The First Art Newspaper on the Net   Established in 1996 United States Thursday, April 26, 2018

Drawings Attributed to Francis Bacon at Werkstattgalerie in Berlin
A mass of evidence has emerged to show that he not only did draw, but drew prolifically.

By: Edward Lucie-Smith

BERLIN.- As everyone interested in Bacon’s work knows, Bacon many times, and often vehemently, denied that he made any use of drawing. This is contradicted however by an early interview with the critic David Sylvester (Bacon’s most frequent interlocutor), which is preserved on film. In it, Bacon admits that he does draw, but coyly says that puts his drawings aside and doesn’t look at them, when the moment comes to paint a picture.

Yet, since Bacon’s lonely death in Madrid in 1992, a mass of evidence has emerged to show that he not only did draw, but drew prolifically. When he died, for example, a canvas he had just begun was found in his Reece Mews studio in London. On it was a masterly full-scale drawing for the composition he intended to paint. Numerous scraps of paper with drawings on them, some mere scribbles it is true, were found when the Reece Mews studio was disassembled, to be afterwards reconstructed in Dublin.

An even greater mass of material of this type turned up in the possession of Barry Joule, who had evolved from being Bacon’s neighbor into being his odd-job man and general Mr Fixit. Joule’s account was that Bacon, shortly before his death, had handed him the drawings, with the words “You know what to do with these, don’t you?” Some people, knowing of Bacon’s frequent denials that he drew, might have understood this as an instruction to destroy them, but Joule chose to think otherwise.

While it is true that much of the Joule material is of disappointing quality artistically – a lot of it consists of rough drawings made on top of photographs torn from books and magazines, with others on top of photos, such as portraits of Bacon’s old nanny, also for a time his housekeeper, that were very personal to Bacon himself – there are powerful reasons for accepting it as genuine. One series of drawings in the Joule archive – made on top of illustrations ripped from boxing magazines dating from the late 1940s - has a direct link to a series of drawings purchased as genuine by the Tate shortly before the Joule archive emerged. These drawings, also made on top of illustrations ripped from boxing magazines, belonged to Paul Danquah, a friend with whom Bacon shared a flat in the early 1950s. Danquah, who later emigrated to Tangier, seems to have given them by Bacon when they were co-habiting.

The Joule material appears to cover a long period, and to be closely linked to a number of well-known paintings by Bacon. The artist closely guarded access to his studio and it is hard to imagine him allowing anyone, even a boy friend, to sit there in a corner, manufacturing Bacon related drawings. The two chief consorts of the middle and later years of his career, George Dyer, an ex-burglar of notable incompetence, who committed suicide in 1971, on the eve of Bacon’s first major retrospective in Paris; and John Edwards, who though shrewd and loyal, was uneducated, dyslexic and illiterate, seem particularly unlikely candidates.

The Joule material – and other drawings related to it – have been a permanent embarrassment to a part of the British art establishment ever since they first made their way into the public gaze.

If the material that emerged from Bacon’s studio after his death is problematic because of its lack of real artistic quality, the same cannot be said of the drawings exhibited in this new exhibition. These are ambitious works, signed and on a large scale, clearly made as independent works of art. They in many ways seem to sum up the essence of what Bacon tried to do. Why were they made, and why have they remained at least half-hidden for so long?

The evidence is that Bacon, at the end of his career, found his celebrity increasingly oppressive. His solution was to slip away to places where he was little known or not known at all, where he could stroll from bar to bar and from restaurant to restaurant, and amuse himself as he wished. One of his favorite places for escapes of this kind was Italy. A constant companion in his Italian adventures was a young and handsome American-Italian called Cristiano Lovatelli Ravarino. There is plenty of evidence that they were often seen together, in locations as different from one another as Bologna and Cortina d’Ampezzo. The drawings shown are presentation drawings, resembling in this the drawings that the ageing Michelangelo made for the young Tommaso Cavallieri.

There seem to have been several motivations for making them, apart from Bacon’s desire to commemorate a friendship. One was simply restlessness. Though happy to get away from the confines of his studio, Bacon still wanted to make art – but art of a light and portable kind (though not all of the drawings were made in Italy, some appear to have been done in London). At the end of his life, he wanted to try a new medium, one that had clearly always daunted him. He also seems to have wanted to correct mistakes made in the past. One striking feature of this series of drawings is that they recapitulate themes from work made much earlier in his career. Though the drawings belong to the last decade of Bacon’s artistic activity, their subjects are those that Bacon became associated with in the 1950s – the Popes after Velazquez and the portraits of businessmen. The Pope images are expanded into a series of portraits of ecclesiastics, perhaps inspired by what Bacon saw in the streets of Italian towns. There are also portraits of friends and images of the Crucifixion, a subject that preoccupied the artist throughout his life. Bacon frequently expressed dissatisfaction with the early works that had made his reputation, and these are an attempt to do better.

