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Francis Bacon A Terrible Beauty

The centennial year of Francis Baconís birth has been good for both his memory and his art.  In a May to August showing at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York viewers were presented with an opportunity  to intimately view works by Bacon.   Now heís receiving the kind of treatment thatís reserved for all favorite sons: a prominent recognition in his home town.  

The exhibition, Francis Bacon: A Terrible Beauty is curated by Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane to celebrate Bacon's centenary and the immense archive of Francis Bacon's studio material.  The exhibition opened on the 28th October 2009, exactly 100 years since Baconís birth at 63 Lower Baggot Street.   This is The Hugh Lane's first major showing of the archival material since receiving the Studio in 1998 and Dublin in an exhibit that showcases this extraordinary resource alongside selected paintings dating from 1944 to 1989, many of which have been rarely exhibited.

Francis Bacon's Studio was originally located in 7 Reece Mews, London. The donation of the Studio to Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane was made by Bacon's heir, John Edwards and supported by Brian Clarke, executor of the artist's Estate. The Hugh Lane team archaeologically retrieved over 7000 items from the studio and catalogued them before removing the material along with the architectural features to Dublin.

The Studio was reconstructed in the Gallery and opened to the public in 2001. The removal and relocation of Bacon's Studio and the subsequent compilation of the database of the archival material is acknowledged as one of the most pioneering and successful realizations of preserving and displaying an artist's studio.

Study for a portrait of John Edwards by Francis Bacon 1989
© 2009 The Estate of Francis Bacon

The focus of Francis Bacon: A Terrible Beauty is on new material from the archive exhibited for the first time. This material illuminates the methods and motives behind the work of one of the principal artists of the 20th century and offers us a new understanding of Bacon's work and artistic practice.

The archive provides a lexicon for the interpretation of Francis Bacon's paintings and no future scholarship is valid without consulting this great resource. Francis Bacon: A Terrible Beauty provides a unique opportunity to reappraise the artist's oeuvre through the selected paintings supported by previously unseen material from the archive.

A full colour illustrated catalogue published by Steidl accompanies this exhibition with texts by Rebecca Daniels, Barbara Dawson, Marcel Finke, Martin Harrison, Jessica O'Donnell, Joanna Shepard and Logan Sisley.

The exhibition:  Francis Bacon A Terrible Beauty continues to March 7, 2010

The venue: Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane, Parnell Square, Dublin 1, Ireland

Francis Bacon was born in Dublin on October 28th, 1909. Acknowledged as one of the greatest artists of the 20th century, he grew up in County Kildare and left to work and live in London when he was just sixteen.   From 1961 until his death in 1992, 7 Reece Mews in South Kensington, London was the centre of Bacon's working life. The Studio measured 4 x 8 metres (12' x 27').

After Bacon's death his sole heir John Edwards wanted the Studio to be preserved and put on public view. He donated the Studio to Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane in 1998. A team of four archaeologists was put in place to meticulously record and move every one of 7,500 items found in the Studio. The final database is the most comprehensive documentary archive of any artist living or dead.

The discovery of over seventy drawings disputes the idea that Bacon never produced preparatory drawings. Drawings were found on pages torn from books, magazines and loose paper. From a conservation point of view these drawings represented a challenge as while extremely fragile their folds and crumples had been made quite deliberately by Bacon himself.

There were over 100 destroyed canvases found in the Studio. The destroyed painting Study for Men with a Microphone along with the two pieces cut from the original canvas is one of the most important and dates from 1946. A black and white illustration of the painting (before it was destroyed) appears in John Rothenstein and Ronald Alley's 1964 catalogue raisonne.

Over 1500 photographs were found in the Studio. Deliberately torn, creased and folded photographs by John Deakin, Peter Beard, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Peter Stark and many others provide a fascinating insight into the bohemian milieu in which Bacon operated and his methodology of manipulating his source materials.

The photography of John Deakin played a crucial role in Bacon's portraiture from the early 1960s onwards. The painter possessed more than three hundred of his photographs, their visual impact is arguably enhanced by their distressed, often fragmentary state. They feature Bacon's lovers Peter Lacy and George Dyer, as well as his friends, Lucian Freud, Isabel Rawsthorne, Henrietta Moraes and Muriel Belcher. Most were taken from the late1950s to early 1960s but there are also images of Bacon himself dating to as early as 1952.

The Gallery
It seems that some clarification on this venue's name might be helpful.  P
reviously it was called the "Municipal Gallery of Modern Art".  It has subsequently been renamed the "Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane".

However, it frequently is  known simply as "The Hugh Lane".

In January 1908, The Municipal Gallery of Modern Art opened in temporary premises in Harcourt Street, Dublin.  On a note of further historical significance, it was the first known public gallery of modern art in the world. The motivating force in the creation of this gallery was a prominent art dealer widely considered  as a gifted connoisseur of fine arts, Hugh Lane. 

Born in County Cork on November 9, 1875, Lane was raised in Cornwall, England. His career began as an apprentice painting restorer.  However, he eventually became a highly successful London art dealer who amassed a private collection of considerable merit. 

Lane had hoped that Dublin Corporation would run the fledgling gallery, but the corporation was unsure of its financial viability and thus for a time the gallery was dependant upon private contributions for its funding.  Regrettably, Lane did not live to see his gallery permanently situated.    He died in 1915, a casualty of war in the sinking of the RMS Lusitania, off the west coast of Cork.

Since relocated to Parnell Street, the museum has established a permanent collection and hosts exhibitions primarily of contemporary Irish artists.  The contents of Francis Bacon's studio (7500 items) were catalogued and then, along with the studio itself, were removed from the London location and reconstructed in the Dublin gallery in 2001.

Today, the gallery includes an extension, featuring a dedicated Sean Scully room. Also, the entire collection bequeathed by Hugh Lane, is displayed  there alternatively with the National Gallery London.

Links for further information . . .

 The "Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane" . . .

  Hugh Lane