‘In Memory of George Dyer’ will be on display at De Nieuwe Kerk from February 21st – March 30th 2014, as part of the church’s ‘Masterwork’ series. For further information including opening hours and tickets please click here.*
Triptychs are traditionally a religious format, Bacon’s is a memorial to the artist’s former partner George Dyer. In 1971 Dyer committed suicide in Paris, two days before Bacon’s major retrospective was to open at the Grand Palais. Dyer’s form appears in all three panels of the triptych – as a boxer, reflection, and a shadowy figure inserting a key in a door. Both physicality and spirituality are interpreted in this piece, with the subject’s suspension between realities on the threshold between life and death.
De Nieuwe Kerk’s Masterwork series was launched in 2011. Each year one masterpiece with a religious or spiritual dimension is displayed in the Church. 2011 exhibited Rembrandt’s ‘The Holy Family’ 1645, and 2012 exhibited Andy Warhol’s ‘The Last Supper (pink)’ 1986.
This talk will be about Francis Bacon’s complex figuration that involved a balance between figuration and abstraction. His work will be examined alongside other representations of the human figure in post-war art to look at how artists rehabilitated figuration.
The talk is a part of Manchester Art Gallery’s ‘Thursday Lates’. It takes place at the Gallery, on Thursday March 6th, at 6:30pm, and is free to attend. For more information click here.
Dr Rina Arya is a Reader at the University of Wolverhampton. She has written widely on Bacon, including her monograph Francis Bacon: Painting in a Godless World (2012), which was long-listed for the William M.B. Berger Prize for British Art History in 2013. Her latest book is Abjection and Representation: An Exploration of Abjection in the Visual Arts, Film and Literature (2014).
The exhibition ‘Radical Figures: Post-war British Figurative Painting’ displays the following Francis Bacon pieces: ‘Portrait of Henrietta Moraes on a Blue Couch’, 1965, and ‘Portrait of Lucian Freud’, 1951 (pictured). Read more about the display via the Manchester Art Gallery here, and via a previous blog post here.
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*Please note: Exhibition/event details, dates and times, and paintings displayed, are subject to change. For any questions please check with the Manchester Art Gallery for confirmation.
Francis Bacon’s ‘Portrait of George Dyer Talking’ 1966, and ‘Study for a Portrait’ 1978, will be exhibited at Christie’s London ahead of their auction later this month. ‘Portrait of George Dyer Talking’ was previously displayed in New York in January. Both works go on show from Saturday February 8th – 13th at Christie’s London King Street Saleroom.* The paintings will be auctioned as part of the ‘Post-War Contemporary Art Evening Auction’ on February 13th 2014.
Bacon and Dyer met in Soho in the autumn of 1963 with Dyer becoming arguably the artist’s greatest love and muse. ‘Portrait of George Dyer Talking’ was originally undertaken from a series of photographs taken by John Deakin around 1965. This painting is the second of eleven of Dyer that Bacon began in 1966, and completed in 1968. Bacon returned to this theme in similarly emotionally-loaded but more tragic circumstances following Dyer’s death in 1971, two days before Bacon’s major retrospective opened at the Grand Palais.
“Not an hour goes by when I don’t think about George”
(F. Bacon, quoted in M. Peppiatt, Francis Bacon: Anatomy of an Enigma, London 1996, p. 260).
Much can be interpreted from this early painting of Dyer which appears to project energy and life. The piece is spoken of as full of metaphors of both Dyer’s character, and Bacon’s reactions with it. Everything, from the subject’s twisted posture, the unorganised paperwork, the strokes of paint across Dyer’s mouth, all appear strongly energetic. Even the angle of the hanging, naked light bulb’s pull switch, and sweeping background (inspired by Bacon’s own raw studio) eludes to dramatic kinetic energy, almost as if the room is revolving at speed around a frustrated Dyer.
“the very form that you make has an implication when you are painting somebody, you know that you are of course, trying to get near not only to their appearance but also to the way they have affected you, because every shape has an implication”
(F. Bacon, quoted in D. Sylvester (ed.), The Brutality of Fact: Interviews with Francis Bacon, London 1987, p. 130).
Portrait of George Dyer Talking has been included in many important Bacon exhibitions. These include exhibitions at Galerie Maeght, Paris, in 1966-1967; Malborough Fine Art Ltd. in 1967 – the only time it has been seen in public in the UK; the Retrospective at the Grand Palace in 1971-1972; the Museo de Bellas Artes in Caracas in 1973; the Museo d’Arte Moderna in Lugano in 1993; and the artist’s Retrospective at Yale Center for British Art in New Haven in 1999.
For further information on ‘Portrait of George Dyer Talking’ please visit Christie’s website here, and click on the ‘lot notes’ tab.
‘Study for a Portrait’ 1978, marks Bacon’s departure from the previous decade of canvases dark exploration of mortality, and inner turmoil following the death of Dyer. Bacon’s friendship with John Edwards is considered a factor in this lightening of theme, having met in the Colony Room Club in 1974. In this work Bacon possibly appears to merge both his own and Dyer’s portraits with those of Edwards’s youthful features.
‘Study for a Portrait’ displays a catalogue of interesting Bacon’s texture techniques, his application of paint on this occasion is not wildly applied, but tactically layered with colourful vitality striking through flesh. Bacon used near-dry paint, and buffed his paint brush on his leg. Such techniques combined with his signature use of the unprimed ‘rough’ side of the canvas, result in a painting with a lot to interesting insight both it’s artist’s heart and hands.
For further information on ‘Study for a Portrait’ please visit Christie’s website here, and click on the ‘lot notes’ tab.
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*Please note that dates, times and works to be exhibited are subject to change. For more information please visit the Christie’s website.
Word ref: Christies press release and website, credited publications, and the words of Martin Harrison, editor of the forthcoming Francis Bacon Catalogue Raisonné.