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tv   Charlie Rose  WHUT  July 13, 2009 6:00am-7:00am EDT

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>> charlie: welcome to the broadcast. tonight we visit knock's metropolitan museum of art for a conversation with its new director, thomas campbell who succeeded philip. also gary tent row, the engelhard department of 19th century modern and contemporary art. and also the cure raritier of the exhibition, frances bay con, a retrospective. >> to see the painting in these galleries, few galleries away from european artists. i think it's great to make a fresh assessment. incredibly powerful and challenging artist even now. disconcerting as when he first
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pained his works. >> i think he did something remarkable with his figures. he started, he couldn't exist he very much built on their precedent. but he took their innovations one step further and his expiration of human nature brought art to a new place. >> charlie: frances bacon and his painting, next.
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captioning sponsored by rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. >> charlie: the artist frances bay conis one ever the most renowned painters of 209th century. his provocative and raw depictions of the human body are among the most powerful images in the history of art. he was self taught and emerged as a major artistic force in the 1940s. pablo picasso played a role. he credits him as the reason i paint. early works such as study for portrait and "figures in a landscape" focus on the animalistic qualities of mankind. his later work became increasingly influenced by narrative, but a biography and myth. these elements can be seen in paintings such as "in memory of george dyer" and "self portrait" near the end of his life bacon began to address the idea of mortality as seen.
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extraordinary new retrospective is the first major new york exhibition devoted to bacon in 20 years. frances bacon a retrospective marks the 10th anniversary -- 100th of his birth. in it are 66 of his works include can war eiffel material from the estate. i toured the ex -- >> what's l significance of it? this exhibition. >> the significance of bay i think this is the first hear in new york. this is the first big bacom show in new york for 20 years. it provides an opportunity to take a fresh look at his achievement. perhaps at one step away from the larger an life persona, he
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was a national life persona, which tends to kind of inflict the way we think about him, think about his work. >> charlie: nothing uninteresting about frances bacon. >> no question about that. here to see the paintings in these galleries, few galleries away from the great canon of european artists i think it's an opportunity to really make a fresh assessment. they are powerful and challenge artist even now. disconcerting as when he first painted these works. >> charlie: when people come here, you hope they will go away with that but in a broader sense, why? >> we have something like 65 or 66 of his paintings from collections around the world. it provides an opportunity for our audience to really follow the development of his work from earliest breakout right the way
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through the ups and downs of his career. through to the last years. it's a unique opportunity to respond and something that these are paintings that -- >> charlie: create a reaction? >> exactly. the subject matter is frequently disturbing, unpleasant, even revolting. yet at the same time it surfaces of the paintings are so seductive. but they are so engaging in terms of texture, paint, denial of lushness. you are compelled to look. >> charlie: also, gary tinterow of the engelhard museum is also the curator. here is that conversation. >> the question always comes when you have a remarkable
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exhibition. why now? why frances bacon some, what, 20-plus years later? >> well, our pretext was the sen topiary of his birth. we get to have the exhibition. especially in europe but it's been 20 years in new york. i think bacon looks very differently today than did he 20 years ago. >> charlie: how does he look today? >> i think he looks different to us because we've changed. in those 20 years. one thing he's dead, he can't control his legacy. his friends can no longer sensor their remarks in the critical take on the pictures. we have access to a studio and concept of the studio that we have much more precise understanding of what he was using, what influences his were. lastly the whole discussion about his sexuality has completely changed in the 20 years since he was last seen. >> charlie: how has it changed?
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>> i think we're much more open to alternative lifestyle that people and art in the norm is more acceptable even to people because that have. >> charlie: in britain there are stories when we first began to paint. they were worried where it would be exhibited. >> precisely. and sensor ship -- >> this was inia 27? >> he 33 or he 34 then studies that were in '45. but then most paintings often had to do with christian imagery, the issue there was, a kind of squeamishness about his take on christianity and on the iconography. >> where do you put him? he is what? >> he is one of the greatest figurative painters that europe produced in the 20th century. one of the most important influences on contemporary painting, especially today.
