Sunday, December 17, 2017

Guari Dixit writes


We browse through people
like they are just profiles
picking a few
for a few days
and then again
when providence/analytics chooses
to bring them
to our notice.
We don't even part ways
these days.
Our lives are tapestries
of temporary, unfinished people.
Lucian Freud Portrait of Francis Bacon (Unfinished)Portrait of Francis Bacon -- Lucian Freud


  1. Graham Sutherland, a fashionable English artist notable for his work in glass, fabrics, prints. and portraits, introduced Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud in 1945 and invited them to his house for the weekend. The 23-year-old grandson of the famous psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud and the 36-year-old Bacon became fast friends. Bacon was already a rising star on the British art scene, while Freud was still little known beyond a small circle of supporters. Bacon was gay and Freud was remarkably handsome, but he was attracted to older men, and Freud was a notorious womanizer who would eventually have at least 14 children, including fashion designer Bella Freud and writers Esther and Annie Freud) by 12 women. (He was rumored to have fathered at least 40.) One of his early romances was with Lorna Garman, who at 14 had seduced and then married Ernest Wishart, the founder of the British Communist Party’s publishing house; in addition to Freud she had an affair with poet Laurie Lee; both Lee and Freud then married her nieces: Kathleen was the daughter of Jacob Epstein, the sculptor of Oscar Wilde’s tomb.) Despite their differences, they saw each other nearly every day for the next 1/4 century, meeting daily at their clubs, where they would drink, gamble, and argue. Freud’s 2nd wife, Caroline Maureen Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, acerbically remarked, “I had dinner with [Bacon] nearly every night for more or less the whole of my marriage to Lucian. We also had lunch.” (The eldest child of the 4th Marquess of Dufferin and Ava and the brewery heiress Maureen Guinness, after she and Freud divorced she married the composer Israel Citkowitz and the American poet Robert Lowell, who described her as "a mermaid who dines upon the bones of her winded lovers.") Remaining in control mattered too much to Freud for him to ever become a self-destructive drinker, but Bacon was a charismatic, compulsive drink renowned for his epic benders. Both of them were manic gamblers who detested the thought of breaking even. On one memorable day Freud lost almost everything he had, went home, drove his car to a garage, sold it, placed the proceeds on a losing horse, and then went back home to paint. In the 1960s, when his work was out of fashion and hard to sell, he remarked that gambling helped him not to care too much about money. For Bacon, gambling was akin to his passion for painting: the emphasis on risk, the willingness to stake all on a spontaneous swipe of a rag or smear of the hand, the contemplation of disaster, and the tendency to destroy as much as to create. In Freud’s words, Bacon’s work "related immediately to how he felt about life." Bacon once remarked that “you can be very optimistic and totally without hope” and that, in the end even art is useless -- “You can’t eat it.”

  2. Bacon was often profligate with his money, known to buy extravagant rounds of drinks while exclaiming,” Champagne for my real friends – real pain for my sham friends!” “Francis loved ... throwing money about to demonstrate his disdain for it,” explained Bacon, who was dependent on his largesse for years; he would regularly pull out a bundle of bills, saying, "I've got rather a lot of these, I thought you might like some of them." According to Freud, "It would make a complete difference to me for three months." He was also a masochist in search of a dominant partner, looking for “the roughest, most masculine men that he could find," and eventually he fell in love with a much younger burglar. Artistically they wanted to produce figurative paintings that were fresh, true, and exciting even in an age when abstraction was dominant. Though mostly self-taught, Bacon had a great influence on the younger Freud, liberating his style and influencing him to adopt a more spontaneous approach to painting, standing at an easel and using thicker hog’s hair brushes instead of tiny sable ones. Bacon’s canvases, characterized by the flat backgrounds and sense of motion he derived from his frequent use of photography and film stills as sources for portraiture, were unmistakable for their contorted emotion and visceral physicality. “I would like my pictures to look as if a human being had passed between them, like a snail leaving its trail of the human presence... as a snail leaves its slime,” he once said. Freud said that Bacon "talked about packing a lot of things into one single brushstroke, which amused and excited me, and I knew it was a million miles from anything I could ever do." He praised Bacon for “packing a lot of things into one single brushstroke.” In the studio they constantly criticized each other’s work; as Bacon later put it, “Who can I tear to pieces, if not my friends? … If they were not my friends, I could not do such violence to them.” In Bacon's words, "only by going too far can you go far enough," and he insisted that images were given to him ready-made, dropping into his mind, one after the other, like slides.

