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Study for Self Portrait

BACON, Francis (1909 - 1992)

[image: Study for Self Portrait]

Date: 1963

Media: oil on canvas

Size: 165.2 x 142.6 cm

Acquired: 1978; Purchase

Accession Number: NMW A 218

Francis Bacon was the principal figurative painter in Post-War Britain. His work consists largely of portraits of friends or of himself in interiors. Conditioned by Surrealism, his uncompromising style exploits the expressive potential of portraiture and is comparatively indifferent to its representational values. Here the heavily modelled seated figure seems overwhelmed by its flatly painted surroundings.

1 comment

Kevin Jones on 15 August 2011, 14:57

Francis Bacon's work manages to rouse strong and often conflicting responses from an observer, and his work for me demonstrates the transfigurating potential of the canvas, and perhaps art in general. Here we are encountered by a lone figure against an expansive background which dwarfs him, renders him small and accentuates his isolation. His hunched posture and crossed legs add to this, however with his feet resting on the table, he seems content, at ease and relaxed. The centerpiece of the painting, the twisted features of the lone man, are striking and perhaps repulse. The chaotic mess that is his face clearly represents a turmoil, one which is only alluded to by the man's posture and his framing in this canvas. Like the first Bacon work I encountered, Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, the artist forces us to feels sympathy for characters which may repulse at first. This is why Bacon's work is jarring and is so important: he confronts us with feelings which we do not always want to acknowledge. In this instance, after the initial repulsion of the character's face, we are then invited to go beyond this and take note of the aspects of the painting which allow us to go beyond this initial strong reaction. In this sense, Bacon rouses strong visceral emotions with gruesome subject matter, only to include aspects which invite compassion and sympathy for the subject of this brilliant piece.

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