Monday, August 15, 2016

Abstract Expressionism

Royal Academy of Arts, London
24 September 2016 – 2 January 2017
Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao 
3 February –4 June 2017 

In September 2016, the Royal Academy of Arts will present the first major exhibition of Abstract Expressionism to be held in the UK in almost six decades. With over 150 paintings, sculptures and photographs from public and private collections across the world, this ambitious exhibition encompasses masterpieces by the most acclaimed American artists associated with the movement – among them, Willem de Kooning, Arshile Gorky, Phillip Guston, Franz Kline, Joan Mitchell, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Aaron Siskind, David Smith and Clyfford Still, as well as lesser-known but no less vital artists.

The selection aims to re-evaluate Abstract Expressionism, recognising that though the subject is often perceived to be unified, in reality it was a highly complex, fluid and many-sided phenomenon. Likewise, it will revise the notion of Abstract Expressionism as based solely in New York City by addressing such figures on the West Coast as Sam Francis, Mark Tobey and Minor White.

To ensure an exhibition for the 21st century, informed by new thinking, Abstract Expressionism will reexamine the two main strands into which these artists have often been grouped in the past. Namely, the so-called ‘colour-field’ painters, such as Rothko and Newman, versus the ‘gesture’ or ‘action painters’, epitomised by de Kooning and Pollock. The art of the former has been held to focus on the contemplative or sublime use of colour, whereas the latter supposedly demonstrated spontaneity and improvisation in their work through bold gestural mark-making.

Yet these categories are simplistic, belying the deeper concerns that linked many of the artists. For example, various Abstract Expressionists developed the ‘all-over composition’ by rejecting the formal concept of an image with a single or central focus. Instead, they thought in terms of energised fields, whether of vibrant colour or linear dynamism.

Concerns such as myth-making, the sublime, monochrome and an urge to stress the human presence even in abstraction also connected the artists. Similarly, their creations challenged conventional notions of scale with dimensions that ranged from minute intimacy to epic grandeur – dramatic innovations that the exhibition will highlight.

For the first time, the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver, which holds 95% of the artist’s work, will loan nine major paintings to the exhibition, establishing the artist at the very forefront of Abstract Expressionism. The paintings by Clyfford Still will be presented in a dedicated gallery within the exhibition.

Jackson Pollock’s monumental Mural, 1943 (University of Iowa Museum of Art, Iowa)

and Blue Poles, 1952 (National Gallery of Australia, Canberra © The Pollock-Krasner Foundation ARS, NY and DACS, London 2016;)
will be displayed in the same gallery for the first time, a juxtaposition unlikely to ever be repeated. 

Further highlights will include Arshile Gorky’s Water of the Flowery Mill, 1944 (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York);

Willem de Kooning’s Woman II, 1952 (The Museum of Modern Art, New York);

Franz Kline’s Vawdavitch, 1955 (Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago© ARS, NY and DACS, London 2016. Photo: Joe Ziolkowski);

Mark Rothko’s No. 15, 1957 (Private Collection © 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel &
Christopher Rothko ARS, NY and DACS, London.); 

Lee Krasner’s The Eye is the First Circle, 1960 (Courtesy Robert Miller Gallery, New York  © ARS, NY and DACS, London 2016);

and David Smith’s Hudson River Landscape, 1951 (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York).

Works by artists such as Helen Frankenthaler, Adolph Gottlieb, Hans Hofmann, Lee Krasner and Ad Reinhardt will also feature amongst others. In addition to Aaron Siskind and Minor White, the photographers will include Harry Callahan, Herbert Matter and Barbara Morgan.

Clyfford Still,
PH-950, 1950. Oil on canvas, 233.7 x 177.8 cm. Clyfford Still Museum, Denver © City
and County of Denver / DACS 2016. Photo courtesy the Clyfford Still Museum, Denver, CO;

David Smith,
Star Cage
1950. Painted and brushed steel, 114 x 130.2 x 65.4 cm. Lent by the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, University of
Minnesota, Minneapolis. The John Rood Sculpture Collection. © Estate of David Smith/DACS, London/VAGA, New
York 2016;

Dr David Anfam, co-curator of Abstract Expressionism said: “Abstract Expressionism will explore this vast phenomenon in depth and across different media, revealing both its diversity and continuities as it constantly pushed towards extremes. It will bring together some of the most iconic works from around the world in a display that is unlikely to be repeated in our lifetime.”

