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Bacon und Giacometti

Excessive Lifestyle and a Common Muse

MORE THAN 100 WORKS BY GIACOMETTI AND BACON ARE CURRENTLY PRESENTED SIDE BY SIDE IN THE NINE ROOMS OF THE THEMATICALLY CURATED EXHIBITION OF THE FONDATION BEYELER. SUCH A JUXTAPOSITION REVEALS THE DIFFERENCES BUT ALSO THE SIMILARITIES BETWEEN THE TWO ARTISTS.

Bacon and Gia­co­met­ti shared an unwa­vering belief in the impor­t­ance of the human figu­re throughout their crea­ti­ve lives. They were inten­si­ve­ly con­cer­ned with the role of tra­di­ti­on, for both stu­di­ed, copied and para­phra­sed the old mas­ters. Both were inte­res­ted in the chal­len­ge of two-dimen­sio­nal and three-dimen­sio­nal repre­sen­ta­ti­on of space, inte­gra­ting cage-like struc­tures into their works to iso­la­te the figu­res in their sur­roun­dings. They also dealt with frag­men­ted and defor­med bodies and obses­si­ve­ly tur­ned to por­trai­tu­re and the asso­cia­ted depic­tion of human individuality.

Gra­ham Keen/Portrait Gia­co­met­ti und Bacon/3/LAC/197x300mm

Each of them clai­med to be a ‘rea­list’.

In their artis­tic work, Gia­co­met­ti and Bacon dealt with the same exis­ten­ti­al ques­ti­ons modern peop­le deal with: lone­li­ness and pain, sexua­li­ty and vio­lence, life and death – the needs that come from exis­ting. They also shared a muse, pain­ter Isa­bel Rawst­hor­ne. She was a model to both artists, and some recount she even went to bed with both of them. They inter­pre­ted Rawst­hor­ne in their own indi­vi­du­al way: view­ed from dif­fe­rent distan­ces by Gia­co­met­ti and sta­ged by Bacon as a furious ‘femme fatale’.

The Bri­tish pain­ter and the Swiss sculp­tor got to know each other per­so­nal­ly through their muse in the ear­ly 1960s. In 1965 they’d beco­me so good friends that Bacon visi­ted Gia­co­met­ti at the Tate Gal­le­ry in Lon­don while he was set­ting up his exhi­bi­ti­on the­re. A seri­es of pho­to­graphs by Eng­lish pho­to­gra­pher Gra­ham Keen docu­ments this encoun­ter and shows both artists in a sti­mu­la­ting dia­lo­gue. More than half a cen­tu­ry later, the­se two important artists meet again in the Fon­da­ti­on Beye­ler and the abo­ve-men­tio­ned dou­ble por­trait of Rawst­hor­ne marks the begin­ning of the exhibition.

While the expres­si­ve and obses­si­ve-extro­vert natu­re of Bacon’s por­traits immedia­te­ly cap­ti­va­tes the view­er, Giacometti’s por­traits are cha­rac­te­ri­sed by a restraint that is no less hyp­no­tic: the­se per­sons also illus­tra­te a situa­ti­on that exem­pli­fies coer­ci­on, they seem to embo­dy the pres­su­re the artist exer­ted on his models by for­cing them to sit abso­lute­ly still. This pres­su­re also tur­ned against Gia­co­met­ti, who – cur­sing his sup­po­sed inap­ti­tu­de at pain­ting – began the can­va­ses over and over again until the por­traits were radi­cal­ly redu­ced and extre­me­ly condensed.

Giacometti’s con­ti­nued fail­u­re was part and par­cel of who he was. If he had­n’t felt he was con­stant­ly fai­ling, he might have lacked the impul­se to con­ti­nue. For him, work also seems to have been, to a lar­ge extent, the search for per­so­nal trans­gres­si­on, as if he wan­ted to punish hims­elf for his artis­tic exis­tence. This pro­bab­ly also app­lied to Bacon, even if in his pic­tures the aggres­si­on seems to be direc­ted main­ly outwards.

With Alber­to Gia­co­met­ti and Fran­cis Bacon, the Fon­da­ti­on Beye­ler show­ca­ses two out­stan­ding prot­ago­nists of moder­nism pain­ting until 2 Sep­tem­ber 2018, friends and rivals ali­ke, who­se crea­ti­ve visi­ons have stron­gly influ­en­ced art from the second half of the 20th cen­tu­ry until today.

Exhi­bi­ti­on Bacon-Giacometti
until Sep­tem­ber 2, 2018

Basel­stras­se 77, CH-4125 Rie­hen
www.fondationbeyeler.ch

Ope­ning hours
We are open on all days.
Mon­day to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
and Wed­nes­day from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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