"Francis Bacon and the Tradition of Art": Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

By Huck, Brigitte | Artforum International, March 2004 | Go to article overview

"Francis Bacon and the Tradition of Art": Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna


Huck, Brigitte, Artforum International


Francis Bacon, the crown jewel of British painting, lived through most of the twentieth century, from 1909 to 1992, earning in a good fifty years of activity a reputation as an existentialist on account of his often horrifying diagnoses of reality. Though the artist feared his work would one day end up in storage, it recently appeared in the hallowed halls of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. One might think this pairing rather surprising for this superrefined museal shrine, where artworks tend to carry an expiration date of around 1800. But with the privatization of the formerly state-run Austrian national museum, the wealthy guardians of its imperial collections now find themselves in a position to outshine poor relations such as the Museum Moderner Kunst.

Inspired by Bacon's obsessions with various old masters, "Francis Bacon and the Tradition of Art," curated by Barbara Steffen, fitted in startlingly well with the canonized collection of the KHM, into which the artist was nearly seamlessly integrated. The exhibition began with a measured introduction of his howling popes, most notably his Study after Velazquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X, 1953. In conversations with art critic David Sylvester that are reprinted in part in the exhibition catalogue, Bacon said of Pope Innocent X, "I think it is one of the greatest portraits that have ever been made, and I became obsessed by it. I buy book after book with this illustration in it of the Velazquez Pope, because it haunts me." It was, indeed, the reproduction rather than the original that haunted Bacon and sufficed as a trigger for his countless adaptations of this theme. In the spirit of aura, however, the exhibition made every effort to present originals, particularly the specialties of the house. Regarding international loans, though, it had to endure some painful rejections: The Velazquez remained in Rome's Galleria Doria Pamphilij and was substituted with a copy from the Accademia di Belle Arti di Carrara, Bergamo.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Organized according to motif (cage, veil, howl, mirror, shadow) was a series of comparative pairs exhibiting literal analogies: Titian's Portrait of Cardinal Filippo Archinto, ca. 1551-62, for example, which shows the bearded prince of the church behind a curtain, is reminiscent of the "veils and striations," as one catalogue essay puts it, that run vertically through Bacon's paintings. Bacon's appropriations avant la lettre were the main theme of the show. His productive possession of old (from Rembrandt to Ingres), more recent (van Gogh to Degas), and nearly contemporary masters such as Picasso and Chaim Soutine allows the viewer to discover correspondences and departures and the development of motifs--in short, to get wise to the celebrated painter. The idea was to move around iconographic units, to build typological chains, to analyze isolated pictorial components, but rarely to explain the artwork on the basis of its historical, social, or psychological connections. (This approach has been happily undertaken by generations of art-history students who have completed the workshop "Based on the Original" at the Kunsthistorisches Museum. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

"Francis Bacon and the Tradition of Art": Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.