Francis Bacon and the Masters is a groundbreaking exhibition bringing together over twenty-five major works by Francis Bacon with old and modern masters, including Velázquez, Rembrandt, Titian, Michelangelo, Rodin, Van Gogh, Picasso and Matisse. Francis Bacon and the Masters forms the culmination of the celebrations marking the 250th anniversary of the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg and will coincide with the UK/Russia Year of Culture in the UK.
The previous exhibition at The Hermitage Museum brought to an end its 250th anniversary celebrations, and showed the artist’s work from UK collections alongside objects from the Hermitage that inspired him. The exhibition included an equally impressive twenty-five canvases, that were on show in St. Petersburg. The paintings were part of an exhibition ‘Francis Bacon and the Art of the Past’ that was on display at the newly reconstructed General Staff building.
Now masterpieces on loan from the Hermitage include those by artists such as Velázquez, Rembrandt, Titian, Michelangelo, Rodin, Van Gogh, Picasso, Cézanne, Gauguin and Matisse come together for the second part of this exhibition. Many of these works have never before been shown in the UK. The exhibition again explores Bacon’s obsession with the art of the past, examining how he consistently drew on the work of masters such as Michelangelo, Velázquez and Degas, as well as to the stylised forms of ancient Greek and Roman works. The exhibition will continue the idea of comparing Bacon’s work with works of historical note. However, this time the concept will be displayed differently because some older masterpieces cannot be removed from the Hermitage Museum.
Bacon’s earliest painting at the exhibition is ‘Crucifixion’, which he finished in 1930. It is one of the few surviving works of his early period; as in a fit of self-criticism, the artist later destroyed the majority of his paintings from that period. Most of the Hermitage masterpieces displayed alongside to Bacon’s paintings in the previous exhibition were familiar to the artist during his lifetime, even if he never saw them in the flesh. Instead Bacon often studied art history through books, and photographs of works – often daubed in paint, and strewn around the artist’s Reece Mews studio, many of these materials were juxtaposed with Bacon’s work, giving the viewer a sense of the artist’s practice, which will hopefully be re-created for the show at the Sainsbury.
Working alongside colleagues from the Sainsbury Centre and State Hermitage Museum, Francis Bacon and the Masters is curated by Dr Thierry Morel, whose previous exhibition Houghton Revisited attracted wide international acclaim. A fully illustrated catalogue in English and Russian, with contributions from Dr Margarita Cappock, Calvin Winner, Amanda Geitner, Professor Paul Joannides and Dr Thierry Morel will accompany the exhibition.
Francis Bacon And The Masters – Sainsbury Centre For Visual Arts – from 18 April to 26 July 2015