Giacometti / Bacon at Fondation Beyeler – The exhibition of the year?

Installation view of Bacon - Giacometti at Fondation Beyeler, L Homme qui marche by Alberto Giacometti along other works 1
Installation view of Bacon – Giacometti, L Homme qui marche by Alberto Giacometti among other works, 2018

Alberto Giacometti & Francis Bacon exhibition at Fondation Beyeler

The Fondation Beyeler sheds light on the exciting relationship between Alberto Giacometti and Francis Bacon. Both artists have created impressive works, which are now among the most expensive artworks.

How did they inspire each other?

The age difference between the older Giacometti and Bacon is eight years. Even before meeting him in person, the younger artist worshipped Bergell as “the greatest draughtsman of all time”. Later he was to say that Giacometti was the man who influenced him more than anyone else. Giacometti, on the other hand, was fascinated by the irrepressible energy in the art of Bacon. In addition to Bacon’s portraits, his own portraits would appear more prudish, says Giacometti.

What was shown at Fondation Beyeler

The exhibition includes key works and is supplemented by rarely shown works by both artists, some of which have never before been shown to the public before. A multimedia room offers a spectacular insight into the studios of both artists.

Commonalities of Bacon & Giacometti

Alberto Giacometti and Francis Bacon, despite their distinct styles and mediums of choice, share several thematic and conceptual commonalities.

Existential themes

Both Alberto Giacometti and Francis Bacon were profoundly influenced by existentialist thought. Their works delve deep into the human psyche, exploring themes of alienation, isolation, and the broader human condition. In a post-war world, their art resonated with many who grappled with questions about existence, purpose, and the inherent meaninglessness of life.

Distorted human form

Giacometti and Bacon are renowned for their non-traditional and distorted depictions of the human figure. Giacometti’s sculptures, characterized by their elongated and slender forms, challenge the conventional representations of the human body. Similarly, Bacon’s paintings present twisted and tormented figures, often trapped within cage-like structures, reflecting the internal and external struggles of humanity.

Post-War art

Emerging prominently in the aftermath of World War II, both artists’ works are deeply embedded in the context of a world recovering from trauma. The war, with its vast devastation and loss, led to a collective sense of disillusionment. Giacometti’s fragile figures and Bacon’s anguished portraits capture the essence of a world grappling with its own horrors and the questioning of humanity’s place within it.

Intensity & emotion

The works of both Giacometti and Bacon are charged with emotional intensity. While Giacometti’s sculptures convey a profound sense of existential loneliness and searching, Bacon’s paintings are raw, visceral expressions of emotion, often depicting pain, anguish, and turmoil. Their art invites viewers to confront and engage with deep-seated human emotions.

Repetitive exploration

Throughout their careers, both artists displayed a tendency to revisit and re-explore specific subjects or themes. Giacometti’s relentless sculpting of the human figure and Bacon’s repeated portrayal of certain individuals or motifs indicate their persistent quest for understanding and their continuous evolution as artists.

Influence of non-Western art

Giacometti and Bacon were not limited by Western artistic traditions alone. Giacometti found inspiration in African and Oceanic art, integrating their forms and aesthetics into his sculptures. Similarly, Bacon’s work, particularly his interest in the human figure, was influenced by art forms like Egyptian art.

Personal struggles

The personal lives of Giacometti and Bacon deeply influenced and shaped their artistic visions. Giacometti’s introspective nature and Bacon’s tumultuous relationships, including his struggles with his own sexuality, are reflected in their works. Their art becomes a window into their souls, revealing vulnerabilities, fears, and desires.

Recognition & legacy

Both Giacometti and Bacon have left indelible marks on the 20th-century art landscape. Celebrated globally, their works have been exhibited in major galleries and museums. Their innovative approaches to art and their profound impact on subsequent generations of artists have solidified their legacies as giants in the art world.

Studio practice

The studios of both artists were more than just workplaces; they were sanctuaries of creation. These spaces, cluttered and filled with works in progress, materials, and tools, were reflections of their artistic minds. The studio environment played a pivotal role in their creative processes, serving as both a refuge and a source of inspiration.

Innovative techniques

Giacometti and Bacon were not just content with traditional artistic techniques. Giacometti’s sculptures are known for their rough, textured surfaces, achieved through his unique approach to sculpting. Bacon, on the other hand, employed thick, impasto brushstrokes and unconventional materials, such as dust, to create depth and texture in his paintings. Their innovative techniques set them apart from many of their contemporaries and added layers of meaning to their works.

Installation views

Installation view of Bacon - Giacometti at Fondation Beyeler
Bacon – Giacometti, installation view, Fondation Beyeler

Triptychs by Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon - Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus, 1981, Oil on canvas, Triptych, Each panel 78 x 58 in. (198 x 147.5 cm) installation view
Francis Bacon – Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus, 1981, Oil on canvas, Triptych, Each panel 78 x 58 in. (198 x 147.5 cm), installation view, Fondation Beyeler, Basel, Switzerland
Francis Bacon - Triptych, 1967 Oil on canvas
Francis Bacon – Triptych, 1967, Oil on canvas, Triptych, Each panel 78 x 58 in. (198 x 147.5 cm), installation view, Fondation Beyeler, Basel, Switzerland
Francis Bacon - In Memory of George Dyer, 1971, Oil and dry transfer lettering on canvas, Triptych, Each panel 78 x 58 in. (198 x 147.5 cm) installation view
Francis Bacon – In Memory of George Dyer, 1971, Oil and dry transfer lettering on canvas, Triptych, Each panel 78 x 58 in. (198 x 147.5 cm), installation view, Fondation Beyeler, Basel, Switzerland

Paintings by Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon – Portrait of George Dyer Riding a Bicycle, 1966, Oil and sand on canvas, 78 x 58 in. (198 x 147.5 cm), installation view, Fondation Beyeler, Basel, Switzerland
Francis Bacon - Lying Figure, 1969, Oil on canvas, 78 x 58 in. (198 x 147.5 cm) installation view
Francis Bacon – Lying Figure, 1969, Oil on canvas, 78 x 58 in. (198 x 147.5 cm), installation view, Fondation Beyeler, Basel, Switzerland
Francis Bacon - 1974 - 1975 Oil and dry transfer lettering on canvas 78 x 58 in. (198.1 x 147.3 cm), installation view
Francis Bacon – Two Studies from the Human Body, 1974-1975, Oil and dry transfer lettering on canvas, 78 x 58 in. (198.1 x 147.3 cm), installation view, Fondation Beyeler, Basel, Switzerland
Francis Bacon – Lying Figure, 1961, oil on canvas, 198.0 × 142.0 Size (cm), 78.0 × 55.9 Size (in), installation view, Fondation Beyeler, Basel, Switzerland
Installation view of paintings by Francis Bacon at Fondation Beyeler
Francis Bacon, installation view, Fondation Beyeler, Basel, Switzerland

Alberto Giacometti sculptures

Alberto Giacometti – Le nez, 1947-49, 43,6 × 9 × 61,6 cm, installation view, Fondation Beyeler, Basel, Switzerland
Alberto Giacometti - Grande Tête Mince, 1954, 65.6 x 39.1 x 24.9 cm, installaton view
Alberto Giacometti – Grande Tête Mince, 1954, 65.6 x 39.1 x 24.9 cm, installation view, Fondation Beyeler, Basel, Switzerland
Alberto Giacometti and Francis Bacon, 1965
Alberto Giacometti and Bacon, 1965, original photo by Graham Keen, installation view, Fondation Beyeler, Basel, Switzerland

All images: Public Delivery unless otherwise noted.

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