Abstract Expressionism has been organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London with the collaboration of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. The exhibition is curated by the independent art historian, David Anfam, alongside Edith Devaney, Contemporary Curator at the Royal Academy of Arts. Dr Anfam is the preeminent authority on Abstract Expressionism, the author of the catalogue raisonné of Mark Rothko’s paintings and Senior Consulting Curator at the Clyfford Still Museum, Denver. 

Abstract Expressionism will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue. Authors include David Anfam, author of the now-standard textbook Abstract Expressionism (1990); Susan Davidson, Senior Curator, Collections and Exhibitions, at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Edith Devaney, Curator of Contemporary Projects, Royal Academy of Arts; Jeremy Lewison, former Director of Collections at Tate; Carter Ratcliff author of Fate of a Gesture: Jackson Pollock and Postwar American Art (1996) and Christian Wurst, researcher on The Catalogue Raisonné of the Drawings of Jasper Johns (forthcoming).

COLOUR: The Art and Science of Illuminated Manuscripts

Through 30 December 2016 

Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, UK

Dazzling treasures combining gold and precious pigments-some of the finest illuminated manuscripts in the world-are on display in celebration of the Fitzwilliam Museum’s bicentenary.

The majority of the exhibits are from the Museum’s own rich collections, and those from the founding bequest of Viscount Fitzwilliam in 1816 can never leave the building and can only be seen at the Museum. For the first time, the secrets of master illuminators and the sketches hidden beneath the paintings are revealed in a major exhibition presenting new art historical and scientific research.

Spanning the 8th to the 17th centuries, the 150 manuscripts and fragments in COLOUR: The Art andScience of Illuminated Manuscripts guide us on a journey through time, stopping at leading artisticcentres of medieval and Renaissance Europe. Exhibits highlight the incredible diversity of the Fitzwilliam’s collection: including local treasures, such as the Macclesfield Psalter made in East Anglia c.1330-1340, a leaf with a self-portrait made by the Oxford illuminator William de Brailes c.1230-1250, and a medieval encyclopaedia made in Parisc.1414 for the Duke of Savoy.

Four years of cutting-edge scientific analysis and discoveries made at the Fitzwilliam have traced the creative process from the illuminators’ original ideas through their choice of pigments and painting techniques to the completed masterpieces.

 Detail: Jean Corbechon, Livre des proprietés des choses, Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, France, Paris, 1414, Master of the Mazarine Hours (act. c.1400-1415) 

Leading artists of the Middle Ages and early Renaissance did not think of art and science as opposing disciplines,” says curator, Dr Stella Panayotova, Keeper of Manuscripts and Printed Books. “Instead,drawing on diverse sources of knowledge, they conducted experiments with materials and techniques to create beautiful works that still fascinate us today.”

Merging art and science, COLOUR shares the research of MINIARE (Manuscript Illumination: Non-Invasive Analysis, Research and Expertise), an innovative project based at the Fitzwilliam. Collaborating with scholars from the University of Cambridge and international experts, the Museum’s curators,scientists and conservators have employed pioneering analytical techniques to identify the materials and methods used by illuminators.

A popular misconception is that all manuscripts were made by monks and contained religious texts, but from the 11thcentury onwards professional scribes and artists were increasingly involved in a thriving book trade, producing both religious and secular texts. Scientific examination has revealed that illuminators sometimes made use of materials associated with other media, such as egg yolk, which was traditionally used as a binder by panel painters.

Other discoveries include pigments rarely associated with manuscript illumination– such as the first ever example of smalt detected in a Venetian manuscript. Smalt, obtained by grinding blue glass, was found in a Venetian illumination book made c.1420. Evidently, the artist who painted it had close links with the famed glassmakers of Murano. This example predates by half a century the documented use of smalt in Venetian easel paintings.

