Francis Bacon: The Figure in Motion
On view in the display cases of the Francis Bacon Studio
Curated by Jessica O'Donnell
The theme of the human figure in motion was one which greatly interested Francis Bacon and it was explored by him in many of his paintings. Bacon chose not to paint from life but rather to take inspiration from the vast range of diverse visual sources he gathered around him in his studio. Photographs of the human figure in motion had the potential to show bodies in awkward positions or to be captured in a fragmented way. Bacon would often then re-contextualise these images of the human form in his figurative compositions. The imagery of Eadweard Muybridge, the pioneering nineteenth century photographer who undertook a series of photographs showing people and animals in different stages of movement, was specifically referenced by Bacon in his painting. About this Bacon said: ‘Actually, Michelangelo and Muybridge are mixed up in my mind together, and so I perhaps could learn about positions from Muybridge and learn about the ampleness, the grandeur of form from Michelangelo.’
Bacon extended this interest in how the human figure moved to include sources derived from illustrated publications, magazines and newspapers showing dancers, boxers, tennis players and cricketers. That these loose leaf images were torn out or mounted on card by Bacon further highlights their importance to the artist. A detail of Studies From the Human Body (1973) included in this display is one such example where the intertwined forms and distinct corporeal shadows evident in many of the images of the human figure in motion found among the items in his studio have inspired Bacon in his painting.