Head VI is an oil-on-canvas painting by Irish-born figurative artist Francis Bacon, the last of six panels making up his "1949 Head" series. It shows a bust view of a single figure, modeled on Diego Velázquez's Portrait of Innocent X . Bacon applies forceful, expressive brush strokes, and places the figure within a glass cage structure, behind curtain-like drapery.This gives the effect of a man trapped and suffocated by his surroundings, screaming into an airless void. But with an inverted pathos is derived from the ambiguity of the pope's horrifying expression—whose distorted face either screams of untethered hatred towards the viewer or pleads for help from the glass cage—the question of what he is screaming about is left to the audience.
Head VI was the first of Bacon's paintings to reference Velázquez, whose portrait of Pope Innocent X haunted him throughout his career and inspired his series of "screaming popes",a loose series of which there are around 45 surviving individual works. Head VI contains many motifs that were to reappear in Bacon's work. The hanging object, which may be a light switch or curtain tassel, can be found even in his late paintings. The geometric cage is a motif that appears as late as his 1985–86 masterpiece Study for a Self-Portrait—Triptych .
Head VI was first exhibited in November 1949 at the Hanover Gallery in London, in a showing organised by one of the artist's early champions, Erica Brausen. ... was indescribable. It was everything unpardonable. The paradoxical appearance at once of pastiche and iconoclasm was indeed one of Bacon's most original strokes." Art critic and curator David Sylvester described it as a seminal piece from Bacon's unusually productive 1949–50 period, and one of Bacon's finest popes.At the time, Bacon was a highly controversial but respected artist, best known for his 1944 Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion , which made him the enfant terrible of British art. Head VI drew a mixed reaction from art critics; John Russell, later Bacon's biographer, at the time dismissed it as a cross between "an alligator shorn of its jaws and an accountant in pince-nez who has come to a bad end". In 1989 Lawrence Gowing wrote that the "shock of the picture, when it was seen with a whole series of heads
Bacon's output is characterised by sequences of images. He told Sylvester that his imagination was stimulated by sequences and that "images breed other images in me".His series were not always planned or painted in sequence; sometimes paintings are grouped for convenience but vary in execution and tone. The idea for the head series came after he returned penniless, late in 1948, from a stay in Tangier. In the previous three years he had been unable to find a voice; the last surviving canvas from this period is his Painting (1946) . Although he continued to paint, he was a ruthless self-critic, given to slashing canvases with blades, and no works survive from between 1947 and the winter of 1948. Gallerist Erica Brausen offered Bacon the opportunity of a solo show for the opening of her new Hanover Gallery. He agreed, but had nothing in reserve to hang. In following years, Brausen became perhaps the most important of Bacon's early champions; she arranged this showing—his debut solo exhibition—publicised him widely and organised viewings for international buyers.
Already 40 years old, Bacon viewed the exhibition as his last chance and applied himself to the task with determination. Because he had destroyed all his output of the last three years, he had little choice but to present new works.He did not have a grand plan when he agreed to the show, but eventually found themes that interested him in his Head I of the previous year, and executed five progressively stronger variants in the final weeks before the November exhibition, completing the series barely in time for the opening.
The paintings depict isolated figures enclosed in spaces that are undefined, overwhelmingly claustrophobic, reductive and eerie. Coming early in Bacon's career, they are uneven in quality, but show a clear progression especially in how they utilise and present ideas he was still clearly developing and coming to terms with. Head I (actually begun in the winter of 1948) and Head II show formless pieces of flesh that broadly resemble human heads; they have half-open eyes and a pharynx, though it is positioned much higher than would be expected in a human. Heads III, IV and V show fully formed busts recognisable as men, and are characterised by a haunted atmosphere.These two broad ideas coalesce in Head VI, which is as physiologically tortured as the first two paintings, and as spectral as the middle three. In Head VI the figure has developed and is now shown wearing vestments, the first indication in Bacon's work of the influence of Velázquez, while the focus has become the open mouth and the study of the human scream.
