fears of female reproduction.''
Does this make Alien
a conservative film or a radical one? Over the years the debate has been
teased out in either direction. In the opinion of the cultural critic Barbara
Creed, Scott's film epitomised what she refers to as ''the monstrous
feminine''. It trades in classic Freudian imagery (penis-shaped monsters;
dark, womb-like interiors) and shudders at the bloody spectacle of
childbirth. Here is a horror film made by men that exploits a particularly
male fear of all that is female. Others beg to differ. Ripley, they argue, is
the game-changer; the character who sends Alien (and its sequels) off in a bold new direction. ''Ripley
is pretty revolutionary,'' insists McIntee. ''All of a sudden you have a
horror film that has a younger female character who is a survivor and a
heroine as opposed to a victim.''
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
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
surrealism in Rome’s painting exhibition
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
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
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
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,"
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.
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
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
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
Bacon, le radici
sadomaso del genio
Un saggio di John
Richardson: senza i suoi eccessi sarebbe stato solo un pittore incapace di
LEA MATTARELLA, La Stampa, 24/11/2009
Francis Bacon in un autoritratto
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
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
The sado-masochistic relationships that drove Bacon to create
his best works
Ross Lydall, London Evening Standard, 23.11.09
“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
Americans don't 'get' Francis Bacon
John Richardson's article
on Francis Bacon suggests the inevitable reappraisal of his work has begun.
Telegraph, 23 November 2009
Possessed of extraordinary moral courage:
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
Art historian John Richardson's
revelations on the troubled artist he knew as a young man
Charlotte Higgins, The Observer, 22
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
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
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
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
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."
the other side of Francis Bacon
art historian John Richardson has now laid down his views and recollections
of the artist
Charlotte Higgins, The Observer,
Sunday, 22 November 2009
Francis Bacon had his right eye
sewn back in place after he was thrown through a window by lover Peter Lacy.
Photograph: Jane Bown
The territories of
Francis Bacon’s soul have been explored widely; they have been the
subject of a film, books and endless speculation. But the senior art
historian John Richardson – who, at 85, is working on the last volume of his
acclaimed biography of Picasso, and who knew Bacon from his 20s – has now
laid down his views and recollections of Bacon, amounting to a reappraisal of
his life and work.
Writing in the forthcoming issue of the New York Review of
Books, Richardson argues that Bacon's sado-masochistic relationships lay
at the heart of his best work, but with terrible consequences for his lover
George Dyer, whose fragile mental state Richardson attributes to Bacon's
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
attributed to Francis Bacon
Nove 17.09 – 02.11.2010
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Lucie-Smith, August 2010
of the Exhibitions: Friday 17th September at 8 pm in the presence of the
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.
says anyone can be like Rembrandt.
art world agree?
Peter Walker & Simon
Hattenstone, The Guardian, Saturday 14 November 2009
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
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
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
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
Hirst had been driven to make the
comments because he had "failed so publicly" with his paintings,
"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
Tormented Caravaggio and
Bacon connect in Rome show
By Ella Ide,
Reuters, Thursday November 12, 2009
Three Studies of Lucien Freud 1968/69 at the
Galleria Borghese in Rome November 11, 2009.
ROME (Reuters) - Portraits by Italian master Caravaggio and Irish-born
20th-century painter Francis Bacon stand side-by-side in new exhibition
connecting their tormented views of humanity despite contrasting approaches
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
Both were radical for their times: against the distorted
idealism of high mannerism, Caravaggio was driven by obsessive attention to
the real, while Bacon was derided for his refusal to relinquish the human
figure in favour of abstraction.
"Bacon can be compared to Caravaggio above all in terms
of intensity," said art historian Michael Peppiatt, co-curator of the exhibition
and Bacon's close friend and biographer.
Both painters have been seen as icons of gay, tormented genius
and their tragic natures and lives marked by violence - Bacon's lover
committed suicide and Caravaggio was condemned to death after killing a man -
are echoed in their works.
"They were both conscious of the shortness of life and of
the fragility of humanity, and each powerfully conveys this consciousness
through his art," said Peppiatt in a statement.
Seventeen works by Bacon are featured alongside 14 paintings
by Caravaggio, six of which, including the Madonna with the Serpent
and the Sick Bacchus, belong to the Borghese's permanent collection.
Many of the works by Bacon, including Head VI, the
result of his studies of Velazquez's portrait of Pope Innocent X, are on loan
from London's Tate Gallery.
The lavish entrance to the Galleria Borghese is devoted to
Bacon's triptychs, painted after the suicide of his lover George Dyer, with
chilling scenes of distorted, semi-naked male figures whose life oozes from
them to form flesh-coloured puddles.
The show runs until January 24, 2010 and has already attracted
well over 67,000 visitors, with the record numbers forcing the Borghese to
extend its open hours and increase the number of tickets available for the
daily tours by 30 per cent.
