27.10.1962 – 25.11.1962
Tortured Corporeality in Francis Bacon
The Kunsthaus devoted a first major monographic exhibition to the Irish-British painter (b. Dublin 1909, d. Madrid 1992) with 78 mainly life-sized paintings made between 1930 and 1962 – eight years after Bacon had exhibited outside his homeland for the first time with samples in the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale. In 1953 the Tate had purchased Bacon’s scandal-surrounded triptych ‘Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion’ (1944). This work, now classified as epochal, with three aggressive monsters, half-human half-animal, against an orange background, was also on display in the Zurich exhibition. Eduard Hüttinger, conservator at the Kunsthaus, justified the choice of Francis Bacon in his catalog text with people’s need to be informed. In this spirit, the image of mankind should be revealed which had also played a role for Henry Moore and Graham Sutherland – both of whom had been shown in the Kunsthaus. Hüttinger attested that Bacon demonstrated an interaction with contemporary reality that showed a ‘distinctly experiential documentary quality.’ In my opinion, it is possible to perceive a certain discomfort between the lines, for Bacon’s aggressive corporeality and unashamed description of homosexuality are no less circumnavigated here than his deeply conflicted relationship to his lover, Richard Dyer. The Weltwoche tried to present Bacon as a Mannerist, granting him a certain talent but no relevance (‘It is idle to interpret Bacon and thus try to make him more acceptable to a broad public.’) The Tages-Anzeiger also judged the exhibition negatively (‘existential deprivation as a modern pose’). This period-related rejection did not prevent Bacon from being seen today as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. Precisely Bacon’s treatment of the body is seen today no longer as a mere theatrical pose but as an authentic expression of the artist who suffers in himself and because of his times. Richard Häsli, the art editor of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, did in fact recognize Bacon’s significance. Although he wrote that the exhibition was like a gallery of horrors that confronted the viewer mercilessly with uncanny visions, he nonetheless noted shrewdly: ‘The suggestive and enormous drawing power of the pictures is in any case very difficult to resist.’ According to this reviewer, there is only one other artist apart from Bacon who seems as convincing as him: Alberto Giacometti.
no exhibition catalog online
Precisely Bacon’s treatment of the body is seen today no longer as a mere theatrical pose but as an authentic expression of the artist who suffers in himself and because of his times.