Monday, 2 December 2013

Francis Bacon - 7 Reece Mews

Francis Bacon (28 October 1909 – 28 April 1992) was an Irish-born British figurative painter known for his bold, graphic and emotionally raw imagery.

He bequeathed his entire estate (then valued at £11 million) to John Edwards and Brian Clark executor of the Estate. In 1998 the director of the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin secured the donation of the contents of Bacon's chaotic studio at 7 Reece Mews, South Kensington. Bacon's studio contents were moved and the studio reconstructed in the gallery. The relocated studio opened to the public in 2001. The entire contents of the studio have been catalogued: approximately 570 books, 1500 photographs, 100 slashed canvases, 1300 leaves from torn books, 2000 artist materials, and 70 drawings. Other categories include artists correspondence magazines, newspapers and vinyl records.

7 Reece Mews was tiny, and apart from the studio consisted of two rooms - a kitchen that contained a bath, and a living room that doubled as a bedroom. The studio had one skylight, and he usually worked there in the mornings.

Unlike the rest of his flat, the studio was a private place. Entry was by invitation only, though, as Dawson points out, he did like having people back there late at night, drinking champagne and discussing his latest work. Looking at the mess, it can be hard to imagine that this was anything less that a transparent vision of the way he worked - but that was not entirely the case. Trace back the ways in which Bacon, and particularly Bacon's sources, are generally described, and it is striking how many of them originated with him. He used transparency as a foil: his articulacy about his own work, in interview after interview, set the terms of reference, and thus obscured the things he chose not to say.

We can see all the peripheral stimuli, the basis for the work, but with him died the unifying mind, the place where everything came together, into what he himself called, in a 1985 interview with Melvyn Bragg, "images which are a concentration of reality, and a shorthand of sensation."

Perry Ogden - The kitchen in Francis Bacon's last studio and home at Reece Mews 7 in South Kensington, London, 1998.

“I live in squalor,” Bacon once boasted of his own practice, “the woman who cleans is not allowed to touch the studio. Besides, I like the dust—I set it like pastel.” Bacon’s biographer Daniel Farson reported that the artist “never had the studio in the Mews cottage cleaned because it helped him to lift up dust from the floor and apply it to the canvas when painting his sand dunes; he also rubbed his fingers along the dust and then on to the wet paint.” Bacon did this in his portrait of his patron and lover, Eric Hall: “Actually there is no paint at all on the suit apart from a very thin grey wash on which I put dust from the floor,” Bacon said of Figure in a Landscape (1945). “I thought: well, how can I make that slightly furry quality of a flannel suit? And then I suddenly thought: well, I’ll get some dust. And you can see how near it is to a decent flannel suit.”

“He definitely didn’t like anyone going into his studio, that was his domain,” Ward confirmed. “I was never allowed to clean it. Occasionally, he and John [Edwards, Bacon’s companion for the last sixteen years of his life] would get together and clean out some of the clutter; otherwise it would get so high that you’d have to clamber over, and he did like to stand back and look at his paintings. … All that clutter, sometimes I would expect it to start moving with cockroaches!” Bacon was proud of his disorderly studio, which was a kind of metaphor for the creative act: “I feel at home in this chaos,” he said of his workspace, “because chaos suggests images to me. … I think it may be a spur to create order.” On another occasion he explained, “I like to live among the memories and the damage.”
Christopher Turner

 Jorge Lewinski - Francis Bacon, 1970

In the summer of 1963, a young photographer called Jorge Lewinski knocked nervously on the door of Francis Bacon's studio in South Kensington in London and asked whether he could take the artist's portrait.

After flicking through a portfolio of his work, Bacon invited Lewinski in and allowed himself to be photographed sitting amid the chaos, with a damaged circular mirror and numerous tins of paint brushes and pots of pigment behind him.

Bacon's art permeated his studio. He used the walls and doors as a palette. Newspaper articles and images ripped from books and Sunday magazines that had inspired him were scattered across the floor.

(Bacon boasted that he knew where everything was: at one photography session, the artist asked Lewinksi if he had seen a recent magazine article, before pulling a copy from the detritus.)

The point of his photo sessions with Lewinski was clear: Bacon wanted the public to see the sources of his creativity.
Rebecca Daniels

Perry Ogden - 7 Reece Mews/ Francis Bacon's Studio3, 2001 

7 Reece Mews, as accommodation, was penurious. The floorboards and lightbulbs were bare, and the walls whitewashed – at least until they became smeared with an Impressionist poppy field of pigments. The bombsite studio was only large enough for Bacon to execute one painting at a time, and was dominated by a huge circular mirror, speckled black with age, which dated from his time as a Modernist interior designer. Bright Young Things who were wondering about “The 1930 Look in British Decoration” could have seen it alongside his steel-tube furniture in a feature in The Studio magazine of the same year. There were only two other rooms in the place: a poky living room/bedsit affair, and a rather unsavoury room which combined the functions of bathroom and kitchen, in which the moon-faced painter could do the washing-up while gazing at faded reproductions of his triptychs.

That an artist at the peak of his fame, capable of selling paintings for six-figure sums, should continue to live in rented squalor for three decades seems incongruous. Bacon was far from tight-fisted – he led an extravagantly bon vivant life in the boozers and restaurants of Soho, running up thousand-pound weekly bills on champagne alone – so this was not the reason for his humble surroundings. He tried to move out on a number of occasions, but always found the South Ken pad to be the most conducive to creativity. Bacon was an admirer of Giacometti’s notoriously run-down studio in the Rue Hippolyte-Maindron in Paris, and clearly considered that his own shambolic studio lent him a similarly bohemian mystique. The pair had become friendly when the creator of bronze twig-men visited London in 1965; a photo of Giacometti lies among the many hundreds in the studio.

When Francis Bacon died, in 1992, the dust of raw pigment that had played havoc with his asthma was allowed to settle. It soon became apparent to the artist’s estate that the Augean studio was something of a self-mythologising work of art in itself. The accumulation of 30 years of brushes, corduroy trousers and, most importantly, reams of creased inspirational material were a carefully considered extension of the artist’s romantic self-image, and could make a significant contribution to the advancement of learning about Francis Bacon’s work.
Stephen Patience 

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