By: I. Maluf
Francis Bacon (1909-1992) was a British surrealist artist known for his disturbing and unnerving artworks. When Bacon was sixteen he was expelled from his childhood home in Ireland after his homosexuality became more prominent, then moved to London. Bacon revealed that the violence in his paintings were partially due to the emotional chaos in his adolescence and his father’s role in the British army. The artist was an interior designer before dwelling in painting, but this changed in the 30s. His first piece was “Crucifixion” (1930), which was inspired by Rembrandt’s meat carcasses and Picasso’s surrealist style. He soon achieved success, becoming one of the most prominent British artists of the 20th century.
Perhaps one of Bacon’s most memorable works, Study after Velazquez’s Pope Innocent X (1953) is an appropriation of Diego Velazquez’s portrait of the pope in 1656. Bacon distorts the figure’s face into one of agony while he’s sitting down, and it looks like he’s being electrocuted in an electric chair. The yellow vertical lines suggest that the figure is being trapped inside a cage, and the overall mood of the painting is macabre and unsettling. Bacon’s ability to transform Velazquez’s painting into something completely different shows his abilities to adapt classic renaissance pieces into modern art.