Francis Bacon And The Art Of The Past

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16 December 2014 – 16 March 2015

Curated by Dr. Margarita Cappock

This display of items from Francis Bacon’s Studio reflects the artist’s professed admiration for the work of other artists such as Michelangelo, Velázquez, Rembrandt, Ingres, Degas, Seurat, Rodin, Van Gogh, Picasso and Giacometti.  Two of Bacon’s major series of paintings were based on reproductions of the work of other artists, namely Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1650) and Van Gogh’s The Painter on the Route to Tarascon (1888).  His knowledge of both paintings was entirely through reproductions.  Bacon hoarded more books in his studio on Michelangelo than on any other artist. He particularly admired Michelangelo’s drawings.  The studio also contained an impressive number of books and book leaves on Egyptian art and civilisation.  Bacon believed that the achievement of Egyptian sculpture had scarcely been surpassed and even went so far as to say, “I think perhaps that the greatest images that man has made so far have been sculpture. I’m thinking of some of the great Egyptian sculpture, of course, and Greek sculpture too.”

A selection of similar material from Bacon’s Studio Archive at Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane is currently on loan to a major exhibition at the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia (7 December 2014 – 8 March 2015).  The exhibition, entitled Francis Bacon and the Art of the Past, is the first exhibition of Bacon’s work in Russia since 1988 and presents twenty paintings by Bacon placed in the context of masterpieces from the State Hermitage collection: Egyptian mummy masks, Roman and Renaissance sculpture, including Michelangelo’s Crouching Boy, and a number of the museum’s most famous works including portraits by Rembrandt and Velázquez. It also includes works by Ingres, Matisse, Van Gogh and Degas’s pastel of a woman after her toilette.   The selection of material from the Hugh Lane forms a bridge between the old and the new, the real and the reproduction and offers a unique opportunity to explore Bacon’s relationship with his rich artistic heritage.