Saturday, June 13, 2009

Flesh and Francis Bacon

There is nothing pretty about humanity in Francis Bacon's art. For him, we are no different than animals, always scratching and clawing to satisfy the needs of our flesh.

No madonnas here with mothers adoringly looking at offspring. No next generation on the horizon, at all. Bacon depicts sex, but not for procreation. God is not going to save us from our lower instincts and take us to a higher plane.

No wonder Bacon's pope is screaming (left). His purple ecclesiastical garb cannot protect him from howling in pain: The pain at knowing that Homo sapiens will do whatever it takes to live during our short interlude and then we die, subject to the decay of all biological creatures. Morality and purpose in life seem to be nonexistent to Bacon.

Bacon's relationships also do not escape brutal depiction. In the double portrait of George Dyer, Bacon's lover from 1964 to 1971, (above right), a grey business suit gives the illusion of respectability. But Dyer smokes, driven by addiction, and underneath his garb, as seen in the mirror image within the painting, is his pink skin, muscle and skeleton, writhing, even though he is just sitting. Three years after this portrait was painted 1968, Dyer commited suicide on the eve of a Bacon retrospective in Paris.

Bacon's work is pure id, violence and survival of the fittest, without a hint of altruism. Except Bacon did give us a gift: He created an art that shows us some truth about ourselves.

The Francis Bacon (1909-1992) retrospective with 63 other paintings runs at the Metropolitan until August 16, 2009.

(Pictures courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art: Left, Head VI, 1949, Oil on canvas, 36 11/16 x 30 1/8 in. Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London, © 2009 The Estate of Francis Bacon / ARS, New York / DACS, London; Right, Two Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer, 1968 Oil on canvas, 77 15/16 x 58 1/16 in. (198 x 147.5 cm) Sara Hildén Foundation / Sara Hildén Art Museum, Tampere, Finland, ©2009 The Estate of Francis Bacon / ARS, New York / DACS, London.)