Page 1

BACON MOORE bacon / m oor e 路 A


BACON MOORE In their different mediums, Henry Moore (1898–1986) and Francis Bacon (1909–1992) created unforgettable images of the human figure. The distinctive visual languages that each artist developed over more than half a century were marked by a growing simplicity and monumentality of form. Their perspectives differed: Moore clung to a belief in humanism, while Bacon espoused a post-humanist, nihilistic view of the world. In expressing their visions of humanity, the two artists had very different approaches: Bacon working from the outside in, disintegrating and dissolving form; Moore from the inside out, pushing anatomical structure to the surface. If Bacon’s images suggest flux, chance, and the arbitrariness of existence, Moore’s sculptures have been interpreted as universal symbols of strength and endurance. Bacon and Moore first exhibited together in a group exhibition at the Lefevre Gallery in London in which Bacon showed his Three Studies for Figures, at the Base of a Crucifixion (1944), propelling him into the limelight for the first time. Moore showed two sculptures from the 1930s and fourteen wartime drawings, some of which anticipate the theme (though not the savage imagery) of Bacon’s triptych. Exhibiting together in a commercial gallery was repeated twice in the 1960s, when Moore and Bacon were both represented by Marlborough Fine Art. These joint shows, extensively reviewed in the press, gave critics a chance to compare the artists’ radical approaches to the human figure, which were seen as complementary rather than conflicting. Fifty years later, this publication once again brings their work into direct comparison.

· B 

BACON MOORE


BACON MOORE In their different mediums, Henry Moore (1898–1986) and Francis Bacon (1909–1992) created unforgettable images of the human figure. The distinctive visual languages that each artist developed over more than half a century were marked by a growing simplicity and monumentality of form. Their perspectives differed: Moore clung to a belief in humanism, while Bacon espoused a post-humanist, nihilistic view of the world. In expressing their visions of humanity, the two artists had very different approaches: Bacon working from the outside in, disintegrating and dissolving form; Moore from the inside out, pushing anatomical structure to the surface. If Bacon’s images suggest flux, chance, and the arbitrariness of existence, Moore’s sculptures have been interpreted as universal symbols of strength and endurance. Bacon and Moore first exhibited together in a group exhibition at the Lefevre Gallery in London in which Bacon showed his Three Studies for Figures, at the Base of a Crucifixion (1944), propelling him into the limelight for the first time. Moore showed two sculptures from the 1930s and fourteen wartime drawings, some of which anticipate the theme (though not the savage imagery) of Bacon’s triptych. Exhibiting together in a commercial gallery was repeated twice in the 1960s, when Moore and Bacon were both represented by Marlborough Fine Art. These joint shows, extensively reviewed in the press, gave critics a chance to compare the artists’ radical approaches to the human figure, which were seen as complementary rather than conflicting. Fifty years later, this publication once again brings their work into direct comparison.

· B 

BACON MOORE


2 COMPOSITION 1931

3 COMPOSITION 1931

Blue Hornton stone · h 48.3 cm The Henry Moore Family Collection

Cumberland alabaster · l 41.5 cm The Henry Moore Foundation: gift of Irina Moore, 1979


2 COMPOSITION 1931

3 COMPOSITION 1931

Blue Hornton stone · h 48.3 cm The Henry Moore Family Collection

Cumberland alabaster · l 41.5 cm The Henry Moore Foundation: gift of Irina Moore, 1979


7 STANDING NUDE c.1924 Pen and ink, and chalk on paper · 32.3 x 21.4 cm Inscribed l.l. Moore The Henry Moore Foundation: gift of the artist, 1977

M OORE · 60 


7 STANDING NUDE c.1924 Pen and ink, and chalk on paper · 32.3 x 21.4 cm Inscribed l.l. Moore The Henry Moore Foundation: gift of the artist, 1977

M OORE · 60 


44 COMPOSITION 1933 Gouache on paper · 52.2 x 39.7 cm The Henry Moore Family Collection

Since a mere fourteen paintings and drawings from the first fifteen years of Bacon’s career were thought to have survived his ruthless destruction of his earliest work, the re-emergence of this hitherto undocumented gouache in 2009 was an exciting occurrence. While Composition has several features in common with Bacon’s contemporaneous works on paper, such as the tongue-and-groove floorboards and walls (these are also found in the paintings of his mentor, Roy de Maistre), the vivid, painterly interjections of red, yellow and white, which disrupt the relatively well-behaved geometry, were a significant departure: they portend, in some respects, the free, vigorous brushstrokes associated with Bacon’s oil paintings from 1949 onwards. Like Moore, he was striving to escape from the influence of Picasso, in a work of unusual vitality for 1933 that gives a tantalising glimpse of a direction Bacon did not pursue until sixteen years later.

B ACON · 108 


44 COMPOSITION 1933 Gouache on paper · 52.2 x 39.7 cm The Henry Moore Family Collection

Since a mere fourteen paintings and drawings from the first fifteen years of Bacon’s career were thought to have survived his ruthless destruction of his earliest work, the re-emergence of this hitherto undocumented gouache in 2009 was an exciting occurrence. While Composition has several features in common with Bacon’s contemporaneous works on paper, such as the tongue-and-groove floorboards and walls (these are also found in the paintings of his mentor, Roy de Maistre), the vivid, painterly interjections of red, yellow and white, which disrupt the relatively well-behaved geometry, were a significant departure: they portend, in some respects, the free, vigorous brushstrokes associated with Bacon’s oil paintings from 1949 onwards. Like Moore, he was striving to escape from the influence of Picasso, in a work of unusual vitality for 1933 that gives a tantalising glimpse of a direction Bacon did not pursue until sixteen years later.