Analyses of sketches lying beneath the paint surfaces, and of later additions and changes to paintings help to shed light on manuscripts and their owners. One French prayer book, made c.1430, was adapted over three generations to reflect the personal circumstances and dynastic anxieties of a succession of aristocratic women. Adam and Eve were originally shown naked in an ABC commissioned c.1505 by the French Queen,Anne of Brittany (1476-1514) for her five-year-old daughter. However, a later owner, offended by the nudity, gave Eve a veil and Adam a skirt. Infrared imaging techniques and mathematical modelling have made it possible to reconstruct the original composition without harming the manuscript.

The Museum’s treasures will be displayed alongside carefully selected loans —celebrated manuscripts from Cambridge libraries as well as other institutions in the UK and overseas. These include an 8th century Gospel Book from Corpus Christi College, the University Library’s famous Life of Edward the Confessor, magnificent Apocalypses from Trinity College and Lambeth Palace, London, and a unique model book from Göttingen University.

Catalogue entries and essays by leading experts offer readers insight into all aspects of colour from the practical application of pigments to its symbolic meaning.

 Detail:The Macclesfield Psalter


From The Arts Desk Ltd:

Book of Hours, Use of Rome, 'The Three Living and the Three Dead', Western France, c. 1490-1510All images © The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
It is sobering to think that the medieval and Renaissance paintings that fill our galleries represent just a fraction of the artistic output of that period. Panel paintings – not to mention exquisitely fragile wall paintings – have for the most part succumbed to the ravages of time, and those not destroyed by fire or flood, acts of war or vandalism, or abortive attempts at restoration have simply faded, darkened or discoloured.

Safely tucked away in libraries, illuminated manuscripts have survived in far greater numbers and, as such, form the most substantial, if most easily overlooked, legacy of medieval and Renaissance visual culture. The bland anonymity of a bound volume shelved amongst thousands was not much of a draw for the vandals and looters of the past, and served to shield the richly decorated pages from light and the elements.
7. The Macclesfield Psalter, The Anointing of David, England, East Anglia, probably Norwich, c.1330-1340

Of the world’s many illuminated manuscript collections, that of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge is reputedly the finest, the books cocooned in fenland isolation, the terms of the founder’s bequest ensuring that much of the collection remains forever inside the museum (pictured above: The Macclesfield Psalter, c.1330-1340).

In this spellbound state, the Fitzwilliam perpetuates the conditions that have kept these books safe for centuries, and the knowledge of this makes looking at them a strangely timeless experience. In galleries darkened to protect light-sensitive pigments, pages embellished with gold and silver leaf twinkle convincingly, just as they must have done when seen by candlelight...

 Jean Corbechon, Livre  des proprietés des choses, Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, France,  Paris, 1414, Master of the Mazarine Hours (act. c.1400 -1415)
In another beguiling example, an eagle marks the beginning of an eighth-century St John’s Gospel, the intricate but spare design with large areas of blank parchment typical of manuscripts made at Lindisfarne. We are told that the organic purple used to colour the eagle’s head is derived from a lichen found locally, over which yellow orpiment has been applied in dots. The contrast between the local purple, and the rare, imported yellow is evocative, and shows that for all its isolation Lindisfarne was part of an international trade network. But it also shows the technical expertise of the Lindisfarne illuminators, who knew that the organic purple base would prevent the deterioration of the orpiment, an unstable pigment that would otherwise tend to turn black....

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Icon of Modernism: Representing the Brooklyn Bridge, 1883–1950

The Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia will present the exhibition “Icon of Modernism: Representing the Brooklyn Bridge, 1883–1950,” from Sept. 17 to Dec. 11, 2016.

“Icon of Modernism” includes 42 paintings, watercolors, works on paper and photographs that all take the Brooklyn Bridge as a subject. Sarah Kate Gillespie, the museum’s curator of American art, chose works of art created between the completion of the bridge (1883) and the mid-20th century to show how artistic representations of it changed over time, even as it symbolized modernity for different generations. From American impressionism to abstract expressionism, the details of how artists presented the bridge changed, but its ability to stand for the modern era remained.

