Francis Bacon: Man and Beast

The Francis Bacon MB Art Foundation supports a major Bacon exhibition at the Royal Academy in London

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.

More information on the exhibition here

Francis Bacon, Head VI, 1949
Francis Bacon, Study for Bullfight No. 2, 1969
Two photos of Louise Bourgeois and Francis Bacon

The Francis Bacon MB Art Foundation took part in a discussion on Francis Bacon and Louise Bourgeois

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.

Click here to play the film

Louise Bourgeois in her home on 20th Street in NYC in 2000.
© The Easton Foundation/VAGA at ARS, NY 
Photo: © Jean-François Jaussaud
Louise Bourgeois in her home on 20th Street in NYC in 2000.
© The Easton Foundation/VAGA at ARS, NY
Photo: © Jean-François Jaussaud
Francis Bacon, 7 Reece Mews, London, 1981
Photo © Marc Tivier
Francis Bacon, 7 Reece Mews, London, 1981
Photo © Marc Tivier
‘Francis Bacon’s Studios’, a new exhibition at the Francis Bacon MB Art Foundation

‘Francis Bacon’s Studios’, a new exhibition at the Francis Bacon MB Art Foundation

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.

Francis Bacon Studios

Francis Bacon: Studios, the first book dedicated to photographs of Francis Bacon’s various studios

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.

Francis Bacon Studios publication
Mathis Pettenati

The Francis Bacon MB Art Foundation awards its third scholarship to a young artist from Villa Arson

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 Francis Bacon MB Art Foundation has taken part in a film about Francis Bacon in Monaco produced by Arte France

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. 

To view the film, click here

The Francis Bacon MB Art Foundation renews its participation in the “Journées Européennes du Patrimoine” in Monaco

The Francis Bacon MB Art Foundation is taking part in the 26th Journées Européennes du Patrimoine (Local Heritage Day) to be held in Monaco on Sunday 26 September 2021.

Our institution will offer three guided tours to its visitors, by appointment only.

To book your visit, please contact the Foundation: +377 93 30 30 33

More details on the “26th Journées Européennes du Patrimoine” here

Francis Bacon: Shadows

A new publication supported by the Francis Bacon MB Art Foundation entitled Francis Bacon: Shadows

The Foundation is pleased to announce the release of the book Francis Bacon: Shadows, the fourth volume in the series ‘Francis Bacon Studies’, launched and published by The Estate of Francis Bacon with the financial support of our institution. Martin Harrison, editor of Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné, is the series editor. It explores little-known aspects of Bacon’s life and work and includes never before published paintings by the artist.

Francis Bacon: Shadows continues in the revelatory mode established by Inside Francis Bacon. It comprises six essays on diverse topics, interpretative as well as factual, which cumulatively present an abundance of fresh ideas on Bacon. The fundamental aim of the series—to rethink Bacon’s art from new perspectives—is impressively fulfilled by its eminent authors. With previously unseen photographs and some 120 colour illustrations, this beautifully-presented book boldly treads compelling new territory, bringing to light explosive new insights on the works of one of the twentieth-century’s most highly-regarded artists.

In addition to introducing the authors of this volume and the wider context around their illuminating research, the editor shows some exciting and unseen photographs and includes a tribute to a major, if under-acknowledged, Bacon scholar, David Boxer (1946–2017). Christopher Bucklow turns his attention to the contrast between Bacon’s art and the art of our own times, setting Bacon in the context of Romantic Modernism’s confidence in the unconscious as a source. Amanda Harrison’s essay ‘Bacon’s Occult Traces’ investigates the effect of these influences through evidence that has so far remained hidden, or unrecognised, in the shadows of his paintings. In ‘Between Francis Bacon and the Intellect’, Croatian writer and artist Stefan Haus conducts a stimulating extended study into the impact of Bacon’s paintings. Drawing on the ideas of philosophers from Plato and Aristotle to Kant and Hegel, Haus’s essay is simultaneously philosophical and visceral, itself forming an analogue to the intensity of Bacon’s art.  In Hugh Davies’s many meetings with the artist in 1973 he was often invited to socialise with Bacon’s closest friends. Some of his notes were published in Francis Bacon: New Studies – Centenary Essays in 2009, but for the first time we shall be publishing in their entirety Davies’s unexpurgated on-the-spot diary entries. Passages previously considered inappropriate for publication now reveal a more rounded view of Bacon as both man and artist. In her enlightening essay, ‘Work on the Barry Joule Archive’, Sophie Pretorius expertly untangles the controversy and confusion that has surrounded Bacon’s supposed source material in the Barry Joule Archive. Finally, Harrison himself contributes his new essay, ‘Lost Bacon Paintings’. Except for those which had been published while he was still living, paintings that Bacon destroyed were excluded from Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné (2016). Bacon had destroyed them because he considered them ‘failures’, and to circulate images of them, it was reasoned, carried the risk of misrepresenting him. Ultimately, the larger responsibility to make his oeuvre available publicly has outweighed this decision: now these 13 as yet unknown paintings – fascinating, if unresolved – can be seen for the first time. 

