The Grotesque and Francis Bacon

Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion

When visiting Tate Britain, I find myself revisiting favourite pieces and this is one that began by repelling me and now is a firm favourite.

As with all grotesques, there is something compelling about the features.  Who can deny being fascinated by Quinten Massys’ The Grotesque Woman, that hangs in The National Gallery?

Given that there is a direct link to one of my favourite films – Battleship Potemkin, (7.23)

it’s hard to think that I really did not like this at first.  As you approach it, in the gallery, you feel disconcerted.  The body shapes are so exaggerated – no one can possible move in this way.  Reading more about the work and the links to other paintings, meant that I started to gain an understanding of what Bacon was trying to achieve.  The painting is based on Aeschylus’ The Oresteia, not as a representation but as a response to his reading of this gruesome tale.

As a starting point for Bacon, it cannot be surpassed and his works are worth exploring in depth.


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