“When it opened, the Brooklyn Bridge was a phenomenon, and many commemorative objects featuring the bridge were produced. Other museums have shown the wide variety of these objects, but we decided to focus on the aesthetic portion alone,” explains Gillespie, who was tasked with organizing the exhibition when the museum hired her in 2014.

Although it may seem strange for Athens, Georgia, to host an exhibition on a structure so tied to New York City, descendants of John A. Roebling, who designed the bridge, lived in Athens for many years.

In the words of scholar Alan Trachtenberg, “the Brooklyn Bridge symbolized and enhanced modern America.” From its opening in 1883 to the present day, artists have repeatedly depicted the bridge as a stand-in for both the city of New York and for the idea of modernity as defined by that city’s urban life. Such representation was particularly true during the period this exhibition treats, when artists were engaging with new forms of visual representation such as Impressionism, Cubism and Precisionism. Artists utilized newly built structures such as the bridge, the Woolworth building and the Flatiron building in conjunction with these innovative formal techniques to underscore the contemporary nature of their artistic production. By compiling a selection of works in varying media that feature the Brooklyn Bridge from artists on both sides of the Atlantic, this exhibition examines these modes of representation and how artists grappled with a particularly American brand of modernity as both positive and negative from U.S. and European perspectives.

This show will feature approximately 40 paintings, works on paper and photographs by major American and European artists. Four works in the exhibition come from the museum’s own collection, but the remainder are on loan from museums, corporate collections and private collections across the country.Artists include Edward Steichen, Joseph Stella, George Luks, Jonas Lie, William Louis Sonntag Jr., Reginald Marsh, Louis Lozowick, John Marin, Childe Hassam, Ernest Lawson and Samuel Halpert, among others.

Jonas Lie (American, b. Norway, 1880–1940), Bridge and Tugs, 1911–15. Oil on canvas, 34½ x 41½ inches. Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia; Museum purchase with funds provided by
C. L. Morehead Jr., GMOA 2001.179.

Millard Sheets (American, 1907–1989), Brooklyn Bridge, 1933. Watercolor on paper, 15¾ x 22¾ inches. Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia; Extended loan from the collection of Jason Schoen, GMOA 2005.123E.

Joseph Stella (American, b. Italy, 1877–1946), Study for New York Interpreted: The Bridge, 1917–22.
Watercolor and pencil on paper, 24 x 18 inches. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, 85.22

Joseph Stella (American, b. Italy, 1877–1946), Study for New York Interpreted: Brooklyn Bridge, 1920–22. Watercolor and ink on paper, 13 15/16 x 9 15/16”. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, 66.4775.


Yun Gee Wheels: Industrial New York
oil on canvas
84 x 48 inches
Private Collection

O. Louis Guglielmi American, b. Egypt, 1906–1956 The Bridge 1942 Oil on canvas Canvas: 34 × 26 in. (86.4 × 66 cm) Collection Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago Gift of Mary and Earle Ludgin Collection 1981.35 Photo © MCA Chicago

Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986)
Brooklyn Bridge
charcoal and chalk on paper
39 7/8 x 29 ½ in. (101.3 x 74.9 cm.)
Executed in 1949.

Elie Hirschfeldprivate art collection


"Brooklyn Bridge," Ernest Lawson, 1917-20

An illustrated catalogue published by the museum will accompany “Icon of Modernism,” with scholarly essays by Gillespie, Janice Simon (Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Associate Professor of Art History in the Lamar Dodd School of Art, UGA), Meredith Ward and Kimberly Orcutt.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Major Series of Paintings by Spanish Master Francesco de Zurbarán

Coming to the United States for the First Time in 2017 and 2018

In conjunction with The Meadows Museum, Dallas, Texas, and the Auckland Castle Trust, County Durham, England, The Frick Collection is co-organizing an exhibition of Jacob and His Twelve Sons, an ambitious series of thirteen life-size paintings that depict the Old Testament figures. On loan from Auckland Castle, the works by the Spanish Golden Age master Francisco de Zurbarán (1598–1664) have never travelled outside Europe. 

