Francis Bacon - In Memory of George Dyer

Francis Bacon: “In Memory of George Dyer”, 1971.
©Heirs of Francis Bacon

‘Francis Bacon: Late Paintings’ at MFAH

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, presents ‘Francis Bacon: Late Paintings’. Organized by the Centre Pompidou, where it debuted in September 2019, this is the first in-depth museum consideration of Bacon’s production in his final decades. February 23 through May 25, 2020.

Source: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Francis Bacon (1909–1992) was a leading figure in 20th-century British art: celebrated, scandalous, and profoundly influential. In 1971, he was at a turning point in his career as he prepared for a major retrospective mounted at the Grand Palais in Paris. The paintings that led up to this exhibition are among those featured in the Houston presentation, including “Portrait of George Dyer in a Mirror”, 1968, and “Triptych, 1970”.

bethechangecpd.comOn October 24, 1971—two days before the opening of Bacon’s Grand Palais retrospective—Georges Dyer, his companion of many years, died by suicide in a Paris hotel. Over the decade that followed, Bacon repeatedly paid tribute to Dyer in an ongoing series of paintings. The exhibition pairs two of his most powerful triptychs dedicated to Dyer, the harrowing “In Memory of George Dyer”, 1971, and “Triptych August 1972”, 1972. Introducing one of the exhibition’s central themes, the immediacy of experience and the role of memory, these paintings also touch on Bacon’s literary sources, which ranged from the Greek tragedies of Aeschylus to the contemporary writings of T. S. Eliot and Jean-Paul Sartre.

In Bacon’s final paintings, figures become all the more vulnerable, nearly consumed by the empty fields of raw canvas or flat color that surround them. “Francis Bacon: Late Paintings” includes his final triptych of 1991, as well as Study of a Bull, 1991, his last completed painting. Unseen for more than two decades, it resurfaced a few years ago from a private London collection and has been shown only once prior to this exhibition. In ill health and near the end of his life, Bacon unflinchingly faced mortality. “Dust seems to be eternal . . . the one thing that lasts forever,” he stated. “We all return to dust,” a sentiment underscored by the dust of his studio floor that he rubbed into this canvas.

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