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Francis Bacon an the tradition of art

The Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna will host the first solo exhibition in Austria, dedicated to the artist Francis Bacon, who was born in Dublin in 1909 and lived in London until his death in 1992. This exhibition is not a retrospective, but rather locates for the first time the network of relationships and influences spanning from the Old Masters to artists of the 20th century, which were crucial to Bacon’s artistic development.

The idea of this exhibition is by Prof. Dr. Wilfried Seipel, Director General of the Kunsthistorisches Museum. The show`s scholarly concept in connection with the tradition of art and Bacon`s oeuvre as well as its execution are organised by Mag. Barbara Steffen, an independant curator who has lived in Los Angeles and New York and has worked for many years for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Ms. Steffen is the curator of the exhibition for the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna and for the Fondation Beyeler near Basel.

The exhibition will include some 40 works by Francis Bacon, as well as about 40 works by other artists such as Velázquez, Rembrandt, Titian, Ingres, Degas, Schiele, Giacometti and Picasso, as well as films directed by Eisenstein and Buñuel. In addition, rarely exhibited preparatory photographs and sketches by Bacon, which he kept in his studio and used as inspiration for his oil paintings, will be shown. Since 1998, this material has been in the collection of the Hugh Lane Municipal Art Gallery in Dublin, where Bacon`s studio was re-erected inside the museum after his death. From Bacon`s collected studio material – among which are, for example, illustrations from art-books and magazines, photographs and early drawings – the curator of the exhibition has selected 71 items that document the interrelation between Bacon and earlier artists he admired.

The exhibition consists of the following sections: the tradition of papal portraits, Bacon`s papal portraits, the motif of the scream, the motif of the cage, Bacon and Surrealism, Bacon and van Gogh, Bacon`s use of the triptych, portrait and self-portrait, the representation of the body in relation to Ingres and Velázquez, the motif of the mirror, and several other subjects.

Studies for a Crucifixion from 1962, from the collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, is one of the highlights in this exhibition. This tripytch has not been seen outside the US for several years. In addition, the exhibition will include works lent by American private collectors, some of which have never been exhibited before in Europe. There will be six versions of the screaming pope and two variations on a destroyed self-portrait by Van Gogh

Among the works by other artists are Titian`s Portrait of Cardinal Philipp Archinto (c. 1560) from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, his Pope Paul III (1546) from the collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum and Jean-Dominique Ingres` Oedipus and the Sphinx (1826-27) from the National Gallery in London, which was a direct model for Bacon`s version of Oedipus and the Sphinx. A pastel by Edgar Degas will illustrate why Bacon was so much impressed by the artist’s technique. The exhibition will offer to Bacon scholars and visitors the comparison of drawings by Picasso of the theme of the bathers from the late 1920`s with Bacon`s Surrealist drawings from the early 1930`s, the onset of his artistic career. Picasso`s Seated Woman (1939) from the Berggruen Collection in Berlin is another important work included in the exhibition. The films Battleship Potemkin by Sergej Eisenstein, and the Andalusian Dog by Luis Buñuel/Salvador Dali will also be presented in the exhibition. Bacon was inspired by these films and used individual scenes and film stills for thematic development of his motifs in his paintings.

A series of lectures by internationally-renowned experts on Francis Bacon will be organised. A catalogue edited by Wilfried Seipel and Barbara Steffen will accompany the exhibition.

The exhibition will be on view at the Fondation Beyeler in Riehen near Basel, between February 7 and June 20, 2004.


15 October 2003
to 18 January 2004


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