Francis Bacon: In Camera

Exhibit from Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane

Francis Bacon: In Camera
27 March – 20 June 2010

“I can dream all day long and ideas for paintings just fall into my mind like slides”                  Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon is acknowledged as one of the most important painters of the twentieth century. Visceral and compellingly raw, his paintings generate powerful emotional responses which continue to fascinate and demand our attention.

This exhibition will for the first time focus on Bacon’s source material and working methods. Besides significant oil paintings from 1944 to 1989, it will include archival material from Bacon’s studio, now in Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane and film footage and stills which shed new light on the visual references to film and photography in his work and his transformation of these images in fluid oil paint. Photographs by Muybridge and John Deakin will be displayed alongside the paintings they informed – in particular, his reconfigurations of the human body.

Compton Verney website

Review: Daily Telegraph

Francis Bacon: In Camera at Compton Verney.
A new exhibition shows just how crucial photographs were to the artist.

By Richard Dorment
Published: 5:46PM BST 29 Mar 2010
Though he was primarily a painter of the human figure, Francis Bacon never drew from the nude, rarely worked from life, and painted directly onto the canvas without first making preliminary studies or using preparatory drawings. But however strange the ectoplasmic and ambiguously gendered creatures in his paintings appear to be, they don’t look wholly imaginary — at least not in the way that those in Symbolist and Surrealist paintings often do.

This is because Bacon’s starting point for any new canvas was usually a photograph or a detail of a photograph he’d found in a book or magazine.

Once he selected an image, he’d refer back to the photo as he worked, using it as a spur to his imagination -or perhaps more accurately, as a means to access his unconscious. ‘Francis Bacon: In Camera’ shows photos, film stills, magazines, and books found in Bacon’s studio after his death side by side with Bacon’s paintings to demonstrate the fundamental role photography played in his working method…. The show, at Compton Verney in Warwickshire, isn’t large, but what it has to say poses a new set of questions about how Bacon worked and how that affect’s the viewer’s response to his pictures.

From 1949, the year of his first London exhibition, Bacon was using Eadweard Muybridge’s sequential photographs of human and animal figures in motion as a primary visual source for his paintings. In this he was hardly original, since the influence of the stop-action photos Muybridge took in the 1870s and ’80s is detectable in the work of Degas, Picasso and Duchamp. But Bacon’s engagement with the Muybridge photos was visceral in a way that is true of no other artist. Since he had not studied anatomy and had never drawn from the live model, he pored over them, scrutinising them intently and isolating certain details by ‘framing’ or circling them with crayon.

This is immediately apparent in the appalling condition of the ones we see in this show, where virtually every photo is mutilated, torn, folded, and spattered with paint.

Bacon’s unfinished ‘Figure with Raised Arm’ (1949) is based on Muybridge’s photo of a nude athlete seen in profile. Sketchily painted in grisaille over raw canvas, the figure raises one arm as he strides across an empty stage against a drawn curtain. We might be looking at a Greek Kouras figure, except that the transparent right leg and the dragged striations of paint are used to create a blurred effect not unlike a doubly- exposed photograph.

…Having made his point about photography’s importance for Bacon, the curator Martin Harrison doesn’t belabour it. The second half of the show is filled with works by Bacon including some particularly good early pictures like the wonderful ‘Half Length Figure in Sea’ of 1957. But by the time we come to these paintings, we’ve learned too much about Bacon’s working methods to see them as mere imaginings. Even when we don’t know the visual source for the image, we can be sure that it can be found in a photo, and that Bacon had engaged with it at such a profound emotional level it had become part of his consciousness, a piece of who he was.

More here:

Compton Verney is an award winning art gallery in Warwickshire. It offers a unique opportunity to view art in the setting of a Grade 1 listed Robert Adam mansion located in 120 acres of spectacular parkland. Compton Verney houses six permanent collections and has a programme of exhibitions.

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