Francis Bacon (painter)
Francis Bacon (born October 28, 1909 in Dublin , † April 28, 1992 in Madrid ) was a British painter born in Ireland . Francis Bacon is one of the most important representational painters of the 20th century . In his works he mainly dealt with the representation of the deformed human body in tightly constructed spaces. Bacon is particularly known for his images of the Pope, depictions of the crucifixion and portraits of his closest friends. His unadorned figures and daring representations are often grotesque and emotionally charged. Bacon often spoke of thinking “in series”, usually focusing on a single subject over an extended period of time and often executing this in the form of a triptych or diptych . His work can commonly be described as a sequence or variation of a single motif.
As an autodidact , he began painting in the late 1920s , having previously worked as an interior designer. Notorious for his life as a bon vivant and his gambling addiction, he achieved his breakthrough as an artist in 1944 with the triptych Three Studies on Figures at the Foot of a Crucifixion ( Tate Britain , London ) . Since the mid-1960s, he was particularly interested in portraits of his friends and drinking companions. After his lover George Dyer took his own life in 1971, his art became increasingly gloomy, inward-looking, dealing with the passage of time and death. The high point of his late work is marked by a large number of masterpieces, such as a. Study for a Self-Portrait Triptych, 1985–86 (Marlborough Fine Art, London).
Regardless of his existentialist outlook, Bacon was highly charismatic, engaging, well-read, and articulate, as evidenced by the interviews and conversations with David Sylvester . Art critic Robert Hughes has described him as the most infallible and lyrical English artist of the 20th century and, along with the artist Willem de Kooning, called him one of the most influential painters of the unsettling human figure in the 1950s.
Francis Bacon's life was influenced by alcohol and gambling. His biographer Daniel Farson tells of a vita between the half-world and the underworld: of the seductions of 15-year-old Bacon by stable boys in Dublin , of a secret game club in his apartment, of dodgy establishments in Berlin and Paris to Bacon's war experiences, where he is following Bombing carts away the dead. Opposite the abysmal is the generous gentleman Bacon; the well-read intellectual, who read the ancient tragedies, Nietzsche , Sigmund Freud and Marcel Proust , raved about James Joyce and TS Eliot and displayed an unusual work and self-discipline.
Francis Bacon was born in Dublin on October 28, 1909 to British parents. He was the second of five children. His brothers died early, his sisters later emigrated. Francis' father, Edward Anthony Mortimer Bacon, derived his ancestry from the Elizabethan statesman and philosopher Sir Francis Bacon . Formerly in military service, the authoritarian and violent head of the family worked as a trainer and trainer for racehorses. Bacon's mother Christina Winifred Firth, on the other hand, was described as open-minded, sociable, and educated.
With the outbreak of the First World War, the father was appointed to the War Ministry in London. The following ten years were characterized by frequent changes of residence. In Bacon's youth, the family lived alternately in Dublin and London. Due to the turmoil of the war and the numerous relocations, Bacon grew up without regular schooling and sometimes left to himself. After a few weeks he fled a boarding school. Francis Bacon experienced violence early on. He lived again in Ireland during the Easter Rising of the Sinn Féin Movement in 1916. He later recalled living "in a house barricaded with sandbags".
At the age of 16, Bacon became aware of his homosexuality . His father surprised him there when he lingerie trying on his mother, and threw him out of the house. Francis Bacon went to London, where he took on odd jobs, including working for a notary. In 1927 his father sent him to Berlin. There he was to live under the care of Harcourt-Smith, a former comrade of the father and also a horse breeder. However, this was even in questionable circles and the attempts at education failed. Bacon plunged into Berlin life, lived with Harcourt-Smith in the Hotel Adlon and visited the cinemas. In the summer, however, he went to Paris, where he began to draw and watercolors. He did not express the wish to attend an art school. Occasionally he worked as an interior decorator and designer. In July he encountered works by Picasso at the Paul Rosenberg Gallery , which impressed him very much. He visited exhibitions with works by Fernand Léger , Joan Miró , Max Ernst and Giorgio de Chirico .
A year later he moved into a garage converted into a studio in Queensberry Mews West, South Kensington. There he organized exhibitions with wall and floor carpets as well as modern furniture made of steel and glass based on his own designs. Francis Bacon began to paint oil paintings as an autodidact. The Australian artist Roy de Maistre, who was influenced by Cubism , taught him how to use oil paint, but he remained the only teacher Bacon ever had. Because his exhibitions had no response, Bacon gave up his work as a furniture designer. In 1931 he moved to a studio on Fulham Road and took on odd jobs outside of the arts to earn a living.
