Study after Velazquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X, 1953
Most Sundays, Geoffrey and I like to have what we call an Urban Adventure. The plan for today called for G and I to head uptown to the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Fifth Avenue, with the intention of checking out their latest acquisition, The Torment of St Anthony – the first painting by the great Michelangelo. But while we were stumbling through the dozens upon a dozens of galleries clotted with Renaissance artworks, looking desperately among them for the one 12-inch square canvas that we’d come to gaze upon, we made an intentional detour through a dense retrospective of the paintings of Francis Bacon (1909 – 1992), the famous Irish-born English artist.
Being a bit of an art nerd, I had heard the name Francis Bacon many times before, but was admittedly somehow unfamiliar with this style of his work. So, I was somewhat shocked to discover that Bacon painted a lot of pretty fucked-up-looking stuff that quite frankly reminded me of the paintings of iconic Horror novelist Clive Barker. I think this descriptive entry from the Wikipedia sums it up pretty well: “Bacon’s artwork is known for its bold, austere, homoerotic and often violent or nightmarish imagery, which typically shows room-bound masculine figures isolated in glass or steel geometrical cages set against flat, nondescript backgrounds.” For example, I repeatedly referred to the painting above as “Horror Pope.” Yeah, hardcore. Geoffrey and I really appreciated his edginess, but I can see how his stuff wouldn’t necessarily fall within the taste of the mainstream. Nevertheless, if you are going to be at the Met anyway, (and you really should go, if only to check out the awesome “Model As Muse” exhibit, which was my favorite) try to find the Bacon exhibit. It’s about five or six galleries before you get to the Michelangelo. And yes, The Torment of St. Anthony alone was worth the trip.