Gagosian London have announced Francis Bacon: Couplings, an exhibition of Bacon’s double-figure paintings. Gagosian aims to explore a theme that they believe preoccupied Bacon throughout his career: the relationship between two people, both physical and psychological.
The show opens 6 June through to 3 August 2019. A number of the works exhibited in Couplings (a term that the artist used himself) were inspired by Bacon’s own passionate and tempestuous relationships with partners Peter Lacy and George Dyer.*
At the heart of the exhibition, Gagosian have included what it considers to be two of the most uninhibited images painted by Bacon — Two Figures, 1953 and Two Figures in the Grass, 1954, works that depict ‘coupling figures’ suggestively adapted from Muybridge’s photographs of wrestlers. The two paintings have not been seen publicly together since Bacon’s retrospective at the Grand Palais, Paris, in 1971.
‘Painted fourteen years before homosexuality was legalised in Britain, the adaptation of Muybridge’s photographs of wrestlers for the poses of the two figures may have been a factor in rendering the imagery palatable to a wider audience, which appears to have interpreted it as representing merely wrestlers.’ — Martin Harrison, FSA, on Two Figures, 1953 in the Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné.**
The ‘coupling figures’ featured in these works did not appear in further paintings until 1967 in Two Figures on a Couch (also included in Couplings). This latter work was completed shortly before the 1967 Sexual Offences Act was passed, decriminalising homosexual acts in private.
This is Gagosian’s third exhibition dedicated to Bacon’s work, following Francis Bacon: Late Paintings (2015) and Francis Bacon: Triptychs (2006). The exhibition will be accompanied by an illustrated catalogue with a previously unpublished interview with Bacon by Richard Francis; an essay by Martin Harrison, author of the Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné; and an introduction by Richard Calvocoressi, the senior curator at Gagosian.
Gagosian have extended gratitude to the private lenders to this exhibition, as well as to Leeds Art Gallery, England, and Museo Tamayo, Mexico City.
Francis Bacon: Couplings
6 June – 3 August 2019
Word reference: Gagosian website and press release, The Estate of Francis Bacon website. Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné, 2016, Volume II, pages 360–361 & 378–379, and Volume III pages 846–847.
*Please note accessibility and venue terms and conditions may apply. Tickets are subject to availability. All details including dates, names, featured works, opening days/hours are subject to change. If you're planning a visit, we first recommend checking with Gagosian for all confirmations regarding this exhibition.
**Excerpt: Martin Harrison, FSA. Two Figures, 1953, Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné, 2016, Volume II, page 360.