Bacon's work Crucifixion (1933) was exhibited at the “Art Now” exhibition at the Mayor Gallery in London and reproduced in a book. The collector Michael Sadler acquired Bacon's first paintings. Since he could not find a gallery owner to look after his work, Francis Bacon organized his first solo exhibition in 1934 with oil paintings and gouaches in the basement of a friend's house. The exhibition was a failure and received no response from the press or the public. Discouraged, he painted less and surrendered to his passion for gambling, traveled through Europe and worked as a croupier for a while . In 1936, at an international surrealist exhibition , his pictures were found to be unsurrealistic and excluded. In the following year, however, Bacon took part in a group exhibition of young British artists. Due to his asthma , he was released from military service in 1941 and called up for civil defense, from which he was also released due to illness after a short time. For a while, Bacon lived in the Petersfield, Hampshire countryside.
At the end of 1942, Francis Bacon returned to London and moved into his old studio in Kensington. Between 1942 and 1943 he almost completely destroyed his artistic production over the past few years. Only 15 pictures from the period 1929–1944 have survived. From 1944, Bacon intensified his painting. The triptych Three Studies on Figures at the Foot of a Crucifixion (1944) was created and sparked heated discussions at an exhibition the following year. Various group exhibitions followed, in which his pictures polarized the audience. In 1946, Bacon settled in Monte-Carlo , where he devoted himself to his passion for gaming. He shuttled back and forth between Monte-Carlo and London until 1950, before returning to the British capital permanently.
In 1946 the gallery owner Erica Brausen visited Bacon in his studio on the advice of Graham Sutherland . Brausen bought his Painting in 1946 for £ 350 , which she sold to the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1949 , where it can still be seen today. Erica Brausen curated Bacon's first solo exhibition in her newly opened Hannover Gallery in London in 1949 . This helped the artist to break through. Bacon and Brausen remained close friends for many years.
Francis Bacon taught at the Royal College of Art in London for a few months . During this time he began to paint his series of popes based on a motif of Pope Innocent X of Velazquez . He made friends with Lucian Freud , whom he first portrayed in 1951 and who also portrayed him in 1951/52 , as well as with David Sylvester , with whom he conducted numerous interviews between 1962 and 1986. Francis Bacon traveled to South Africa to visit his mother, who had lived there since his father's death (1940). He also made a stop in Cairo. In 1952 he met Peter Lacy, a bar pianist who became Bacon's lover. Bacon visited him in Tangier.
Several changes of apartment and studio followed over the next few years. Bacon had various solo exhibitions in London and New York and in 1954, together with Lucian Freud and Ben Nicholson, designed the British Pavilion at XXVII. Venice Biennale. Landscape paintings were also created in which Bacon's admiration for Vincent van Gogh was expressed. In the next few years numerous solo exhibitions took place in Italy, England, France and the USA. The Institute of Contemporary Arts in London organized its first retrospective in 1955. Further retrospectives by the Tate Gallery in London (1962), the Guggenheim Museum in New York (1963) and the Art Institute of Chicago (1963) testified to Bacon's growing international importance, as did his participation in the Documenta ( documenta II 1959) in Kassel . On the evening of the London retrospective in 1962, Bacon's friend Peter Lacy died as a result of a serious illness from excessive alcohol and drug abuse.
Francis Bacon met George Dyer, an equally depressed and violent crook from a humble background, with whom he entered into a relationship. Bacon's fame increased in the following years, he received several prizes, in 1967 the Rubens Prize of the city of Siegen . In 1964, Francis Bacon was a participant in documenta III in Kassel . In 1971 he was at the top of a list of the ten most important living artists.
On the eve of the major retrospective at Paris' Grand Palais on October 24, 1971, George Dyer was found dead in his hotel room, huddled on the toilet seat. Bacon dealt with the suicide probably brought about by tablets and alcohol in various pictures (Triptych August 1972; Triptych May – June 1973) .
In 1975 Bacon met Andy Warhol in New York, and in 1978 Balthus in Rome. During this time, further retrospectives were held at the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf (1972), the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (1975), the Tate Gallery in London (1985), the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart (1985) and the Nationalgalerie in Berlin (1986 ) organized; in between major exhibitions in Spain, Japan and America and participation in documenta 6 (1977) and DOCUMENTA IX (1992) in Kassel. Bacon was one of the few Western artists to have an exhibition in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.
