I had heard of Francis Bacon in my youth. His name was always shrouded in scandal, and his works never appeared in any gallery I visited. He was an open homosexual, when this was considered criminal behaviour, and perhaps the suffering he endured because of this has added to his work. His vision of human life is far from pretty, but his paintings moved me deeply. He had captured for me the atmosphere I remember before and during the Second World War, and even afterwards as Britain struggled to get back on to her feet. She was bankrupt, in great debt to the Americans, which only was finally paid off in December 2006. The old world had been destroyed, and the new was being born from the efforts of the Labour Party.
|Pope Innocent X, Diego Valdezques and Francis Bacon|
We had left it rather late to see this exhibition, as life had been busy for us. Making a special effort, we saw it one lovely, early afternoon. Afterwards, we had lunch in the Members Lounge, as we enjoy doing. Our conversation was rather somber, as we discussed our reactions to the work we had just seen. We talked of our memories of the Second World War, and how life had been changed so much by that war. We talked of the political impact it had on the world, and the birth of the Welfare State as a reaction to the privilege, that it was seen some had abused by leading the world into war.
This is a magnificent exhibition, but not a "feel good" one. Out of the terror of the Twentieth Century, Bacon and Moore remind us that there is also great beauty in life. But as Francis Bacon said in his last interview, talking about the stresses of life, "... And after all that they want me to paint bunches of pink flowers…".