The Francis Bacon MB Art Foundation has just completed production of a documentary entitled Francis Bacon/Ernest Pignon-Ernest: Exchanges, directed by Alain Amiel.
On 27 September 1987, when Libération journalist Henri-François Debailleux asked Francis Bacon if he was interested in contemporary art, and that of France in particular, the British artist responded: “A few years ago I saw some photos by a French artist, Ernest Pignon-Ernest, who was making drawings on walls, and I found that very interesting.”
The two artists never met but wrote to each other several times. In fact, Bacon asked Pignon-Ernest to send him a number of enlargements of his drawings.
In this documentary, Pignon-Ernest discusses his passion for Bacon and talks about the themes common to the work of both.
In interviews, Jean Frémon, director of the Galerie Lelong, who has exhibited both artists, Yves Peyré and Frank Maubert, writers and friends of Bacon, and Libération art critic Henri-François Debailleux discuss the resonances they perceive between the two artists, and the works that connect them.
On 11 March 2022, the École du Louvre unveiled an ambitious architectural project in the presence of Roselyne Bachelot-Narquin, France’s minister for culture, and H.R.H. Princess Caroline of Hanover. This project is the brainchild of Claire Barbillon, director of the École du Louvre, and has been made possible by the exceptional patronage of Majid Boustany, president of the Francis Bacon MB Art Foundation. This patronage represents the greatest support ever received by a teaching institution under the aegis of the Ministry of Culture.
This architectural project of about 1300m2, entitled “ÉCOLE DU LOUVRE 2021-2022”, includes the redevelopment and refurbishment of the library and its documentation and IT services, and of the cafeteria, and the creation of a research centre.
Majid Boustany first formed a partnership with the École du Louvre in 2016, with the creation of a grant for research on the artist Francis Bacon. He then undertook to make the School an annual gift of books on Bacon to enrich its library collection. He has now chosen to continue his philanthropic initiative by funding this ambitious programme of works which will become a key, strategic asset for the École du Louvre and for its future national and international profile and influence. In addition to this exceptional sponsorship, Majid Boustany has also gifted to the School two sculptures by the British artist Antony Gormley, positioned in the library, an easel from Francis Bacon’s Paris studio, placed in the library lobby, and a photograph of Bacon in his London studio taken by Jesse A. Fernández in 1977, on display at the entrance to the research centre.
The decision to fund this ambitious programme stems too from Majid Boustany’s passion for that most Francophile of British artists: Francis Bacon. He lived and worked in Paris and was a regular visitor to the Paris museums, and the Louvre in particular. Indeed, some of his own paintings were inspired by works in the Louvre. The Slaves by Michelangelo, works by Raphael, Titian, Tintoretto, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Chardin, Goya, Ingres and Delacroix, all in the Louvre’s collection, were major artistic sources for Bacon and had a considerable influence on his painting practice. This direct encounter with works of art — which is a fundamental principle of studying history of art at the École du Louvre — was at the heart of his working practice.
Our institution is participating in the ‘Francis Bacon: Man and Beast’ exhibition held at the Royal Academy in London until 17 April 2022 by contributing to its exhibition catalogue.
This powerful show focuses on Bacon’s unerring fascination with animals: how it both shaped his approach to the human body and distorted it; how, caught at the most extreme moments of existence, his figures are barely recognisable as either human or beast.
It also explores how Bacon was mesmerised by animal movement, observing animals in the wild during trips to South Africa; filling his studio with wildlife books, and constantly referring to Eadweard Muybridge’s 19th-century photographs of humans and animals in motion. Whether chimpanzees, bulls, dogs, or birds of prey, Bacon felt he could get closer to understanding the true nature of humankind by watching the uninhibited behaviour of animals.
Spanning Bacon’s 50-year career, highlights include some of Bacon’s earliest works and his last-ever painting, alongside a trio of bullfight paintings which will be exhibited together for the first time.
Last September, on the occasion of its ‘Louise Bourgeois. Maladie de l’Amour’ exhibition, the Hauser & Wirth Gallery in Monaco hosted an ‘in conversation’, in collaboration with the Francis Bacon MB Art Foundation, focusing on the common themes and differences running through the artistic practices of Francis Bacon and Louise Bourgeois. The speakers were Cécilia Auber, the Foundation guide, and Emilie Bouvard, art historian and Director of Collections and Scientific Programmes at the Giacometti Foundation in Paris. Caroline Cros, heritage curator and art historian, was the discussion moderator.
Studios occupied a prominent place in Francis Bacon’s creative process, and they provide the common thread for this exhibition – the first ever to be devoted to this theme.