A man walks next to a Francis Bacon painting and a Caravaggio
painting during an exhibition at the Galleria Borghese in Rome November 11,
Roma, Galleria Borghese, fino al 24
di Francesca Mentella, Agora Magazine, venerdì 6
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
Entrambi infatti sono personalità estreme, che hanno espresso
nella pittura il tormento dell’esistenza con pari intensità e genialità
inventiva. Nelle diversità delle loro poetiche, hanno penetrato la tragedia
dell’esistenza non come drammaticità di una condizione astratta o come
accidentalità di accadimenti in quanto personali o storici ma come sentimento
interiore e imprescindibile dell’esistere, individuale ed intimo. Caravaggio
esprime con la sua pittura l’ansia per la salvazione spirituale dell’uomo
mentre Bacon il terrore verso l’ignoto che alberga dentro l’individuo:
entrambi gli artisti infatti si sono calati nelle profondità psichiche che
rendono sconosciute e misteriose le condizioni dell’esistenza umana.
Three Studies of
Lucien Freud 1968/69 Francis Bacon
Ma questa mostra offre anche la possibilità di
riconsiderare, finalmente, idee errate riguardo la biografia del Merisi.
“Francis Bacon è realmente un artista maledetto, quello di Caravaggio pittore
maledetto- spiega Calvesi- è più che altro un clichè che gli è stato attribuito in età moderna. Le cose
scritte sul conto di Caravaggio, come il fatto che fosse iroso, assassino e
miscredente, sono state scritte dai suoi biografi dell’epoca, ma se si pensa
che il biografo di Caravaggio è il Baglione, suo nemico personale, si capisce
il perché del malinteso. Questo senza dubbio nella nostra epoca funziona, ed
ha contribuito al suo successo popolare mentre all’epoca di Caravaggio era
motivo di condanna. Anche la sua presunta omosessualità è un mito- prosegue
Calvesi- però nessuno mai cancellerà questa idea dalla testa dei registi e
degli scrittori, perché è molto più affascinante parlare di lui in questi
termini che non nei termini reali di uomo che aveva una tormentata
religiosità borromaica, che a Roma gli costò una sorta di persecuzione.
Quella di Caravaggio era un’epoca in cui c’era una fede religiosa viva,
unanimemente condivisa dal pittore stesso. Caravaggio non era né ateo, né
miscredente, era semplicemente un adepto della linea borromaica della
controriforma cattolica, portata avanti prima da Carlo poi da Federico
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
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
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
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
Dnes je Streda, 4.11. 2009, meniny má Karol
Svoj mladistvý výzor pripisoval rodinnej genetike. Nikdy totiž
Hoci sa narodil len pred sto rokmi,
vo Veľkej Británii bol rešpektovaným pojmom už počas svojho života.
Margaret Thatcherová ho raz opísala ako „muža, čo maľuje tie hnusné
obrazy“. Hovorila o FRANCISOVI BACONOVI.
Anglický kapitán vo výslužbe
Anthony Edward Mortimer Bacon sa do Írska presťahoval, lebo tam boli
lepšie podmienky na chov a trénovanie koní, ktorým sa venoval. Francis, ktorý
sa narodil 28. októbra 1909 v Dubline, bol druhý v poradí z jeho piatich
Kapitán Bacon bol výbušný, agresívny typ a tak sa správal aj k synovi. Malý
Francis chorý na chronickú astmu bol v jeho očiach nula. Ani jeho
školské vzdelávanie nebolo úplne tradičné. Do školy ho poslali až v
pätnástich. „Nemal som ju rád, preto som z nej pravidelne utekal. Nakoniec ma
z nej rodičia odhlásili a strávil som tam iba rok,“ vysvetľoval
neskôr. Navyše Francisa priťahovali muži. „Otca som nemal rád, ale
keď som bol mladý, sexuálne ma priťahoval,“ spomínal neskôr Bacon
otvorene. Ako tínedžer mal aférky s pomocníkmi v stajniach, a keď otec
zistil, že je homosexuál, a pristihol ho, ako si skúša matkinu spodnú
bielizeň, vyhodil ho v roku 1926 z domu.
odišiel do Londýna. Žil zo dňa na deň zo štedrého vreckového od
matky, privyrábal si drobnosťami a starší muži mu platili za sex. Cudzie
mu neboli ani malé krádeže. Otec ho poslal na jar 1927 s jedným zo svojich
prísnych známych do Berlína, aby sa z neho stal naozajstný chlap. Ibaže ten
to využil na pomer s chlapcom. V Berlíne sa Francis zamotal do sexuálnych
výstrelkov, gamblerstva a zaplietal sa s pochybnými existenciami. Umelcom sa
rozhodol stať po tom, ako v roku 1927 videl výstavu Picassových kresieb.
