‘When I was young it wasn’t the dealers that helped me. I had friends who encouraged me. When you’re young you can always find people who are interested in you and
what you’re doing.’
Francis Bacon’s Painting 1946 is currently on display at The Museum of Modern Art in New York, on Floor 5, Collection Galleries. Created in the aftermath of the Second World War, Painting 1946 is an important piece in Bacon’s career. The painting so impressed artist Graham Sutherland, a close friend of Bacon’s at the time, that he insisted dealer and artist Erica Brausen contact Bacon immediately. Brausen bought the work for £200 and it was displayed in several group exhibitions, including a show of 20th century art at the Museé d’Art Moderne, Paris in November 1946. The work was then acquired by MoMA on 27 October 1948.
The painting marks a departure from the linear style seen in earlier works and instead a more malerisch approach of sketchy, dry brushstrokes are used. A further development in style can be seen with the thick, heavy impasto of Head II, 1949.
In the Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné (2016), Martin Harrison FSA, says of the piece:
‘Painting 1946 demonstrates Bacon’s progress in forging a personal technical vocabulary. A transitional work in this respect, the background was painted with a pastel colour that quickly proved to be unstable in its admixture with the oil pigments. The application of paint - he appears mainly to have been using brushes at this stage, with little recourse to fabric, or smeared paint - ranges from the free marks of the curtain and Turkey carpet to the almost academic finesse of the umbrella. In certain passages, for example the abstract (‘involuntary’) marks that describe the lower half of the man’s body, the urgency to express his ideas has resulted in a lack of resolution.’
Bacon claimed that Painting 1946 began as an attempt to capture a bird alighting on a field but the piece instead features familiar darker motifs, seen in some of the artists other works. Figure Study II 1945 - 1946 for example, features a black umbrella shrouding a figure, while the carcass in the background of the piece is reminiscent of Crucifixion, 1933.
Excerpts: Martin Harrison, FSA. 46-03 Painting 1946, Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné (2016), Volume II, Pages 170-173. If you’d like to order a copy of the ‘Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné’ please visit Heni Publishing’s website.
*Please note all details including names, dates and featured works, opening days/hours are subject to change. Ahead of a visiting, we recommend contacting MoMA for all confirmation regarding the display.
Word Ref: Michel Archimbaud, Francis Bacon In Conversation with Michel Archimbaud, (London/New York: Phaidon Press, 2010), p. 21.