In old age he had a kidney removed, which did not prevent him from consuming further alcohol. In 1991 the painter traveled to Madrid to visit the Velazquez exhibition in the Prado . Francis Bacon died there after a heart attack on April 28, 1992. His body was cremated and the ashes were scattered throughout England.
"There has been so much war in my life," said Francis Bacon in his last published interview three months before his death. The painter thus stretched a background foil against which his work can be interpreted, placing life situation and work in a specific context. Indeed, the aspect of violence plays a central role in Bacon's pictures. Again and again he dealt with the subjects of violence, destruction and decay, which center on the human figure. Torso-like, crippled bodies, masses of blood dripping with blood, and mutilated cadavers are declared expressions of excessive violence. His designs are a mirror of the fatefulness of human existence, which for him is an existence leading to death.
Figure and background
Bacon's canvases are framed, almost always 198 cm × 147.5 cm (his studio did not allow larger dimensions), not varnished , but displayed behind glass. His pictures, mostly painted with oil, were initially structured through simple symmetrical relationships and clearly arranged color zones. This applies to both single pictures and groups of pictures, his triptychs. Simple geometric shapes form the background. An often circular background or an elliptical horizon line, rectangular wall surfaces, scaffolding-like lines in the room with an orderly, pastel color palette give Bacon's figures structure ( study for a portrait by Lucian Freud, 1973; study for a self-portrait, 1985). The figures themselves are applied with a richer palette, smeared with coarse brushstrokes, the colors painted on the canvas with brushes or rags. The colored incarnates behave counterpoint to the emptied, almost sterile backgrounds and thus become isolated. They are blurred, blurred and sometimes deformed beyond recognition. Several layers of paint are superimposed on one another, disfiguring the figure's features and blurring its contours. The relationship between character and background becomes fragile. If the backdrop appears static and neutral, the figures are often depicted as dynamic and energetic. The contrast of a stretched body mass lies on an almost clinical slide.
Francis Bacon borrowed his figural positions partly from photography, but also from sculpture. He borrowed motifs from Eadweard Muybridge's movement studies ( Man with Dog , Two Figures, 1953; Two Figures in Grass, 1954; Studies of the Human Body, 1970), used historical press photos and reproductions of schematic representations from a manual for X-ray storage techniques and adopted elements various sculptures by Michelangelo alongside features of ancient marble statues. He also took up the effects of photography, image cross-fading, blurring, blurring and negative reversals as well as phases of movement ( Three Studies of Isabel Rawsthorne 1967 ).
Francis Bacon and his self-portraits
Francis Bacon did his first self-portrait in 1956 and finally the second in 1958. In the following decades he became more and more concerned with the human body and portrayed his close friends and himself. Bacon often paints the portraits as triptychs, since he saw every picture in constant change. Quote: “I see pictures in series. I suspect I could go far beyond the triptych and place five or six next to each other, but consider the triptych to be a balanced unit. ”However, he places these panels in individual frames, as this creates the connection within the images that the viewer automatically creates tried to question and prevent. Noticeable in the self-portraits, but also in the portraits in general, are the circles, hatching and ovals which dominate the face of the sitter. It is a further attempt by Bacon to distance the viewer from traditional portraits and to avoid the illustrative. It also makes it difficult for the other person to find an oasis of calm in the face. The gaze always wanders around and follows the geometric shapes. At the same time, however, these shapes also structure the face, which is reinforced by the respective colors. “Because I always hope to reshape people so that their charisma becomes clear; I cannot copy them literally ”. This quote shows that he was not interested in reproducing the external appearance of a person, but in their charisma. Bacon gives us clues in these faces as to where the nose, eyes, mouth or hair can be found, but does not allow us to definitely recognize them. The portrait should reflect the feelings which the person depicted characterizes and which he often feels. He combines different feelings and emotions, with the respective physical implementation, in one picture.
Perspective and space
Circles, arrows and cage-like line constructions ( Figure in Movement, 1976) often surround the center of the picture and point to the figure's separated moment, to its sheer creaturality. The line structure creates a space in the room, the interruption of a continuum that is repeated in the presentation of the exhibit: extensive framing and the protective glass pane seal the surface of the picture, switching a perception filter between the viewer and the picture.
The space in Bacon's works is defined from a poly-perspective. Parallel lines that wrap around the figure like a glass box divide the picture into perspective fields. A clear perspective, an exact vanishing point is given up. Multiple spatial definitions emerge that stand side by side and act against one another. Space is no longer a property of geometry, but a property of the figure. Bacon's space is an entangled spatial system that is in conflict with one another and is held together by the presence of the figure. This makes it possible for the spatial structure shown to suggest different interiors: inside and outside, chambers and halls, private rooms and public stages, spaciousness, narrowness and limitation. Bacon's rooms offer a whole spectrum: openness and delimitation, aseptic and bloody staining.
