Francis Bacon: From Picasso to Velázquez an exhibition of almost 80 works including some of the most important and yet least exhibited paintings by this British artist born in Ireland, alongside the works of the classic mas ters from French and Spanish culture who played a huge role in his career.
While a fervent Francophile, Francis Bacon was also well-versed in the work of Spanish masters such as Diego Velázquez, and the exhibition explores the influence of both cultures on his art. Bacon, who became a painter after seeing the exhibition Cent dessins par Picasso at Paul Rosenberg’s gallery in Paris, was a great connoisseur of French literature and painting. He avidly read the writings of Jean Racine, Honoré Balzac, Charles Baudelaire, and Marcel Proust and admired the art of Édouard Manet, Edgard Degas, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Georges Seurat, Henri Matisse, and Pablo Picasso.
Aside from the initial contact with Picasso’s Parisian output of the 1920s and 1930s, the clearest evidence of Bacon’s connection with Spanish culture is undoubtedly his obsession with Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent x painted in 1650. Although Bacon had the chance to see the work at the Galleria Doria Pamphilj during a trip to Rome in 1954, he preferred, however, to have reproductions of the work rather than a memory of the original while producing his more than 50 variations on the motif. In addition to Velázquez, Bacon was fascinated by Francisco Goya, El Greco, and Francisco de Zurbarán, whose works he viewed at the Prado Museum, Madrid.
Exhibition organized by the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, in collaboration with Grimaldi Forum Monaco
Three Studies for a Crucifixion, March 1962
Oil with sand on canvas, three panels
198.1 x 144.8 cm each
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 64.1700
© The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved. DACS/VEGAP. Bilbao, 2015