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>> charlie: what makes him that? >> i think he did something remarkable with his human figure. he started, based on -- he couldn't exist without pick could so and others, he built on their presence dent. but he took their innovations one step further. >> it brought art to a new place. >> charlie: went to paris in 27 was knocked out by picasso, even though it was not spectacular -- >> it was smaller.very playful e amoeba-like figures on the beach, opening cabin doors with keys. you see that opening of the door in his later art. but that kind of playful surrealism was something that captivated bacon and persuaded him that he wanted to be a painter, that very much
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dominated his imagery for the next 15 years or so. >> charlie: this exhibition, at the tate, how is it different? when you bring it to an american audience do you change? >> we did. for two reasons. the large exhibition lasting over a year, enders are reluctant to give up their work for entire year. there's an automatic changing ever the guard from one venue to the next. but i saw the possibility here of reconstituting some of his important, pivot alex hi picks, in 12953 in new york, the heads in london in 1949. i wanted to give a sense of the groupings in which he exhibited his work in order to show people today a bit of how he wanted his work to be understood at the time we first presented it to the public. >> charlie: you talk about an artist and appreciation of who or she is, there's always a
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frequently exaggerated sense of self. >> he was amazingly ambitious. even that he was setting himself up against picasso, 21 years old having his work exhibited -- or painted in an important work in 1934 opposite full page illustrations of picasso. that's audacious. but he always had very high sights for himself and for his art. >> charlie: and thought he was good? >> oh, i think he always thought he wasn't good enough. that's what made him better. he was never self satisfied. although i think he was, especially middle and later life very happy man and lived the life that he wanted to lead for himself. he was always dissatisfied with his work, that pushed him further. and he was his severist critic, often destroying paintings then the mayor docks there is, he also destroyed his best work
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because the work that he thought was going some place might actually arrive would be the work that he would work on too much and then he'd have to destroy. >> charlie: isn't there a story of an exhibition of his paintings early on which there was bad review he destroyed all of them? >> absolutely. in the '30s. he destroyed most of his work from the '30s. a few bits and pieces have emerged in later years, but in terms of his official catalog, he would not admit anything before 1944. >> charlie: even though he 33 was -- >> it was illustrated. he couldn't erase what was known and illustrated. but when he could he could destroy things. what's also interesting since his death a number of very important paintings have emerged from the hea 50s, were carefully kept by his framer was able to show them and sell them. >> charlie: have american critics been different about him than british critics? >> yes. that's very interesting. one would need a lot of
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psychologists to determine why that the american critics have such such a tough time with bacon's art. his art ising, it is provocative, it is meant to provoke and give the visitor outside of their comfort zone. on the other hand, there's a kind of uniform and automatic rejection of his work as being hysterical. the "new york times" said, if paintings could speak, bacon's would shriek. so that exaggerated distortion, the gruesomeness of his imagery, a lot of people simply object to. but generally american critics, especially sophisticated ones complain that he's a bad painter. that he doesn't know composition, that he's a bad draftsman. doesn't know what to been do with the edges of his painting. and to a certain extent all those criticisms are valid. but in the end his paintings are so compelling, they continue to shock even today after all the
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violence that we are constantly bombarded with from television, movies, media. what we see in the newspaper every day. his paintings still have this extraordinary power to move people. and that to me is the bottom line. that's what makes him a good painter. >> charlie: also the way he saw life? >> he said, that when people would ask him about his gruesome imagery, he'd say, people complain that i show the horrible sides of life. and he said, no, what i'm trying to show is the excitement of life. and for him that excitement, that thrill was the thrill of a masochist for whom pain or contemplation some of future pain or injury was to him exciting. >> charlie: and sexual. >> and sexual. and so that's the underlying current i think throughout the exhibition is that, why we see crucifixion was a kind of meeting place for a terrible injury to occur, where man could