Bacon regarded his relationship to Ravarino as unofficial, in the sense that he could never get his friend to commit himself to something fully public – Ravarino worried what his family would say. He seems to have thought of the drawings as being essentially unofficial as well. He went to considerable trouble to keep their existence secret from his commercial representatives, the powerful Marlborough Gallery, who wished to preserve his shamanic persona even more than he did.

One fascinating aspect of these drawings in that they are the work of a Laocoon, a man struggling hard to escape from the entwining serpents of his own myth, and to return to the pleasure of making art for its own sake – no other reason than that.

The exhibition is on view at Werkstattgalerie from September 18 through October 23, 2010.

Werkstattgalerie | Berlin | Francis Bacon |

Today's News

September 18, 2010

Claude Monet Show at Paris' Galleries Nationales to Reconcile French with Snubbed Master

Galerie Van Der Planken Presents Colorful Photographs by Liesje Reyskens

Two Icons of Pop Art Featured at Sotheby's Contemporary Art Evening Auction

6th Liverpool Biennial Celebrates a Decade of Bringing New Art to the UK

Design for Phase 1 of The Glasgow School of Art Redevelopment Unveiled

Harland Miller's "I'll Never Forget What I Can't Remember" at Galerie Alex Daniels

ARCOmadrid Kickstarts Its International Promotion in Sao Paulo

Phillips de Pury & Co. Announces 20th Century Master Prints from the Dreier LLP Collection

Drawings Attributed to Francis Bacon at Werkstattgalerie in Berlin

Jan Knap's Simple and and Refined Works of Art at Zonca & Zonca

Sotheby's to Sell Important and Rare Manuscript Dedicated to The Sultan of Brunei

Oxfam Discovery to Be Offered at Christie's this September

Intensely Colorful Works by Phillip Maberry and Scott Walker at Maloney Fine Art

Poppy Sebire in London Presents Group Exhibition "Dark Nature"

Famed Mechanical Musical Instrument Collection to Be Auctioned at Bonhams

Sotheby's Sets Record for Any Single Print Sold at Auction

Sotheby's Asia Week Sales in New York Total $27,649,251

Peter Blum Gallery Shows Works of Art by Matthew Day Jackson

Smithsonian Announces E. Carmen Ramos as Curator for Latino Art

Rare Chinese Woodblock Prints on Display at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Dr. Michael W. Schantz Appointed to Serve as Executive Director of The Heckscher Museum of Art

New Works in Bronze and Steel by John McCracken at David Zwirner

Mark Twain: A Skeptic's Progress Opens at the Morgan Library

The Human Condition in Painting at the Wallraf-Richartz Museum

New House Record at Christie's for the Most Expensive Item Sold Online

Copy of Annie Leibovitz's 'John and Yoko' Up for Auction

Newspaper's Revelation Rocks Civil Rights Photographer Ernest C. Withers' Family

Virtual Fire by Thyra Hilden and Pio Diaz to Rage in the Colosseum for Art

Ellen Lesperance Named 2010 Betty Bowen Award Winner

Largest Independent Contemporary Art Award Presents Its Nominees

Antony Gormley's New Giant Figure on the Dyke in the Netherlands

Rare Arcimboldo Painting Acquired by the National Gallery of Art

Most Popular Last Seven Days

1.- Boy and an amateur archaeologist unearth legendary Danish king's trove in Germany

2.- Exhibition at The Met illustrates what visitors encountered at The palace of Versailles

3.- Philadelphia Museum of Art opens "Modern Times: American Art 1910-1950"

4.- Exhibition at Michael Hoppen Gallery presents a cross-section of works from Thomas Mailaender's career

5.- New York's Chelsea Hotel celebrity door auction raises $400,000

6.- Stevie Ray Vaughan's first guitar drives Entertainment & Music Memorabilia Auction to nearly $2.9 million

7.- Lichtenstein's Nude with Blue Hair tops $2.4 million sale of Modern & Contemporary Prints & Multiples

8.- $6.7 million Fancy Intense Blue Diamond sets auction record at Sotheby's New York

9.- Mexico court blocks sales of controversial Frida Kahlo Barbie doll

10.- Dutch museums to conduct new research on the paintings of Pieter de Hooch

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
Editor & Publisher:Jose Villarreal - Consultant: Ignacio Villarreal Jr.
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful