Francis Bacon’s Portrait of George Dyer in a Mirror (1968). Image: © THE ESTATE OF FRANCIS BACON, PHOTO: HUGO MAERTENS

As an undisputed trailblazer of the 20th century, Bacon’s raw, uncompromising large format depictions of contorted flesh and limb are as overwhelming as they are haunting. The Centre Pompidou approaches this new visit to his work, 23 years after his last exhibition here, through the words that inspired and influenced the latter part of his career in about sixty masterpieces, including 12 triptychs, notably the three heart-rending tributes to George Dyer, never displayed side by side before.

View of the exhibition: Triptych, 1972 ©Photo Sylvia Davis

Francis Bacon was an avid “reader of everything” from Greek drama to modern poetry. He said that literature represented a powerful stimulus for his imagination, but that rather than giving shape to a story, reading inspired a “general atmosphere”. He was deeply interested in the works of Aeschylus, which he claimed to know by heart, adding that he only ever really read texts that evoked “immediate images” for him.

View of the exhibition: Triptych Inspired by T.S. Eliot’s Poem “Sweeney Agonistes”, 1967
©Sylvia Davis

The exhibition ‘Bacon en Toutes Lettres’ explores the influence of literature on his paintings, focusing on his output during the last two decades of his creation starting in 1971 – a turning point for Bacon. Just as he had achieved international acclaim, a mere two days before the opening of his retrospective at the Pompidou – a recognition that had only been granted to one other living artist, Pablo Picasso – Bacon’s world was ripped apart by the tragic loss of his partner George Dyer. The selection of works follows his evolution from this crucible of the heart through to his death in 1992.

Split into six areas, the Pompidou exhibition includes famous voices reading excerpts of texts from Bacon’s famed library, including works by Aeschylus, 4 Nietzsche, Bataille, Leiris, Conrad and Eliot, all of whom had a direct influence on Bacon’s choice of subjects and form of expression. To enrich the experience there are accompanying podcasts available via web and mobile.

Good to know: Due to the extremely high interest in this event and in order to improve access, the Pompidou implemented a system of mandatory reservations, with a choice of time slots.

Bacon en Toutes Lettres
Until January 20
Pompidou Centre, 4th arrondissement, Paris.
[Note that during the current renovation project, the museum entry is on rue Saint-Martin]
Open every day from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (exhibition areas close at 9 p.m.), late opening until 11 pm on Thursday. Closed on Tuesday.
www.centrepompidou.fr

From France Today magazine

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