Movement and narration
Francis Bacon's pictures tell no stories. Rather, they are characterized by the lack of meaningful connecting pieces. It is true that his pictorial ensembles are related to one another, his triptychs in a formal context. However, there is no binding narrative logic between the individual panels. The portrayed should not be able to be combined into a narrative, should not depict a dramaturgical event. There is no point because the narrative elements are missing.
The continuity of the sequence of actions seems to be interrupted. Bacon repeats this aspect of his art in the figure representation itself. The figure moves, but remains in place. Their movement rests in itself, creates a plastic metamorphosis, draws a trace of movement. “I want my pictures to look as if a human being had passed through them, like a snail, leaving behind a trace of human presence and the memory of past events, just as the snail leaves its slime behind,” says the painter .
No other motif inspired Bacon's work more than Eadweard Muybridge 's studies of movement . Its photo series document the sequential processes of human and animal bodies. Their movement takes place in a temporal sequence and a spatial one behind the other. Marcel Duchamp ( Nude, Descending a Staircase , 1912) and Umberto Boccioni had designed their futuristic pictures in a very similar way, as spatiotemporal sequences, as a juxtaposition of body positions. Bacon, on the other hand, does not show movement in space. With him, the phases of movement are blended over one another, as if one cut out the figures of Muybridge and projected them over one another. The viewer experiences the cuts in the sequence of movements as cuts in the body. This creates an identity of movement and injury. What the viewer perceives as a physical deformation are missing links in the movement sequence.
Religion without transcendence
The 1946 painting shows an abysmal, dark figure, fitted between steel pipes and an open umbrella. A hung, slaughtered ox, reminiscent of Rembrandt van Rijn's ox ( The slaughtered ox, 1655), heralds the crucifixion scene. Religious motifs are often found in Bacon's work. Between 1950 (Study after Velazquez I, American private property) and 1965 he designed numerous variations on Pope Innocent X based on Diego Velázquez . In total, he varies the subject 45 times. Bacon assigns the earthly to the sacred, the Pope is a screaming Pope, an expression of everyday suffering in the world.
Francis Bacon borrows this elementary human expression, the open mouth, from familiar images. The painter is impressed by the expression on the mother's face in Nicolas Poussin's painting The Bethlehemite Child Murder (1628); equally from the caricature of nanny facial expressions on the Potemkin Stairs in Odessa in Sergej Eisenstein's classic film Battleship Potemkin . Transferred to the images of the Pope, the cry breaks the liturgical order and undermines the ecclesiastical worldview. The scream as a metaphor for pain testifies to the longing for redemption and the desperation of its failure.
In the 1960s, Bacon increasingly chose the triptych as a form of representation. Bacon himself claims that the widescreen cinema with its Cinemascope format led him to this idea. In fact, however, the tripartite nature of the panels is of deeper importance. In its symmetry, it is reminiscent of the format of the altarpiece with its hinged side wings. Associations with the Trinity are awakened as well as with the three crosses of the crucifixion depictions of Christ. The triptych offers Bacon the opportunity to inscribe a religious theme into his pictures without having to explain it.
With the works Three Studies for Figures at the Foot of a Crucifixion (1944), Three Studies for a Crucifixion (1962) or Crucifixion (1965), however , he addresses the idea of the Passion more directly. The allegory of death begins in the torture of the body. For Bacon, the slaughterhouse is the modern passion ground; the slaughtered meat is a symbol of existential experience. In an interview with David Sylvester , Bacon said verbatim: “If you go into one of those big warehouses and walk through these huge halls of death, you can see the meat and the fish and the birds and a lot of other things that are lying there dead. And of course as a painter you are constantly reminded that the color of meat is actually very, very beautiful. [...] Well, after all, we are meat ourselves, potential carcasses. ”For Bacon, the animal carcass is the image of his own mortality; through it he finds the direct route to crucifixion. “I have always been very touched by images that have to do with slaughterhouses and meat. For me they belong very much to the whole subject of the crucifixion ”, says the painter in 1962. Bacon himself described the crucifixion as a kind of scaffolding“ on which one can hang all imaginable feelings and impressions ”.
Francis Bacon's paintings recite physical pain, lead man and cattle back to the elementary level of being and turn them into creatures, into anonymous creatures. The open body, the bleeding sacrifice and the violence of the flesh throw off all mystical implications and stand for suffering without meaning.
