Thursday, 19 September 2013

Francis Bacon / Henry Moore - Ashmolean Museum

Francis Bacon, Study for a Portrait of Pope Innocent X, 1965
Francis Bacon / Henry Moore: Flesh and Bone is at the Ashmolean Museum until 19 January 2014.
Henry Moore, sculptor, (1898-1986) and Francis Bacon, painter, (1905-1992) were contemporaries and, arguably, through the 1950s and 60s the most successful and famous British artists of their generation. They were however very different men, as neatly described by Simon Wilson in the RA Magazine:
Henry Moore: dour, taciturn, down-to-earth, sober Yorkshireman and countryman, emphatically heterosexual, notably uxorious, draughtsman of genius, sculptor to his fingertips. His friend the poet Stephen Spender once noted how ‘normal as a man’ Moore was. Francis Bacon: garrulous, wasp-witted, champagne swilling metropolitan dandy, promiscuous masochistic homosexual with a taste for rough trade, painter of genius who claimed never to make drawings. Moore, sculptor of massively calm monuments of the earth mother in repose; Bacon, painter of grotesquely twisted humanity, writhing agonising in the void.
Though both artists can be seen to have drawn influence from Picasso the moods of their work seem polar opposites: in Alastair Smart's words, A case of existential howls and universal serenity. Nevertheless, this exhibition sets out to find common ground between the two artists: they were both, after all, obsessively preoccupied with the body. Rachel Cooke quotes Myfanwy Piper's perceptive observation in 1963, that Moore 'never forgets… the strength of the bone beneath the flesh' while Bacon 'never forgets that flesh is meat'.

An interesting exhibition. Read reviews by Rachel Cooke, Alastair Smart, Simon Wilson.
Henry Moore, King and Queen, 1952-3
Francis Bacon, Second Version of Triptych, 1944
Henry Moore, Reclining Figure: Festival, 1951
Francis Bacon, Lying Figure in a Mirror, 1971
Henry Moore, Animal Head, 1951
Francis Bacon, Head II, 1949

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