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Triptych August 1972, 1972

Francis Bacon

Oil on canvas | 198,1 x 147,3 cm 
© Tate, London 2017 © The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved. DACS/VEGAP, Málaga, 2017

Audio produced by the J. Paul Getty Museum

 

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Francis Bacon was a major influence on other School of London artists, and a close friend and mentor to them.

 

This work is known as one of his Black Triptychs – part of a series he made following the suicide of his lover, George Dyer. Curator Elena Crippa:

 

"They're very much dominated by this place of blackness. The blackness is not just in the background, but in a way also seems to enter and eat into the body of the people sitting."

 

Here, Dyer is on the left, Bacon on the right. At center, the two figures grappling may represent a sexual encounter, or the struggle between life and death. 

 

"So we have the great tension between the intensity of the action and consuming of an event, and yet they are frozen in time." (Elena Crippa)

 

The composition of the couple was inspired by a sequence of wrestlers in motion taken by 19th–century photographer Eadweard Muybridge. Much of Bacon's work derived from reproduced images: newspaper and magazine clippings, film stills, and photographs of paintings and sculptures taken from art books. 

 

"Interestingly, compared to other painters in this exhibition, certainly Auerbach and Kossoff, he never painted in the presence of the sitter, of the figure. He always worked from photography. And yet, there is a sense that this image is given back life, is turned, through the treatment of painting, into something which has this incredible sheer vitality." (Elena Crippa)