The exhibition “Francis Bacon: From Picasso to Velázquez” will remain on show at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao until 8 January. Organised in collaboration with Grimaldi Forum Monaco and comprising almost 80 works, the show includes some of the most important but least exhibited paintings by the British artist born in Ireland, alongside works of classic masters from French and Spanish culture who had a significant influence on his career.
Announcing the exhibition, the organisers said, “Bacon created a new universe of images conceived via literature, film, art and his own life, using a totally unique language, reflecting human vulnerability with utter rawness. Bacon’s nudes tend to feature isolated figures in everyday poses which the painter transformed by twisting their bodies into almost animal-like shapes, thus reinventing the portrait. Transgressive in both his life and his art, Bacon broke down many barriers that were deeply entrenched at the time, placing human beings in front of a mirror in which we could see ourselves in a raw, violent way.”
After his initial contact with Picasso’s oeuvre in the 1920s and 1930s, Bacon’s inspiration from Spanish culture is considered to be most obvious in his obsession with the portrait of Pope Innocent X painted by Velázquez in 1650.
“Curiously, Francis Bacon never saw this Velázquez painting, which hangs at the Doria Pamphilj Gallery in Rome, in person; when he had the chance to lay eyes on it during his visit to the Italian capital in 1954, he preferred instead to retain the reproductions in his memory instead of seeing the original painting.”
In addition to Velázquez, he was also fascinated by other classic Spanish painters such as Zurbarán, El Greco and Goya, “whose paintings he fervently admired at Madrid’s Museo del Prado, a museum he asked to visit alone just a few years before his death after seeing the Velázquez retrospective held there in 1990”. Francis Bacon died on a brief visit to Madrid in 1992. He never had a permanent home in Spain but he was known to have made extended trips to Málaga and visits to Sevilla, Utrera and Madrid.