They will be on view first in Dallas from September 17, 2017, through January 7, 2018, after which they will be shown in New York at The Frick Collection from January 31 through April 22, 2018. 

In preparation for this unprecedented U.S. tour, these important seventeenth-century Spanish paintings will undergo an in-depth technical analysis at the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth. The project includes art historical and technical research, an exhibition, and publication. This international collaboration will offer the most extensive study related to Zurbarán’s series. For its New York showing in 2018, the exhibition will be organized by The Frick Collection’s Senior Curator, Susan Grace Galassi.

About the Series of Paintings

The iconography of Zurbarán’s remarkable series—which was painted between 1640 and 1644—is derived from the Book of Genesis, Chapter 49. On his deathbed, Jacob called together his twelve sons, who would become the founders of the twelve tribes of Israel, which, essentially, represents the beginning of the Jewish faith. He bestowed on each a blessing, which foretold their destinies and those of their tribes. Jacob’s prophesies provide the basis for the manner in which the figures are represented in Zurbaran’s series. The story also has significance to Christians and Muslims.

The series is believed to have originally been destined for the New World, where in the seventeenth century it was commonly believed that indigenous inhabitants of the Americas were descended from the dispersal of the so-called “lost tribes of Israel.” The works were purchased by Richard Trevor, Bishop of Durham, at auction in 1756 from the collection of a Jewish merchant named Benjamin Mendez. Trevor redesigned Auckland Castle’s Long Dining Room to house the series, which constitutes one of the most significant public collections of Zurbarán’s work outside Spain. The upcoming restoration of Auckland Castle—which involves the temporary deinstallation of the series from the room where it has hung for more than 250 years—presents this extraordinary study and exhibition opportunity.

Comments Frick Director Ian Wardropper, “We are thrilled to collaborate with Auckland Castle and the Meadows Museum on the first North American showing of Francisco de Zurbarán’s extraordinary series Jacob and his Twelve Sons. The technical analysis to be carried out at the Kimbell will greatly enrich our understanding of the master’s methods, while other catalogue essays commissioned for the show will explore the works in historical, cultural, and religious contexts. The sheer visual power and rich narrative content of this series will draw visitors in and will be beautifully complemented by the Frick’s strong holdings in Spanish art, which include paintings by Velázquez and Murillo—Zurbarán’s Sevillian contemporaries—as well as by El Greco and Goya.”

Francisco de Zurbarán (Spanish, 1598–1664)
Jacob, ca 1640–45
Oil on canvas, 77 15/16 × 40 3/16 inches (198 × 102 cm)
Photo credit: Colin Davison, courtesy of Auckland Castle

Francisco de Zurbarán (Spanish, 1598–1664)
Reuben, ca. 1640–45
Oil on canvas, 77 15/16 × 40 3/16 inches (198 × 102 cm)
Photo credit: Colin Davison, courtesy of Auckland Castle

Francisco de Zurbarán (Spanish, 1598–1664)
Simeon, ca. 1640–45
Oil on canvas, 77 15/16 × 40 3/16 inches (198 × 102 cm)
Photo credit: Colin Davison, courtesy of Auckland Castle

Francisco de Zurbarán (Spanish, 1598–1664)
Levi, ca. 1640–45
Oil on canvas, 77 15/16 × 40 3/16 inches (198 × 102 cm)
Photo credit: Colin Davison, courtesy of Auckland Castle

Francisco de Zurbarán (Spanish, 1598–1664)
Judah, ca. 1640–45
Oil on canvas, 77 15/16 × 40 3/16 inches (198 × 102 cm)
Photo credit: Colin Davison, courtesy of Auckland Castle

Francisco de Zurbarán (Spanish, 1598–1664)
Zebulun, ca. 1640–45
Oil on canvas, 77 15/16 × 40 3/16 inches (198 × 102 cm)
Photo credit: Colin Davison, courtesy of Auckland Castle