Začal kresbami a akvarelmi ako samouk, krátko žil v Paríži, potom
opäť v Londýne, kde sa venoval interiérovému dizajnu. Učil sa
maľovať olejom a prvýkrát vystavoval v roku 1930. K jeho
podporovateľom vtedy patril vážený občan Eric Hall, ženatý muž, ktorý
mal s Francisom intímny pomer viac ako 15 rokov.
Prvú naozaj originálnu prácu
Ukrižovanie namaľoval Francis, keď mal dvadsaťtri, a dokonca
mala hneď kupca. Nasledujúce roky sa mu až tak nedarilo, jeho práce sa
nepredávali. Veľa sa ich nezachovalo, lebo veci, ktoré sa mu
nepáčili, zničil. Robil to až do konca života.
Európu zasiahla druhá svetová vojna, ale Francis pre astmu na front nemohol
ísť. Skúšal to aspoň v domobrane, ale jeho chorobu to zhoršilo.
Presťahoval sa preto spolu s Ericom Hallom na vidiek. V tomto období
veľa nemaľoval, ale ak, tak to stálo za to. Prelomom v jeho živote
bol triptych Tri štúdie figúr pri základe ukrižovania (1944), ktorý
vystavil v Londýne v apríli 1945. Okamžite pritiahol pozornosť kritikov
i verejnosti. Kúpil ho jeho milenec Eric a neskôr ho venoval Tate Gallery v
Londýne, kde visí dodnes.
Francisov ľúbostný život nebol
jednoduchý. Po roku 1950 už s Ericom, ktorý opustil manželku, nežil. Niekedy
pred rokom 1952 sa dal dokopy s bývalým stíhacím a testovacím pilotom Petrom
Lacym. Ich vzťah bol plný deštrukcie a Bacon ostal v zajatí Petrovho
neurotického sadizmu viac ako desaťročie. Keď sa jeho milenec
presťahoval do Tangeru, Bacon ho nasledoval a žil medzi Marokom a
Londýnom. Nakoniec sa rozišli, lebo Peter čoraz viac prepadal alkoholu.
Francisova umelecká reputácia medzitým rástla. Ďalším jeho prelomovým
dielom bol veľkoformátový triptych Tri štúdie ukrižovania z roku
1962. Zrodil sa v ateliéri, ktorý vyzeral ako chaotické smetisko, ale inde
maľovať nedokázal. „Namaľoval som ho asi za dva týždne,
keď som mal mizernú pijanskú náladu a všetko bolo zahalené v opare
alkoholu a neskutočnej opice. Niekoľkokrát som ani nevedel, čo
vlastne robím. Je to však jediný obraz, ktorý som takto namaľoval. Možno
práve to, že som nebol triezvy, mi pomohlo oslobodiť sa. Nikdy viac som
to nezopakoval,“ priznal v jednom z rozhovorov.
V máji 1962 mu v londýnskej Tate Gallery urobili obrovskú retrospektívnu
výstavu. V deň vernisáže dostal telegram, že jeho vtedy už bývalý
partner Peter Lacy v Tangeri zomrel. Hlboko ho to zasiahlo.
Koncom nasledujúceho roka do jeho života vstúpil ďalší muž. George Dyer
bol elegán z východného Londýna, mal na konte drobné prehrešky proti zákonu a
navonok pôsobil tvrdo, čím ukrýval svoju depresívnu a neistú povahu. Stal
sa námetom mnohých Baconových obrazov. Alkoholizmus, pokusy o samovraždu a
nebezpečné fyzické potýčky s Francisom vzťahu nepridávali. V
roku 1970 dokonca žiarlivý George ukryl v maliarovom ateliéri 2,1 gramu
marihuany a udal ho.
O rok neskôr Bacona čakala ďalšia veľká retrospektíva,
tentoraz v Paríži. História sa kruto zopakovala. Dva dni pred jej otvorením
Dyera našli mŕtveho. Zomrel na predávkovanie liekmi v kombinácii s
alkoholom. Francis prijal túto správu so zvláštnym pokojom. Až séria obrazov,
ktoré namaľoval v priebehu nasledujúcich rokov, ukázala, aký hlboký bol
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“.
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
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
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,
Bacon comes alive in an
Sharmishta Koushik, The Times of India, 2 November 2009
BACON'S MAN WITH FIGURE OF
PARAPLEGIC CHILD BACON'S MAN
WITH THE FIGURE OF THE PRIEST
Size 5' x 5' (2 parts) Acrylic and Oil on Canvas, 2005,
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
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
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
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.
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,
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.
