To mark the 20th anniversary of the death of Francis Bacon, and to celebrate his little-known connections with Australia, the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) has organised an exhibition of more than 50 iconic paintings by the master of post-war British art which will open on the 17th of November 2012.
The first major exhibition of Bacon’s work to be shown in Australia, Francis Bacon: five decades is part is part of the Sydney International Art Series and is curated by Anthony Bond, curatorial director at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
According to Michael Brand, director of the AGNSW, “Francis Bacon: five decades presents a dazzling picture of a complex and conflicted artist whose work retains its visceral impact 20 years after his death. It’s an exhibition not to be missed.”
Structured around five decades which correspond to key themes in Bacon’s development, each decade – 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s - is represented in the exhibition by works that characterise his art during that period.
Even for those who are not fans of Bacon’s work, the exhibition will be well worth seeing if for no other reason than to learn more about the connection between the British artist and Australian artists Brett Whiteley and Roy de Maistre.
Ask anyone from England whether they know anything about the Australian artist Roy de Maistre and their answer is likely to be in the negative. The name Francis Bacon, however, is likely to be recognised by anyone living in the western world, art lover or not.
Considering that Bacon began painting in London in the early 1930’s under the mentorship of de Maistre, who was also his lover, it seems that de Maistre’s name should be synonymous with that of Bacon – except it isn’t.
The website of The Estate of Francis Bacon reveals that de Maistre secured the majority of Bacon’s commissions when Bacon was still an interior decorator and furniture designer. “He also guided the fledgling artist in his first steps in oil painting and by November 1930, Bacon was ready to mount a modest exhibition of paintings and rugs in Queensberry Mews, together with works by de Maistre and an actress/portraitist, Jean Shepeard,” the Estate also reveals.
Perhaps the influence should have taken place in reverse given that Brett Whiteley, one of the most celebrated and internationally recognised contemporary Australian artists, had a close relationship with Bacon who had a major influence on the young artist.
“Although Brett never owned a Bacon, Bacon did at one stage own a painting by Brett. Apparently, Bacon bought one of Brett’s Rembrandt self-portrait paintings from 1968, studied it for three weeks then told him that he had failed and discarded it. Despite this incident, the two artists remained good friends,” says Emma Collerton from the Brett Whiteley Studio
Whiteley produced several paintings of Bacon two of which were entered into Archibald Prize exhibitions. A similar work to the portrait of Bacon that he entered into the 1984 Archibald Prize will be featured in the exhibition.
Francis Bacon: five decades
17 November 2012 – 24 February 2013
Art Gallery of New South Wales