Tuesday, February 10, 2009

FRANCIS BACON: Study after Velazquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X

This terrifying image, based on Diego Velazquez's famous portrait, depicts the tortured expression of a blood-spattered Pope, imprisoned in a tubular construction resembling an unpadded throne. The background, painted in dramatic vertical strokes, cruelly blurs out the screaming figure as he sits helplessly with clenched fists. While Bacon's sources and subject matter were often based on real or traditional images - Old Master paintings, newspaper photographs, film stills or X-rays, for instance - his treatment of them is shockingly perverse.

As in this painting, he highlighted the distasteful, and sometimes the disgusting, depths of the human psyche with nightmarish intensity. Although his early works have been likened to those of the artist Graham Sutherland, Bacon progressed to develop his own particular idiom, remaining best known for his often horrific distortions of the human form.

Francis Bacon. Study after Velazquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X. 1953. oil on canvas. h153 x w118cm. h60 1/4 x w46 1/2in. Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, IA

Phaidon (2001). The Art Book (pg. 23). New York: Phaidon Press Inc.

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