Bacon said that chance played a significant role in his work, and that he often approached a canvas without having a clear idea of what might emerge. This was especially the case in the mid- to late 1940s, a period when he was drinking heavily and spending most nights in Soho casinos and poker rooms. ... under tremendous hangovers and drink; I sometimes hardly knew what I was doing." He incorporated his appetite for chance into his work: an image often would morph midway through into something quite different from what he had first intended. He actively sought out this freedom and felt it crucial to his progression as an artist. To him, lifestyle and art were intertwined; he said that "perhaps the drink helped me to be a bit freer." This is very evident in the 1949 series, which began as a rather morbid study of a collapsed head, but evolved over the six surviving panels into a reworking of Velázquez masterpieces, and arrived at an image that was to preoccupy Bacon for the subsequent 20 years.The following morning he would often approach his canvas "in a bad mood of drinking
The series marks Bacon's first attempt at depicting lone figures in rooms. For him, the key aspect was that it appeared that the subject felt isolated and unobserved, and had abandoned the need to present an outward face. He believed that under these circumstances all pretence falls away, and the social being becomes the sum of its neuroses, which Bacon attempted to convey by reducing the subject to its bare-bones features: a mouth, ears, eyes, a jaw. According to Russell, "the view out front ceases to be the only one, and our person is suddenly adrift, fragmented, and subject to strange mutation."Russell observed that while the depiction of figures in rooms is common through all eras of painting, the figures are always posed, and usually seemingly aware that they are being portrayed. This conceit is abandoned in Bacon's series.
Head I, completed late in 1948, VI. It is exceptional in Bacon's oeuvre that works of their relative poor quality survive; he was ruthlessly self-critical and often slashed or abandoned canvasses before they were completed. When pressed again by Brausen in 1953 to produce works for a New York show that she had been publicising for a year, he was full of doubt and destroyed most of what he had been working on, including several other popes.is considered more successful than Head II. Although it is well-regarded critically, Head II is seen as something of a creative cul-de-sac, while Heads III, IV and V are usually considered as merely intermediate steps towards Head
Brausen commissioned another showing to be held in 1950, for which Bacon painted three large popes modelled on Velázquez's portrait. The gallery advertised the show as "Francis Bacon: Three Studies from the Painting of Innocent X by Velázquez", but in the end Bacon was dissatisfied with the works and destroyed them before the show opened.
The figure is identifiable as a pope from his clothing.It seems trapped and isolated within the outlines of an abstract three-dimensional glass cage. This framing device, described by Sylvester as a "space-frame", was to feature heavily throughout the artist's career. A cord hangs from the upper edge of the glass case, falling just in front of the pope's face and partially covering his eyes. It is too indistinctly drawn to identify with certainty, but given the presence of similar objects in Bacon's later works, may be either the end of a hanging light switch or the tassel of a curtain; the hanging cord was to become a signature for the artist. Apart from its symbolic meaning, it has a compositional function, framing the painting with a further set of vertical lines. Such an object reappears most prominently in the centre panel of his 1973 Triptych, May–June 1973 , where it is clearly a dangling light bulb. For Bacon, these elements were intended to make the figure waver in and out of sight for the viewer, alluding to the fact that bulbs can be on or off, curtains open or closed.
His mouth is opened wide as if screaming, an expression Bacon took from a still he kept of the nurse screaming in Sergei Eisenstein's Odessa Steps massacre sequence in his 1925 silent film Battleship Potemkin .In 1984, the broadcaster Melvyn Bragg asked Bacon about the still, and observed that in his earlier career the artist seemed preoccupied with the physicality of the human mouth. Bacon replied, "I had always thought that I would be able to make the mouth with all the beauty of a Monet landscape though I never succeeded in doing so." When Bragg asked why he thought he had failed, Bacon said, "It should be all much more colour, should have got more of the interior of the mouth, with all the colours of the interior of the mouth, but I didn't happen to get it." His interest in the mouth was further stimulated by a medical textbook of diseased oral cavities bought in a second-hand bookshop, which he kept in his studio and to which he often referred.