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do harm to another man. and for him it was a stand in for everything that humans are capable of. >> charlie: i think i told astor re, i once had an opportunity to have lunch with freud, he talked about seeing that in his friend, frances bacon. and rebelling at it. >> bacon himself could be very cruel. he was a debater, he is a smart fellow, he would like to trap you in conversation. generally he wouldn't succeed because by the time you were having that really interesting conversation he was totally smashed. but -- >> charlie: he was a hard drinker as well as -- >> a life long alcoholic, absolutely committed alcoholic but a functioning one in the sense that he woke every morning and then would drink every afternoon. rarely would he drink while he was painting. only a few exceptions to that. >> charlie: did he paint necessary not to drink to paint to the fullest extent of his
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powers. >> absolutely. i think he understood a bit like drunk driving. if you're going to drive well you don't do it while you're drinking. similarly with a painting. there's one painting that the second big crucifixion scene that he did in 1962 for the tate and guggenheim. he has said several times interviews that did he that on a two-week drinking binge. but others i was disciplined in his life. he'd get up in the morning at 7:00, paint until noon, have a smart lunch, go to his gallery, go drinking in the afternoon. to the late hours of the evening then be taken home by somebody in the taxi, wake up at 7:00 clear-headed until noon again. >> charlie: he lived to be how old? he died in 1992. >> 83 years old. died of course of failure of his liver. >> charlie: you said that he wants to knock you out of your x-rays owns. means he wants you to think about what?
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>> i think he wants you to see life as he saw it. so to a certain extent he's railing against convention, received wisdom. he was an old-fashioned militant atheist. he knew every opportunity to remind people that not was god not dead, god never existed. that there was no meaning to life. but at the same -- but he says, i'm an optimist, i'm an an toe mist about nothing. not that he was going to go to some better place he looks forward to each new day for the opportunities that that would bring. opportunities for pleasure. and he felt it was in come want on man and woman to make meaning in their life on a daily basis. >> charlie: he reminds you of picasso or he simply the picasso of his time? >> they overlapped. >> charlie: of course. >> they're only 30 years apart. with the great thing about bacon, he had the second retrospective given to the living artist in france in 1972.
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the first exception having been picasso in '66. so, bacon not only was challenging picasso's supremacy, there was a pole made in 1971 on occasion of the show after frenchman who is greatest living painter. bacon came out on top. and the figure row, which is the conservative daily said that -- picasso is still alive how could a british painter surmount picasso. that's where -- he set his sights up against picasso, certainly the figureal defamation. an the other hand matisss, a key influence in the way bay consets his figures on the mob chrome ground. a lot that have is coming from matisse. >> charlie: do you see in bacon the same evolution you saw in picasso, not identical but same sense of look can for new form and looking to do it in a new way?
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>> we arrange the works much more strictly chronologically. you see that evolution unfold. i think the public responds to that. you see how in the first half he was mob chrome painter. -- monochrome painter. he doesn't know what to do with it. he breaks out around 1962, void by success of his exhibition of the career receipt prospective. in this room you see the very strong colors that he would then use for the next 20 years. at the end of his life there's amazing clarity and revolution in his art and where it's no longer matisse and picasso who was guiding spirit, it's ang. he set himself up against ang. >> charlie: you say them all in the same breath. >> oh, yeah. in a very modern way. he doesn't -- i wouldn't say -- in america, i wouldn't say that
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bacon is the -- exceeds matisse, picasso or ang in his innovations. >> charlie: he was self taught. >> you have to understand the milieu in which he grew up. he was born to aristocratic family, living in country house outside of dublin, moving to london. taught my tutors. he only had 18 months of formal education at boarding school. apart from that, he was i think quite conscientiously taught by tutor. he lived with his nanny until he was 40 years old, was very well read. i think there's something about that self education or education with private tutors that encurnlings one to work harder to discover, this is not the education being forced upon you,
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but your own initiative. >> charlie: it may be deeper then. >> perhaps. certainly he was great lover of classical literature, of contemporary poetry, was a great influence on him. he was well read and widely read. >> charlie: it is also said that he is a chronicle of the grotesque. >> that is of course the problem that he is constantly rubbing our face in our own mess, the mess that men and women can do to one another. and constantly reminding us of our bestiality. he would say that we're just neat. he said that his subject was history of europe in his own time. and this could be the massacre, the testify mission, the bodily injuries that he shows us that's history of europe. >> charlie: that he experienced.
