LONDON – A new exhibition opening in London explores how Francis Bacon drew on photographs of animals, such as the scream of a chimpanzee, for his sometimes unsettling depictions of people.
Irish-born Bacon was one of the most acclaimed artists of the 20th century, known for his idiosyncratic approach to the human figure.
The exhibition, at the Royal Academy of Arts, aims to show how he believed the line between humans and animals and their forms and instincts could be blurred.
“He really fundamentally believed that beneath the very thin veneer of civilisation, we are ultimately all animals, we are part of the animal kingdom,” Royal Academy of Arts director of exhibitions, Andrea Tarsia, told Reuters.
Bacon, who died in 1992 aged 82, was the son of a horse breeder who made wildlife trips to South Africa and studied animal photography for inspiration.
“He is very well known for his screaming figures of heads tilted back with open mouths and this kind of silent, powerful scream that seems to emanate from his paintings, that is directly derived from a photograph of a chimpanzee that he used as source material,” Tarsia said.
The exhibition spans Bacon’s 50-year career, featuring early canvases as well as his final work, alongside a trio of bullfight paintings which will be exhibited together for the first time.
“Francis Bacon: Man and Beast” runs from Jan. 29 to April 17.