The glass cage might imply a vacuum that the figure's voice is unable to escape; as if it is screaming in silence. Rueful later in life, Bacon said that he had "wanted to paint the scream more than the horror. I think, if I had really thought about what causes somebody to really scream, it would have made the scream ... more successful". The work evokes memories of the Second World War. The glass enclosure of his 1949 Chicago Study for a Portrait is often seen as prophesying photographs of Adolf Eichmann's 1961 trial before a Jerusalem District Court, when he was held within a similar cage. Bacon strongly resisted literal comparisons though, and stated that he used the device so he could frame and "really see the image—for no other reason. I know it's been interpreted as being many other things." Other critics saw similarities between the glass case and the radio booths of late 1930s broadcasters who warned against the impending calamity. Denis Farr notes that Bacon was sympathetic to George Orwell and referred in interviews to Orwellian "shouting voices ... and trembling hands ... convey[ing] the harsh atmosphere of an interrogation."
The so-called "space frame" had already been used by Alberto Giacometti in the 1930s, and the two artists became friends in the 1960s. However, Giacometti had by 1949 used it only in surrealist contexts before Bacon's adaption, and in turn influenced his use in The Cage of 1950.A similar two-dimensional construct is found in Henry Moore's works, notably his maquette for King and Queen , constructed three years after Bacon's Head. It is difficult to untangle how these artists influenced and informed each other. What is notable is that Bacon continued to use the motif, with intervals until the end of his life. Sylvester suggests his finest example is the 1970 Three Studies of the Male Back .
The full-length golden curtain-like folds painted in heavy brush strokes are in part influenced by Degas but also similar to Titian's 1558 Portrait of Cardinal Filippo Archinto.Bacon adapts the Old Master's device to isolate and distance the sitter from the viewer; the black ground-paint is visible through the folds, making the separation all the more affecting. Bacon had already used similar forms in his Chicago panel, and they were to become a feature of his most acclaimed 1950s works, especially in his "screaming popes". He became fascinated with the veil or curtain as a motif in painting, and collected many reproductions of works by Titian and Degas in which it is employed. He had begun his career as an interior decorator and designer of furniture and rugs in the mid-1930s, and later said that he liked "rooms hung all round with just curtains hung in even folds". Veils or curtains appear in Bacon's earliest works, notably the 1949 Study from the Human Body, always in portraits and always in front of, rather than behind, the figure.
Head VI is closely modelled on Velázquez's c. 1650 Portrait of Innocent X , –an examination and homage described as "without parallel in the history of art". Bacon's approach differs from Velázquez's in a number of ways: both artists were expressive, yet Bacon's broad brush-strokes and freedom with paint contrast with Velázquez's tight and controlled treatment. He adapts Velázquez's positioning of the pope to place him above the viewer's point of view, elevating and distancing him. This was already a common technique in commercial, promotional photography but in Bacon's hands, art historian Weiland Schmied argues, the angle places the pope on a kind of stage for the viewer to coldly observe.today in the Doria Pamphilj Gallery, Rome. Bacon cautiously avoided seeing the original, even when he spent three months in Rome in 1954. Critics speculate he was afraid of being disappointed, or thought that an intimate knowledge of the painting would dull his imagination. Yet his fascination was all-consuming, and he reproduced variants of it obsessively for almost two decades
Although Bacon revered Velázquez's portrait, he did not try to reproduce the earlier painting. In interviews, he said that he saw flaws in Velázquez's work and that he viewed that social structure and order as, according to Schmied, "obsolete and decayed".Bacon's approach was to elevate his subject so he could knock him down again, thereby making a sly comment on the treatment of royalty in both Old Master and contemporary painting. Yet Velázquez's influence is apparent in many aspects of the painting. The sitter's pose closely echoes the original, as does the violet and white colouring of his cope, which is built up through broad, thick, brush-strokes. The influence can be further seen in the gold-coloured ornaments on the back of the seat that extend on both sides of the figure. Art historian Armin Zweite describes the work as a mixture of reverence and subversion that pays tribute to Velázquez, while at the same time deconstructs his painting.
