Culture / Art Republik

Francis Bacon Exhibit: Guggenheim Museum of Bilbao

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao will act as a host for the works of 20th century key art figure Francis Bacon.

Sep 28, 2016 | By Madelaine Angelina

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao will act as a host for the works of 20th century modern art master Francis Bacon. Curated by Martin Harrison, “Francis Bacon: From Picasso to Velázquez” will revisit Bacon’s lifetime oeuvre across 80 works spanning six decades, including rarely-exhibited paintings.


The exhibition will explore not just Bacon’s artistic output, but the sphere of influence that strengthened his aesthetic universe. Bacon was renowned as a dedicated Francophile; he greatly regarded French painters such as Degas, Manet, Gauguin, Seurat, and Matisse. His fascination with classical Spanish painters like Zurbarán, El Greco, and Goya. These artistic precedents ultimately oriented the tropes of nudes, landscapes, and portraiture.


The British artist’s earliest influence originated from Analytical and Synthetic Cubism, and from Picasso’s biomorphic Cubism. The unfading importance of Picasso’s oeuvre in the 1920s-1930s later shifted towards Velázquez, whose portrait of Pope Innocent X (1650) became Bacon’s career-wide obsession, spawning more than 50 works. His dedication to painting mingled with other references, from Sergei Eisenstein’s film “Battleship Potemkin” to allusions to paintings by Chaïm Soutine.


Bacon’s compositions fixated on the human figure, interpreting it as a contorted, existential view of the individual. His norm-challenging nudes tended to feature isolated figures in anguished, twisted poses. He sought to heighten expressiveness of his paintings through the use of warped features and disfigured silhouettes.

“Of course, one does put in such things as ears and eyes. But then one would like to put them in as irrationally as possible. And the only reason for this irrationality is that, if it does come about, it brings the force of the image over very much more strongly than if one just sat down and illustrated the appearance,” Francis Bacon said of his psychologically revealing approach. “I always hope to be able to make a great number of figures without a narrative.”


Bacon was the second living artist (after Picasso) granted a retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris in 1971, and was the first Western artist featured in an exhibition in the former Soviet Union in 1988. The exhibition will be on view September 30, 2016 to January 8, 2017.


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