Picasso & Modern British Art

  • 4th August − 4th November 2012 | Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art | £10 (£7)

Francis Bacon

Bacon’s landmark work Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion was influenced, he said, ‘by those Picasso things which were done at the end of the twenties’. Bacon’s recollections of Picasso’s work is inconsistent but, from the concrete evidence of his work, it appears that it was only around 1933 that Bacon started to produce art that showed the influence of Picasso. By that stage, he could have seen a range of paintings without leaving London, most importantly in the exhibition Thirty Years of Pablo Picasso held in 1931. Before that, works such had been reproduced in the journal Cahiers d’Art, available in London. This would fit with Bacon’s preference to take in imagery through photographic reproduction rather than from direct encounter.

From the late 1950s Bacon developed his signature style of the human figure which he distorted to create character and movement but also to express psychological elements. The most obvious model for this new form of figurative painting was Picasso, whom Bacon saw as nearer ‘to what I feel about the psyche of our time’ than any other artist. In the work of Picasso, Bacon perceived what he called ‘the brutality of fact’, a phrase that came commonly to be used to describe his own art.

Next: Graham Sutherland