Sylvester detects the influence of late works by Titian in other aspects, especially in the deep and rich colouring, and Velázquez's portrayals of Philip IV, such as Portrait of Philip IV in Fraga , and agrees with identification of pastels of Degas as a source. He believes Bacon borrowed from Degas the use of parallel heavy folds to create the illusion of what Degas described as "shuttering",as seen in the earlier artist's After the Bath, Woman drying herself . Sylvester makes a further direct link between the folds and the transparent veil in Titian's Portrait of Cardinal Filippo Archinto. He believes the folds serve to "push the viewer back", creating a distance from the subject, an effect he sees as similar to the separation between an orchestra and setting; others view the folds as more closely resembling the bars of a prison. Sylvester describes them as an accentuation of background verticals into stripes that are made to appear as if they pass through the sitter. In his series of books "Interviews with Francis Bacon", he asked Bacon why he found the effect so poignant. The artist replied, "Well, it means that the sensation doesn't come straight out at you but slides slowly and gently through the gaps."
When asked why he was compelled to revisit the Velázquez so often, Bacon replied that he had nothing against popes per se, but merely sought "an excuse to use these colours, and you can't give ordinary clothes that purple colour without getting into a sort of false fauve manner." VI as a reaction against Velázquez, and a commentary on how the papacy is "obsolete and decayed", with a pope resistant to both modernisation and secularisation. To him, the figure seems to "resist the maltreatment of image and tries to halt the impending collapse of the established work order. He screams and grimaces, clutching at arms of his throne." Sylvester notes that Bacon was impressed by Picasso's figuration and handling of paint, especially in Picasso's 1930s works; and suggests that the white blobs around the pope's cape may be influenced by the 1913 Woman in a Slip Seated in an Armchair.Schmied sees Head
When Bacon undertook the series late in 1948, he was something of a two-hit wonder. He had had success in 1944 with Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion and to a lesser extent with Painting (1946) , both of which were highly regarded but viewed as sensationalist. ... horrifying as they are, cannot be ignored. Technically they are superb, and the masterly handling of large areas of pearly grey, flushed with a sudden pink or green, only makes me regret the more that the artist's gift should have been brought to subjects so esoteric".The exhibition was a success, and marked his critical breakthrough. Until then, he had been highly regarded but capable of only occasional brilliance. While some found his images horrifying and unnerving, they wrote about him all the same, sealing his reputation as the enfant terrible of post-war British art. The critic for The Observer wrote, "The recent paintings
Most critics focused on Head I and Head VI, remarking favourably on the progression between the two. While some found the inherent violence of the paintings distasteful, Brausen was a skilled publicist and turned the bad press into notoriety, and brought Bacon's work to national attention. Peppiatt notes that the exhibition showed Bacon no longer needed sensationalist material to make an impact, and was now capable of creating an intense emotional response through more subtle means, and had found a way of presenting the human condition in the way he had sought, by presenting his sitter "in a vestigial setting, a cage or [behind] a parted curtain ... the rest, the most essential, lay in the manipulation of the infinitely suggestive medium of oil paint".After the showing Bacon gradually became "less the outsider with an occasional image of horrifying brilliance and more a force to be reckoned with on the contemporary scene". His reputation and the value of his panels rose dramatically, and after the showing he was sought after by European, American and African collectors and galleries, commanding prices as high as £400 for single works, unusual for a contemporary British artist of the time.
Head VI was first exhibited at the Hanover Gallery, London, in 1949. It was acquired by the Arts Council's Hayward Gallery in 1952.The Hayward has loaned it out a number of times since, including for major retrospectives at the Grand Palais, Paris, in 1971, and the Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin, in 2000.
In May 1996, the National Gallery took on loan Velázquez's Innocent X portrait and hung it alongside four Bacon paintings; Head VI, Pope I (1951), Pope 1961 and Pope 1965. Peppiatt believes that Bacon would have disapproved of such a showing with a work he considered one of the finest ever painted, but writes that two, including Head VI, "stood up to it, and even enhanced its authority as one of the most penetrating studies of human nature and human power".
Francis Bacon was an Irish-born British figurative painter known for his raw, unsettling imagery. Focusing on the human form, his subjects included crucifixions, portraits of popes, self-portraits, and portraits of close friends, with abstracted figures sometimes isolated in geometrical structures. Rejecting various classifications of his work, Bacon said he strove to render "the brutality of fact." He built up a reputation as one of the giants of contemporary art with his unique style.
