The moment a number of figures become involved, you immediately come on to the storytelling aspect of the relationships between figures. And that immediately sets up a kind of narrative. I always hope to be able to make a great number of figures without a narrative.
— Francis Bacon
Bacon’s disturbing images—his portrayals of friends and fellow artists, and the deformations and stylistic distortions of classical subjects—radically altered the genre of figurative painting in the twentieth century. In Bacon’s paintings, the human presence is evoked sometimes viscerally, at other times more fleetingly, in the form of a shadow or a blurred, watchful figure. In certain instances, the portrayal takes the form of a composite in which male and female bodily traits are transposed or fused. This selective exhibition explores a theme that preoccupied Bacon throughout his career: the relationship between two people, both physical and psychological.
Finding that the physical presence of his subjects could prove inhibiting, Bacon painted his figures and portraits both from memory and from photographs—his own, as well as Eadweard Muybridge’s dynamic studies of people in motion, including male wrestlers. Although Bacon was sometimes reluctant to specifically identify the subjects of his paintings, a number of the works in Couplings (a term the artist himself used) were inspired by his fraught, often violent and passionate relationships. His affair with Peter Lacy, a former fighter pilot whom he met in 1952, cooled off after Lacy moved to Tangier, Morocco, in 1956, where Bacon visited him every summer until 1961. But even after Lacy died in 1962, Bacon continued to paint portraits of him, recalling intensely intimate moments in their relationship. In 1963 Bacon met George Dyer, a petty criminal from London’s East End. Dyer succeeded Lacy as Bacon’s lover and model and was the inspiration for many of Bacon’s grandest and most emotive paintings of the male nude. Three works in Couplings suggest a startlingly erotic and sometimes violent relationship between two men.
This is Gagosian’s third exhibition dedicated to Bacon’s work, following Francis Bacon: Late Paintings (2015) and Francis Bacon: Triptychs (2006).
Francis Bacon was born in 1909 in Dublin, and died in 1992 in Madrid. His work is held in prominent public collections worldwide.
FRANCIS BACON: Couplings
Exhibition Dates: June 6 – August 3, 2019
Opening Reception: Thursday, June 6, 2019 from 6pm – 8pm
20 Grosvenor Hill