Great Art: Francis Bacon’s Two Figures painting of 1953

I’m kind-of follow-upping my art post of at the start of this month about Freud and Bacon. Last year some private tape recording of Bacon interviews came to light and made clear in more details what happened between them. Because in 40’s, 50’s and 60’s decades they were very close friends but somewhere along the lines in late 70’s/early 80’s they had a big huge falling out. Like friends do sometimes but by Bacon death in 1992 they never made things up even then as both very successful visual artists/painters. I posted Freud’s those portraits of Bacon of 50’s and then Bacon painted more than a few of Freud mainly in the 60’s which become some of most expensive artworks ever sold. Both artists never really explaining that falling out in their lifetime, well Bacon did in private and on tape so you can hear him saying what happened? Some of it, all might just be down to just one of Bacon’s painting owned by Freud, the paintings I’m posting up today.

Two Figures is an oil on canvas painted in 1952 and around that time somehow Freud only payed £80 for it? After that he never let it to been shown in any exhibition including Bacon own Tate mid-80’s retrospective. Francis concerned it one of his break-though paintings so he wanted in that show. Lucian seem was so jealous and because the painting belongs to him he could kept under wraps for the rest of Francis life, all of the twenty century and into the next. The art critic David Sylvester had sold Two Figures to Freud for £80, Bacon can be heard recalling: “I had to give £20 of it to Sylvester as a commission and I got £60 for it, I think … You see how things are.’’

David Sylvester did go on with Francis to published Interviews with Francis Bacon book which is a great read and highly reco. Today’s painting was inspired by the photographs taken by Eadweard Muybridge in the 1880s of two men wrestling. Barry Joule who recorded these some what secret talks was Bacon’s friend from the 70’s until his death in 90’s and the guardian interview Barry in 2018, linked here which I’ve lifted the best bits below about his painting. On tape Francis retells German-born London dealer Erica Brausen totally freaking out over Two Figures painting. He even imitated Brausen’s high-pitched Germanic tones: “When I took in that painting … she did say, ‘Darling, don’t bring that sheeet in here!’” He tried to explain that it was inspired by Eadweard Muybridge’s 1880s photographs of wrestlers. “She said: ‘I don’t care where it comes from. I don’t vaant de police in ’ere!’” Joule was also told Two Figures was painted in an old garage near Henley-on-Thames rented by Bacon’s then lover Peter Lacy before Christmas 1952. Joule said “The exact spot was poignantly pointed out to me by Francis.” Joule when on to add Two Figures painting “make a powerful ‘homosexual point’.” Well, I guess he or Bacon means is if anyone does or could see it? It was hidden away from the world by Freud so then even after Lucian death in 2011 the Two Figures painting was only shown in an exhibition for first time in decades in late 2017. More important or not, I’m doing a whole art blog post all about it today which I hope whoever looks/reads it does enjoy my little bit of art history lesson by way of artists/friendship turn into bitter rivalry!

Two Figures, 1953
Two Figures, 1953
Bacon’s source materiel: Eadweard Muybridge’s Motion Study of men wrestling.

Not that U2 do the naked wrestling bit in this video clip but is also loosely based Eadweard Muybridge’s Motion Study. Today’s song is Lemon from U2’s 1993 Zooropa album which was one year after Francis Bacon’s death.

Cheers 🙂


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