Francis Bacon was an Irish figurative painter known for his bold, austere, graphic and emotionally raw imagery. Bacon's painterly but abstract figures typically appear isolated in glass or steel geometrical cages set against flat, nondescript backgrounds. His breakthrough came with the 1944 triptych Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, and it was this work and his heads and figures of the late 1940s through to the emid 1950s that sealed his reputation as a notably bleak, chronicler of the human condition.
Triptych May-June 1973
Triptych May-June 1973
'The oil-on-canvas was painted in memory of Bacon's lover George Dyer who committed suicide on the eve of the artist's retrospective at Paris's Grand Palais, on 24 October 1971. The triptych is a portrait of the moments before Dyer's death from an overdose of pills in their hotel room. Bacon was preoccupied by Dyer's loss in his last twenty years, and painted many works on the event and its aftermath. He admitted to friends that he never fully recovered from the event, and described painting the triptych as an exorcism of his feelings of loss and guilt.'
Triptych August 1972
Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (1944)
'The work is based on the Eumenides—or Furies—of Aeschylus' The Oresteia, and depicts three writhing anthropomorphic creatures set against a flat burnt orange background. The triptych summarises themes explored in Bacon's previous paintings, including his examination of Picasso's biomorphs and his interpretations of the Crucifixion and the Greek Furies. Bacon did not realise his original intention to paint a large crucifixion scene and place the figures at the foot of the cross.'
Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1953)
'Francis Bacon often referred to other artists and used photographs as reference material for his paintings. This portrait is a distorted version of the Pope, from a painting by the Spanish artist Diego Velazquez that was painted in 1650. The scream of the Pope may also be referencing the famous painting by Edvard Munch, "The Scream". Bacon was quoted as saying "We are born with a scream; we come into life with a scream, and maybe love is a mosquito net between the fear of living and the fear of death."'
'Painting is a large work that has come to be recognized as one of Francis Bacon's masterpieces. Flesh is a major part of the work, which went on to become a central theme throughout the rest of his career. Even his portraits took on the appearence of flesh that could just as easily be hanging in a butcher shop.'
In an interview, Francis Bacon said the following about his 1946 painting "It came to me as an accident. I was attempting to make a bird alighting on a field. And it may have been bound up in some way with the three forms that had gone before, but suddenly the line that I had drawn suggested something totally different and out of this suggestion arose this picture. I had no intention to do this picture; I never thought of it in that way. It was like one continuous accident mounting on top of another."
Head VI (1949)
'Permeated by tormented visions of humanity, Francis Bacon’s paintings embody the ethos of the postwar era. Beginning in the late 1940s, Bacon created a series of works modeled on Diego Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X, in which he transformed the celebrated masterpiece into grotesque, almost nightmarish compositions. In this version, he replaced the noble drapery framing the central figure with two sides of beef, directly quoting Rembrandt van Rijn and Chaim Soutine’s haunting images of raw meat. By linking the pope with these carcasses, Bacon allowed the viewer to interpret the pope alternately as a depraved butcher, or as a victim like the slaughtered animal hanging behind him.'