B ACON · 108 


47 PAINTING 1950 Oil on canvas · 198.0 x 152.0 cm Leeds Art Fund (Leeds Art Gallery)

Formally, Painting, 1950, is unique in Bacon’s output.

Conversation, c.1909 (Royal College of Art, London),

A figure and its ‘shadow’ (stooping, ambiguously, and

which he would certainly have encountered at the

behind the circular metal rail) move silently side-

college in 1950. To this list I would add Matthew

wards, in parallel to our gaze, passing in front of what

Smith’s Nude in a Chair, c.1915 (Corporation of

appears to be a vividly striped curtain hung on a brass

London), and Fitzroy Street Nude No. 1, 1916 (Tate

rail, perhaps in a bath-house. While in some respects

Gallery, London); Bacon and Smith were close at

Painting, 1950, can be related to Bacon’s switch to the

this time, and these paintings could have informed

human body as his main subject in 1949, in others it

both Bacon’s palette and, with Michelangelo’s Dying

stands as one of his distinctly sui generis paintings. Its

Slave and the wax model in the Victoria and Albert

most conspicuous deviation from Bacon’s contempo-

Museum, the ‘Ariadne’ pose of the arched arm.

rary manner was in its vivid palette and planar spatial

The untypically formal presentation of the

organization. As David Sylvester pointed out, it also

painting was partly derived from Matisse, who was

marked a return to the heroic dimensions of Bacon’s

another possible source for both the odalisque pose

Painting, 1946; these two remained for many years

and the brightly striped curtain; but irrespective

the largest canvases Bacon had completed.

of the manifold pictorial absorptions, Painting,

Ronald Alley noted a loose correspondence with

1950, is characterized predominantly by the

Eadweard Muybridge’s photo sequences of men

Michelangelesque monumentality of the principal

walking (it was probably a case of Bacon conflating

figure and Bacon’s correspondingly voluptuous

aspects of several images), but only in recent years

painting of his anatomy.

have scholars attempted to further penetrate some of the mysteries that this painting resolutely resists disclosing; future investigation of the significance of the many pentimenti may eventually reveal vital clues. The shimmering bands of red and blue at the top and bottom are comparable with the rectangles of pulsing colour that Mark Rothko developed in 1949; while this putative analogy may be entirely coincidental, Rothko was, tantalisingly, in London in August 1950, shortly before Bacon began Painting, 1950. Rebecca Daniels has demonstrated that Bacon borrowed details from Walter Sickert’s drawing B ACON · 114 


47 PAINTING 1950 Oil on canvas · 198.0 x 152.0 cm Leeds Art Fund (Leeds Art Gallery)

Formally, Painting, 1950, is unique in Bacon’s output.

Conversation, c.1909 (Royal College of Art, London),

A figure and its ‘shadow’ (stooping, ambiguously, and

which he would certainly have encountered at the

behind the circular metal rail) move silently side-

college in 1950. To this list I would add Matthew

wards, in parallel to our gaze, passing in front of what

Smith’s Nude in a Chair, c.1915 (Corporation of

appears to be a vividly striped curtain hung on a brass

London), and Fitzroy Street Nude No. 1, 1916 (Tate

rail, perhaps in a bath-house. While in some respects

Gallery, London); Bacon and Smith were close at

Painting, 1950, can be related to Bacon’s switch to the

this time, and these paintings could have informed

human body as his main subject in 1949, in others it

both Bacon’s palette and, with Michelangelo’s Dying

stands as one of his distinctly sui generis paintings. Its

Slave and the wax model in the Victoria and Albert

most conspicuous deviation from Bacon’s contempo-

Museum, the ‘Ariadne’ pose of the arched arm.

rary manner was in its vivid palette and planar spatial

The untypically formal presentation of the

organization. As David Sylvester pointed out, it also

painting was partly derived from Matisse, who was

marked a return to the heroic dimensions of Bacon’s

another possible source for both the odalisque pose

Painting, 1946; these two remained for many years

and the brightly striped curtain; but irrespective

the largest canvases Bacon had completed.

of the manifold pictorial absorptions, Painting,

Ronald Alley noted a loose correspondence with

1950, is characterized predominantly by the

Eadweard Muybridge’s photo sequences of men

Michelangelesque monumentality of the principal

walking (it was probably a case of Bacon conflating

figure and Bacon’s correspondingly voluptuous

aspects of several images), but only in recent years

painting of his anatomy.

have scholars attempted to further penetrate some of the mysteries that this painting resolutely resists disclosing; future investigation of the significance of the many pentimenti may eventually reveal vital clues. The shimmering bands of red and blue at the top and bottom are comparable with the rectangles of pulsing colour that Mark Rothko developed in 1949; while this putative analogy may be entirely coincidental, Rothko was, tantalisingly, in London in August 1950, shortly before Bacon began Painting, 1950. Rebecca Daniels has demonstrated that Bacon borrowed details from Walter Sickert’s drawing B ACON · 114 


Notes a nd Refer e nce · 16 2 

BACON MOORE

Bacon Moore Catalogue  

Illustrates stunning works by two giants of twentieth-century western art; highlights the important influences and experiences shared by Hen...

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you