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>> yes. he, too, suffered, absolutely. >> charlie: it is said that he goes all the way back to his father beating him and hiring -- >> not clear whether his father beat him or -- >> charlie: he had the groomsman -- >> carrying to bacon. >> right. those were his first intense experiences, right, being whipped. we do know that he had a few abusive relationships in his life. he called the love of his life beat him and harm to him. that he found it thrilling that's what, when he session he wants to show the thrill of life, the excitement of life that's specifically what he's talking about. but his later relationships were not necessarily -- dyer, certainly his last relationship, john edwards, they had very sweet and tender relationship. bacon being very paternal if not
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avavuncular toward him and edward being protective of bacon. what is real interesting you see in that the art. you see the clarity and resolution in the great work which something to do with his loss. >> charlie: like picasso. >> just as with picasso one has to look at the dogs and lovers, it is true of bacon, too. extraordinary symmetry which is uncanny. with dyer it's interesting, their relationship disintegrated, dyer was very weak personality. he himself was falling apart and many suicide attempts. i think part of bacon was saying good rid dance. at least he's not suffering at least i don't have to suffer. i don't have to deal with that mess any more. on the other hand for the next five to six years he was dealing with the grief, the loss, his own guilt at the complicity of dyer as death. >> charlie: when do you think he knew that he wanted to be an
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artist? >> he said it was in -- >> charlie: he went to paris in 1927. >> 1927 for 1929. he went back after -- >> charlie: when he came back from paris and berlin to london, he knew he wanted to paint. >> he did. but he worked for that first decade as interior decade. sometimes as petty thief and gentleman's companion. but did he a a lot of work as decorators. the kind of fix-it fellow for well to do gentleman. >> charlie: he knew he was gay early on? >> i think from the very beginning, as early as probably early 30s. >> charlie: what amazes me, all those paintings at the same time he called it like -- it was so quite. >> i think he had all the marks of an individual who was living in a repressive environment.
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so, he -- >> charlie: repressive of his environment rather than his -- >> that's what he knew, right? there for he assumed this position and vocabulary, the kits course of the oppressive class. >> charlie: the religious stuff, the image reof crucifixion. >> was very careful interterry views they seemed rather stage, the fascinating. to the state whenever he could that he respected christian ethics. and that he thought that they were among the best ethics of the panoply, the menu that one could choose from. he recognized the christian way of life is one of the best -- >> charlie: like doing to others as you would have -- >> and he -- >> charlie: the creed for living. >> precisely. he recognized the effectiveness much christian iconography.
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he wasn't brought up in that environment, he wanted to channel that power and energy. at the same time he said that he -- his common sense prevented him from believing in the church. he also felt that the church didn't believe in him. so it was a kind of mutual rejection. >> charlie: his influence by the film? >> he said if he weren't a painter that he would have liked to be a film maker. and in his five or eight versions of a painting that he would exhibit together, there is something that he's trying to set up consider it was one -- >> the film which he saw in berlin during that era. again in 1935 he may have seen it. but that famous scene on the steps where a nurse with a baby in a stroller is shot by one of the troops right in the eye.
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her eye glasses are broken. he had a still from that. he used that many times for pictures of figures. the broken glasses as the quintessential idea of man's capacity for evil. >> charlie: what schools of the paint continuing he reject? >> i think he was interested in all painting. he we know that he was looking at many. certainly looking at tition, raphael, spanish masters, monet, dugot a painting in this room. there is a riff on the female figure studies that bay conis seen on the male nude. like picasso said, weak artists borrow great artists steal. bacon would steal.
