Human Figures

Bacon’s painting style is halfway between abstraction and representation. Surrealism was an important springboard for and influence on his earliest works. Later, when Bacon began to capture the movement of the figures on canvas, Eadweard Muybridge’s late 19th–century photographs of the human body in motion became an essential point of reference. The imprint of the Old Masters—such as Michelangelo’s drawings and the “grandeur of forms” that characterizes his human figures—was evident throughout his entire career.

If we carefully analyze the visceral details and physical distortions of Bacon’s figures, we can appreciate both his profound knowledge of the procedures of abstract painting and the emotional power of the way he laid color on the canvas.

A book on X-rays entitled Positioning in Radiography occupied pride of place in Bacon’s personal library. These images focusing on the position of bodies when taking X-rays, plus his memory of the bodies of the people he had known and the representations by Michelangelo and Muybridge, all exerted an enormous influence on his works depicting human figures