This exhibition invites us to discover the intimacy of the artist’s private spaces, and to witness the unconventional conditions in which Bacon lived and produced some of the most haunting images of his time. Bacon himself acknowledged: ‘I am very influenced by places – by the atmosphere of a room’.
The first part of the exhibition focuses on the British artist’s early career as a furniture and rug designer, a practice he started in 1929 in his studio at 17 Queensberry Mews West in London. It includes exceptional items of furniture and rugs rarely shown in public. While achieving success as an avant-garde designer, with a number of commissions from his circle of friends and his patrons, Bacon also began to paint. His first canvases, painted between 1929 and 1934 and displayed here, reveal the influence of Cubism and Surrealism.
The exhibition also features numerous objects, materials and working documents found in his Paris studio.
Bacon’s legendary, chaotic studio at 7 Reece Mews in London, where he worked for more than three decades and which played a major role in his work and life, is another highlight of the exhibition. This studio, which became the ‘depository’ for thousands of items, gives an enlightening insight into the artist’s creative process. A rare miniature version of the studio by the artist Charles Matton is also on show here.
The exhibition pathway is punctuated by rarely seen photographs of Bacon’s various studios taken by eminent photographers and the artist’s intimate friends.
In addition, the show includes paintings by the Australian artist Roy de Maistre who was Bacon’s main mentor and a close friend.
All the pieces presented come from the MB Art Collection – the private collection of the founder of the Francis Bacon MB Art Foundation.
Our institution is pleased to announce the launch of its latest publication, Francis Bacon: Studios. This book invites us for the first time to take a look inside the painter’s private and intimate spaces and become witness to the unconventional conditions in which Bacon lived, worked and produced the most haunting images of his time. It features over 150 photographs of the artist’s studios, spanning from 1930 to 1992, from his first where he initiated a career as a furniture designer to his legendary chaotic studio at 7 Reece Mews that he kept for three decades. This publication includes Bacon’s quotes on his various working places, and essays by Majid Boustany and John Edwards. The photographs, many previously unseen, are drawn from the MB Art Collection which now holds over 800 prints and is the most extensive photographic archive on the British artist.
Each copy includes a numbered and stamped print of a photograph of Francis Bacon in his 7 Reece Mews studio in London, taken in 1980 by the English photographer Jane Bown.
This book has been printed in a limited numbered edition of 270, representing the number of items (photographs, books and correspondence) found in Bacon’s 7 Reece Mews studio relating to the late American photographer Peter Beard. Bacon met Beard in the mid-1960s; they shared overlapping interests, and Beard played a stimulating role in Bacon’s oeuvre as a photographer, a muse and a lifelong friend.
Only eighty copies of this publication are for sale (295€). To order a copy, please contact the Foundation.
The third scholarship for a young artist, created as part of the partnership established by the Francis Bacon MB Art Foundation and Villa Arson in 2017, was awarded last Saturday 16 October 2021 to Mathis Pettenati at Villa Arson.
Born in Toulouse in 1997, Mathis Pettenati lives and works in Brussels.
Studying at the Villa Arson from 2016, he received his master’s degree in Fine Arts (DNSEP) with distinction for ‘excellence in visual art’ in 2021.
Influenced by graffiti, by the artists of the New York School and by a drawing practice that has been part of his life since childhood, Mathis Pettenati works in large format and in series. In pursuit of an organic, vegetal and floral expression, he employs a wide range of mediums in his painting, from varnishes, resins and acrylics to lacquers and pure pigment. Mixed and dripped on to stretched canvas, they fill his work with forms of child-like appeal. Trees, a trainer, extraordinary lamps, clocks and dials – these figures appear often by analogy with others and spontaneously. The cycle of painting itself transforms the figures, giving rise to new series.
Mathis Pettenati was chosen for this scholarship from a shortlist of ten young artists who graduated from Villa Arson in 2020 and 2021, distinguishing themselves through their practice of painting and drawing.
The Foundation took part in a feature entitled ‘Francis Bacon in Monaco – pulling out all the stops’, broadcast on 9 June on Arte channel, as part of Invitation au Voyage, by suggesting to the film’s director, Anne Fonteneau, a selection of people to appear in the film, and by giving access to its premises, revealing a number of works from the collection. The film underlines the importance of the Principality of Monaco in both the life and work of the British painter who, over the course of almost fifty years, spent extended periods here.
The documentary includes three instructive interviews: one with Cécilia Auber, the Foundation guide; another with Claude Valion, a consultant to the Foundation; and the third with the art critic Alain Amiel, who also directed the documentary Bacon: the Van Gogh Sequence, produced by the Foundation. They discuss the time Bacon spent in Monaco, the close link between gambling and Bacon’s painting, the working practice he initiated here, and the light and distinctive areas of flat colour found in his work.