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Mr. Burgher's Art Facts

Francis Bacon

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Francis Bacon: Oct.28,1909-April 28,1992...England/Ireland

"Ham, pigs, tongues, sides of beef seen in the butcher’s window; all that death. I find it very beautiful. And it’s all for sale—how unbelievably surrealistic!"
~Francis Bacon

As we look at the largely self-taught artist, Francis Bacon, it is important to remember that he is the exception to the rule. "Perhaps it delayed me, never going to any art school or anything like that." It is not typical for an untrained artist to become as successful as Bacon. But it was far from an easy beginning. "I don’t think people are born artists; I think it comes from a mixture of your surroundings, the people you meet, and luck." He was born in Dublin, Ireland to English parents. His dad was in Ireland working on a ranch with thoroughbred racehorses and his mom was from a well to do family and looked after Francis and his two brothers and two sisters. He was sensitive to the environment, with severe asthma and allergies to dogs and horses. He was medicated with morphine. He enjoyed dressing up and had an effeminate manner about him that did not please his dad at all. During World War I the family moved to London, England. When they returned to Ireland, The country was in a panic due to the War of Independence and the Irish Civil War, and their family was also battling. At the age of sixteen, after a long period of conflicts with his dad, Francis left home for London, Berlin, and then Paris.

At an exhibition of 106 drawings by Pablo Picasso in 1927, Bacon became inspired to become a studio artist. "Picasso is the reason why I paint. He is the father figure, who gave me the wish to paint… Picasso was the first person to produce figurative paintings which overturned the rules of appearance; he suggested appearance without using the usual codes, without respecting the representational truth of form, but using a breath of irrationality instead, to make representation stronger and more direct; so that form could pass directly from the eye to the stomach without going through the brain… Picasso was one of that genius caste which includes Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Van Gogh and above all Velázquez." Bacon was also influenced by photography, film, current events, as well as art history. At this time he was working as an interior designer and furniture designer, but the inspiration was set in his mind, he wanted to paint. After about ten years of work, his career really took off in the 1940's. He made Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion in 1944 and received the praise of art critics for the work.

Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion

Bacon was also very much influenced by the surrealistic and dada artists. He needed to be unique in his work. "I'd be as boring as Canada if I went on painting faces and bodies like painters have been doing for the last four centuries." One example of the surrealistic influence, as well as the influence of art history, is based on Diego Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X. Bacon was a huge fan of Velázquez's work. "Velázquez found the perfect balance between the ideal illustration which he was required to produce and the overwhelming emotion he aroused in the spectator." In Bacon’s work, Study after Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X, he "…wanted to paint a head as if folded in on itself, like the folds of a curtain." In 1953 he was in deep and constant production. This is one of only two that were spared from the razor blade. Much of his later life was put into the 1998 movie Love is the Devil.

Study after Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X

When thinking about many artists, I get a better sense of them as I think of them at work in their art studio. This sanctuary for their creative drive is very telling. Bacon’s studio was a constant mess where only he understood what was going on. He did not allow anyone to touch anything in the studio. He used a wall in the studio as a palette. He could not throw disliked paintings away because he constantly had people dig through his trash to find discarded artworks. So Bacon cut them up and often burned them.
 
"I hope I can go on painting and die at my work, as Titian and Picasso did." Bacon died in Madrid, Spain in 1992, alone in a Spanish hospital. As Bacon himself said, "I should have been, I don’t know, a con-man, a robber or a prostitute. But it was vanity that made me choose painting; vanity and chance… All artists are vain, they long to be recognized and to leave something to posterity. They want to be loved, and at the same time they want to be free. But nobody is free." Bacon gave his whole estate, valued at over 14million dollars in American money, to his best friend and companion, John Edwards. Mr. Edwards then donated Bacon's entire art studio in South Kensington, England to the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin, Ireland, where it was reconstructed. Over seven thousand items were in the studio, tagged, and logged onto a database. These items included destroyed canvases, books, catalogues, letters, photographs, vinyl records, art materials, and drawings.

Mr. Mike Burgher * PO Box 247 * Dallas Center, Iowa. 50063