Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Glorious - The Disturbing Art of Francis Bacon

I'm barely acquainted with artist Francis Bacon but when I saw images of some of his disturbing paintings I recognized them immediately. How did I get on this tangent? Tonight I read a featured article on Wikipedia about his "Triptych, May-June 1973" which depicts his lover's last suicidal moments before dying. Not a cheery subject to be sure but the painting is incredibly powerful in its depiction of a human being in suffering.

After viewing many images of his paintings courtesy of Google all I can think of is how glorious they are. While visceral and violent, they also have a tremendous energy and reach down deep into the core of your being. Such images have the capacity to strip away all extraneous garbage so all that remains are your thoughts about life and death. From there you can consider what a life worth living means to you.

At least that's what I get out of Francis Bacon's paintings just by viewing them on my computer screen. Perhaps that's me and my weirdness.

These images provoke a very different response in me than my favorite paintings by Bosch and Bruegel the Elder. Bosch's and Bruegel's paintings of monsters, death, torture, and the landscapes of hell provide the comfort of recognition for my own dark side. To me they say, "you're not alone, we're right here with you and have been for hundreds of years." They remind me that while I might have nightmares and a sometimes scary overactive imagination so do others and there is a place for such ideas in this world too.

A stunning Francis Bacon image to close out this post:

Study After Velazquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X, oil on canvas, 1953

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