28 Feb 2010

Primal Beginnings. [14] Study of a Baboon, 1953. Deleuze on Bacon, Painting Series

[I am profoundly grateful to the sources of this image:
Estate of Francis Bacon; www.tate.org.uk, and MOMA. Credits given at the end.]

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

Primal Beginnings

Francis Bacon

Study of a Baboon, 1953

Painting 15 of Deleuze's
Francis Bacon: Logique de la sensation. Tome II - Peintures
Painting [14] of the English translation
and Painting [135] 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)

[Bacon's later works will more often have figures set in contrast to a surrounding monochromatic field. Yet here we see that the surrounding field has a texture and a sort of extensive depth to it, and also it integrates with the figure somewhat.

(Again, thanks Estate of Francis Bacon and MOMA)

However also, Bacon's later works will make use of random markings to scramble the logic of the relations between and within the figures. We see the beginning of these markings in the paint strokes for the grass.]

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:

Study of a Baboon 1953
Oil on canvas
1980 x 1370 mm
© The Estate of Francis Bacon/DACS 2008
Digital image © 2008, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. James Thrall Soby Bequest, 1979

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