The painter Francis Bacon was largely self-taught as an artist. As well as other visual artists, Bacon drew inspiration from the poems of T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound and Yeats, the plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Shakespeare; Proust and Joyce's Ulysses.
Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion is a 1944 triptych painted by the Irish-born British artist Francis Bacon. The canvasses are based on the Eumenides—or Furies—of Aeschylus's Oresteia, and depict three writhing anthropomorphic creatures set against a flat burnt orange background. It was executed in oil paint and pastel on Sundeala fibre board and completed within two weeks. The triptych summarises themes explored in Bacon's previous work, including his examination of Picasso's biomorphs and his interpretations of the Crucifixion and the Greek Furies. Bacon did not realise his original intention to paint a large crucifixion scene and place the figures at the foot of the cross.
Painting 1946, also known as Painting or Painting (1946), is an oil-on-linen painting by the Irish-born artist Francis Bacon. It was originally intended to depict a chimpanzee in long grass ; Bacon then attempted to paint a bird of prey landing in a field. Bacon described the work as his most unconscious, the figurations forming without his intention. In an interview with David Sylvester in 1962, Bacon recalls:
FB:Well, one of the pictures I did in 1946, which was the thing that's in the Museum of Modern Art ...
DS:The butcher-shop picture.
FB:Yes. It came to me as an accident. I was attempting to make a bird alighting on a field. And it may have been bound up in some way with the three forms that had gone before, but suddenly the line that I had drawn suggested something totally different and out of this suggestion arose this picture. I had no intention to do this picture; I never thought of it in that way. It was like one continuous accident mounting on top of another.
Portrait of Pope Innocent X is an oil on canvas portrait by the Spanish painter Diego Velázquez, executed during a trip to Italy around 1650. Many artists and art critics consider it the finest portrait ever created. It is housed in the Galleria Doria Pamphilj in Rome. A smaller version is held by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and a study is on display at Apsley House in London. The painting is noted for its realism as an unflinching portrait of a highly intelligent, shrewd, and aging man. He is dressed in linen vestments, and the quality of the work is evident in the rich reds of his upper clothing, head-dress, and the hanging curtains.
Triptych, May–June 1973 is a triptych completed in 1973 by the Irish-born artist Francis Bacon (1909–1992). The oil-on-canvas was painted in memory of Bacon's lover George Dyer, who committed suicide on the eve of the artist's retrospective at Paris's Grand Palais on 24 October 1971. The triptych is a portrait of the moments before Dyer's death from an overdose of pills in their hotel room. Bacon was haunted and preoccupied by Dyer's loss for the remaining years of his life and painted many works based on both the actual suicide and the events of its aftermath. He admitted to friends that he never fully recovered, describing the 1973 triptych as an exorcism of his feelings of loss and guilt.
Study after Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X is a 1953 painting by the artist Francis Bacon. The work shows a distorted version of the Portrait of Innocent X painted by Spanish artist Diego Velázquez in 1650. The work is one of the first in a series of around 50 variants of the Velázquez painting which Bacon executed throughout the 1950s and early 1960s. The paintings are widely regarded as highly successful modern re-interpretations of a classic of the western canon of visual art.
Fragment of a Crucifixion is an unfinished 1950 painting by the Irish-born figurative painter Francis Bacon. It shows two animals engaged in an existential struggle; the upper figure, which may be a dog or a cat, crouches over a chimera and is at the point of kill. It stoops on the horizontal beam of a T-shaped structure, which may signify Christ's cross. The painting contains thinly sketched passer-by figures, who appear as if oblivious to the central drama.
Study for a Self-Portrait—Triptych, 1985–86 is a triptych painted between 1985 and 1986 by the Irish born artist Francis Bacon. It is a brutally honest examination of the effect of age and time on the human body and spirit, and was painted in the aftermath of the deaths of many of his close friends. It is Bacon's only full-length self-portrait, and was described by art critic David Sylvester as "grand, stark, ascetic".
