14 Feb 2010

In the Brush. [9] Study of a Figure in Landscape, 1952. Deleuze on Bacon, Painting Series

by Corry Shores
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Credits given at the end.]

[The following is quotation. My commentary is bracketed in red.]

In the Brush

Francis Bacon

Study of a Figure in Landscape, 1952

Painting 13 of Deleuze's
Francis Bacon: Logique de la sensation. Tome II - Peintures
Painting [9] of the English translation
and Painting [13] of the Seuil 2002 French

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] and Figure Study I (1945-6) [4]; there are thicknesses and densities like those of Head II (1949) [5] (Deleuze, 2003: 3b.c) [...] But destiny can sometimes pass through detours that seem to contradict it. For Bacon's landscapes are a preparation for what will later appear as a set of short "involuntary free marks" lining the canvas, asignifying traits that are devoid of any illustrative or narrative function: hence the importance of the grass, and the irremediably grassy character of these landscapes (Landscape, 1952 [8]; Study of a Figure in a landscape, 1952 [9]; Study of a Baboon, 1953 [14]; Two Figures in the Grass, 1954 [17]). (Deleuze 2003: 3c.d)

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 ; il y a des textures extrêmement nuancées, comme « Figure dans un Paysage » ou « Figure étude I », de 1945 ; il y a des épaisseurs et densités comme la « Tête II » de 1949; [...] Mais il n'est pas exclu que ce qui est destin passe par des détours qui semblent le contredire. Car les paysages de Bacon sont la préparation de ce qui apparaîtra plus tard comme un ensemble des courtes « marques libres involontaires » rayant la toile, traits asignifiants dénués de fonction illustrative ou narrative : d'où l'importance de l'herbe, le caractère irrémédiablement herbu de ces paysages (« Paysage » 1952, « Étude de figure dans un paysage » 1952, « Étude de babouin » 1953, ou « Deux figures dans l'herbe » 1954). (Deleuze 2002: 13-14)

[Deleuze would like to generalize a stylistic feature of Bacon's works. We see in many of them that there is a single-colored field that is like a screen that Bacon pins his figures to. On the one hand, this creates a stark contrast between the figure and the field. On the other hand, they are both side-by-side, in a way, as if sharing a two-dimensional space. The depth is not extensive. But it is intensive. There are many internal tendencies for the tones and colors to alter (modulate) from one region to the next. So perhaps by making the background perfectly flat, Bacon opens our awareness not to extensive depth but to intensive depth, that is, the dimension of alteration-tendencies, which means the dimension of wrestling forces. Concretely, we might experience this in the ways our eyes are pushed-and-pulled in various directions at once, depending on the changes or modulations in the paint. (For more on this idea of intensive depths on a flat monochromatic surface, see Deleuze's discussion of Spinoza's white wall: Cours Vincennes 10-03-1981; Expressionism in Philosophy Chapter 12 and Chapter 13).

And yet in this painting, there is a thick field of browned grass. It suggests extensive depth and diminishes contrast to the depicted figure.

Deleuze writes that this painting is still in line with the greater development of Bacon's works. Later Bacon will disfigure his works with chance-operation techniques, as part of his strategy to remove the representative and narrative components of the painting. One such technique, 'local scrubbing', involves using a brush to scratch and scrape the paint. According to Deleuze, we see that brush technique employed in this work. In a sense, this painting highlights one aspect of the style that pervades all his works. And thus we might benefit by looking for the grassy-field-like areas in his other works, which are found in limited zones that Deleuze calls diagrams.]

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 gratefully from:

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