Francis Bacon (Dublin 1909 – Madrid 1992) is one of the most famous painters from the 20th century. His works, ruthless and tormented, violently express the existential condition of human beings in the post-war age.
A man with a complex, somewhat disturbed personality, with an artistic interest for illnesses and mutilation – images of deformed or mutilated children were found in his studio; Francis Bacon is the pioneer of a more existential interpretation of surrealism, with the ambition to artistically investigate the true essence of contemporary man, torn apart by the Second World War but above all besieged after the war. The artist’s inner world and personal emotional turbulence evolved into a magnificent obsession for the human essence, which led him to push the subjects of his painting to the extreme. Bacon’s characters are at times minimalistic, at times deformed, disfigured. In one of his earliest works, Crucifixion (1933), the body of Christ is reduced to an essential shape on a dark background,
The work that launched Bacon’s reputation and anticipated his taste for biomorphism is Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (1944), which made a sensation and established Bacon as one of the foremost post-war artists. His successive works often follow the triptych format and theme of cruxifition or violent death.
Another recurring theme is the revisitation of Velázquez’s portrait of Pope Innocent X… in a much, much darker tone.
Arguably his most famous painting, Francis Bacon’s Figure with Meat (also known as Head Surrounded by Sides of Beef), is also a depiction of the pope sitting, this time flanked by two sides of raw animal carcasses. It’s a haunting image that perfectly embodies the nihilism of the postwar era. The painting become particularly popular in recent years after it made an appearance in Tim Burton’s Batman movie (1989), in a scene where the Joker himself praises the artwork by preventing his henchman from slashing it with a knife. “I kind of like this one, Bob. Leave it.”