Bacon, Triptych - August 1972 Francis Bacon, Triptych - August 1972, 1972, oil on canvas, 72 x 61 x 22 in. (183 x 155 x 64 cm), (Tate Modern, London) Speakers: Dr. Beth Harris, Dr. Steven Zucker For more: http://smarthistory.org/francis-bacon-triptych-august-1972.html
Bacon, Triptych - August 1972
⇐ Use this menu to view and help create subtitles for this video in many different languages. You'll probably want to hide YouTube's captions if using these subtitles.
- We're in the Tate Modern and we're looking at a Francis Bacon.
- Actually, we're looking at three Francis Bacons. This is one work of art but in three large
- painted panels. It's a triptych. In fact, that's the title.
- Normally when I think of a triptych I think of a renaissance or a medieval
- alter piece that's in three panels that're connected and therefore something that is
- spiritual, religious scenes, but here we are in the twentieth century using that format.
- But there is something dark and spiritual about these images.
- These were deeply personal paintings and the subject couldn't be closer to home for the artist.
- You know, you can tell how personal they are. On either side these figures are very, very powerfully
- depicted. That seems very psychological and personal and emotional and profound from the way
- that he's treating the human body. Tell me about what the personal aspect is.
- So, within these very spare renderings, we have the representation of George Dyer on the left.
- This is Francis Bacon's lover
- who had just recently commited suicide. In fact this painting is seen as one of
- a series of black paintings that are, in a way, a kind of chronicle of his response to this event.
- We have the artist himself as a self portrait and then in the middle we've got this composite creature.
- You can just make out two bodies in a kind of violent lovemaking.
- The reference that's usually drawn by art historians is to the English photographer Muybridge
- who invented the strobe light and was the first person to use photography to freeze animals
- and people in action. He did a famous series of wrestlers from which this is drawn.
- But of course that scientific context is completely transformed in this personal context.
- In the image of Dyer there is an immediate sense of death. There's an immediate sense of the flesh
- disintergrating. With Bacon there's a feeling of the flesh melting or being eaten away.
- In fact, in his torso that blackness that's that panel in the back seems to kind of move forward
- and take over this figure's body. And at the same time there's something very transendent about the face.
- The eyes are closed, the head tilts up slightly as though there's a way that the figure is somehow
- transcending the body as the body is being consumed.
- It's so interesting that you say melting. We can see that shadow that he seems to cast almost as
- a kind of a pool of flesh to the lower right in some terrible way.
- The pool is pink and flesh color and the body itself is being taken over by this black.
- It's also that it seems to have a kind of dimension. It seems to be literally seeping out of him.
- There's a real tension between surface and an illusion of depth to the body.
- The depicted space as opposed to the conceptual space. That alternation becomes a
- beautiful metaphor. The entire set of paintings places these figures in a kind of isolation in a
- very spare, very abstracted space. He's created this very uncomfortable, very tense kind of relationship.
- On the other hand, both panels on either side, although they are flat,
- they have some sense of dimension by the diagonal line that's in front of either one.
- And yet in the central panel which is the most abstract and, in terms of the space, right?
- Because we don't have that diagonal line, we can't locate depth at all.
- It's almost as though the middle space where those two figures are joined, perhaps where he's rejoined
- with his lover, in some space beyond the physical, we have the most abstracted space
- whereas in the two other panels, as you said, there's that conceptual transendent
- flat space that's in conflict somehow with the organic, three dimensional shapes of the figures
- But I also read something else into that diagonal on the right and left panels.
- Although these are hung on a flat wall these're hinged paintings. And they actually come out
- at an angle towards us slightly, referencing that bottom angle.
- The way a traditional triptych would unfold.
- Yes, exactly. There's tremendous energy being expended in the brushstrokes.
- I see it in the composition and I see it in the tension between the figures.
- Sexual or violent or both.
- Yeah, you have, in fact, that big broad white brush stroke.
- Yeah, that's interesting in another sense because of course Bacon, although he's working in Britain,
- is very much of the generation of the abstract expressionists.
- Bacon, quite distinctly, and very much unlike the Americans, is maintaining the primacy of the figure.
- So these are very hard edged, abstract shapes, yet one easily recalls the abstract expressionism.
- They're both responding to similar existential issues that have to do with the isolation of the figure,
- the meaning of the figure.
- These paintings are difficult to understand and to read. They take time to sort of grapple with.
- On the other hand, still having the presence of something that one can recognize,
- especially the human figure, does give us a handle.
- There's something really extraordinary about taking the human figure, painting it so beautifully
- but then attacking it, cutting into it, melting it away, making it so grotesque.
- I think that's what makes these paintings so tough.
Be specific, and indicate a time in the video:
At 5:31, how is the moon large enough to block the sun? Isn't the sun way larger?
Have something that's not a question about this content?
This discussion area is not meant for answering homework questions.
Share a tip
When naming a variable, it is okay to use most letters, but some are reserved, like 'e', which represents the value 2.7831...
Have something that's not a tip or feedback about this content?
This discussion area is not meant for answering homework questions.
Discuss the site
For general discussions about Khan Academy, visit our Reddit discussion page.
Flag inappropriate posts
Here are posts to avoid making. If you do encounter them, flag them for attention from our Guardians.
- disrespectful or offensive
- an advertisement
- low quality
- not about the video topic
- soliciting votes or seeking badges
- a homework question
- a duplicate answer
- repeatedly making the same post
- a tip or feedback in Questions
- a question in Tips & Feedback
- an answer that should be its own question
about the site