27 Feb 2010

Forces in a Landscape [23] Study for a Portrait of Van Gogh II, 1957. Deleuze on Bacon, Painting Series

by Corry Shores
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[I am profoundly grateful to the sources of these images:
Editions de la différence;
Credits given at the end.]

[The following is quotation. My commentary is in brackets.]

Forces in a Landscape

Deleuze on Bacon, Painting Series

Francis Bacon

Study for a Portrait of Van Gogh II, 1957
Edwin Janss Thousand Oaks Collection, California

Painting 1 of Deleuze's
Francis Bacon: Logique de la sensation. Tome II - Peintures
Painting [23] of the English translation
and Painting [65] of the Seuil 2002 French

Editions de la différence and the Estate of Francis Bacon)

What fills the rest of the painting will be neither a landscape as the correlate of the Figure, nor a ground from which the form will emerge, nor a formless chiaroscuro, a thickness of color on which shadows would play, a texture on which variation would play. Yet we are moving ahead too quickly. For there are indeed, in Bacon's early works, landscape-Figures like the Van Gogh of 1957 [23]; there are extremely shaded textures, as in Figure in a Landscape (1945) [2]. (Deleuze, 2003: 3bc)

Ce qui remplit le reste du tableau, ce ne sera pas un paysage comme corrélat de la figure, ni un fond dont surgirait la forme, ni un informel, clair-obscur, épaisseur de la couleur où se joueraient les ombres, texture où se jouerait la variation. Nous allons trop vite pourtant. Il y a bien, ou début de l'oeuvre, des Figures-paysages comme le Van Gogh de 1957 [14]; il y a des textures extrêmement nuancées, comme « Figure dans un Paysage » [58] (Deleuze, 2002: 13d)

[Bacon's later works will have a blank field as the 'background', rather than a landscape. And the figures will be set in contrast to the field, as if they were aliens to it. Yet in this painting we see that there is a figure who relates to his background. He is strolling down a path. Yet Deleuze still sees this work as a precursor to Bacon's later works. He will come to use random 'involuntary free marks' and 'asignifying traits'. This serves to scramble the logic of the painting's relations. Deleuze says that we see already the beginnings of such markings in this painting. Perhaps we might look to these regions:]

(Again, thanks
Editions de la différence and the Estate of Francis Bacon)

Bacon's Figures are often frozen in the middle of a strange stroll [68], as in Man Carrying a Child [22] or the Van Gogh [23]. (Deleuze 2003: 29b)

les Figures de Bacon sont souvent saisies dans le vif d'une étrange promenade : « L'Homme portant un enfant » [65], ou le Van Gogh. (Deleuze 2002: 44bc)

[Bacon is said to produce different levels of sensation. Deleuze will offer his theory that the levels result from layers of resonance that are produced by rhythm. But first he examines other possible interpretations of what these layers might be. Consider when different phases of motion are superposed, as in Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 (Click on this prior link of Duchamp's painting for a more detailed analysis of this work and of this sort of decomposed motion).

We might think of each superposed but successive motion-phase to present a different level of sensation. But as Deleuze notes in the case of the Van Gogh painting, the figure is "frozen" in the middle of his stroll.

Editions de la différence and the Estate of Francis Bacon)

According to Deleuze, we do not in Bacon's works obtain sensations by viewing motions proceeding through extensive space. Rather, it is the figure's inner tendencies to move, which are jumbled and wrestling together. They are not motions extending through space (not extensities), but rather forces of tangling inward tendencies (intensities). A wrestling match goes-on in Bacon's figures, even without any extent of time passing-by. It is the unpredictable variations in these intensities that cause us sensations.]

(Thanks www.alexalienart.com)

Deleuze, Gilles. Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation. Transl. Daniel W. Smith. London/New York: Continuum, 2003.

Deleuze, Gilles. Francis Bacon: Logique de la sensation. Paris: Seuil, 2002.

Deleuze, Gilles. Francis Bacon: Logique de la sensation. Tome II - Peintures. Paris: Editions de la différence [Littératures], 1981.

Images obtained very gratefully from:

Deleuze, Gilles. Francis Bacon: Logique de la sensation. Tome II - Peintures. Paris: Editions de la différence [Littératures], 1981.



  1. Hey thanks for the citation on the Nude Descending Staricase No. 2 but really, I just used Google Image to get this famous image. I thought it was funny to relate it to Michael Bay's Transformers movie. Watching the movie reminded me of the painting.

  2. I just use Google Image search too. I think it's funny too actually. I wanted to reference your post as an expression of my gratitude. Of course I can remove the reference or the image at your request. At any rate, thanks for letting me know you found this, and thanks again for posting the image.