HQ Visits... The Bacon Report
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
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
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
It is, after all, only paint on canvas - but in the right
hands, paint on fabric becomes explosive, and disconcerting, which says
everything about the power of art. And the most powerful art is often the
least lovely. But don't ask me to appreciate that Italian dude who put his
own excrement in tins and sold it for buckets of money. I've got to draw the
line somewhere. HQ
Francis Bacon: A Terrible Beauty, runs 'til March 2010 at the Hugh Lane Gallery, see
www.hughlane.ie for more information
- Sue Conley
Artist's anniversary marked
AN EXHIBITION marking
the 100th anniversary of artist Francis Bacon’s birth opened at the Dublin
City Gallery, The Hugh Lane, yesterday evening, writes AIDAN DUNNE
Aidan Dunne, The
Irish Times, Thursday, October 29, 2009
Hugh Delap, from
Clontarf, and Jenny Fitzgibbon, from Rathmines, with Study for Portrait (John
Edwards) by Francis Bacon, at the opening of A Terrible Beauty
yesterday. Photograph: Matt
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
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
star apologises for African 'rats' gaffe
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".
Die Schönheit des Schreckens
Gewalt und Leidenschaft, Rausch und Reflexion: zum 100.
Geburtstag des Malers Francis Bacon
Zeit Online, 28. Oktober 2009
Francis Bacon in London, 1970
Was die Kunst seit allen Zeiten am meisten mit der Realität
und dem Leben verbindet, ist ausgerechnet ihr fantastischer Sinn für das
Grausige und Grausame. Kriege, Verbrechen, blutige Leidenschaften sind ihr
Höchstes und bezeugen zugleich etwas zutiefst Menschliches. Das gilt von der Ilias, den antiken Tragödien, den
Tempelreliefs der Mayas oder den Märtyrer-Folterbildern, den Kreuzigungen der
christlichen Kunstgeschichte – bis hin zu zwei jüngsten filmischen
Meisterwerken, Quentin Tarantinos Inglorious
Basterds und Michael Hanekes Das
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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
100 Jahre Francis Bacon
Im Namen des Fleisches
Religion, sagt Francis
Bacon, ist für ihn kein Thema. Schwer zu glauben angesichts all der Päpste,
Kreuzigungen und Höllenvisionen in seinem Werk. Bacon ist anders. Sein Vater
verzeiht ihm das nicht, er selbst noch weniger. Ein Trauma, dem wir einige
der verstörendsten Bilder des 20. Jahrhunderts verdanken.
Von Susanne Lorenz
BR online, Bayerischer Rundfunk, 28.10.09
Francis Bacon 1972 in seinem Atelier
In Bacons Bildern kauern Menschen wie Klumpen rohen Fleisches
am Boden oder auf Betten, gehäutet und blutig. Oder sie hängen wie
Rinderhälften in bizarren Kreuzigungsposen in einem Zimmer. Wesen, die weder
Mensch noch Tier ähneln, reißen ihre Mäuler auf und entblößen zu viele Zähne.
Er malt schreiende Päpste, verzerrt die Gesichter seiner Freunde
und setzt seine Figuren in beengte Räume und Käfige.
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.
schmerzvolle Anderssein des Francis Bacon
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.
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.
Maler der Deformation
Vor 100 Jahren wurde Francis Bacon geboren
Von Anette Schneider, Deutschland Radio, 20.09.2009
Der britische Maler
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
"Rot; drei Leinwände rot. Blutrot die obere Bildhälfte,
orangerot die untere."
Drei Studien zu einer Kreuzigung, ein Triptychon, entstanden 1962. Jedes Bild
misst knapp zweimal eineinhalb Meter. Auf der linken Tafel:
"Zwei schemenhafte Männerfiguren. Im
Vordergrund geschlachtete Tierhälften."
"Ein eisernes Bettgestell mit Matratze und
verrutschtem Laken. Darauf ein zerschlagener menschlicher Körper."
Die rechte Tafel.
"Eine gewaltige ausgeweidete Tierhälfte:
Rippen, Fleisch, Fett. Im Vordergrund der bedrohliche Schatten eines
Als das Triptychon 1962 in der ersten Bacon-Retrospektive in London gezeigt
wurde, reagierten Kritiker und Öffentlichkeit schockiert. So titelte die Daily
"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
"I don't make life more extraordinary than
it is. Just look what life is like. Just think about it for a moment. Would
you say that my things have exaggerated what happens all over the world or to
you or here? I certainly never been or try to make it more violent than it
is. One couldn't."
Anfang der 1970er-Jahre erklärten Kritiker Francis Bacon zum
wichtigsten Maler seiner Zeit. Seitdem erreichen seine Bilder Rekordsummen.
Doch sein Werk ist nach wie vor umstritten. Geboren am 28. Oktober 1909 in
Dublin war Bacon gerade 16 Jahre alt, als sein Vater, ein Pferdezüchter, ihn
aus dem Elternhaus warf. Er hatte entdeckt, dass sein Sohn homosexuell war.