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he was absolutely una boost about it. >> charlie: did he like abstract expressionism? >> he always felt competitive with the american expressionists he was rejected by important critics here in america. he was rejected because he was a figurative painter. and american critics, rowsnberg, greenberg, later generation felt that in order to be a modern painter, in order to be the next step in history of art, one had to be an abstract painter. that was the only alternative for grand painting. bacon rejected that, felt that there was much more to be said through figurative painting. >> charlie: when did he begin to shift to portraiture? >> in the '60s. when the success of the tate exhibition, '62. also the death of his mother,
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finding this new crowd in london, isabel rothco, all the figure in this room, he became a portraitist, he wanted to create a sense of diary of the people around him. there were many figures. >> charlie: when did he go from portraiture to landscapes? and why? >> it's interesting that he probably turned to landscaping in times of personal loss. one the first examples would be going to morocco after his friend, peter lacy died while he was in london. through the town that he was buried and does remarkable landscape, which is here in the exhibition. then in the '70s he turned again to landscape painting after the death of george dyer.
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"piece of wasteland" they're nonfigurative. but there's action in those figures. i think the conversation there is about action painting. he's making a commentary on the rise of abstract expressionism, abstract painting and making his -- this is his challenge. blood of the pavement, you look at that painting see the stacked bands as you would in a rosco, similar pallet. but simply to the title "blood on a pavement" there's so many more -- so much more resonance there. it sets up of associations in a viewer's mind. i hear bacon saying, you see, mr. rosco, simply by calling my paint snook blood on a pavement" i can have much more profound relationship with my viewers than you can.
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rosco not here, his painting can make you cry and be extraordinary moving. but in a different way. in the paintings, bacon is setting up a dialogue with the abstract painters. he always felt competitive with him. >> charlie: then he went to self portraits. >> he said after dyer died that he did a lot of self portraits because everyone died. that happens to everyone. but he felt a tremendous sense of loss. on the one hand, he saw tragedy in life. on the other hand it was occurring to him. he dealt with it as best he could. >> charlie: let's take look at some of the these paintings. let me begin with the figures at the base of a crucifixion. >> interesting first the title that he calls it "studies for figures at a base of a crucifixion."
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this is the locale of brutality, it's not the christian crucifixion that we're all so familiar with. this is a painting that absolutely vaulted him to a kind of recognition and repulsion and notoriety in post-war london. the it somehow struck the note in the mood of london that the war was coming to a close. it happened to be shown after fdr died, and that recognition that the end of the war was at hand and the tally, the toll could be tallied. and as europeans began to look around and see the destruction that they had wrought on one another, the millions of lives taken. and people are asking, why. i think bacon's painting shows the hopelessness, the despair,
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the futility of any answer to that question. and with this painting he put his finger on the pulse of people's own extraordinary recognition of what just had happened. >> charlie: he considered it his first masterpiece? >> absolutely. and it is. i think it's still the painting mere at the met. it was the painting that come up, the slide that came up in every single talk. so many of the elements there, the grimace, the scream, picasso biomorphics to realism. and also very interesting but not apparent, is the fact that the receding lines, the kind of space in which the figures operate are probably taken from photographs of albert spears' time in berlin. not only is he collecting nazi
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memorabilia, he's interested in authoritarian space. >> charlie: the next one is painting 1946. figures at base of crucifixion. >> a masterpiece, painting 1946 this is one that had so many of the themes and characteristics and motif, is that he would use. the screaming, the silent scream, grimacing mouth, the trappings of authority like umbrella. hoisted above the figure as if were an african king. the garlands at the top, the painting is called by his british friends "the butcher shop" why? because the garlands at the top are like the sausages of butcher shop would decorate their window w. and there's this great carton of meat. here he is looking at the expression, also rembrandt, who
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extraordinary carcass at the alreadyouvre and then again for bacon. and being the crucifixion. you see the slabs of meat in the foreground. those are there because bacon always said, i'm surprised when i to go a butcher shop that i'm on one side of the counter not the other. >> charlie: next one. >> head one. one of the series of six heads shown in 1949 at the hanover gallery in london. this is the painting given to us recently by the state of richard zypher. a key painting for bacon as well, one that he kept a reproduction in his kitchen for many years. it shows this amoeba-like formless head with the grimacing mouth. bacon bought in paris in 1935 a
