Francis Bacon 1909 —1992

Biography

FRANCIS  BACON   (Ireland 1909  -  Great Britain 1992)

 

Francis Bacon, arguably the preeminent British painter of the twentieth century, was also for forty years the most controversial.

Bacon's art often appears deliberately disturbing. His subject was the human form. Bacon reinterpreted the physical construction of the body with a new and unsettling intensity. To him it was something to be taken apart by the artist's penetrating gaze and then put back together again on canvas. He forces us to see, perhaps for the first time, the separate shapes and stresses hidden in the familiar human figure.

Bacon's treatment of the face could be especially challenging. In his portraits, generally of people the artist knew well, the subjects are sometimes shown screaming. Even in repose the features shift and reshape themselves before our eyes, yet they never become unrecognizable despite the swirling paint.

Often called an Expressionist or even a Surrealist, Bacon himself strongly rejected both labels. He insisted that in its own way his work was close to the world we see every day, remaining true to what he called "the brutality of fact."

It is not unusual to hear the paintings of Francis Bacon described as Expressionist. Yet that label greatly annoyed the British painter, displeasing him even more than other, quite unflattering characterizations of his work. Most artists associated with Expressionism sought to project their emotions onto the world, deforming or distorting appearances toward that expressive end. Such art can, therefore, be considered idealist; exaggerated facial traits, for example, can flaunt the subject's distance from an imagined ideal.

Bacon's works have in common with some modes of Expressionism in modern art the violence of the pictorial gesture and the immediate effect of shock, but they could be considered Expressionist only in a very general sense. The artist himself summed up his work as an attempt to capture, through the painted image of the body, the sensations that its physical reality stirred within him. For Bacon, abstract art held little appeal; the human figure was the fundamental, and almost the only, subject. The figure is subjected to distortion in Bacon's work for reasons different from those of the Expressionists: what he seeks is to mock the routine, superficial way we generally look at ourselves and the world. He seeks to overturn conventions associated with everyday perception in order to bring the viewer closer to the raw fact of corporeal life. The objective is to upset the stability of the ordinary point of view, breaking down the protective barriers separating us from the immediacy of experience.

Perhaps the term that best describes Bacon's work is "realism," a classification that is often employed too loosely but which here is meant in a special sense. In this case, realism does not mean direct, straightforward representation—something Bacon dismissed as mere "illustration," and from which he felt as far removed as from abstract painting. Instead it means a fidelity to the vital experience of living inside the body, which for him is a fundamental theme of art. Like the realists of the nineteenth cen-tury, Bacon scrupulously recorded the mobile, shifting reality of the human form with the means that painting placed at his disposal. The difference is that by Bacon's time, a century later, the arsenal of resources for painting is much greater; naturalistic, imitative criteria are no longer sufficient. Bacon's realism is, therefore, radically modern, and his point of departure, as he freely admitted, was Pablo Picasso's work from the late l920s, which is sometimes considered Surrealist, though of an unusually tough-minded kind.

The drama in Bacon's painting arises from the fact that, inevitably, the viewer cannot help but identify to some extent with what a picture shows. The distortion of the body's ordinary appearance in a painting can make us cringe with a new and discomforting sense of how human flesh and bone are constituted. With Bacon, the figure often appears at the edge of dissolution, just prior to becoming unrecognizable. The painter concentrates all the violence of the brushstroke in the human form, using the agitated pictorial material to embody the convulsions of the flesh. To achieve this effect, Bacon at times hurls handfuls of paint against the canvas, forming it subsequently with his hands, the paintbrush, or other direct means. In these ways he affirms his presence in all its "brutality of fact."

In contrast, the space surrounding the figures is rigorously orthodox: the spatial boxes around the figures or the curves bending behind them are extensions of the viewer's own space. Critics have often attempted to see these boxes as an existentialist metaphor of anonymous, desolate places, like sordid rooms in cheap hotels, or prison cells; however, Bacon's painting resists any symbolic interpretation. Instead, the spaces he creates enclose the viewer along with the figure; they cast the viewer in the role of voyeur, looking in on some obscure private ritual. The settings are painted with flat, brilliant colors against which the pieces of furniture and banal objects—a light bulb, a switch—are placed like the actual objects in a Cubist collage. To Bacon, these items are "certainties": they are easily recognized bits of familiar reality that, by their corroborative presence, make the horror of the contorted figures true to life.