Bacon ging nach London, schlug sich mit Gelegenheitsjobs durch und reiste
nach Berlin und Paris, wo er die Malerei entdeckte. Kurz vor seinem Tod, im
Jahr 1992, blickte Bacon auf diese Zeit zurück. In einem BBC-Interview
"Ich erlebte den Ersten Weltkrieg und all die Dinge, die zwischen ihm,
der Russischen Revolution und dem Zweiten Weltkrieg geschahen. Wenn man so
will: eine von chaotischen Verhältnissen geprägte Zeit. Und ich denke, das
beeinflusst die eigene Wahrnehmung der Dinge."
Der lebenshungrige Künstler, der nie eine Akademie besuchte, und den ein
Kritiker bezeichnete als ...
"Maler von Homosexualität, Sadismus und Erbrochenem!"
... dieser Künstler rang zeitlebens um Möglichkeiten, von Wirklichkeit zu
erzählen, doch nicht abbildhaft oder illustrativ. Das, so betonte Bacon,
könnten Fotografie und Film besser.
"Was will man da als Künstler anderes machen, als zum anderen Extrem zu
gelangen, wo man Wirklichkeit nicht als simple Tatsache aufzeichnet, sondern
auf vielen Ebenen. Wo man Empfindungszonen erschließen kann, die zu einem
tieferen Gefühl für die Wirklichkeit des Bildes führen, wo man versucht, eine
Konstruktion zu finden, durch die das Wesentliche roh und lebendig
eingefangen wird und so bleibt und schließlich, man kann sagen, versteinert -
da ist es."
"Auf den glattem ein- und zweifarbigen Hintergründen: einsame
schmerzhaft verdrehte und verrenkte Körper. Verzerrte, deformierte Gesichter.
Gemalt in heftig-bewegtem Farbauftrag, der das Innerste nach Außen zu heben
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
"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
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.
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
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
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“
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
All dieses Fleisch, all diese Dramen
Von Georg Imdahl, Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger 28.10.09
Vor hundert Jahren wurde der Maler Francis Bacon geboren. Aus
diesem Anlass eine Bildbetrachtung seines Kölner Painting 1946, das in
seiner zweiten Version im Museum Ludwig hängt.
Francis Bacon hielt sein Bild mit dem schlichten Titel Painting
selbst für eine der wichtigsten Arbeiten seines gesamten Oeuvres. 1946, kurz
nach dem Krieg, hatte er die groteske Schlachtung in Szene gesetzt - mit
einer kaum erkennbaren, monströsen Figur im Schlagschatten eines
aufgespannten Regenschirms, kauernd vor einem ebenfalls aufgespannten Rind.
Bacon platzierte dies alles in einem seltsamen Interieur, das er mit einem
bunten Teppich vor einem magentafarbenen Hintergrund ausstattete; damit schuf
er eine massige Komposition, die perspektivisch drangvoll nach innen
fluchtet. Die bizarre Szenerie ist überreich an Deutungsmöglichkeiten und
gerade deshalb im Kern so rätselhaft - vielleicht überzeugte sie den
Museumsmann Alfred Barr aus diesem Grund so sehr, dass er das ungewöhnliche
Bild drei Jahre nach seiner Entstehung für das Museum of Modern Art ankaufte.
Barr begründete so den frühen Ruhm Bacons.
Bedroht, geopfert, geschlachtet
Ein Vierteljahrhundert später schuf Bacon jenes Gemälde noch
einmal: Painting 1946 (Second Version), heute im Museum Ludwig. Mag sich
der geschlachtete Ochse auch mühelos auf das Vorbild Rembrandts zurückführen
lassen, er bleibt in der Kombination mit dem Mann unterm Schirm vor dem Rind
hermetisch und unergründlich - eben programmatisch für den heute vor hundert
Jahren geborenen Existenzialisten unter den Malern des 20. Jahrhunderts: Painting
ist Sinnbild eines katastrophischen Säkulums. Jene 25 Jahre, die zwischen
den Fassungen liegen, bekunden sich bereitwillig in der jüngeren: Die Flächen
sind geklärt und schneiden sich nun scharfkantig in den Raum, sind von der
Farbfeldmalerei und Pop aufgehellt, schnittig dynamisieren sie die
Komposition. Je älter er werde, desto formaler arbeite er, bemerkte Bacon
gegenüber dem Kunsthistoriker David Sylvester.
In der Tat wirkt das Kölner Bild aufgeräumter, gelassener,
kühler als die New Yorker Urfassung, erscheint der männliche Protagonist
weniger dämonisch, und doch ist auch dieses Gemälde noch beherrscht vom
Dreiklang aus Bedrohung, Schlachtung, Opferung, den Bacon wie kein anderer
mit Leben und Schicksal erfüllt hat.
