Type Francis-Bacon painting into google images and you’re introduced to an austere, drab battleship gray or flesh-colored world of deformed human figures, limbs askew like broken marionettes, their heads grossly distorted or blemished. In Bacon’s vision, human lines are twisted into beautiful yet disturbing shapes. There is no chaos here; the draftsmanship is meticulously planned.
Bacon’s interest in motion echoes the preoccupations of the Futurists, but Bacon is obviously up to something more than portraying physical movement. It is as if an artist took the photographic studies of Muybridge as a starting point, but did not feel constrained by the bounds of physical possibility. Oil as a medium suggests dimensions that are not accessible by flesh. Bacon took flesh beyond the limits of physical possibility, to a world limited only by the paints, the canvas, and the imagination.
Francis Bacon was born in 1909, and his life and career spanned most of the twentieth century. His work was always striking and new, the figures crippled but violently alive and full of motion. The centenary year approaches so the retrospectives have begun–the first at Tate Britain on Millbank, close to Pimlico tube station, from September 11th, 2008 to January 4th, 2009. It’s worth popping along during the week if you can, to miss the crowds.