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book called "the edicts of the mouth" he had an operation on the upper mouth. he said that he wished he could paint the mouth, which he said glittered as far as he was concerned. like monet would paint a sunset. john russell later recalled the site of seeing these heads in london, john russell we both knew, lovely man, was early component of bacon, one of the first reviewers consistently reviewing his work in "the london times." he said the painting reminded him of the experience of social disintegration that one might have at a party where suddenly you're all alone in the room. there's no mirror in the room. and self conscious you feel you are at once all eyes, all ear, all mouth. that sense ever disintegration something that bacon i think puts forward so remarkably in these pictures. part of his own cleave in ex be
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e exe -- >> charlie: the use of the white line? >> that was space cage. he needed to create simply a sense of space in the pictures. that i think is coming out of degot, his ballet scenes, i think, few receding lines just sort of make a room -- or stage then get over it so that he could place his figures within that fame work. >> charlie: the next swoon head three. >> head three is one of the first instances where we see a direct quotation of the film, with the broken glasses, shattered glasses. had to do again with man's fragility and capacity to injury one another. >> charlie: next next one is head six. this is 1949. >> head six is the first of many, i don't know, 20, 25
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variances. interesting that the capelet that he wears is violet rather than scarlet as it should be. as it is in the rosco which is probably the proof to his assertion that he never saw the painting, at least not then. he was living in rome for awhile in ther a '50s he said he didn't dare go see the painting. wonderful interview that's televised, saw it again on youtube, where he said, i was afraid to go see it. because of all the silly things that he had done to that picture. to answer your earlier question, what did he think of his own work, when it came to comparing hill self to rosco's he had no self dilution about his own ability. >> charlie: in 1950 study after vasquez, which he uses the curtain to collapse the figure in the background. >> the interesting thing about this motif, he called it
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shuttering, like there were shutters, vertical stripes. it's actually very difficult to do to interrupt the image to only paint parts that are revealed. we had a marvelous talk here by a painter, extraordinarily influenced by bacon. a brilliant individual and wonderful critic of bacon's work. she brought up the point that this -- this shuttering, the stripes by making half of the painting invisible it forces us to work twice as hard to recompose the image. it's a way of drawing visitor in, drawing our attention, forcing us to work and engage with the picture. at the same time, martin hammer, the artist, had suggested that those vertical shafts of light are probably coming from the photograph that he had of the so-called cathedral of light at the nuremberg stadium where hitler would have his rallies.
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a thousand kleg lights would go on at the same time and extraordinary optical affect. >> charlie: his attitude about authority was... >> i think he had a problem with authority. one could safely say that, that he had problems with father figures, clearly. at the same time he said that he was very adept, i think, psychologically, he understood where much of his own behavior came f. he said at the same time i recognize that i was attracted to my father sexually. it wasn't until later in life that i recognized early on that i had that. but he sees that as formation of his own sexuality. >> charlie: his attraction to his father? >> as young boy. in that way might be attracted to his mother. his early sex objects in a sense was his father. >> charlie: 1953. the study of the portrait. >> this is one -- apart from others, painting in 1946 this is one ever the first shows in
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new york here on 57th street. 1953. bacon sent eight of the -- five were shown. probably we have the first instance of him making serial imagery as if they were sequences in a cell. you have the pope, the same dias, the same throne in each picture. you have the figure of the pope or cardinal, turned to the right, sneezing, covering his mouth as if it were stills from a film. i think here we see him developing that serial imagery that was so important to him. not only for film makers, but also marbridge, early photographers who studied animal and human motion through stop-action photography. this was tremendously important for bacon. and for the first 15 years of his art he was constantly looking at these sources for
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images that he could use. >> charlie: in 1961, moving to the '60s, the walking on all fours. >> this painting is a direct demonstration of his piece of morbridge. looking to his stop-action photography to find that strange appearance in between motions. and here bacon is just like dugot. he never shows a performance of ballet. he showed the preparation before or after. because he thought that those movements would be more telling than the rehearsed gesture. so, what bacon was looking for just like dugot was that expressive moment, here of course the paralytic child. >> charlie: three figures in
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a room in 18963. >> this is his second big muse after peter lacy. george dyer, some time petty thief, alcoholic, extremely good looking young fellow, quite vein. lionized by bacon, certainly. he's not made very beautiful in this painting, in fact the anything is distorted as much as could be allowed. he called these distortions to his friends, injuries. david, one of his great critics and fans, his interviews are available, isn't that just it, when you injury someone aren't you in fact isn't that what you're doing, when you love someone then you injury them. bacon retorted, well, isn't that what oscar wilde said? he killed the things that he loved. but in this painting, i think what bacon is doing is creating a riff on dugot as he created a riff on velasquez.
