Francis Bacon · a contemporary bestiary

Francis Bacon · a contemporary bestiary

Francis Bacon — Second Version of Triptych 1944–1988Francis Bacon — Study for a Chimpanzee — 1957

From 29 January to 17 April 2022, the Royal Academy in London presents “Francis Bacon: Man and Beast”, the first exhibition to examine the artist’s fascination with animals, and how this influenced his treatment of the human figure.

Images: Francis Bacon, “Second version of the triptych 1944”, 1988. Oil and acrylic on 3 canvases, 198 x 147.5 cm (each). Tate: Gift of the artist 1991. Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd. © The Estate of Francis Bacon ·· Francis Bacon, “Study for Chimpanzee”, 1957. Oil and pastel on canvas, 152.4 x 117 cm. Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice. Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York. Photo: David Heald (NYC) © The Estate of Francis Bacon

Thirty years after his death, Francis Bacon (1909–1992) is widely regarded as one of the most important post-war artists, the subject of countless studies, books and exhibitions, and one of the most sought-after artists on the art market. However, the artist’s interest in animals remains somewhat unknown to the general public, at least in comparison to his obsessive fascination with the human figure. The exhibition at the Royal Academy in London presents 46 paintings spanning the artist’s entire career, beginning with his early works, painted before the outbreak of the Second World War (Crucifixion, 1933), and concluding with the last painting created by Francis Bacon, Study of a Bull (1991).

In the purest style of medieval bestiaries, many of the animal figures in Bacon’s works do not correspond to real animals but derive, as the Royal Academy explains, from “a distortion of the human body, relate to the Eumenides, or ‘Furies’ — ghostly apparitions, neither man nor beast — derived from his reading of Greek tragedy, particularly ‘The Oresteia’ by Aeschylus”. These “furies” appear in the most famous work in the exhibition, the Second version of the triptych 1944, painted by Bacon a few years before his death and given to the Tate Gallery, where the first version also resides. But Bacon was also interested in real animals, an interest that grew after a trip to Africa in the early 1950s. One of the galleries in the exhibition focuses on Francis Bacon’s study of the similarities and differences between the movement of human and animal bodies, which the artist represented in several canvases depicting bullfights.

“Francis Bacon: Man and Beast” has been organised with the support of Christie’s, whose director of modern and contemporary art, Katharine Arnold, stated, “as chronicled the human condition, he looked closely at the animal kingdom, channelling his fascination with wildlife into paintings that blurred the line between man and beast. “ #2022 #FrancisBacon #RoyalAcademy #theartwolf

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ART & the Art World (theartwolf)

ART & the Art World (theartwolf)

ART magazine aimed to offer an original & independent point of view about the Art World ▷ Its news, events, protagonists, glories and miseries.

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