The Picture and the Viewer:
The way that the pictorial space draws the viewer in is accentuated in the triptychs, a format virtually reinvented by Bacon for modern art. Different from traditional triptychs, where the sequence of panels often tells a story, Bacon made of them an involving space extending around the viewer, forcing us into intimate contact with the figures, pushed toward us from their bare enclosures.

"Real imagination ... is in the ways you think up to bring an event to life again. It is in the search for the technique to trap the object at a given moment." Thus Bacon sums up his pictorial strategy, which renounces any type of symbolism. His canvases signify no abstract ideas, generate neither icons nor emblems, only images for which interpretation, in the strict sense of the word, is inappropriate. We come upon them as if upon an accident. Their impact is overwhelming, like some obscene fragment of existence before which it is impossible to remain distant and aloof.

 

FRANCIS BACON - BIOGRAPHY

Although he was born in Dublin and spent most of his childhood in Ireland, Francis Bacon must be considered an English painter, for that was his family's origin. His father trained racehorses in Dublin until he entered the War Office and moved with his family to London at the outbreak of World War I. Until 1925 the Bacon family moved frequently between England and Ireland. The continual moves, along with the fact that he suffered from asthma, prevented the young Bacon from attending school regularly, and he received his education mostly from tutors.

In 1925, Bacon left his family and settled in London. After a brief sojourn in Berlin, he spent two years in France, part of the time near Chantilly. There he frequently visited the Musee Conde and saw Nicolas Poussin's Massacre of the Innocents (1630-31). The figure of the mother crying out when her child is torn from her greatly impressed Bacon, to the point of becoming a recurrent image in his first paintings. So did another famous cry, that of the wounded nurse with shattered eyeglasses in the scene on the Odessa Steps from Battleship Potemkin (1925), the renowned film by Sergei Eisenstein.

Picasso's exhibition at the Paul Rosenberg gallery in Paris in 1927 decided Bacon on a career in painting. The work of the older artist revealed to him that within the human form was a new, unexplored world whose inner drama could be brought to the surface. This would become Bacon's pictorial world.

Settling definitively in London in 1928, Bacon soon earned a certain reputation as an interior decorator and furniture designer. Painting, which he began as a self-taught student, gradually gained more and more importance until it became his only activity. Little is known of his works from the 1930s, since Bacon himself destroyed most of them. In 1936 he submitted a picture to the "International Surrealist Exhibition," but it was rejected, perhaps a premonition that his work belonged not to the world of dreams and fantasies, but to the experience of the material world. In 1945 he established himself with the exhibition of Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, which explores the format of the triptych, and Figure in a Landscape. He was associated at that time with other contemporary English figurative painters, like Graham Sutherland and Matthew Smith, as well as with the sculptor Henry Moore, and showed with them in several exhibitions. However, his incorrigible individuality was already apparent in canvases introducing his characteristic concerns. The primal scream he discovered in the work of Nicolas Poussin and in the scene from Eisenstein gave rise to works such as Head VI, Study after Velazquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X (plate 3), and Study for a Portrait. These were among the most outstanding compositions he had produced by the early 1950s.

Bacon began to use X-ray photographs in his work to give a sense of flesh-and-blood realism to his portraits and figure paintings. As part of his quasi-scientific search for the reality of the body, he also made use of the photographic studies of figures and animals in motion realized by Ead-weard Muybridge at the end of the nineteenth century. These sources became points of departure for many of Bacon's canvases. Another major concern was the relationship between the figure and the pictorial space, a relation that became more sharply defined; there appeared linear cubes that isolated the figures from their surroundings like transparent cages.

Bacon's international career was launched with his first solo show in New York in 1953 and his selection the following year, along with Ben Nicholson and Lucian Freud, for the Venice Biennale. In the 1960s, Bacon reached a new level of artistic achievement. Returning to the format of the triptych, he created Three Studies for a Crucifixion in 1962 (plate 5), transforming one of the central themes of his artistic career.

Additionally, the impact of his painting became more immediate, as can be seen in his portraits. Bacon painted persons from his circle of friends: their faces and names are now familiar to all devotees of the artist's painting, and they include Isabel Rawsthorne, Henrietta Moraes, Lucian Freud, and George Dyer. Bacon said that he never painted portraits of anyone except those close to him, since "if they were not my friends, I could not do such violence to them." Dyer was the most frequent model in the canvases of the 1960s, and his death in 1971 would weigh heavily on the artist.

The striking effect of Bacon's paintings and the carnal connotations of many of them extended his fame in this period beyond strictly artistic circles. The many exhibitions throughout the world devoted to Bacon's work consolidated his reputation, especially the retrospectives at the Tate Gallery, London, in 1962 (a second exhibition would be held there in 1985), and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, in 1963.

