Francis Bacon, violence, flesh and solitary confinement

Contemporary or Historical Art always inspire Fashion Designers in their creations. In few articles we underline the role of Art in Fashion through Movie, Painting, Literature. In this way, it could be interesting to focus on Art without the Fashion link in order to improve our artistic sensibility. Our first article, present the artist Francis Bacon through his development, his works. We want to thank Kainz, for sharing with us his artistical knowledge. Have a good reading.

Francis Bacon is the most well-known and expensive painter of the XXIème century. He let a huge and indelible impression on the contemporary and historical art. He has influenced lot of artists after him.
He was born in Dublin, Irland. Stunted child, he suffers form asthma, and he is not really the son his father wants. He did not get on with his father, especially when he reveals to his dad his homosexuality. Francis Bacon is solitary, introvert and is under the yoke of this authoritative father who was former military, horse breeder.
Teenager, he leaves the family home to live a worldly life. To pull back from the vacuity, his father travel with his son. He crosses different European capital, the bustling Berlin city, the artistic Paris. In Paris, during a Picasso exhibition, Francis Bacon fall in love with art and decides to become painter.
At his beginning, he is influenced by the painter Catalan, in particular in his first work of art, Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion.
After his globe-trotter Boheme life, he moves to London and becomes furniture designer, in a modern style. We found this experience in these paintings through rounded and oval shapes. He meets the painter Roy De Maistre and learns the rudiments of painting with him.
He exposes the first time in his garage with his new boyfriend, but the success does not appear. Bacon destroys the majority of his paintings. He start again for a surrealist exhibition which is refused, because he is not in off surrealist. Depressed, he thinks about stop painting.

Artwork page for "Painting", 1929
Painting of his surrealistic period, style which will abandoned.

He shows a last time his paintings in a big avant-gardiste galleria in UK, someone buy to him his first painting, Crucifixion.

Crucifixion, 1933


On left Pablo Picasso, Swimmers at the beach, 1929
On right Francis Bacon, Crucifixion, 1933

It is not the final artist style, but we can perceived main themes. The crucifixion, not for the religious symbol but for the blessing symbol. A man nailed to the cross by arms and legs ! Here we are, the bless, the violence, the horror, Francis Bacon’s themes. Retable of Issenheim is a hudge influence in the Bacon art development. The Christ is suffering, skin is starting to swell, flesh is violated and that is rare for this period. Artists used to represented blissful, painless and clean Christ. The flesh is an essential composent in Bacon works, suffering flesh, open wounds… In Crucifixion we can perceived the first erasure technics used by Bacon (scrapping canvas, ghostly silhouette…).

Isenheim Altarpiece, 1512,main artist’s influenced

Happy with his first sale, the artist continues to paint. He shows, but the success does not appear. Angry and disappointed, he destroys again the whole of his works and stop to painting, he prefers bohemian life, cash games and alcohol.
The World War II breaks out, Francis Bacon is exempt because of his asthma, and start one again to painting. In 1944 he paints his work of art, Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion.

Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, 1944

Second version, 1988


Pablo Picasso, Woman in an Armchair, 1929

The art of work is presented in a tryptic form. This format is historical used by artists in important religious events but Francis Bacon will often used that during these creations. There are three canvas with silhouettes difficult to identify. Some silhouettes are crying with terrible mouth, teethes, « malaise » atmosphere, violence.
The orange color is agressive too. We perceive the Picasso’s influence in his surrealist period. These silhouettes or creatures seem to see an extreme violent scene, which causes horrible cries. Bacon will always say that he does not want to describe scene story, but the effect of theses scenes. We always see the scene spectators (or silhouettes) but not the raw violence. Finality and not the causes. « I want to paint cry before horror ». These art’s titles are approximate unrelated to the horror scene. Bacon wants painting the feeling, with this aim, he erases narration, human figures, interactions, title, etc.

Keep in mind that is the end of the War, horrors are progressively revealed. The tryptic bring scandalous feelings, creates debate and discussion, his career begins.
He reiterates the experience with the second canvas.

Figure in a Landscape, 1944

The Francis Bacon’s style is affirming, we found lot of elements present all long his art’s evolution. Scrapping, Erasure of canvas part, visible raw canvas, raw brushstroke, character’s dissolution, threatening shadows, cylindrical decoration, metallic like body extensions. He reexplores the flesh theme. We pursue flesh in Crucifixion, now he makes full use of that. He is inspired by story of art, but also in his own experiences, a job. He works in a slaughter for a butter work. His memories are hung pieces of meat, inert flesh. He compares meat with men, « Men is just a piece of meat, flesh ». He could be inspired by Rembrandt and Soutine too.

Painting, 1946

Second version Painting 1946, 1971 (épuration des lignes, des détails, 25 ans sont passés)

Rembrandt, Le Bœuf Écorché, 1655

Chaïm Soutine, Carcass of Beef, 1925

We found, scrapped/erased faces, metallic extension, umbrella (frequently used) and the imposante bloody body disposed behind the face, as a morality reminder.

Three Studies of Crucifixion, 1962

Bacon knows more demand, he has followers now ( Tate Modern buy the Tryptic) and he wants to have his own perfect style : painting feeling without any narration.
Art sales finance his two addictions alcohol and cash games. He finally creates a new Chef d’Oeuvre, inspired by Velazquez’s Innocent X, pope painting with stern look, inquisitor. Bacon transforms the pope with a severity and violence amplification.
The Bacon’s pope has his mouth wide open with silent cry. Francis Bacon, is a big fan of cinema, and that mouth is inspired by « Battleship Potemkine » which profoundly marks the artist. Senior Nazi official (Goebbels/Hitler/Mussolini) gestures, Le Massacre des Innocents de Nicolas Poussin are also inspirations sources. The artists often use photography in his works. Based on movements, with Muybridge, repository on movement. We see metalic decoration which can be compare to a cage, human face is erased.
He reiterates this works many times as series tradition in story of Art unveiled by Claude Monet.

Studies by Velázquez, 1953

Figure with Meat, 1954


The Massacre of Innocents, Nicolas Poussin, 1625

Battleship Potemkin, Sergueï Eisenstein, 1926 (The landau scene) and the fascists actions.

Movement in Bacon's works and his influences
Paralytic Child Walking on All Fours from Muybridge, 1961

Painting Popes again and again, Bacon become disgusted by Velazquez arts. The painter challenge himself to change his creations.
He studies an other Master painter, Vincent Van Gogh. Bacon creates painting, inspired by « On the road to Tarascon » , which was destroyed during the World War. He admires the isolation of the character, the threatening dark shadow, the solitude position.

Van Gogh period

On the road to Tarascon, Vincent Van Gogh, 1888

Bacon explores the use of bright and saturated colors with the shadow.
He deals with loneliness in their future works. His characters are now enclosed in a checked cage.
Bacon seems to be inspired by Nazis trial, where they appear into glass cages. The artist uses his cages to underline a solitary confinement.

Eichmann Trial

Face VI, 1949

Three Studies of Lucian Freud

Bacon takes advantage with those new technics and inspirations, giving to the artist a boost. He begins a portrait painting, theme which he has never done yet, his mentor Vincent Van Gogh is the character. Bacon adds to his technics (suffering flesh, open wounds, scrapping canvas, blurring), the Van Gogh’s colour palette.

Tribute to Vincent Van Gogh, 1985

Francis Bacon has now acquired all themes for developed his own Art identity, loneliness, sensation, violence, flesh. Great reading fans, Bacon adds tragedy to others. He reads Greek playwright (Orestia by Eschylus), and British, Shakespeare of course but also Samuel Beckett.
He integrates Beckett in his works as Erinyes form, Greek mythological creatures who harass humans.

The Oresteia triptych, 1981

This dramaturgy element appears at a dramatical time of his life, when Georges Dyer or Eric Hall suicides. He was really affected by the Georges Dyer’s death. Georges Dyer was a scroundel who Bacon has spotted during a Dyer’s attempted theft. Then, they fall in love. Dyer was choleric, captived by its old demons. Bacon paint Dyer lot of times, before and after his death.

Georges Dyer II, 1967

Bacon focus on portrait painting : blurring, ghostly face, energetic and agressive brushstrokes, inner turmoil feelings composed the Art work.

Georges Dyer, 1967

Isolated in the cage (geometrical form), face and body dissolution, red and green opposed, the character seems complex with the feelings of striving.

Study Georges Dyer, 1969

His suicide (on toilets, truth !), the threatened shadow (Erinyes). The drama is here, isolation disappeared, darkness surrounded himself.

Three faces in a room, 1964

Its tryptic is exposed in Pompidou Center, Paris. This big creation represent Bacon and Dyer, they are opposed. The bodies are disloqued, the oval form bring scene feelings. Are we in Drama scene ? Those two forces will be soon evacuated into toilet, the nothingness.

This works is really cynic about Love between Bacon and Dyer, two opposed personality, the fragility of human life. When man is dead, he joins the nothingness, here pipes toilet.

Michel Leiris's Portrait, 1978

Auto Portraits, 1976

Bacon was a prolific artist, he reserves his Master reputation. During his period, the painting’s death was announced, Bacon reinvented technics, practically self-educated, he developed his Art identity like one of the last Famous Painters.

Francis Bacon’s works are exposed at the Pompidou Center, with the last and huge tryptic, portraits and landscape. There is a lot to comment on Bacon, lot of works to explore. His colors development, zoom effects, geometrical elements, landscapes…

Bacon was a prolific artist, and deserves a Maester adjective. At his period, people predicted the death of the Painting Art but Bacon reinvented Art technics and thoughts to brings his works at the forefront of Art



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