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Bacon Picasso. The Life of Images at Picasso Museum
Francis Bacon in his apartment at 7 Reece Mews, London, June 1982 (detail), photograph by Barry Joule © Barry Joule 2005.
PARIS, FRANCE.- Through about a hundred key works by Picasso and Bacon, this exhibition aims to show the fascination that Picasso’s art held for Francis Bacon from the early 1930s. The plastic, thematic and philosophic dimensions of this virtual dialogue are particularly clear in the “brutality of fact” which Bacon felt was the link between his work and Picasso’s art.

A study of his interaction with Picasso’s work is crucial to an understanding of Bacon’s œuvre, especially its origins. Although the artist himself always explicitly acknowledged that his discovery of Picasso’s art prompted him to become an artist, and influenced the themes and styles he later explored, the relationship between the two has never been systematically analysed.

The exhibition covers the period which began with Bacon’s trip to Paris in 1927-1928; he first saw the Spanish master’s work at an exhibition of A Hundred Drawings by Picasso at Paul Rosenberg’s gallery (June-July 1927). Out of the blue, Bacon decided to start painting. 1933 to 1944 was a crucial period of experimentation which culminated in the triptych Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (1944) derived from Picasso’s Crucifixion, 1930, and the series of drawings that Picasso had done at Boisgeloup two years later.

The exhibition, which includes important loans from prestigious public and private collections from all over the world, has been designed around the major themes common to both artists.

It begins with an introductory room which brings several major testimonies to Bacon’s early work face-to-face with Picasso’s Surrealist drawings and paintings (1927-30), from which they were directly derived. (These testimonies are rare because Bacon destroyed almost all his youthful works.)

The main body of the exhibition is divided into several sections, each centred on a theme:

- Keys/Shadow: Picasso’s works Bathers with a Cabin, 1927-28, and The Studio, 1928, are shown opposite Bacon’s Triptych, In Memory of Georges Dyer.

- Crucifixion: here, grouped around Picasso’s Crucifixion, 1930, and his drawings from Boisgeloup, 1932, we see a small Crucifixion, 1933 and the second version of Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, 1988, by Bacon.

- Nudes: Around Picasso’s Pan’s Flute, 1923, are gathered Bacon’s Triptych, 1972 (Tate Gallery), and Study from the Human Body, 1987. Similarly, Picasso’s Large Nude in a Red Chair, 1929, drawings for Women of Algiers After Delacroix, 1954, and his last Odalisques are hung opposite Bacon’s Lying Figure, 1969.

The presentation of this group of major works gives an idea of the importance of Picasso – a modern anti-model of the great master – in the puzzle of images in Francis Bacon’s “imaginary museum”.

Exhibition organised by the Réunion des musées nationaux and the Musée Picasso, Paris. Media partners: Le Figaroscope, i-télé, RTL, Le Point.

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