Francis Bacon was one of the most powerful figurative painters of this century. His achievement is all the more remarkable since he emerged from an artistic setting that was, during the 1940s and 1950s, dominated by abstract art. Though postwar British art produced a number of important creators—Graham Sutherland, Lucian Freud, R. B. Kitaj, David Hockney—the implacable independence of Bacon's work resists all academic classification. As with other great figurative painters of his time—the Frenchman Balthus, the Spaniard Antonio Lopez, or Bacon's friend Lucian Freud—his was a solitary path, difficult for imitators to follow, but leading to a unique view of the spirit of the age. Francis Bacon remained active until the last year of his life. He died during a visit to Madrid in 1992.

 

An important source for modern and contemporary American & European Art in East Hampton, New York & worldwide, Janet Lehr Fine Arts' spectacular wide-ranging inventory consists of unique paintings, drawings, large & small scale sculpture, monotypes, prints and photographs  by Ansel Adams, Milton Avery, Richard Avedon, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Romare Bearden, Fernando Botero, Cartier-Bresson, Marc Chagall, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Willem De Kooning, Richard Diebenkorn, Thomas Eakins, Childe Hassam, David Hockney, Winslow Homer, Wolf Kahn, Jeff Koons, Fernand Leger, Roy Lichtenstein, Man Ray, Thomas Moran, Henry Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Robert Rauschenberg, Mark Rothko, Cindy Sherman, Charles Sheeler, Bert Stern, Alfred Stieglitz, Andy Warhol, Carleton E Watkins, Tom Wesselmann and Andrew Wyeth.

To bookmark Janet Lehr Fine Arts Gallery website: http://www.janetlehrfinearts.com

View synoptic biography below.

Please contact the gallery for current inventory.