Francisco de Zurbarán (Spanish, 1598–1664)
Issachar, ca. 1640–45
Oil on canvas, 77 15/16 × 40 3/16 inches (198 × 102 cm)
Photo credit: Colin Davison, courtesy of Auckland Castle

Francisco de Zurbarán (Spanish, 1598–1664)
Dan, ca. 1640–45
Oil on canvas, 77 15/16 × 40 3/16 inches (198 × 102 cm)
Photo credit: Colin Davison, courtesy of Auckland Castle

Francisco de Zurbarán (Spanish, 1598–1664)
Gad, ca. 1640–45
Oil on canvas, 77 15/16 × 40 3/16 inches (198 × 102 cm)
Photo credit: Colin Davison, courtesy of Auckland Castle

Francisco de Zurbarán (Spanish, 1598–1664)
Asher, ca. 1640–45
Oil on canvas, 77 15/16 × 40 3/16 inches (198 × 102 cm)
Photo credit: Colin Davison, courtesy of Auckland Castle

Francisco de Zurbarán
(Spanish, 1598–1664)
Naphtali, ca. 1640–45
Oil on canvas, 77 15/16 × 40 3/16 inches (198 × 102 cm)
Photo credit: Colin Davison, courtesy of Auckland Castle

Francisco de Zurbarán (Spanish, 1598–1664)
Joseph, ca. 1640–45
Oil on canvas, 77 15/16 × 40 3/
16 inches (198 × 102 cm)
Photo credit: Colin Davison, courtesy of Auckland Castle

Francis Bacon, Monaco and French Culture

The Grimaldi Forum, Monaco presents a major exhibition, Francis Bacon, Monaco and French Culture from 2 July to 4 September 2016. The exhibition, curated by Martin Harrison, editor of the Francis Bacon Catalogue Raisonné, takes place with the support of The Estate of Francis Bacon in London, and the Francis Bacon MB Art Foundation based in Monaco. 

Francis Bacon’s cultural orientation was, to an extraordinary degree, towards France, and The Grimaldi Forum exhibition explores the artist’s work from this unique angle: the important influence of French art and culture on Bacon’s work, and his years in Monaco that had a crucial impact on his oeuvre. Major triptychs as well as famous and less well-known paintings are displayed thematically and show direct and indirect relationships to France and Monaco. One of the features of this exhibition is to cross-reference major works of the masters who inspired the artist. 

The exhibition brings together sixty-six paintings by Bacon himself alongside works by leading artists who inspired him, including Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso, Giacometti, Rodin, Léger and Soutine. Major loans from public collections around the world include Head VI (1949) from the Arts Council England,  the extraordinary Fragment of a Crucifixion (1950,Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven), 


and Pope I (1951, Aberdeen Art Gallery). 

There are also a number of works, many rarely if ever displayed, from private collections, including
the triptych, Studies of the Human Body (1970), Turning Figure (1962), and Portrait of a Man Walking Down Steps (1972), Bacon’s most poignant tribute to George Dyer, painted shortly after his death. 

The exhibition includes for the first time Francis Bacon’s first work, Watercolour (1929, Francis Bacon MB Art Foundation) and Bacon’s last painting, completed in 1991, the never- before-exhibited  

Study of a Bull (1991, Private Collection). 

Tate dedicated two retrospectives to the artist during his lifetime, in 1962 and 1985, but Francis Bacon regarded the retrospective at the Grand Palais in 1971 as the most significant of his career. Only Picasso had the similar honour of a retrospective held during his lifetime at the Grand Palais, in 1966. 

A book accompanying the exhibition, Francis Bacon: France and Monaco, edited by Martin Harrison, is co-published by Albin Michel and The Francis Bacon MB Art Foundation, in partnership with HENI Publishing for non-francophone countries, on 30 June 2016.


The exhibition will travel to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao from 30 September 2016 to 8 January 2017, focusing on the artist’s relationship with Spain. 


