Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon
Portrait of George Dyer Riding a Bicycle, 1966
Lying Figure, 1969
In Memory of George Dyer, 1971
Sand Dune, 1983
Portrait of George Dyer Riding a Bicycle, 1966
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Currently on show at the Fondation Beyeler

Francis Bacon
Portrait of George Dyer Riding a Bicycle, 1966

Oil and pastel on canvas, 198 x 147.5 cm
Photo: Robert Bayer, Basel

Francis Bacon’s portrait of his friend and lover George Dyer is a particularly strong example of his complex manner of painting. Bacon depicts Dyer riding his bicycle from right to left as if he were traversing a high wire through a space that resembles a circus arena. Typically for Bacon’s work, the momentum of the sequence of movement is suddenly interrupted, its reliability cast into doubt. Dyer’s face seems suddenly to shift from being in profile, which remains visible as a frozen shadow, to a frontal position. The twisted ovals of the wheels appear to be spinning in all directions. Bacon plans something, only then to undo it in the next instant through an accident or a splash of paint. He repeatedly disrupts his own painting process to bring unanticipated, unfamiliar elements to the fore, whereby both these unfamiliar events and the traces of disruption and distraught agitation assume a powerful presence.

Lying Figure, 1969
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Currently on show at the Fondation Beyeler

Francis Bacon
Lying Figure, 1969

Oil on canvas, 198 x 147.5 cm
Photo: Peter Schibli, Basel

A wall painted in a flat, cold colour, punctuated only by an absurd crank and the cable of a naked light bulb, looms up over an oval bed on a dirt-and-sand covered arena, which shows evidence of an addict’s physical and spiritual struggle for survival. A modern, inverted version of ecce homo, with syringe and ashtray, but also white cigarette butts that strangely match the white teeth the painter has placed in the ravaged landscape of the figure’s head. Displaying the human body in the process of disintegration, Bacon pushes his excessive, expressionistic painting to the limits of what can be tolerated.

In Memory of George Dyer, 1971
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Currently exhibited at De Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam

Francis Bacon
In Memory of George Dyer, 1971

Oil on canvas, triptych, each panel 198 x 147.5 cm
Photo: Peter Schibli, Basel

What traditionally belongs to a religious genre, the triptych was chosen by Francis Bacon to create a memorial for his lover George Dyer, his partner of over seven years. Dyer, who committed suicide in his hotel room in Paris in 1971, two days before a major exhibition of Bacon’s works opened in the Grand Palais, is seen simultaneously in four different depictions in this commemorative painting. In the left-hand panel he is shown as a sportsman who has tumbled on the curved race track; in the panel on the right he is seen as an upright ‘still frame’, but also as its inverted, cropped mirror image on the small table top; finally, he is present in the central panel as a large dark figure cast in shadow, out of which a bare, muscular arm and hand reach upwards to insert a key into the lock of the door. Inside the austere architecture of the triptych, complex projections of spiritual interiority converge with emphatic expressions of physicality. Bacon portrays his friend in a state of suspense between two realities, on the threshold between life and death.

Sand Dune, 1983
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Currently on show at the Fondation Beyeler

Francis Bacon
Sand Dune, 1983

Oil and pastel on canvas, 198 x 147.5 cm
Photo: Peter Schibli, Basel

In this painting the human body is depicted as a sand dune filling what appears to be a permeable glass container. At certain points the dune flows out beyond the container’s hard geometric edges, while the blue arrow, the two light bulbs and the garish red introduce a disturbing sense of the artificial. Bacon’s Sand dunes are conceivably a reference to Degas’ pastel landscape drawings (c. 1890–92), in which cliff formations are transformed into a glowing yellow and green phallus and the coastal landscape into a recumbent naked woman.

Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon

1909, Dublin – 1992, Madrid

Trained as an interior designer, Francis Bacon took his first steps as an artist in 1927, having been impressed by a Picasso exhibition. Within a short time he produced numerous drawings and watercolours on his own initiative. The only teacher the otherwise self-taught Bacon can be said to have had was the Cubist painter Roy de Maistre. In 1934 Bacon had his first solo exhibition at the Transition Gallery in London. His portrayals of vulnerable and tortured bodies, often depicted in the form of triptychs, were mostly based on photographs. He used distortion, mutilation and the simultaneous superimposition of several phases of movement to reveal the agony of human existence. In 1954 he was chosen to represent Great Britain at the Venice Biennale together with Ben Nicholson and Lucien Freud.

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