Please contact the gallery for current inventory.
Image courtesy of Getty Images


Exhibitions

2014
‘Gauguin to Warhol: 20th Century Icons from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery' San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, CA
‘Self - Bacon, Hirst, Koons, Picasso', Ordovas Gallery, London, UK
‘Bare Life. Bacon, Freud, Hockney and others. London artists working from life 1950 - 80' LWL Museum of Art and Culture, Münster, Germany
‘REALITY: Modern & Contemporary British Painting‘, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich, UK
‘From Degas to Bacon. The Jacqueline Delubac collection', Lyon Museum of Fine Arts, Lyon, France
‘Beyond Surrealism', Tate Modern, London, UK
"World's Greatest Collection of British Art", BP Walk through British Art, Tate Britain
‘Francis Bacon and Henry Moore', Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto ,ON
‘In Homage' Skarstedt Gallery London
‘‘Treasures of the Tamayo Museum, Mexico City', Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD)
‘Francis Bacon - The Graphic Works', Het Noordbrabants Museum , Netherlands
‘Study from the Human Body', Stephen Friedman Gallery, London
‘Freedom Not Genius', Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow
2013
‘Pop Art to Britart: Modern Masters from the David Ross Collection', Djanogly Art Gallery, Lakeside Arts Centre, Nottingham
‘Characters: Portraits and People from the Arts Council Collection', The Holburne Museum, Bath, England
‘The Face of the '900. From Matisse to Bacon. Masterpieces from the Centre Pompidou' Palazzo Reale, Milan
‘The Anatomy Lesson: From Rembrandt To Damien Hirst', Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, Netherlands
2009-2010
Dublin, Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane, "Francis Bacon: A Terrible Beauty" (solo)
2008-2009
London, Tate Britain,"Francis Bacon," Traveling Exhibition (solo)
2008
Kontellationem III, Stadel Museum, Frankfurt/Main
2008
Modern Prints - Klassische Moderne bis Pop Art, Galerie Proarata, Zurich
2006-2007
"Francis Bacon - The Violence of the Real" K20 Kunstsammlung Nordhein Westfalen, Düsseldorf, Germany
2006
"Bienal del Aire," Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Caracas Sofía Imber (MACCSI), Caracas
2006
"Summer Exhibition," Marlborough Fine Art (London) Ltd, London, UK
2006
"Mirada múltiple," Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, Bilbao
2006
"Francis Bacon," Gagosian Gallery, London, UK
2005
"Francis Bacon: Die Portraits," Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg
2005
"De Picasso a Basquiat," Musée Maillol, Fondation Dina Vierny, Paris
2005
"Celebración del arte: Medio siglo de la Fundación Juan March," Fundación Juan March, Madrid
2005
"Summer Exhibition 2005," Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
2005
"Francis Bacon: Studying Form" Faggionato Fine Art, London, UK
2004
"What´s modern?" Gagosian Gallery, New York, NY
2004
"Hidden Histories," The New Art Gallery Walsall, Walsall, West Midlands, UK
2004
"Modern Means: Continuity and Change in Art from 1880 to the Present," Mori Art Museum, Tokyo
2004
"Francis Bacon: Le Sacré et le Profane," Musée Maillol, Fondation Dina Vierny, Paris
2003
Vienna, Kunsthistoriches Museum. This exhibition is travelled to: Basle, Fondation Beyeler
2003
Valencia, Institut Valencia d'Art Modern
2003
Oporto, Museu de Arte Contemporanea, Museu Serralves
2002
"Francis Bacon: Last Paintings" Faggionato Fine Art, London, UK
2002
New York, Tony Shafrazi Gallery
2002
Arles, Fondation Vincent Van Gogh-Arles
2002
New York, Marlborough Gallery
2001
Holland, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag
2001
Dublin, Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art
2000
Dublin, Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art
1999
San Diego, Museum of Contemporary Art
1999
New Haven, The Yale Centre for British art. This Exhibition later travelled to: Minneapolis, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts; San Francisco, Museum of Modern Art; Fort Worth, Museum of Modern Art
1999
London, Tate Gallery, (Works on Paper)
1999
London, Faggionato Fine Arts
1999
Paris, Galerie Lelong
1998
Denmark, Humlebaek, Louisiana Museum
1998
London, Hayward Gallery
1998
New York, Tony Shafrazi Gallery
1996
Paris, Centre G Pompidou, MNAM. This exhibition later travelled to: Munich, Haus der Kunst
1993
New York, Marlborough Gallery
1993
Lugano, Museo d'Arte Moderna
1993
Venice, Museo Correr, XLV Biennale di Venezia
1993
London, Marlborough Fine Art
1992
Madrid, Galeria Marlborough
1990
New York, Marlborough Fine Art
1990
Liverpool, Tate Gallery
1989
Paris, Galerie Lelong
1989
London, Marlborough Fine Art
1989
Washington, Hirshhorn Museum. This exhibition later travelled to: Los Angeles, County Museum; New York, MOMA
1988
Moscow, New Tretyakov, Central House of Artists
1988
Tokyo, Marlborough Fine Art
1987
New York, Marlborough Gallery
1987
Basle, Galerie Beyeler
1987
Paris, Galerie Lelong
1985
London, Marlborough Fine Art
1985
London, Tate Gallery. This exhibition later travelled to: Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie; Berlin, Nationalgalerie
1984
Paris, Galerie Maeght- Lelong
1984
New York, Marlborough Gallery
1984
London, Thomas Gibson Gallery
1983
London, Marlborough Fine Art
1983
Tokyo, National Museum of Modern Art. This exhibition later travelled to: Kyoto, National Museum of Modern Art; Nagoya, Aichi Prefectural Art Gallery
1980
Mannheim, Stadtische Kunsthalle
1980
New York, Marlborough Gallery
1978
Madrid, Fundacion Juan March. This exhibition later travelled to: Barcelona, Fundacio Joan Miro
1977
Paris, Galerie Claude Bernard
1977
Mexico, Museo de Arte Moderno. This exhibition later travelled to: Caracas, Museo de Arte Contemporaneo
1976
Marseilles, Musee Cantini
1975
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
1975
Zurich, Marlborough Galerie
1972
Milan, Galleria del Milione
1971
Paris, Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais. This exhibition later travelled to: Dusseldorf, Stadische Kunsthalle
1970
Turin, Galleria Galatea
1968
New York, Marlborough Gerson Gallery
1966
Milan, Galleria Toninelli Arte Moderna
1966
Paris, Galerie Maeght. This exhibition later travelled to: Rome, Marlborough Galleria d'arte; London, Marlborough Fine Art; Siegen, Oberes Schloss
1965
Hamburg, Hamburger Kunstverein. This exhibition later travelled to: Stockholm, Moderna Museet; Dublin, Municipal Gallery of Modern Art; London, Marlborough Fine Art
1964
Houston, Contemporary Arts Association
1963
London, Marlborough Fine Art
1963
New York, Granville Gallery
1963
New York, Solomon R Guggenheim Museum. This exhibition later travelled to: Chicago, The Art Institute
1962
London, The Tate Gallery. This exhibition later travelled to: Mannheim, Kunsthalle; Turin, Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna; Zurich, Kunsthaus; Amsterdam, Stedelijk Musuem
1962
Milan, Galleria Galatea
1961
Nottingham, Nottingham University
1960
London, Marlborough Fine Art
1959
London, Hanover Gallery
1959
Chicago, Richard L.Feigen Gallery
1958
Trin, Galleria Galatea. This exhibition later travelled to: Milan, Galleria dell'Ariete; Rome, Galleria l'Obelisco
1957
Paris, Galerie Rive Droite
1957
London, Beaux-Arts Gallery
1955
London, ICA
1954
London, Hanover Gallery
1953
New York, Durlacher Brothers
1953
London, Beaux-Arts Gallery
1952
London, Hanover Gallery
1951
London, Hanover Gallery
1934
London, Transition Gallery
1928-1929
London, Artist's Studio