Geboren 1909 als Sohn eines Pferdezüchters in Dublin, hatte
der Vater dem 16-Jährigen die Tür gewiesen, als er dessen Homosexualität
erkannte. Dieser selbst setzte sich ab, später auch nach Berlin, wo er, nach
eigenem Bekunden, sein „erotisches Gymnasium“ besuchte. Der Autodidakt malt
zeit seines Lebens nach kunsthistorischen Vorbildern, allen voran nach
Velazquez; niemand in seiner Zeit hat aber auch Picasso und den Kubismus so
konsequent weitergedacht und das Prinzip der Deformation so gnadenlos auf das
(eigene) Dasein übertragen. In diesem Frühjahr widmete der Prado ihm in
Madrid eine nicht einmal überwältigend umfangreiche, aber famos bestückte
Retrospektive, die sich im Wesentlichen auf die Triptychen konzentrierte - es
war Bacons erste große Ausstellung in Spanien. Kurz nach einem Besuch der
Velazquez-Ausstellung im Prado war Bacon 1992 einem Herzschlag erlegen. Was
expressiv bedeutet, lässt sich an diesem Oeuvre, dem malträtierten Fleisch,
der ganzen Gewalt des Faktischen und dem entstellten Antlitz des Jahrhunderts
Bacon, recordado a 100
años de su nacimiento
Bajo el título Francis Bacon: A
La muestra Francis Bacon: A Centenary Retrospective recorrió Londres, Madrid y
Nueva York para celebrar el natalicio del destacado pintor irlandés
Informador, Martes, 27 de Octubre de 2009
El pintor fue uno de los artistas figuristas más relevantes del siglo XX
MADRID, ESPAÑA.- El pintor irlandés Francis Bacon (1909-1992) cumpliría mañana
cien años, una efeméride por la que el artista, cuyas obras han batido
récords en las casas de subastas de los últimos años, fue homenajeado este
año con una retrospectiva que recorrió Londres, Madrid y Nueva York.
Bajo el título Francis Bacon: A Centenary Retrospective (Francis
Bacon: Una retrospectiva centenaria) recorrió estas tres capitales y permaneció
expuesta con material inédito en la ciudad de los rascacielos hasta el pasado
16 de agosto.
La primera muestra de esa retrospectiva, que reúne alrededor de 70 de sus
obras que datan de varias etapas de su carrera, tuvo lugar en el museo Tate
Britain de Londres a finales de 2008, lo que supuso que fuera la primera que
se dedicase en el Reino Unido a Bacon desde 1985.
Seguidamente la retrospectiva viajó al Museo del Prado de Madrid, donde
permaneció expuesta del 3 de febrero al pasado 19 de abril, y atrajo la
atención de miles de visitantes.
Esta exposición, que fue asegurada por el Estado español en mil 252 millones
de euros, incluía piezas que abarcaban casi medio siglo de creación continua,
una actividad que se vio interrumpida por el mortal ataque cardíaco que el
artista sufrió en la capital española y falleció el 28 de abril de 1992.
Admirador de la pinacoteca madrileña y de los grandes maestros españoles,
especialmente de Diego Velázquez y Francisco de Goya, Bacon entró por la
puerta grande del museo con 78 obras.
Entre esas piezas se hallaban dieciséis de sus trípticos más importantes, uno
de ellos que data de 1984 sólo pudo ser visto en Madrid y no fue mostrado en
Londres ni tampoco en Nueva York.
Tras El Prado, la retrospectiva comisariada en memoria del centenario del
natalicio del pintor, concluyó su periplo en el Metropolitan de Nueva York,
donde también se aportó material inédito y documentos sobre la trayectoria
profesional del artista.
Francis Bacon fue uno de los artistas figuristas más relevantes del siglo XX
y en calidad de autodidacta no asistió nunca a ninguna escuela de arte.
Sus inicios en la pintura están marcados por el surrealismo como muestra la
obra Crucifixión (1933), pero progresivamente derivó al expresionismo,
dentro del cual es considerado como máximo exponente de la escuela inglesa.
El artista plasmó en su obra el dolor, la angustia, la muerte y el sexo, ya
que, como expresara en cierta ocasión: "Cuando se es fiel a la vida, se
es inevitablemente macabro porque finalmente se nace para morir".
Nacido en Dublín en el seno de una familia inglesa, el artista no tuvo una
infancia fácil. Padecía de asma crónica y con 16 años fue expulsado de casa
por su padre tras haberle confesado sus inclinaciones homosexuales.
Su carácter le llevó a destruir, a la edad de 35 años y cuando todavía no
había logrado el reconocimiento de su obra, la mayoría de sus cuadros, y fue
en 1944, al acabar Tres estudios de figuras junto a una crucifixión,
cuando le llegó la aceptación de la crítica.