The Irish-born artist Francis Bacon (1909–1992) painted 28 known triptychs between 1944 and 1986. He began to work in the format in the mid-1940s with a number of smaller scale formats before graduating in 1962 to large examples. He followed the larger style for 30 years, although he painted a number of smaller scale triptychs of friend's heads, and after the death of his former lover George Dyer in 1971, the three Black Triptychs.
Portrait of Isabel Rawsthorne Standing in a Street in Soho is a 1967 oil on canvas painting by the British figurative artist Francis Bacon, housed in the Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin. Described by art critic John Russell as one of Bacon's finest works, it depicts Isabel Rawsthorne, the painter, designer and occasional model for artists such as André Derain, Alberto Giacometti and Picasso.
Triptych–August 1972 is an oil on canvas triptych by the British artist Francis Bacon (1909–1992). It was painted in memory of Bacon's lover George Dyer who committed suicide on 24 October 1971, the eve of the artist's retrospective at Paris's Grand Palais, then the highest honour Bacon had received.
Portrait of George Dyer and Lucian Freud was a 1967 oil on canvas painting by the Irish-born artist Francis Bacon, which he destroyed before it left his studio, though it was photographed and is highly regarded by art critics. Bacon was a ruthless self critic, and often abandoned paintings mid-work, or slashed finished canvases; something he often later regretted.
Head I is a relatively small oil and tempera on hardboard painting by the Irish-born British figurative artist Francis Bacon. Completed in 1948, it is the first in a series of six heads, the remainder of which were painted the following year in preparation for a November 1949 exhibition at the Hanover Gallery in London. Like the others in the series, it shows a screaming figure alone in a room, and focuses on the open mouth. The work shows a skull which has disintegrated on itself and is largely a formless blob of flesh. The entire upper half has disappeared, leaving only the jaw, mouth and teeth and one ear still intact. It is the first of Bacon's paintings to feature gold background railings or bars; later to become a prominent feature of his 1950s work, especially in the papal portraits where they would often appear as enclosing or cages around the figures. It is not known what influences were behind the image; most likely they were multiple – press or war photography, and critic Denis Farr detects the influence of Matthias Grünewald.
Head II is an oil and tempera on hardboard painting by the Irish-born British figurative artist Francis Bacon. Completed in 1948, it is the second in a series of six heads, painted from the winter of 1948 in preparation for a November 1949 exhibition at the Hanover Gallery, London.
Head III is an oil painting by Francis Bacon, one of series of works made in 1949 for his first one-man exhibition at the Hanover Gallery, in London. As with the other six paintings in the series, it focuses on the disembodied head of male figure, who looks out with a penetrating gaze, but is fixed against an isolating, flat, nondescript background, while also enfolded by hazy horizontal foreground curtain-like folds which seems to function like a surrounding cage.
Study after Velázquez is a large 1950 panel painting by the Irish-born English artist Francis Bacon. After Head VI, it is the second of Bacon's long series of paintings influenced by Diego Velázquez's 1650 Portrait of Innocent X. The panel shows a full length view of the pope, engulfed in vertical folds that may be either the linings of a curtain or the bars of a cage.
Untitled (Pope) is a circa 1954 oil on canvas panel painting by the Irish born, English artist Francis Bacon, one in a series of many representations of popes he painted after Diego Velázquez's 1650 Portrait of Innocent X. Bacon was a harsh self-critic and destroyed a great many of his own paintings, many of which were created under the influence of drink. This work was long thought lost until it reemerged on the art market in 2016. It is closely related to Bacon's masterpiece, the Study after Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X in the Des Moines Art Center, Iowa.
Three Studies for a Self-Portrait is an oil on canvas triptych painting by the Irish born English artist Francis Bacon. Two of paintings are signed and dated 1979, and the third signed and dated 1979–1980. The work can be viewed as a penetrating self-examinations undertaken in the aftermath of the suicide of his lover George Dyer, and as one of a series of inward looking self-portraits completed during the 1970s. Bacon was seventy at the time, but appears as ageless.
Study for Portrait II is a small 1955 oil on canvas painting by the Irish-born British figurative artist Francis Bacon, one of a series of six portraits completed after viewing that year the English poet, painter and printmaker William Blake's life mask at the National Portrait Gallery in London.