The interesting thing about an artist who has passed is the fact that it’s easier to identify their last work than for the last previous cases we’ve analyzed in this section of the blog (Boltanski and Richter). This week, Artsper analyzes two paintings by the star of the auctions, Francis Bacon.
Before starting painting, Irish painter Francis Bacon travels all over Europe, kicked out from home by his homophobic father. It was only in 1933 that he produced his first canvas, Crucifixion. It is a small format, purchased immediately by Sadler, the collector, who had commissioned to the artist a portrait based on an X-ray of his head. Bacon plays with the idea of the X-ray by experimenting with the transparencies of the paint. This crucifixion is more evoking of a carcass than of a Christ on the cross. Although he was a self-taught artist, Bacon had a perfect mastery of the painting technique. This work is different from Bacon’s famous ones: small format, black and white, no human figure… And yet, all of Bacon’s obsessions are already there: death, religion, the liquefaction of body…
1989: Bacon is diagnosed with kidney cancer. His health gets worse. The 80s are nevertheless the most fertile years of his career — an almost Christic artistic climax.
For the last 10 years, Bacon had been tending to simplify his pictorial language and get to the essential. His violent, burning hot, bloody and dark technique gets more rich and more nuanced. The use of spray paint allows him to create a grainy surface, as if a gauze covered the canvas. Some critics have seen this as a metaphor for his declining vision, or the veil of the disease that Bacon had a bad feeling about. His palette also changed. The acid red and neon orange make place to gray, blue and cream tones. After producing the portraits of his artist friends, Bacon focuses on himself, in a calm and balanced composition.
A short before his death caused by his destructive alcoholism, Bacon’s work was slowly moving away from the paralyzing force of his early paintings, to make place to a more serene vision, detached from the torments that had been haunting him.
In these last paintings, there is certainly a little less of Bacon, and a little more distance.