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Frans Bacon and Me

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10/18/2011 6:59:50 AM
Posted: 5 years ago
The artist Francis Bacon(1909-1992) was an Irish-born British figurative painter. He had his first, his big, breakthrough in 1944, the year I was born. It was with his now famous work: Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion. He regarded this painting as the real beginning, the source and origin, of his artistic career. His art for the next several decades was a bleak chronicling of the sinister side of the human condition in our time. It seemed to epitomize the grim spirit of post-war England and it established the painter immediately, and into this third millennium, as a master of the macabre. I, too, have seen the bleak side, the tempest, the profoundly frail foundations of confidence and humanity's desperation to believe that through some fortuitous conjunction of circumstances, it can bend our post-Auschwitz world into conformity with some set of our prevailing human desires.(1)

On 22 May 1962, as I was about to begin my summer job with the Dundas Slot Machine Company and my matriculation studies as well as travel for the Canadian Baha'i community, Bacon had his first retrospective. The collection opened for viewing at the Tate Gallery and received an avalanche of praise, an avalanche never before accorded to a modern British artist. A triumph, it was also a tragedy. The day before, death had done away with Peter Lacy, Bacon's principal source of sensation—mental and physical, but above all pictorial. Some of his friends saw this as retribution, others as a new dawn for British art.

David Sylvester(1924-2001), art critic and curator, was quick to promote Bacon's work. In the years to come he would help Bacon transform himself into a superstar. Today Bacon has come to be seen in the blogosphere as a kind of Michael Jackson of art—an anomalous weirdo possessing some kind of divine power. Bacon now exists in his rightful historical setting as one of a trio of brilliant young British artists—Lucian Freud and Frank Auerbach being the other two—who felt that abstraction was done for and were out to explore new ways of reconciling paint and representationalism.

Bacon's greatest triumph was his exhibition at the Grand Palais in Paris which opened on 25 October 1971. I had just arrived in Australia from Canada, began teaching in South Australian schools and helped the Australian Baha'i community establish a locally elected administrative body known as a spiritual assembly in Whyalla South Australia. Bacon's show in Paris brought him the international recognition he had long craved. A magazine poll crowned Bacon as the world's greatest living artist—ahead of Picasso and the members of then art schools of Paris and New York.

Following the 1971 suicide of his lover George Dyer, Bacon's art became more personal, inward looking and preoccupied with themes and motifs of death. In old age, though, we are informed by 2John Richardson in "Bacon Agonistes," The New York Review of Books, 17/12/'09, that Bacon managed to banish the demons which had plagued him for decades and were, arguably, the major source of his artistic inspiration.-Ron Price with thanks to 1 Century of Light, Baha'i World Centre, 2001, Foreword, and 2John Richardson, op. cit.

You seem forever focused on those(1)
subconscious, sadomasochistic and
fetishistic perverse sexualities which
so often expressed a view of life that
corresponded to Marquis de Sade's!!

Your obsession with men, & their many
exhibitionistic responses to the imagery
of our times was so very close to artists
with styles you revered; you formulated
your own histrionic, mad, horrific….and
very popular work---like life itself-----on
canvasses. Like comet-exemplars of some
Romantic agony, doomed to flash in & out
of the darkness of history…Might a similar
trajectory be in store for you even with your
reserves of stoicism, energy that derives from
a refusal to go softly into art history and your
ability to portray the shrieks of our age in this
visual form and these shapes in my lifetime!!!

(1) Francis Bacon

Ron Price
12 October 2011
Married for 48 years, a teacher for 32, a student for 18, a writer and editor for 16, and a Baha'i for 56(in 2015)