More information on the book here

Publication of the intimate new biography Francis Bacon: Revelations, a decade in the making

Publication of the intimate new biography Francis Bacon: Revelations, a decade in the making

Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan, the Pulitzer Prize-winning authors of de Kooning: An American Master, present an original and detailed portrait of Francis Bacon based on hundreds of interviews and extensive new material. Revelations is a deeply researched and well-told story of a sickly boy who became one of the great artists and cultural figures of his time.

The biography offers a previously unseen view into Bacon’s early life as a self-described asthmatic child, through to his astonishing breakthrough in 1944 with Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion. The book goes on to explore the following decades and his emergence as one of the great iconoclasts and bons vivants of his time, whom one friend called ‘a terrific grandee’. It ends with a look at Bacon’s last days, his battles with his health, and the consolidation of his myth and his artistic legacy. The authors describe an artist who believed in chance and paradox: an iconoclast who eventually became an icon. They posit that the twentieth century does not know itself without Bacon. The Francis Bacon MB Art Foundation has contributed to this publication by making available its archives and vast collection of images and articles to Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan. The institution was warmly thanked by the authors.

The Art of Isabel Rawsthorne

A new publication supported by the Francis Bacon MB Art Foundation: Out of the Cage, The Art of Isabel Rawsthorne

Our institution is pleased to announce the release of the book Out of the Cage, The Art of Isabel Rawsthorne, written by Carol Jacobi, launched and published by The Estate of Francis Bacon with the financial support of the Francis Bacon MB Art Foundation. Martin Harrison, editor of Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné, is the series editor.

Isabel Rawsthorne (1912-1992) was hidden in plain sight. From celebrated portraits of her in Berlin to sketches in the Tate, likenesses in museums around the world have kept her secrets. This book combs the depths of her fascinating life and the extraordinary art she herself made from it.

A contemporary of the Parisian and London avant-gardes, Rawsthorne’s own painting career was somewhat eclipsed by the many occasions on which her friends made her the subject of their art, notably Jacob Epstein, André Derain, Alberto Giacometti, Pablo Picasso and Francis Bacon. Exhibited from the early 1930s, her startling work first garnered serious attention in the 1940s and she was well-known in the 1950s and 1960s; but after she died, popular biographies of Giacometti and Bacon cemented her status not as an artist, but as an artist’s muse.

Exhibiting between 1933 and 1990, usually as Isabel Lambert, Rawsthorne’s art was a poetry of things: an emptied glass, a cut flower, a felled bird, the animal or human body, caught in ephemeral frameworks. Her experiences in France encouraged her eventual rejection of neo-romantic visions of the natural world in favour of an austere contemplation of existence. Known for her unique graphic skill, she saw the touch, mark, and stroke in any media as her means of investigating ‘presence’.

This richly illustrated book takes the lead from Rawsthorne’s compelling biography to reconsider sixty years of her art, now housed in several major public collections. Jacobi re-examines the pre- and post-war art history of which Rawsthorne was a part, tracing the painter’s life and art through the upheavals of the 20th century and her intense and often unconventional relationships with some of its most revered figures. More than a decade of research into Rawsthorne’s work, archives and the memories of her friends brings to light countless revelations.

More information on the book here