July 26 to November 13, 2016
From the 1940s through the 1980s, a prominent group of London-based artists developed new styles and approaches to depicting the human figure and the landscape. These painters resisted the abstraction, minimalism, and conceptualism that dominated contemporary art at the time, instead focusing on depicting contemporary life through innovative figurative works.
On view at the J. Paul Getty Museum from July 26 to November 13, 2016, London Calling: Bacon, Freud, Kossoff, Andrews, Auerbach, and Kitaj represents the first major American museum exhibition to explore the leaders of this movement, often called the “School of London,” as central to a richer and ore complex understanding of 20th century painting .
The exhibition includes 80 paintings, drawings , and prints by Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Leon Kossoff, Michael Andrews, Frank Auerbach, and R.B. Kitaj.
Leigh Bowery, 1991. Lucian Freud (British, born Germany, 1922 - 2011). Oil on canvas. © Lucian Freud Archive / Bridgeman Copyright Service. Tate: Presented anonymously 1994. Repro Credit: Photo © Tate, London 2016.
“The majority of paintings and drawing s in the Getty Museum’s collection are fundamentally concerned with the rendition of the human figure and landscape up to 1900,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum and one of the exhibition curators. “This significant exhibition shows an important part of ‘what happened next,’ highlighting an innovative group of figurative artists at a time when abstraction dominated avant -garde discourse in the U.S. and much of Europe. Working with our partners at Tate in London, we have brought together a fabulous group of pictures that exemplify the radical approaches to figure and landscape pioneered by this influential coterie of artists, illuminating their crucial place in modern art history.”
London Calling is a collaboration between Tate and the J. Paul Getty Museum and is curated by Julian Brooks, curator of Drawings at the Getty Museum, Timothy Potts, and Elena Crippa, curator, Modern and Contemporary British Art at Tate.
Drawn largely from the unrivaled holdings of Tate, the exhibition has been enriched by a number of loans from other museums and private collectors.
“By pursuing painting as an activity that records and revitalizes an intense sensory experience, these artists rendered the frailty and vitality of the human condition, tr anslating life into art and reinventing the way in which their surroundings could be represented,” said Brooks. “The ‘School of London ’ artists doggedly pursued forms of figurative painting at a time when it was considered outmoded. In recent decades the work of these artists has rightly been reassessed. It is timely to look at them as a group and deepen our appreciation of their contribution.”
Francis Bacon (1909 –1992)
Francis Bacon was born in Dublin in 1909 to English parents. After traveling to Germany and France he settled in London. He received guidance from an older friend, the Australian artist Roy de Maistre, but was otherwise largely self -taught. In 1945, the showing of a number of his paintings at London’s Lefevre Gallery established his critical reputation, and he became central to an artistic milieu in Soho that included Lucian Freud and Michael Andrews.
From the mid -1940s, he began taking as a starting point for his work reproductions of paintings, sculpture, photographs, and film stills, mostly relating to the imagery of angst that resonated with both historical and personal circumstances. From 1962 he expanded the range of his photographic sources by commissioning particular shots of models, mostly friends and lovers. For example,
Portrait of Isabel Rawsthorne, 1966 Francis Bacon (British, born Ireland, 1909 - 1992) Oil on canvas © The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved. / DACS, London / ARS, NY 2016 . Tate: Purchased 1966. Photo© Tate, London 2016 .
Portrait of Isabel Rawsthorne, 1966 , on view in the exhibition, was based on a photo of his friend and regular subject, the artist Isabel Rawsthorne (1912–1992).
A highlight of the exhibition,
Triptych — August 1972
forms part of a series of so-called “Black Triptychs,” which followed the suicide of Bacon’s longtime lover, George Dyer, in 1971. In the composition, Dyer appears on the left and Bacon himself is on the right. The image on the central panel is derived from a photograph of wrestlers by Eadweard Muybridge.
Figure with Meat, 1954. © 2016 Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved. / ARS, New York / DACS, LondonBacon’s well-known Figure with Meat, 1954
belongs to a large series of works based on reproductions of
Diego Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X.
In this version, Bacon depicts the Pope between two halves of a hanging animal carcass, a motif relating to the first portrait of Bacon taken by the photographer John Deakin, in1952, in which the painter is stripped to the waist and holds a split carcass. In establishing a connection between the raw, butchered meat and human flesh, Bacon expresses a sense of emotional turmoil and reminds the viewer of the vulnerability of the human body.
Offering a fresh account of developments that have since characterized postwar British painting, this catalogue focuses on Michael Andrews, Frank Auerbach, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, R. B. Kitaj, and Leon Kossoff— artists who worked in close proximity as they were developing new forms of realism. If for many years their efforts seemed to clash with dominant tendencies, reassessment in recent decades has afforded their work a central position in a richer and more complex understanding of postwar British art and culture.
Rigorous and gorgeously illustrated, the essays reflect on the parallel yet diverse trajectories of these artists, their friendships and mutual admiration, and the divergence of their practice from the discourse of high modernism. The authors seek to dispel the notion of their work as a uniquely British endeavor by highlighting the artists’ international outlook and ongoing dialogue with contemporary European and American painters as well as masters from previous generations.