Public Collections: USA
The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA), Chicago, IL
The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH
Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, IA
The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Fort Worth, TX
Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City, NY
MoMA - Museum of Modern Art, New York City, NY
The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Poughkeepsie, NY
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art - SFMOMA, San Francisco, CA
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC
Public Collections: Foreign
Australia
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, SA
NGV National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, VIC
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW
Austria
Essl Museum, Klosterneuburg
Albertina, Vienna
Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig - MUMOK , Vienna
Belgium
Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels
SMAK Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Gent
Canada
National Gallery of Canada - Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa, ON
Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, BC
Colombia
Museo Botero, Bogota
Finland
Kiasma - Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki
Sara Hildén Art Museum, Tampere
France
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, Lyon
Musée Cantini, Marseille
Germany
Kunstmuseum Bochum, Bochum
Städel Museum, Frankfurt/Main
Sprengel Museum Hannover, Hannover
Städtische Kunsthalle Mannheim, Mannheim
Museum für Gegenwartskunst Siegen, Siegen
Von der Heydt Museum, Wuppertal
Iran
Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, Tehran
Ireland (Republic)
Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane, Dublin
Israel
The Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Italy
Collezione Maramotti, Reggio Emilia
Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice
Ca´la Ghironda - Museo d´Arte Classica, Moderna e Contemporanea, Zola Predosa (BO)
Japan
National Museum of Modern Art Tokyo (MOMAT), Tokyo
Toyota Municipal Museum of Art, Toyota Aichi
Mexico
Museo Tamayo, Mexico City
Netherlands
Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Amsterdam
Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, The Hague

Literature

2005
Sylvestor, David, and Harrison, Martin, 'Francis Bacon: Studying Form' Faggionato Fine Art in association with the Estate of Francis Bacon.
1999
Harrison, Martin, 'Francis Bacon: Paintings from the Estate 1980-1991', Faggionato Fine Art, London
1997
Peppiat, Michael, ‘Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma', Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York
1996
Kundera, Milan, ‘Bacon, Portraits et Auto-portraits', Les Belles Lettres, Paris
1996
Schmied, Wieland, ‘Francis Bacon, Commitment and Conflict', Prestel, Munich
1996
Sollers, Philippe, ‘Les Passions de Francis Bacon', Gallimard, Paris
1994
Deleuze, Gilles, ‘Francis Bacon, Logique de la Sensation' (2 vol), La Différence, Paris
1993
Farson, Daniel, ‘The Gilded Gutter Life of Francis Bacon', Century, London
1987
Sylvester, David, ‘The Brutality of Fact, Interviews with Francis Bacon', Thames & Hudson, London
1986
Davies, Hugh and Yard, Sally, ‘Bacon', Abbeville, New York
1983
Leiris, Michel, ‘Francis Bacon, Full Face and in Profile', Phaidon, Oxford
1980
Sylvester, David, ‘Interviews with Francis Bacon: 1962-1979' (New and enlarged edition), Thames and Hudson, London
1975
Trucchi, Lorenza, ‘Francis Bacon', Abrams, New York
1964
Alley, Ronald and Rothenstein, John, ‘Francis Bacon', Thames & Hudson, London
1964
Russell, John, ‘Francis Bacon', Methuen, London

 

Home / Artist Index / Francis Bacon

Featured

Art Blog

4.15.2017
Metropolitan Museum of Art Annual costume Institute Gala and exhibition opening will be May 1, 2017
2.11.2017
Turner's Modern and Ancient Ports: Passages through Time February 23, 2017 to May 14, 2017 - Frick Museum
2.11.2017
'The Mysterious Landscapes of Hercules Segers' Review: Etchings With a Painterly Touch. Wall Street Journal.
View All
 

Download
The Vered Gallery App