Francis Bacon: A Retrospective

Saturday, January 23, 1999
Sunday, March 21, 1999

Francis Bacon (1909-92) was perhaps the greatest British painter of the twentieth century. His work offered a powerful mix of disgust and fascination at the spectacle of physical existence. Painful distortions of the human form, images of isolation, despair, and horror are made disturbingly beautiful by his seductive painterly technique. The artist himself stressed the universal human meaning of his paintings, but increasingly they appeared as icons of their time, laying bare the soul of Britain in the aftermath of World War II.

This exhibition was the first major museum retrospective to be held in the U.S. since Bacon’s death in 1992. It consisted of about seventy of his paintings, ranging from a rare pre-war work, the prophetic Crucifixion of 1933, to nine of the large triptychs that were his last and grandest artistic statements. The recurrent images of his art were all represented: the anonymous, tormented figures in interiors; the portraits of friends and favorite models such as Lucian Freud, George Dyer, and Isabel Rawsthorne; the self-portraits, with examples from each decade between the 1950s and the 1980s; some of the famous variations on Velázquez’s portrait of Pope Innocent X and Van Gogh’s self-portrait on the road to Tarascon; along with studies of sphinxes, owls, dogs, an elephant, and a baboon.

Francis Bacon: A Retrospective was co-curated by Dennis Farr and Massimo Martino, and organized and circulated by The Trust for Museum Exhibitions. Among the many distinguished lenders were the Tate Gallery in London, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC. A fully illustrated catalogue accompanied the exhibition.

Yale Center for British Art, Entrance Court


Yale Center for British Art:
January 23–March 21, 1999

The Minneapolis Institute of Arts:
April 8–May 27, 1999

The Fine Art Museums of San Francisco,
California Palace of the Legion of Honor:
June 13–August 2, 1999

Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth:
August 20–October 15, 1999