16 Mar 2010

Meating the Pope [27] Pope No. II, 1960, Francis Bacon. Deleuze on Bacon, Painting Series

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by Corry Shores
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[I am profoundly grateful to the source of this image:
Editions de la différence.
Credits given at the end.]

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

Meating the Pope

(Thanks Editions de la différence and the Estate of Francis Bacon)

Francis Bacon

Pope No. II, 1960
Private collection, Switzerland

Painting 45 of Deleuze's
Francis Bacon: Logique de la sensation. Tome II - Peintures
Painting [27] of the English translation
and Painting [45] of the Seuil 2002 French

Throughout Bacon's work, the relationship between the head and meat runs through a scale of intensity that renders it increasingly intimate. First, the meat (flesh on one side, bone on the other) is positioned on the edge of the ring or the balustrade where the Figure-head is seated [3]; but it is also the dense, fleshly rain that surrounds the head and dismantles its face beneath the umbrella [65]. The scream that comes out of the Pope's mouth and the pity that comes out of his eyes have meat as their object [27]. (Deleuze 2003: 18-19)

Dans toute l'oeuvre de Bacon, le rapport tête-viande parcourt une échelle intensive qui le rend de plus en plus intime. D'abord la viande (chair d'un côté, os de l'autre) est posée sur le bord de la piste ou de la balustrade où se tient la Figure-tête [4]; mais elle est aussi l'épaisse pluie charnelle entourant la tête qui défait son visage sous le parapluie [28]. Le cri que sort de la bouche du pape, la pitié qui sort de ses yeux, a pour objet la viande [45]. (Deleuze 2002: 31c.d)

[We might think of meat as dead flesh, and for that reason somehow inferior. Yet dead severed muscle can still contract when electricity shocks through it. We also might consider a sensation more intense if it affects our bodies directly, surges through us like electricity, and not require us to think about the source of the affection. So it is when our bodies are meat that we more intensely feel sensations. The body as a slab of meat is the body at its sensational best.

Bacon elevates the role of meat in his paintings, ranging from figures being near the meat, all the way to meat itself being a head. In this case, it is as though the pope is looking and screaming at the meat.]

(Let me again thank Editions de la différence and the Estate of Francis Bacon)

If we consider the particularly significant example of the triptychs, we see the large, brilliant fields of monochrome colors spread out before us - oranges, reds, ochers, golden yellows, greens, violets, pinks. Now if, in the beginning, modulation could still be obtained through differences of value (as in the 1944 Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion [1]), it quickly becomes apparent that modulation must simply consist of internal variations of intensity, or saturation, and that these variations themselves change depending on relations of proximity to this or that zone of the field. These relations of proximity are determined in several ways. Sometimesthe field itself has clear-cut sections of another intensity or even another color. This technique, it is true, is rare in the triptychs, but it often appears in the simple paintings, as in the 1946 Painting [3] or the Pope No. II of 1960 [27] (violet sections in the green field). (Deleuze 103a)

Si l'on prend l'exemple particulièrement significatif des triptyques, on voit s'étendre de grands aplats monochromes et vifs, orangés, rouges, ocre, jaunes d'or, verts, violets, roses. Or si, au début, la modulation pouvait encore être obtenue par des différences de valeur (comme dans «Trois études de Figures au pied d'une crucifixion » de 1944), il apparaît vite qu'elle doit seulement consister en variations internes d'intensité ou de saturation, et que ces variations changent elles-mêmes d'après les rapports de voisinage de telle ou telle zone de l'aplat. Ces rapports de voisinage sont déterminés de plusieurs façons : tantôt l'aplat lui-même a des sections franches d'une autre intensité ou même d'une autre couleur. Il est vrai que ce procédé est rarement dans les triptyques, mais il se présente souvent dans des tableaux simples, comme dans « Peinture » de 1946, ou « Pape n 2 » de 1960 (sections violettes pour l'aplat vert). (Deleuze 138-139)

[Bacon's figures are often set upon a blank single-colored field. Bacon alters (modulates) the color from place-to-place. One way he does so is by separating the variations into clearly defined regions.]

(May I thank once more Editions de la différence and the Estate of Francis Bacon)

[The armature] can consist in the action of a very particular section of the field that we have not yet considered: the field occasionally includes a black section, sometimes quite localized (Pope No. II, 1960 [27]; Three studies for a Crucifixion, 1962 [29];Portrait of George Dyer Staring into a Mirror, 1967 [45]; Triptych, 1972 [70];Portrait of a Man Walking down Steps, 1972 [68]), (Deleuze 2003: 104c)

[l'armature peut] consister dans l'action d'une section très particulière de l'aplat que nous n'avons pas encore considérée : en effet, il arrive que l'aplat comporte une section noire, tantôt bien localisée (« Pape n° 2 » 1960 [45], « Trios études pour une crucifixion » 1962, « Portrait de George Dyer regardant fixement dans une miroir »1967, « Triptyque » 1972, «Homme descendant l'escalier » 1972), (Deleuze 2002: 140c.d)

[Bacon's figures often seem as though they are pinned-up upon or hanging from a support structure. In this case, the black region of the chair seems to be holding him up, like an armature in sculpture.]

(One last time I thank Editions de la différence and the Estate of Francis Bacon)

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.

Image obtained gratefully from:

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

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