Guggenheim
Past exhibition

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

Diego Velázquez
The Buffoon el Primo, 1644
Oil on canvas
106.5 x 82.5 cm
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

Artist
1910s

Francis Bacon was born in Dublin on the 28th October 1909. He was the second of five children born to English parents settled in Ireland, but with no Irish blood ties.

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A self-taught artist

Francis Bacon approached the creative process of painting somewhat unconventionally: only rarely did he make preparatory drawings, and he always painted directly onto the bare canvas. He never received any formal training, and his studios were practically the only places where he worked.
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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.
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Sexuality

Bacon said that his parents had banished him from his home in 1926 when they found him wearing his mother’s clothing. After this episode, he moved to other cities where he was able to express himself more freely, thanks to the money his mother forwarded to him.
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Life and Death

One of the first subjects that Bacon painted was the pieces of meat that the artist saw displayed in butcher shops, which ended up becoming a recurring image in his oeuvre [see Three Studies for a Crucifixion (1962) in gallery 205]. To Bacon, meat represented the cycle of life and death.
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The Studio at 7 Reece Mews

" No sé por qué pero desde el momento en que vi este sitio supe que podría trabajar. A mí me influyen mucho los sitios… la atmósfera de una habitación […] Y supe desde el mismo momento en que vine aquí que sería capaz de trabajar”
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