Un homenajeado y cotizado
Bacon cumpliría mañana cien años
El pintor irlandés Francis Bacon (1909-1992) cumpliría
mañana, 28 de octubre, cien años, una efeméride por la que el artista, cuyas
obras se cotizan al alza, es homenajeado con exposiciones en distintos
TeleCinco | Agencia EFE | 27.10.09
El pintor irlandés Francis Bacon (1909-1992) habría cumplido
mañana, 28 de octubre, cien años, una efeméride por la que el artista es
homenajeado con exposiciones en distintos países. En la imagen de archivo
(Madrid, 30/01/09) tríptico de 1962 Tres estudios para una Crucifixión,
que formó parte de una retrospectiva sobre el pintor organizada por el Museo
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
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
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,
Unveiling the myths of Bacon
AIDAN DUNNE, The Irish Times, Saturday, October 24, 2009
Setting the scene:
preparations for Francis Bacon; A Terrible Beauty at the Hugh Lane Gallery.
His London studio has been in Dublin for some years, but a new
centenary exhibition of paintings and archive material explores Francis
Bacon's influences and tragedies, and helps re-evaluate the artist.
LATE IN OCTOBER 1971, just a few days short of his 62nd
birthday, the painter Francis Bacon was in Paris, where the president,
Georges Pompidou, had decided to personally open a retrospective of his work
at the Grand Palais. The presidential imprimatur, the prestigious venue and
the scale of the exhibition amounted to an extraordinary accolade for Bacon. And,
although he habitually made light of just about everything, he was enormously
pleased. Not least, the event finally put him on a par with the artist who,
more than any other, he saw as the figure he had to measure himself against:
Pablo Picasso. Picasso had been similarly feted in the Grand Palais a few
Contemporary accounts note that Bacon was in ebullient form,
and seemed to genuinely revel in the fuss and the attention. There was a lot
of attention: the great and the good turned out in their droves to attend the
opening. As the artist’s biographer Michael Peppiatt records, the evening was
crowned with a banquet in the ornately decorated brasserie Le Train Bleu in
the Gare de Lyon, organised – and indeed paid for – by Sonia Orwell, Zette
Leiris and Marguerite Duras.
In the Hugh Lane Gallery’s exhibition Francis Bacon: A
Terrible Beauty, opening next week, you can trace a surprisingly detailed
account of that evening through photographs taken at the time. In one image,
caught at a quiet moment, Bacon looks thoughtful, slightly withdrawn from the
throng. We don’t know what was on his mind, but it’s reasonable to guess that
he was thinking about his lover, George Dyer. The previous evening, while
Bacon was out doing an interview about his exhibition, Dyer had killed
himself in their room at the Hôtel des Saints-Pères.
News of Dyer’s death was not released immediately, but by the
time of the banquet the next night, word had spread. The confluence of events
was extraordinary and distressing in many ways. For one thing, on the opening
day of his Tate Gallery retrospective almost 10 years earlier, Bacon had
learned of the death of his ex-lover, Peter Lacy, in Morocco. He had been
rejected by Lacy, and had been absolutely devastated by the news of his
demise. At the same time, he seemed to think Lacy’s sad end was almost
calculated to detract from his enjoyment of his own success.
Now, at perhaps the crowning moment of his career, in Paris,
the same thing had happened with Dyer. Professional, public triumph was
inextricably linked to, and symbolically eclipsed by, personal disaster.
More, life was uncomfortably imitative of art. Commentators on Bacon’s
retrospective at the Grand Palais could not help but note the work’s
preoccupation with emotional and physical extremity. It depicted a world of
personal cruelty, isolation and despair. At the same time, while the imagery,
in its level of distortion and vehemence, its rawness, suggested something
extreme and unusual, something beyond the comfort of familiarity, what lent
Bacon’s work its exceptional power was the fact that his subject was in fact
nothing more than ordinary, everyday life.
BY BACON’S OWN account, at the time of the Grand Palais
exhibition he and Dyer were no longer even close. Their relationship, always
acrimonious, had foundered some time previously. Yet, just as Lacy became an
important, stubborn presence in Bacon’s work after his death, so Dyer too
became a central preoccupation in a series of works that culminated in a
chilling triptych, re-enacting the circumstances of his death. Bacon was
clearly not without feelings, and there is immense affection as well as
cruelty in the painting. But he could not have been a great artist without
possessing a streak of utter ruthlessness that enabled him to take the most
painful aspects of his own and others’ experience and lay them bare on
canvas. It would be wrong to suppose, though, that his work was always as
painfully autobiographical as were the pictures about Dyer’s suicide.
Francis Bacon: A Terrible Beauty goes some way to illuminating the links between the
personal and the public in Bacon’s art and world.
The show could be subtitled “Unpacking the Studio” in that
much of what is arranged on the walls and in vitrines forms part of the
7,000-plus items that came with Bacon’s studio when it was delivered to the
Hugh Lane in 1998, having been comprehensively surveyed and recorded. Much of
the archival material, and his Reece Mews home, has been superbly documented
and explored in publications by Margarita Cappock, Martin Harrison (who
co-curated the new exhibition with Hugh Lane director Barbara Dawson),
photographer Perry Ogden and others.
