LONDON — Painter Francis Bacon was never “particularly fond of animals,” recalled Michael Peppiatt, one of his biographers, in a recent phone interview.
Bacon mostly grew up on a livestock farm in Ireland, but he “stays away from horses and dogs because they trigger his asthma,” says Peppiatt. As an adult, Bacon also doesn’t keep pets, in part because they will put limits on his single lifestyle, which largely involves frequenting London pubs.
However, even as Bacon avoids the companionship of animals in his daily life, they are still very important to his art. They are now the centerpiece of a major exhibition of Bacon’s work that will open at the Royal Academy of Arts in London on Saturday.
Summon “Man and monster,” and running until April 17, the exhibition highlights Bacon’s drawings of animals — from screaming chimpanzees to haunting big-eyed owls — as well as characters His grotesque half-human, half-beast is called Furies. The exhibit also includes many of Bacon’s paintings of people at their most beastly, often little more than glistening lumps of flesh, fighting in the frame.
Peppiatt, the show’s co-curator, said Bacon has always been fascinated by animals because he feels observing them provides insights into people’s lives. After all, says Peppiatt, “we are civilized animals.” Bacon, he added, “takes care of that primal instinct.”
British art critics have drunk about the program before the opening. But what do those closest to its subject think? We asked five animal experts, including a primatologist, a bullfighter, and an advocate chef.”nose to tail“Eat, let us know they take on some of Bacon’s work. Below are edited extracts of those conversations.
‘Man with the Dog’, 1953
Rob Bays, dog behavior expert at Battersea Dogs & Cats HomeLondon
Maybe it’s my experience with animal rescue, but this picture really shows the loneliness dogs can find themselves in – it’s so dark in fact and the dog is almost aloof. with a human figure.
It’s a really unique way. Generally, when people draw animals, they try to capture the companionship of their pets and their warmth, while Bacon shows us the wilder and more aggressive side of some domestic animals. It’s really easy to dodge those circumstances, as it can be emotionally difficult, but for me this picture shows the real need of rescue organizations like ours. It’s really thought provoking.
‘Study of chimpanzees’, 1957
Lindsay Murray, primatologist and lecturer in animal psychology
A chimpanzee sitting alone is one of the saddest sightings, because they are highly social animals with intellectual, emotional, and character depth. And this is truly an entity of its own.
I find the red background quite unappealing and glaring. When I first saw it I only thought of blood, perhaps because it looked like the animal was holding a form in its right hand, possibly a freshly killed monkey. That resonates with the dark side of chimpanzee life, where they enjoy meaty meals.
The painting is called “A Study of a Chimpanzee”, but I have seen it as once sold as “Baboon Research”, and the face looks more like a baboon to me, while the arms, the way they are extremely long and curved at the end, are more ape-like. If it was a chimpanzee, the head must be much larger. Art doesn’t have to be realistic, but…
Chris Sperring, conservation staff, Hawk and Owl Trust
Well, my first reaction was, “Those are barn owls.” There was a faint glint in their heart-shaped faces. And if you look at the bottom branch, there’s what looks like two folded wings on a short tail, which is an adaptation that barn owls have.
But at least they’re weird barn owls.
Do you want to know what my second impression is? That they look like the weirdly swaying aliens from the original 1960s TV series “Lost in Space”!
But the owl on the right, it’s definitely telling me a story. He has tightened himself, which means they are on alert or alarmed. He told me there was something close to him that he didn’t like, that he felt a little threatened. But he hasn’t flown away yet, he’ll crouch for more camouflage.
‘The Second Edition of Triptych 1944,’ 1988
Fergus Henderson, chef and Co-founder of St. John
These works always remind me of chickens and testicles – things that are not friendly to humans. Both of these show up in my kitchen, but not this way. I’m not often accused of being cranky, but it’s the unhappiness here that makes me uncomfortable. Call me old-fashioned, but I’m not crazy about other people’s dripping bodily fluids.
Francis Bacon’s approach to meat couldn’t be different from mine. He talks about violence, about the red nature of teeth and nails, using meat as an expression of human pain, while I think of meat as a way of sympathetic existence in the world. world, respect your surroundings.
I’m afraid his pictures will leave me without meat. They are fleshy, but itchy. I think maybe he likes meat himself – he’s a famous eater – so it’s odd that you paint your lunch that way before sitting down to enjoy it.
‘Study of a Bull’, 1991
Frank Evans, “El Ingles,” blighter
The biggest problem with bullfighting these days is that you will see a dead bull. I was raised by a butcher as a child – I went to the slaughterhouse with my dad and the abattoir – so the bull’s death was not a shock to me. Bacon grew up on a farm so he must feel the same way.
I think the picture has something to do with Bacon’s impending death. What he showed was that the bull was about to enter the bullfight, but he stopped. You can see him slipping because there is a lot of dust coming out of the sand.
One of the bull’s horns remained in the dark; That whistle is on. And the bull is now looking into the void. There is no crowd. There are no bullfighters. There’s nothing there. Bacon is saying, “This is the end.” The bull is him.
Why would someone paint a bull as their last picture? Well, if you’re a bullfighting enthusiast like him, you really can’t think of anything nicer. When I die, I won’t paint like our friend Bacon, but I have an insurance policy that will bring my body back to the south coast of Spain, and my coffin will be laid around. . bull ring with my bullfighter’s hat on top.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/28/arts/design/francis-bacon-man-beast-royal-academy.html Animal paintings by Francis Bacon, analyzed by animal experts