The subject of this month’s Catalogue Raisonné Focus is Landscape, 1952, the first of a series of seven paintings that Bacon made in 1952, inspired by the landscapes of the south of France and the South African veldt. Alley stated that it was painted shortly before Bacon left on his second visit to South Africa, and within a few days of Dog, 1952.
Allegedly, Bacon’s artist and friend Denis Wirth-Miller added ‘a few brushstrokes’ to the painting. As outlined in a new retrospective of Wirth-Miller at Firstsite, there is evidence to suggest that a small number of paintings by Bacon from 1952 and 1957 were worked on by Wirth-Miller, and that small aspects of some of Wirth-Miller’s paintings from the same period were painted by Bacon. The exhibition also focuses on the inspiration Wirth-Miller took from the Essex landscape and the influence that the two had painters on each other’s work. Some of which can be seen here, in Landscape, 1952, which as Martin Harrison writes in the Catalogue Raisonné, was one of Bacon’s comparatively rare ‘outdoor’ scenes. Harrison goes on to explain however that Landscape, 1952, undoubtedly wears some Bacon hallmarks:
The rapid, arcing strokes that delineate the grass are typical of Bacon’s African and Cote d’Azur paintings in 1952. Grass was a potent metaphor for Bacon, whose intense scrutiny of other artists’ work caused him to alight on unexpected or overlooked details; his comment on Van Gogh, ‘when he painted a field he was able to give you the violence of grass’ [Sylvester, 2000, p. 243], is as revealing about Bacon as it is of Van Gogh.
Excerpts: Martin Harrison, Francis Bacon: Catalogue Raisonné (London: The Estate of Francis Bacon Publishing, 2016 p. 260).
Denis Wirth-Miller was one of Bacon’s closest friends, but the relationship was stormy, with the two falling out after a public argument in 1977.
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