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>> charlie: portrait of isabel standing in a street in soho in 1967. >> a very glamorous figure in london the '60s. when i see this painting, i immediately get the beatles and others running through my mind. she embodied that sort of hip, sophisticated. she was a model and for bacon. extremely beautiful, although don't see it here. he is kinder to her than he has done with anyone else. he was immediately attracted to her. he maintained that they had an affair and actually had sex. it's perfectly possible. he was enthralled by her, had photographs taken by john deacon, great photographer in london in the '60s. worked for "vogue." and it was a photograph of her on the street that bacon used for this painting. >> charlie: how was he enthralled by her? >> i think it was her beauty,
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her intelligence, her glamour. the whole package was very enticing. >> charlie: i'm told did he not like to work with live models. >> he said they inhibit him. that the injuries that he had to perform in order to make his art, would be somehow impaired by the presence of that figure. that he needed free range of violence to the figure that he felt was necessary in order to make great art. >> charlie: the next one is two studies of a portrait. the afore mentioned george dyer. >> again, you ask, charlie, how does bacon continue to renew his art. one was to do double portraits in the same picture, often thinking of the device of a mirror so that one gets different perspectives, profile, full face. but also different aspects of the personality revealed.
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what you see in this with dyer is perhaps the disintegration of dyer's personality on the canvas. you see the kind of injury that he performed in his painting. in the portrait you see something that's more recognizable and representational of dyer who was extremely handsome, had great profile, a wonderful roman nose. >> charlie: did he like being a model for bacon? >> i think that dyer loved -- of all accounts he really loved bacon, was enthralled by him. amazed by him. but also i think confused. >> charlie: then there is this, cryptic in memory of george dyer, 1971. >> this some one ever the most touching paintings i think in the exhibition and here. dyer committed suicide on the eve of the big opening in paris. attend by all the figures in paris at the time. it was no accident that he
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committed suicide when he did, on bacon's own prescription drugs, too much alcohol. here bacon couple of years later imagines and puts hill self in the position of observing what dyer had done. in the center panel we see him unlocking the door to what would be his death chamber. on the left we see him at the back because he had this very compact figure. on the right we see a double portrait of him as if the painting was set up on a rail and reflected in the table. but we see him disintegrating between the two. >> charlie: the next one is "self portrait" 1973. this is after dyer's death. bacon started painting self portraits, if you describe. >> he said that he had to paint self portraits then because everybody had died, what he
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meant by that was that george had died. and one senses here bacon's recognition of the tragedy of his life m. sense of recognition of his complicity and dyer's death. >> charlie: why is he complicit? >> well, he even said, i should have taken george with me that day. he left him alone. and he knew that he was weak and he was tired of all the dramatics of repeated suicide attempts. bacon really had become weary of it. at the same time he felt, bacon felt guilty for having -- taking dyer away. with bacon he no longer -- >> charlie: no purpose. >> he had no purpose in life. he obviously couldn't compete with the competition. but i think we see bacon's isolation, his loneliness and with the prominent watch, the
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sense of the passage of time. >> charlie: the next one is no tore operate of michelle." >> that was one ever the great surrealist writers in france. and stenographer. one of the most distinguished intellectuals of the day, happened to be married to a post war dealer in paris. living link to picasso. and he was, david was the most important critic in england in the '60s, '70s for bacon. michelle luis was for bacon in paris. in this portrait which i think is one of the best portraits he ever did, he turns luis in to a kind of african mask, the subject of his own studies. also i met him, he really did look like this picture. very serious. luis was important for bacon because he gave bacon the
