Exhibitions: Francis Bacon / Henry Moore: About
About the Exhibition
In their different mediums, Moore and Bacon created unforgettable images of the human figure. The distinctive visual languages that each artist developed over more than half a century were marked by a growing simplicity and monumentality of form. Their perspectives differed: Moore clung to a belief in humanism, while Bacon espoused a post-humanist, nihilistic view of the world. In expressing their visions of humanity, the two artists had very different approaches: Bacon working from the outside in, disintegrating and dissolving form; Moore from the inside out, pushing anatomical structure to the surface.
Moore and Bacon were both born before the First World War, in which Moore was just old enough to serve in the trenches Ė an experience that had a profound, if delayed, effect on his work. Similarly, Baconís consciousness of civil unrest in Ireland, where he spent part of his childhood and youth, introduced him to the presence of violence at an early age. In the 1930s, both artists were influenced by Surrealism, but more especially by the biomorphic forms in Picassoís work of the period. In the Second World War, both men lived through the Blitz, Bacon as an ARP Warden, Moore as an official war artist. As war ended, a group exhibition opened at the Lefevre Gallery in London in which Bacon showed his Three Studies for Figures, at the Base of a Crucifixion (1944), propelling him into the limelight for the first time. It is often overlooked that, in the same exhibition, Moore showed two sculptures from the 1930s and 14 wartime drawings, some of which anticipate the theme (though not the savage imagery) of Baconís triptych. Exhibiting together in a commercial gallery was repeated twice more in the 1960s, when Moore and Bacon were both represented by Marlborough Fine Art. These joint shows, extensively reviewed in the press, gave critics a chance to compare the artistsí radical approaches to the human figure, which were seen as complementary rather than conflicting.
The two artists were united in their love of sculpture, especially that of classical antiquity, Michelangelo, and Rodin. In the early 1970s, the forms in Baconís paintings became increasingly sculptural. Bacon often talked about making sculpture, even inquiring on one occasion if he could take lessons from Moore. In recognition of this influence, works by Michelangelo and Rodin from the Ashmoleanís famous holdings will be shown as a prelude to the exhibition.
All exhibits by Henry Moore are © Henry Moore Foundation
All exhibits by Francis Bacon are © Estate of Francis Bacon