Francis Bacon was a British painter, best known for his 'Screaming Pope' series.
Based on Velázquez's portrait of Pope Innocent X, Rembrandt's "Carcass of Beef," and Sergei Eisenstein's film "The Battleship Potemkin," Bacon has created a horrifying scene. The benevolent pope, who was once a sitter for Velázquez, is now portrayed as a screaming ghost, seated on a golden throne.
For some reason Velázquez's portrait of the pope "haunted" Bacon for many years.
What is one to think, taking into consideration that Bacon was not known to be a religious man. Instead of seeking redemption through his art, he instead sought images that, in his words, "unlock the deeper possibilities of sensation."
Bacon, a self taught artist, first exhibited his second version of triptych: "Three Stages for the Base of a Crucifixion" (1944) at the Tate Gallery in London. Even though this was considered his first mature work, it created a sensation, as was ingeniously designed by Bacon. His interest in distorted figures and screaming images began with this painting and would continue throughout his career.
Bacon was a great admirer of the Spaniard, Pablo Picasso. In a 1992 interview, Bacon was said to have stated that Picasso's "Crucifixion" (1930) was his favorite work. No wonder he used Picasso's theme of horror for his own "Three Stages..."
Francis Bacon has been compared to Hieronymus Bosch, an artist from the Netherlands who is best known for "The Garden of Earthly Delights" (1500), created as a triptych whose intent (as Bacon's) was never meant for an altar. Bacon's work has been described as blending "horror and comedy," whereas Bosch seemed to have purposefully avoided the use of humor.
An inspiration to Bacon and other artists was Rembrandt's painting "Carcass of Beef." Also known as "Flayed Ox" or "The Slaughtered Ox," (1655) it can be seen at the Louvre, Paris. The beef carcass represents pain and death, but not without the light shining on it (from above) which represents hope. Christ's crucifixion can be interpreted as the light, holiness, and divinity.
Francis Bacon's "Study after Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X" (1953) can be seen in the Des Moines Art Center, Iowa.
Bacon's painting "Head Surrounded by Sides of Beef" (1954) resides at the Art Institute of Chicago.
You can own your own Screaming Pope with Bacon's "Pope II" (1951), available here from Allposters.com.
Pope II, c.1951
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