The scream as a motive
So it is hardly surprising that in the almost 130 pictures listed in the catalog raisonné from Bacon's beginnings to Study for the Nurse from the Battleship Potemkin from 1957, around a quarter of the figures are shown with their mouths open. That alone shows the importance Bacon attached to the scream. His first triptych, Three Studies at the Base of a Crucifixion, showed an increased and intensive examination of this topic in 1944 and concluded with the work Study for the Nurse from the Battleship Potemkin . With regard to his entire work, it can be stated that the scream is present again and again in a more or less strong form; the motif of the open mouth appears for the first time in his work Figures in a Garden from 1936. The conspicuously obsessive preoccupation with this subject can, however, be located in the 1950s; the open mouth is the most conspicuous feature of the series of heads and head sections that Bacon painted between 1948 and 1952.
If you look at his works, in which the scream or the wide open mouth play a central role, then the depictions of the Pope, also because of their large number, have a special place, for example Study after Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X is one of his most important Works, but we also encounter the motif of the open mouth in a different context. Bacon drew from numerous and different sources (text and image fragments) for the motif of the scream. This is particularly important because this "aesthetic process" is characteristic of Bacon's work. In addition to Nicolas Poussin's painting The Bethlehemitische Kindermord (1628) and the still photo of the fatally injured nurse from Sergej Eisenstein's film Battleship Potemkin, there is a third important image source that shaped him deeply and repeatedly served as a source of inspiration and image trigger. It is important to him for more painterly and formal reasons. It is a series of medical photos that he took from books and magazines and that show distorted mouths, teeth or all kinds of oral diseases in close-ups. Finally, a fourth source should be mentioned, Georges Bataille's article Bouche in the journal Documents (1930). Bataille discusses the fact that through the mouth the most significant experiences of human pleasure and pain are expressed, thereby revealing the similarity between humans and animals. Bacon owned the magazine, which indicates that he not only knew the theories of Bataille, but had also adapted them. This connection can be found, for example, in Bacon's works Head I (1948) and Head II (1949), in which a creature, partly human, partly animal, gives off its creatural scream. The scream became Bacon's archetype, an example of ambiguity that conveys anger, pain, fear and pleasure without the slightest differentiation.
Reconstruction of Bacon's studio
In 1998, Bacon's studio at 7 Reece Mews, South Kensington, London, was dismantled, transported to Dublin and rebuilt in Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane . A team of restorers, archaeologists and curators was entrusted with cataloging the inventory and the faithful reconstruction. Before the transport, more than 7000 individual items were cataloged in a specially developed database: Bacon's work material, books, photographs, correspondence, etc. a.
Bacon on the art market
At an auction in New York on May 14, 2008, Bacon's work Triptych, 1976 for 86.3 million US dollars (55.7 million euros) changed hands. At the time, never before had so much been paid for a post-war painting. It is currently the fourteenth most expensive painting in the world .
In July 2011 Studies for a portrait was sold for 20 million euros and Crouching Nude (1961) for 9.3 million euros.
On November 12, 2013, Three Studies of Lucian Freud (triptych) from 1969 was auctioned off at Christie's in New York for 142.4 million US dollars ( highest bid 127,000,000 US dollars plus commission ). This made the work the most expensive painting at the time.
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- 25 works on BBC - Your Paintings
- Image: Three studies of figures at the foot of a crucifixion 1944 Tate, London
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- Image: Two figures in the grass 1954
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- Image: Sphinx - portrait by Muriel Belcher 1979
- Image: Triptych 1991
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- Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane, Francis Bacon Studio, History of Studio Relocation ; Ann Landi, Where the Art Happens, ARTnews.com, June 2010 ( Memento from August 5, 2010 in the Internet Archive )
- Article in the WELT of May 15, 2008 (accessed on August 17, 2011)
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- Bacon-Bild achieves record value at auction , spiegel.de, accessed on November 13, 2013
- Alain Jaubert, Frédéric Fleischer, Center national de la cinématographie (France), Procirep (Firm), La Sept ARTE: Les Figures de l'excès. Editions Montparnasse, 1996, accessed September 14, 2017 .
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- Adam Low: Bacon's Arena. November 5, 2006, accessed September 14, 2017 .
- Richard Curson Smith: Francis Bacon: A Brush with Violence. February 3, 2017, accessed September 14, 2017 .
|BRIEF DESCRIPTION||Irish-British painter|
|DATE OF BIRTH||October 28, 1909|
|PLACE OF BIRTH||Dublin|
|DATE OF DEATH||April 28, 1992|
|Place of death||Madrid|