Three Studies for a Portrait of Henrietta Moraes

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Three Studies for the Portrait of Henrietta Moraes, 1963 Three Studies for the Portrait of Henrietta Moraes.jpg
Three Studies for the Portrait of Henrietta Moraes, 1963

Three Studies for a Portrait of Henrietta Moraes is an oil on canvas 1963 triptych by the Irish-born British figurative painter Francis Bacon. It is one of a series of portraits he painted of his friends, at a time when his art was becoming more personal. Henrietta Moraes (1933–1999) was a close friend and drinking companion of Bacon's from the early 1960s, and became one of his favourite models. She never posed in person for him; instead he worked either from photographs commissioned from John Deakin or from memory. [1]

Triptych three-part polyptych

A triptych is a work of art that is divided into three sections, or three carved panels that are hinged together and can be folded shut or displayed open. It is therefore a type of polyptych, the term for all multi-panel works. The middle panel is typically the largest and it is flanked by two smaller related works, although there are triptychs of equal-sized panels. The form can also be used for pendant jewelry.

Francis Bacon (artist) Irish-born British figurative painter, 1909–1992

Francis Bacon was an Irish-born British figurative painter known for his emotionally charged raw imagery and fixation on personal motifs. Best known for his depictions of popes, crucifixions and portraits of close friends, his abstracted figures are typically isolated in geometrical cages which give them vague 3D depth, set against flat, nondescript backgrounds. Bacon said that he saw images "in series", and his work, which numbers c. 590 extant paintings along with many others he destroyed, typically focuses on a single subject for sustained periods, often in triptych or diptych formats. His output can be broadly described as sequences or variations on single motifs; including the 1930s Picasso-influenced bio-morphs and Furies, the 1940s male heads isolated in rooms or geometric structures, the 1950s screaming popes, the mid-to-late 1950s animals and lone figures, the early 1960s crucifixions, the mid to late 1960s portraits of friends, the 1970s self-portraits, and the cooler more technical 1980s paintings.

Henrietta Moraes British artists model

Henrietta Moraes, born Audrey Wendy Abbott, was a British artists' model and memoirist. During the 1950s and 1960s, she was the muse and inspiration for many artists of the Soho subculture, including Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, and Maggi Hambling, and also known for her three marriages and numerous love affairs. She left her first husband, Michael Law, and married actor Norman Bowler, with whom she had two children. She later married the Indian writer Dom Moraes.

Contents

Comparing the panels to Giorgione's self-portrait in the Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum, Brunswick, art critic John Russell wrote, "This is the most ... that can be said in painting at this time about human beauty". [2]

Giorgione Venetian Renaissance painter

Giorgione was an Italian painter of the Venetian school during the High Renaissance from Venice, who died in his thirties. Giorgione is known for the elusive poetic quality of his work, though only about six surviving paintings are firmly attributed to him. The uncertainty surrounding the identity and meaning of his work has made Giorgione one of the most mysterious figures in European art.

Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum Art museum in Braunschweig, Germany

The Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum (HAUM) is an art museum in the German city of Braunschweig, Lower Saxony.

John Russell CBE was a British American art critic.

Description

Three Studies for a Portrait of Henrietta Moraes is one of Bacon's most intimate portraits, described by art critic John Russell as a portrait of a person known by the artist "as minutely as one human being can know another". [2] The frames are not intended as a narrative, that is not intended to be read from left to right. More Bacon sought to capture different aspects of her appearance, and to reveal her, as he put it, in the 'most elemental state'. [3]

Each panel shows a tightly cropped image of Moraes' head. She fills each of the small canvases, with the background reduced to areas of flat black paint. [2] Her face is contorted to varying degrees in each, a technique reminiscent of some of Picasso's late period female portraits. In fact, the distortions of Bacon's panels are restrained by the standards of his late 60s and early 70s portraits, in which of some the sitter's faces disappears completely, replaced by eye sockets, or smears of broad paint representing caved in cheek or jaw bones. [2] Consistent with this approach, some of Moraes' features are depicted with a heightened intensity, while others are "obliterated". [4]

Detail of the center panel Three Studies for the Portrait of Henrietta Moraes Detail1.jpg
Detail of the center panel

This relative restraint adds to the stately dignity of this work. Bacon did not intend his distortions or chromatic swirls - often applied by a brush with a towel- as is often assumed, as gratuitous indicators of violence or despair, more they were to indicate the effects of time, age and life on the sitter's physical features. In these works, one of Moraes' eyes is enlarged and fixed squarely on the viewer as the rest of her face melts into chaos. Art historian Lawrence Gowling describes the painting in terms of an attempt to capture the "pigment-figment" of close friends. While using tools such as towels to apply broad streaks of paint was chancy and indicated the gambler aspect to his personality, Bacon was sustained by a painterly ability built up by over 25 years as an artist. [4]

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<i>Three Studies for a Self-Portrait,</i> (Bacon, 1979) painting by Francis Bacon

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.

References

Notes

  1. Farr, 144
  2. 1 2 3 4 Russell, 100
  3. Russell, 122
  4. 1 2 Russell, 124

Sources

  • Davies, Hugh; Yard, Sally. Francis Bacon. New York: Cross River Press, 1986. ISBN   0-89659-447-5
  • Farr, Dennis; Peppiatt, Michael; Yard, Sally. Francis Bacon: A Retrospective. New York: Harry N Abrams, 1999. ISBN   0-8109-2925-2
  • Muir, Robin. A Maverick Eye: The Street Photography of John Deakin. London: Thames & Hudson, 2002 ISBN   0-500-54244-9
  • Russell, John. Francis Bacon. New York: Norton, 1971. ISBN   0-500-20169-2
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