  3. When Freud first sat for a portrait by Bacon in 1951, he was fascinated by his hurried, spontaneous approach, which yielded a picture that bore little physical resemblance to the sitter but depicted something closer to a psychological sketch or essence. When Bacon sat for Freud the following year, however, he was amazed that it took him 3 months to complete the picture. "In those days I worked with the painting on my knees rather than standing at an easel, as I do now. I always take a long time to paint a picture, but I don't remember the Bacon portrait taking particularly long.” (Indeed, it was relatively quick work for Freud, who took 16 months to complete a portrait in 2007; the model posed 5 hours a sitting for all but 4 evenings during that time). The painting was a 7-by-5-inch oil painting on a sheet of copper that was immediately acquired by the Tate Gallery in London for its permanent collection. "I was pleased with it,” said Freud, “and he seemed to like it as well." Art critic Robert Hughes called it an “unequivocal masterpiece … that smooth, pallid pear of a face like a hand-grenade on the point of detonation, those evasive-looking eyes under their blade-like lids, had long struck me as one of the key images of modernity.” It was the only Bacon portrait that Freud ever completed, but it was stolen in 1988 from an exhibition in the same area of Berlin that he had lived in until he was 10. Freud began a 2nd portrait in 1956 but abandoned it in 1957 when Bacon stopped sitting for him; Christie’s sold it for $9.4 million (£5.4m) in 2008. Bacon painted Freud another 15 times but almost always from a series of photos by fashion photographer John Deakin, including a full-length triptych in 1966. In 2003, a small triptych of Bacon was bought for $3.8m (£2.2m, and in 2008 “Triptych, 1976” (not a portrait of Freud) sold at Sotheby's for €55.465 million ($86.28 million), the highest price paid for a postwar work of art at auction up to that time. A 1969 tryptich, “Three Studies of Lucian Freud,” was sold in 2013 at Christie’s for $142.4 million (nearly £90 million), surpassing the value of Edvard Munch's 4th version of “Scream,” but two years later Pablo Picasso’s “Les Femmes d'Alger ["Version O]" sold for more than $179.4 million and Willem de Kooning's “Interchange” for $300 million. (In 1917 “Salvator Mundi,” allegedly by Leonardo da Vinci, went for $450.3 million.) Soon after “Three Studies of Lucian Freud” was completed, Freud and Bacon fell out, reportedly over Bacon’s dislike of Freud’s wealth and snobbery. They continued to respect each other’s early work, and Freud kept one hanging on his bedroom wall for most of his life (“I’ve been looking at it for a long time now, and it doesn’t get worse. It really is extraordinary”). But neither of them admired the other’s later creations, with Freud labeling Bacon’s paintings from the 1980s “ghastly.” Nevertheless, he remarked, “Francis Bacon would say that he felt he was giving art what he thought it previously lacked. With me, it's what Yeats called the fascination with what's difficult. I'm only trying to do what I can’t do.” Bacon died of a heart attack in Madrid in 1992. His estate was valued at at £11 million. The contents of his studio were relocated to the Hugh Lane Gallery in 1998: they consisted of 570 books, 1,500 photographs, 100 slashed canvases, 1,300 leaves from torn books, 2,000 artist materials, and 70 drawings, plus letters, magazines, newspapers, and vinyl records. Freud died in London in 2011. In 2008, his “Benefits Supervisor Sleeping” sold for $33.6 million, the highest price ever at the time for a work by a living artist (At a Christie's auction in 2015 it fetched $56.2 million.)


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