Day Six and I already get to celebrate one of my favorite painters of all time…
I would love to have written my own biography, but because of time restraints and personal stuff going on, I’m going to be pasting a short excerpt of his biography from Wikipedia. It’s pretty darn extensive so if you’re interested please go here and read more about this wonderful man!
Francis Bacon (28 October 1909 – 28 April 1992) was an Irish-born British figurative painter known for his bold, graphic and emotionally raw imagery. His painterly but abstracted figures typically appear isolated in glass or steel geometrical cages set against flat, nondescript backgrounds. Bacon began painting during his early 20s and worked only sporadically until his mid-30s. Unsure of his ability as a painter, he drifted and earned his living as an interior decorator and designer of furniture and rugs. Later, he admitted that his career was delayed because he had spent too long looking for a subject that would sustain his interest. His breakthrough came with the 1944 triptych Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion which sealed his reputation as a uniquely bleak chronicler of the human condition.
He often said in interviews that he saw images “in series”, and his artistic output typically focused on a single subject or format for sustained periods. His output can be crudely drawn as consisting of sequences or variations on a single motif; beginning with the 1940s male heads isolated in rooms, the early
1950s screaming popes, and mid to late 1950s animals and lone figures suspended in geometric structures. These were followed by his early 1960s modern variations of the crucifixion in the triptych format. From the mid-1960s to early 1970s, Bacon mainly produced strikingly compassionate portraits of friends, either as single or triptych panels. Following the 1971 suicide of his lover George Dyer, his art became more personal, inward looking and preoccupied with themes and motifs of death. The climax of this period came with his 1982 “Study for Self-Portrait”, and his late masterpiece Study for a Self Portrait -Triptych, 1985-86. Despite his bleak existentialist outlook, solidified in the public mind through his articulate and vivid set of interviews with David Sylvester, Bacon in person was a bon vivant and notably and unapologetically gay. A prolific artist, he nonetheless spent many of the evenings of his middle age eating, drinking and gambling in London’s Soho with friends such as Lucian Freud, John Deakin, Muriel Belcher, Henrietta Moraes, Daniel Farson and Jeffrey Bernard. After Dyer’s suicide he largely distanced himself from this circle, and while his social life was still active and his passion for gambling continued, he settled into a platonic relationship with his eventual heir, John Edwards.
During his lifetime, Bacon was equally reviled and acclaimed. Margaret Thatcher described him as “that man who paints those dreadful pictures”, and he was the subject of two Tate retrospectives and a major showing in 1971 at the Grand Palais in Paris. Since his death, his reputation and market value has steadily grown. In the late 1990s a number of major works previously assumed to have been destroyed, including popes from the early 1950s and portraits from the 1960s, surfaced on the art market and set record prices at auction. On 12 November 2013 his painting “Three Studies of Lucian Freud” set the record as the most expensive piece of art ever auctioned, selling for $142,405,000.
There is a wonderful movie that came out in 1998 that focuses on his relationship with his lover, George Dyer, a former small time crook called Love is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis
Bacon. There is also a documentary from 1966 called, Fragments of a Portrait.
I wish I could fill this entire blog post with endless examples of this artist’s works, but alas, I have to eventually show you my own piece!
First I will put a couple of Bacon’s pieces that inspired me for my own.
The first piece is Study for the Head of a Screaming Pope. I love this image and the fact that he became obsessed with images of screaming people. Especially, the photographic stills of the screaming/bleeding nurse from the silent film by Sergei Eisenstein, Battleship Potemkin circa 1925.
I debated doing a dark background since I love those particular portraits he did on the black backgrounds, but then was pulled in by
the intense reds and ochres of his other pieces. Another piece that inspired my artwork was from Three Studies for a Crucifixion, which also happened to be my favorites! I love how the black stands out against the red and oranges. Don’t even get me started on the fleshiness!
Well, I could keep dribbling out my incoherent yet equally unpretentious comments about how I feel about his art, but I am now excited to show you my piece and the journey that went along with it.
Bacon was another difficult artist because I am working primarily with acrylics and he is yet another oil painter. I was intimidated because I wasn’t sure how I was going to blend the paints fast enough to get my desired result. Here’s the beginnings of my painting and a photograph of myself that I stared at as I painted. It’s always fun to do screaming photos…I opted not to make my eye bleed however.
I painted the background first and it was oddly difficult…I think my perfectionism kicked in. I decided to just tell my inner critic to calm down and just have fun and paint. Once I started on the face, it started to all come together nicely. There was definitely some ordered chaos happening.
And finally…the completed piece!
And here are some close-ups.
Thank you and goodnight. Tomorrow is day SEVEN…I will be a week into my project with no real disasters or nervous breakdowns yet!