|Type||Oil on linen|
|Dimensions||198 cm × 132 cm (78 in × 52 in)|
|Location||Museum of Modern Art|
Painting (1946) is an oil-on-linen painting by the Irish-born artist Francis Bacon. It was originally to depict a chimpanzee in long grass (parts of which may be still visible); Bacon then attempted to paint a bird of prey landing in a field. Bacon described the work as his most unconscious, the figurations forming without his intention. In an interview with David Sylvester in 1962, Bacon recalls:
- FB:"Well, one of the pictures I did in 1946, which was the thing that's in the Museum of Modern Art ..."
- DS:"The butcher-shop picture."
- FB:"Yes. It came to me as an accident. I was attempting to make a bird alighting on a field. And it may have been bound up in some way with the three forms that had gone before, but suddenly the line that I had drawn suggested something totally different and out of this suggestion arose this picture. I had no intention to do this picture; I never thought of it in that way. It was like one continuous accident mounting on top of another."
The previous year Poussin's Adoration of the Golden Calf had been taken into the National Gallery collection and Bacon almost certainly had this painting at the back of his mind in respect of the garlands, the calf (now slaughtered) and the tented Israelite encampment, now transmuted into an umbrella.
Graham Sutherland saw Painting (1946) in the Cromwell Place studio, and urged his dealer, Erica Brausen, then of the Redfern gallery, to go to see the painting and to buy it. Brausen wrote to Bacon several times, and visited his studio in early autumn 1946, promptly buying the work for £200. (It was shown in several group showings, including the British section of Exposition internationale d'arte moderne (18 November – 28 December 1946) at the Musée National d'Art Moderne, for which Bacon travelled to Paris.)
Within a fortnight of the sale of Painting (1946) to the Hanover gallery, Bacon had used the proceeds to decamp from London to Monte Carlo. After staying at a succession of hotels and flats, including the Hôtel de Ré, Bacon settled in a large villa, La Frontalière, in the hills above the town. Eric Hall and Nanny Lightfoot would come to stay. Bacon spent much of the next few years in Monte Carlo, apart from short visits to London. From Monte Carlo, Bacon wrote to Graham Sutherland and Erica Brausen. His letters to Erica Brausen show that he did paint there, but no paintings are known to survive.
In 1948, Painting (1946) sold to Alfred Barr for the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Bacon wrote to Sutherland asking that he apply fixative to the patches of pastel on Painting (1946) before it was shipped to New York. Painting (1946) is now too fragile to be moved from the museum for exhibition elsewhere.
In 1991 pioneering metalcore band Integrity used Painting (1946) as the album art for their debut LP, Those Who Fear Tomorrow
In 2007 Artist Damien Hirst, a large fan of Bacon's, modeled his vitrine installation "School: The Archaeology of Lost Desires, Comprehending Infinity and the Search for Knowledge" after Painting (1946), featuring sides of beef, birds, a chair and an umbrella all within the vitrine.
Notes and citations
- "La distinction aujourd'hui classique entre conscient et inconscient est très féconde, me semble-t-il. Elle ne recouvre pas tout à fait ce à quoi je pense par rapport à la peinture, mais elle a l'avantage de ne pas recourir à une explication métaphysique pour parler de ce qui échappe à la compréhension logique des choses. L'inconnu n'est pas renvoyé du côté de la mystique ou de quelque chose comme ça. Et c'est très important pour moi, parce que j'ai horreur de toute explication de cet ordre." ("The classic distinction today between the conscious and the unconscious is a useful one I think. It doesn't quite cover what I think about painting, but it has the advantage of not having to resort to a metaphysical explanation to talk about what cannot be explained in rational terms. The unknown is not relegated to the realm of the mystical or something similar. And that's very important to me because I loathe all explanations of that sort.") – Francis Bacon Entretiens avec Michel Archimbaud, 1992 (Francis Bacon in conversation with Michel Archimbaud)
- Excerpt from the October 1962 interview with David Sylvester for the BBC.
- Peppiatt, Michael. "Francis Bacon in the 1950s". Yale University Press, 2006. 143. ISBN 0-300-12192-X