Updated: May 7, 2021
Well, it's St. Patrick's Day, and when I look at the work of the best-selling painter of Irish descent, whose Three Studies of Lucian Freud sold for $142,405,000.00, I am indeed GREEN with envy. So let's take a look at Francis Bacon (1909-1992), a School of London painter born in Dublin, whose lifetime total sales add up to $1, 711,336,388.00.
Back in the dark ages of my personal art awareness, I saw my first Francis Bacon exhibition, which was the second retrospective of his work offered by the Tate in London, 1985. Walking into a world of elegantly painted distortions, tortured figures, and screaming mouths (a comment perhaps on the power of words, especially lies?) was more than an amazement. I say that not just because of the disturbed faces, but also because of the beautifully handled paint that seemed rubbed on rather than stroked on by brush. However, his work also displayed random splashes, thrown paint or scrubbed areas, all of which created points of curiosity for the viewer. The artist once said, "...half of my painting is disrupting what I can do with ease" (Ades). This sounds like a painter who knew himself well and liked the challenge of throwing an occasional monkey wrench into his own work.
One of the things he seemed to do with ease was use beautiful colors, many of which are pastels. You can see that here, though in low resolution, in his Studies for a Self-Portrait (1979).
The smooth glide of the paint, as though smeared, but smeared with a purpose, can be seen in the series above. The counterpoints to that soft smearing are the quite distinct shirt collar and the hairy eyebrows. His placement of a figure or a face in relationship to the space around it is also done in both usual and unusual ways. In this series, shown here almost as a triptych, the face on the left is placed to the far left, and the face on the right is placed to the far right, leaving even more space around the central image, placed squarely in the center of its canvas. It comes together in a less monstrous way than a combination of the right and left portraits, making a reasonable amalgam of the two distinct sides of one face. This was done, of course, by a man who claimed to have never liked his face.
Bacon is quite famous for his many portraits of Pope Innocent X which he did from 1949 to the mid-1960s. Lots to look at here, especially the use of that hellish purple on what seems to be a screaming, spectral entity. This play off of Diego Velasquez' famous portrait of Innocent X, is briefly discussed in this article by Phaidon publishing https://www.phaidon.com/agenda/art/articles/2013/february/08/the-truth-behind-francis-bacons-screaming-popes/
Since this is a brief homage and his long career produced so many works, I'd say the best way to see Bacon's work online is to go to his website: www.francis-bacon.com click Art, then click Paintings to see a decade-by-decade collection of his work, starting in the 1920s.
And with that I hope that St. Patrick is well honored by this homage to Ireland's great painter.
So what artist would you honor on St. Patrick's Day or some other holiday? Log in and tell us.
Quote taken from article by Dawn Ades for the Tate Gallery's Second retrospective https://francis-bacon.com/bacons-world/exhibitions/francis-bacon-tate-london-1985
Francis Bacon, a portrait by Reginald Gray, is in public domain. Studies for a Self-Portrait by Francis Bacon from Wikipedia, and the comparison of the two portraits of Pope Innocent X (Phaidon) are used for informational purposes only in accordance with Fair Use Policy.
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© Marjorie Vernelle 2019