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legitimacy that he always thought with the parisian art world that bacon may have been one of the last non-french artists to think that paris was still the capital of the art world in the 1970 fs. >> charlie: does it reveal new techniques that bacon had mastered in the '70s? >> i think it does. we see them repeated again in the late self portrait triptic here. where you see him using similar distortions. i visited the exhibition with a good friend of mine who is brilliant mathematician who deals with chaos theory and defamation now working on mapping my tree valves and he found these paintings fascinating, because of bacon's distortion, but at the same time a distortion which is contained by certain realistic limits. >> charlie: and the other
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"blood on pavement." >> here we see him i think engaged in one-way conversation. where he's saying to rosco, you see, simply by calling my painting "blood on a pavement" i can set up so many associations than you can with your simple ab strak shuns. >> charlie: the next is jeta water". >> here i think bacon taken on all the action painters. also i think pretty explicit statement about orgasms here. making a sort of joke about the gesture. we also know it was very hard for him to paint this. in order to get this splash of water to work -- >> charlie: how did he do it? >> he did it just as you might imagine by flinging the paint. but it took lots of tries. this goes to his own practice of
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using accident and trying to make the most of it. he also know that with this painting there was -- that he had a photograph of a still of a film "blood of a poet" where there was a chair flying in a room. a pale of water that was caught in stop-action photography. this again is another -- this is what is so extraordinary now for artist, is that we have access to his archives to, bacon, to the studio, where everything since 1963 has been piled up in this extraordinary archaeological layering. >> charlie: the next is "portrait of john edwards." who was john edwards? >> john edwards was bacon's last great muse. he met him in '73 or '74 right after george dyer's death. he was an east ender like george. he was ill illiterate, hard to
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imagine, it's hard to imagine that people could not read or write that was john edwards. i think bacon was especially attracted to that, because he thought he was untouched -- he was uncorrupted by civilization. and says that edwards was just a lovely man, very kind and gentle. a very patient and caring about bacon. a great companion for him in his old age. i think one sees in this painting in which tellingly bacon puts edwards in the pose that george dyer had right here on my right. he has edwards supplant george dyer in his art. but there's no defamation to the figure or to his face. this is the period when he is looking and trying to come up with that kind of resolution, skill, harmony and balance in his painting that he observed.
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>> charlie: the last one that we take a look at is triptic 1991. late work that sort coming back to earlier subjects. >> you know, the painting in 1946 and some of the themes are treated. and then they bought the last one in 1991. self portrait triptiy. and i think it's last great picture. it's so resolute and calm and completely resolved. here we have self portrait on the right. he's a man, he shows his genitals, he's showing his sexuality. you see the photograph taken from 20 years earlier, polaroid, where his face is indistinct couldn't tell his age. on left hand panel you have the image of his new young lover.
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whom he went to see in his last weeks of life. and his face is also sort of transformed in to the face of a brazilian race car driver that was on the cover of a magazine and so that transformation typical for the race car driver which the magazine reminds him of his new boyfriend in madrid. then you have the res elser or copulating couple in the center. that's what here we of formation of bacon philosophy. you are born, you have sex, you die. that's all it is. so he goes to madrid in 1992, against doctor's orders, his liver is failing, he's got very bad asthma, and his doctor says, if you to go madrid, doctor told me that at the opening of madrid in february. you won't come back alive. doctor was right.
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he succumbed to his illness. he goes to a hospital in madrid, he's cared for by sisters of charity. and dies in a bed with a crucifix on the wall. captioning sponsored by rose communications captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org
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