Francis Bacon (born in Dublin in 1909, died in Madrid in 1992, lived in London, Paris and Monaco) was immediately taken with French culture when he made his first visit to Paris in his teens. In the spring of 1927, aged 17, he spent time in Chantilly and in that same year, when visiting an exhibition at the Paul Rosenberg Gallery, he encountered Picasso’s works which inspired him to take up painting. 

Later, after selling Painting 1946 to Erica Brausen, who was to become his art dealer two years later, Bacon left London for the Principality of Monaco in July 1946, and lived there until the early fifties. It was in Monaco that he painted his first “pope”, mainly inspired by Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X, there that he started to paint on the reverse of his canvas, and there that he began to concentrate his work on the human form. It was a decisive stage in his career, which led him to being recognised as one of the most enigmatic post-war figurative artists. 

Bacon returned frequently throughout his life to Monaco and the South of France. In the fifties and the sixties he often came with his circle of friends from London’s Soho and from Wivenhoe. For the following twenty years he could often be seen with his Parisian friends and with John Edwards, both his muse and his companion. In 1975 he took a studio apartment in Paris, which he kept until 1987. There he executed numerous portraits of his Parisian friends, notably Michel Leiris and Jacques Dupin. 

Francis Bacon
Watercolour, 1929
Pencil, black ink, watercolour and gouache
21 x 13 cm
MB Art Collection
© The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved, DACS

Francis Bacon
Head VI, 1949
Oil on canvas
93,2 x 76,5 cm
Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London

© The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved, DACS 2016.

Francis Bacon
Fragment of a Crucifixion, 1950
Oil and cotton wool on canvas
158,4 x 127,4 cm
Collection Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven
© The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved, DACS 2016

Francis Bacon
Study of a Dog, 1952
Oil on canvas
198,1 x 137,2 cm Presented by Eric Hall 1952 Tate, London
© Tate, London 2016

Francis Bacon
Study for a Portrait of Van Gogh, 1957
Oil on canvas
198,1 x 142,2 cm
Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London
© The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved, DACS 2016.

Francis Bacon
Turning Figure, 1962
Oil on canvas
198 x 144,5 cm
Private Collection
© The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved, DACS 2016. 

 Francis Bacon
Studies of the Human Body, 1970
Oil on canvas
198 x 147,5 cm Private Collection, Courtesy Ordovas

© The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved, DACS 2016

Francis Bacon
Portrait of a Man Walking Down Steps, 1972
Oil on canvas
198 x 147,5 cm
Private Collection
© The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved, DACS 2016

Francis Bacon
Portrait of Michel Leiris, 1976
Huile sur toile. 35,5 x 30,5 cm
Donation Louise et Michel Leiris, 1984 Centre Pompidou, Paris - Musée national d'art moderne/Centre de création industrielle
© The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved, DACS 2016.
Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd 

Francis Bacon
Study of a Bull, 1991

Oil on canvas
198 x 147,5 cm Private Collection

© The Estate of Francis Bacon.
All rights reserved, DACS 2016.
Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd

First Exhibition Devoted to Valentin de Boulogne, the Greatest French Follower of Caravaggio

Exhibition Dates:
October 7, 2016–January 16, 2017
Exhibition Location:   
The Met Fifth Avenue

The greatest French follower of Caravaggio (1571–1610), Valentin de Boulogne (1591–1632) was also one of the outstanding artists in 17th-century Europe. In the years following Caravaggio's death, he emerged as one of the most original protagonists of the new, naturalistic painting. Valentin de Boulogne: Beyond Caravaggio will be the first monographic exhibition devoted to this artist who is little known because his career was short-lived—he died at age 41—and his works are so rare. Around 60 paintings by Valentin survive, and this exhibition will bring together 45 of them, with works coming from Rome, Vienna, Munich, Madrid, London, and Paris. Exceptionally, the Musée du Louvre, which possesses the most important and extensive body of Valentin's works, will lend all of its paintings by the artist.

The exhibition is organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Musée du Louvre.

