In June 2012, artist Jasper Johns was viewing a Christies London sales catalogue of work by Francis Bacon when he came across photographs of the painter Lucian Freud. They were taken by photographer John Deakin in 1964 at the request of Bacon, the artist famously preferring photographic reference over live models for his paintings.
One particular photograph of Lucian Freud caught Jasper Johns’ eye. Freud is sitting on a quilt-covered brass bed in the corner of a room. He has one leg folded under the other, his head bowed, his face obscured by a raised hand. His stooped-shouldered, folded-in pose suggests exhaustion and despair. The despair is further reinforced by the condition of the photograph, creased and torn, with its left edge secured with a paper clip. The photo was found in Bacon’s cluttered studio after his death in 1992.
From this photograph, not just its image of Freud but the physical distressed condition of the photographic print itself, that Johns has based a group of nearly two dozen paintings, drawings and prints. Jasper Johns according to the New York Times brings to the ‘Regrets’ series “…a full arsenal of transforming manoeuvres used in the past.” The artist employs a range of media in visualising his variation on the theme; oil paint, acrylic, watercolour, charcoal, graphite, coloured pencil, ink on paper, ink on plastic, printing ink and photocopying.
As well as Johns’ works, the original photograph (pictured above) that inspired the exhibition is present at the MoMA, on loan from Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane. Francis Bacon himself had used the photograph in painting the triptych ‘Three Studies of Lucian Freud’ 1969, which last year become the most expensive artwork ever sold at an auction after fetching $142m.
Jasper Johns: Regrets
March 15 – September 1st 2014
MoMA New York
Word ref: MoMA website and The New York Times article.
Please note that all exhibition details including works displayed and dates are subject to change. For any confirmation please consult MoMA.