The exhibition marks the centenary of Bacon’s birth and is the
most extensive display derived from the archive since its acquisition. In
effect, as in elaborating on the opening at the Grand Palais, it also sets up
a dialogue between Bacon’s life, his work practices and the paintings he
produced. From the moment it was announced that the Bacon studio was to come
to Dublin, the implicit question has been whether actual paintings would
follow in its wake. The studio, the undoubted wealth of its research material
notwithstanding, is a bit like Hamlet without the prince in the absence
of a representative collection of paintings by Bacon to set alongside it.
While it would certainly have been nice if the studio had come
with such a stock of paintings in tow, that was never on the cards. Huge
financial interests are involved. There are unfinished paintings, generally
very unfinished in the sense that they look as if they were never destined to
be finished. Several of these are on view. There are also many destroyed
canvases. They have been described as “slashed canvases” which sounds quite
dramatic, as if the artist set about them in a fit of rage. In fact, slashed
canvases in that sense are very rare. Usually Bacon hacked out sections of an
abandoned work, presumably to use them in another context. A whole room is
given over to the display of canvases with excised sections. The effect is
odd, because clearly it was never intended that they would be exhibited in
this way. But it allows conservator Joanna Shepard a chance to investigate
Bacon’s working methods in detail, and she provides an explanatory commentary.
Figure in Sea 1952 Francis Bacon
To make up for the paucity of Bacon paintings in Irish
collections, reinforcements have been drafted in from several sources,
including the artist’s estate, private collections, the Tate Gallery and the
Ulster Museum. Many of these works are outstanding, and hardly any is an
obvious choice. The strange, dark-lit Untitled
(Half-length Figure in Sea) , for example, is
credited to Damien Hirst’s personal Murderme collection: fascinating given
its similarities to Hirst’s own recent paintings, now on view at the Wallace
Collection in London. Head III and Head of a Woman, also
from private collections, are classic portrait heads, as is Portrait of
Henrietta Moraes, of late in a collection here in Ireland, now part of
Christie’s stock. It’s a shame such a perfect little painting could not have
stayed in the country permanently.
A whole room is given over to plates from Eadweard Muybridge’s
The Human Figure in Motion, which Bacon – and, it must be said,
countless other artists, used extensively as references. Harrison is an
authority on art and photography, and his book In Camera is an
exhaustive and informative account of Bacon’s use of a vast range of photographic
sources, including original photographs of friends, lovers and acquaintances,
often commissioned from John Deakin (a room in the exhibition is given over
to them), as well as mechanically reproduced images from magazines, art
history books, medical textbooks and just about anything that caught his eye.
WE ARE WELL into a re-evaluation of the myth of Francis Bacon,
which tended to downplay the role of photography and simply deny the use of
preparatory drawings. Around 40 of the latter turned up in the studio, but in
a way they confirm Bacon’s protestations. The sketches are minimal and
rudimentary, more notes or memory aids than drawings in the usual sense. But
on the other hand you could say that photographs, both original and
reproduced, were his preparatory drawings, and they were absolutely vital to
what he did. He collected and consumed them voraciously; editing, tearing,
shaping and distorting them to create his own images.
This is one conclusion that emerges unmistakably from A
Terrible Beauty. There was a time when artists couldn’t admit to using
photographs in this way but, as David Hockney observed in his book Hidden
Knowledge, painters have generally used any and every available means to
make their work, and now photography is widely used and accepted. The
exhibition should also deepen awareness of the relationship between life and
art, and it’s hard to emerge from it without getting some sense of Bacon’s
personal difficulties and tragedies, as well as his extraordinary
resourcefulness, industry and inventiveness as an artist.
Joanna Shepard, Head of Conservation: Francis
Bacon : A Terrible Beauty
Francis Bacon: A Terrible Beauty is at the Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane, from
October 28th to March 7th, 2010.
Tel. 01-2225550 or see hughlane.ie
International Art Festival debuts in Tel Aviv
By David Brinn, The Jerusalem
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
VIRGILIO MONTAÑEZ, SUR, Andalucía,
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
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
Aquejado desde la niñez por asma y una potente alergia hacia
los perros y caballos (recuérdese el oficio del padre), la morfina fue una
constante en su tratamiento y a la vez una adicción. La salud influyó en su
irregular formación académica, plena de ausencias, que también se vería
drásticamente afectada a los 16 años por la expulsión del hogar familiar,
cuando ya vivían en Inglaterra tras la Primera Guerra Mundial, al quedar al
descubierto su homosexualidad brutalmente rechazada por el padre. Detrás
quedaba una infancia triste, marcada por las oscilaciones de la residencia
entre Irlanda e Inglaterra, con la brújula detenida a partir de 1925 en
Inglaterra y marcada por tutores y preceptores en vez de por la escuela.
1926 y Londres son el año y el lugar en que c