Not since 1973, when an exhibition of the French followers of Caravaggio was held at the French Academy in Rome and at the Grand Palais in Paris, has there been an attempt to bring the achievements of this extraordinary painter before a large public. Therefore, this exhibition will be a landmark event not only for scholars and students, but also for art lovers, who will discover one of the giants of French painting. Although he is not well known to the general public, Valentin has long been admired by those with a passion for Caravaggesque painting. His work was a reference point for the great realists of the 19th century, from Courbet to Manet, and his startlingly vibrant staging of dramatic events and the deep humanity of his figures, who seem touched by a pervasive melancholy, make his work unforgettable.

In the early years of the 17th century, Rome was the cultural capital of Europe, where aspiring artists from France, Spain, Germany, and the Lowlands flocked to experience the great monuments of the Roman past as well as the masterpieces of Raphael and Michelangelo. But once there it was the novel art of Caravaggio—one of the great revolutionaries of Western art—that attracted them. Caravaggio famously rejected the grand tradition that looked to the past, espousing instead a new kind of art based on painting directly from the posed model observed under a raking light that enhanced its dramatic impact—a lighting effect that was emulated by filmmakers in the 1930s.

Caravaggio's revolution redrafted the artistic landscape of Europe and when he suddenly died in 1610 of malaria, the void he left was filled by two painters of genius. One was the famous Spaniard Jusepe de Ribera (1591–1652) who in 1616 moved from Rome to Naples, where he spent the rest of his life; the other was the Frenchman Valentin de Boulogne who spent the whole of his short career in Rome.

There is scant information about Valentin's life before he arrived in Italy, although it is known that he was born on January 3, 1591, not far from Paris, in the small town of Coulommiers. He was the son of a painter and glazier and he had a brother, 10 years his junior, who was also a painter. It is likely that Valentin first apprenticed with his father, but nothing is known about his career before he arrived in Rome, where he is documented by 1614.

Like so many young artists from the north of Europe and Spain, Valentin arrived in Rome with little training but a strong desire to make a name for himself. Caravaggio's practice of painting directly from the model, eliminating the intervening training that had been thought essential to the artist, opened a new dynamic for aspiring artists, as did the emergence of the art market. Artists no longer necessarily required the connections provided by a well-established master. And their realistic vocabulary was no longer aimed only at erudite connoisseurs—it appealed to the masses, thereby challenging the authority of Antiquity, Raphael, and Michelangelo. It also introduced an existential subtext to conventional images, such as Valentin's Samson with the Jawbone of an Ass (Cleveland Museum of Art). Painted for Cardinal Francesco Barberini, the nephew of Pope Urban VIII, the picture incorporates a self-portrait of the artist.

Valentin's most frequent subjects are scenes of merriment, with music-making, drinking, and fortune-telling—themes associated with Caravaggesque painting, but treated in a hauntingly reflective fashion, as though meditations on the transience of the pleasures of life. But Valentin's greatest achievements were in the field of dramatic narratives and among the exhibition's highlights are the monumental  

Allegory of Italy (Finnish Institute, Rome), perhaps the most extreme statement of naturalism before Courbet;

and the prestigious altarpiece commissioned from Valentin for Saint Peter's Martyrdom of Saints Processus and Martinian (Pinacoteca Vaticana, Rome). Much admired by contemporaries, the latter must have been studied by Velázquez, who visited Rome shortly after the painting was installed.

In The Judgment of Solomon (Musée du Louvre), Valentin presents the Biblical story of the young Solomon, deciding the fate of a baby claimed by two women, as an unfolding drama, with the viewer as active participant.

Valentin's life was cut short when, following a night of tavern-hopping, he contracted a fatal fever.

Also from the Louvre:

A Concert [c.1628]

Musician and Drinkers

The concert at the bas-relief (Le Concert au bas-relief).


The Fortune Teller

c. 1628
Oil on canvas, 125 x 175 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris




[Musée du Louvre, Paris - Oil on canvas, 175 x 216 cm]


[Musée du Louvre, Paris - Oil on canvas, 175 x 216 cm]